At the recent 10 year anniversary party for my Not Dead Day, a lot of Splendor (by Asmodee/ Space Cowboys) got played. It’s a light to mid-weight game with elements of luck and strategy in fairly equal mixes, a solid 7.5 BGG rating, and pretty components, so it was a good in-between pick up game for killing 45 minutes while Eclipse or Necromunda wrapped up.
The mechanics consist of taking gem tokens on your turn, or buying a card from the market with your gems, or reserving a card from the market — which takes it off the table, gets you a gold token (these are wild gem tokens and the only way to get one is by reserving cards) and increases your hand limit. You can only have 3 reserved cards at a time and there’s no way to discard them, so you can’t just gank someone else’s planned purchase as a chief strategy.
The cheapest cards don’t typically have points on them (the large white number in the upper left), but all cards will remain permanently in front of you, contributing 1 of the pictured gem to your future buying power forever. There are also Noble cards who will come visit you permanently once you have amassed the correct number and types of cards to attract them and they are worth 3 points. The first person to get to 15 points will trigger game end, in which the current round finishes so all players have the same number of turns and whoever has the most points then wins.
In teaching and playing this game over the weekend, I noticed 3 distinct strategies emerge and achieve some success:
1. Ignore The Nobles
The first time I played, I was told that it’s generally not worth it to try to attract the Noble cards, so that’s how I played (and won) and that game looks like starting very small with the cheap cards, but focusing on “chaining” your planned buys to basically cascade you into dominating 2 to 3 types of gem cards, so if they come up — even expensive ones — you easily acquire them and soon reach 15 points while others are trying to diversify their holdings. This works decently if 1) No one is playing the Noble Way Strategy, and 2) No one is hard core competing with you for your desired cards.
2. The Noble Way
A friend perfected this tactic and dominated pretty handily for a while… The essence of it is to try to very quickly collect the cards that will win a Noble’s attention — the fastest way to do this is to always snap up the cheaper cards which don’t have points on them, but will build your Noble appeal AND pretty soon, you’ll be able to simply pick up the cheap cards without spending turns to collect gem tokens due to the card contributions in front of you. Usually, the Noble points alone won’t get you the win, so you do have to get a few more expensive cards, but late game, if you’ve collected the first tier cards right, that isn’t much of a problem. The downsides to this otherwise solid strategy are 1) if someone else is doing it as well or better, then you may not get the noble you’ve been investing in, and 2) if the initial “cheap” first tier cards are randomly at the higher end of cost, your start up time is considerably set back and this strategy relies on speed.
3. The Middle Way
This still needs to be tested in a larger player game, but it’s my current favorite. Complete efficiency is the focus of this strategy in that you would never buy the first tier cards at all unless they cost only 3 gems or if they have 1 point on them (these tend to cost 4-6 gems, but worth it). You don’t buy any second tier card with less than 2 points on it unless it is crucial to acquiring a noble or other valuable card. You focus on 1 or 2 nobles that you could reasonably get, preferably with some crossover desires (this keeps an opponent from sweeping the Nobles to victory). Anytime someone else could buy your planned purchase, and you are 1 gem short of its cost, you reserve it, thus gaining the gold to complete the purchase at a later time and freeing you up to look at further options on your next turn. I’ve also reserved cards that are obviously important to opponent’s strategies AND that also help me — simply thwarting others without your own gain is inefficient and therefore, a mistake. I have found this to be a pretty adaptable way of playing this game, and have yet to discover any significant downsides.
Did we miss any key strategies for success? Thought of other ways to defeat these 3? Let us know in the comments!