Review: Viticulture Essential Edition

Designer:  Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone
Year: 2015
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Players: 1-6
Game Type: Worker Placement

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. They each have a dream of being the first to call their winery a true success. The players are in the position of determining how they want to allocate their workers throughout the year. 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. Fortunately for the players, people love to visit wineries, and it just so happens that many of those visitors are willing to help out around the vineyard when they visit as long as you assign a worker to take care of them. Their visits (in the form of cards) are brief but can be very helpful. Using those workers and visitors, 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.

Solo Setup

For solo setup, choose your color pieces and matching vineyard. Then choose the color you want for the Automa to have. You will only need to grab the workers, grande worker and victory point tracker marker for the Automa. Place the Automa victory point tracker on the End space of the victory point track. Now place 1 glass token on the 7 rows of the Wake Up chart, these will act as your round counters. Shuffle the Automa deck and set it to the side of the Wake Up chart. Last you will need to remove, or remember to not play any visitor cards that give you a benefit on another players turn, as you are the only player. For the Essential Edition, like I have, you will now take one random Mama and Papa card, and get your starting resources. Now it's time to play.

NOTE: I am covering this as if you know how to play Viticulture with others already, if not I highly suggest watching Watch it Played's video of how to play. Viticulture solo takes place over 7 years, 4 Seasons per year, which you track with the Wake Up chart. You have 7 turns to try and get more than 20 victory points. So at the start of your turn for Spring, you choose which of the 7 Wake Up actions you want to use. All but one allow for a bonus for that round. Remove the glass token once you choose, and hold onto it for a bonus action during the game. Once you choose, it's time to move onto Summer. Before you do anything in Summer and Winter you turn over the top Automa card. For summer you do what the Green and Yellow sections say, for Winter you use Red and Blue. NOTE: You will only use the ones with a T on them if you are using the Tuscany expansion, otherwise you can disregard them. The Automa will block spaces from you, just like other players would. So you will not be able to take actions you would have wanted to, unless you have a bonus token (glass token taken during Spring), which can only be used once, then place it back into the box, or if you choose to use your Grande worker. So say it's Summer and you are all set to plant that field, well too bad because you just got crop blocked by the Automa. Once you decide to stop taking your worker actions you move into Autumn, and choose a visitor card. Then it's straight into Winter. Take the next Automa card, place workers where the Red and Blue sections tell you, and then it's your turn. When done, it's year end, age your grapes and wines, collect your workers and that is all there is to it.

This deck is evil! 
If you want to talk strategy, and a little bit of luck, than this is the game for you. I've played 5 times, and gotten 15 points once. I need 20 to tie. It's hard damn it! Every time I want to do this, I can't because it's blocked. Or now I want to do that, and the game looks at me and says, "Oh, I'm sorry did you want to come over here? Well too bad cause I wanted to harvest this round!" It takes a good deal of planning in this game to get where you want to be with other players, but playing solo you just have no advantage if the wrong cards come out. And that is what makes it so much fun. It's all the thinking and planning that go into each move. You come to the start of round 5 and you grab a mirror to just yell at yourself, "WHY DID YOU ALREADY WASTE A ROUND TAKING THE EXTRA WORKER!" I'll table flip that Automa deck I swear! Overall, this game is good, really good, and having to play it alone, with such a solid solo experience makes it that much better. Just in terms of appeal for a solo player, this is a must. I haven't been this mad at a game in so long, and all I want to do is get it back out and grow more grapes. Even though I will probably lose again. It's pure fun in losing, but when I get that victory, I'm gonna Lucille Ball the crap out of it.

Oh look, I lost again.
4.75 out of 5 Solo's

• The Automa is so solid, it's near perfect... but I hate its crop blocking ways!
• A serious strategy game, that makes my brain hurt.

• I'm not into wine, can we make it about cheese?

Solomode Games Solo Playthrough
Watch it Played How To Play Multiplayer Version
Dan Royer Dan Royer Author

1 comment:

  1. I totally understand when you say it's hard. haven't beaten it yet in solo mode. Tuscany makes it work. Will have to keep at it.