Van had a early shrine (+2 hand) which was key to her progress while I eventually succeed in completing my combo of the Palace, Skewer and Wall. One of the reasons I love this game is the powerful combos that can be created with the right cards. Take a look at their functions below and see if the potential of the combo is apparent:
Palace - Allows you to lead or follow with multiple cards or jacks of the same kind to gain multiple actions
Skewer - At the end of turn, you may place order cards you played into your stockpile
Wall - At the end of game, every 2 cards in your stockpile counts as 1VP
Basically, I was able to rack up the cards in my stockpile easily by playing multiple order cards each turn. Despite completing the combo rather late, I was still able to stash about 10 cards which accounted for 5VP to earn me the victory.
Nevertheless, it seems Van has got the hang of the tactics and her play has become remarkably stronger. One of the issues of the 2-player game is that the game may end prematurely if one player chooses to rush by rapidly using up the in-town sites. However, if the opponent is able to keep the score close throughout, there is less incentive to do so and prevents the game from ending on an unsatisfying note.