Splendor (Android/iOS) is one of the great gateway games to the hobby of board gaming. Unlike when I reviewed The Castles of Burgundy app, I do not have much prior experience with the physical copy of Splendor (two plays) but I enjoyed what I played.
Splendor is an easy game to pick up and play as players compete to be the first to score fifteen points. This is a set collection and engine building game at heart. Players will collect gems (chips) that allow them to purchase cards, which then can be used to purchase future cards for cheaper.
As the set-up and upkeep of the game is done by the app, the rules are incredibly streamlined. On a players turn, they can perform one of four possible actions:
- Take three gem tokens of different colors
- Take two gem tokens of the same color
- Take a card into your hand (to try and score later) and gain one gold gem token (which acts as a wildcard)
- Purchase a card from the main board or from your hand by paying the gem token price (either using the actual tokens or previously purchased cards)
Players can only ever have ten gem tokens and three cards in their hand. Purchased cards do not count towards this hand limit. Lastly, there are Noble cards that players can collect automatically at the end of their round if they meet the requirements.
Once a player has fifteen points, the game ends at the conclusion of the current round. Whoever has the most points at the end of that round, wins the game.
Splendor is already an easy game to teach and play and the app makes it that much more intuitive. There is a guided tutorial that will take players not just through the rules, but also through the interface that they’ll be interacting with. If you have never played Splendor before, I highly recommend the tutorial because the app does not feature a rulebook or any other way to learn the rules. The tutorial won’t take long if anyone is worried about that.
The interface is easy to read with the cards central to the middle of the table, the Nobles and gem tokens to the right side, the opposing players to the left and the players hand of tokens and cards to the bottom.
The beauty of the app is that any cards that are eligible to be purchased that turn will be highlighted in green for the player. This increases the speed of players decision making and makes a quick game quicker. In addition to the green highlight, there is also a blue highlight around cards when players select gem tokens which showcases which cards they are eligible to purchase in the following round.
The app itself is incredibly polished and well put together. There are small thematic touches (such as sparkling gems and noises) that help with the immersion if you’re into that. The app does not feature any type of ‘do-over’ button for turns but does allow players to exit out of the choices they’ve made with a red X.
As I’ve only played Splendor twice in person, it’s hard to compare the two experiences but so far, I find the app as the only way to play (and not just because I don’t own the game). The app supports one to four players and can either be played against an AI, through pass-and-play or via online play.
When playing against the AI, Splendor offers several different types of AI to play against: Balanced, Specialized, Opportunistic, Random Behavior and Secret Behavior (with Random and Secret being selected from the first three choices). I find the AI to be incredibly competent in the app and they each provide a level of difficulty that does not ensure a guaranteed win by the player.
Unfortunately, when utilizing the pass-and-play aspect of the app, AI cannot be added to the game. This is my only negative of the game as it’s such a weird choice to omit.
I also cannot speak about online play as the app won’t accept my Days of Wonder account. I think this is specific to me but who knows?
As this app is mostly for solo play, the game features achievements to strive for and a challenge mode that presents a preset game state with unique rules for each challenge. There are six challenge locations and each location has six challenges associated with it. This will give players plenty to do if they’re tired of the base game. I found the challenges quite challenging.
In addition to the challenges, players can also download the following expansions: The Cities, The Strongholds, The Trading Posts and The Orient. All are priced under $2.00 currently.
In two-player games against an AI, I can finish games in six minutes. In four-player AI games, ten. Splendor is a breeze to play and the app makes it that much better. This is such a good implementation of the physical board game that to me, I’d rather just play the app. If I could get online play to work, I wouldn’t even bother to play the physical copy. This is one of the best board game apps I’ve played and I cannot recommend it enough.
If you’d like to play a game, my username is TwoofftheTop!