Strategies for Five Crowns
Once you understand the basics of play in Five Crowns, it is quite easy to become proficient and to play with the best card players in the house. Though much depends on the cards dealt and drawn there are things a player can do to improve his or her chances of going out first or being caught with a minimum of points.
It does make a difference how many players are seated at the table. With two players, each player has an opportunity at every card. With more players there will be cards impossible to get to. If you see too many cards that you need fall, it might be best to try for a different book or run.
In sharp two player games a player will watch what his opponent is discarding and, when possible discard similarly, reducing the chances that he will give his opponent cards he or she needs. With more players, you should keep an especial eye on the player to your left because that is the player you will discard to.
It is a common practice when choosing discards to discard the highest useless card first in order to retain the fewest points in hand. High cards that are in a run or a straight run are safe so do not worry about these. With this in mind, an occasional strategy calls for holding high possible discards with the anticipation that an opponent will be more likely to discard cards more likely to help a hand. Of course, this is a risky strategy and should only be used in desperate situations when losing a couple extra points will not make much difference, but the prospect of going out first is the only way to victory.
Stay attentive. Keep track of the designated wild card. It is easy to forget because it changes each hand. If you forget, just count the number of cards in your hand. It might be well to remind yourself of what the wild card is every time you draw a card. With the ten designated wild cards, plus the six regular wild cards in every deck, your chances of picking a wild card from the stack is fairly good (approximately 16 in 116 - about 14% or one in seven). This means that picking from the discard pile - which is seldom a wild card has an inherent disadvantage and generally should only be done when it materially benefits the current hand.
The number of wild cards also affects the relative difference in the advantage of going for books or straight runs. In a straight you are generally seeking two cards with possibility of 4 out of 116. (Seldom should you choose to go for an inside straight which gives you only two chances in 116.) In a book you are generally seeking 6 in 116. Without wild cards this gives a decided advantage to seeking books over straights. However, with wild cards, the difference is only 20/116 to 22/116.
Perhaps the biggest problem in Five Crowns is deciding between these two types of "melds". They are often mutually exclusive. A seven you need for a 6,7,8 of stars will be the same seven you need for a book of sevens. In this case, especially in hands with larger number of cards, it is often better to choose to go for books or runs within a certain range of cards, based on the original distribution in your hand.
Some of this sounds complicated, but within the context of the game it will all soon become second nature and you will be playing competitively with even your best opponents.