When I first started playing Saint Petersburg I went on a winning streak of several games. It was a while before anyone in my gaming group (we all learned it at the same time) was able to beat me. Now right off the bat being good at a game is going to give it a special place in the heart of any gamer.
The year is 1703 and under the direction of Czar Peter of Russia players will take part in the construction of the grand city that would become known as The Paris of the East.
St. Petes is played through several rounds with four phases to each round. Different players will start each phase, so even if you don’t go first in the worker phase, you’ll be first to play in the building, aristocrat or upgrade card phase.
During each phase the card line up is refilled to eight. Cards that went unclaimed in the previous round drop down to the second row for a one ruble discount. Players can buy cards directly from the line up, take cards into their hands with a max hand size of three, buy cards from their hands or pass.
At the end of each of the first three phases players score out that type of card. Players generate money for the workers in their tableau, buildings generate points and aristocrats can generate both. Timing when to buy a card to add to your tableau to maximize its benefit is key to success.
The upgrade cards work a bit different. They are upgrades to the three other card types and replace them in your tableau. What’s better than a Ship Builder? How about an entire Wharf! Unsatisfied with your Market? Not to worry, you can turn it into a Bank for a mere eight rubles. There is no scoring in the trading card phase, but they can set you up for big profits in future rounds.
Once the round is over the phase start player tokens rotate and we’re ready to begin again. When the line up can’t be refilled to eight cards in any phase, game end is triggered. You’ll get end game points for different aristocrats and lose points for cards left in your hand.
So what’s so great about St. Petes?
For a game with a lot of tough decisions I find this is one that moves very quickly. Start player changes from phase to phase and so you’re never waiting too long to go first. Sometimes making the first decision is not that helpful, but at times it can be game changing. There is a lot of tension planning your round. Workers are the first phase of any round and will provide you with money, but if you plan poorly you may end the previous round without enough money for the worker phase.You’ll be on the side lines while your opponents pick up more members for their workforce.
St Petes allows you to build your own version of the beautiful city and populate it. With the right combination of workers and aristocrats victory and favour of the Czar is as easy as ОДин, ДВА, ТРИ!