Alhambra is kind of a filler game for our group. We all like it, but it's quick and kind of low on the stratagy elements for our taste. Luck plays a very significant role.
Still as 1:00 am rolled around and we all wanted to squeeze in another game (really we do have lives) Alhambra rose to the top of the pile.
The thing about this game is that its all about hand management. Any time you can pay for an item exactly you gain a big advantage. So this is the focus of much of the gameplay. However, if you sit on your cards for too long you fall behind in building or loose the type of buildings you really need to other players.
One thing our group does poorly, I think, is we make little use of the reserve board. I almost never place a tile there. If I can't place it immediately or if it fouls my walls too much, I usually won't buy it, preferring to draw cash instead. I somehow feel that if I have to store a tile or far worse actually redesign my palace midgame that I've failed somehow.
I certainly didn't suffer for it in this game however. I managed to get second or third in towers and chambers. I held first in gardens throughout and grabbed first in pavillions before the final scoring. Besides this I had the longest wall by a fair margin.
Final scores were:
Rob - 82
Mark - 69
Jamin - 67
Chris - 67
Derrick - 57
It wasn't a runaway after the second scoring, but I had a mitful of cash in various currencies and capitalized before the final scoring. Pavillions, due to their low value in turn one and two are often overlooked in those phases, but they're cheap and give you a big payoff in turn 3 if you have a few. Also, I tend to favor the slightly less valuable gardens over towers. There's always a fight for towers and players are angling to get them. A garden may float a bit for a while. If you're aiming for it instead, you'll often succeed.