(Eric, Rich, Dan, Bill)
No additional players had come in while we were playing Can't Stop, but it was early and we knew Mike often arrives late, so we chose Saint Petersburg for our second game. Bill hadn't played Saint Petersburg, so we had to teach him the rules. As it turned out, Mike came in just as we were completing the first turn, and he sat behind Bill and answered questions. Like many first-timers, Bill was inclined to scoop up some costly buildings early, and we had to gently encourage him to conserve a little cash for later.
Dan started out with the chair, and the initial worker distribution was reasonably equitable. Rich was first up for the building phase, but much to Rich's disappointment, all eight of the available buildings were of the plain vanilla variety. Not one Observatory, Warehouse, or Pub was in the mix (you have about a 50% chance that at least one Observatory will show up in the initial 8-card draw.) Rich built a building, as did Bill, while Eric and Dan saved their cash. Four nobles were turned over next, including a Mistress of Ceremonies and a Judge. At this point Rich expressed his disappointment at the consistent bad luck he's had in the Saint Petersburg card draws because the other two nobles were much less desirable. We pointed out that Walt says the same thing about the dice he rolls when he plays against Rich's tabletop baseball team.
Bill put the Mistress in his hand, waiting until he had the funds to build her, but Eric was able to build the Judge right away. With its payout of $5 + 2VP each turn, the Judge confers a big advantage if you can get it down early. There's only an 11% chance that a random flop of 4 nobles will include two cards that are Mistresses and/or Judges, so Eric was fortunate to get a shot at a Judge (interestingly, Evan had exactly the same good fortune in our game on July 8.)
As the game proceeded, Rich and Bill built steadily while keeping enough cash to buy workers as available so as not to fall behind in the income race. Dan got an Observatory on turn 2 and used it to draw extra workers, putting him far ahead in the income race but causing him to fall behind on the VP track as he was not able to draw VP-generating orange cards and was reluctant to spend on buildings. Eric focused on gaining as many different nobles as he could, falling behind somewhat in the green card race but making it up to a degree with orange card income.
Late in the game, Rich and Bill got the two Pubs. Eric got the second Observatory on the last turn and used it to get an extra noble that served as a base for an upgrade. Dan finally started spending his cash on a boatload of point generators, but it was too little too late.
Final scores: Eric 107 (8 nobles,) Rich 92 (5), Bill 78 (6), Dan 75 (7).
Eric's rating: 10 (newly upgraded from 9.) I've played this game regularly since I first got my copy and I'm seeing new things to think about each time. There's plenty of luck in Saint Petersburg (in this game I got the orange card I wanted almost every time) but good play will put you in position to benefit from favorable opportunities more often. There's nothing more frustrating than to have first crack at a Weapon Master or Builder on turn 2, but to be unable to take him because your hand is full and you have only a Controller built. The challenge is avoiding the strong temptation to fill your hand prematurely.