Splendor is one of our favorite board games to break out at Assorted Meeples. This is a great board game that is simple enough for enjoyable causal play with the parents or grandparents, but has enough strategy to it that serious gamers can have some incredibly close and intense 3-person or 4-person games. Phil even mentions it as one of his favorite multi-player games that plays great for 2 players. There’s a reason Splendor has gained so much popularity and this article will give you the Splendor tips, tricks, and strategies you need to become a very dangerous Splendor player.
The overall concept is simple: the first player at 15 points or above initiates the “end of game phase.” Every player gets the same amount of turns so the round is finished up and whoever has the most points wins. This does mean that if the first player to go gets 15 points in a 4-player game, the other players get their last turn and can result in one of them getting more points and winning the game.
How do you get to 15 points in Splendor?
That’s where the fun comes in! There are many strategies for getting there are so many variables that affect what is going to work and what won’t including the first row of opening cards, which lords are showing, if starting 2nd and 3rd level cards give motivation to “Ladder Up” one specific color, and to a small extent luck of the draw.
In this blog post I’m going to share some of my favorite tips and tricks for playing Splendor. Whether you’re a seasoned player or complete newcomer to this great (and fun) board game, these strategies will help you improve your gameplay, and increase your chances of being the master merchant of Venice.
From understanding the ultimate goal of the game to tracking the number of turns it takes to reach 15 points, we’ll cover everything you need to know to become a Splendor master.
Let’s dive in!
Understanding the Basics of Splendor
Splendor is a board game where players compete to build a jewelry empire and attract the love of the Nobles. The game is played with development cards, gem tokens, and noble tiles. The objective of the game is to earn the most prestige points by acquiring development cards and attracting nobles to your side.
Here are some basic tips to help you get started:
Collecting Gems Like A Pro
You need to collect gems to buy cards, which are needed for buying more expensive cards, point cards, and getting enough to acquire Nobles for bonus points. A player can pick two gems of one color as long as there are 4+ of that color left at the beginning of a player’s turn, or one of three colors. They also get a “wild” gem that counts as any color for reserving a card they can’t, or choose not to, buy right away.
These gems are the lifeblood of the game and it’s important to make sure to have a good array of gems available so you can buy the development cards for permanent gems in your hand.
Some quick tips for getting the leg up on the competition:
- Look at 2/1 cards as these are the cheapest gems to buy in the entire game
- The 1/1/1/1 cards are generally the next best after 2/1, especially if you can get a few early to get at least one development card of each gem color
- Avoid first row cards that take 5 chips in almost all situations
- Pay attention to colors that come up on multiple Nobles
- Pay attention to see if any color is “heavy” on row two and three, meaning you need a lot of one color to compete for most point cards
When collecting gems it’s worth paying attention to what your opponents are doing. Sometimes when there isn’t an obvious card to grab or you’re short on gems to choose from, hoarding one color of gem or grabbing a card someone else wants can be a great way to throw a wrench in their plans while you wait for better cards to flip up.
Be Careful with How You Reserve Development Cards
Reserve development cards: Players can also reserve development cards, which removes them from the board and keeps them for later use. Reserving cards is a good strategy if you don’t have enough gems to purchase them at the moment.
Two Common Strategies for Development Cards
The development cards are important because once you have paid for these in your hand you get to use those gems for free on all future card grabs. There are two main strategies that tend to be very powerful for getting ahead in the early game.
Get One of Each
Getting one of each card means the 1-1-1-1 cards are free, and often means you can pick up most bottom row cards with just one or maybe two gems. This can make it quick and easy to start stacking the second gems of each color, and allows you to acquire cards quickly as they pop up with just a minimum of gems.
This is my favorite strategy and it’s surprising how often someone who can do this a round or two ahead of other players ends up winning the game.
Climb the Ladder
Sometimes there’s an opening for grabbing many cards of one color. This often daisy-chains up the rows and can lead to a lot of points when the right cards show up. Each row has cards of a color that cost X amount of that same color. Same with the top row. If you see a lot of greens, reds, or blues on board, while others are looking for a widespread hand you may be able to win by getting many cards of one color and just grabbing high point cards.
Take a look at this game board as an example and it should be obvious why I rushed blue straight to victory. The 6 blue gems on row 2 not only gave me points, but gave even more blue – and blue is what was needed for the two high point green cards on the top row.
Nobles Are Powerful in Splendor
Attract nobles: Once a player has acquired a certain number of development cards, they become eligible to attract nobles. Noble tiles have a specific gem and development card requirement. If a player meets the requirements, they can attract the noble and earn additional prestige points.
I’ve often won games based on grabbing Nobles as each Noble is like a strong mid-tier card you get for free, it’s very strong. If there are Nobles with heavy overlap in requirements, getting to one first can often mean getting to two or three and that almost certainly means victory in most games.
Looking at what colors are popular with Nobles can also help tell you what gems other players are likely to fight for. If everyone is fighting for Reds and Blues you might notice a White Ladder or Green Ladder play available on the board early and go after it early enough so it’s too late for the rest of the table to stop you.
Splendor Tips & Strategies: Early Game
Developing a solid game strategy early on once you see how the board is playing out is key to winning in Splendor. Having a good base strategy and then being flexible as the game plays out is crucial to being competitive in most games.
Here are some tips to help you create a winning strategy:
- Start by identifying the nobles you want to target. Look for common cards that they require and try to acquire them first.
- Don’t focus too much on acquiring higher-level cards early on. Build your strong foundation of lower-level cards that will help you acquire those higher level and higher point cards later in the game.
- Reserve cards strategically. I like to have one spot open to grab low-cost/high value cards, one reserve spot for important or big point cards later, and one space specifically for hate drafting opponents.
- Pay attention to your opponents’ moves. Try to anticipate their strategies, and block them whenever it’s possible without torpedoing your own game plan.
- Don’t forget about the gold chips. They can be used to acquire any card, so use them wisely, and DON’T FORGET – they can be used to reserve a facedown card from any row.
Remember, a good strategy is not set in stone. Be flexible and adapt your strategy as the game progresses. By following these tips and staying focused on your ultimate goal of acquiring 15 prestige points, you’ll be well on your way to victory in Splendor.
Tips for Advanced Splendor Players
For players who have mastered the basics of Splendor, here are some advanced tips to help you take your game to the next level:
Focus on high point cards
As an advanced player, you should be aiming to collect high point cards as quickly as possible. This sounds basic but there are two ways to make it easier to pull in these cards. Take that one of each gem strategy and move to getting 2-3 of each because many top row cards are 5 of one color and 3 of three others.
If you have rows of gem development cards it’s much easier to grab these cards with a small number of actual gems.
Be aware of your opponents’ strategies
Hate drafting alone won’t win you a game of Splendor (usually) but if it’s often easy to see what the next step for your opponents are and you need to stop them whenever possible. Pay attention to what your opponents are doing and try to anticipate their moves.
If you see that they are collecting a lot of blue cards, for example, try to block them by buying the blue cards before they can. Or if they’re clearly going for lords with the rest of the table and black is the common gem color other players haven’t gone for yet, you should horde those to block out multiple players from completing their Nobles.
Use the nobles strategically
Nobles can be a great way to quickly gain prestige points, but don’t rely on them too heavily. Use them strategically and only collect the ones that will give you the most points based on the cards you already have. One or two go a long way and can really compliment a smart card strategy.
Don’t be afraid to reserve cards
Reserving cards can be a great way to block your opponents or to get the cards you need. Grabbing a key card you need in the future before it comes obvious, blocking another player from a card they want are both viable methods. If there isn’t an obvious play, consider reserving a facedown card.
You might get a crap card, but you might get a great one – and since no one knows what you took, that can cause paranoia at the table or give you a hidden gem to complete a Noble out of left field or end a game.
As an advanced player, you should be able to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust your strategy accordingly. Don’t be too rigid in your approach and be willing to change course mid-game if necessary to adapt to a changing board.
By following these advanced tips, you can improve your Splendor game and become a more competitive player.
Common Mistakes to Avoid While Playing Splendor
While playing Splendor, there are some common mistakes that players make that can cost them the game. Here are a few key mistakes to avoid:
Spending too many gems on low-value cards
Those 5-gem cards in row one, especially the 2-2-1s are prohibitively expensive in the early game. And while the 4 of one color for a 1-point card in Row 1 can seem like a good deal, unless you’re making that cost up in cards you already have it generally isn’t worth it.
Think about it: a 2-2-1 card costs five gems and gives you one card. For the price of just one more gem you can have two cards in many cases. Also, two expensive 2-2-1 cards in a row can decimate your gems causing you to take 2-3 turns to rebuild while your opponents are chaining together moves.
The only exception to the expensive cards is when you get to the point where your cards take most of the cost, it can get you a Noble, or you need it to avoid being shut out of a color that is necessary across the board during that point in the game.
Not paying attention to the nobles
Nobles are an important part of the game, as they can earn you valuable points. Make sure you’re paying attention to which nobles are available and which ones you’re close to qualifying for. More importantly, look at the nobles that other players are closing in on. Don’t ignore them!
Forgetting to reserve cards
I find more players use this too often versus not enough, but I often forget this is an option at all, which has led to me making sub-optimal moves when there was an obvious card I should have grabbed and reserved. Keeping in mind at key sections that you can block another player’s plans or make sure no one else blocks you from a high point card you want, you’ll see more success.
Not paying attention to your opponents
As with many games we love at the Meeples, this is one where hate drafting : It’s important to keep an eye on what your opponents are doing, as this can help you make strategic decisions. If you notice that they’re going after a particular noble or type of card, you may want to adjust your strategy accordingly.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a Splendor master. Remember to focus on high-value cards, pay attention to the nobles, reserve cards strategically, and keep an eye on your opponents.
Do We Recommend Splendor? Heck Yes!
Splendor is a great game and it’s one of the few that every one of the Meeples owns both in board game and online form.
Splendor is a wonderful game that is popular for obvious reasons, and with these beginner and advanced Splendor strategies you should be on your way to more great and victorious games.
Other Board Game Articles of Interest
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- How to Play Dungeon Mayhem
- Best Munchkin Expansions
- Best Board Games Like Risk
- Best Red Dragon Inn Decks Reviewed
- Games Like Cluedo
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.