My Thoughts on Splendor v Century Spice Road

So thanks to the wonderful resource that is Board in the City (Southampton), I have been playing a few more new games and trying out some stuff. There is two in particular that caught my attention recently: Century Spice Road and Splendor. The former was like the sensation game at the Expo last year, sold out and stuff, so I thought “ok cool, we will give this a go”. And I had heard lots of people talk about Splendor so, why not, ey? The two games themselves are pretty comparable as the follow very similar dynamics and the game goals are in essence the same: be the player that has more victory points at the end of it, all based on your capability to do your best at resource management to maximise your economic gain.

In Century Spice Road you are merchants trying to set up a spice road (obvs!). There are victory cards with a set value of points for your end score that you can buy with cubes of different colours starting with yellow at its lowest value, green, red and brown. Your turns are devised in such a way that you either acquire cubes, cards that allow you to gain or exchange cubes or purchase the victory cards. Splendor is fairly similar, just instead of cubes you have gems (blue, red, green, black and white). Whilst in Spice Road you end the game when a player has purchased 5 of the victory cards, in Splendor you stop playing when someone reaches 15 victory points. Fairly simple games in any case, easy and quick to play, however, after having played both, I am still wondering why did Century Spice Road perform so well, when in comparison I think it is less straight forward – and more lame if you ask me…Also, who wants to pay nearly 30 quid when I can buy Splendor for like 20?

The game components you get are fairly similar. It is not like Century Spice Road has some amazing art work I am dying to see…(actually a lot of the art work is rather repetitive, I didn’t follow if there was supposed to be a pattern for the same image to be on a card that scored your 9 points and one that scored you 13…if that was just to fill in the cards, that seems a bit lazy to me). There is one thing I value about both games and it is their speed to learn and play. However, I felt that I picked up Splendor quicker than the other one, and in general from talking to other fellow gamers, I get the feeling that it is simply more straight forward: get your gems, mine more gems, combo for points, win. Done. In Century Spice Road you also have a limit as to how many cubes you can have in your reserve at one given point in time (which is fair enough, but it slows down the pace of a game that doesn’t need that much complication). I do also like that both games are very tactile: whether it is the cubes of your gems, I like touching and holding my actual resource/currency. Yet once again, I feel more compelled by the visual appearance and wholesome feel of the gem tokens in Splendor. Nothing against the cubes of CSR, just like round solid tokens! (I am a clumsy person and I feel I will end up spilling the cubes all over the place. Nevertheless, the tokens are a more noticeable, they have some weight to them, and as the moronic blonde I am, I like knowing I will hear the clunk against the floor when the inevitably fall off the table). The other thing that makes me favour Splendor is the scoring system. When I am playing and resource management game with an economic and strategic factor, I like to be able to keep good track of how everyone is doing – I mean, That IS partially the point, trying to trump your opponents by doing better. Acquiring 5 victory cards doesn’t mean you’ve won as it all depends on the value of those cards…I just like knowing I can have a quick look at the table and count who is closer to 15, check their gems and see what their potential future moves are.

I also felt that the card and cube acquisition pattern of CSR become rather repetitive and cyclical, like it is all decided in the first few draws and then you just keep on playing your same hand over and over, making the rest of the card deck a bit redundant. There are some cards that are certainly advantageous and if you get them in the first few rounds, they can give you a massive advantage by sheer chance. Whilst in Splendor all the cards are equally juicy, with their cons and pros depending of what colours you are aiming for. It feels a bit more balanced and down to your own skills and decisions rather than a higher luck factor as the combos that become available for you to obtain cubes. Because, at the end of the day, this is what I want from a quick paced resource management game, something simple, fun, with some brain activity and easy resolution.

Now I am not saying in any way, shape or form that CSR isn’t a good game – It is playable, I had fun. But I wouldn’t be terribly fussed if I didn’t play it ever again. Particularly knowing the price tag! Although CPR allows you to play with 5 people, whilst Splendor only up to 4,so perhaps depending on your needs you would be more inclined towards the higher number of players.

In my case, however, I would be more inclined to acquire Splendor for my collection for an easy going, warm up game with more to follow afterwards. Nice after a game of Straw and a follow up with 7 Wonders I reckon.

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