HomeBoard GamesReview of Viticulture

Review of Viticulture

Viticulture puts players in the role of a small winemaker in old-world Tuscany.  Players build up their vineyard by planting fields, harvesting grapes, building new structures and filling wine orders.  In Viticulture, the components, artwork, and mechanics combine to create a artistic and thematic game about the wine-making business.

Components / Set-Up

When you pick up Viticulture, you may be surprised by the weight.  There are a lot of beautiful components and cards that come with this game.  There are  118 cards with 42 wine cards, 36 wine order cards, 20 summer visitor cards, and 20 winter visitor cards.

The game board and vineyard mats are double-sided, one side has all the labels while the other is unlabeled.  Players can choose to have a more visually appealing experience without the labels, by flipping over the game board.

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The wooden tokens are  amazing.  There are 30 worker meeples in the 6 different player colors and one Grande Worker for each player.  There is also 1 gray temporary worker.  There are 6 Rooster or wake-up tokens, 6 cork victory point tokens, 6 wine bottle residual payment tracker tokens, 48 wooden structure tokens (trellis, windmill, irrigation, yoke, tasting room, cellars, cottage), and 1 grape first player token.

There are also 72 lira money tokens in 1, 2, and 5 denominations.

To set up the game, give each player a vineyard board and place the game board in the center of the table. Give each player one pinot vine cards and their wooden tokens.  Each player starts with a crush pad, a small cellar, three fields, 3 dollars in coins, 1 random summer visitor card, 2 regular workers and their Grande Worker.

Place each deck in the marked space on the board.  Players should place their cork victory point token on the start space on the victory point track and their wine bottle token, the residual payment token, on the middle of the Residual Payment Tracker.  Next, players decide where to put their rooster wake-up token on the wake-up chart.  Going first allows you to act first but gives no extra bonus.  Each other space of the chart offers players an advantage such as an extra card or the temporary worker.  The later you go in turn order, the better the advantage.  Decide who gets to place first, that person is the first player and takes the first player token.

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Object and Goal of the Game

Players start out with a small vineyard and a few workers.  With the help of different visitors, smart planning, and new structures they will plant, harvest and turn grapes into fine wine.  Completed wine orders and the occasional visitor card will give the player victory points, the goal is to earn 20 victory points.  When this happens, the year will be played to end.  Players can then earn up to 25 victory points, and the player with the most victory points wins the game.

Game Play Overview

Depending on the season players will complete different actions.  Summer and Winter are the only time that players will place workers.  Once placed a worker is not available for the rest of the year; a worker placed in summer is not available in the winter.

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Spring

During the spring, players will select the order in which they will “wake-up” on the turn order track.  If they chose a space with a reward, they immediately collect that reward.  For example, if they choose the third space they draw one wine order card, the fifth space allows a player to draw either a winter or summer visitor card, and the 7th and last space awards the temporary worker.

Summer

During the summer, players can expand their vineyard, plant vines, give tours, and sell grapes.  In turn order, players send their workers out to yellow summer spaces on the board.  Once placed the worker will immediately take the action.  Remember a placed worker is not available for the rest of the year.  You may place your workers on the same action on subsequent turns, as long as space is available.  When you place a worker, you must take the action, you cannot place a worker on the sell grapes space if you don’t have grapes to sell.  After players can no longer place workers, or have passed, players start the next season.

The Grande Worker follows the same rules as the regular workers but have the unique ability.  They may be placed on an action that is already full.  You do not gain the bonus action when the space is full.

The game can be scaled based on the number of players.  In a two-player game, only the left action space is available.  For 3-4 players the left and middle action spaces are available and for 5-6 players all spaces are available.  Players can claim the spaces in any order.

Summer Actions

Play One Summer Visitor Card:  Choosing this space allows a player to play one summer visitor card from their hand.   The bonus space allows an additional summer visitor card to be played. A player can only play the card if they can fully resolve the effect.  For example, the Wine Critic requires the player to discard two wine tokens from their medium or large cellar to receive three victory points.  They must be able to discard two wine tokens to play this card.

Sell Grapes:  When players choose this space they must sell at least one grape token.  The lire gained is shown by the coin between the crush pads, sold grape tokens are discarded.  The bonus allows the player to gain one victory point.

Plant Vines:  When players choose this space they may plant a vine on one of their fields.  The field may be empty, or you can stack on top of already placed vines, the value of the grapes may not exceed six per field.  Once planted the vines stay on the field, wine makers don’t uproot their vines after harvest.  Players may remove a field only if they use a visitor card or they build the yoke. The bonus allows the player to plant an additional field.

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Draw One Vine Card:  When players choose this action they draw one vine card.  There are nine different types of grapes and they have different values.  Each grape is either red or white except for pinot, which is both.  Some grape may require a trellis or irrigation to be planted.  If players choose the bonus space here they may draw and additional card.

Give a Vineyard Tour:  This space allows a player to collect 2 lire.  The bonus space allows the player to collect one extra lire.

Gain 1 Lira – This space may be used in the summer or winter and any number of workers may be placed here.  When placed here the worker earns one lira.

Build Structures:  When choosing this space, players can build one structure.  Each structure has a different cost.  Once the cost is paid take the token and place it on the correct space of the player mat.  The bonus allows the player to build at a 1 lira discount.

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Trellis – this structure costs 2 lire and allows players to plant certain types of vines.

Windmill – this structure costs 5 lire and once built it allows a player to collect 1 victory point, per year, when they plant a vine.

Irrigation – this costs 3 lire and is required to plant certain types of vines.

Tasting Room – this costs 6 lire, and once built it gives a player  1 victory point for every tour of their vineyard.

Small & Medium Cellars – Players start with small cellars that only let them store up to 3 value wines.  When they buy a medium cellar for 4 lire they can store wine values 4-6 and create blush wines.  A large cellar, with a cost of 6 lire, lets players store up to 9 value wines and create sparkling wines.

Yoke – this costs 2 and allows a player a space they may use once a year to uproot 1 vine card or harvest 1 field.

Cottage – this cost  allows the player to take one extra visitor card during fall

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Fall

During the fall players, in turn order, choose to take either a winter or summer visitor card.  When players have built the cottage, they can take one extra visitor card.

Winter

Winter is similar to the summer.  In turn order players place any remaining workers on the blue winter spaces.  They immediately take the action of the chosen space.

Draw One Wine Order Card –  When choosing this action, players simply draw one wine order card.  The bonus space allows the player to draw one additional card.

Harvest One Field –  This action allows players to add grape tokens to the crush pad based on the fields yield.  The bonus allows the player to harvest an additional field.

Spend 4 Lire to Train a New Worker – This action lets a player gain one new worker by paying 4 lire.  The bonus gives a 1 lire discount.

Play One Winter Visitor Card –  This action allows a player to play one visitor card from their hand.  If they choose the bonus space, the player may play one additional card.

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Make Up to Two Wine Tokens – This action allows players to turn grape tokens into wine tokens.  When a player makes more than one wine token, they may be of the same or different types of wine.  Players take one grape token and over to the corresponding space in the cellar.  For example they move a two white grape to the two white wine space.  Blush wines are created by combing 1 white token and one red grape token to make a wine equal to the combined values of the grapes.  Sparkling Wines are created by combining two red grape tokens with 1 white grape token.  The bonus on this space allows the player to make one additional token.

Fill One Wine Order –  this action allows players to fulfill one wine order and gain victory points.  They will also move their wine bottle on the residual payment track.  Players will gain lire at the end of the year based on their place on the track.  The bonus here gives one victory point to the player.

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Year End / Game End 

After all players have placed all the workers, they proceed to the year-end actions.  During the year-end players return workers to their vineyard mat, collect residual payments, take back their rooster tokens, and rotate the first player token counter-clockwise.  They will also age their grape and wine tokens by moving them one space to the right.  If they do not have a medium or large cellar they may not move the tokens into these spaces.  If any player has reached 20 points on the victory track, the game ends.  If there is a tie the first tiebreaker is goes to the player with the most lire, the second goes to the player with the highest total value of wine in the cellar and the third goes to the player with the highest total value of grapes on the crush pad.

My Thoughts

Worker placement games were were among the first hobby games I played, and many still rank among my favorites.  The theme, components, artwork, and openness of Viticulture have made it a top contender as my favorite in this category.  I look forward to what the Tuscany Expansion and wonder if it will help Viticulture outrank the others.

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Components

I love all the thoughtfulness that went into the components of Viticulture, everything is beautiful, colorful and good quality.  I love the double-sided game boards and player board that allow players focus on the artwork once they are familiar with the game.  I’m not sure I will ever use this option since I tend to forget what certain spaces do or provide, but I like that it is available.  The board is beautiful, a lot of thought went into the layout and the subtle transition from spring to winter.

The cards are small but good quality.  The small size is necessary so the grape cards can fit on the player boards and the game board.  One thing I dislike about the cards is that they are all sponsored by someone.  I know this is a Kickstarter game and understand why this was added.  I found it a little jarring when the game is so focused on the artwork to see this on the cards.  I will admit that I hardly noticed it after a few minutes of play due to the small writing.

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The component I wasn’t sure about but have come to see the beauty of are the wine tokens.  They are small, clear glass beads and are just the right size to fit on the player mat.  Because they are clear, you can easily see the number underneath.  It isn’t necessary to see the number, but I like that you can.  The money tokens are okay, they are good quality card stock, but nothing special.  They are also sponsored.  The box is good quality, has a linen finish, and a useful insert to store the game. It is a small, but an unusual size compared to standard board game boxes.

I adore the art of Viticulture, its plain but muted colors add to the aesthetics of the game and remind me of paintings of the Italian countryside.  The artwork on the cards is well done and the graphic design is appealing.  The writing is small and may be hard to read for some players.  The color choice for the player tokens also adds to the artistic appeal of Viticulture.  They stand out from each other and are easy to see on the board.

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Rule book / Player Aides

The rule book is only 12 pages long, in full color, and easy to read.  It explains everything in detail and uses creative graphics to help you understand.  There aren’t that many pictures and no pictures of game set-up, this is usually a problem.  But, everything is labeled on the board, so the rule book gets a pass.  I like the way the rule book has purple ribbons on the pictures to highlight important areas.  After reading the rules, we didn’t need to consult the rule book during the game.  The are also large and comprehensive player aides that come with the game.  I used this only at the beginning of the game as we read the rules together.  I didn’t need it  after a few rounds of game play.

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Game Play

I enjoy the theme of Viticulture, it works well for a worker placement game because of all the different tasks in the wine making process.  Using the four seasons adds to the theme and shows the passage of time.  It’s a natural timer people are familiar with and it helps bring the game together.  It also helps the round structure makes sense, you give wine tours and sell grapes in the summer, train workers over the winter, and age your grapes as the years pass. You can take certain actions only during certain times of the year. Another plus is that it makes the game manageable for new players, allowing them to focus on one season at a time.

This passage of time also adds to the calming, open feel of the game.  The only timer of the game is the score track.  There are no set number of rounds and I don’t feel rushed when I play the game. I enjoy being able to explore the game and try different strategies to win.  There are no adverse events in Viticulture, nothing that can destroy your plan if you don’t prepare for it.  Viticulture is not a punishing game and thus allows you to be creative in your choices.  You still need to be the most efficient to win the game, but how you get there is your choice.  Threats don’t force you into a particular strategy.  Things like famine or drought could have easily been added to the game but I think they would have detracted from it.

The game seems balanced, allowing for different strategies and paths to victory.  There is luck from the card draws, but that is all.  For example, in one game my husband was able to quickly build a lot of structures for very little money due to the visitor cards.  I, on the other hand, drew cards that wouldn’t help me until later in the game.  I got behind early but  was able catch up later in the game, even if he did end up winning.  In another game he gained a lot of victory points from visitor cards while I only earned them from filling orders.

The Grande Worker is a great addition that also adds to that calm feeling of the game.  Being able to place the Grande Worker on an already occupied space keeps you from being shut out of an action you need. It also adds the meaningful decisions of when to use your worker. You may need to perform two actions, and both are full.  Where do you use the Grande Worker?  Even if you are blocked in another area, every area can get you something useful.  Even with all of decisions to make I don’t believe there will be a lot of analysis paralysis moments in Viticulture because there is always something useful on the board to choose.

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Visitor cards are one of my favorite parts of the game.  You quickly see their importance.  Visitor cards help introduce flexibility, and a bit of complexity into the game.  They also introduce different ways to score points.  I especially like that they allow you to spend victory points to gain advantages.  Usually in a worker placement game going into the negative is bad, and its very hard to recover.  This isn’t the case in Viticulture, you can take the short term sacrifice for a long-term gain.  Loosing victory points isn’t a punishment and can be very helpful.

Some of the visitor cards are more useful at the beginning or end of the game and getting these at the wrong time can set you back.  The can also be helpful at the game end.  Your opponents won’t know what cards you have and you may use a visitor card to score victory points at the very end to move ahead of the other players.

Overall

I have heard a lot of positive praise for Viticulture and was afraid of being disappointed.  I wasn’t disappointed and that praise is well deserved.  I loved Viticulture and it is it quickly becoming one of my favorite worker placement games.  The wine making theme works well for a Eurogame, and the art, mechanics, and cards work together to create a well-balanced game.  There are many paths to victory which adds to re-playability, and you aren’t forced into a particular strategy.

I really enjoy the build up of the vineyard and the aging process of the wines.  The games scales well with multiple players counts, but the variable turn order doesn’t have as much impact on a two player game.  The game is also a good length, but the end if bittersweet.  I feel it ends too soon, you have finally built up your vineyard and then the game ends. I want to keep going to see how much more I could produce.  Since it plays in about 40  minutes you can play multiple games in one night.

Viticulture is a beautiful game and as with wine, it gets better with time.  I look forward future games of Viticulture and the Tuscany expansion.

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Quick Stats

Designers: Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone
Artists: Jacqui Davis, David Montgomery, Beth Sobel
Publishers: Stonemaier Games
Players: 2-6
Game Length: 30-45 minutes
Ages: 12 and Up

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