St PETERSBURG the Revised Edition
A Revised Edition of the popular 4-player boardgame from Hans im Glück; now for 2-5 Players Aged 10+ with a Playing Time of an Hour - 2 Hours depending on whether you are playing the Basic game or including the Market and/or any Modules.
Ten years ago Hans im Glück released St Petersburg the boardgame, and it got great acclaim and respect from the majority of euro-style game players. In fact my wife thoroughly enjoyed it, as did my games playing friends, whereas the numerous options within the gameplay was, for some reason, confusing to me, plus, despite the options, I thought the card playing was virtually going through the motions and thus I mentally dismissed it. I gave it a reasonable review in Games Gazette because I was the only one not in favour of the game.
Thus when I received the new, updated and revised version I was sceptical of it. In the back of my mind I was sort of pleased that I had a German language edition and that it proved difficult, at first, to locate the English language rules. When the English rules finally became available to me I was again held up because I had printer problems, but eventually I bought a new printer and had no option but to print off the full colour rules booklet.
Along with the rules booklet the game also comes with a Modules booklet, so my interest piqued and the old sceptical feelings dissipated, there was obviously more to the revised version than a new box and some different artwork. Within the rules booklet there are rules for the original basic game, along with all the necessary components (and quite a few more) to play the 2-4 player game as it as way back. Seeing this I did the only sensible thing possible for me before those old feelings rose back up and I continued to read through the booklet where the other components in the game began to come into play. There I found the rules for adding a fifth player and for introducing the Market into the game. This new set of cards give the game more substance, make it more enjoyable for some and now definitely enjoyable for me. All my reservations have gone and Saint Petersburg with the Market is now one of the most played games around here.
Let's recap the game from basic through to the use of the Modules. The game is all about buying cards, workers, buildings, politicians, nobles etc that allow for the players to collect money and gain Victory points. The cards are in four separate decks with coloured backs to identify them; Workers (Green), Buildings (Blue), Nobles (Red) and Exchange (Red, Blue & Green). To begin with a set number of Green Worker cards are turned face up and placed on the top row of the two Row, ten column, board. In player order, determined by who is holding the wooden Worker piece, the players buy the cards one at a time and continue purchasing until all three players have passed one after the other. If a player passes and at least one other player buys a card then the player who passed is not out of the phase and can make another purchase if they so wish. Cards bought are placed face up in front of the purchaser.
When purchasing ends the phase ends with a scoring, in the case of the Green cards players collect money from the bank. Note here that money is extremely tight in the game and that it is essential that you budget well and buy wisely. With the Worker phase completed the Building phase begins and cards are dealt from the Building (Blue) deck to make the number up on the row to the starting number, which in the basic game is eight. Thus in a four-player game all players have bought 2 cards each then the row will be empty and 10 Blue cards are placed face up. If only 7 of the 10 Green cards were bought, for example, then only 3 Blue Building cards will be added to the display. ALL cards on the display are available for purchase but only the Blue cards will score at the end of the Building phase, ie you will not get more money from the Green cards. Then the Red cards and a scoring are put up for sale using the same principle. Finally the Exchange cards are brought into play; there is no scoring at the end of the Exchange card phase.
Players do not have to buy cards, in fact they may take cards free without any payment, but these cards are taken into their hand but they may only hold three cards unless they have a Warehouse Building that allows for a fourth card to be held in hand, and if they are still held at the end of the game they cost each player 5 VPs per card. Cards held in hand may be brought into play as part of a player's turn, the cost of the card must be played. If you are holding Exchange cards they may only be brought into play by replacing a card with the same name but lower cost. The Exchange card will have a higher cost, but you only have to play the difference between the two cards, eg a 12 Exchange card being played to replace a 7 regular card (Exchange cards may never replace Exchange cards) costs the player just 5, the difference between 12 and 7.
The game continues until the last card from any one of the decks of cards is placed on the board, then the Round is completed and the game ends. The winner is the player with the highest VPs.
The MARKET brings in the deck of yellow cards which often show resources, Chickens, Apples, Wheat, Fish, Cabbages plus the special ?s which can represent any of the five major resources. These resources then bring the Market grid into place. Players have counters for each of the five resources and as they purchase cards with one or more resources on them, and place them face down (not holding them in hand) they move their counters up the track of the resource on the card they bought. The MARKET has a fixed VP value on tiles which changes each round, starting from 1/0 (one VP to the player or players furthest up the column for each resource and zero for the second placed player) and getting better until it reaches the final tile which remains in place at 6/3.
On page 7 of the rules booklet there is an illustration that shows how each player starts one or more of the phases, there is a wooden piece for each different card deck which are randomly given to the players and then passed round in a clockwise direction after every full Round so that phase starting players change and no one gets any real advantage from them. The gameplay phases are described in order: Worker Phase (Hammer), Building Phase (Cathedral), Noble Phase (Head Silhouette) and Exchange Phase (Hand). (When the Market (Yellow cards and Money Bag wooden piece) is used its card phase is set between the Worker and the Building phases). The illustration mentioned has an arrow flow chart effect that starts with the Hammer, moves onto the Head, then the Cathedral and lastly the Hand - these are in the wrong order.
The MODULES: There are 6 Modules, four of which must be used with the MARKET, one (the Banquet) is supposed to be playable only with the basic game, and "In Good Company" which can be played with the basic game but some cards have to be removed before play starts. Using the modules make the Basic game a different prospect. Each MODULE takes only just about a single page where it is described which additional cards and pieces to use and what effects they have on the game. The Modules can be played solo or combined (any combination). I believe that the best way to play is by starting with the basic game plus the Market and then play the same game but include the Banquet (Module 1), the next game you play should be Basic + Market + Banquet + In Good Company (Module 2), and then each time you play continue adding the next module until you are playing the complete game. This may seem long-winded but it has its advantages; you get to play the game an additional six times so it's like playing a new/revised version every time. With a little adjustment, some contrived thinking and a good knowledge of the cards (so you understand which cards may need to be removed from the game) you can use every module, even the Banquet; it's possible and if you do it, it is fun and interesting, but you aren't supposed to and it will take some worthwhile consideration.
Instead of using artwork as in the first edition the designer has gone for the somewhat novel, if not unique, method of casting real people in the roles of Workers and Nobles and photographic style illustrations of the Buildings. If you know your gaming "superstars" you will recognise several faces amongst the cards but for the record, the major 8 Nobles are Vlaada Chvatil, Stefan Feld, Ketty Galleguillos, Doris Matthaus, Uwe Rosenberg, Tom Vasel, Franz Vohwinkel and Knut Michael Wolf.
These last two pictures are from the original game and are shown for comparison.