In a few weeks time, Cities of Splendor will be released to the adoring public. Cities of Splendor (or New Splendor, as I shall call it) is the up and coming expansion for the classic card game, in which players take the place of gem merchants trying to earn as much prestige as possible.
It was announced earlier this year that an expansion pack to the original game will be released and that Cities of Splendor will introduce several brand new mechanics to the game.
I must admit, as someone who kind of wants to get out of the Splendor world after having played it non-stop for several months, it had me excited, and I thought I would take the time to say why.
I feel at this point, before we dive in, it is important to say that I haven’t seen any previews of the game and am only going on what I have read online, so I may be entirely wrong – but it’s exciting nonetheless!
Not Just One Expansion
Cities of Splendor is a really interesting concept, namely because it elevates the “Big Box” game to a whole new level. So long as there have been board games someone has been making expansions, that much we are used to; however, usually, they are fire and forget. What I mean by this is that usually, they sit alone, in their own box, on a shelf. A prime example of this is Settlers of Catan, where there are several expansions but all are separate.
Then, a few years ago, one genius of a gamer decided to lump all the expansions (until then sold separately) together to create the “Big Box” that could be sold as one chunk. This is where New Splendor comes in, as it takes the Big Box idea further – selling all the expansions as one.
With that in mind, New Splendor (fine, Cities of Splendor) has four expansion packs, each included in the same box. When the core game is so replayable, that offers a lot of different combinations.
The Cities of Splendor
The title expansion pack is interesting. For those who have read this blog a fair amount, you will know I am not a huge fan of the nobles in Splendor. The reason for this is because, from a strategic perspective, they make little sense (you can read that article here – there’s like maths and everything – it’s well good) and can be a huge distraction in the game.
Well, Cities of Splendor takes this idea and throws it out the window. There are no nobles in Cities of Splendor. Instead, they are replaced with cities, as you would expect from the name. The difference though is that you cannot win a game without a city. That being said, a city can easily win you the game. I’m guessing, you don’t actually need to go for points on cards as, looking at the cities, they can be worth as many as 17 points. This is evident from the Asmondee website (link) and the images therein.
Suddenly, this turns all the current strategies on their heads. Suddenly, building an engine of cards really makes sense. Why get points in the Cities expansion when you just need lots of cards to win?
One of the new expansions New Splendor will also offer is that of trading posts. With trading posts, it will actually be beneficial to build an engine and to, once again, gather cards. This introduces a new board to the game, leading players to the Orient. From the looks of it, this is a progression pack. You move through it to reach your goal, however, it is a progression in the form of a stand alone expansion as well.
In the trading posts expansion, it is possible to gain new abilities when you play.
The goal, it appears to be, is the Orient (expansion number three) is where new cards and abilities are introduced into the core game.
Finally, there is a strongholds mechanic (expansion four) which acts as a reservation alternative. Each player has a certain number of strongholds which they can play once they have purchased a card. The strongholds reserve that card so only that player can pick up that card. It is a way of reserving without getting the gold coin you usually get. Once a player places three strongholds on a card they are then entitled to that card by “right of conquest”. This makes the game very interesting. As mentioned earlier I haven’t even managed to lay my eyes on a preview yet, but this seems like a very drastic move from the original game.
So Why Is New Splendor So Exciting?
Okay, so throughout this article I have been referring to Cities of Splendor as New Splendor, and there are a few reasons behind this. The first is that Cities of Splendor seems to be a completely different game. Yes, some of the core mechanics are the same; however, the expansions seem to have been designed so players who favour old tactics will need to switch up their game in order to play this new game well. It is a whole different ballpark. This is no longer a game where the old bull rush strategy can work. This requires some thought.
Yes…it requires a new bull rush strategy!
The second is a bit of a strange reason, but awesome nonetheless. Splendor is, at its heart, a fairly abstract game. You collect gems, you get prestige, but there is no huge driving story behind it.
New Splendor, however, offers the option (unofficially, if not officially) for campaign and story mode. Reading up on those expansions means that it is possible to play all four modes in a running story. First, you start off in the European cities of Splendor (Venice, Rome, etc.). From there you build your trading posts on the road to the Orient and then, only then, do you play your additional oriental cards. Finally, you build your fortresses to claim your new home in the East.
There is a potential narrative there that makes it possible for each scenario to be separate, yes, but they can also be linked into one long game. That is really exciting.
Yes, there is the possibility for it to go wrong; however, it could also go so, so right.
If the facts are right, and if I have interpreted what I have read properly, Cities of Spendor promises to be a very unique and very interesting experience.
So, what are your thoughts on Cities of Splendor? Are you looking forward to it or are you just going to keep with the core game for now? Let me know in the comments below.