Online Splendor Strategy: How Does the AI Work in Digital Splendor

Splendor is not only one of my favorite board games, but it is a board game that has an excellent digital version. While the Splendor App can be found on Android, iPhones, or even online game sites like Boardgame Arena (check out our Boardgame Arena Review) it’s also available on Steam, which is where I play most of my online Steam games.

If you’ve played this for any amount of time you have not only competed against other players online but against the surprisingly good computer AI that is good enough (at least in some forms) to give human players a serious run for their money.

The AI in Splendor has five main settings which determines how the AI player is going to play in general. Those five styles of in-game AI are:

  1. Balanced
  2. Specialized
  3. Opportunistic
  4. Random
  5. Secret

So what do each of these AI settings mean and how do you need to adjust your playing style? Let’s dive into that so no computer opponent is going to take you by surprise!

Splendor Video Game Screenshot
And those are the type of eyes you expect to see with a deep voice saying “So it begins…”

The Basics of the Splendor Digital App

When you’re playing against other human players, it’s all about understanding the mechanics of your game and there’s a slight edge when you know the specific gems required for the 2-1 cards in the beginning or which 1-point cards in row one are still hidden in the deck and what they require.

This can let you set up to have the gems on hand that are needed with a cheap or important card pops up so you can pounce without having to reserve it. This optimizes your actions, the number of cards you get early game, and gives you more flexibility going into the mid rounds, which means you’ll be stronger going into the always competitive late game.

With the Splendor app this still helps but you can also tilt the odds even more in your favor by understanding the programmed playing style of each Splendor AI type.

How Does The AI Work In Splendor?

The player chooses which AI they want each computer AI in a game to use. I like to play the full four player games as they are more challenging, especially when mixing and matching several different types among your opponents.

Balanced AI in Splendor

Balanced AI is just that, it’s the average style of play where the computer player focuses on good value first row cards in early game, moves to the second row in the mid-game, and doesn’t start buying third row cards to the late game. This is one of the most likely AI settings to sprint for all 1’s with the cards and despite “balanced” feeling like vanilla, having multiple AI’s on this setting can actually make for a challenging game, if a bit preditable.

While balanced keeps you honest or forces you to sharpen your mid and late game skills to pull ahead, it’s not likely to do anything that surprises you or leaves you in the dust.

Opportunistic AI in Splendor

Opportunistic are jerks. Trolls. Opportunistic focuses on messing with what it thinks you’re planning by hoarding gems of one color and by reserving point cards that you need or have just acquired the gems for. Despite the name I very rare see the Opportunistic computer players win a game but they do like to throw around their weight and force you to learn how to disguise your true motives.

Once you see how simply they read a board to troll you, they’re actually rather easy to predict and therefore to counter. This also means sometimes they will make illogical moves like reserving a low point mid-tier card that you have the gems for, leaving a couple of open 2-1 cards on row one that you can scoop up for easy cards that no human player would let just fall to you.

Specialized AI in Splendor

Specialized doesn’t mess around. While they will grab an easy 2-1 or 1-1-1-1 card from the first row, they are looking at acquiring middle row cards as early and as often as possible, and if the right cards play out for them, they can jump ahead in points pretty quickly since they also tend to be the first to jump up to a grab a top row card.

Secret Behavior AI in Splendor

The secret behavior is just one of the other four, but since the player doesn’t know which one it is they won’t know in the beginning of the game how that Splendor AI player will act. This isn’t a huge curve ball once you cotton on to how this computer player is acting or reacting, but in the beginning it can add a degree of unpredictability.

Random Behavior AI in Splendor

Random is kind of crazy because it mixes and matches various habits of the Balanced, Opportunist, and Specialist styles of play by randomly taking a trait from each and blending them together. A random AI might intentionally reserve cards you’re looking at while grabbing cheap cards and building to Level 3 for points.

Some combinations will make for unpredictable and scary good players while others will be a dud, but that combination can play out in so many ways.

Splendor Strategies To Win More Games

If you want more in-depth discussions on in-game strategy, we covered this in the Splendor Tips & Tricks article we wrote earlier. Combine those mechanics with the information above and you will give the AI all it can handle while sharpening your own Splendor game!

The Ladder Strategy

The Splendor Ladder Strategy is one I outlined in another article and focuses on being able to stack up the points in a quick point through smart card building of one color to grab point cards. This, or some variation of this, is almost always my strategy when I’m not in a position to win Nobles.

Such as when you start 4th and the players ahead of you grab most of the cheap 2-1 or 1-1-1-1 cards to leap out ahead of you in pursuit of of them. Looking at the screenshot below, for example, vacuuming up a lot of black cards gives you the lead on the 3 pt black gem and 2 pt blue gem in the second row and the 4 pt white gem in the top row. That’s a good chunk of the way to victory.

Green is also an option because of the 3 point green on row two, and the 3 point black and 4 point ruby on row three, but those also require a bigger balance of other gem colors.

Splendor Green or Black Ladder Board
Green is the more obvious ladder here but you can make a good case for black, too.

The Nobles Strategy

Nobles are worth 3 bonus points each and when a lot of the 3-3-3 nobles show up, it’s easy to spot which colors are going to be the most important. By jumping out ahead two of these give a huge bonus, and three of them give you the majority of points needed to get to 15. Nobles are also used as the tie breaker if two players have the same number of points in which case the one with the most nobles win.

This is a valid strategy and a powerful one, but it’s very hard to be noble-only focused because all players can see which cards are going to be in high demand so everyone can sprint for the same cards and also focus on blocking those cards from players getting too close. In addition, it’s hard to stack up multiple 4-4 nobles in most cases.

Splendor board game nobles
The 10 Nobles that come with the base game of Splendor.

Sprint To All 1’s Strategy

This is my favorite strategy and when you can pull it off a full round or two ahead of everyone else your chances of winning shoot through the roof. This is the strategy of sprinting to be the first player who has 1 of every single color. This makes those great 1-1-1-1 cards free to grab, and stops the situations where you can’t grab a card because it requires one gem you don’t have.

This also makes a lot of the varied middle row cards much easier to grab and if you have one card of everything, even a few gems allows you to get anything you want on row one and a lot more on row two.

This doesn’t mean I’ll skip an easy 2-1 to grab a different color (usually) but if I need to spend one or two extra gems to get one of each before everyone else, it’s almost always worth the cost.

Splendor Was a Table for Two Episode!

Get a look at the 2-player version of the game.

Get To It, Master Splendor Players!

Between understanding the important mechanics of how the game works, knowing the three best Splendor strategies, and putting those together can make you a stunningly good Splendor player both against capable computer players. To me, one of the biggest drawbacks to most online versions of board games is

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