Break Time — Saint Petersburg

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Saint Petersburg is a board game originally released in 2004 by Bernd Brunnhofer, Michael Tummelhofer, Jay Tummelson, and Michael Bruinsma. Despite the seeming design-by-committee, this simple card game plays quickly and isn’t overly complicated. The goal of the game is to collect as many victory points as possible. To do so, you will need to acquire gold, which is used to purchase workers, buildings, aristocrats, and “exchange items”, which replace workers, buildings, and aristocrats already on the board.

The game takes place in rounds, and each player begins with 25 gold. The basic idea is simple: each round, there are 4 phases (worker, building, aristocrat, exchange) in which cards of those types are sold. Each player simply chooses the card he wishes to buy and places it face up in his play area, and then the next player takes his turn. A phase ends when all players have passed consecutively. Workers cost between 3 and 8 gold each, and generate 3 gold at the end of the worker phase. Buildings tend to be moderately expensive, and generate victory points. Aristocrats generate some gold, and the more expensive ones also generate victory points, but aren’t as efficient as workers and buildings in doing so. However, at the end of the game you also get extra victory points for each different aristocrat you have in your hand. And finally, the exchange items (which have squares around their cost) replace currently placed items. The amount of gold or victory points a card produces is listed at the bottom of each card.

There are a few other interesting things: First, if you already own a card, buying another one costs one gold less for each card you already own. This gives you incentive to collect workers of the same type. Second, you have a “hand”, which is capable of holding up to 3 cards. The hand can hold cards for play later in the game, and you only have to pay for them when you play them. However, any cards left in your hand are worth -5 victory points at the end of the game! Third, cards not bought in the round are moved to the bottom row, where they cost one less in the following round. Finally, there are a few cards with special properties that give you the ability to do things like convert gold to VP, draw an extra card, hold 4 cards in your hand, etc…

This PC version is a great one-player recreation of the board game. Make sure you also download the english language pack and cards (which are at the bottom of the web page on the right). Also, change the AI strength to Z1 -- the default strength doesn’t let you play as any position except position 1.

Full instructions can be found here. The instructions aren’t very good, but the game is very simple to play and you will figure it out after a few games. However, even after figuring it out, you will still likely lose a lot of games to the very good AI! I think it took me over 15 games before I was finally able to scratch out a win!

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