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July 17, 2015 / Jett

Splendor on iOS Review

Board Game Geek’s 2014 game of the year makes its way to iOS courtesy of Days of Wonder. Splendor is a chip and card collecting game where players will build their gem merchant empires by buying mines, means of transportation and shops. Despite some of its thematic flaws, I really like the physical version of this game. Does it translate well to iOS?

For those that haven’t played the tabletop version, I’ll give you a quick rundown. The point of the game is to be the first player to reach 15 Prestige points. On your turn, you can draw chips, use your chips to buy a card, or reserve a card for future purchase. The primary wrinkle of the game is that each purchased card counts as one permanent gem of currency that you’ll keep for the rest of the game. That way, you can use a combination of chips and cards to buy the more expensive cards that also contain Prestige points.

If the written description sounds bland, I can’t blame you for thinking that way. The theme of gem merchants doesn’t help in terms of adding flavour to it. However, when you look at it as strictly a numbers game, it’s an excellent numbers game that will press you to think strategically and tactically. It’s also a game that is going to have broad appeal, since it’s easy to learn and tricky to master.

On iOS, the addictive nature of its gameplay successfully shines through. The user-interface is highly intuitive, as I figured out exactly how to play in mere moments. If the default settings don’t do it for you, the game has a number of options for optimizing how the game looks to maximize its functionality. For newcomers, the tutorial does an excellent job of teaching the basics.

Most of my iOS board gaming is done against the AI. Splendor comes with a number of different AI behaviours to keep the experience interesting. My only misgiving with it is that the time it takes for an AI opponent to make their turn is a touch long. There’s no problem against one, but when you’re waiting on three AI opponents each turn, the wait time does add up.

In terms of multiplayer, your only option is local pass-and-play, which works great. For the way I play iOS board games, I won’t miss the functionality, though its understandable why its absence would be a deal-breaker, especially for its price.

Maybe as a consolation, the game does come with a series of single-player challenges to complete. Each one changes the rules a bit while giving you a goal to achieve in a certain amount of time or moves. Some may find these to be a meaningful and entertaining addition, though it’s mostly padding to me. Won’t be spending much time with these unless I have nothing else to do.

The gist of what makes Splendor a great tabletop remains in this iOS adaptation. If you already love the tabletop game and don’t mind the lack of online multiplayer, there’s no reason to skip out. For those that can’t justify the exclusion of online multiplayer, wait for this to inevitably go on sale. In any case, Splendor is well worth your time in any form you choose to play it.

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