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I've played quite a few rounds of Splendor over the past few months, but I've almost never come across a situation where a visit from a Noble has made a difference to the outcome of the game, except by luring players into a poor choice of strategy - by the time anyone has the necessary 8-9 developments for a visit, someone else has usually already won.

It seems to me that even going for 12 points from developments plus just the last 3 from a Noble is usually not worth the hassle of getting the exact bonuses you need, and if you have to pick up some low-value developments to do this, you're less likely to win if a tie-break ensues.

Is there any good way to use Noble visits except as a last resort towards the end of the game? Or is this something that happens more often in games between players who more actively disrupt each other's primary strategies?

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    I on the other hand have seen very few, if any, games where the winner did not have at least 1 Noble. You're going to be getting well over 8 or 9 tiles before the game ends, just to have enough gems to afford the more expensive tiles. Perhaps there's some groupthink going on in both our groups; if everyone goes for Nobles, than the winner will always have Nobles. – GendoIkari Mar 3 '16 at 19:38
  • Our little group has tended to focus on buying the developments for which we have the largest discounts- if you can chain several of these together it's sometimes feasible to win with as few as 6, e.g. 1-2-2-3-3-4. I suppose that approach requires commitment throughout the game and doesn't favour branching out to Nobles. – user3490 Mar 4 '16 at 10:15
  • Buying Level 2 and 3 developments without first buying Level 1 ones sounds unlikely to me. You must spend most turns picking up gem tokens? By the end of a game, my group would normally have at least 16 developments per person, and the winner would normally have two nobles. We tend to start with picking up tokens and buying Level 1, then in the later game we only pick up tokens every 3rd or 4th turn, and the points rack up very quickly that way. – AndyT Mar 4 '16 at 10:37
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Generally I'd look to go for Nobles in one of the following situations:

  1. There are 2 or more Nobles with matching colours. E.g. if there's a Noble that requires 4 green and 4 red, and also a Noble that requires 3 green, 3 red and 3 blue then it might be worth picking up the 11 cards (mostly from Level 1) required. If there's also a Noble that requires 4 green and 4 blue then that's 9 points for 12 cards which looks very attractive.
  2. There are Level 3 cards which match colours on a Noble. E.g. if there's a 4 point card that needs 3 red, 6 green and 3 blue and also a Noble that needs 4 green and 4 blue then I might go for the Noble and the 4-point card.
  3. In a 2-player game, there are only 4 tokens of each colour so it can be much harder to buy Level 3 cards. Nobles can be an easier option for 2-player games.

A few other thoughts and observations.

  • unlike cards, Nobles cannot be reserved. On level one there are 8 cards of each colour, so really the only way someone can stop you getting a Noble is if they claim it for themselves first.
  • it's possible to pick up a large number of Level 1 cards very quickly. Once you have a few cards you can pick up Level 1 cards for 1 or 2 tokens, or even for free.
  • buying a card costs a turn, a visit from a Noble does not. So you potentially save a turn which can be crucial.
  • if scores are tied at the end of the game, number of cards bought is used as a tie breaker. If you went for Nobles and the other player didn't then you'll almost certainly lose. This does happen occasionally, so it's worth bearing in mind.

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