“Gateway games” are boardgames that act as a great entry point for folks when they’re just getting in to gaming. While they might still have a lot of strategic depth to them, in general their rules are succinct and straightforward so that there is less set-up and less to keep track of overall. Getting more people to play more games is one of our largest goals as well as being an incredibly rewarding experience, we highly recommend that you make room on your shelf for a couple gateway games.
This week’s featured gateway game is Splendor, designed by Marc Andre and published by Asmodee.
# of players: 2-4
Length of game: 15 minutes per player.
Splendor is a game of mining, collecting and refining gems so that you can turn around and sell them allowing you to invest in your gem-bound empire even further. The theme in this game is extremely light and not particularly necessary but having some gorgeous artwork certainly helps draw people in. The gems are all represented by poker chips which adds a very tactile element to an otherwise dry game. It is pretty entertaining to just play with the chips while waiting for others to make their decision.
Gameplay is where Splendor truly shines! Each player is racing to acquire 15 points and once someone does the game will end within a couple turns. On a player’s turn they choose to take one of three different actions:
- Take some gems: either two from the same color, or one each from three different colors.
- Purchase a card: there are a variety of cards and by cashing in some of your gems you can acquire one. The game revolves around purchasing these cards because having them means that you get a permanent discount on the gem cost of all future cards you might take. The cards come in 3 tiers, with the lower tiers requiring fewer gems to purchase and the higher tiers being worth more points!
- Reserve a card: sometimes you’re worried that someone might grab the card you’re working on before you are ready to purchase it. In those instances you can reserve a card so that you alone are able to complete it on a future turn. As a consolation for spending your turn reserving, you are also able to take a gold (poker chip) which counts as a wild of any color!
In addition to taking those actions players are working to gain the favor of nobles. The nobles each want you to collect a specific number and color of gem, the first player to do so is able to claim the noble which is worth 3 points.
Nobles and cards are the only source of points, so working on each is important if you want to claim victory!
Splendor is a game that is hard to turn down the opportunity to play, it plays so quickly and the balancing is so tight that we’re always down for another round. As a gateway game, you should bring this to the table for folks that might enjoy set collection / strategy / math / planning. Additionally, the game plays well whether you’re playing with 2-3-4 players and slightly alters the setup for each accordingly. Splendor’s simplicity means that it works well across all ages, but despite its simplicity it retains a lot of strategic thinking which is what makes it such a great game.
Bonus points for: great components, the chips really bring it all together!