Author: Michael Tummelhofer

Hans im Glück 2004

International Gamers
Awards 2004

Deutscher Spiele
Preis 2004



The new game Sankt Petersburg by HANS IM GLÜCK takes the players back to the time of the Russian Zar Peter. During his reign, Zar Peter reformed the russian administrative system and led Russia out of the middle ages to become closer to the rest of Europe. The City of Sankt Petersburg became his capital, and there he located his leading elite and erected quite a few famous and beautiful buildings.

In this game, the players will need to collect victory points by rebuilding many of the famous buildings of Sankt Petersburg and also by convincing Nobles to join their cause. The game is mainly card-based, and the main playing mechanism of the game is composed of 4 different decks of cards which are used in turns to bring new cards into the game. These decks of cards are the Laborers, the Buildings, the Nobles and the exchange-cards (a special kind of cards).At the beginning of the game, each of the decks is shuffled and placed face down at the appropriate spaces on the gameboard. Apart from the decks of cards, the gameboard also features two rows of 8 spaces where cards will be placed and also a track where the players can mark their victory points. For the start, a number of 4 to 8 Laborer-cards will be turned over and placed into the upper of the two rows, with the number of cards depending on the number of participating players. After these initial preparations were made, each player receives a starting capital of 25 Rubel and then the game can start.

The game consists of several rounds of play, and each of these rounds is split down into a total of 4 phases. During these phases, each deck of cards is used once, and the decks will be used in the following order: first the Laborers, then the Buildings, then the Nobles and finally the exchange-cards. However, despite the use of the different decks of cards, each of these phases follows the same playing principles.

First will come the action-turn of the players, and during this phase each player may perform the following actions:

  • He may purchase a Laborer or a Building by taking its card from the gameboard and paying the price printed on the card. Then he may place this card openly in front of him.
  • He may take one of the cards from the gameboard and add it to his hand. A player's hand is limited to a maximum of 3 cards, but the taking of a card to a players hand does not cost him any Rubel.
  • He may play one of the cards from his hand by placing it openly in front of him and paying its price in Rubel. Thus, the taking of a card allows a player to get a card which he cannot pay for at the moment but which he wants to play later.
  • Finally, a player may pass and do nothing.

A player only may do one of these actions at a time, but the phase does not end once all players have taken one action. Instead, the action-turn continues until all playes have consecutively passed. Thus, it is possible for a player to perform as many actions as he desires (or as his money allows).

Once all players have passed, the scoring will be done. Depending on which type of cards has been used in this phase (Laborers, Buildings or Nobles), each player now looks at the cards of this kind which he has placed in front of him. These cards bear victory points and/or Rubel symbols on them, and each player is allowed to collect that many Rubel from the bank and to add that amount of victory points to his score.

As a final element of each phase, new cards will be added on the gameboard so that at the end of each phase once again a total of 8 cards is available. The adding of new cards is done in a way that the cards which still occupy the upper row of cards on the gameboard will be moved into the lower row and then the upper row is filled with new cards so that a total of 8 cards once more is available. A rule which needs to be observed is that the new cards will be taken from the deck of cards for the next phase, so that the Laborers will be followed by Buildings, these by Nobles and finally by exchange-cards.

The final phase of the exchange-cards has somewhat different rules. Once again the players are allowed to perform an action-phase and take new cards, but this phase is not followed by an evaluation. Also, at the end of this phase, all cards from the upper row on the gameboard are moved into the lower row, whereas the cards which so far stayed in the lower row are fully removed from play.

It has been somewhat difficult to outline this basic playing mechanism, but you can believe me that it is actually much simpler than my review might sound. So far, the game is in essence a purchase / placement game where the player try to collect as many victory points as possible through the purchase of valuable cards. However, there is much more strategy to the game than might be expected.

One observable fact is that the players always are short on money. This was intended by the author, and thus the players always have to look for ways on how to spend their budget in the most effective way. Here the special rules for the placement of new cards come in quite handy. Thus, a player needs to pay one Rubel less for each building which he takes from the lower row on the gameboard, and furthermore placement costs are reduced by one for each identical card which he already has in front of him. Finally, there exists are Goldsmith and a Carpenter, and these two cards in turn lower the purchase price of either Nobles or Buildings by one. All these reductions can be combined, so that clever planning allows a player to get quite good price reductions.

Also of high importance are the exchange-cards which I have not explained as yet. These exchange-cards feature either Laborers, Buildings or Nobles, but it is their special effect that they are meant as upgrades for the cards which a player already has placed in front of him. Thus, the exchange cards actually replace other cards of the same kind. Apart from the fact that most of these cards offer higher victory point or Rubel values, most of these cards also have special abilities which a player may use for his benefit. Thus, some of these cards bring additional income in special situations, whereas other cards allow the drawing of additional cards or increase a player's hand size by one card.

At the end of the game the current victory points of the players can be seen on the track n the gameboard, but some final adjustments need to be made. Thus, a player receives additional victory points for possessing as many different Nobles as possible, and one further point is awarded for each 1o Rubel which a player still possesses. However, if a player still has one or more cards on his hand, he must deduct 5 victory points for each of these hand-cards.

As indicated above, some of the playing mechanisms may have sounded familiar from other games, but to my mind Michael Tummelhofer succeeded in creating a fasicnating and interesting new playing-mechanism. The players have to plan carefully in order to organise their card-playing in the most favourable way, but even the best plans may not come true if another player spoils them by taking a much-needed card. Direct player interaction comes a bit short in this game since each of the player is mainly concerned with building his own part of Sankt Petersburg, but this fact is not of much importance since the main playing mechanism keeps the players occupied with their own tasks. My overall good impression of the game has been strengthened by the well-chosen and implemented background story, and furthermore the graphical design also reflects the care which has been given to the creation of this game.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany