The Splendor mobile app launches today on Android and iOS devices. Put out by Days of Wonder, the game offers two types of play. One is a faithful adaptation of the tabletop game and can be played against the computer or in pass-and-play mode. The other, called “Challenges”, is more of a solitaire puzzle experience.
Both have me hooked!
What’s the game like?
For those not familiar with this recent cardboard hit, Splendor supposedly has players developing their Renaissance merchant houses to earn prestige and recognition from the nobles. Really though, the theme is pretty thin. The gameplay however, while quite simple, presents some very interesting strategic challenges.
On each turn, a player can either take gemstone chips (available in limited quantities in five colors) or spend previously collected chips to purchase a development card from those on display. Every card provides a permanent bonus in one color, making it easier to purchase additional cards in subsequent turns. Some cards also provide victory points.
The cards are laid out four-to-a-row in three rows. As you go from the bottom row to the middle to the top, the cards get more expensive but are also more likely to provide more victory points.
A group of noble tokens work essentially like achievements. The first person to collect the number and color of cards indicated on each token gets certain bonus points.
Game-end is triggered when someone hits 15 victory points, and of course the player with the most points is the winner.
How does the app play?
The mobile app works exactly the same way. The screen resembles a normal tabletop setup, with art derived from the physical version. And the usual digital options are provided: choice of avatars, volume control for background music, etc.
The only thing that Splendor doesn’t currently do is live online play. Instead, there’s pass-and-play and a choice of five computer opponents. These aren’t rated by difficulty level but rather by style of play: balanced, specialized, opportunistic, random behavior, and secret behavior. I haven’t tried them all yet but those I did I found to be worthy adversaries.
Days of Wonder promises to add an online multiplayer mode in a future update. In the meantime, players have the option to post scores to an online leaderboard.
What are Challenges?
Challenges are solitaire puzzle-like scenarios. With challenges, the basic method of play remains unchanged, though the specific parameters—for example, the number of chips collected per turn or the point value of various cards—may be different. In some cases, the goal is to hit a set number of victory points within a certain number of turns. In others it’s winning a specific card or collecting a particular combination of bonuses.
There are three sets of six challenges included with the base game, each associated with a center of trade from the 15th or 16th century.
Again, I haven’t played through all of them but those I did were, well, challenging. For most too, the cards that come out are still random. Thus even a completed challenge may be interesting to play again.
Where can I get it?
For its $6.99 price, digital Splendor is a good deal. The quality of the tabletop-to-mobile adaptation is first-rate.
If there’s one thing to quibble with it would be with the way the Challenge parameters are explained and displayed. For example, it took me a few minutes to figure out that in describing a Challenge, “value of Prestige Points” means the number of points needed to win. But once that was resolved, it certainly didn’t present any ongoing barrier to play. Nor did I find any such issues with the basic gameplay tutorial.
The underlying game too is much more than one of those mindless time-wasters. Yet it’s not so complex that it requires some high-level dedication to learn or play reasonably well. For me at least, that’s the sweet spot. I suspect I’ll be playing this one a lot.
A complimentary copy of digital Splendor was provided by Days of Wonder for review.