Alright, first off, let me start by stating and admitting that I’m a self-diagnosed Stonemaier games junkie. As I’ve mentioned before, Euphoria is my favorite game and everything they’ve published so far, I’ve liked. Actually, more than liked. I’ll kickstart whatever they want to publish because I know I’m getting a good product. Plus, Jamey Stegmaier is phenomenal at responding to questions and social media posts, and even recommends tweeting him during games if you have rules questions. That’s a company I can get behind. That’s why today’s review is another one of their games. And as an FYI, this review is for the Viticulture Essential Edition, which includes some of the modules from the original Tuscany expansion.
Viticulture: Essential Edition
Designers: Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone
Player Count: 2-6 Players
Play time: 90 minutes
Viticulture is a worker-placement game that is themed around not only producing wine, but also building a thriving winery and vineyard. The game plays in rounds over the course of an in-game year. During spring, players bid for turn order. Summer is the worker placement season where you get grapes, plant vines, build new buildings/structures at the vineyard and can give tours to make a little extra cash. In autumn, you get a visitor card, which is essentially an action card that can be played in either summer or winter.
Examples of Visitor Cards
Finally, in winter, you can harvest your fields, turn crushed grapes into wine, hire new workers or sell your wine to complete orders. There are more options and details than that, but it gives you an idea of what each season holds. At the end of the year, you collect income from the orders you completed, age your crushed grapes and wine, and reset for the next year. The game is played in rounds until one person has scored 20 points. Once someone hits 20, the current year is played out and whoever has the most points is the winner.
Things I like
- The seasons/board. This could be a thing I love. You have a set number of workers in the game, but two different seasons to use them. Once you use a worker in the summer phase, you don’t get him back until the end of the year. You may have an awesome opportunity to build a structure at a discount during summer, but if you use a worker there, you might not be able to do everything during winter that you need to. It’s a nice change to the typical worker placement formula.
- Varying player counts. On the board, each place to play workers has the art for 3 different workers to be placed there, but the circles are progressively more faded. This allows for varying player counts, because in a 2-player game, only one of the circles is available, while in a 5 or 6 player game, all 3 spots are available. You get the same good tension regardless of how many people play.
The different play spaces for varying player counts
- Wine/Grape counters. You track the value of your wines with glass counters, similar to mancala pieces, but there are clear and much smaller. I love them. They do a great job of marking where you are, but you can still see the number underneath. Awesome design idea.
- More bits. This is a Stonemaier staple. There are eight structures that can be built and each of them has a different wooden bit. Plus, when you bid for turn order, you place a little wooden rooster on the board. It serves no purpose than to be a place holder, but they are so stinking awesome.
Bits and bits and bits
Thing I’m not sure I like, but don’t blatantly dislike.
- In game bonuses. The first bonus occurs when you bid for turn order. The lower you bid, the better bonus you get. The second bonus available is for the first person at each location on the board. I don’t inherently dislike these bonuses, in fact, I really like them when I get them. The problem that I’ve seen with them is that during a game, you don’t really need to worry about the turn order bonus because you can get bonuses at the locations. Most of the time, whoever has the first bid will always try to go first, because they know they’ll still get the location bonus. Having both bonuses in the game feels like they dilute one another.
Things I don’t like.
- Getting grapes. This is the only major problem I have with this game. In the game, there are red grape cards and white grape cards. You draw these cards from the deck. To sell wine, you have to complete orders. Orders are also on cards which you draw from another deck. I’ve had it happen to me personally and have seen it happen to other players where you only draw one color grape from the deck. I had a vineyard full of white grapes and kept getting orders for red wines. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can really decrease the experience. Part of the game is mitigating those draws and aging your wine to compensate, but every once in a while, luck has it out for you and it can get annoying.
Examples of Grape Cards on the left and Order Cards on the right
Overall, this is another winner for me. I really like the aesthetic of this game, and it feels like more than just making wine. You can build bigger storehouses, a wine tasting room, irrigations rigs, and so on. It does a good job of making you feel like you’re managing all aspects of a vineyard. If you’re a wine-drinker and a gamer, this would make for the perfect themed game night. It’s full-bodied fun with notes of edging out your opponent and vineyard capitalism. (Terrible jokes, I know, but I had to do it…)
GLG Rating: 8/10
Check it out on the Stonemaier Website Here
Check it out on BGG Here