In my opinion, Viticulture is a typical worker placement game in board games. (With its substantial expansion of Tuscany, of course.) No other game before or since has laid out the concept of “go somewhere to do something, but you might run out of space if others do their thing” so simply. It remains a staple in my gaming library and still plays quite often despite its age.
So when the new addition arrived at Board Game Quest HQ, I was one of the first employees given the assignment. (I did have to outdo a few other writers to officially get this job. However, most of them are lightweights, so it wasn’t a big deal.) The new release is called Viticulture World: Cooperative Expansion and, if that’s not explicit enough, it turns the standard game into a team game where all players work together to take on the evil wine sorcerer. (I’m pretty sure that’s the theme. I just skimmed through the flavor text.)
Viticulture World: Cooperative Expansion is designed by Mihir Shah and Francesco Testini and takes about 90 minutes for 1-6 winemakers.
While some of the components contained in World of Viticulture can be used in the original game (the “Mom” and “Dad” cards can be shuffled and even offer some variety in terms of gender designation for starting pairs), the bulk of the included components are only compatible with the new cooperative aspect of the game. For those of you who are wondering how the original Viticulture is played, I won’t spend much time learning these rules (check out Tony’s review of the original game from almost a decade ago to find out), but you should be aware that many of those present There mechanisms are carried over into this game.
While all players will still manage their own vineyards, this expansion adds an element of common purpose to the game. As a general rule, all team members must score 25 points and collectively reach 10 on the influence track by the end of the sixth year (round) of the game. There are some factors that can change these criteria, but in general this is the case. The game retains the traditional worker placement game, and on their turn, the player moves to a specific spot on the board and triggers the appropriate action.
Even though everyone is playing on the same team, locations will be locked down, so teammates need to carefully plan who needs to take what action and when. Many places on the board are directly related to the original game (planting, harvesting, making wine, etc.) while others are unique to the experience, such as being able to spend money to gain influence and is the most interesting core concept. games. – payment for the improvement of certain locations for further use in the game.
When a player improves the setting, it greatly improves the action for subsequent rounds and years. Do you enjoy fulfilling orders for wine? How would you like to do it and get an extra bonus point at the same time? The rulebook and introductory game highlight the importance of updating early and often to a team’s success, and they didn’t exaggerate that. Players can also upgrade their own locations to give bonuses simply for performing an action. It also makes the locations capable of accommodating any number of players, which really opens up the many options a team has.
The game features a scenario deck for each of the seven continents on earth, as well as an eighth fictional continent which is a reference to Charterstone and serves as a tutorial. Each of these continents plays very differently, introducing new concepts, but nothing is ever particularly difficult. Without spoiling what these continents do (I’m not sure if this is the type of game where spoilers should be avoided), one of the easier continents will target certain locations and make them harder to use, while still giving players the option to lower the Requirements for victory in the final game.
This is basically how the game works. If all team members have successfully achieved two goals by the end of the sixth year, the team wins. Otherwise, everyone will lose.
When The World of Viticulture arrived on my doorstep, I was still ambivalent about the concept as a whole. Viticulture is one of my favorite games and I couldn’t even figure out how they could successfully turn it into a co-op game. And to be honest, the designers have done a pretty remarkable job of distilling (pun intended, although the wine is not distilled) from the original game into a collaborative experience. If you know how to play the original, you will have almost no additional rules other than understanding a few icons and understanding a new concept.
The game uses seasonally limited workers, which is a fun concept that I actually got to see at some point in the main game. (This is a variant of the original mechanism where “training” workers force players to use them more in later years. Oh… and did I mention that there are hats in the game that you can put on your meeple? is one of my favorite things on earth and I’ve been obsessed with this idea ever since I played Dwellings of Eldervale. .)
Different continents offer unique challenges and it really feels like you are traveling to new places and dealing with their regional wine production challenges. And while it’s not necessary, I always appreciate clarification on things like this to give me some context on how the mechanism relates to the real situation. The game is also quite difficult for co-op play. Pandemic-level moments may not be where the outbreak makes the whole table stir, but the coordination of events that appear and the decision of which players should be best used, which places are successfully implemented.
One problem I’ve had with the game is that it’s cooperative, but players can still block their teammates like it’s a competitive worker placement situation. I understand that the designers did not want to interfere with the basic concept of Viticulture, but this is a little strange. (Each Grande worker mitigates this to some extent, since once a year they can go to the same areas as other people and trade resources with them.) Updating the areas obviously nullifies this blocking puzzle, but it still is present in the game.
Similarly, there is no shared vineyard where players can influence other people’s grape or wine production. Again, I understand the concept that you work as an Avengers-style winemaking team to achieve the goal of the game. However, there are times when keeping track of what all the players on your team have and might need becomes a little clunky since everyone is supposed to be in a collaborative effort. These issues don’t really negatively impact the design, but I think they’re worth mentioning.
World of Viticulture is one of those expansions that seems to have come out of nowhere. Has anyone asked about cooperative viticulture? I can’t imagine it. And yet, it works strangely. If you have a group of people who have played Viticulture a lot, it will almost certainly be a dunk at game tonight. (My wife has officially stated that this is her favorite way to play Viticulture, but she’s not a family game reviewer, so take her opinion with a pinch of salt.)
Personally, I don’t see this version as a replacement for my original competitive Viticulture, but I can definitely imagine myself playing it from time to time, or even if I just finished a standard game and all the components are already on the table. The theme of viticulture has always been one of its main strengths, and this game will definitely help players who are interested in this topic to immerse themselves in the franchise without having to deal with it on their own. My dad was so obsessed with this topic that he made me teach him the original game and I know he would have liked that variation instead. Now, if only I could get back the two hours of my life I spent teaching him the competitive version…
• Easy to play (even if you don’t know the original)
• Great new concepts (updating actions is a lot of fun)
• Variety of games
• Mipla hats! Mipla hats! I repeat: hats on meeples!
• “Separate but still together” vineyards are a bit strange
• Solo mode is not as good as the original.