I couldn’t not write about this one. I had the opportunity to play Viticulture very recently and I can’t wait for my next chance to open that beautiful box. It’s a strategy board game in which players are winemakers in Tuscany (love!) and have to go through all the process of wine-making and selling in order to earn Liras (money) or points (which ultimately wine you the game).
The game has a main board with different spaces you can places your “worker tokens”. Every player has his or her own smaller control boards which they place in from to themselves to keep track of their vines and wines. Certain activities can only be performed in certain seasons (you can’t plant during the winter, for example). To make wine, you need to spend actions to buy vines, plant them, harvest them and finally, put those wines in the cellar to eventually sell them.
Just like in real life, you can decide to sell your grapes if you have more than you can fit in your cellar, and at the end of every turn (year), wines will age, improving their quality.
Another thing that resembled a real vineyard that I loved was the fact that you needed certain technologies to be able to plant certain grapes, and that famous varieties such as Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon would give you more expensive wine than Malvasia, for example.
Also, in the “cellar” you could mix red and white grapes to make “blush” or “sparkling”. Sorry if this review sounds like a lovefest but seriously! The only thing we were able to criticise was that some of the tokens were very similar so you needed to be very careful not to confuse them. But that’s fine picking.
This is all resolved in a very straightforward way and, while the instructions took a good while to explain, they were easy to understand and once everyone got them, the game ran very smoothly.
Note: The game can be played between 1 (which is probably the most boring way, but hey, it’s an option) to 6 players. We were a group of 6, all experienced board game players and wine drinkers. In fact, a few real life glasses were poured on the day, but that’s another story.
Every player has a certain amount of resources assigned randomly at the start of the game. People begin with a number of workers and each worker can perform “summer actions” and “winter actions”. Obviously, the more workers you have the more actions you can have, but for that you need to “hire them” and “train them” and that costs Liras and a turn.
Certain cards will give you bonuses, for example, a “Marketer”, a “Teacher” or a “Guest Speaker”.
Each turn consists in a number of rounds in which every player places one worker at the time.
While the box says is a 90 minutes game, it took us nearly 3 hours, but in fairness, it was our first time playing and we were not particularly in a rush.
The Quality of the Pieces
Very good, the painted wood tokens were very pretty, the transparent drops of wine looked lovely on the boards and the card design was very well made and faithful to the topic. Even little details like calling the market “Mercato” (Italian) or using Liras (Italy’s pre-Euro currency) instead of generic “gold coins” was appreciated it.The game is available on Amazon, and at £45.30 is more than reasonable for the quality both of the design and of the dynamics.
You don’t need to care about wine to enjoy it as a board game player, but if you do, you’ll appreciate it in a whole different level, you can see that the people who design it (Jamie Stegmaier, Alan Stone and Moreth Monrad Pedersen) either knew their stuff or were very well advised.
More information stonemaiergames.com/games/viticulture