Gems and jewelry await!  In Splendor from Days of Wonder, 2-4 players collect gems, create jewelry, use discounts, attract merchants, and score points to get 15 or more points and win the game.

The play area is set up with cards.  There are four rows of development cards placed horizontally: a row from level 1 (cheapest to buy, fewest rewards), a row from level 2 (more expensive, more valuable) and a row from level 3 (the most expensive and valuable).  Several nobles, equal to the number of players plus one, go at the top of the cards.

On a player's turn, they take one of four actions.  They can take three gems -- emerald (green), sapphire (blue), ruby (red), diamond (white), onyx (black) -- of different colors.  They can take two gems of the same color, as long as there are least four gems available before the player takes two.  A player can reserve a development card, taking it from the play area and putting it in their hand; they also get a gold (yellow) token; players can only have a maximum of three cards in their hand, and they can only be gotten rid of by purchasing them.  And if a player has more than ten gems and gold at the end of their hand, they have to return gems until they have ten.

Players can purchase a development card, from the middle of the table or from their hand.  Development cards have a cost, in gems, on the bottom left of the card.  Players can pay the listed cost of the card.  Gold can be used in place of any single gem, and bonus from previously purchased cards can be subtracted from the cost of the development card.  When a development card is purchased, a replacement is drawn, if possible, from the deck in its row.

The top right of each development card shows its reward: points, bonuses, or both.  Points are added up to victory.  Bonuses show a gem color, and it's subtracted from future development card purchases.  Bonuses are cumulative with multiple development cards, so as more and more development cards are purchased future purchases become much cheaper -- and it's often possible to buy development cards for free.

Finally there are the nobles.  If a player's bonuses equal or exceed the quality and type of bonuses shown on the noble tile at the end of their turn, one noble goes to that player and adds their point value to the player's points.

When a player reaches 15 points, the game almost ends.  Every other player then gets one final turn, and after everyone takes their final turn the player with the most points wins!

Splendor is a fun and competitive game of strategy.  While the game starts off slow, as players rely solely on their gems and gold to buy development cards, once players start accumulating bonuses there's a snowballing effect of discounts, making cards easier and easier to obtain.  Initially players have to decide between development cards that give points or bonuses, but later on players will aim for those cards that give both.  The strategy isn't deep (though inevitably someone will buy development cards right before someone else would have) but Splendor is light and enjoyable.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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