Saturday, September 10, 2005

Weekend Gaming

Friday night we were invited out. I stood around looking at my (meager) game collection to figure out what to bring. As happens so often, a game that I would not normally suggest in my group, or even want to play myself, takes on a new light when I think about bringing it to a non-gamer's house.

I wasn't sure if I would be playing with the adults, the children, or anyone at all, but I figured For Sale would fit the bill. I don't really like For Sale - I don't hate it, but it is not on my request list. I just don't feel that I have enough control to make it interesting.

So if I don't like it, why would it make a good game to bring? Because it is light, quick, and clever, and if people don't know any better, it gives them a look into the idea that there are other neat games around. Also, not having to think too hard gives the game a low entry barrier for play.

I ended up showing four of the boys how to play; they liked it, but didn't immediately ask to play again. Then two of the girls took the cards and looked through all of the houses on them.

I am also always ready to play Zendo, using any available household objects, and Opposites, a word game. I should build up a wider array of games to play on the spur of the moment.

Saturday Nadine finally got to play St Petersburg with us, and Rachel won again. I am solidifying my opinion that St Petersburg has some problems.

The first biggie is that the workers are almost always bought up - economically it makes sense, since they almost all go for 4 or less, so they are totally worth it. This means that ALL 8 buildings are flipped over, and the game ends in 4 rounds. That is ridiculous, and I'm sure not the intention. Either I have to figure out why other people who play this game are not buying all of the workers, or I have to limit the number of blue cards flipped.

The second biggie is the inelegant end of the game. Usually keeping the rules simple is best, but in some situations, like this one, it doesn't translate to a complete success.

I don't mind that you have to buy duplicate aristocrats in order to replace them, but if you don't have any, the last few phases are a big bore. In fact, about half the cards that flip up in the last round are a bore, and the lack of useful cards significantly favors the person going first on the last round. I would like to see a final bonus for all victory points one more time, so that items bought on the last round score. Did I miss that rule somewhere? Also, money left over should be something like 5 or even 3 per VP, not 10 per VP, which is effectively useless.



Mikko Saari said...

Sure, workers are usually bought out (except on the last or second to last turn). However, if you always have eight workers available, you're playing something wrong (or just odd).

After all, it's rare for all the exchange cards to go, so there'll be room for something like four or five workers, which means four or five buildings and more turns for the game.

Still, the typical length of the game is around five turns. Sometimes four, sometimes more than five, but usually five. That's a feature you'll just have to plan for.

Small points for money - well, since money is so useless in the end, try to use it better! It's always a challenge to make the best use out of the money you have and it usually takes some thinking, trying to figure out how much you can spend. It's not rare to estimate it wrong. I'm usually too conservative.

Yeah, the buildings and workers are useless in the last round and the exchange card phase of the last round is pretty boring (as is the first worker round), but I don't see it as that big a problem - it goes fast, so you don't have to dwell on it.

Yehuda said...

As I understand it, it is the amount of remaining workers that determines the amount of buildings available.

In our games, not too many buildings will be bought the first round. That means that only a few aristocrats will be shown, and most of those will be bought.

That means that 7 or 8 trading cards will appear, and most of those won't be bought. That means only a few workers will appear. All of which will be bought, of course.

That means all 8 building spots will be filled, again. Repeat.

The biggest problem we have here is that there are 4 phases, instead of 3 or 5 (or any odd number).

I can accept the game always having 8 buildings appearing every round, but that just breaks the concept behind the mechanics. Far better to tweak it and limit buildings to only six, thereby preserving the idea.

Even better - CHOOSE phases, like PR. That way the number of items appearing will not be pre-determined, and you get a whole new mechanic without epsilon additional complexity.


Mikko Saari said...

Ok, so you definitely have it wrong, then. There's always a total of eight cards. That's the key. So when you have say six trading cards left, you get two workers. When you buy those, there's only room for two buildings to show up.

It doesn't matter if the cards are on the top row or the bottom row - they are always filled so there are total of eight cards on the board.

I suggest you try the real rules before making up fixes, because St. Petersburg is a pretty nifty game in itself.

Yehuda said...

After a careful scrutinizing of the rules I finally see where I went wrong.

After every phase I was discarding the lower row, moving the cards down, and filling in the top row.

Now I see that you fill in the top row after every phase, but do not move cards down or discard the bottom row until the end of the round.

That should solve my first problem, greatly. Time to try again.

Thanks, Mikko.