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Splendor Duel

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You may be thinking, “but doesn’t Splendor already play pretty well as it is as a two player game?”. Well, yes it does. But in Splendor Duel, you have got rules specifically targetted for 2 players, not 3, not 4, just TWO! And if you are looking for a game much like original Splendor that is harder, meaner and better, Splendor Duel may be the answer to all of your …
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You may be thinking, “but doesn’t Splendor already play pretty well as it is as a two player game?”. Well, yes it does. But in Splendor Duel, you have got rules specifically targetted for 2 players, not 3, not 4, just TWO! And if you are looking for a game much like original Splendor that is harder, meaner and better, Splendor Duel may be the answer to all of your board game wishes!

As a two-player standalone game, you must race against your rival for victory. There are new twists and tricks for you to discover in the Splendor world, will you be the one who discovers them first… or will you let your foe beat you to it? While you do share a big main board with your opponent, you will also get card powers and three victory conditions.

Splendor Duel contains part of the main features of the original Splendors gameplay mechanisms, just made slightly more difficult, slightly more interactive, slightly more tense and a whole lot more mean! There are quite a few differences between Splendor and Splendor Duel, but that’s where you come in and find that out all for yourselves!

Will it be your go to filler game? We think it may become your new favourite!

Awards

Dice Tower

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Lots of new aspects to gameplay
  • High quality pieces

Might Not Like

  • Privilege scrolls may be a little overrated
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Description

You may be thinking, "but doesn't Splendor already play pretty well as it is as a two player game?". Well, yes it does. But in Splendor Duel, you have got rules specifically targetted for 2 players, not 3, not 4, just TWO! And if you are looking for a game much like original Splendor that is harder, meaner and better, Splendor Duel may be the answer to all of your board game wishes!

As a two-player standalone game, you must race against your rival for victory. There are new twists and tricks for you to discover in the Splendor world, will you be the one who discovers them first... or will you let your foe beat you to it? While you do share a big main board with your opponent, you will also get card powers and three victory conditions.

Splendor Duel contains part of the main features of the original Splendors gameplay mechanisms, just made slightly more difficult, slightly more interactive, slightly more tense and a whole lot more mean! There are quite a few differences between Splendor and Splendor Duel, but that's where you come in and find that out all for yourselves!

Will it be your go to filler game? We think it may become your new favourite!

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.

What’s New

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!

You know that tingly feeling when you play a game for the first time, and you want to play it again? Like right now. That was Splendor Duel for us! And I’m hoping this little guide will help you get that feeling too!

Setting Up

If you’ve played Splendor before, there’s a few similarities in terms of components. But the set up (which is super speedy) will be new.

Open up the modest sized box and grab the 3 Jewel card decks. Shuffle each and form a pyramid of face up cards; 5 x level 1 cards, 4 x level 2, and 3 x level 3. Pop the decks alongside their respective rows.

Now take all the jewel tokens and throw them in the bag. Give them a jiggle, and draw 25 out one by one, placing them on the central board following the arrow spiral. The bag can go to the side of the board.

3 privilege scrolls go next to the board, 4 Royals go face up under the board, and then choose first player in the way you do. Whoever goes 2nd gets a privilege scroll to start the game. There’s also a victory tile that reminds you of the 3 ways in which you can claim victory, so best keep that in eyeline.

That’s it! You are ready to get your royal rumble on!

Turn Time

On your turn, you must do some things and you can do others. But whatever you do must be done in the right order.

The can dos come first:

  • You CAN spend a privilege scroll (if you have one) to gain any non-gold gem from the board; and/or
  • You CAN refill the game board (if there are tokens in the bag) – if you do though, your opponent gets a privilege token. And if there are none left, they can take on of yours!

NB: you may need to do this if you need to take gem tokens/want to reserve a card and get a gold as your mandatory action – see below

Now the must dos:

On your turn you must do one of three things:

  • You MUST take up to 3 tokens in a line from the board (excluding gold – if there’s a gold, it interrupts the line so you can only take the token(s) up to the gold one). You must keep the tokens you have and the Jewel cards you have visible to your opponent (except reserved cards – see below).

If you take 3 tokens of the same colour or 2 pearl tokens, also gain 1 privilege scroll (from the reserve or your opponent if there is none left in reserve!)

NB: at the end of your turn in Splendor Duel, you can only have a maximum of 10 Jewel tokens (excluding the permanent ones showing on your purchased Jewel cards); or

  • You MUST take one gold token from the board and a Jewel card from any of the 3 lines or draw blind from any of the decks (“reserve”) – don’t forget to keep your reserve card secret, and replace any space with a new card from the deck!

NB: you can only reserve 3 cards at a time; or

  • You MUST use your tokens to purchase a Jewel card from one of the rows, or a card you have previously reserved (using tokens you have collected and/or the permanent gem bonuses shown on Jewel cards you have already purchased). Once a reserved card is purchased, it gets added to your Jewel cards on display.

Gold tokens are wild so can replace any other gem when purchasing. And any physical tokens used to purchase a Jewel card are returned to the bag.

Bonus Bag

Buying Jewel cards is great because they grant permanent gems (did I hear someone say engine builder?! Aha!), and some have extra bonus actions on them too:

  • Two arrows = take another turn immediately
  • Multiple stones = this card will act as a permanent gem of any type (but cannot be changed once set) NB: you must have a card with this bonus action on it on display in order to take a card of this type in a later turn!
  • 1 Jewel = you get to take any one gem token from the board matching the colour of the card (or steal one from your opponent if they have all gone!)
  • Privilege scroll = take a scroll (or steal one from your opponent if they have all gone!)
  • Hand = steal a gem token or pearl from your opponent!

Ooh lots of direct interaction with your opponent that isn’t present in Splendor! We likey!

Crowning Glory

The only other symbol you will need to consider when playing Splendor Duel are the crowns which appear on some cards. If you purchase Jewel cards and your total number of crowns is 3, you get to pick a Royal card from the 3 on display. These award VPs and/or another bonus action. And this doesn’t count as an action itself – you can do this in addition to the optional and mandatory elements of your turn.

NB: your first Royal card needs 3 crowns but your second will need 6! So get collecting!

Winning The Game

The game ends when one player achieves any one of the 3 winning conditions:-

  • 20 VPs; or
  • 10 crowns; or
  • 10 VPs collected on Jewel cards of the same colour

At that point, the winner is crowned the most Splendiferous player and then it’s a countdown to who suggests playing again! Haha

I hope this little guide helps you work out if this is a game for you, as well as holds your hand through your first game. The rule book has lots of handy visuals and reminders if you get stuck too, so you’ll be duelling before the day is done!

That concludes our guide on how to play Splendor Duel. Did this help you? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Lots of new aspects to gameplay
  • High quality pieces

Might not like

  • Privilege scrolls may be a little overrated