Published on April 24th, 2015 | by Nicole Jekich1
Uncorking the Tuscany Expansions
Nothing beats a relaxing game of Viticulture, drinking a glass or two of pinot noir and casually strategizing your way to a victorious and wealthy vineyard. The base Viticulture game is the perfect blend of a Euro worker placement game and challenging, thematic decisions to grow your personalized wine business.
We’ve sat down with our regular game group on multiple occasions to play Viticulture by Stonemaier Games. We enjoyed the complexity and vast array of strategies the game offers with multiple paths to victory. After two games, we started adding the Tuscany expansions following the recommend legacy path: winner gets to choose the next expansion, similar to the Risk: Legacy format, which Stonemaier Games mentions in their rulebook.
Unlocking or ‘uncorking’ these expansions is a slow process of adding more gameplay, allowing each player to become more comfortable with the added gameplay. Keeping with designers’ legacy recommendation and adding expansions one game at a time is a very safe option.
Well…patience certainly isn’t my strongest virtue. Thankfully I had two other Viticulture-obsessed friends who took the dive and spent an entire day unwrapping cards, scouring the rulebook and playing a fully-expanded Viticulture game in order to test of the new expansions.
Additional Strategy Options:
A fully-expanded Viticulture game includes all Tier 1 and Tier 2 expansions plus one of the Tier 3 expansions. Each tier adds more complexity to the game. Even though Viticulture remains focused on wine making, the Tuscany expansions offer more ways to gain reputation and more advanced options in the form of new worker types, visitors, structures and more.
Tier 1 expansions:
Mamas & Papas-
Each player chooses a Mama and Papa randomly at the start of the game. Instead of every player beginning with the same resources, each player will have a different starting point. The starting resources are determined by the inheritance from your Mama and Papa as show on the card. While this is one of the most simple additions to the game, I love the detail this expansion received. The picture locket card backs and the portrait of your parents (obviously faces of some of the Kickstarter backers) offer a sentimental touch.
Money is always a precious resource in any game and in Viticulture it is the only way to build structures like the yoke, trellis, and many other buildings that add to the success of your vineyard. The Property expansion allows players the option to sell their fields for money to finance other decisions early on in the game. Players can always buy the field back for the same cost.
As the name suggests, players are given a patron at the start of the game. This patron counts as a wine order for any ‘5’ aged wine. Players can fulfill this patron order any year of the game following the normal instructions for filling a wine order. A successful patron wine order means additional repuation and that player ‘unlocks’ a secret goal that is worth more reputation points if completed by the end of the game.
The Summer and Winter visitor decks each receive 15 new advanced visitors which add more abilities to choose from. In the Tuscany rulebook there is even a variant which involves removing the some of the base game visitors in order that more advanced visitors come up in play.
Tier 2 expansions:
Tier 2 continues to add to the Viticulture game and includes a much bigger board. We brought out the big table for this one.
The difference between the previous Advanced Visitors and New Visitors is the advanced were more complex abilities based on previous visitor cards. New Visitors add new abilities to ‘break the game’ and offer different strategies not previously accessible. This expansion includes 16 new cards for both Summer and Winter.
I won’t go into too much detail but the board is bigger, badder and offers worker placement in all four seasons instead of just Summer and Winter. The new wake up chart is also a lot different. The only way to assuredly become first player is to wake up last in the previous year. Coming from experiences, this is a very risky setup especially since the first player doesn’t receive any bonuses throughout the entire year. Also, players in the wake up track gain different resources at the beginning of different seasons.
I should mentioned that players now have the opportunity to influence certain wine regions. Just like in Stonemaier’s Euphoria game, players work to place their influence star tokens on places of interest thus gaining more reputation.
Even though there are 11 available options, only 2 of the special workers are in play during a game. Each of these workers are purchased as a normal worker but cost and additional amount of money. Each special worker has a special ability- the Traveler, which was in our game, can visit any open space in the previous season. Other specialized workers include: Farmer, Mafioso, Chef, Innkeeper, Professore, Soldato, Politico, Oracle, Merchant, Traveler and Messenger.
In addition to the structure spots and meeples on your board, players can now build up to two structures next to the vineyard. These structures are random cards and are purchased or built like normal structures. These different buildings like the Cask, Barn, etc give players either an action space which a worker can visit during the year; an ongoing bonus or a residual bonus which that player receives at the end of each year. This is another favorite expansion of mine as it allows players to thematically alter their business.
Tier 3 expansions:
If you’ve made it to the Tier 3 expansions, get ready to up the complexity even more. Only ONE of these Tier 3 expansions should be in play at a time. This is a recommendation that we stuck to.
I haven’t had the opportunity to play with the Mafia expansion yet. It is a random gift giving game where players are tasked with providing a present to a mafia boss building his home in Tuscany. Give the best gift at the end of the game to earn points–the cheapest/lowest quality gift forces a player to lose a reputation.
If you want to pair some cheese with your wine, Formaggio offers the opportunity to keep cows, make and age cheese and sell these cheeses as part of your wine order. Adding on another aging section of the game that requires monitoring is quite a challenging leap. In our first game I didn’t even use that option and instead sold my cows for money.
Arboriculture allows players to even further diversify the products their business creates. Olive oil, tomato sauce and apples are all new products players can plant, harvest and sell. I haven’t had the opportunity to play this expansion either but I assume it will yield similar challenges as Formaggio.
3 Hours of Personalized Fun:
Now I don’t really recommend diving in like we did after a couple of games of Viticulture. Having an overwhelming experience from too many options definitely drags out a game and can dissuade newcomers who are not familiar with the base gameplay.
I have noticed that as I play more games, that replayability is definitely an issue. The games I bought in 2009 have mostly stayed on their shelves and recent expansion that either add a new character class, or visually change the board do little to affect the overall way to play the game. The challenges, conflicts and paths to victory are the same.
I feel that Stonemaier Games has made a game that actually does keep new gamers and more veteran gamers interested in the same game. Viticulture starts from a basic worker placement game with many options on its own that takes many games to learn the cards and strategy. Tuscany gives competitive gamers and those looking for a more complex machine to build the motivation to try new strategy and learn ways to play.