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What to play this weekend: Splendor

You’re a renaissance merchant with an eye on the jewel trade. A shrewd business person, you buy and sell precious gems like so many Big Macs. A ruby the size of your fist? Pfft. That’s nothing to you. You invest in mines, recruit artisans and develop trade routes. Your work attracts the attention of nobles and royalty, and your prestige soars.

Such is the theme of Splendor ($6.99, universal) by Days of Wonder, a great tabletop game that has made its way to the iPhone and iPad. I’ve played the tabletop version several times and after spending several days with the iOS version, I find it a worthy successor. It does suffer a bit, as I’ll explain, but overall it’s a faithful adaptation of a fun game of buying, selling and racking up points. In fact, the digital version adds something that the tabletop version lacks that I like a whole lot. Here’s my look at Splendor for iPhone and iPad.

There are three main components in Splendor: gems, noble cards and the other cards available for purchase. The latter come in three categories: inexpensive, moderately expensive and — I bet you see where this is going — very pricey indeed.

To begin playing, the cards available for purchase are sorted into piles, and the top four of each are laid face-up for all to see. The five types of gems are sorted into piles and finally several noble cards are chosen and placed face-up in the play area (the number of players determines how many nobles show up).

Let’s play!

On your turn, you may take one of the following actions:

  1. Take one of three types of gems.
  2. Take two of one type of gem, provided there are at least four in the stack.
  3. Buy a card, provided that you can afford it.
  4. “Reserve” a card you can’t yet afford.
  5. Receive a visit from a noble.

Each card that’s up for purchase has: a cost, a bonus gem and potentially a prestige point value. When you pay a card’s cost with the gems you collected on previous turns, you gain the bonus gem displayed in its upper right-hand corner, as well as any prestige points in the upper left.

Bonus gems count towards your gems on hand. So, if you want to buy a card that costs three blue gems and you’ve got two on hand plus one blue bonus, you may purchase that card. Bonus gems are also what attract the nobles.

Each noble has a cost, or a certain number of gems that will attract them to your merchant stand. Note that only bonus gems count towards this cost, and therein lies the game: collect the right gems to make the right purchases that will attract the right nobles. It’s a card game but it’s more like chess, as there’s always an optimal move on the table for what you’re trying to do. The question then becomes: can you see it?

Earlier I mentioned reserving cards. To reserve a card, you take it into your hand, as opposed to laying it out in front of yourself. Cards in hand are not scored and do not count towards your collection of bonus gems. However, a reserved card comes with gold, which is a sort of wild card and can be used as any other gem. Finally, reserving a card can really screw up what your opponent(s) is trying to do, so pay attention. Reserving is the only way to get gold.

On the tabletop

I love Siri. I use it all the time. But there are some occasions where having that voice coming out of my phone is just really inconvenient. Fortunately, Apple designed Siri so that you can shut off the vocal responses and just see replies in text.

Pop into Settings > General > Siri, and then tap on Voice Feedback:

Tapping on Voice Feedback provides two choices — Always and Handsfree Only (see below). Select Handsfree Only, and now when Siri answers a question or does something for you, the response is text only. 

If “Hey Siri” happens to be turned on and you invoke Apple’s digital assistant by using the phrase, Siri assumes that you’re unable to touch the iOS device screen and still provides a voice response. By the way, if you ask Siri to shut up, it won’t respond verbally… but you may hurt its feelings (see image at top of this post).  

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the founder and former publisher of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!