What Happens If I Can’t Perform An Action in Splendor? (Token Swap)

Short Answer: You can always perform an action in the game Splendor.

Long Answer: It can sometimes seem as if you can’t perform an action in Splendor, but that simply isn’t the case.

The official rulebook could be clearer on the subject.

So, we’ve detailed below when you might think you’re “stuck” in Splendor, but why you really aren’t.

Help! I’m Stuck in Splendor! No Actions!

Splendor is a favorite game around these here parts, we always play it two-person, and twice we have gotten jammed up in the same scenario. Basically, it’s this –

One person already has ten tokens reserved (the max a player can reserve at one time) and that player cannot purchase any of the development cards that are face-up on the table or that they have reserved in their hand.

So, if you can’t take tokens and you can’t purchase a development card, what can you do?

Well, that’s the thing. You CAN take tokens in this scenario, and it says so (albeit indirectly) right in the rulebook.

Splendor Rules on Selecting Tokens

Here are the rules for Splendor actions as stated in the rulebook provided with the game:

On their turn, a player must choose to perform only one of the following four actions.

Take 3 gem tokens of different colors.

Take 2 gem tokens of the same color. (Only possible if there are at least 4 tokens available in that color.)

Reserve 1 development card and take 1 gold token (joker).

Purchase 1 face-up development card from the middle of the table or a previously reserved one.

Right after the “Game Rules”, the “Selecting tokens” section of the Splendor rules goes onto state:

If there are not enough tokens available to take three of different colors, you may take two tokens (or even one).

A player can never have more than 10 tokens at the END of their turn (including jokers). If this happens, they must return tokens until they only have 10 left. A player can return all or some of those they’ve just drawn.

Note how it says at “the end” of their turn.

What does that mean?

It means, you must perform one of the four actions as listed in the Splendor game rules no matter what:

  • Take 3 gem tokens of different colors.
  • Take 2 gem tokens of the same color.
  • Reserve 1 development card and take 1 gold token (joker).
  • Purchase 1 face-up development card from the middle of the table or a previously reserved one.

We have already established in the above scenario that you cannot purchase any development cards, but you can still:

  • Take 3 tokens of different colors (or up to 3 tokens if only one or two colors are available).
  • Take 2 tokens of the same color (if four are available).
  • Reserve 1 development card and take 1 gold token (joker).

This may leave you with 11, 12, or 13 tokens during your turn.

You now must DISCARD enough tokens to get back down to the maximum number of 10 tokens before your turn ends.

That’s it. It’s not even a workaround. You have followed the rules of the game as they are written.

Can I Use This Token-Swapping Method Any Time I Want?

According to the rules as they are written, yes.

Is this fair?

According to the rules as they are written, yes.

That said, there has been some discussion in our games as to whether this potentially sneaky way of swapping out tokens makes gameplay better or worse.

Mightn’t some devilish trickster use this method to build up tokens of a single color and go after those high-scoring level 3 development cards?

Sure. They might. But it seems a losing strategy. Every time you swap tokens, you give up the opportunity to purchase a development card, which, in a way, leaves you a turn behind each time.

Token swapping does, however, add a new dimension to play that can help when you’re struggling to get the colors you need to purchase development cards.

It also means you can always perform an action in the game. It’s impossible to get stuck, because you can always take tokens even when you have reached your limit.

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