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I really enjoying playing Alhambra, but I'm a bit worried that my strategy may be overly simplistic. Basically, I play according to the following principles:

  • Try not to build buildings unless I can pay exactly for them, except in emergencies
  • Prefer to pick up several small currency cards over one large one
  • Prefer to pick up a currency card that will help me buy a building for exact money
  • Walls are good, staying competitive in different colours is good, taking too big a lead in buildings of any one colour is unnecessary

And these rules of thumb work pretty well to give me a fair chance of winning the games of Alhambra I play.

What I don't know is, what do in a game where the above strategy isn't winning the game for me? I'm playing a game online at the moment where one player just raced ahead of everyone else really early one. I guess his starting currency cards were a really good match for the buildings that were available early and all his tiles were unusually cooperative in allowing him to build a really good wall. (Either that or he's just a much better Alhambra player than the rest of us - always a possibility!)

So I'm finding my above strategy isn't very enjoyable in a game where a player is miles ahead. Therefore: is there a way of adapting my Alhambra methods to aggressively "go after" another player who is doing rather too well? Or is Alhambra just one of those unfortunate games where a player developing an early lead is overwhelmingly likely to win?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

From my experience, early leads in Alhambra tend to not indicate victories. In most games in my circles I am last after the first scoring round, and then win the game.

My strategies:

  1. First scoring round is all about walls. These walls if played right will make you points two more times in the game. The color points are meager, and the game will change quite a bit before the next scoring round.
  2. Before first scoring, stacking up on money can be more useful than buying.
  3. Small exact change is nice, but don't undervalue big money. Having to later drop 4 cards to pay for something loses all the advantage of taking two consecutive actions. In a perfect world you have some 8s and 9s, and some 1s and 2s to adjust them.
  4. Buy almost always for exact change, but don't feel bad taking something for too much if you need it (if it's an emergency).
  5. The endgame grab of tiles can decide the winner. Be ready for it when taking money late game.
  6. If you can, memorise EVERYTHING. There is actually no unknown information. You have seen every card in every player's hand.
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+1: Very interesting. –  ire_and_curses Nov 6 '11 at 16:47
    
Excellent general points, though when I say "early lead" I don't necessarily mean "buying every tile that comes up in the first few rounds, and ending up with a random assortment of tiles, a few walls, and not very much money at the time of the first scoring". More just a player who pulls ahead quickly due to great compatibility between the money cards they get dealt and the early tiles/walls that are available". I'd say it's not always the case in Alhambra that pulling ahead early definitely implies you'll be in a worse position early on...? –  thesunneversets Nov 6 '11 at 20:26
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I am sorry i assumed early lead meant points, not overall good game standing. What i mean is that people who blow all their money before first scoring, and knowing how the overall game develops, do poorer than people who hold on to money and make wiser decisions mid game. This also means more money in hand to buy with exact change. –  Andrey Nov 6 '11 at 23:16
    
I have accepted this answer, though I have to say, since I started taking a more measured approach to Alhambra, saving money instead of buying anything that I have exact money for, and considering the strategic value of tiles before buying them... I feel like I've started to do a lot worse! But I'll keep at it for a while :) –  thesunneversets Feb 5 '12 at 9:14
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