The Great Split
- Designers: Hjalmar Hach and Lorenzo Silva
- Publisher: Horrible Guild
- Players: 2-7
- Age: 8+
- Time: 45 minutes
- Played with copy provided by Horrible Guild at SPIEL 2022
“In The Great Split, you draft cards to collect riches such as gems, gold, artwork, and tomes, adding them to your collection to make it the most prestigious of all! You start each round by splitting your cards into two groups, then you pass your wallet to the player on your left — but only one group of cards will be given back to you. You split, they choose! Don’t despair, though, because while your opponent is looking at your split, you also receive a similar offer from the player on your right, so choose wisely. When your hand is complete, play your cards to add all those riches to your collection. Each type of riches awards you prestige points in different ways, so maintain a balanced collection of gems, keep an eye on the value of the art market as it evolves, and pile up priceless tomes. Depending on how each player builds their collection, different riches will take on a different value for each of them. Show off your best haggling skills in crafting your split, and create the perfect offer to push your opponent to take what you want them to take…leaving you with the tastiest loot!”
In this game, players get their own player board where they will keep track of their ever growing collection, with a corresponding cube on each track to mark your position on that track. The players’ scores are kept around the outside of the player board. A central board reminds players of how many cards will be used in each of the six rounds of the game as well as when the interim scorings will happen. Each player gets a character tile, a wallet and a splitter card. The resources shown on your character card give each player an asymmetric set of starting resources, and there are also some unique bonus icons at the bottom that can be used in the final scoring.
There are three decks of cards in the game, marked on the front with I, II or III. The backs of all the cards are the same – be sure during setup to look at all the cards and place each card in its respective deck. Each deck is shuffled, and every player gets 4 cards from deck I to start the game.
The game is played in 6 rounds, each following the same pattern
1] Deal – each player gets a single card from the deck shown on the reference area of the central board. If you have more cards than the hand limit for the round ,you must discard down to the limit. If you have fewer cards, well, that’s tough luck for you.
2] Split – put the hand of cards into your wallet, and use your Splitter card to separate the cards into two groups. Pass the wallet to your player on the left. Then look at the wallet given to you from the player on the right, and choose one of the two groups of cards in that wallet. Give the wallet back to the right and accept the wallet back from the left. Combine the cards you chose and the cards left to you and your splitter card to form your hand for the round
3] Resolution – Track the resources gained on your cards from this round. Do this one card at a time, moving the marker on the corresponding track up. You can trigger bonus advances on other tracks as you move. Your splitter card is used as a wild and allows you to move any resource up one space. You can also always ignore the icons on the card to take a gold or prestige point. Note that you can gain prestige (VPs), resources or you can gain seals that correspond to the five different resources.
4] Market – Once all the cards have been resolved, flip over the market token for the round and move the slider at the bottom of the board that number of spaces. The position of this token will determine how Artwork will score.
5] End of round – Advance the round maker. If you cross a scoring line (After the 3rd and 4th rounds), there is an interim scoring where you will score the one or two tracks seen on the tokens placed on that line. If this is the end of the 6th round, there is a final scoring where all of the resources are scored.
- Books – score VPs equal to the highest grey VP banner you have reached
- Artwork – look at the track at the bottom of the central board; the token’s location here tells you the number of artwork needed to score anywhere from 0 to 15 VP
- Gems – look the the position on the two gem tracks and score two times to lower position
- Contracts – there are five types of seals, and depending on how far you have gone up on the track, you will have a multiplier between 1 and 4. Take this multiplier and multiply it by the numbered of colored outlined spaces on the corresponding track. Do this for all 5 tracks.
The player with the most points after the final scoring wins. There is no tiebreaker, the tied players “split” the victory.
My thoughts on the game
The Great Split is a set collection game using a splitting mechanic; one that feels familiar to me. When I first read the rules, I thought that this was a re-do of Bequest – though they appear to have been developed independently; and in the end, the games play out differently. In The Great Split, the scoring turns out to be the most interesting part of the game, and you have six rounds to set yourself up.
Of course, the focus of the game is on the splitting. You will have to read your opponents, well really mostly the one to your left – as being able to predict what that player will want will allow you to split your cards as efficiently as possible, leaving you with the best selection of cards for yourself. Also, if you are able to correctly predict what your LHO will take, you will possibly be able to pick synergistic cards from the wallet given to you from your RHO.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the wild card afforded to you each round for the splitter card. While the cards can move around the table, we have definitely found in some games that they can stay somewhat stationary. So, if you don’t have any books coming your way, if you really need some, you can take them with your wild card, and also hopefully move up on the track via book icons found on the other tracks.
The components are really well done, and the two layer boards help keep the cubes in place – and this is a really nice feature of a game where pretty much all the scoring and progress is marked on the player board. The cards are quite simple, and as a result, the important information is easy to find. The icons on the boards are also quite easy to parse, and as a result, this game flow can quickly be taught and understood. The scoring is a bit more complex, but the icons and coloring of the boards also makes it easy to explain this as well.
The game moves along fairly rapidly; with only 6 rounds, and much of the action happening simultaneously, it is not inconceivable for the game to end in 30 minutes. The game length shouldn’t really change much even at a full player count because again, much of the action happens at the same time.
Like 7 Wonders, I am not the biggest fan of the limited interaction. Whether I play with 3 or 7 players, I still only interact with the people directly next to me. While it works in this game, there is a mild bit of binding which can affect the game. If one player is really bad at splitting, expect their LHO to do quite well. And, there’s nothing that anyone else can really do about that. Well, except to not ask that person to play.
Other than that, The Great Split is an intriguing game that forces you to make tough decisions on how to split your hand of cards each round in order to get the things you want. I’m not sure that it will supplant San Marco as my favorite “I split, you choose” game, but this one has the advantage that I will play it with player counts other than exactly 3.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Joe Huber (1 play): This is a pleasant enough game; the splitting works well and the components are nice. But the variability of the cards makes it very difficult to plan – there’s no guarantee you’ll see the cards you need to carry out any particular plan, or even to continue on the path you start down. Having the one wild choice does help mitigate this some, however, preventing this from being a fatal flaw for me.
Adam K (1 play): Games that scale well to a high player count and still play similarly regardless of that player count are always on my radar. This feels like it fills that niche at a more accessible level than 7 Wonders, and would likely be easier to teach to a non-gamer crowd. It’s enjoyable enough, but not great.
Dan B. (1 play): I liked my one game but was a bit bemused at how close the scores were. It’s also possible to keep passing and getting handed back the same cards, which certainly makes it easy to max out the relevant tracks but is a bit dull. Nevertheless I’d be happy to play it at least a few more times and see how differently it plays out.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Eric M, Jonathan F., Adam K, Dan B.
- Neutral. Joe H.
- Not for me…