Last week I had fantastic holidays off work, in nature, spending a lot of time actively and devoting it also to my favorite hobby – boardgames. During such times we usually take only couple of games and focus on them. This time the main theme was Viticulture. After 8 plays – some solitaire with Automa, some competitive with my wife – I think I have finally a good feeling of this title.
Before discussing the particular sessions, I would like to briefly remind what the game is about to everybody not familiar with it. In Viticulture, the players find themselves in the roles of people in rustic, pre-modern Tuscany who have inherited meager vineyards. They have a few plots of land, an old crushpad, a tiny cellar, and three workers.
The players are in the position of determining how they want to allocate their workers throughout the year (clear worker placement mechanics). Every season is different on a vineyard, so the workers have different tasks they can take care of in the summer and winter. There’s competition over those tasks, and often the first worker to get to the job has an advantage over subsequent workers.
Using those workers and visitors (who are represented by cards), players can expand their vineyards by building structures, planting vines (vine cards), and filling wine orders (wine order cards). Players work towards the goal of running the most successful winery in Tuscany.
Playing with my wife
We had chance to play 4 times with my wife. First two games were pretty standard.
As our last session of Viticulture was couple of months ago at least, it took us some time to get the flow of the game again. Still, as the rules are pretty straightforward it did not took long – the real differentiation and replayability aspect lays in Visitors, and to familiarize with all of them takes at least 3-4 games minimum. As you can see above, the initial games went to me, but my wife is not giving up easily so proposed to play again.
However, as in the meantime I already had a chance to face Automa couple of times, I mentioned to her we can play with the specific starting set-up – a great way to make a completely new experience in Viticulture. We decided to play twice, each of us having one of Automa Challenge specific starting conditions:
Now, the games were really tense as everybody had completely different strategy to pursuit – while Automa starting set-up give advantages, there are also some drawbacks you need to overcome:
This new set-up gave us a good, fresh experience of Viticulture and we will for sure do it again! Having both an edge in one area and disadvantage in the other pushes you into some very interesting strategies. Did any of you every tried it?
Playing with Automa
I had really great experience with Automa in another of Stonemaier games – Wingspan – first impressions – AUTOMA, so it was only natural that I was very intrigued how the bot will play in Viticulture.
As it occurred, the solitaire system is much less dynamic in wine themed game in comparison to the bird one. Automa occupies possible worker places and has set amount of victory points – 20 VPs on normal difficulty – which we need to beat. However, there is one very interesting element – the Automa Challenge, with 8 specifically set-up scenarios (first two we used with my wife to spice-up the game). So while much less interactive, the game-play is very interesting.
It seems that passive Automa will be easy to cope with? No way! You really need to know the game well, have some understanding of possible Visitors, not to mention a small pinch of luck. And the different starting conditions – which I love by the way! – made each game / challenge unique.
As you can see above, so far I had to repeat my #1 game, flawless passed #2 and I am slightly stuck on #3. The whole campaign has 8 games so a lot of fun still in front of me!
I though that after such a thoroughly spent quality time with Viticulture, it would be good idea to write some of my general thoughts / impression. Feel free to comment!
- The Visitors are really the key to make each game unique; they add a lot of interesting variations and possibilities to speed-up development of your vineyard or to simply get some victory points.
- The game is beautiful, no doubt and it is pleasure to play with such components.
- While Automa is very static and you do not have at all feeling playing against somebody, its Challenges with different starting conditions are great and can be re-implemented into the base game too!
- Sometimes the games seems to be a bit random, especially if you draw Orders completely not reflecting the Grapes. Still, a flexible and versatile vineyard can counter this.
I like the game so much that it is only matter of time before I will acquire the Tuscany expansion. And then I will definitely follow the similar approach, intensively playing the game across short period of time. That gives so much fun!