Players: 2 to 6
Game Length: 90 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 4 players who want a worker placement game where you’ll grow from a humble farm to a thriving vineyard
Viticulture is a worker placement game where players will be responsible for managing vineyards in Tuscany, and trying to make a profit while planting grapevines, building structures, recruiting new workers and, of course, making wine. They’ll need to grow their vineyard’s reputation if they want to win, best done by fulfilling wine contracts, and after any player reaches 20 victory points, the player with the most points at the end of the round will win!
You can’t just feel free to take whatever action you want, though; in the world of wine, you’re constrained by the seasons. You can only plant new vines, build structures or give tours to raise money in summer, and you can only harvest the grapes, make wine and fulfil contracts in winter. You’ll need to plan your year in advance and hold on to some of your workers between the seasons if you want to make the most of your options, but you’ll need to be mindful of your opponents too, or they may well take the actions you’ve been waiting for!
What makes Viticulture appealing is the way that you will grow your vineyard from the start of the game. You’ll need to add all kinds of elements to make the most of your vineyard – a new cellar if you want to hold higher quality wines, irrigation and trellises to support better grapevines, new workers if you want to keep pace with your rivals, and a range of other improvements. There’s a real sense of progression as your vineyard develops from a few weedy fields into a major wine producer.
A lot of attention has been paid to Viticulture’s components. There are small meeple-structures for all of the upgrades you can buy, and artwork evocative of the Tuscan farmlands. The game boards are even double-sided, with one side being absent of text so you can lose yourself in your idyllic vineyard.
Viticulture is not without criticism, however. All players start with the exact same footing, and therefore will all be trying to achieve the same sorts of things at the outset of the game. This results in a lot of competition for a few critical spaces in the first few rounds, such as the spaces for planting vines or recruiting new workers. To mitigate this, all players have access to one ‘Grande’ worker; a larger worker who is able to take any action regardless of how many other players have already taken that action.
Furthermore, Viticulture is heavily card-driven, and the luck of the draw may see one player only draw wine contracts that require long-term investment to fill, or vine cards that need a lot of infrastructure to plant, while another conveniently draws a contract or vine card that they already have the requirements for. There are ways to mitigate this however, such as Visitor cards that allow you to sell off your undesired cards, or simply drawing extra cards until you have those more suitable for you. You’ll need to be able to change your plans on the fly if you want to win the game!
Viticulture is a compelling worker placement game with a strong sense of progression. It plays best with 4, but can play from 2 to 6. It also has an amazing expansion. Tuscany, which addresses some of the concerns mentioned above and adds a truly enormous amount of content to the game. If you want an excellently-produced worker placement game where you will have a chance to grow a vineyard from humble beginnings, Viticulture comes highly recommended.