See first that the design is wise and just; that ascertained, pursue it resolutely.
Splendor is a beautifully simple card game that even the least experienced players can quickly learn. Among strategically-minded gamers, however, it can become a ferocious and merciless competition. Once one player has earned fifteen prestige points, the other players get one last turn, and then the game ends. Your goal, therefore, is to acquire those prestige points as soon as possible and leave other players behind you, fruitlessly sifting for gems in the dust. This article offers a few tips on how to acquire prestige and ensure that your jewelry business far surpasses all the competition.
The False Lure of Patronage
At the beginning of a game of Splendor, at least three noble tiles are placed above the cards. These nobles offer either three or four prestige points, and may give business without taking an action, if you can only satisfy their tastes. They seem to be what you’re aiming for, perhaps because of their placement at the top of the layout, perhaps because they offer points and require no action on your part. To win Splendor, however, you should ignore them in the beginning, and under no circumstances base which cards or gems you initially take on the chance of earning their patronage.
Instead, inspect the top level of cards. You’ll find there cards that offer you as much as five victory points—more than any noble—and often for a smaller amount of gems. Find the most economical of these, and focus your efforts towards procuring it ahead of other players. If you discover they are aiming for the same card, you can even use a joker token to reserve the card you desire, which is impossible to do with a noble. In the process of acquiring a card of that cost, you’ll likely earn enough to acquire other expensive cards, gain prestige from other cards, and perhaps even attract a noble patron along the way.
A Study in Emerald
Let us say, for example, that the top level of cards at the start of your game looks like this:
Both cards that earn you four victory points cost seven gems of the same type—fewer gems than any noble. To decide whether to focus on diamonds or emeralds, look at the cards in the lower two levels. You're looking for any that offer both victory points and can help push you towards one of the top-tier cards, so ideally something focused on diamonds or emeralds. Once you’ve found a second tier destination, use your joker token to reserve it within your first few turns. Don’t reserve it as your first move. That might alert other players to your plan, and they could respond by snatching up the gem tokens that you desperately need to move forward. To quote Machiavelli, “No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.”
In the early stages, diversify. Not only does this help conceal your longer-term strategy, but it may open up other, equally profitable avenues for you. Even if you focus on, say, emeralds, you might need to accumulate rubies, diamonds, and sapphires in order to get the emeralds. First-level cards also tend to cycle through quite quickly. You never know what might appear just before your turn—perhaps the emerald card that only costs two white and one blue, or a card that you can take for free with the seemingly random gems you have on hand or with the onyx tokens that you’ve been hoarding from your opponent.
Always keep in mind that you can reserve up to three cards with the joker, and that it provides you a single-gem discount on the card you’ve reserved. Using this tool as much as possible in the early rounds enables you to circumvent any scarcity created by hoarding or high demand for a certain gem. It helps you to remain as flexible as possible and to reach the higher prestige points while others are worrying about building the foundations of their business.
A Ruthless Business
Of course, there’s no single way to win at Splendor. You never know what cards will appear next or how other players might frustrate your aims, intentionally or accidentally. As in any business, you must watch your competition, act quickly, and make your decisions based on ever-changing circumstances. Some things have not changed since the European Renaissance. You can enter this cutthroat world of business when you pick up your copy of Splendor at your local retailer today.