Subject: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Innovation and quality make an already great game even better!
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Introducing the Tuscany expansion for Viticulture
Over the years there have been some real hits on Kickstarter. There have also been some projects that spectacularly crashed and burned, or where the game itself was an absolute disaster from beginning to end. But once in a while a shining star appears on the Kickstarter horizon, in the form of a game that is a credit to the game industry and to modern gaming, a terrific product that has wonderful gameplay, combined with outstanding components, a fun theme, and is wonderfully supported by the designer and publisher. One of these rare jewels that shines in every way is Viticulture, published by the inimitable Stonemaer Games, created by the remarkably industrious and effervescent Jamey Stegmaier along with Alan Stone.
Viticulture is a fine example of the worker-placement genre, and is one of my absolute favourite games from the last few years - you can read more of the praise I lavished on it in my original review. In this popular 2-6 player title, you're trying to grow grapes and make wine, in a game that is soaked with theme and matched with wonderful bits. It's been a very successful game, and deservedly so, especially given the sheer amount of effort that Jamey and co have put into supporting and making it. So when news emerged about an expansion, Viticulture: Tuscany – Expand the World of Viticulture, it was a no brainer for me to give this expansion a shot.
Tuscany was published with the help of yet another shining Kickstarter project that was run in conjunction with the release of the second edition of Viticulture, and has by now made its way into the hands of many gamers and backers. Perhaps the thing that excited me most about Tuscany was the Risk Legacy inspired concept of unlocking aspects of the expansion one by one. So with no further ado, let's introduce you to Tuscany. I won't tell you everything about it, because that would spoil the enjoyable surprises that lie in store as you "uncork" your own copy, but hopefully I'll share enough to kindle some more enthusiasm for this great game!
The Tuscany box matches the dimensions, size, style, and quality of the base game. Just like good wine, it's all about one thing complementing another - and that's already evident from the moment we set our eyes on the box!
The back of box the tells us something about the promises that lie within. It consists of about a dozen expansions, but especially notable is the "legacy" style in which they are intended to be opened and used:
"Tuscany is a legacy-style expansion pack, meaning that each expansion in this box will be opened ("uncorked") one by one in an order determined by the winner of the previous game. When all the expansions in Tuscany have been uncorked, you have the option of starting over from the beginning to explore Tuscany with a different group or in a new way with the same group."
Inside the box you'll find a huge amount of components, which comprise the following expansions:
● Mamas & Papas
● Advanced Visitors
● New Visitors
● Extended Board
● Special Workers
There are also the following additional components:
● Automa (solo variant)
● Second Edition Upgrades (for First Edition owners only)
● Metal coins (Prima edition only)
● Reference card
Special mention should be made of the box insert. The box itself is very sturdy, and features a well-designed insert with lots of compartments (each well labelled!) to house all the different expansions. Great job by the publisher!
That's a ton of stuff, so how does all this work? Well the concept is borrowed from Rob Daviau's innovative Risk Legacy, and I appreciate that the rulebook courteously gives appropriate credit for this. I played over a dozen games of Risk Legacy in less than a week when I first bought it, and it is a remarkable design in that players have the ability to change the game itself between games, where outcomes from one game can have consequences for the next. It's brilliant, and I absolutely loved the concept, and so I am thrilled that Jamey and co have found a way to try something similar with Viticulture.
In practice, this means that the expansions of Tuscany are to be introduced in a rather novel manner: the winner of a previous game decides which expansion gets unlocked next. There's even a little "Vineyard Chronicle" booklet (pictured on the right) to let you keep track of games and scores, including the names of the winners and which expansions were unlocked. (Some other possible methods of selection are included in the rulebook as well.) One or more games are played with that expansion included, and then another winner selects another expansion to be added. Any already included expansions remain in the game, so what happens is that Viticulture slowly increases in complexity and colour as you progress through multiple games.
The manual recommends playing 2-4 games before "uncorking" a new expansion. So the order in which the expansions are added will depend completely on the players, although with the restriction that all Tier 1 expansions need to be added before adding any Tier 2 expansions, and similarly all Tier 2 expansions need to be added before any Tier 3 expansions. Also, unlike all the other expansions, the Tier 3 expansions aren't played together, but you only use one of these three at any time. But you probably get the general drift: as you play the game multiple times, you'll get the excitement of new additions which shape the gameplay and open up new possibilities thematically and strategically.
Does that sound like fun? It sure does to me, so let's get cracking and tell you a few things about all the expansions included. I won't reveal all their secrets, since I'm still playing through them myself, and I'd hate to spoil any surprises for future players, but hopefully it will be enough to whet your appetite, giving you a wine-tasting session as it were, of what's inside.
Second Edition Upgrade Pack
The first edition of Viticulture was terrific, but since then several small tweaks and improvements were made for the second edition. I've documented and discussed them already in my review of the base game, which you'll find here: Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: The new second edition - turning a good game into something great!.
For owners of the first edition of Viticulture, a small upgrade pack was made available, to quickly and easily update their copies of the game. This is available separately, and was also contained in some of the Kickstarter versions of Tuscany for backers who owned the first edition. This upgrade pack includes the following elements:
● 6 grande worker meeples
● 30 smaller glass tokens
● 1 sticker sheet for player mats
● 11 updated visitor cards (Entertainer, Handyman, Horticulturist, Vendor, Tour Guide, Novice Guide, Mentor, Crush Expert, Crusher, Uncertified Oenologiest, Jack-of-All-Trades)
● tile overlay ("Make Up to Two Wine Tokens") for game board
● second edition quick reference guide
The Tuscany rulebook also devotes an overview page to explaining the rule changes implemented in the second edition, the most significant ones being the use of the grande worker, and the change to making wine.
The rulebook is a beautifully produced glossy 24 page booklet. It includes an overview of how the expansions are to be unlocked and used (including some variants), an overview of the second edition rule updates, a guide to each of the individual 12 expansions, and a glossary of terms. It is fully illustrated with clear pictures, along with some examples, strategy tips, and designer notes (a few minor errata can be found in the online FAQ). It's an all round sterling effort as far as rulebooks go, and looks and feels very polished and professional.
The English rulebook is available online here: Tuscany rules - English
A double-sided reference sheet gives a summary of the rules for Tuscany, including an overview of the different expansion tiers, and a summary of the elements applicable for each.
The prima edition of Tuscany also comes with the most remarkable metal coins to replace the cardboard ones from Viticulture. Take a look at this goodness - now isn't that a stunningly beautiful upgrade! Note that standard editions of Tuscany don't include these metal coins.
TIER 1 EXPANSIONS
If you don't want to know anything about the individual expansions, and want to discover everything about them for yourself by unwrapping them without prior knowledge of their contents, you might want to skip some of these next sections. Quite a few of these expansions are still in shrinkwrap, so you won't be seeing as many photos as usual, but that's probably a good thing anyway, to avoid spoiling any pleasant surprises for others; I'll keep the synopsis of each expansion very brief to avoid too many spoilers.
Mamas & Papas
This expansion assigns asymmetrical starting resources to the players. Components consist of:
● 18 mama cards
● 18 papa cards
This expansion enables players to sell unused fields for quick cash. Components consist of:
● 18 property tiles
● 1 "Sell Grapes or Flip 1 Property" tile/board overlay
This expansion gives players secret goals (e.g. "most vine cards on all fields") for extra points. Components consist of:
● 9 patronage cards
This expansion adds new visitors to the game, such as the Advanced Buyer and Advanced Blacksmith. Components consist of:
● 15 advanced summer visitor cards
● 15 advanced winter visitor cards
TIER 2 EXPANSIONS
This expansion adds further visitors to the game, such as the Banker and Taster, and introduces new mechanisms and options. Components consist of:
● 16 new summer visitor cards
● 16 new winter visitor cards
This expansion adds spring and fall seasons to the game, with new actions for each (e.g. Trade, Sell One Wine Token), as well as the ability to influence the regions of Tuscany. Components consist of:
● 1 double-sided game board
● 36 influence tokens (in 6 player colours)
This expansion adds 11 new workers to the game, such as the Farmer, Chef, and Merchant. Components consist of:
● 11 special worker reference cards
● 66 special worker meeples
This expansion requires side 2 of the extended board, and adds special structures like Aqueduct, Cask, and Statue. Components consist of:
● 36 orange Structure cards
● extended game board (side 2)
● 6 construction mat extensions
TIER 3 EXPANSIONS
This expansion adds special gift packages to the game that your grande worker must protect for potential bonus points.Components consist of:
● 9 mafia cards
This expansion expands your agricultural skills to produce olive oil, tomato sauce and apples. Components consist of:
● 18 arbor cards
● 4 visitor cards
● 6 arboriculture mat extensions
● 6 morale tokens (hearts)
This expansion adds cheese-making to the game. Components consist of:
● 18 cow tokens
● 6 cheese cellar tokens
● 6 formaggio mat extensions
● 18 small glass tokens
This expansion enables solitaire play against an artificial "Automa" opponent. Components consist of:
● 24 Automa cards
● 3 aggressive variant cards
Finally there is a small set of cards marked "Open At Your Own Risk", which are best left until the Structures expansion has been opened - if you dare!
What do I think?
More Viticulture! My enthusiasm for Viticulture remains undiminished; if anything my appetite for this game has only increased with the release of Tuscany! In my original review of Viticulture I described at length everything I loved about Viticulture, and for the most part all of these strengths have carried over into Tuscany: the theme, the components, the cards, the flexibility, the mechanics, the structures, the tension, the length, the weight, the suitability for two-players, the non-nasty game-play, the crowdfunding, and the uniqueness. Tuscany just keeps these good things about Viticulture coming!
Better Viticulture: Most BGGers will have learned the hard lesson that not every expansion improves a game, and sometimes they are a poor attempt at being a cash cow for a popular game. That's not the case with Tuscany - almost everyone who has played these expansions agrees that they are improvements that make an already game even better. In my opinion, the second edition of Viticulture already turned a good game into a great game. But there are some who still felt it had some weaknesses; many of these gamers will testify that the Tuscany expansions do make Viticulture more robust. Meanwhile those who were enthusiastic about Viticulture to begin with are virtually united in their conviction that these expansions only make it better still!
Uncorking the bottle: Much has already been said about the method of unlocking expansions, but it deserves mention again here as a separate point. This is a brilliant mechanism for various reasons. First of all, it serves a very valuable pragmatic purpose, because it is a clever way of introducing new mechanisms slowly without overwhelming the players. Secondly, it also adds an exciting element of discovery from one game to the next. The personalization of the order in which they are added helps enhance this appeal all the more. Admittedly you don't have to use the legacy approach, and hardcore gamers will probably prefer to see Tuscany as a collection of modules, and be more than capable of incorporating several new ones at once. But I like the legacy concept, and even though it's not quite as innovative or game-changing as it was in Risk Legacy, it is good evidence of a game designer and publisher willing to try something new in game design, and this all helps Viticulture and Tuscany stand out from an ever crowded field of games.
What do others think?
Tuscany hasn't attracted much in the way of vocal criticism since its release, although some have expressed concern about cards being unbalanced. This concern was already voiced about the base game, and quite frankly the variety in the cards is just part of the game and for people like me is part of the appeal. Granted, Tuscany is still in the process of being uncorked by most people, and like any good wine, this tends to happen in sips over time, rather than gulping down the whole bottle in one hit. So perhaps more criticism will appear over time, but by and large the overwhelming response to Tuscany so far has been one of great enthusiasm.
So what are some of the positive things people are saying about Tuscany?
There's appreciation for the legacy-style concept of how the expansions work:
"The "legacy-styled" play is interesting with Tuscany. Uncorking (haha) expansion modules over time is cool and I wish more games encouraged that." - Bryan McNeely
"What a great way to include multiple expansions. Looks to be be a great way to support and embellish an otherwise solid core." - Gary Jackson
"Excellent expansion for an excellent game. The 'Uncorking' of the expansion just adds to the fantastic feeling of victory." - Joshua Harrison
"Wow, this is a great expansion. Can't wait to finish working our way through all the tiers." - Anna E.
"Not all the expansions are gems but it's very flexible about how you add them." - Scott Ferrier
"The "legacy" style method of adding expansions is a neat way to ratchet up the complexity to the correct level for your game group." - Travis Merkle
The individual expansions themselves are considered to be strong, improving and enhancing the game:
"I really think this load of expansions (at least some of them) can really boost this game." - Peter Panzer
"Added a lot to Viticulture game, it really improved it and help mitigate the luck of drawing the right order card with more options to trade wine for points and gives you ways to take loans by selling your fields." - Scott Ferrier
"Some of the expansion modules to Viticulture are so good that they are almost required to play." - Evan Chauvette
"The expansions add all kind of different twists in the game." - Paul Nomikos
"Viticulture is best played with at least the first level of expansions. With these (Patrons optional), the game really sings and feels perfect." - Bryan Fischer
"Expansions feel natural and add freshness to the game." - GamingCoupleGA
"The various additions take Viticulture to the next level. I couldn't imagine playing without some of the expansions after adding them." - Travis Merkle
"Takes the base game, fixes it (tier 1), expands it (tier 2) and then expands it even more (tier 3). Turns Viticulture into a large and very flexible worker placement game." - yorvog
"The expanded board and advanced visitors fix a lot of issues I had with the base game, and the other expansion modules are a lot of fun and allow for new strategies." - Alexander Griffard
"Adds a lot of good things to the game, especially the new board and cards." - Joel Petersen
The Automa solo variant also has received high praise:
"Automa is perfect!" - Paul Kessels
"The simple, yet challenging solo mode ("Automata") is just plain icing." - Travis Merkle
"I love the solo portion as I don't get enough face to face gamers." - John Bruns
Clearly Tuscany is the subject of a lot of love and enthusiasm:
"Tuscany is everything an expansion should be. It makes a good game, Viticulture, into a great one. I won't ever play Viticulture without Tuscany!" - Alexander Griffard
"Viticulture is good, but Tuscany is far better." - Mik Svellov
"This whole package is just so crazy-good! I didn't think that the Viticulture base game could be improved upon a great deal without adding a whole lot of unnecessary fiddliness to the game, but I will admit that I was wrong." - squash
I can't think of a reason why Viticulture: Tuscany – Expand the World of Viticulture doesn't deserve all the praise it has been getting. If you felt some niggles about the original Viticulture, this expansion might just fix it for you. But if you are a big fan of Viticulture to begin with, then Tuscany is a no-brainer to pick up, because it will extend your enjoyment of the original game in a multitude of ways - far more than most expansions are capable of.
Join me in tipping my hat and raising a toast to Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone, and to the prospect of many glasses of fine wine and games in years to come! Tuscany is truly an outstanding product in every way, and deserves the highest recommendation.
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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- Erv Walter(edwalter)United States
Wisconsinervwalter is my new bgg account
P.S. I noticed in your photos that you have the Structures board on the right side of your base-game player board. If you put it on the left side of your player board instead, the artwork for the two boards will match up
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- Mark O'Reilly(biffta)United Kingdom
- Fantastic review Ender's , a right good read
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- Joe Costa(joecosta)United States
- What a great review man!! I am tempted to get both Viticulture and Tuscany but I think I'll just start off with Viticulture since the 2nd edition is pretty great I've heard.
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- M. S.(Braz)Germany
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- Steph HodgeUnited StatesWell, it's no Ginkgopolis...
edwalter wrote:Great review!
P.S. I noticed in your photos that you have the Structures board on the right side of your base-game player board. If you put it on the left side of your player board instead, the artwork for the two boards will match up :)
My picture. I know. It just worked out that way for this game.
3 of those pics are mine in the review. I'll give credit to myself
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edwalter wrote:I noticed in your photos that you have the Structures board on the right side of your base-game player board. If you put it on the left side of your player board instead, the artwork for the two boards will match upQuite right, and thanks for mentioning it!
The component photos are all my own, but in this case I opted to feature three game-play photos by Steph (punkin312), who is an outstanding contributor of images here on BGG - check out her best photos here.
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- Sean WestUnited States
I just wanted to say that Viticulture is a game that had flown completely under my radar. I totally missed both the base game and Tuscany when they were on Kickstarter and I even glossed over it after it was released, despite seeing a couple of favorable reviews, because, I guess, my first impression was that it was a bit esoteric.
Recently though, I suppose because Tuscany is out and the game is getting a new round of reviews, I have been really intrigued by the praise it has been getting. So much so that I went out and bought both Viticulture and the expansion at the same time (something that I normally just do not do).
I have to say, I don't regret it one bit. I have enjoyed everything about this game and the expansions I've added so far. I feel like the theme really shines through. There is much more depth than something like Lords of Waterdeep but it plays just as smoothly. Yet it is deep and tense without being brutal in the way that Agricola is.
In general, I am not a fan of expansions but I understand that some of the Tuscany modules compensate for weaknesses in the base game which I appreciate. While I've found that other modules slot into the game easily to add some depth and new strategies without really adding to the complexity and I have enjoyed those so far. I love the ease and flexibility of excluding the more advanced modules for teaching the game to less experienced gamers but still being able to mix them in for a group that will see how to take advantage of the additional choices.
Not everything in the Tuscany box is a home run - a couple of the modules do seem tacked on or to cause the game to stray away from its core - but I would say 50% to 75% of the expansion modules will be used frequently in my games and I am very glad I picked it up.
Plus... Those metal coins!
This game is quickly working its way to the top of my favorites list and I probably would have passed it by if not for reviews like this singing its praises.
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- United States
- It seems to me, since this expansion is already kind of a premium item, that they should have just put the metal coins in every edition. Now the prima editions are much harder to track down at reasonable rates.
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- Jamey StegmaierUnited States
- Jimmy: Doing that would have increased the cost of Tuscany Prima to $90, which is a prohibitive cost for an expansion pack.
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- United States
jameystegmaier wrote:Jimmy: Doing that would have increased the cost of Tuscany Prima to $90, which is a prohibitive cost for an expansion pack.How is the cost that high? Meeple Source sells your Metal Lira coins at 22$ a pack, the retail price of Viticulture: Tuscany – Expand the World of Viticulture is 59.99. At least some of that 22$ is mark up so Meeple Source makes a profit. I'm sure there are other factors (ex shipping) but it seems like the highest price would be about 82$ retail.
It seems Ike if you had built the metal lira into every expansion that due to having larger production quantities of coins you would have need to pay less per coin. So in an only Prima expansion world, in theory, you'd have been able to include the coins at even less than 22$.
Also since it wouldn't have been a collector's item, like the prima is now, it wouldn't suffer as much from the scarcity prices I'm currently seeing. It would be much easier to find discounted or on sale. Likely at a price around 55$ or 60$ (maybe less) at game retailers like Coolstuff inc or Miniature Market. Which is only 5$ to 15$ more than Vanilla Tuscany generally sells for.
Jamey, do you have any plans to sell more prima editions to places like cool stuff or are the prima copies pretty much all gone and out in the wild?
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- Jamey StegmaierUnited States
Jimmy: Board game MSRPs are roughly based on 5x manufacturing cost. Tuscany Prima costs about $18.50 to make, so it would justify a $90 MSRP. It's not theory--it's a precise calculation.
Tuscany Prima was only available to retailers during the Kickstarter campaign. We have a few copies remaining for direct purchase on Amazon. When they run out, they're done. Tuscany Prima is the same as Tuscany + an external pack of metal coins, so you can buy it that way as well.
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- Joshua HUnited States
I'd love to live in a world where board games came with 72 custom metal coins for only another $5-$10. 7 to 14 cents per coin would be an absolutely amazing deal, bringing them on par with mass produced clay composite poker chips.
Sadly, in this world, that's not likely to happen. I'm not the biggest fan of the Tuscany coins (I really wish they were stackable), but $0.305 per coin is an amazingly cheap price for metal coins.
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