I am fortunate enough to know a couple who have been patient enough to let me teach them all my board games (my choice, too!), so last time's experience was St. Petersburg. I would like to begin by saying I'm very pleased with how well this game works with any number of players, and three is certainly no exception.
The players for this evening are Aubrey (myself), T, and J.
Anyway, I bust out the components and rambled for a little while about how much I appreciate the gold trim on all the pieces and cards before giving a rough outline of the rules. I emphasized the cumulative discounts that could be gained and noted how the cards are "stocked" on the board for purchase. I felt it was only fair to include a little bit of strategy in this initial game as well, so I kept it simple and suggested that one should always hold income in the green phase (especially early in the game), and I explained the exponential aristocrat bonus in a non-too-subtle "this is the game-breaker" tone of voice.
I would fault myself on explaining the saved cards and "warehouse" ability poorly, as that led to the most questions in our first game. However, I would still classify St. Pete's as an easily explained game, although the only way to truly understand all the cards is to see them in action at least once.
The first game went pretty smoothly. There were quite a few questions, and I went ahead and made suggestions at the risk of being obnoxious. To me, this is the type of game where experience makes a difference, and pounding new players isn't going to do anybody any good.
It was fun to see my opponents forming their first strategies. T was very interested in the blue card special abilities and purchased a pub, a warehouse, and an observatory on his first opportunities. J focused on building cumulative stacks of the same card in order to maximize discounts, particularly on customs houses. There was a bit of neglect for aristocrat purchases, so I laid off of them as well, figuring that after scoring the game, everybody would see how important they are.
T took this first game, and I really have to give him credit for using his observatory well and having the foresight to "pub" some VP during the final round.
The thing I love about these people is they're always super enthusiastic to play "one more" round. In this case, it turned into three more, and I'm not complaining.
The following three games were even more fun, as everybody fleshed out their strategies, and I bumped up my playing level to be truly competitive. For the most part, T and J's initial strategies were still their focus, and T got a hold of an observatory each time. J kept faith in her customs houses and everybody did a better job of getting aristocrat sets.
I won the last three games. Two were extremely close - I beat J by only one VP in the last match. One was rather brutal because I was allowed to accumulate an obscene variety of aristocrats.
All in all, we had a great time with this classic. I know we've all been cooking up strategies and reviewing the games since that evening, and St. Pete's will be welcomed back to the table sometime soon... although not before Attika because they absolutely LOVE that one.