‘Viticulture’ board game review
By Ed Appleby, Senior Columnist
I have always tried to imagine what it would be like to run a winery. It’s just farming, but in the end you produce a fine product that can be sold for lots of money. It’d be like growing saffron, or vanilla, or having a unicorn orchard. How hard can it be, right?
Viticulture (2013) is a worker placement game for two to six players designed by Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone, and published by Stonemaier games. In the game you play as the owner of a small, family-owned winery, and you have to judge the seasons in order to produce grapes and wines as well as build various structures to support the winery. Players place workers in different areas order to grow grapes, turn grapes into wine, and utilize the skills of various specialists. Every year is split into seasons, with only certain actions being available each season. Players score victory points by filling wine orders, giving winery tours, and partaking in other events. Once a player reaches 20 points, the game proceeds to the end of the year and the player with the most points wins.
The game utilizes many moving parts. Vines must be planted and harvested, grapes may be crushed or sold, and wine and grapes are aged to certain levels in order to for fill wine orders. This leads to a deep strategy game where player order can have a huge effect on what actions you can accomplish each season. Grapes harvested one season may take several more to age to the right level before they can be sold. This leads to some long planning, with a lot of chance for things to go wrong.
There are also visitor cards that can be played in the summer or winter season. These cards can be deceptively powerful, and a good draw from them—or from the vine or wine order decks—can really make or break your long-term strategy. This makes for a game where the random nature of the draw ends up being a major aspect of the gameplay, rather than a flavour or minor nuisance.
I found the game extremely stressful, but also a lot of fun. You need to go into the game with solid strategy and accept that other players are going to inadvertently sabotage it. If you are looking for a high concept, high strategy worker placement game then I would definitely recommend this one, but only if you are really willing to give yourself up to the game and accept some of its more random aspects.