My husband and I like Splendor, but once someone manages to get one high level card, the game is pretty much over in minutes. Increasing the number of points you need to win doesn't make the game last much longer, either. And by the end, it's more just who-can-grab-the-card-first.

Can you think of a good alternative way to play? The game is beautiful and I'd like to use it more often if I had a better set of rules.

6 Answers 6


I play quite a bit of Splendor, love the game, but I've never run into this problem. Do you each pay attention to the other's gameplay? (that sounds rude, but I promise it's not meant to be!) Do either of you ever sabotage the other?

For example, if I see that my opponent's purchase power leans toward a particular premium card, I snatch that card off the market, along with a wildcard token. I'll score it later.

Also, if I notice that a particular gemstone is hard to find, I'll buy those up to slow a leading opponent.

Maybe you already do these things.

If not, try paying closer attention to what your opponent's cache could purchase, at any given time, and if it looks like he could spring ahead by purchasing one of the 4 higher level cards, then snatch that card, along with your wildcard token, and shout, "Punked! B!tch!"

That last part is very important.


I play Splendor a lot with my wife and I don't run in the problem you mention. Maybe you suffer from a "group thinking" problem. This happens when several people play the same game over and over and after a while they all seem to think that there is only 1 correct way of doing things and to win. Suddenly, if you happen to play with someone else, you might be surprised because they play differently.

At 2 players this game allow for a lot of "control" (at least, a lot more than with 4 players). You can try to make you opponent suffer from a shortage in one color for example. You can reserve cards that are really good for your opponent, and so on.

I would also like to point out that Splendor is not a game that aims to be a long game. Especially at 2 players, once you know how to play, the game is quite fast. When we play with my wife, we usually play "best of 3", or we just play several games one after the other until we have enough.

But to answer your initial question "is there other ways to play?", yes, there is one provided by the publisher: an extension box exists for Splendor, which contains 4 mini-expansions. Each expansion is independant of the other, which means you can play with 1 of them, 2 of them, 3 of them or all of them at the same time.

If you really like Splendor, this should bring you a lot more to consider and to enjoy.

The extension is called "Cities of Splendor"

  • Thank you, that's what I had in mind when I posted my question! May 28, 2019 at 14:40

The problem you're describing sounds like "runaway leader". A lot of games have this problem and a lot of games have worked to solve it. Power Grid for instance affects the leader by giving them a disadvantage. Suburbia slows down progress so people cant speed ahead.

I can't think of any simple solution but you might try some sort of leading punishment such as giving a token when he buys a two tier card and giving two for a third tier card. Of course that solution might not be balanced. You could try for something like event cards that would benefit someone who wasn't in the lead so if you buy a card you give the other person an event card. You could also try player powers. There are lot ofpotential solutions. Unfortunately most of them are untried and likely unbalanced and most likely inelegant.

  • 1
    Doesn't sound like a "runaway leader" problem to me. Runaway leader is when someone gets ahead, and will clearly win, but it still takes half an hour to resolve. The OP describes that once someone buys a high level card the game doesn't last very long, i.e. as soon as someone is clearly the leader they win on their next turn.
    – AndyT
    Apr 7, 2017 at 9:25
  • While I don't agree what Splendor has a Runaway leader problem, I was responding to the situation the OP posted. She didn't say "the game doesn't last very long". She complained that the first person to buy a single high level card ruins any chance of catching up. Hence runaway leader. She specifically did not say they win on their next turn. She suggested the game was over because there was no way to catch up. That's runaway leader. That's how I read it and that's what I responded to. OP is welcome to add clarifying comments if I've read it wrong.
    – Wolfkin
    Apr 10, 2017 at 0:32
  • "Increasing the number of points you need to win doesn't make the game last much longer, either." That's clear to me that OP is complaining about the length of the game after someone buys a high level card.
    – AndyT
    Apr 10, 2017 at 8:42
  • or it could mean that OP find that increasing the length of the game doesn't make it any easier to catch up because the leader is functionally decided. Games that have bigger swings could affect the leader issues that way. Such as Munchkin which makes it more likely to get to the goal level if the goal is 20 vs 10. Of course Munchkin is so swingy I actually prefer to lower the goal. But that's a different topic.
    – Wolfkin
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:22

We play to 50 with two players or 40 with three players. Complete different strategy to win. We have also played with six of each color for two players, or only two golds. You can also only lay out three cards of each, instead of four, or put down no royals.


I think Wolfkin is pretty spot on about it being a feature of the game design. Splendor is really a very simple game. That's not a bad thing, but ultimately you can trade away some of what you're describing in exchange for increased complexity. One way to do that would be to modify the game, as Wolfkin suggested. Another is to try a more complex game with similar mechanics. For example, here is a boardgamegeek query for games that have a "card drafting" and "set collection" mechanic, like Splendor (you could search for those mechanics separately [OR vs. AND] to come up with even more ideas). I would personally recommend 7 Wonders, although that works best with a third player (it has rules for 2-player, it's just not optimized for it). My wife and I both really enjoy that, as well as Ticket To Ride. Citadels is a bit more combative, which may or may not be to your taste. Explore, and try something that sounds fun to you!

  • I see that 7 Wonders: Duel is in the list, too...that is actually a 2-player game, so also perhaps worth trying. Aug 25, 2016 at 20:43
  • 1
    The one thing I would disagree with is that it's a "problem" in the game design. I actually think Splendor is an excellently balanced game that doesn't have a runaway leader problem. But the game does reward skillful decisions and my suggestions were not to "fix the game" but more to handicap the husband.
    – Wolfkin
    Aug 26, 2016 at 13:18
  • 1
    Good point, I went ahead and took out the "problem" wording. Catch-up mechanics are sometimes but not always desirable. One thing though, she didn't pin this all on her husband, she said, "once someone manages to get one high level card", it's just worth getting the story right there. Aug 26, 2016 at 16:34

One solution we discovered is collecting level one gems to go after noble tiles instead of level three cards. But I also wondered since the three levels are supposed to represent mining the raw stones, cutting and crafting the stones into jewelry, and then selling them through a merchant empire, perhaps a house rule of making sure winners had at least one card of each level would be a fun challenge. In other words winners would be required to have at least 15 points and at least one mining card, artisan card and merchant card

  • From what I understand, any level counts towards nobles Apr 6, 2017 at 19:42
  • @user2430018, I think Tina is saying that one strategy is to collect many of the cheap cards, as you can usually get a few cards ahead and get a noble quicker. Other strategies exist, of course.
    – Bill Nace
    May 27, 2019 at 13:26
  • @user2430018 Yes, but if you get enough level one cards, then you can get level one cards for free, so it takes fewer turns to get the nobles, since you don't have to spend turns picking up gems. May 28, 2019 at 19:47

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