Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Saint Petersburg - A Redux
[The previous post is] A very nice summary that addresses a lot of the complexities of the game. Beginners seem to view this game as very random -- but repeat playings reveal subtle strategies. Winning is not about making a grand dramatic push for victory but is about making a lot of little, correct decisions that compound on one another.
One thing you didn't go into was hand management. I find this a critical consideration and something often overlooked and incorrectly used by beginners.
Do take upgrades into hand instead of buying them outright. You earn nothing at the end of the Upgrade phase and will need your money going into the worker phase.
Don't play a card from your hand out of phase. Example: Don't play an aristocrat from your hand during the building phase. You might find that the money you just spent could be used to get you a better aristocrat when the cards fall and if not, then you can still play it before it's scored.
Don't pack your hand. Put cards into your hand that you know you can play within the next round or two. Only fill your hand to 3 cards if you plan on playing one within the next phase or 2. Yes, that Mistress of Ceremonies sure is gorgeous but if you can't know with certainty that you can play her next round you will spend the game missing other opportunities waiting to get her out. When you have a full hand, you have lost one of your key resources -- card management.
Do pick up cards that help you get a card in the next phase. If you're playing 4th in the next phase and there's 3 open card slots on the board, pick up something cheap to give you a chance at a card. This is especially important going into the worker phase. Likewise, if you choose first, try to set yourself up with 2 choices by opening up one card slot more than the number of players.
Do pick up aristocrat upgrades. Buy them outright if you can but the key to getting a lot of aristocrats is to buy duplicates of the basics and then upgrade. Use your hand to ensure that you have upgrades available to you. This is a particularly tricky one to handle since you need to consider the other aspects of hand management. Picking up the Czar on round one is probably a bad idea since you've resigned yourself to two open slots in your hand for the majority of the game -- however, there is a correct time to pick up the czar for an endgame play. Experience is all that can really teach you that.
Do buy the warehouse if it comes out early. Unless the 2 rubles is critical to you this turn, the extra hand space is invaluable.
Don't be afraid to discard a card that you draw with the observatory. It's one of the hardest things to do. You'll think, "I sacrificed a VP to draw this and it's mine exclusively!" If that card violates the other guidelines stated above, you'll regret it. Play it or chuck it.
There's obviously room to debate these assertions and exceptions to them all but I've found that they serve me well.