Inside ‘Splendor’

Yann Corno, Days of Wonder CTO to discuss the developer’s new Steam release, “Splendor.” An adaptation of the popular “Space Cowboys” board game, “Splendor” is a “strategy turn-based card game with simple and intuitive rules, which takes you to the heart of the Renaissance era.” Already a hit on the Android and iOS, Corno breaks down the development process for PC and Steam and why returning gamers should give it a try again.

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Patrick Hickey Jr.: What makes Splendor special?

Yann Corno: There are different things that make Splendor special, but in my opinion, the main one is linked to the very origin of the game.

The game comes from the physical card game, which has been a success since its first release in 2014, especially on the US market, with more than 200,000 boxes sold.

I believe that the main reason of this success is the simplicity – or should I say elegance – of its mechanics. The game is very easy to explain, and fast to play. Players get a real sense of progress as they build up their purchase capacities in the course of the game, which creates a tension as they race to beat the other players for the best cards and reach the target score first. At the same time, the game brings some deep tactics, which make you feel like playing again right after your very first game, just to try out new tricks.

The second reason is the production quality of the physical game: lavish illustrations and poker-quality chips also make this game very enjoyable to manipulate. It’s really a game that stands out when you pick it up and open the box. Just like with video games, artistic value does bring a benefit to the gaming experience.

So when we worked on the digital version, we knew the intrinsic quality of the game system would help us tremendously. This is the beauty of working on the digital version of an existing physical game. There are so many constraints in the physical world that you are forced to come up with a flawless and simple design. This makes the digital adaptation a real treat. The other way around is much more difficult!

Still, we went beyond a simple “port” of the game by introducing a new system, the Challenges. These are like puzzles that take the base rules of the game and introduce some slight changes. We thought that Challenges would go a long way in building a lasting lifetime value for players. Splendor is not a “resolved” game, so we used a lot of the cumulated experience of real-life players to build interesting Challenges. The other purpose of Challenges was to raise the player’s expertise by teaching techniques or attracting his/her attention to some specific points of the game – again, drawn from the experience of real life tournaments or experts gaming nights. This would benefit to both the beginner player who starts with the digital game and to the experienced veteran who has played with the board game.

This was a completely new approach for us, and we had no idea if players would like the feature or reject it as being some kind of weird twist of the original (perfect) game system. It turned out that they liked it very much, and asked for more of them – and even for more difficult ones!

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About Patrick Hickey Jr. 10109 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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