“And I as rich in having such a jewel
As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl,
The water nectar and the rocks pure gold.”
–William Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona
The European Renaissance opened up more ways of becoming rich than the continent had ever known before. New frontiers were emerging throughout America, Africa, and Asia. Global trade routes became a reality. Nobles once content with large castles and fur robes now sought dark sapphires and glittering diamonds. Craftsmen ceased working with iron and began shaping gold; merchants turned their attention away from spices and towards gemstones.
Take on the role of a Renaissance merchant striving to become rich in Splendor, a fast, elegant, and intuitive game for two to four players. You begin by collecting raw gems, then use those to fund the development of mines throughout the world. Once you've mined more gemstones, you will need the means to transport them, artisans to shape them, and finally a storefront where you can sell your polished jewels. If you produce exactly the right jewelry, a powerful noble may become your patron. The player whose jewelry business earns the most prestige wins!
The game begins with a tableau of tokens, which represent gems, and development cards, which represent a range of investments, spread out before you. Each player has one action per turn. At first you have only two options. You can take three different-colored tokens or, as long as four tokens of a single color are available, two of same color.
Those tokens are then spent in purchasing or reserving development cards (purchasing or reserving a single development counts as an action). Each development card costs a number of gem tokens, but in return, it offers a bonus gem that you can keep and use repeatedly to pay for other development cards. Many also offer you the prestige points that you need to win.
In the early stages of the game, you will want to focus on amassing the gems and bonuses that allow you to purchase more expensive cards. Level 1 cards, representing gemstone mines throughout the world, typically offer only a bonus, while a scattered few also grant you a single prestige point. Level 2 cards, which represent artisans and modes of transportation, offer both a bonus and prestige points. The most expensive and valuable of all are Level 3 cards, which represent the European storefront of your distinguished business.
In Splendor, competition is fierce. Other merchants want to own the same mines, fill the cargo holds of the same ships, employ the same artisans. Yet there is one way to prevent your opponents from acquiring the resources that you desire most. You can use your action to reserve a card, taking it from the middle of the table and placing a gold “joker” token on it. Whenever you can afford to pay the cost of the card you’ve reserved, you use an action to do so, and the gold token counts as any single gem towards that cost. You can also reserve a card from the deck without looking at it or revealing it to your competitors, if you want to have a secret investment up your sleeve.
Nobility and Prestige
All these gems, developments, and polished jewels are a means to earn prestige points: permanent renown that ensures your prosperity. Once one player has accumulated fifteen prestige points, the other players have one last chance to surprass that player. Whoever has the most prestige wins the game.
There is another way to get prestige beyond purchasing developments, however. If you can gather exactly the right jewels in the form of bonuses, a wealthy, powerful noble will come to patronize your business. It could be the shrewd, patriotic Anne of Brittany, the glamorous and just Queen Isabella of Castile, or even England’s Henry VIII, seeking an adornment for his newest wife. Nobles pay no attention to raw gems, nor to the amount of prestige that you already have, only to the polished jewels that specifically appeal to their discriminating tastes.
Earning a noble’s patronage does not require any action on your part whatsoever—one will simply come to you when you have the right jewels. Yet while nobles grant prestige, they do not ensure victory. They simply offer another means to get ahead in the hotly competitive European jewelry market.
Aspire to Great Wealth
The Renaissance is a time of unprecedented possibility. The New World is being explored and colonized. Ships are returning from as far away as India, Africa, and China full of exotic wares. Meanwhile, the people of Europe are richer than ever before, eager to show off their prosperity with just the right necklace, brooch, or ring. You, too, can aspire to great wealth… and even achieve it, with Splendor.
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