Quick Game Review: Viticulture Essential Edition

We’ve been reading a ton of fellow game blogs to gain information and inspiration. One post by The Opinionated Gamers’ Dale Yu reviewed Viticulture’s Essential Edition, and it was enough to inspire us to go out and get the game!

What is Viticulture: Essential Edition?

viticulture1

Viticulture: Essential Edition is a worker-placement strategy game where up to 6 players compete to build a successful winery. You train workers, build structures, and of course you grow grapes, make wine, and fill wine orders. The ultimate goal is to have the most victory points at the end of the game.

Viticulture was originally a Kickstarter game launched by Jamey Stegmaier. The game has gone through a few iterations and this is the latest (and greatest, some would argue) version.

Why it’s awesome

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I won’t go into the details of gameplay or strategy here. This is a popular game and you can find more detailed resources that cover that stuff elsewhere on the internet (check out the aforementioned Dale Yu post!). But since bringing this game to the table, we’ve been obsessed with it, and I think that’s because of a few key things that Viticulture: Essential Edition does very well.

  1. The replayability is very high. Each player chooses a starting Mama and Papa card that gives you resources to start out with. That makes the beginning of the game different each time, and it also forces the player to adjust their strategy each time as well. There are so many different cards in the game that no two games are the same in terms of strategy.
  2. The change-up in order keeps things dynamic. Viticulture works in year-long periods with 4 seasons. At the beginning of each year, the players take turns to choose what spot they want in the order of play: I can choose to go first, second but with a bonus, third but with a different bonus, etc. Having the order of play change each year makes it easier to shift your strategy mid-game if needed and makes your outcome less dependent on where you sit or what you chose early in the game.
  3. The game is balanced between individual strategy and outright competition between other players. Similarly to Mitropia, you can choose to focus on your own strategy or come out swinging against the other players. I consider this a strength of the game because it allows for different play styles.
  4. The winemaking theme is strong in the game. The story works well and the game is great for wine-loving friends as an entry to the board game world.

How it could be better

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  1. The cards are still very strong (maybe too strong?). Dale Yu comments that the power of the visitor cards has been tempered a bit from the original version(s) of Viticulture. I can’t comment on that, having only played this version of Viticulture, but in my experience, the cards are still very strong. It’s not a huge problem, as some variability in the cards makes the game exciting, but at our table, we rely on the visitor cards heavily as a strategy because we know the difference that the visitor cards make, especially end-game.
  2. Timing. Like many other strategy games that require some brainpower, players can get lost in thought in their own strategy and take forever to choose a move. Something to limit the timing of this could be beneficial. This is a tough problem to solve — it’s something that we talk about when it comes to Mitropia as well!

Verdict

I give this one a big thumbs up. With the high replayability and the fun theme, this one is a smash hit with the Mitropia team and our friends. Like other complicated, Euro-style games, you’ll need to play through a few times to get the hang of it. But once you do, the game is a fun one to add to your collection.

What other games should we try out? Let us know!

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