Sankt Petersburg cover
Designer Michael Tummelhofer
Publisher Hans im Glück
released 2004
Players 2 - 4
Playing Time 60 minutes

A Winning Strategy For "St. Petersburg"

This is a very successful strategy that I have developed over dozens of test games, and which you might try out. Basically there are two "schools of thought" in "St. Petersburg": The players who go for buildings (and early victory points), and the players who go for Nobles (late victory points).

This strategy tries to concentrate mostly on upgrades (which are usually underestimated as something to concentrate on), and tries to improve the chances of getting the most of them.

Generally it is clear that an upgrade is MUCH better than the same cost paid for nobles or buildings. A "17" building gives you 4 VPs, whereas an upgraded "18" building can give you 4 VP's AND 3 GP. The same is to be said about the noble and craftsmen upgrades, although the latter are perhaps the least important. If you get your upgrades early, you will get a very good head start against the other players, a fact that is mostly overlooked. Also upgrades, if played evenly on nobles and buildings, will give you more options in every phase, as you will always have money to spend.

Your first turn should look like this:

  1. Craftsmen phase: Pick the two lowest costing cards, as everybody else.

  2. Buildings: Buy only ONE building, and only the cheapest one possible (preferably the 2/6 Potemkin village or the 5 building). If the only available buildings cost 14 or more, don't buy one, rather save your money for a noble (this is important for the endgame).

  3. Nobles: Buy only ONE noble, and only the cheapest one (preferably the 4 noble). If you haven't bought a building the turn before you definitely MUST buy a noble now, even if it is expensive.

  4. Upgrades: You now should have 21 Gold (if you have been very lucky = 25-(3+2+2+4)+7) or less. Choose upgrades in the following order:

    1. Blue upgrades that bring a lot of money
    2. Blue upgrades that bring both money and VP's
    3. Blue upgrades that bring more VP's than money
    4. Red upgrades that bring VP's AND money (Never buy a red upgrade that only brings VP if it costs you more than 6 Gold)
    5. Green upgrades that bring additional money or VP's (NEVER buy Green upgrades that bring you discounts, they are good, but not for this strategy).

Basically you should hoard upgrades as much as possible, but only bring your hand up to three if you are absolutely positive you can build at least one upgrade in the next Craftsmen or Building phase.

IMPORTANT: Don't build the upgrade yet, not even if it's a green one. Never build an upgrade BEFORE the phase you really need it, as having more money always gives you more options. ALWAYS build the upgrade(s) as the last thing you do in a phase WHERE THEY APPLY, there is never any hurry, you can always play as long you want until the game continues.

Your next turns (until the last turn of the game) should look like this:

  1. Craftsmen phase: Buy everything you can, as long as you still make a profit (Usually it is clear if this or next round will be the last: if there is a possibility to "force" the game end, always assume that somebody will do it).

  2. Buildings: First look if you can buy a cheap (or even several) building/s AND upgrade the building you bought last round. If this is possible, by all means do so (in this order)! If you can only upgrade one (or even more) buildings, do so as well. If you don't have a building you can upgrade, buy as many of the cheapest buildings as you can. Regardless of what you do take care to have AT LEAST 7 Gold to spend for the Nobles phase (INCLUDING the income you make this round). If you have room in your hand you can stock up on cheap buildings*, but only to the limit of three if you are sure you can play a card out of your hand in the next phase. You should keep fully invested here: don't spend too little, as you need the VP income, don't spend to much, you want to be fully active in the Nobles phase. The most common nobles are the 4's and 7's, so having 7 gold saved will make it pretty safe for you.

  3. Nobles: First look if you can buy a cheap (or even several) noble/s AND upgrade a Noble. If this is possible, by all means do so! If you can only upgrade one or several nobles, by all means do so. If you don't have a noble to upgrade, buy the cheapest (or several) cheap nobles. If you have room in your hand, stock up on the cheapest nobles*, but only up to three if you are sure that you can play a card out of your hand in the next round (Upgrades). The rule about keeping fully invested also applies here, but this time you want to keep AT LEAST 5 Gold instead of 7 (with 5 you are usually sure to buy a craftsman in the craftsmen phase, and that is the next phase that you want to spend money in, not in he upgrade phase where you only HOARD the cards).

  4. Upgrades: Stock up on upgrades THAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PLAY IN THE NEAR FUTURE (meaning you own cards that can be upgraded). Stock up even up to three, but only if you are sure to be able to play something out of your hand in the next BLUE round.

    This is the order of acquisition preference UP TO TURN THREE OF THE GAME:

    1. Blue upgrades that bring a lot of money
    2. Blue upgrades that bring both money and VP's
    3. Blue upgrades that bring more VP's than money
    4. Red upgrades that bring VP's AND money, if not available: only VP's, if not available: only money (never buy a red upgrade that only brings VP, if it's more expensive than paying 6 Gold)
    5. Green upgrades that bring additional money or VP's (NEVER buy Green upgrades that bring you discounts, they are good, but not for this strategy).

    AFTER TURN THREE the order changes as follows:

    1. Blue upgrades that bring a lot of VP's
    2. Blue upgrades that bring VP's AND money
    3. Red upgrades that bring both VP's and money, if not available: only VP's (after turn three, NEVER buy red upgrades that only bring money, only if you're desperate)
    4. Green upgrades that bring VP's.

    After turn 3 you should never buy any upgrade that only brings money if possible, you have already built them! Hoard the upgrades, as always playing them at the last moment where they apply!

The last turn of the game should look like this:

  1. Craftsmen: only buy one if you still make a profit (= pay 2 or less).

  2. Buildings: Now buy the MOST expensive building you see on the board (of course preferring the discounted one, if there is one), IF you can still be sure to be able to play all the cards you have hoarded in this round, of course. Also play all Blue upgrades you have (this should be top priority, of course). Invest all your money; you now should have a good income of the upgraded buildings for the next round.

  3. Nobles: You should have a lot of money to spend now. Buy/play out of your hand AS MANY DIFFERENT NOBLES AS YOU CAN! You want to have the most! This is where all the cheap nobles that you have hoarded might come in handy. What nobles you buy depends on your hand and on the money you are able to spend, but you want to have as many different ones as possible in the end.

  4. UPGRADES: With the money from your nobles, BUY MORE NOBLES! There might be some on the board which you haven't been able to pay yet, or there might be more in your hand, deviously hidden.

*) About hoarding: if more than one other player plays the "building" strategy, you should hoard buildings, to foil them. The same is to be said about hoarding nobles if more than one player plays the "nobles" strategy. In the last turn of the game you might even consider hoarding nobles you can't actually play anymore, if they take away more than 5 points from a nobles-collector (very tricky, this one).

And this is it: If you follow these guidelines, you will usually win or come in second in a game that has the other players collect buildings or nobles. Try it out - you will be surprised how well it works. Of course there is always the possibility that the "cards are not right"- this is a luck-driven game as well...

Cards you can consider buying:

Cards you should ALWAYS buy:

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2004, Moritz Eggert