Viticulture Game Review: A perfectly balanced game of rustic progression

Best Moment

I thought I had the easy vic. I had an early, steady flow of grape planting and harvesting, I had great visitors helping increase wine production with some nicely aging wines to fulfill orders. My wife was slowly progressing along without too much success. She then deftly tacked to a heavy tour-based approach with her valuable tasting room, and it worked! She pulled off a very close victory proving that there are many paths to success!

Gameplay Overview

Deploy your hard-working and growing staff to seasonal actions all in preparation to fulfill unique wine orders for the most value or to earn side victory points with your windmill, your tasting room, specialty visitors, a particular wake-up action, and more.

Quick Thoughts

I am big on theme and the overall “feel” of a game. If it doesn’t have a thematic gravity that pulls me into its orbit, I’ll pass it up more often than not. Viticulture takes me right back into the rustic vineyards of Italy. Having lived there for two years and having spent time in active vineyards, I can picture the rolling fields, the earthy smells, the sticky air, everything. I can’t help but be a touch biased towards a game that pulls me back to that wonderful land!

I love the very present, core progression from planting and preparation to labor-intensive harvesting to intentional wine-making to lucrative selling…and over and over again. Get help along the way from Spring and Fall visitors who have specific skillsets which can give you periodic injections of competitive advantage (overlook them at your own risk!). There are also very beneficial ancillary actions like giving tours, building structures, training workers, etc.

While I don’t know a thing about actual winery, I love a board game that walks players through a real-world yet simplified version of an actual process. The more workers you have at your disposal, the more you can get done. Makes sense! Combine a red wine with a white wine to make a blush wine. Makes sense! Age your grapes and wines to increase their value over time. Also makes sense! I feel like, no matter how trivial, I’ve expanded my horizons just a touch when playing games like Viticulture.

Tips & Tricks

  • Do not, I repeat, do not overlook the visitors! While they may seem ancillary to core strategy, a high percentage of the many available helpers offer really great benefits.
  • Have at least one red grape vine and one white grape vine in each field. I’ve found that grapes age fast enough that it’s most beneficial to get two grapes out there (for both to age) instead of a single more valuable grape.
  • Don’t feel like you need to do everything! You can’t. There’s simply not enough time. Focus on a couple of core paths to maximize your return.

Scoring & Wrap-up

Overall, as a medium-weight worker placement strategy game, I give Viticulture a high 8.5 out of 10 (between “Excellent. Always want to play” and “Very Good” on BGG’s scale) for the following reasons:

Promoters

  • The flawless progression from planting to harvesting to aging to selling.
  • The beautiful, rustic Italian theme!
  • The balance of core strategy with ancillary yet beneficial side actions
  • Blush wine! Something about the color and name is super satisfying. =-)

Detractors

  • The season separation gets a bit clunky towards the end of the game. There often ends up being too many workers with not enough action spaces that add value. The remedy? Plan well ahead to “waste” as few actions as possible.

True to form, Stonemaier Games has delivered another fantastic, high-quality, balanced game. If you enjoy a relatively quick, mid-level strategy game, Italian culture and countryside, or wine-making, you will love Viticulture.


Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.

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