Chris Smith
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Viticulture - Games 2 & 3

I've had a couple of games of Viticulture now where we know the rules correctly. I do find it ever so odd trying to teach people the rules though. I don't know if it's a worker-placement game thing in general, but there just seems to be no easy order to go through things that doesn't feel like you're missing something. Going 'These are the 4 seasons and what they do, then going through cards, and then through the action spaces, and then through the buildings, still had questions unanswered', then again that was more in the 3rd game, in the 2nd everyone was pretty happy with a basic explanation and they all just read what the worker spots do.

Anyway enough about rules and teaching, this is meant to be a session report, albeit a poorly written one! On with the show...report.

I'm going to write that as (- something) being about the game and (= something) being comments on strategy and thoughts on it.

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Game 2 - 4 Player
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I've still not got the hang of doing session reports, by which I mean not thinking to note down or try and remember what happened exactly, but I'll try to give a rough idea!

An additional point, is there was actually 4 of us in this game. I'm hugely guilty of not mentioning what player 4 (Handy) did, as he's just so quiet :S Also we were consuming alcohol and and and...I'm a bad person. I think he got the lowest score, but he was also the player that hadn't had a previous game (Though the others were only in the game we played wrong anyway), but we all had fun anyway!

- At the start of the game I put myself on the extra worker for the first turn, perhaps over-trusting in the use of it. This left my first turn being a little stuck as I had no way to plant early. Instead I got some tour money (I don't know what they were paying to see!) and replaced that extra worker with a normal worker while my opponents got their early vines planted and crushed. The 2nd round I put myself on the '+1 vine card' and got 1st position, so I got started on planting and harvesting.

= I really like in this game how even when you get locked out of what you might prefer to do (Like plant in the first round) you have plenty of opportunity to chase a different path and feel confident about it.

- The game generally went on with me drawing lots of white vines making a ridiculous white vine field, Kimberley got a massive hand of cards (I don't remember if it helped much) and Ken just seemed to pull every visitor that gives lots of Victory Points, again (He got the same luck in our first game, that we played wrong anyway).

= It's very frustrating in viticulture to not get both types of vine. It's a little bit backed up by starting with that pinot vine though, as while I had no problem harvesting a 9 value grape every turn, I could make a 1 Value red and still make epic blush wine, which helped out a little...

- Just before the end, I think the score was about 10 (Me) - 11 (Kimberley) - 16 (Ken).

= So it looked pretty clear at this point who was winning).

- In the last turn, Ken got first I think and filled another order for 4VP, taking him to 20. I followed up right behind filling a 4Vp order taking me to 14 (I don't remember what Kimberley did, the whole 'Ken getting to 20' was distracting). Think is, I finally got a visitor I wanted in the fall before filling those orders. I got a 'fill an order and get +1 VP' so after leaving the others to think that was it, I jumped on the play a visitor, filled a 6 VP order which took me to 21 with the +1. Ninja'd!

= I love that in building your infrastructure well early rather than relying on VP cards, you have such a chance to catch up and beat people who have seemingly perfect draws. It seems to be the advantage to not having to use your actions to play those cards, that you can instead make awesome wine =P


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Game 3 - 3 Player
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So I had my 3rd game of viticulture yesterday, this time with 2 people that hadn't played at all.

Strangely enough, my recollection on this game is also terrible, even though it was within the last 24 hours, but I'll do my best. Greg may very well turn up here to tell me everything is wrong and that I've confused all the players, which is fair enough as I'd rather not leave things wrong on the internet! (Also, I remember a lot more of what Greg did probably because I've known him longer!)

- I think turn 1 happened as Greg taking a visitor, myself taking an extra vine, and Jenny taking a wine order card. This gave Greg the chance to get some money and set up an extra worker quite early in the game, while myself and Jenny got vines planted/crushed to get some wine ready for later orders.

= Greg bought up a fairly good point here that the 3rd field feels a little pointless, as you can use field 1 for red and field 2 for white and be done with it. Despite that, I think in my next game I'm going to put the Pinot vine on it's own with red/white in their own fields, because it can be very frustrating when you're short on red wine for blush/sparkling, and a combi-field with low values to combine with your high values from the others seems wise.

- The 2nd turn I decided that it was my turn to build my workforce, so I opted to dive straight for the extra worker, as I presumed Greg would be busy planting/harvesting and that Jenny would struggling to get the money (I think she had 0 Lira at that point). I don't remember what Jenny did, but Greg did indeed get some vines planted, while I took 5 Lira from 2 tours, then 2 workers for 3 Lira each by using the Grande worker for the 2nd.

= I quite like getting 2 workers in one turn, feels good =P

- Again the middle section feels hazy. Over the game Greg managed to build up a small fortune, I went roughly average, and Jenny mostly kept up with me, with the caveat she stuck with 3 workers for a lot of the game. I think Greg was actually behind for quite a while, but managed to dive into the lead with some filled orders/visitor cards.

= While I don't feel that you need 5/6 workers (Even though I tend to aim for 5 with 6 only if I get blocked from other actions), I think an extra 1 to 4 is quite a requirement. One advantage to not taking them is you save actions and money and can still make up that worker by going last some turns for the temp worker.

- I don't remember exactly how it went, but as far as me noticing, Greg took a very sudden leap into the lead onto 16 in Summer on a round, leaving me and Jenny behind. At this point, I had a pretty fun plan, where I could set aside 4 workers for 4 VP and use the last worker (I had 6 by then) to fill another order and hit 20-22 ish (Not sure exactly). The problem there was I didn't have enough grapes/wine to do both the set aside 4 and the fill order. I think I might have managed if I'd opted to go last and take the extra worker, and should have seen that, buuut I didn't =P In the end all 3 of us filled an order in winter (Me via a visitor card again), Greg hit 22, with me and Jenny way behind somewhere around ~15 (I came second just about).

= Lame, I got my ass kicked. Not-lame, I still had fun! It was great to play Viticulture with more people and particularly as Greg has backed Euphoria and read Jamey's blog posts, so he was very excited to get to play Viticulture. Great evening.


EDIT = One additional thing. I think the expanded Grande Worker idea of being able to use a filled space will be perfect for my future 2/4/6 player games. In 3 players, everything works itself out as it is, and that would make it too powerful, but for 2/4/6...perfect.
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Jamey Stegmaier
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Re: 4 and 3 Player Game where we actually knew what were doing!
Thanks for another great session report! I just wanted to point out one little thing. You said, "while I had no problem harvesting a 9 value grape every turn," but the maximum value of any field is 6. Just something to keep in mind in the future.

Also, I find that the best way to teach the game is to play a year and explain things as you go (rather than trying to explain everything up front). Players do need to know the connection between vines and wine orders, but they don't need to know the specifics for crushing grapes until year 2 or 3.
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Chris Smith
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Re: 4 and 3 Player Game where we actually knew what were doing!
jameystegmaier wrote:
Thanks for another great session report! I just wanted to point out one little thing. You said, "while I had no problem harvesting a 9 value grape every turn," but the maximum value of any field is 6. Just something to keep in mind in the future.

Also, I find that the best way to teach the game is to play a year and explain things as you go (rather than trying to explain everything up front). Players do need to know the connection between vines and wine orders, but they don't need to know the specifics for crushing grapes until year 2 or 3.


Oops, thanks for pointing that one out. As it happens it had no bearing on the game as I never needed a higher white/red anyway, but it's useful to know. I think it was actually quite a mistake we all made to load the fields too heavily, as you don't need them that high very often so it's a waste.

I think that might be why the 'Game 2' had the teaching part easier. Everyone was quite happy to jump into the first round and see how it went before asking more specifics for the 2nd year. In comparison the 'Game 3' was with a player who likes to know everything before starting, such that he can start thinking of strategies early on and not get stuck by 'Oh you can't do that' halfway through a game ^^. I guess it varies group to group and is to be expected =) Plus as soon as everyone has played once I don't need to explain again anyway (Except for rules corrections!) ^^.

Thank you very much for the reply!
 
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Kevin Garnica
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Re: 4 and 3 Player Game where we actually knew what were doing!
Jamey has some good advice on teaching Viticulture. There's definitely more than one way to skin a cat.

Also, for what it's worth, regarding teaching the game - I do it like this (maybe this can help next time):

1) First, I tell them the object and when the game ends. Most people want to get a sense of direction and are goal-oriented when playing a game. Object: most points. Game ends when someone reaches 20 points, etc.

2) Explain the structure of a turn in "broad" terms - spring/summer/autumn/winter. Be sure they understand that they can't place in winter until the game *gets* there. Don't go into detail about the cards or anything like that just yet. And of course, depending on the number of players, explain how the first person to go on any spot gets "an advantage" or "bonus".

3) THIS is where I think it can make all the difference: explain the actions in the seasons in a literal, "linear" fashion. Viticulture is a game about micromanaging the process of wine-making; explain it that way. For example, start with a) getting vine cards, b) planting vine cards, c) harvesting vine cards, d) crushing grapes, e) getting order cards, f) fulfilling order cards.

4) Then I would go back and cover the miscellaneous spots like giving tours, selling grapes, training a new worker, where to get the visitor cards (just say they do interesting & powerful "one-time" things), buildings, etc. Now you can segue into what each of the buildings do and why they are necessary or powerful in their own way. And that's pretty much the whole game right there.

I don't want to tell you how to teach the game or anything, but I spend an inordinate amount of time on (specifically) the best way to "teach" a game and get it as quickly and logically as possible into someone else's head. Hope this helps.
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Re: 4 and 3 Player Game where we actually knew what were doing!
Kevin--I like your methods. I think that works really well. I'm going to try to employ that process in the future. I'm curious to hear how you'll teach Euphoria.
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Chris Smith
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Re: 4 and 3 Player Game where we actually knew what were doing!
Thanks Kevin, I like that you take such a systematic approach to it! I wonder if a valuable resource for new games might be a 'teach sheet' which assumes the reader knows what they're doing, but provides a guide for order to teach new players!
 
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Kevin Garnica
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Re: 4 and 3 Player Game where we actually knew what were doing!
jameystegmaier wrote:
Kevin--I like your methods. I think that works really well. I'm going to try to employ that process in the future. I'm curious to hear how you'll teach Euphoria.


Thanks, we'll see about Euphoria - that's a very different sort of layout in terms of game play and objectives. It's not as (potentially) linear as Viticulture, so we'll see what I come up with.
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Re: 4 and 3 Player Game where we actually knew what were doing!
Smoothsmith wrote:
Thanks Kevin, I like that you take such a systematic approach to it! I wonder if a valuable resource for new games might be a 'teach sheet' which assumes the reader knows what they're doing, but provides a guide for order to teach new players!


Well, since I am a teacher by vocation, that may explain my strange logic. It's usually the case that games are NOT best taught from the page in a "left to right" sort of fashion. Teach in a linear, systematic approach, as you put it; group things/concepts together where they make sense in helping the players understand better.

I like your idea about the 'teach sheet'. In fact, I used to do this regularly for myself so that my teaching was very streamlined and efficient. You may be on to something here, hmm....
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Re: 4 and 3 Player Game where we almost knew what we were doing!
This isn't quite a teach sheet, but a designer named Nersi created a quick reference guide that I think could be really helpful. You can find it here: http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/92711/viticulture-rules-an...
 
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