Board Game Night: Viticulture (Essential Edition) (Multiplayer)

One of the lines from a song in Hamilton actually holds a modicum of truth to many of the other aspects of our daily lives. The line from the song goes as such: “No one really knows how the game is played, the art of the trade, how the sausage gets made, we just assume that it happens.” This is true to many parts of our daily lives. Many of us consume cheeseburgers but don’t really put much thought into how they are made. We all wear clothing yet very few of us buy a shirt and ask how the shirt was made. My wife and I have recently begun drinking wine more so than before, but we’ve never stopped to asked about the process of making wine. Sure, I have seen documentaries on how certain alcoholic beverages are made. I’ve even toured the Budweiser factory and once went on a tour of a vineyard in California. However, I never stopped and wondered about the entire process behind planting fields, harvesting them, stomping the grapes, fermenting them, turning them into wine, and then aging them. While there are many wine connoisseurs out there, I am not one of them. But when I heard of a board game that introduced worker placement, engine building, and deep strategy that also incorporated a theme around something of which I’ve always found interesting but never sought knowledge, I couldn’t help myself. Welcome to Viticulture!

Viticulture is for 1-6 players, takes approximately 45-90 minutes to play, and is for ages 13 and older.

Set up for Viticulture is as follows. Put the main board in the middle of the play area. Provide each player with a vineyard mat and 3 different field cards (one of each of 5, 6, and 7 lira (money)). Place them Sold side down at the top of your vineyard mat where each field shows. Shuffle the Summer and Winter Visitor decks, the Vine deck, and the Wine Order deck, and place them in the appropriate space on the top of the main board. Each player should choose a color and take all matching workers and buildings associated with that color. Each player should take a Rooster of their color and place it on the left side of the main board near the numbered track (the vertical 1-7). Each player should take the matching color wine bottle and place it in the middle of the circular residual track on the lower right corner of the main board. Then deal 1 Mama and 1 Papa card to each player (advanced players may deal two of each and then choose one of each instead). Place the pile of Lira where each player can reach it. Place the glass tokens where each player can reach them. Look at your Mama and Papa card and take the appropriate resources from each. The Mama card will provide you with 2 workers and a small amount of varying cards from the four decks you shuffled earlier. Draw the matching cards from each deck listed on the Mama card and add the 2 workers to your vineyard mat. The Papa card will provide you with some Lira (money) and one grande worker. It will also give you the choice between more money or a free building. Choose the one you want, take your money, and add your grande worker to your vineyard mat. Choose somebody to be the first player. After that convoluted process, it’s time to play Viticulture.

The object of Viticulture is to be the first player to score 20 points. Unlike many other games, obtaining points in this game is more difficult than normal, thus the cap of 20 is fitting. You do this by planting vines, harvesting them, stomping the grapes, turning them into wine, aging them, and then fulfilling wine orders. It’s quite the process.

Viticulture is played over the course of rounds where each round consists of four phases broken down into seasons. Given the complexity of Viticulture’s gameplay in comparison to many of the games I write about on here, I will do my best to break it down by season and the Year End. Let’s begin!

Unlock most board games where the first player goes first the entire round and then it shifts one person clockwise, Viticulture has a different turn order every single round (each year). Spring is when you’ll choose that turn order. Whoever the first player is will take their Rooster and place it on one of the spaces numbered 1-7 on the left side of the board. Each player does this and it decides the turn order for the rest of the round. Each number also comes with a possible bonus for choosing that spot.

1 – Ensures you go first throughout the round but you do not receive any bonuses
2 – Draw 1 Vine card
3 – Draw 1 Wine Order card
4 – Gain 1 Lira
5 – Draw either 1 Summer Visitor or 1 Winter Visitor
6 – Gain 1 VP (Victory Point)
7 – Gain 1 extra worker during the round

Each player may only choose each spot once (meaning if a player places his/her Rooster on the #2 spot and draws a Vine card, nobody else can place a Rooster on the #2 spot). After everybody has placed a Rooster and drawn/taken the bonus associated with the spot, it’s time for Summer!

Summer is where you’ll start placing your workers and building your vineyard engine. There are many spots in Summer where you can place your worker. Each location has three circles underneath it. The number of spots that are available to place a worker on is based on the number of players. For 1-2 players, only the leftmost circle is available at each location. For 3-4 players, both the leftmost spot and the center spot is available. For 5-6 players, all three circles are available for placement. The middle spot has a bonus on it. When you’re playing with 3 or more players, anybody can place a worker on the bonus spot without a worker being placed in the leftmost circle. You can only play on the bonus spot if you can act on that bonus. I’ll discuss that with each spot below. Another note to keep in mind is that if you spend all of your workers in Summer, you will not have any workers left for the Winter season. The first player based on the turn order track will place their first worker and then resolve the effect. The next player will place their worker and so forth.

The spots for Summer are:

Draw Vine Card
Give a Tour
Build Structures
Sell Grapes/Buy/Sell One Field
Play a Summer Visitor Card
Plant Vines

Draw a Vine Card (Bonus: Draw an additional Vine Card)
When you place a worker here, immediately draw a Vine Card from the green deck on the board. If you play in the bonus spot, you’ll draw a second Vine Card.

Give a Tour (Bonus: Gain an additional Lira)
When you place a worker here, immediately gain 2 Lira. If you play in the bonus spot, you’ll get 3 Lira instead of 2.

Build Structures (Bonus: Gain 1 Lira/Subtract 1 Lira from building cost)
When you place a worker here, you may build one of the buildings on your vineyard mat. If you play in the bonus spot, you’ll gain 1 Lira or just subtract the cost of building your structure by 1 Lira. The buildings you can build are:

Trellis – Allows planting Vines that require a Trellis
Irrigation – Allows planting Vines that require Irrigation
Yoke – Opens a new worker placement spot on your vineyard mat that allows you to harvest a field or uproot a Vine (can be played during any season)
Cottage – Draw an additional Summer or Winter Visitor during Fall
Windmill – Gain 1 VP when you plant a Vine (Max of 1VP per year)
Tasting Room – Gain 1 VP when you Give a Tour IF you have at least one Wine in your cellar on the vineyard mat (Max of 1VP per year)
Medium Cellar – Allows for higher value wines in your cellar along with the ability to make Blush wines
Large Cellar – Allows for higher value wines in your cellar along with the ability to make Sparkling wines

You may only build one structure when you place a worker here and you must be able to afford to build the building before you do so.

Sell Grapes (Bonus: Gain 1 VP)
When you place a worker here, you can sell a grape that you have in your vineyard (how to get grapes will be discussed later) for the associated cost listed on your vineyard mat. You may also choose to sell or buy back one of your fields (remember the cards with 5, 6, or 7 Lira on them that you put on your mat during setup?). The field can’t have any vines in it. You’ll take the Lira listed on the field and flip it over to the Sold side. Until you rebuy it for the same cost at which you sold it, you can’t plant anything in that field. If you play in the bonus spot, you’ll immediately gain 1 VP.

Play a Summer Visitor Card (Bonus: Play an additional Summer Visitor card)
When you place a worker here, you can play one Summer Visitor from your hand. Visitor cards have a myriad of effects that help you or hinder your opponents. You can only get Summer Visitor cards during the Fall (discussed later), from your Mama card at the beginning, the Rooster turn order track, or from the effects of another Visitor card. If you play in the bonus spot, you can play an additional Summer Visitor card.

Plant Vines (Bonus: Plant an additional Vine)
When you place a worker here, you can plant a vine of your choosing in one of your available fields. The Vine cards will contain either white or red grapes with a number on them. Make sure you have the required buildings if applicable and then plant that field by placing the Vine card on the appropriate field card of your choice on the vineyard mat. Remember how those cards have 5, 6, or 7 on them? You can never have a higher value of grapes on a field than the number listed on the field. As an example, you can have a vine with a 3 White Grape and a 2 Red Grape on the field worth 5 Lira, but you couldn’t plant anymore. If those vines were on the 7 field, there’s room for vines worth up to 2 left. If you play in the bonus spot, you may plant an additional vine.

Once each player is out of workers OR each player has passed and no longer wishes to play workers, Summer will be over. Then we move into Fall.

During Fall, each player in turn order will draw either a Summer Visitor or a Winter Visitor. You can choose which one to draw. If you have the Cottage built on your board, you can draw an additional visitor of your choice. Once every player has drawn a visitor, it’s time for Winter!

Winter works almost exactly like Summer, however, you can only place your workers on the blue spots on the right side of the board as opposed to the yellow spots on the left side of the board. You’ll place workers in the same order as Summer based on the Rooster turn order track. The Winter spots are:

Draw Wine Order Card
Harvest Field
Train a Worker
Fulfill Wine Order
Make Wine Tokens
Play Winter Visitor Card
Gain 1 Lira

Draw Wine Order Card (Bonus: Draw an additional Wine Order Card)
When you place your worker here, you will draw 1 Wine Order card. Wine Order cards are one of the ways to score points and raise your yearly residual. The Wine Order cards will show what wines you’ll need in your cellar, how much money you get for completing it (if applicable), the amount of VP you’ll receive for fulfilling it, and how many spots on the residual track you’ll move your wine bottle (more on this during Year End). If you play in the bonus spot, you’ll draw an additional 1 Wine Order card.

Harvest Field (Bonus: Harvest 1 additional Field)
When you place your worker here, you’ll choose a field on your vineyard mat and harvest all of the vines you have planted there. Using our example above, if your 5 value field has a 3 White Grape and 2 Red Grape, you’ll harvest both of those vines. You’ll add one of the glass tokens to the 3 White and 2 Red grape spots on the Crush Pad on your vineyard mat (the lower left side). These are now grapes that are being stomped and fermented. If you already have a grape on a spot that you just harvested, you place the glass token on the value grape right below it. For example, if you have a grape on 3 White and you harvest a 3 White grape from a vine, you place the token on the 2 White spot. If you play in the bonus spot, you’ll harvest 1 additional field of your choice.

Train Worker (Bonus: Gain 1 Lira/Subtract the cost of Training a Worker by 1 Lira)
When you place your worker here, you pay 4 Lira to train a new worker. You do not gain the worker for this round, but at the start of the next year, you’ll add another worker to your available worker pool. You can never have more than 5 workers and your 1 grande worker (which I will discuss later on) unless you played your Rooster in the 7 spot on the turn order track and gained an extra worker for this round only. If you play in the bonus spot, you can take 1 Lira or simply pay only 3 Lira to train the worker instead of 4.

Fulfill Wine Order (Bonus: Gain 1 VP)
When you place your worker here, you’ll fulfill one of the Wine Order cards you have in your hand. You’ll discard the required wine(s) listed on your Wine Order card from your cellar, and score/gain all of the bonuses listed on the Wine Order card. If you play in the bonus spot, you’ll gain 1 VP along with fulfilling an order.

Make Wine Tokens (Bonus: Make an additional Wine Token)
When you place your worker here, you’ll be able to take the glass tokens from your Crush Pad grapes and move them onto an equal place to the grape value in your cellar(s). You may make up to two Wine Tokens when you play here, although you don’t have to make both. As an example, if you had the 3 White and 2 Red grapes that you gained earlier, you would turn those grapes into a 3 White wine and a 2 Red wine. Making Blush wines require a white grape and a red grape. Take their combined amounts (3 White and 2 Red using our example) and that would make a 5 Blush which can only be placed in the Medium Cellar and above. Sparkling wines require three grapes: one white and two red grapes. If you had the 3 White and 2 Red along with a 3 Red, you would make an 8 Sparkling wine which can only be placed in the Large Cellar. However, if you don’t have the cellar required for a wine value (1-3 in Small Cellar (which you start with), 4-6 in Medium Cellar, and 7-9 in Large Celler), then you can’t make a wine in that cellar. You CAN, however, have any grapes regardless of cellar type. If you play in the bonus spot, you can make an additional Wine Token making it 3 total instead of 2.

Play Winter Visitor Card (Bonus: Play an additional Winter Visitor card)
When you place your worker here, you can play 1 Winter Visitor card from your hand. This spot works exactly like the Summer location except here you can only play Winter Visitors. If you play in the bonus spot, you play an additional Winter Visitor as well.

Gain 1 Lira
When you place your worker here, you gain 1 Lira. This is the only spot on the board that has no limit to the number of workers that can be placed there. There are no bonus spots for this location.

Year End
Once everybody has placed their final worker, this triggers the Year End events. You’ll do the following steps in order:

Age Grape and Wine Tokens
Retrieve Workers
Collect Residual Payments
Discard Down to 7 Cards
Rotate the First Player Counter-Clockwise

Age Grape and Wine Tokens
During this step, everybody takes their Grape and Wine tokens and ages them up 1 value. If you have a 3 White grape, age it to a 4 White grape. Same goes for wines. If you do not have the appropriate cellar for aging your wines, it’ll stay at the same value, unfortunately.

Retrieve Workers
Take all of your workers from the board and put them back in your available worker pool. If you trained a new worker during the Winter, you can now add that worker to your vineyard mat.

Collect Residual Payments
Every time you fulfill a Wine Order card, you’ll move your little wine bottle up on the residual track (remember that part of set up?) the appropriate number of spots. During this step of Year End, you’ll collect Lira equal to where your wine bottle is on the track.

Discard Down to 7 Cards
If you have more than 7 cards of any variety, you must discard down to 7 at this point. You can choose which cards to discard by discarding them to their appropriate spot on the board.

Rotate the First Player Counter-Clockwise
Everybody should gather their Roosters and the first player passes to the person on the right of the first person last round.

At this point, start the next round by beginning in Spring and having the first player place his/her Rooster on the turn order track.

Ending the Game
When a player reaches 20 VP, everybody will finish playing out the current year. At the very end of that year (including all of the Year End steps), you’ll see who has the most points. In the case of a tie, the player with the most Lira wins. If still tied, the player with the highest combined value of wine in his/her cellar wins. If still tied, the player with the highest combined value of grapes on the crush pad wins. If still tied, both players share the victory.

A few final notes and rulings:

Grande Workers
Grande workers serve the purpose of allowing you to play in a location where somebody has already played. If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that Orange and Yellow have both played on Build One Structure. Since it’s a four player game, the rightmost spot at each location can’t be used. This means that Blue and White can’t play at Build One Structure because both spots have been taken. However, with a Grande worker, you can play in that spot. In the picture above, Yellow did just that by placing their Grande worker on the building and paying to build one structure. There is no limit to the number of Grande workers that can be placed on a location and no limit to how many times you can play at a single location as long as you have a Grande worker or there is an open spot.

Wine Order Cards
When you fulfill a Wine Order card, you are more than welcome to use a Wine Token that has aged beyond what you need. For instance, if you have a Wine Order card that requires a 5 White and a 5 Red, you can discard a 6 White and a 7 Red to fulfill it. You can never fulfill with a lower Wine Token value, but you can always fulfill down.

Making Wine Tokens
You get to make 2 Wine Tokens when you play in this Winter Spot. If you make a Sparkling Wine (which requires one white and two red grapes) this counts as 1 Wine Token. You used 3 grapes to make it, but it’s still only 1 wine token.

Single Player
This game comes with a separate set of rules and playstyle for single player, much like Call to Adventure, a game I wrote about in an earlier blog post. I will discuss the single player rules and playstyle in a later post.

Final Thoughts
Viticulture is one of my first real introductions to Engine Building games. You start out with absolutely nothing but a few workers and cards. Then you start to use those workers to get vines. Then you plant them, harvest them, stomp the grapes, turn them into wine, and fulfill wine orders. You have to think several steps ahead while playing and hope that another player doesn’t take the available spots at a location where you want to place a worker. You start from nothing and build up an engine that helps you fulfill those Wine Order cards. It’s like a game of chess with varying degrees of complexity and board game mechanics intertwined. I absolutely love Viticulture and will continue to play both multiplayer and single player as I attempt to learn the intricacies of its deep strategy and engine building potential. It’s one of the best games I’ve played in this genre. Over a few playthroughs, I’ve also learned that you can win the game without fulfilling a single Wine Order card by playing your Visitors intelligently and building the right structures. There are so many avenues to victory and that is the mark of a great board game.

Want to learn how to be a Viticulturist without having to drop everything and literally buy a winery? Viticulture is the way to go!

Board Game Geek: Viticulture

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