The Great Split, a board game about accumulating prestigious riches published by Horrible Guild, dangles wonderful luxury in front of the players, enticing them to gather and exchange them to form the most illustrious collection that would be unrivaled by anyone.
Designed by Hjalmar Hach, and Lorenzo Silva, The Great Split board game forces you to make the tough decision of splitting your treasures while choosing which pile you want to keep for yourself from another player’s splitting efforts. The allure of jewels and rare finds is more than enough to draw you to the table and keep you there.
So, despite the name of the game, let’s have some undivided attention as we check out The Great Split!
The Great Split Gameplay
In The Great Split, players take one of the Character Tiles to start with, along with a personal wallet (no money in it – sorry) and a player board. Each turn, players will take their hand of cards and divide it up into two piles, separated by a splitter card. They hand this to their neighbor who must choose one of the piles to keep and one to return.
At the same time, you’ll be choosing which pile you want from another player. After everyone has made their decision on what to keep, the original remaining pile for each player is returned to them, as well as the rejected pile. Combining these two halves gives you the final hand that you’ll be scoring for that round.
To score, move the corresponding resource cubes on your player mat based on the cards in your hand. For example, you might have a card with 3 Topazes on it, so you would move the blue cube up three spaces. Within each of these tracks you may also find yourself passing over other icons, which could allow you to gain other resources or seals. Seals are important for mid-game and end-of-game scoring.
As you might suspect, each of the Resources scores in a slightly different way. Gems are scored by multiplying 2 by the number of whichever Gem you have fewer of. Art, on the other hand, has a value determined by a variable Market track that ticks up with each passing round. One game you could have Art worth much less than another.
Whoever has the most points at the end of the game is crowned as the most successful connoisseur of luxury items!
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on The Great Split!
I debated just writing ‘double-layered boards’ with a few hundred exclamation points, but I should probably go into a bit more detail for the components in The Great Split, huh? To be fair, the double-layered boards are almost a necessity for this kind of game, where you are constantly picking up cubes and dropping them someplace else. Aesthetically, however, I’m really digging how they’re all rotated 45 degrees, as it is more visually interesting than the usual orientation.
For a game about luxury, the metallic finish covering a lot of the components is striking and elevates the entire collection up a few points. And there easily could have been no player envelopes to pass around, but including them is another thematic upgrade that evokes the idea of secretly swapping artifacts from person to person.
If I had to choose a negative, it would be that I wish the double-layered board was cut for the four scoring squares, which just hang out on top of the board when everything else is within. Maybe they’re just too small to accommodate that? Either way, it’s entirely minor.
My favorite component in the game, however, is the Art track. It utilizes the double-layer board while sliding a token across the opening as an actual track. If it gets jostled, you can always verify the position with the other round tokens.
I really can’t remember the last ‘I cut, you choose’ game that I’ve played, unless it’s a mechanic that is often cleverly disguised as something else. The strategy in The Great Split board game is that you must pay attention to your two neighbors. It doesn’t matter if there are three players or a full table of seven, you only need to worry about the two people beside you.
It’s definitely okay to neglect a track in favor of really hammering home another, especially if you have the opportunity to accumulate some seals in that area. I’m particularly fond of pushing Gems, but that’s probably because they’re the most glamorous.
That being said, there are a ton of ways that you can approach the game, and it really rewards you for taking advantage of what’s given to you. Certainly – as is the case of most games – you can’t force a strategy that isn’t really there. Take what’s given to you and pivot accordingly.
I wouldn’t say that there’s a huge depth of strategy here, as oftentimes you’re being presented with even splits, with some exceptions here and there. You really are picking what will help you progress the most tracks, with a minor bit of combo generation to stretch those winnings into something more.
Splitting is such a psychological mechanic that can really get into your opponents’ heads. You can prey on their greed, offering a bunch of lesser cards on one side with one or two high-value cards on the other, and see what they take. Bonus points if they aren’t really working towards the high-value cards anyways. It’s a bit of subtle manipulation that will have you second-guessing your every move.
I touched on the aesthetics of The Great Split board game at the top of the review, but for a game this simple Horrible Guild went all-out on the look and feel of the game. Keeping track of the various loot could have been done in a variety of ways, which multiple little boards or spin dials, etc, but opting for a lavish, double-layered board feels more luxurious than most of the other options.
And there are plenty of details to get lost in. Flipping over the player boards, compare the repetitive pattern to the back of the split card and the envelope. Each one is just a little bit different. These easily could have been the same, but the way it was done makes each character feel more unique in their own right.
I also love the character style! It reminds me a lot of the character style in Caper: Europe, which is one of my favorite 2-player games right now. You don’t spend a lot of time on the characters, and yet including them breathes that much more life into the theme.
The Great Split board game is quite fast-paced given the simplicity of the splitting and passing mechanics. I mentioned that I’m not sure that I’ve played (m)any games that had a similar mechanic, so I don’t have much to compare it to in that sense. However, if you enjoy card drafting games, like Sushi Go, this is tangentially close enough.
If you’re looking for a game that is easy to socialize and play at the same time, then I’d say this is an excellent fit. It really doesn’t require a whole lot of brainpower to multitask, so if you want an ‘easy-listening’ style game for game night, The Great Split could definitely be up there on your list.
With every round of The Great Split, you’ll find yourself giving a tiny jump of glee or a slight frown of disappointment, depending on what cards come back to you. It’s sort of like when you wheel a card in a Magic: the Gathering draft all the way around the table and you’re able to pick it up when it gets back to you, although on a much smaller and more frequent scale.
Even so, the game isn’t really cutthroat or ‘take that’; you’re basically wheeling and dealing in antiquities so you’re going in with the understanding that you can’t possibly end up with everything that you want. The envelopes give you that feeling that you’re getting away with something, which is much better than just having a pile of cards being passed back and forth.
The Great Split: Amass Riches Galore!
The Great Split is simple in its design and elegant in its execution, opting for table presence over a complicated ruleset. The feeling of ‘numbers go up’ is totally present here, and the little dopamine hits of racing up the tracks is super satisfying.
And really what the game does best of all is make me want to try other games in the same mechanical vein. Just doing a quick search through BGG, I guess it’s been awhile since I played Castles of Mad King Ludwig or New York Slice (another favorite with my nephews and nieces). So there are games out there, and I want to see how they stack up to The Great Split!
[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of The Great Split from Flat River Group Games in exchange for an honest review.]