It's safe to say that Space Cowboys' Splendor is a modern classic, a board game that rewards thinking ahead and adapting on the fly. The original version is a delight, so how exactly do you improve it? Well, it turns out one such way is to give it a complete Marvel makeover, which Asmodee and Space Cowboys have done with Splendor: Marvel. The new version of Marc Andre's beloved title is themed around the Infinity Stones and features a bevy of gorgeous artwork straight from the comics. You'll see all of your favorite heroes and villains in the new edition, as well as famed Marvel locations and slick Infinity Stone style tokens, making this one of the best combinations of Marvel fandom and stellar gameplay a tabletop fan could ask for.
For those unfamiliar with Splendor, the game has you playing as a merchant who is attempting to amass 15 Prestige Points to win the game, and you do that by purchasing cards from the table with different colored tokens. In the original game, these take the form of colored gem tokens, and as you recruit more cards into your hand you gain more of each color and don't have to use as many tokens to purchase others. Depending on what is in your hand you can also add Nobles to your winnings, which each come with 3 Prestige Points, getting you closer to victory.
Splendor: Marvel keeps that same core formula, but makes a few changes to the gameplay that spices things up a bit (you can check out the full rules right here). First, from a visual aesthetic, the game changes the gem theme to that of the Infinity Gauntlet's powerful Infinity Stones, which is cool but it's not just a visual change. The Stones actually play a part in how you achieve victory, as to win you need to fulfill all the requirements of the Infinity Gauntlet tile, which says you need 16 Infinity Points (Splendor: Marvel's version of Prestige Points) and one bonus of each color stone.
One of those is the Time Stone, but again, there's a catch. There are three tiers of Character Cards to recruit into your hand, each costing a different mix of colored tokens to purchase and giving you a different color card for your hand. These cards are split into three different power levels, 1 through 3. Level 1 and 2 cards are great for adding color bonuses to your hand and even grabbing a few extra Infinity Points, but they do not get you a Time Stone Token. The only way to get that is to purchase a Level 3 character card from the table, which are more expensive but offer better bonuses and rewards.
As Splendor players know, this is made more difficult because of the limited number of Tokens available. Each turn you can either take 3 differently-colored tokens or 2 of the same token if there are enough available, and if all the tokens are being used you can't access more until someone spends theirs. This adds a bit of risk to every turn, as you can plan your strategy perfectly and then have someone take the thing you needed most to make that next purchase, throwing all your plans out the window. That's why reserving is a good option in certain cases (and nets you a SHIELD token in the process that can act as any color token), but then that means you can't draw any tokens that turn, so every decision can and often does have some sort of ripple effect on subsequent turns and strategies.
You can also bolster your Infinity Points number by obtaining Location Tiles, which include places like Avengers Tower, Knowhere, and more, but a new wrinkle in the game is the Avengers Assemble Tile. Certain character cards have an Avengers symbol, and if you've got at least 3 of these cards in your hand you can collect this tile. If the other players surpass your number though, they get the tile and the 3 Infinity Points that come with it, so if someone is close to victory but you see an opportunity to grab a cheap Avengers character, you can take those 3 points away and buy yourself some time.
The more character cards you build-up of a color, the less you need to purchase other cards, since those cards act as a token essentially, and that frees the tokens up in the late game to help players purchase bigger and more powerful cards. It all flows together marvelously (see what I did there), and it doesn't hurt that the artwork is pulled directly from the comics, ensuring you're going to find some cards and characters you adore. That said, I would like to point out that there are no Cardiac or Darkhark cards, but maybe they're being saved for an expansion. That's wishful thinking, but you leave me be!
Splendor was already a personal favorite of mine, but Splendor: Marvel adds just enough complexity while maximizing the use of its theme, making this version my Splendor of choice moving forward. It's colorful, gorgeous, easy to learn, and encourages adapting on the fly and rewards those who find multiple ways forward. The game was already one of the best, and weaving in the grandness of the Marvel Universe has made it even better.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Published By: Space Cowboys and JD Editions
Designed By: Marc Andre0comments
Developed By: Francois Doucet
What did you think of Splendor: Marvel? Let us know in the comments and as always you can talk all things tabletop and Marvel with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!