How Cities of Splendor’s Goals Make the Game
Cities of Splendor has been sitting on the shelf waiting to be played, so I was thrilled when Asmodee started releasing the expansion in their apps. One buck later I fired up a Cities game and wondered: how big a difference can swapping three pieces of cardboard make?
On the face of it, the Cities module doesn’t look like much. Step one: remove the nobles from the original game. Step two: put out three objective cards. That’s it, changeover complete. The cards are double-sided, giving variety in the combinations.
In theory, each card represents one of six cities — Bruges, Lyon, Lisbon, Seville, Venice, Florence, and Pisa — searching for a master jeweler. If you get a job in a city you love, you win. (I can relate.)
In practice, of course, Splendor is an abstract game with pretty pictures. The objectives have no real connection to the cities of splendor themselves. All this expansion does is replace the “score 15 points” goal with variants of “score X points and have these cards.”
Precise Changes for Maximum Impact
Cities of Splendor makes only one change: the goal. But that change goes right to the heart of how you play the game. if your favorite strategy doesn’t match up with the three goals on the table, you lose.
The original goal of 15+ points is simple. That’s great for teaching the game. It’s also a broad goal that supports several different strategies in every game. This goes to the heart of why I love Splendor: simple rules, many combinations.
That said, it’s easy to get into a rut. Each game’s card draw determines how effective the strategies are, but the effects are subtle. Many players overlook those effects. They play a preferred strategy all the time, and wonder why the game feels stale.
Changing the goal every game forces reconsideration. The actual strategies in any individual game are slightly more limited, but the game feels fresher and more varied. The question of “How do I win?” is front and center in the player’s mind.
So Why Does Cities of Splendor Work?
“How do I win?” is a key question that players associate with new experiences and excitement. It’s the first question you play the game for the first time. And by forcing the player to confront this question again, Cities of Splendor brings back the first time experience to freshen the game.