The original Splendor was released close to 10 years ago and it took the board gaming community by storm. An excellent gateway and family game, Splendor has remained popular to this day. I guess I should not have been surprised, when I heard that a two player only version of the game, called Splendor Duel, was being released.

Splendor Duel is designed by Marc Andre and Bruno Cathala, with the art by Davide Tosello, and published by Space Cowboys.

The original Splendor could already be played at 2 players, so what makes Splendor Duel different. There are a bunch of new rules and mechanics that significantly change up the game.

A board game box standing with the game set up behind it.


Every single part of the components in Splendor Duel is top notch. The card quality is excellent, and I absolutely love the art style that Davide Tosello used. Art is subjective, but I feel that the art on the cards is an improvement from the original Splendor. The cartoonish characters remind me of some of my favourite role playing video games.

What Stuff Did I Bling? I have sleeved the cards with Gamegenic brand sleeves. Two packages of the Mini European size are needed. Sleeves are a great way to protect the cards and especially good with cards that get shuffled or handled a lot during gameplay.

Box for a board game open showing components inside.

Game Summary

In Splendor Duel, you are a master jeweller, collecting gems to increase your prestige higher and quicker than your rival.

Gem tokens are randomly placed on the gem board that is set between the two players. The three decks of jewel cards are shuffled and some of each deck are revealed in the purchase area.

On a player’s turn, they can perform one of the three mandatory actions:

  • Take gems – Taking gems is as simple and claiming up to three adjacent non-gold gems (horizontal, vertical or diagonal).
  • Reserve a jewel card and take a gold gem – Gold gems are a wild gem and they can be claimed by reserving a jewel card in the purchase area. This reserved card is placed in front of the player and can be purchased on a later turn.
  • Purchase a jewel card – This is done by paying the associated cost, found on the jewel card, with gems or bonuses from previously purchased jewel cards.

Play goes back and forth until a player has met one of the three victory conditions.

There are a bunch of new features and mechanics in Splendor Duel and together they add tremendous depth to the game. I personally always felt that the original Splendor was a little too basic for my tastes, but these additions elevate the game and give it plenty of crunchy decisions!

A bunch of tokens that resemble poker chips in someone's hand.


If anyone has played Splendor, they are familiar with the gem tokens. Similar to poker chips these represent gem resources in Splendor and Splendor Duel. They are chunky, have a nice weight to them, and are premium quality.

The pearl gem is a new type of gem and it is an outstanding addition to Splendor Duel. Since there are no pearl cards and only two gem tokens, the pearl is rare and highly sought after.

Translating games into into a ‘two player only’ game can be tricky and the addition the game board where the gems are placed creates a clever back and forth between the two players. When the board is full, there are plenty of options. But as the gems are taken, choices diminish. Do you take some of what is left, or do you refill the board.

Refilling the board can allow the player to get that needed gem they know is sitting in the bag. But, is it worth it when other player will receive privilege scroll?

A plastic scroll and tokens with a game board.


The privilege scrolls are a new component and not in the original Splendor. These are beautifully designed plastic pieces and a great addition to the game.

The privilege scroll(s) can be used before and, in addition, to your mandatory action. A scroll can be spent to take any non-gold gem token from the board. This is a great way to get one or more gems you need, and then purchase a jewel card for the main action.

Playing cards in sleeves on a table.

Crowns and Abilities!

The gem board, pearl gem and scrolls are not the only the new features in Splendor Duel. Some of the jewel cards have special icons on them that provide the player with special abilities or crowns. When a card is purchased with an icon, the player gets to perform the associated action immediately.

The abilities that are on some of the jewel cards create deeper tactics and a larger decision space. Getting to steal a gem from your opponent, claim a privilege scroll, or even take another turn, are just some examples of these abilities, and they can have a massive impact on the game.

Some of the jewel cards have crowns on them and once three and six crowns have been acquired, the player is able to claim one of the four royal cards. These cards give extra prestige points and some also have an ability on them.

One of my favourite things about Splendor Duel, is that the scrolls, abilities and royal cards, allow a player to chain more than one turn together to claim multiple jewel and royal cards for one powerful turn. Planning and then pulling this off is extremely satisfying!

A board game set up and mid way through the play.

Multiple Ways to Win

There are more than one way to win a game of Splendor Duel. They include:

  • achieve 20 or more prestige points
  • have 10 or more crowns
  • have 10 or more prestige points in one colour

The first player to reach any of these three goals is the winner.

While I love pretty much everything in Splendor Duel, I do wonder if these three victory possibilities are balanced. I have played this game many times already and reaching 20 prestige points seems to be the easiest way to win since it allows far more versatility and the ability to adapt your game to the changing landscape.

I have seen 10 crowns be the victory condition a couple times. Achieving 10 prestige points in one colour has never been reached. Personally, I think striving for that goal seems limiting and would narrow your gameplay.

Playing cards se up like a pyramid.


I love this game. Since getting Splendor Duel for Christmas, we have played it countless time in our house and it has also been popular on game night.

Splendor Duel is a refined and enhanced version of the original game. I find this to be superior to Splendor and it has launched itself into my top 10 two player games (maybe even in my top 3).

Splendor Duel Rating
  • Score - 9/10


An outstanding game that takes all the charm of Splendor, and adds a bunch of new stuff, to make a deeper richer two player gaming experience.


Privilege scrolls, pearl gems, abilities, crowns! Quick game but still has plenty of depth The possibility for ‘big’ turns is satisfying and exciting Components are great quality


Multiple ways to win may not be balanced Makes me wish some of these extra features were in the original Splendor!

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