|Components & Design
But even that, at least, is very civilised. After all, none of us want to get up early and rush through the city to steal a deal from someone else. That’s not how we do things at all. We trade in turns, one trader after the other. So if someone just happens to be incapacitated one morning, after celebrating his latest acquisition for instance, we others wait for him to take his turn. Everything else would just be barbaric. On your turn, you’re only allowed to do one of three things. There is no need to hurry and do more, is there? For example, when it’s your turn, you may go and pick up some fresh gems. We don’t even worry about paying much, our assistants can handle those details. When you want to pick up gems, you just go and choose the ones you like. Either two of the same colour – emerald, sapphire, ruby, diamond or onyx – or three in different colours. But the supply is very limited, there are never more than seven gems available in any colour. I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but think hard, stranger, how many fresh rubies come into your city every day? Because of this limited supply, the stock of one type of gem is quite often exhausted. In fact, we make a bit of a game of it: guess what your fellow traders want and pick up exactly those, just to vex them. And believe me, it’s very vexing when all you need is an emerald and there are none in the whole city, and wherever you go you see that bastard Guiseppe Sapphiro grinning at you. Grrrrr.
What do we do with the gems we take, you ask? Why, we trade them, of course. Like I said, we are gem traders, not gem collectors. When it’s your turn, you can buy one development, paying for it in gems. Those developments come in three levels: cheap mines, more expensive transport and ridiculously expensive gem cutters. They all have their own prices, printed on the development cards. But we don’t buy those just to have them, either. Not good business, you understand. We buy developments because they supply us with gems. And that’s not a fickle supply that you have to fight the others over, either. Once you have a development, you will always have one gem of the colour it produces when you need it. Have a ruby mine, and whenever you need a ruby, it will just show up. I don’t know how they do it, either. If you need two rubies at once, you also need two ruby mines. Or transports, or gem cutters. They all do the same, they give you exactly one gem when you need it. And if all that is not enough, well, then you have to go back to the market and pick up gems as before.
We used to have some trouble sometimes, when one of us really wanted to buy a development and couldn’t afford it. There were tears, and crying. Not acceptable behaviour at all, we agreed. So we decided that, if you really wanted a development, you could reserve it. Just take the card, hide it in your hand, and buy the development later, when you can afford it. We even decided that, when you do that, you are entitled to take a piece of gold as well, just for sparing us the indignity of seeing a gem trader throwing a tantrum in the middle of the city. And gold is a valuable reward, in a pinch you can use it instead of any time of gem for paying developments. Of course, it didn’t take a week before everyone started to abuse this new rule, just reserving things they never intended to buy, only to keep them away from others. Oppalling behaviour. Sorry, appalling. Old gem trader joke, that one. Anyway, we concluded that you can only reserve three cards, then you have to actually buy one of them before you can get more.
And that’s all you can do on your turn, really. Like I said, it’s all very civilised. Oh, I almost forgot, there are the nobles of the city, too. Just like developments, they have a price – what did you expect, they are politicians of sorts. But they are not content with fickle gems from the market, oh no. The nobles will only come to you if you can pay their price with your development cards only. But if you can, they just come to you, there is no action needed. Impatient bunch that they are, rushing about like that. But I’m not complaining when they come knocking on my door. In the end, this little game between us gem traders is al about prestige, and having a noble on your side is always worth some points of prestige. Some developments are worth prestige as well, especially the gem cutters are more prestigious than even the nobles. They do something useful. And whenever one of us gem traders reaches 15 points of prestige, we declare him the winner, and go get roaring drunk at his expense. And then we start over. There’s no excitement when one trader is ahead of the others, is there? So we give away everything and start from scratch right away. And then do it again, and again, and again, because that’s how we have fun.
I know how this must sound to you, stranger. We gem traders sit in our offices and enrich ourselves, in complete isolation from one another. But be assured, nothing happens in isolation. The limited supply of gems, of gold and of developments makes sure that we are always in competition. You always want to watch what the others are doing, to take what they want away from them right before they can grab it, and to make sure they don’t do the same to you. And sometimes the route to success lies in frustrating the others. If you manage to buy all the cheap developments that produce diamonds, for instance, that will leave your competitors trapped between a rock and a very hard place indeed. Not that I would ever resort to such tactics, of course, I’m just saying they can be effective. And only to show you that, in this business, we interact much more than you might think.
It sounds like a calm and quite life, being a gem trader. But trust me, it’s full of excitement. You need to think. You need to anticipate what the others will do. And sometimes, there’s no denying it, you must be lucky, too. Why, if someone were to make a game about our trade, and made it look good, with beautifully illustrated development cards and poker chips for gems, such a game would have very good chances to be Spiel des Jahres one year. Because Splendor is splendidly pretty, easy, quick and yet challenging.