It arrived!!!! And a day early! Viticulture Essentials Edition. I'm so excited! This is such a fun game on Steam, I knew getting it to the table would make it even better. As usual... I was right. 😁
My first instinct however was; "Did Stonemaier send me the wrong item? The box is so small". But nope, it was right. The game is just in a much smaller box than I thought. I was expecting more Wingspan sized boxed for some reason. But as you can see, that's not the case... (I scaled it with my water bottle so you could see what I mean). Wow!
In true Stonemaier fashion, the components and game are just fantastic. You even get a nice insert that comes with the game as well.
I'm a sucker for player boards, and Viticulture's player boards are just fantastic as you add grapes to your stomping pads, make wine to place in your cellars, plant vines in your fields, build structures to help your vineyard prosper... SO MUCH FUN!
I have to say, the Steam version is good. But playing without some of the annoying sound effects and that curtain that goes up and down between seasons on the digital version is much better! 🤣
Since I already knew how to play, I was able to (mostly) jump right into a solo game vs the Automa. As always, Stonemaier games create a wonderful Automa system that keep the game enjoyable. This is definitely the most simplistic Automa I've played from Stonemaier, but nicely done in my opinion.
I just realized I didn't get a picture of the Automa deck. Oops. But here's the board setup for solo. There's only two changes from the multiplayer game:
1) The Automa score marker starts on the END (20 VPs).
2) You place the clear tokens (in this case they're called 'Bonus Action Tokens') on the time of day section (left).
Otherwise, you just need the Automa workers. Very simple to setup and manage. Even the Automa play is simple. They don't collect Lira (currency in the game), structures etc... They are there to make your decisions tougher by blocking anywhere from 0-3 locations per season. So they can definitely derail your plans at times. I really enjoyed it.
In Viticulture you play the first to 20VPs as you run and build up your vineyard. In solo mode against the Automa, as I said the Automa starts on 20VPs. So by the end of the seventh year (only 7-rounds in solo mode) your aim is to have 20+ VPs. Having said that, what I love is there are multiple options suggested in the rulebook for varying difficulty against the Automa. Including one that has the Automa beginning from the start but gaining points after every year. This one sounds enticing as well, but I played 2-games with the "easy" mode first. For those who may be unsure, they even suggest a "very easy difficulty" where you play 8-seasons instead of seven!
Up to 6-players can play, and everyone gets these tokens which may or may not make it to your player board (depending how you decide to run your vineyard). Structures, workers, a grande worker, VP marker and a wine bottle piece for the residual income tracker (awesome).
This game, despite some tough decisions at times, is easy going on my "relaxing games" list. And that's playing two games without enjoying a glass of wine while I build up my vineyard... imagine then!!
Stonemaier games put so much care and attention into their games. I am so happy to have another one in my collection.