|(c) Rio Grande Games|
Used by permission
opportunity to play our first complete two-player round of
Our full game - with occasional interruptions - took about two and a half hours. By all accounts, this is not typical. At first I had the impression that the two-player game runs longer - i.e., takes more turns to complete - than a three- or four-player game. My thinking was that, because the total purchasing power among the players is less in a two-player game, fewer cards are removed from one phase to the next and therefore fewer cards are dealt each phase from the decks. But as I tried to work out the math, I realized that on average, as fewer cards are purchased, more cards are flushed from the discount market at the end of the turn, so that the net number of cards that require replacement from one turn to the next is the same regardless of the number of players.
The real issue that emerged in our game is the problem of a runaway leader. Whichever player develops the more efficient money- and point-generating engine early in the game will necessarily build a stronger array from one turn to the next. Although Kathy made a bold move at one point mid-game and accumulated three libraries and another five-point building to catch up with me point-wise late in the game, the surge was temporary, as my stronger income more than made up for her buildings by allowing me to assemble a large array of nobles. The outcome of the game became relatively obvious, as I was gaining more cash and points in nearly every phase. The cash in turn allowed me to widen the gap and strengthen my lead.
Kathy doesn't share my impression that there is a runaway problem. She felt that her buildings kept her in contention for most of the game, and it was only her cash-flow problem that kept her from taking and keeping the lead. And my limited research hasn't turned up any other discussion suggesting that Saint Petersburg has a reputation for a runaway leader, so I shouldn't put too much weight on this observation. Perhaps we can get the game to the table a few more times (and finish our games in a more reasonable timeframe as we get used to the rules) and assess whether it really is a much closer game start to finish.