In this Six Meeple Review I share personal thoughts on Saint Petersburg a game contested by players collecting cards to build the great Russian city of Saint Petersburg.
I use a modified critical review method based on the Six Thinking Hats Method developed by Dr. Edward de Bono to engage the brain in a number of distinct ways when evaluating a particular subject from various perspectives. A different color Meeple represents each distinct view point employed to provide a few brief thoughts regarding my experience with the game.
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Just the Facts
Saint Petersburg is a card game that comes with a game board outlined by a scoring track and depicted spaces for organizing the discard pile, the card decks for the four phases, and active card tracks.
Also included are four starting player cards, gold-painted starting player markers (a chair, dome, bust, and square), colored player markers, and colorful paper rubles used for purchasing cards.
Players start with 25 rubles and a randomly chosen starting player marker. Each round consists of four phases: Worker, Builder, Aristocrat, and Upgrade.
The person with the starting player marker matching the current phase goes first for that phase. Players may either buy a card and place it in their area, add a card to their hand, buy and place a card from their hand, or pass.
The game board has an upper and lower card row. Cards on the upper row were added in the current round and cost regular price as depicted on the card. Cards on the lower row were left over from the previous round and cost one less the regular price.
A card purchased from the board or the player’s hand is placed in front of the player. If the player already has the same card in front of them it costs them one less ruble.
Green cards represent Craftsman, or workers, who earn the player money. Blue cards represent Buildings which earn the player victory points tracked along the outside of the board. Orange cards are Aristocrats who yield money, victory points, or both. Lastly, Upgrade cards offer a variety of upgrades to cards a player may have in front of them to improve their money and/or victory point output. Upgrades cost the difference between the cost on the card and the card it is upgrading and replacing.
Players may buy any type of card available on their turn. However, at the end of the worker phase only workers are scored, i.e. additional rubles based on the sum total depicted on their worker cards are awarded to the player. Likewise, only building VP are scored at the end of the building phase, and rubles and/or VP at the end of the Aristocrat phase. Nothing is scored or awarded at the end of the upgrade phase.
A phase ends when all players pass in sequential order. This means that a player may pass and yet still have an opportunity to choose a different option if turn order comes back around to them with at least one other player choosing not to pass.
At the end of the Upgrade phase, any cards on the lower row are discarded and any remaining cards on the upper row are moved down to the lower row. Players then pass their starting player markers to the player on their left.
Once one of the phase decks is exhausted players complete the current round. Then players receive additional bonus points indicated on the board’s aristocrat point table for each unique Aristocrat in their play area. Lastly, players have the option of buying victory points at 10 rubles each with any remaining money on hand. The player with the most victory points wins. Games run typically 30-45 minutes and plays 2-4 players.
The art work on first glance was less than desirable. However, reviews of this 2004 release were positive and the price was reasonable so I added it to my Christmas wishlist and have been pleased with this selection.
The majority of our plays have been with 2p. Playing with more presents a very different, yet equally challenging experience. The first time we introduced this to some gaming friends, they immediately purchased it themselves.
Players are forced to make decisions based on the cards and resources available as they strive to balance the financial engine of the workers with the victory points produced by the buildings.
If one isn't judicious with their purchases, they may not have enough rubles to buy aristocrats and upgrades which are introduced in phases 3 and 4 each round. If one spends all of their money in the latter phases they may not have any money to buy the next rounds introduced workers.
Ultimately you are trying to position yourself to enough income to execute a successful strategy of accumulating VP through the rounds while being able to collect as many different Aristocrats you can for maximum end game bonus.
Saint Petersburg is a game with constant money shortage. Therefore, it may be worth risking a pass on a card for a better option later, or in hopes it will be cheaper next round when you have more cash, or you may even consider picking it up and placing it in your hand (you are only allowed to hold three cards) to prevent someone else from getting it. Cares in hand can be bought later as an action on your turn. The risk there is that any cards in hand at games end cost -5 points.
As I mentioned previously, I am not a fan of the art work. Although, I will admit it does grow on you over time. It graphic design is representative of the stereotypical American view of many euro-games in that the box and game art is dull and uninteresting.
Two additional marks against the game are the mini-euro size cards which can be more difficult to handle and shuffle and the small, fiddly paper money.
Lastly, the board is really unnecessary. The Aristocrat bonus point table and scoring track could be facilitated by other means. The board functions mainly to organize the cards in the middle of the playing area which is fine.
Optimistic Bright Spots
The game scales well for 2-4p offering different, yet challenging gaming experiences.
The game play and challenging choices more than make up for the lack in physical appearance.
The iconography on the cards is very user-friendly.
Larger cards would be nice, but could potentially introduce table space challenges for some players. Therefore, I can live with the small card size but I am seriously considering replacing the fiddly paper rubles with similar colored poker chips for easier handling.
The game stands on its own and does not necessarily need or beg for an expansion. However, there is an expansion or two, New Society & The Banquet, available for this game, which I have no experience, that may be worth checking out.
It is interesting to note that Tom Lehmann, designer of Race for the Galaxy, was one of the contributing designers of this expansion.
Ultimately, we found Saint Petersburg to be a simple looking and flowing game with challenging, tactical decisions to balance that brings it back to the table for regular play time at our house. This is a nice euro worth having in our collection.
- Last edited Wed May 2, 2012 1:45 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:35 pm
I think you need to find another six meeples or at least one that actually describes the game play, mechanic and structure.
Don't be discouraged by this grump.
I love this style of review, as it's broken down into nice, digestible chunks and .........
....it has big text and huge shiney pictures.
This review in particular reminded me I need to get this game back to the table - it's been about 6 years.
Played this a ton a few years back. My 9 year old and I recently broke this one out and he loved it.
Nice overview of the game!