Since its debut in 2014 the gem collecting game Splendor has become a staple of many board game collections. Through careful resource management, players attempt to build an efficient gem engine that allows them to purchase increasingly valuable cards and gain prestige points, until sufficient points are earned to crown a victor. A combination of straightforward mechanics, beautiful components and ever changing gameplay makes it a perennial bestseller. Fast forward to 2017 and the expansion “Cities of Splendor” was released, offering four expansions for the price of one. Each expansion can be paired with the base game to add a little something extra, some modify the gameplay while others change the victory criteria. Splendor already had a high level of replayability, the ability to add expansions only improves the situation. Maybe you already own it, or are considering purchasing it, in either case you might be wondering, what does expansion offer and which one is right for you?
The titular Cities expansion replaces the usual noble tiles, used to earn victory points, with 3 city tiles (randomly chosen at the start of the game from a stack of 14). The city tiles work in a similar way to noble tiles, once certain requirements are fulfilled a player earns them and their associated points. In contrast to the nobles however, the Cities also give players additional abilities, this can range from extra gem tokens to discounted purchases. The Cities expansion is the easiest to add to the base game, only asking players to replace the noble tiles with city tiles. Despite the simplicity this expansion adds a fresh feeling to Splendor, and does a brilliant job encouraging players to explore new avenues for success, occasionally forcing them to change their strategy.
You’ll Enjoy This If:
- The base game has become dull and you want a slight change to the gameplay
- You want a straightforward and simple addition without any complex additionals or rule changes
From Cities of Splendor, the Orient expansion adds three decks of cards to the board (one deck for each level of development cards). These cards are added to the right of the regular cards and can be bought like other cards, however instead of being worth gems these cards have unique abilities. The Orient cards could be worth two of a certain gem or could provide players with the option to reserve a noble card. With this expansion the victory criteria remains the same, with players striving to achieve 15 prestige points. However, the Orient changes how quickly players earn those points. On its surface the Orient expansion doesn’t seem to add much, just a few extra options when purchasing cards, but it has a significant impact on the gameplay. By adopting an efficient strategy and buying the right cards at the right time players can speed up their ability to purchase higher value cards and rapidly out maneuver their opponents. This adds an element of speed to the game, the landscape can change very quickly and forces players to make tactical decisions.
You’ll Enjoy This If:
- You want to speed up gameplay, the ability to purchase higher value cards can speed up gameplay
- You don’t mind learning a few additional rules, this is mainly because you will have to learn the benefits that each of the new cards offer
- You have always wanted more options to choose from when purchasing cards
In the Trading Posts expansions a new “Route of the Orient” board is added and players are given the opportunity to earn additional bonuses. As with noble tiles players can earn these bonuses by collecting certain development cards, such as 3 blue and 1 red development card. Once they have earned the necessary cards players can place a “Coat of Arms” on the Route board, permanently earning them a bonus. The bonuses that players can take advantage of vary, from collecting additional gems to earning prestige points. Through careful planning players can use trading posts to maximise their earning potential, using them to acquire higher value cards and expanding their own gem collecting ability. When adding this expansion the goal of the game remains the same but, as with the Orient expansion, how you get there will change. Trading Posts significantly speed up gameplay, allowing a strategic player to build a gem collecting engine in a relatively short space of time. This also comes with a more competitive type of gameplay, it can be easy for one player to progress rapidly leaving other players desperate to catch up. Trading Posts offers a noticeable change to the gameplay mechanics, adding another layer of competition while opening the field to new, often more ruthless, strategies.
You’ll Enjoy This If:
- You want to speed up gameplay
- You want to reinforce the competitive elements of the base game, some players may get left behind if they don’t have a strong enough strategy
The Strongholds expansion in Cities of Splendor gives each player three towers (strongholds) which can be placed around the board each time they purchase a new card. When they place a stronghold they become the only player able to purchase/reserve that card. On their turn players can also move one of their strongholds from one card to another one or remove another player's stronghold. Once three strongholds are on the same card that player can buy that card after their regular action, allowing them to make two acquisitions in the same turn or buying that card after taking tokens. Strongholds introduce a territorial element to the game, where players compete for control over key locations. This approach significantly enhances player interaction and encourages players to think carefully about their long-term decision-making. The mechanics of Strongholds are fairly easy to grasp, the difficulty lies in learning how to make the most of them. At first the Stronghold expansion can seem like a needless addition, early in the game it doesn’t offer much benefit. But as you learn to back opponents into a corner and fight for high value cards, the competitive element of this expansion really begins to shine through.
You’ll Enjoy This If
- You want to significantly enhance the competitive nature of the base game
- You don’t mind adding an extra layer of gameplay mechanics, the rules aren’t overly complicated but they do add in extra actions that can be taken on your turn
Each expansion in Cities of Splendor adds its own layer of complexity and strategic depth. If you want to engage in territorial battles then go for The Strongholds expansion, if you want more purchasing options that unlock different strategies then try The Orient. Regardless of your favorite type of gameplay, Cities of Splendor has something to offer for every player, the question you have to ask is - which one works for you?