You are a renowned jeweller, a master of your craft, and unquestionably the finest lapidary in the land… or so you thought, until someone started stealing your business! Your days of monopolising the market are over; you now have a rival, and you are not happy about it. Perhaps you have been complacent and working too slowly? Perhaps you should have branched out and explored the newest corner of the market: pearls? Either way, it is as clear as crystal that you are the superior jeweller (or so you think), and you intend to prove it…
In ‘Splendor Duel‘, you and your rival go head-to-head in a bejewelling battle to determine, once and for all, who is the most skilled jeweller. Racing against your opponent, you fight to efficiently acquire gems and adorn accessories. You are rewarded for your hard work with points and crowns, both of which help you inch ever closer to claiming victory. However, the gem business is not as easy as it may seem.
Tell Me More…
Designed by Marc André and Bruno Cathala, ‘Splendor Duel’ is a standalone 2-player follow-up to the 2014 award-wining game ‘Splendor’.
Like the original game, in ‘Splendor Duel’ players collect combinations of gem tokens in order to lovingly adorn items (and thus claim the related item cards from the central playing area and add them to their own collection). Cards award players points, crowns, and/or gems. Points, as the name suggests, add to the player’s score, bringing that player closer to claiming victory. Crowns help players earn the loyalty of nobles (who give the player points and special abilities) and can also bring the player closer to victory. Finally, if an item card depicts a gem, this card acts as a permanent gem in that player’s possession, negating the need for one gem of that type when making future purchases.
Like in ‘Splendor’, item cards in ‘Splendor Duel’ add a deck-building element to the game, and the trade-off between prioritising point, crown, and gem cards adds an extra layer to game play. The mechanism of being able to reserve item cards has also been carried across to this follow-up game, but that is where the similarities end.
‘Splendor Duel‘ is a 30-minute standalone game and has a range of new and exciting features. One of the most notable features is that available gems are placed in a grid and players are only able to take combinations of 1-3 neighbouring gems on any given turn. This limits the range of gems available to players, making it more difficult to fulfil the requirements of item cards.
Fulfilling these requirements is made even harder by the presence of pearls. Pearls, the queen of gems, are a rare find in ‘Splendor Duel’. Whilst there are only two pearl tokens in the entire box, pearls are needed to fulfil the requirements of many of the item cards! To make matters worse, none of the item cards depicting gems can be used in lieu of a pearl token.
Though the lack of pearls in ‘Splendor Duel’ can be frustrating, this cunning game design prevent players relying solely on the gems on their personal item cards to carry them through the game. The need for pearls also drives regular replenishment of the gem grid.
Other fun new features include wild cards, which can be used to represent a gem of the player’s choice (bar pearls), nobles that grant players fun one-time abilities (e.g., stealing a chip from your opponent), and privilege scrolls.
What A Privilege
As the name suggests, ‘privilege scrolls’ award their owner a privilege: the ability to take any single chip from the grid before performing a normal player turn. A player gets a privilege scroll if their opponent refills the gem grid, takes both pearls in one turn, or snaps up three of the same gems in one turn. Whilst giving your opponent a privilege scroll acts as a deterrent to certain actions, the scrolls’ powers aren’t as game-changing as one might expect and, if anything, can be a little underwhelming at times.
So How Do You Win
There are three ways of winning in ‘Splendor Duel’: 1) Being the first to 20 points, 2) Gaining 10 points from cards relating to any single type of gem, or 3) Being the first to 10 crowns.
A Hidden Gem
This game is simply a must for all ‘Splendor’ fans. ‘Splendor Duel’ maintains the high standard of artwork and pieces seen in the original, and many of the popular mechanisms seen in ‘Splendor’ have been caried through well. However, ‘Splendor Duel’ brings additional layers to gameplay: limited chip availability, pearls, wild cards, and crowns, to name but a few. These features make ‘Splendor Duel’ one of the best 2-player games available!