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Subject: Saint Petersburg – Strategic Variant with the expansion cards rss

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Jerry Wang
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Here are the cards I recommend replacing for a more strategic game of Saint Petersburg. There are three primary intentions. The first is to remove cards that engendered automatic decisions (either because they were too good or too bad) and replace them with cards that players will have to think about. The second intention is to make the four starting player tokens more equally desirable. The final intention is to tweak the game-end condition so that it does not so predictably happen on the building phase.

Remove: (seven cards)
Czar-Carpenter ($8)
2x Observatory ($6), Academy ($23)
2x Mistress ($18)
Mariinskij-Theater ($10)

Add: (eight cards)
Czar-Carpenter ($3)
Village ($1), Village ($3), 2x Observatory ($8), Academy ($25)
2x Sycophant ($1)

Worker deck: (replace old Czar)
Generally, the $8 Czar/Carpenter is unambiguously the least desirable of the 31 worker cards. Its benefit of upgrade versatility is not enough to offset the higher cost. The new $3 Czar/Carpenter (pays $2 instead of $3 per turn) is a much more interesting card tactically.

Building deck: (add two new Villages, replace old Observatories and Academy)
The building token is generally considered the weakest of the four tokens. It has fewer high-impact cards than noble and upgrade decks and doesn’t grant the small yet quantifiable savings of going first in the worker phase.

The building deck is also by far and away the most likely deck to run out and trigger game end. Strategically, this makes predicting the arrival of the end game too easy. In addition, it was far too easy for one player to artificially shorten the game (by buying a few borderline workers in the late game or by buying cheap buildings during the worker phase instead of waiting for the building phase).

Adding the two new Village cards helps to alleviate both of these issues. The Village(s) are generally considered to be among the strongest of the building cards. Inflating the deck by two cards will increase the chance that one of the other decks will run out before or in conjunction with the building deck.

Many consider the $6 Observatory overpowered in a multi-player game. While I don’t consider the $6 Observatory an automatic pickup in all situations, I will concede that a cost of $8 seems more appropriate than $6 for that power.

The $23 Academy was rarely played. I don’t expect the new $25 Academy will be frequently played either, but I do think it would be considered more often.

Noble deck: (remove old Mistresses, add new Sycophants)
The old Mistresses were too powerful. My playgroup (which includes the guy that has like 10 of the top 20 Saint Petersburg ELO accounts on BSW) is something like 80-1-1 with a first-turn Mistress. The adjusted payout of the new Mistress mitigates her power (enough so that the Judge is more powerful on turn 1). However, we found that the easiest solution was to simply remove her from the game.

Reducing the noble deck by two cards might be overcompensating, so I like the introduction of the two Sycophants. Generally, people grab the largest Aristocrat on the board with only secondary consideration of their current budget. The Sycophants will likely trigger some more thinking.

Upgrade deck: (remove Theater)
This deck rarely ever ran out, so it would be nice to reduce the card count to make it more of a possibility. However, I didn’t find that many good candidates for removal, just the $10 Theater, which was nearly always the last upgrade taken.
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Jonathan Takagi
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I'm not sure I understand - you're recommending playing with only some of the expansion? Why not play with all of it? By playing with the expansion you remove all of the cards that you recommend removing. Also, which of the starting tokens do you consider worse? I would say that starting with the worker is probably the worst position, mainly because you will probably be forced to put cards in your hand to ensure that you get a worker the next round.

In my experience, the game does not always end more often with the depletion of the building stack. The worker card usually tend to run out at about the same time. Also, the Academy is a highly desired card in my group. And we also consider the Sycophant to be overpowered. We have changed the price to 5 rubles instead of 1.
 
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John Anderson
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I've found that every game other than our first has ended with the building deck being depleted, though the worker deck is usually very close behind.

The pre-expansion Academy ($23/7vp) wasn't a good card to see in the early game, but was a decent card if you could get it mid to late game. The expansion Academy ($25/9vp) I think is a lot better. Still too expensive to consider in the first couple turns I'd say, but after that I think it becomes very strong.

I also wonder why you didn't put in all the cards from the New Society expansion? The replacement theater is a very good card, so is the coffee house and a bunch of others. Are you just trying to play a more balanced version of the base game?

As for the sycophant I don't see how it's overpowered, other than getting it last turn. You upped it to five rubles so you now have to pay five for the privilege of losing one every turn? I hope you weren't playing that he gave you one ruble every turn, that might be overpowered.

First turn I'd consider workers and aristocrats to be the best tokens to start with. Buildings and upgrades are weaker because you don't generally build them first turn, so it doesn't matter if you get first shot at them. There are exceptions of course, but that's in general.
 
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Jonathan Takagi
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puck71 wrote:
As for the sycophant I don't see how it's overpowered, other than getting it last turn. You upped it to five rubles so you now have to pay five for the privilege of losing one every turn? I hope you weren't playing that he gave you one ruble every turn, that might be overpowered.


It's overpowered because you get a unique aristocrat for only 1 ruble. 1 aristocrat can be worth up to 10 points. Losing only one ruble a turn seems too little of a penalty for such an easy extra aristocrat.

puck71 wrote:
First turn I'd consider workers and aristocrats to be the best tokens to start with. Buildings and upgrades are weaker because you don't generally build them first turn, so it doesn't matter if you get first shot at them.


I'm still puzzled why the worker would be a good starting token. You will save yourself a few rubles (sometimes very few, or none, when comparing yourself to the player on your left), and you go last on the worker phase in the second round. In the majority of the games that we play, most people will go out of their way to ensure that there are not enough spaces cleared up for everyone to get an aristocrat (in round 1) and thus upgrade and workers (in round 2).

Aristocrat is a good starting token, of course. I also think starting with the building token is very good - because for sure there will be 8 cards turned over. The chances are very high that you will score one of the Potjemkins, the Warehouse, Pub or Observatory. Upgrade is also great - what if you can upgrade one of your workers or buildings? An early bump in income can be huge. Basically we just pray to not receive the worker token in the first round, because all of the other options are better.
 
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John Anderson
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It sounds like you may be playing with 3 or 4 players. I have very little experience with anything but 2 player games. In 2p games I've found that saving a few rubles in the first worker phase can be important, and in a two-player game if you get the first worker phase you also get the third one, which can be even more critical. 4 player and 2 player games are very, very different, and I don't think can really be compared much at all. The goal is of course the same, but strategies change a lot.

Quote:
It's overpowered because you get a unique aristocrat for only 1 ruble. 1 aristocrat can be worth up to 10 points. Losing only one ruble a turn seems too little of a penalty for such an easy extra aristocrat.
I can see using that argument to make it cost 2, but 5 doesn't make sense. It now costs more than the author, which gives you a ruble rather than taking one away?
 
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Jonathan Takagi
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puck71 wrote:
It sounds like you may be playing with 3 or 4 players. I have very little experience with anything but 2 player games. In 2p games I've found that saving a few rubles in the first worker phase can be important, and in a two-player game if you get the first worker phase you also get the third one, which can be even more critical. 4 player and 2 player games are very, very different, and I don't think can really be compared much at all. The goal is of course the same, but strategies change a lot.


Ah, I see. If you're playing with 2 players, I can definitely understand (and agree with) what you're saying.

Quote:
I can see using that argument to make it cost 2, but 5 doesn't make sense. It now costs more than the author, which gives you a ruble rather than taking one away?


But there are multiple (6?) authors, and only 2 sycophants. Again, in a 2 player game, it probably doesn't matter that much, since you both get a ton of aristocrats. But now that you score for each aristocrat even above 10, I still think it's way too valuable to be priced so low. Even before the expansion, we were playing with Observatories at 8, Judges at 17 and the Mistress at 21. I'm not sure how we came up with a price of 5 for the sycophant, but it feels right to me.
 
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John Anderson
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In a 3 or 4 player game I would probably like to start with the aristocrat or upgrade token.

The only house rule I might consider for the sycophant would be increasing the cost if bought on the last turn (or whenever any pile is less than X cards). Because at that point you're getting around the intent of the card and not losing anything at all.

I still wouldn't go over the cost of an author, though. You could make the same argument for the Pope as you're making for the Sycophant I think - do you up his cost too?
 
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Jonathan Takagi
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puck71 wrote:
I still wouldn't go over the cost of an author, though. You could make the same argument for the Pope as you're making for the Sycophant I think - do you up his cost too?


I should probably ask my friends (who are the true SP sharks) why we settled on 5 rubles, I'm not sure why, as I see what you're saying. We don't increase the cost of the Pope, because as an upgrade you have to have a duplicate in order for it to count as a unique aristocrat, whereas the Sycophant is unique already.
 
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Jerry Wang
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puck71 wrote:
I also wonder why you didn't put in all the cards from the New Society expansion? The replacement theater is a very good card, so is the coffee house and a bunch of others. Are you just trying to play a more balanced version of the base game?


Yes, I was just recommending a slight (minimum change) variation of the base game to eliminate some of the more "automatic" plays.

I see your point with the Sycophant (with regard to $1 being too cheap), but as I general rule, I do not like playing with home-altered valuations. It may be easier to just leave out the Mistresses and Sycophants and reduce the deck at 25. Although, my gut says that may be too small for the noble deck with regard to endgame balance.
 
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