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Subject: A quick rundown of why I probably won't be playing Splendor for a 3rd time rss

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Justin K
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Why am I writing this review?
You'll never have any problem finding reviews to sing a game's praises, but I often find myself wanting to know a game's flaws before pulling the trigger on a purchase. Don't get me wrong, Splendor has plenty of good points, but anybody will tell you those; I want to briefly address some of (what I find to be) its flaws.

The dirty

1. So much micro-optimization
Right out of the gate, each player will find themselves spending a good minute deciding whether to get a Red, Green, and Blue or a White, Black and Green gem on their first turn. This would be OK if your choice guided your strategy for the rest of the game, but since all the colors act basically the same, the choice will only affect the next couple of turns. Watching people agonize over such localized decisions while waiting for your turn to roll around again felt pretty tedious, as did making the decisions myself. (This may be dependent on the level of AP in a particular group--I admit my group has generally more than I'd like, but this game seems to really try to invite analysis).

2. Luck of the draw
Both of my first two games felt like they came down to who got lucky with a choice development appearing just when they happened to be the first one to be able to afford it or which most closely matched the distribution of their tableau. Especially since everyone's tableau is of roughly equal quality, but slightly different distributions of colors, having a card appear that matches your tableau is a huge swing.

3. All tactics, no strategy
To clarify what I mean, I personally define strategy as an over-arching approach to victory that guides your entire play. For example, in a civ game "I'm going to go heavy science but weak military" could be your strategy. I define tactics to be the choices you make turn-to-turn to optimize your strategy--following the above example, this would be along the lines of the particular choices of tech you take at each point.

Carrying this idea to splendor, it always felt like simply taking (or ramping up to) the 'best' card you can, rather than considering long term tradeoffs between different types of cards (because no such tradeoffs really exist). I had initially hoped that there would be varying strategies of when to take tier 1 cards vs tier 2 vs tier 3, but the game is designed to actively force you to start off with tier 1 cards before it's even possible to get higher tier cards (due to resource scarcity and hand size limits) so in both my plays, everyone ended up taking roughly the same tiers of cards as everyone else at each stage of the game. Of course there are sometimes tough decisions in deciding which card is the 'best', but they always felt very tactical and never strategic by my above definitions. The net effect of this was that I never felt that invested in my own board because it always looks more or less like everyone else's, just in different colors.

4. Decisions don't feel meaningful
The above 3 points all roll together to end up making me feel like my decisions don't really matter that much (at least not in a way which I can control--see point 2), especially early on.

Conclusion

Splendor is a really elegant idea and I'm sure it clicks for a lot of people, but it just didn't work for me. Having only played it twice, feel free to take this with as many grains of salt as you wish. Maybe something was supposed to click which didn't, and maybe a commenter will point out the 'Eureka' that I've missed and I'll have to play the game again, but for now I think it will stay on the shelf.
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James Clarke
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Your criticisms appear to sit at quite a deep and heavy level, for what is a relatively light and easily accessible game.

We simply enjoy playing it, over and over again.

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David B
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There are players who win this game at a far higher rate than others. Those players will tell you they actually do have long term strategy mixed with turn to turn tactics.
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Jo Bartok
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I can nothing but share your point of view. It is really a overrated over-hyped game that will soon be forgotten as Zee Gracia also pointed out. Thanks for not praising this time. Peeps looking to judge if to play or buy the game should have a good basis by looking at half:half positive/negative reviews... but sadly BGG is full of me-too-love-hype-reviews, mostly..

It has its pros: It has a great production quality, very good design though a bit too repetitive on the artwork side and an excellent low entry barrier in terms of rules and game play.

It is currently ranked FAMILY GAMES Rank 7... and while I think that is a pretty high spot it won't hold it marks very well the strengths of this game. I'd though rather play games like Small World, for sale, felix the cat in the sack, Concept, King of New York, Love Letter, Hanabi or Dominion as FAMILY GAMES. On the other hand if I want set collection and player order luck but still strategy I'd pick up Francis Drake (+Egizia), Royals, Colosseum or Ticket to Ride (meh) - all of those should work in a Family setting as well.

E.g. it is a great gateway game. It totally lacks theme, theme integration and thus immersion. There is only very little interaction which depends highly on player turn order (luck) and denial and thus a lot of analysis paralysis. Played as a heavily competitive game it felt like a tedious game of short term tactics and some limited strategy. Sure you will have players grasping the tiny little better moves here and there and analyze the game on a larger scale in a better way. The path to victory is simply no fun in this game and it requires a lot of micro improvements to get you there on a constant basis. The same applies to love letter as well. It has a lot of luck and mostly tactics and still some players will win it a lot more often. Or to Coup, or to Cockroach Poker. Same, again and again. But those are a lot shorter, still great gateway games and guess what, a lot more interaction and fun is on the table.

Splendor on the other hand thus is clearly overtaken by other gateway games that even scale beyond being a gateway game like Dominion (despite that I am no fan of the author because of his bad Kingdom Builder, though Android Infiltration is quite nice).

/pass like you pointed out very well.

p.s.: Looking at your Android Netrunner fan icon... I don't wonder you didn't like the game as ANR implies a lot of different sets of skills like long term strategy, short term tactics, likelihood management, resource management, deduction, bluffing, hand management, deck management, waiting-for-the-right-moment, press your luck etc. and all that combined with theme and highly integrated thus immersive. This game DOES NOTHING for those who love deep games like ANR as a complete package of all those things. I wonder what your opinion about Doomtown: Reloaded is?
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David Larkin
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kops wrote:
I had initially hoped that there would be varying strategies of when to take tier 1 cards vs tier 2 vs tier 3, but the game is designed to actively force you to start off with tier 1 cards before it's even possible to get higher tier cards (due to resource scarcity and hand size limits) so in both my plays, everyone ended up taking roughly the same tiers of cards as everyone else at each stage of the game.


I often reserve a couple of tier 2 or 3 cards in the first few turns, the ones that need 5 or six gems of the same coulour arn't too difficult to build if you have a few gold and build a couple of tier 1 cards of the right colour. I think there is a reasonable element of strategy in the game, deciding which nobile (if any) to aim for, which teir 2 and 3 cards to aim for, but would agree that it is largely a tactical game.
If you were expecting a full on Euro I can see that you critism is valid, but this is a light filler, a Euro stripped down to its bare bones and as such it works for me
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Andrew
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kops wrote:
I had initially hoped that there would be varying strategies of when to take tier 1 cards vs tier 2 vs tier 3, but the game is designed to actively force you to start off with tier 1 cards before it's even possible to get higher tier cards (due to resource scarcity and hand size limits)


According to the designer there have been tournaments in France where players win with very few cards, almost no tier 1 cards, no engine, and aggressively reserve big point-scoring cards.
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fateswanderer wrote:
kops wrote:
I had initially hoped that there would be varying strategies of when to take tier 1 cards vs tier 2 vs tier 3, but the game is designed to actively force you to start off with tier 1 cards before it's even possible to get higher tier cards (due to resource scarcity and hand size limits)


According to the designer there have been tournaments in France where players win with very few cards, almost no tier 1 cards, no engine, and aggressively reserve big point-scoring cards.


This is exactly how I won a game last night. I had exactly one Tier one card worth 0 VPs and I think two others worth 1 VP. All of my other cards in play were 2+ VPs. The next closest competitor had 6 VPs and the last place player had 3 VPs (and he was by far the most experienced player of the bunch). The 6 VP player had a mix of Tier 1 and 2 cards and the 3 VP player had something like 12 or 13 cards in play and his only VPs were from one Noble. They obviously aren't very good, but this was only my fifth time playing, so it's not like I'm an expert.

Anyway, the point is that you can play the game differently than others. Try it one more time as described above and see how you fare.
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Ben B
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ionas wrote:
It is really a overrated over-hyped game that will soon be forgotten as Zee Gracia also pointed out.

Quoting Zee Garcia is hardly a convincing point for me.

ionas wrote:
... but sadly BGG is full of me-too-love-hype-reviews, mostly..

Did it occur to you that maybe this is the case because you're more wrong than you are right? You can claim that everyone else is wrong all you want, but that isn't going to change what people are saying. It's okay for you to not like a game without discounting everyone else's opinions.

I personally love the game. It causes me to use my mind in a way that few other games do, even if it is relatively lacking in theme.
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Jo Bartok
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It happens cause people are more interested in fetish, identification and social group effects than game quality and fun.

It happens cause there are tons of evangelizing zealots.

It happens cause those disliking a game usually stay away from reviews and forums cause of ignorance AND cause they don't like being socially crushed in relation to the points above.

The reviewer had some good points and all you do is ignoring or relavating those.

And: I'd rather trust my own and Zee's experience than some fanbois.
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Ben B
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ionas wrote:
And: I'd rather trust my own and Zee's experience than some fanbois.

That statement appears very "fanboi" to me, but more of the human variety than the game variety. Maybe the same argument could be made against Zee Garcia that you're making against Splendor. Then you can argue against that argument like I'm arguing against your argument.
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Joe
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"actively force you to start off with tier 1 cards"

Interesting... I usually have the opposite experience.
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Aelfric Brewer
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kops wrote:

Carrying this idea to splendor, it always felt like simply taking (or ramping up to) the 'best' card you can, rather than considering long term tradeoffs between different types of cards (because no such tradeoffs really exist). I had initially hoped that there would be varying strategies of when to take tier 1 cards vs tier 2 vs tier 3, but the game is designed to actively force you to start off with tier 1 cards before it's even possible to get higher tier cards (due to resource scarcity and hand size limits) so in both my plays, everyone ended up taking roughly the same tiers of cards as everyone else at each stage of the game.


Clearly, your problem is that you play with people who suffer from groupthink. There are, indeed, varying strategies, but since they didn't occur to anyone in your group, you haven't seen them yet.

I suggest you simply *watch* a few games among much more experienced players, and try to figure out *why* they make the choices they do (which apparently no one in your group did).

I won't say you're wrong not to like the game, but your criticisms betray your lack of understanding. You're complaining that you don't see some elements that are actually present.
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Patrick C.
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Quote:
I won't say you're wrong not to like the game, but your criticisms betray your lack of understanding. You're complaining that you don't see some elements that are actually present.


This.

This is in fact the problem with negative reviews on BGG. We need more negative (or at least balanced with negatives prominently mentioned) reviews on BGG. But those reviews are worthless when they're not even accurate in terms of describing what's wrong or what's not going to be universally enjoyable.

Splendor is dry, dry, DRY. It can require some micro observations that belie its filler status. IOW, it can outlast its welcome with some players if they're trying to make perfect moves. But the game has strategy. Those who say otherwise don't understand the game.
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Martin G
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travvller wrote:
This is in fact the problem with negative reviews on BGG. We need more negative (or at least balanced with negatives prominently mentioned) reviews on BGG. But those reviews are worthless when they're not even accurate in terms of describing what's wrong or what's not going to be universally enjoyable.


Hey, if only someone had just launched a contest for critical reviews, with a special award for negative reviews!

Voice of Experience Reviews Contest 2015: Prizes!
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David Janik-Jones
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After the initial thrill wore off, I found it only so-so after about 10 plays. Yes, there's some strategy involved but I have other "light" games that are personally more fun than this one. Traded it away without regret for many of the reasons the OP pointed out. That said, the chips were a lovely weight.
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Tomello Visello
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I came to read becuase my own limited exposure left me unenthusiastic. Your opening, however, also leaves me uninspired.

kops wrote:
[1. So much micro-optimization
Right out of the gate, each player will find themselves spending a good minute deciding whether to get a Red, Green, and Blue or a White, Black and Green gem on their first turn. This would be OK if your choice guided your strategy for the rest of the game, but since all the colors act basically the same, the choice will only affect the next couple of turns.


** A minute? You're worried about one minute? Of course I'm going to take a minute (at the opening of the game, and later turns) to see if there is a pathway possible from a low level card to something higher. Isn't this a good thing in relation to the "decisions" you complain about later?

** Picking an opening color? I'm having trouble picking analogies to other games right now, but I hardly want a game that determines my fate for its whole course simply on the basis of which tile I grab on the very first turn. It that was truly where the game was headed, why not skip the 2nd turn and all the rest to just declare the winner.



kops wrote:
3. All tactics, no strategy...
I had initially hoped that there would be varying strategies of when to take tier 1 cards vs tier 2 vs tier 3, but the game is designed to actively force you to start off with tier 1 cards before it's even possible to get higher tier cards (due to resource scarcity and hand size limits) so in both my plays, everyone ended up taking roughly the same tiers of cards as everyone else at each stage of the game.


**Forced to start small? I rather thought that was the reason I had been guided to thinking of this game as an engine builder (the truth and contrast is that I almost immediately encountered a game winner who went straight to the uppermost level cards - and that betrayal led to my own loss of interest in this game)


kops wrote:
. For example, in a civ game "I'm going to go heavy science but weak military" could be your strategy.

...Of course there are sometimes tough decisions in deciding which card is the 'best', but they always felt very tactical and never strategic by my above definitions. The net effect of this was that I never felt that invested in my own board because it always looks more or less like everyone else's, just in different colors.


**Even if it is only a single possiblity of path choice, I have the impression that you overlooked switching to Noble cards. I observed that same attitude around my table of fellow beginners. They were so focused on the regular tiles that it was a surprise when I moved to chasing Nobles (partly becuase I felt blocked elsewhere and needed to catch up). I didn't win but they encountered an awakening as to what it represented.


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Adam P
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This is a good review from someone who didn't enjoy the game, but the same reasons describing the negative aspects, are positives for me.

1. micro optimization = I like that aspect. Small tension in each decision.
2. luck of the draw = A game with surprises and chuckles is ok since it's a quick game.
3. tactics vs. strategy = After 30+ plays I've found it to have a mixture of both. (Nobles or no nobles?)
4. lack of meaningful decisions = It's a forgiving game.... to a point. Make a mistake earlier and you could recover, with a bit of luck.

Sorry you didn't enjoy the game, but you've given a fair review!
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Susan F.
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benchilada wrote:
ionas wrote:
... but sadly BGG is full of me-too-love-hype-reviews, mostly..

Did it occur to you that maybe this is the case because you're more wrong than you are right?


The prevalence of positive reviews (vs. negative ones) is not evidence that a game is good or that someone who doesn't like it is wrong. Almost every game on BGG has more positive reviews than negative ones because people who like a game are more likely to want to write about it. Not every game on BGG is good. And certainly not a good fit for every potential player.

It's good that you like the game. I like it well enough, but I think that the OP has some pretty valid points about it that would disappoint people looking for a hardcore strategy game if they just read the glowing "best game ever" reviews that dominate this forum.
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Peter Rabinowitz
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"All tactics no strategy."
"No meaningful decisions."
but also
"I got annoyed if my opponents took a WHOLE MINUTE to think about their turn."

Sorry, but that seems very confused to me. If you aren't going to take even a minute to analyze the board then how could you possibly discover any depth or strategy?
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Daniel Kearns
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Thanks for the negative review.

One thing you might reconsider is the idea that all colors are basically the same. While technically true when the cards are in the deck, once they are dealt their values change dramatically.

As an extreme case, if there is a cheap tier 1 blue gem but few to no cards above it that require blue gems, the instantaneous value is low. Conversely, if there is a color in Tier 1 that is highly represented above it in costs, then that gem has a high instantaneous value. See also the nobles, if there is a color that appears on multiple nobles, that gem has a higher value than those that are on few to no nobles.

Not sure if that helps at all.
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Steve Blackwell
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Justin,

Hang in there. No, I don't mean keep trying to play the game you don't like because I say so.

Keep writing reviews that are not all glowing, if the game doesn't suit.

Too much, and I think it was alluded to by others on this site which I love, people want to tell you you're wrong or you're playing with the wrong people or it's your problem.

I would much rather read a negative review whether it is spot on or flawed, as it makes me think, than read a gushing review.

I am usually more interested in giving thumbs and spreading a little thanks then telling people their opinion is wrong.

Not every game is good for everyone and there is nothing wrong with proclaiming this.

People can make their own minds up. Thank you for your opinion.

M B

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James Clarke
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A common problem with unfavourable reviews, is that the author's stance is often clouded by their own false expectations.

Another common problem with them, is that the author has only played once or twice.

Whilst personal opinions should be welcomed, it's hardly surprising that fans will always jump in to oppose what they see as unfounded and unair criticism.



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Highland Cow wrote:

Another common problem with them, is that the author has only played once or twice.


You'll be hard-pressed to find someone who will play a game they dislike more than once or twice. Discounting negative reviews for that reason is the same as discounting almost all negative reviews.
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pfctsqr wrote:
There are players who win this game at a far higher rate than others. Those players will tell you they actually do have long term strategy mixed with turn to turn tactics.
My first few games were filled with AP and hating the game.

In my last 20 or so games, I realize there is a mix of strategy and tactics which were so subtle I missed them in my first 5 plays.
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ionas wrote:
It happens cause people are more interested in fetish, identification and social group effects than game quality and fun.

It happens cause there are tons of evangelizing zealots.

It happens cause those disliking a game usually stay away from reviews and forums cause of ignorance AND cause they don't like being socially crushed in relation to the points above.

The reviewer had some good points and all you do is ignoring or relavating those.

And: I'd rather trust my own and Zee's experience than some fanbois.
lol

No.

(PS I didn't laugh out loud.)
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