Last night, I taught five other people how to play Viticulture. Here are the things that stood out:
- 6-plays works very well in this game. The only issues were that spaces ran out on the wake-up track and on the board filled up quite a bit. Note that the five and six-player counts use the same number of available board spaces so playing with five would give players a little more flexibility during the game.
- It was hard for the new players to understand that grapes and wine numbers on their board represent a value or quality for the grape or wine and not a quantity. Add to this the fact that numbers on multiple vine cards are added together to get a higher quality grape during harvest and you have a big source of confusion. This wasn’t a player-count issue but certainly stood out as one of the more complicated features of the game.
The issue about quantity vs. quality came up many times in the game.
I looked it up and found that grapes don’t really age in real life like they do in the game. Well, they are aged on the vine but not in the winery. The only aging that happens is in the vats/barrels once the grapes are starting to ferment, and in the bottle. Grapes are usually crushed and pressed and don’t sit around as grapes for very long during wine-making. It would have been a little more thematic for the game to age the wine in during primary fermentation and then also age it after it is bottled. Then again, the game simplifies the process quite well and this small issue of grapes aging (instead of rotting) can be overlooked.
The winner of our game was a player who is very good at board games. If it were grammatically correct to say it, I would say he is very very very good at board games. All players were within the same 6-point range at about 12 points when he filled an order worth 6-points ending the game. Somehow, he had saved up a lot of wine and cards and filled two more orders after that ending with 29 points! I wasn’t paying attention so its possible there was an accidental cheat; but this is a player who always plays well and seldom makes mistakes so I think 29 was his actual score. I was able to get up to about 16 points filling on one last 3-point order. I was a bit disappointed in myself because I had one wine that was one level down from where it needed to be to fill a 6-point order. I was doing a bit of teaching early on and I also had absolutely shit luck with cards during most of the game. Yes, that’s a think in this game – you can draw cards that suck terribly. For instance, if you draw nothing but white grape vine cards and then draw nothing but red wine orders, you can never fill an order! This is what happened to me for much of the game and the best I cold do is use my one level 1 grape vine to help make rosé (since it requires at least 1 red and one white but then the numbers get added together to get the final quality number).