Carlos Brito
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I'd like to discuss here something strange I found out about this game when played with more than 2 people. As I haven't played many times, there may be something I'm missing, so I decided to explain the fact and ask the opinion of people with more gameplays in their bags than myself.

What I call the orthodox way to win VEE is to build as quickly as possible an engine to perform in the most efficient and profitable way the following linked sequence of actions: plant vines-harvest grapes-make wines-fulfill wine orders. I'll call the players who cling to this orthodox way to win the "wine producers" in my description below.

In my 3rd game of VEE, one of my friends that was playing for the first time, came with an alternative strategy that made him the winner. I explain what he did.

1) In the order of players selection (wake-up phase) he always went to the space that gave him 1 VP benefit. He didn't get much competition here. In the beginning of the game the wine producers were all occupied in getting other bonuses (extra worker, vine card, money, etc). In the end they were more worried about being the first to play, so there was never much dispute about this benefit. That gave him 1 VP practically every round.

2) He kept selling and buying the same field whenever he could grab the 1 VP bonus of this action. In the very beginning it was not so easy, because the wine producers were also trying to sell one of their fields to get some ready money but after that, that action space was almost not used. Wine producers didn't want to sell more than 1 field, they didn't have money to buy that field back, and they didn't sell grapes, they were saving the grapes to make wines. So this space was also practically giving him 1 VP every round. Eventually it may have been necessary to build at least the trellis to give him more vine options.

3) He started with or very quickly bought the windwill. So, everytime planted a vine once per round he scored 1 VP. He went for the worst vines, because for those he didn't need irrigation or trellis and because the field could accept more of those cards, so he could use the plant vine action more times along the game. Although wine producers also looked for that action often at the beginning, after a few rounds they also tended to let this action space unhindered, after their fields had already a reasonable set of vines.

4) Next, he built the tasting house and produced a very cheap wine. With that wine in his cellar, he scored 1 VP once per round everytime he gave a tour to visitors, what he tried to do every round. He may have to sell a 2nd field to get money to buy those buidings quickly. But he was quickly able to buy it back because he was trying to get money from the vine tours every round.

5) He *NEVER* delivered a wine along the whole game.

This way, without needing many workers, he was very soon earning 3-4 VPs every round. The wine producers were occupied building their wine engines without much profit at first and he gained a considerable lead.
In the end they were making more VPs per round than him (not much more though) but as he had already a lead, they couldn't reach him in time.

That friend of mine argued that he adopted that strategy because he saw what in his opinion was a flaw in the game. The wine-engine of the wine producers requires a lot of effort to build and in the end doesn't give so many vps per round. Isolated VPs could be earned alternatively on the board almost without effort. And 1 VP is a lot, because the total VP count to win is very low, merely 20.

This was frustrating. How could in a wine producing game a player win without having to produce and sell wines at all? It seemed anti-thematic.

Last weekend I made an experience. I assembled the game and played 3 3-player games in a row, with myself playing as all the 3 players. 1 player went for that no-wine strategy and the other 2 were wine producers. The wine producers didn't try deliberately to block the action spaces of the other player. To my amazement the wine producers lost all 3 games! In those games I tried to build the wine-engines of the wine producers with different numbers of workers, but still with any number of workers they lost all games.

I understand that I may be a novice playing in a sub-optimal way, so because of that I came here to ask for opinions.

I also understant that this "no-wine strategy" only can become a winner if only one player goes for it. If 2 players begin to dispute the 1 VP wake-up space and the 1 VP sell/buy field action space the wine producers will have the edge. It seemed to me a small consolation nonethless.
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A C
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Whereas all this may be true, I wonder how much fun he had playing the game.

Our games usually end within 7 years. This means that it'd be quite difficult to actually do it all each year. It's also an easy strategy to block, since there are only a few spots on the board that are actually beneficial to him.
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Roel van der Hoorn
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brito wrote:
The wine producers didn't try deliberately to block the action spaces of the other player. To my amazement the wine producers lost all 3 games!


Ehm, how is this amazing? Of course if you don't block other players, you lose!

You want to win? Block other players. It's part of the game!
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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brito wrote:
Last weekend I made an experience. I assembled the game and played 3 3-player games in a row, with myself playing as all the 3 players. 1 player went for that no-wine strategy and the other 2 were wine producers. The wine producers didn't try deliberately to block the action spaces of the other player. To my amazement the wine producers lost all 3 games! In those games I tried to build the wine-engines of the wine producers with different numbers of workers, but still with any number of workers they lost all games.

I understand that I may be a novice playing in a sub-optimal way, so because of that I came here to ask for opinions.


I appreciate the open and honest way you ask this question - it sets an example on how to go about such topics, so thank you for that.

As stated by RvdH blocking is a major part of Viticulture, so if you let one player free to pursue one strategy without being blocked while the two others pursue the same strategy and thus blocking each other, then the player who has his strategy to himself is exceedingly likely to win.

Try to turn the experiemnt on its head and let two players play the no-wine strategy and one player play the wine strategy without the other players interfering with him. You're very likely to get the completely opposite result.

The (almost)-no-wine strategy is very dependent on the number of years the game lasts. The longer the better and thus it works much better for beginners than experienced players who'll end the game in 6-7 years.

As for theme (which is also something that is very important to me), then I see the (almost)-no-wine strategy as a vineyard that operates as a tourist attraction instead of as a real vineyard.

Hope this makes sense.

Disclosure: I work for the publisher of Viticulture.
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
You want to win? Block other players. It's part of the game!



I think this is the key point. It’s not a simulation, but a strategy game. So, sticking to a solitaire “theme” strategy in a multi-player game is just poor play.

You try to use all the options the game gives you to win, not to make the best wine or sell the best wine. Getting the most points is the object.

I’ve seen all sorts of strategies win, which I think is the hallmark of a balanced game. I won a game in which I think I sold one wine the whole game. I got points from a bunch of cards. I had a card that gave me points for every building I built, so I built them all. Then there were little points from cards that added up.

If the sure path to victory was to buy and sell wines, it would be a pretty boring game, in my opinion.

I should note that I have only played the Essential version once. All my other plays have been at groups and conventions with the Tuscany expansion and God knows what other ones…some games seemed like the kitchen sink. So some options may be close depending on what expansions you have.

Still, I would say that as a game, it is a good thing you can win without just selling wines.

Kevin
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Carlos Brito
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RvdH83 wrote:
brito wrote:
The wine producers didn't try deliberately to block the action spaces of the other player. To my amazement the wine producers lost all 3 games!


Ehm, how is this amazing? Of course if you don't block other players, you lose!

You want to win? Block other players. It's part of the game!


The problem here is: if a wine producer spends a worker just to block the action of the no-wine player doing something that is alien to his wine-engine, he loses an action, loses his place in the order of play and may give an edge to other wine producers.

For example, at the end of the game, he is no longer interested in buying/selling field or grapes, so if he goes to the sell/field action space it will be just to grab the 1 VP, blocking that space to the no-wine player but allowing one more action to the other wine producers.

As I see, the wine producers would have to negotiate among themselves to play in a somewhat cooperative way against the no-wine player. That seems also strange to me.

The Giving tours space to earn the Tasting House VP and the plant vine spaces to earn the windmill VP are harder to block because you'd have to block all action spaces and in the end of the game wine producers don't have much interest in those spaces. As I see, once the wine engines are reasonably assembled the wine producers actions tend to shift from summer to the winter actions. The no-wine player actions, however, tend to concentrate on the summer actions along the whole game, so at the end he sees little or no competition for space and it's very hard to block him.
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AernoutMJC wrote:
Whereas all this may be true, I wonder how much fun he had playing the game.


Not much. He won but didn't like the game and that's exactly the whole point. My whole experiment was to try to prove him wrong.

Many eurogames involve building a VP engine. Normally the logic is that you spend your actions at the beginning buiding your engine and not scoring many VPs. At the end, you use your engine to score more VPs and so you surpass players who went straight to score VPs directly too soon.

The realization that VEE could not fit in this pattern left something of a sour taste in my mouth.

So it's not just a matter of theme. Of course, in the end you realize that he also built an engine (windmill/Tasting house were part of it). His machine, however, was too simple to assemble and seemed to have not much relation to the theme of the game.
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mortenmdk wrote:
As for theme (which is also something that is very important to me), then I see the (almost)-no-wine strategy as a vineyard that operates as a tourist attraction instead of as a real vineyard.



Having visited wine country in California (Napa, Sonoma...), I can attest to the fact that there are wineries doing exactly this. I won't name any names, though. whistle

Regarding the notion brought up by brito that collusion among the wine producers against the no-wine player... This, too, could be highly thematic. The wineries would not want a "mere" tourist winery soaking up visitors and presumably negative attention, thereby hurting their collective enterprise. One no-wine winery could be seen as hurting the reputation of the area, which in turn hurts individual wineries. As such, they could work together against the interest of the no-wine winery. Personally, I see this as a very reasonable thematic interpretation. ymmv
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Chris Laudermilk
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I came to make the point the Cory just did.

His path to victory seems to be perfectly thematic to me. He simply chose to run a vineyard rather than a winery. The fact that you have multiple paths to victory is part of what makes this game so interesting & re-playable to me.
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Alan
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coryke wrote:
mortenmdk wrote:
As for theme (which is also something that is very important to me), then I see the (almost)-no-wine strategy as a vineyard that operates as a tourist attraction instead of as a real vineyard.



Having visited wine country in California (Napa, Sonoma...), I can attest to the fact that there are wineries doing exactly this. I won't name any names, though. whistle



And in Brazil you can find some examples too..
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Chris Plumlee
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I see what you guys are saying about theme, but selling and buying a field back every turn you are able is not thematic at all.
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Chris Plumlee
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I just had an idea about this. What if the wine producers simply took the one victory point slot in the spring (chicken phase) every opportunity? Would this alone disrupt the non wine producers strategy enough?

Doing this is not that much of a deviation in strategy for the wine producer.
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Well, the problem you describe is the same most worker placement games suffer from. If one person gets to do exactly what they want, they will win. Especially if you're fighting to do what you want to do to win.

In general, all worker placement games have a checks and balance system in place to help alleviate the ability for the person to do exactly what they want. But no one decided to look at what the other person was doing and fight them for it.

The question becomes, what route did you take in your test games for the wine engine players? Did you use a lot of visitor cards? Or did you stick to just board actions to build your engine... because visitor cards can totally turn the tide if you get the right ones.

Not to mention, the strategy has to change at 4, 5, or 6 players. And if you're playing on the Tuscany board...you've got other things going on.

So, is the strategy viable? Sure. But it's not guaranteed. It's the most consistent, but not exactly the fastest way, either.
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Carlos Brito
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plumbob72 wrote:
I just had an idea about this. What if the wine producers simply took the one victory point slot in the spring (chicken phase) every opportunity? Would this alone disrupt the non wine producers strategy enough?

Doing this is not that much of a deviation in strategy for the wine producer.


That would be less damaging to the wine producer, for sure. But I believe it would be damaging nonethless. Because when the wine engine is ready, it's important to be first in turn order to get the bonus benefit of harvesting an extra field or producing one more wine and to prevent being prematurely blocked in those action spaces. If the wine producer goes to the VP space in the Spring phase, then he'll be the last in playing order because that space is very low in the action selection order.

Once again, the wine producers would have to play in a cooperative way, making sure that one of them would always pick that bonus before the no-wine player have the chance to do so. If only one of them consistently tries to pick it, then I believe he would be always at disadvantage in turn order when compared with the other wine producers, what could be a severe handicap to him. Besides, other bonuses, like a wine order card at the end or a vine card or extra worker at the beginning or even a visitor card could be more of the interest of a wine-engine player than the isolated VP.
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rokkon wrote:

The question becomes, what route did you take in your test games for the wine engine players? Did you use a lot of visitor cards? Or did you stick to just board actions to build your engine... because visitor cards can totally turn the tide if you get the right ones.

Not to mention, the strategy has to change at 4, 5, or 6 players. And if you're playing on the Tuscany board...you've got other things going on.


Visitor cards - all players tried to use visitor cards equally. In my tests everyone only got one card every Fall round - nobody tried to get the cottage and usually no one tried to get one more in Spring phase. If those cards were good, they were played, otherwise discarded.

I admit the luck of the draw is great with the visitor cards (but it is so with the other cards as well), but as in my test the non-wine player won 3 times in a row against 2 other players, I think the effect of the visitor cards wasn't decisive or the non-wine player was extremely lucky and I don't remember that being so.

Of course I didn't try (with the wine producers) the strategy to try to increase the flow of visitor cards (by getting the cottage or trying to get a visitor card in the Spring more often) to try to get some advantage of it.

However in the real game where I lost to that friend of mine, I remember that I began the game with the cottage, and ended far behind in the score even with it.

Number of players - I also didn't explore that much. I tend to think that the main difference is if you play with an odd or an even number of players, because with an odd number of players you add one more player and add one more action space. With an even number you add 2 more players and still only one new action space, so the game should be more tight. I don't believe the game would be that different if you increase from 3 to 5 players, but it would change much if you increase from 3 to 4 players. But of course I may be wrong.

Anyway, in the real game my friend won we were 5 players. I felt the non-wine strategy didn't change much when I made the tests with 3 players. I chose to test 3 players games because it would be more boring to me and it would take more time to simulate a greater number of players.

But of course, I'm more than ready to pay attention if someone writes that my test failed only because I was playing with 3 players and things would be different with more players, as far as a reason to that is provided.
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Ulisses
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Hi Carlos. It is a feasible strategy, but all have to conspire in favor. Probably will only work where the players do not yet know the game.

Usually the game ends up to 7 years. (My last 8 games ended with 6 years).

The example below shows 20 points in six years, but you need a lot of luck and still get Mama Megan (2 green cards) and Papa Jerry (Windmill)



But it is sooooo difficult to do it because any experienced player can see what are you doing and steal your points. Even if they don't care about you the option of sell one field to get 1 point is very interesting in "regular" strategy.
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plumbob72 wrote:
I see what you guys are saying about theme, but selling and buying a field back every turn you are able is not thematic at all.


If you think of it as one field being sold and rebought, it really stretches the theme. But if you think of it as selling a plot and buying a comparably sized plot on a different corner of you winery (or heck, not even connected), I could see this as part of the theme. A bit of a stretch, but I wouldn't say it is completely contrary to the theme.

In any case, it's close enough for me to be viable thematically. If someone thinks it stretches the theme too far, who am I to say they're wrong? A house rule could limit the sell-rebuy action to once per field if that helps.
 
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Proglin wrote:
Hi Carlos. It is a feasible strategy, but all have to conspire in favor. Probably will only work where the players do not yet know the game.

Usually the game ends up to 7 years. (My last 8 games ended with 6 years).

The example below shows 20 points in six years, but you need a lot of luck and still get Mama Megan (2 green cards) and Papa Jerry (Windmill)



But it is sooooo difficult to do it because any experienced player can see what are you doing and steal your points. Even if they don't care about you the option of sell one field to get 1 point is very interesting in "regular" strategy.


In fact, though I didn't enter in such degree of detail, in my tests the non-wine player trained one more worker, so he could perform more actions per round than shown in your spreadsheet. With the 4th action he could eventually get more vine cards, build structures or play a visitor card, and that worker did help to produce the wine to make the Tasting House effective, so maybe he was able to speed things up a bit more, I think.

I admit I didn't count how many rounds the games lasted, however.

That info would have been important.
 
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Jeff K
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I'm going to echo what Ulisses says.

My group has played this game an awful lot. We've seen lots of paths to victory, but there is not one that looks unbeatable.

I am deeply skeptical that this strategy is unbeatable. Also, you are incorrect, VP is 25 for game end, not 20. That's going to make a huge difference when you are only getting 1 or 2 at a time.

Our games now tend to end up close to 35 - 40VP, with nobody less than 30. People are very, very good at maximizing. I don't think this strategy would be able to compete at our table. If the game went more than 5 or 6 turns, this would easily lose. I do not think by doing this action you can get 25 VP before 6 turns, and after 6 turns, you would need over 35 to guarantee a win.

EDIT: OOPs, I misread this, I thought you had Tuscany involved. That would likely solve your issues, get Tuscany!!!

Sorry, Carlos!!
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Xookliba wrote:

EDIT: OOPs, I misread this, I thought you had Tuscany involved. That would likely solve your issues, get Tuscany!!!

Sorry, Carlos!!


Hi,

That's important info. I never played the original Viticulture or the Tuscany expansion.

I've heard that they included elements of the Tuscany expansion in the Essential Edition (to correct some issues with the original base game?) but I don't know what are they.

Do you really think that the Tuscany expansion has elements that "adjust" this feature of the game?

Or is it just a matter to increase the winning score?

Because I believe that increasing the winning score would really make the non-wine strategy uneffective. If given more time, I believe the wine-engines of the wine producers would easily beat the non-wine strategy. But the game would last longer.
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Jeff K
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No, it makes it a very different game. The extended board has many different ways to gather VPs.

For one, you can go "half-in" to a wine strategy, where you simply sell individual wine tokens out of your cellar, for low VPs. 1VP white or red, 2VP blush, 4VP sparkling

You can also do the trade one for one action, which has: 3lira; two cards; 1VP; 1 grape token, which are all interchangeable.

There is the small area control map which provides VP at game end. Also, the structures in Tuscany structure expansion give VP to build, and many provide VP for use.

But many also have private use which allow you to get around the restriction of competing for spots on the board, so you can never be truly sure to completely block someone out in the way you describe.

Lots of big differences, makes it a really meaty game, IMO.

EDIT: plus the higher VP count for a win, as you describe. But as you can see, it is not the only factor. Also, I think the only elements in VEE is Mamas and Papas and more visitor cards? Not completely sure, as I never played the old edition, but I think that is right. the variable start of the M&P may have some impact on the no-wine strategy, but I can't be sure.
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plumbob72 wrote:
I see what you guys are saying about theme, but selling and buying a field back every turn you are able is not thematic at all.

For years, Sea Smoke Vineyard sold pinot noir grapes from a specified plot of land to Foxen Winery (which made me happy). Recently, Sea Smoke Vineyard stopped selling these grapes to Foxen Winery so it could start selling them as Sea Smoke Wines (which made me sad).

So if you think of it in terms of selling grapes from your vineyard rather than selling the vineyard itself, then this is perfectly thematic as it happens all the time. It's called vineyard leasing. Ok, so we're talking about leasing rather than selling, but still....
 
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Xookliba wrote:
Also, you are incorrect, VP is 25 for game end, not 20. That's going to make a huge difference when you are only getting 1 or 2 at a time.

No, actually that is incorrect. End-game trigger is 20VP. The current edition of the game (EE) simply ends the VP track at 25. So, you can win at 20 if nobody else gets to 21.
 
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claudermilk wrote:
Xookliba wrote:
Also, you are incorrect, VP is 25 for game end, not 20. That's going to make a huge difference when you are only getting 1 or 2 at a time.

No, actually that is incorrect. End-game trigger is 20VP. The current edition of the game (EE) simply ends the VP track at 25. So, you can win at 20 if nobody else gets to 21.


Check again, I thought he was playing with Tuscany.
 
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Xookliba wrote:
claudermilk wrote:
Xookliba wrote:
Also, you are incorrect, VP is 25 for game end, not 20. That's going to make a huge difference when you are only getting 1 or 2 at a time.

No, actually that is incorrect. End-game trigger is 20VP. The current edition of the game (EE) simply ends the VP track at 25. So, you can win at 20 if nobody else gets to 21.


Check again, I thought he was playing with Tuscany.


Not that I see:

brito wrote:
Xookliba wrote:

EDIT: OOPs, I misread this, I thought you had Tuscany involved. That would likely solve your issues, get Tuscany!!!

Sorry, Carlos!!


Hi,

That's important info. I never played the original Viticulture or the Tuscany expansion.

I've heard that they included elements of the Tuscany expansion in the Essential Edition (to correct some issues with the original base game?) but I don't know what are they.

Do you really think that the Tuscany expansion has elements that "adjust" this feature of the game?

Or is it just a matter to increase the winning score?

Because I believe that increasing the winning score would really make the non-wine strategy uneffective. If given more time, I believe the wine-engines of the wine producers would easily beat the non-wine strategy. But the game would last longer.
 
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