I think all of us can remember the good old days of going to a local festival or amusement park. The best ones usually had a mining attraction with a giant wheel that spun the water down a chute. In the little wooden chute, you could shift the sand around looking for bits of gemstones.
Of course, as a kid I never realized that they were planted in that water by the attraction vendor. It set inside me an excitement that I might find more near my house. I could spend hours down by the local river hoping to find some buried treasure. Unfortunately, nothing more than river rocks were to be found.
Splendor is a strategy board game for up to four players. Collect gems, and build up your wealth until you can retire as a prestigious merchant. Although the game only takes an average of thirty minutes to play, it’s full of possibilities.
There are two main strategies that work the best. The first strategy, Tiering It Up, involves diversifying your gems so that no card is too pricey for you. The second, Powerhouse, involves hoarding a couple of types of gems like a dragon set on world domination.
This game has a lot of variation in how it can be played and how to win. Get creative and who knows you might just be the fanciest royalty around.
Table of Contents
When you first look at the table, each card has a resource value needed to buy it. All are different but some are easier to buy than others. Aim for cards that have the smallest amount of resources to buy.
For example, prioritize a card that costs 2 of two different gems over a card that needs 3 of three different gems. The images below use Emeralds for the example. These are the first tier cards with the first image being the best Emeralds to buy and the second image the worst.
Try to look at the cards in every row and see what resources they need to be bought. Use this when forming your strategy.
For example, if you see that there are some Emerald resource cards for cheap on the bottom row, and then on the middle or top rows there are a lot of valuable cards that need Emeralds for purchase, aim for those cards first.
However if your opponents seem to be aiming for the same type of gem, you can either choose a different color to go for or use the Joker token to reserve it.
As you acquire more bonus resources, move up to the second row to gain more resources. Once you have enough bonus resources aim for cards that give you the highest amount of Victory points.
For example, if you have a card that will give you an Emerald for two Diamonds and one Sapphire. Buy that card over a card that will give you an Emerald for four Onyx.
If there are 4 of a resource tile in the early game, you should always take two of the same color. Many of the cards need multiple of a value to buy so this will help you get multiple cards quicker than your opponents. Use this strategy until you have some bonus resources.
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The more you can stack the quicker you can win the game. Ideally, you’ll aim to stack cheap gems at the bottom rung to have bonuses, and then use the middle and top rows to gain Victory points.
It’s crucial to strike a balance between these two cards. If you spend too much time stacking gems with no points, others may get ahead of you in points. If you aim for the more expensive cards that have points, you might not have the cards you need to buy them. And if you use the Joker token to reserve them, it might take too long to get the cards you need to buy them.
Use the Joker token as needed to block other players from cards. Choose wisely as you can only reserve three cards.
As you play through the rounds, you’ll notice certain players may be aiming for a certain card. If you can take Resources from the chip pile that the other player might need, then you can stall their plans.
Note: A card that costs one blue, one red and one black is easier to buy than a card that costs three blue. This is because you can only take two gem tokens of a single color on your turn, but three gems with different colors. Not all cards that cost 3 gems (or 4 gems or 5…) are the same. Cards with more color diversity in their cost are easier to buy.
Best Splendor Strategies
Splendor Strategy #1: Tiering It Up
What to Focus on:
- Buy the cheapest first tier cards first
- Use the Joker token to reserve cards
- Chain your Reserves to gain second and third tier cards
- Use your large gem stash to score points with Nobles
When to use this Strategy:
This strategy works best with two to three players. It’s still workable for a four player count, but it will be more challenging. This also works better if you can see a clear progression in the cards from the bottom to the top.
For example, the bottom row contains multiple Rubies that can be bought. The next two rows contain a lot of cards that can be bought with Rubies. See image below.
The main point is to create a chain from the bottom row. You gather a broad color of cheap resources on the bottom row and then buy through to the top row.
Start off by examining the tier one cards. Look for any tier one that costs three total using two different gems to buy. For example, a card that costs two Sapphires and one Emerald.
Or a card costing four total using four different gems. For example, a card that costs one Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Diamond.
If one of these is available, reserve it with a Joker token.
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For this strategy your goal is to have a broad range of gems in your collection. You want to stockpile several of each gem type so that you have an easier time purchasing each card. The benefit to this is that you can buy cards that have a lesser amount of gems but a variety. For example, a card that costs two Diamonds, three Sapphires, and three Rubies.
If there is another card of similar cost and gem type, you should reserve it. Either buy or reserve one of the cards this turn, and the next turn you should reserve the similar card.
On your third turn you should be able to draw the remaining necessary tokens to purchase one of your reserved cards. If you’ve bought both cards, and none of the other cards look appealing, draw one token of each type that you don’t have. Continue this until you have two reserves of each color gem.
Now that we have two of each color, we will do the same method with tier two cards with a preference towards gems that contribute to Nobles. The best tier two cards to get have three gem color cost.
When stacking your reserve gems note that some Nobles are better than others. With the Tiering strategy it’s better to aim for the Nobles that need three gems of three different colors. If you’re using the Powerhouse strategy, as outlined below, then the Nobles that need four gems might be easier for you to acquire. Since these are luck of the draw at the beginning you will have to adapt to the board as needed.
Once the Nobles are taken, you will have three of each bonus. If a singular player gets all three nobles, they are at nine of fifteen points. Even if you don’t get all three, it’s best to prevent other players from doing so. If another player is close to getting a Noble, consider buying a card they need to block their progress.
Once you have three of a certain color, you can expand to cards that have a five gem cost. Look to tier three for cards of the lowest cost. For example, a card that costs three Sapphire, Ruby and Diamond, and five Emeralds. The cards that cost three of one gem and seven of another are close second. If there is a tier three rewarding four or five points, reserve it and use the following turns to gather tokens for the finished cost.
Splendor Strategy #2: Powerhouse
What to Focus on:
- Focus on buying one gem type that coordinates to the top tier
- Buy up a second color that compliments the first gem choice
- Grab two of each token any time four are available
When to use this Strategy:
This strategy is not limited to player count. In fact, with more players, it will be easier to gain the cards you need due to the fast turnover rate. Be on the watch for any players who may want the same card as you.
Similar to the Tiered strategy, it works better if you can plan which cards will help you buy the top row cards.
First, you narrow down the gem you will buy based on the board availability. Choose two or three types of gems that are on the bottom and top row.
For example, on the bottom row, there are several Emeralds for purchase. The top row has several cards that need three to five Emeralds to buy. Looking at the secondary cost, these top row cards need five to seven Sapphires.
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So for this strategy, I would focus on building up Emerald and Sapphire reserves. Glancing at the rest of the row I see that Diamond is also a key player. So if someone manages to buy all the Emeralds and Sapphires on their turn, I would buy Diamonds until the cards have been changed out by the other players.
The second thing you should consider is looking at the gems the Nobles need at the top. Some Nobles only need three gems of three different colors, and some need four gems of three different colors. If you can buy up reserves that complement earning a couple of Nobles you will be far ahead of the competition.
The main goal of this strategy is to buy up two key colors from the first row only. Once you hit five of one gem, start working on gaining the second color you chose at the beginning. Once you have five of each color you can use the tokens to pad your buying or buy a couple more cards to hit seven reserves of your gem choices.
These are third tier cards that are less ideal for the Powerhouse strategy. They don’t give you as many Victory points and take too many resources.
For the most part, we ignore the second row as most of those cards are more expensive than the bottom row, and don’t often have many Victory points available.
These cards are a better choice because if you’ve stockpiled your chosen gems properly, you should be able to cover the cost mostly with your reserves and grab a few tokens to fill in the gap.
Ideally, you’d get to a point where you can buy three or four top row cards that are worth four to five victory points as shown in the picture above.
If you notice that the board is full of other gems that are not useful to you, consider using your third color and figuring out a fourth that compliments your strategy. This will help clear some of the board and put you back on track.
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The main drawback to this strategy is if you’ve stockpiled two or three colors, the other players might swipe the cards you’ve been working towards. If you get close to buying the card you want, you might consider putting a Joker token on it. Don’t make a habit of this though because your main goal is to get as many gems as early as you can. Wasting turns reserving cards can put you in a tricky situation. There’s always a chance you won’t get the reserves you need to buy the cards and then you’ll be stuck.
If there is a tier three rewarding four or five points, reserve it and use the following turns to gather tokens for the finished cost.
The unlock structure is as follows:
|To Unlock from Tier 3
|Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire
|Ruby, Onyx, Emerald
|Onyx, Diamond, Ruby
|Diamond, Sapphire, Onyx
|Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond
What is the Best Way to Splendor?
The best way to win Splendor is to plan ahead. A dose of patience helps a lot too. This game tends to start slow and then speed through to the end. Make sure you’re not caught off guard if your opponents start stockpiling all the cards they need to claim the whole board.
Both strategies have pros and cons. Every game will be set up differently so use your best judgment on what to do.
If you use the Tiering It Up Strategy, you’ll have to use your Joker token wisely. Reserve the easy to buy ones at the beginning. For example, a card that only needs one Sapphire, and one Emerald.
Get three cards this way and then buy a few others off the board. Once you’ve stockpiled a couple of other gems, you can use the Joker tokens to buy more expensive cards. Bear in mind that you’ll need various colors to have the flexibility you need.
A counter to this strategy is if too many of one color enters the board and your rivals don’t buy them up. You may have to play risky and reserve a card from the draw pile without seeing what it is. Or if you find a board littered with too many of one color you might consider switching to the Powerhouse strategy to get the cards you need.
If you use the Powerhouse Strategy, you will need to be very deliberate. Plan ahead for which two gems will be the most useful for buying cards off the board. The third gem you choose as a backup will make or break this strategy. Don’t be afraid to buy up extra cards that are cheap especially if it foils your opponents’ plans.
Once you get the cards you need, buy from the top row as much as possible using the tokens to pad the holes in your finances. If done correctly, you should be able to sweep the board and there won’t be anything your rivals can do. Use the Joker token as needed so that all of your plans aren’t ruined.
To counter the Powerhouse strategy, buy as many of the top row cards as you can. Or use a Joker token to reserve the cards they might be going towards. This wastes their effort and resources. Keep in mind someone who uses the Tiering Strategy is going to have more options available than you.
This game can change at a moment’s notice– so keep on your toes, wield your pickaxe, and stockpile until you’re the richest gemstone merchant in town!
Veronica is a Green Bay-based freelance writer and editor with extensive experience with board games. When not busy scribbling her thoughts, you might find her in her garden, hiking out in the woods, or exploring new food joints.
Veronica is a die-hard board game and chess hobbyist by night. She likes to try out new games and is always on the lookout to recruit new players for her game night (so beware!). When not playing board games or throwing darts, she is usually busy painting miniatures (or doing other nerdy stuff).
She is the CEO & Content Writer of Indoor Games Zone. She shares her expertise from years of playing chess, board games, and darts.