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Subject: 2 player strategy rss

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James Pfeiffer
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I've played about 15 games of the 2-player game (Viticulture:EE, without any other expansions) and I think I have a pretty good handle on the strategy. I saw a few strategy threads in the Viticulture and Viticulture: EE forums, but none specifically for 2-player. I think 2-player is very interesting and I've enjoyed playing it so far. It seems like there's a lot of blocking, sequencing, and figuring out what you need to do and what your opponent needs to do, and that these can change from turn to turn so you have to periodically re-evaluate what's the most important.

I found that there was essentially one strategy, and to win you need to execute best on that strategy (and draw the good visitor cards! ). Excited to hear what others think and if anyone found an alternate strategy.

Basic Strategy
The basic strategy is:
* Get a field that makes both R and W.
* Harvest it every turn, for a few turns.
* Fill enough order cards, and play some incidental visitor scoring cards, to get to 20 points first.

Things we're not looking to do, in most games:
* Build Tasting Room or Windmill.
* Build more than 1 or 2 vine cards. Ideally we draw a Pinot and just plant 1.

Opening (turns 1-3)
The important things to do early are:
* Get a R+W field planted and start harvesting it.
* Get a 3rd regular worker (4th including Grande).
* Build the Cottage.

Which order you should do these in depends on what actions are open. Since players only have 3 workers initially, actions aren't very contended for, and you do best by taking actions that are open while trying to block your opponent. You'll also need money, so taking the gain $2 / sell a field actions are useful. It's OK to sell 1 or 2 of your fields, since you need the money and we only need 1 field for harvesting. If your vines are already set, you can sell 6+7. If it looks like you'll have to plant a 3 or 4 vine, I might sell 6 first so that you have the option to play an awkward 4+3 vine setup if your next draw is another big vine.

In the early game, due to the relative lack of blocking, 1st player isn't as useful. So you don't have to take the #1 space on wakeup chart - you can take the vine card (#2) if it still matters, or else #3 (order card) to help plan out the long game. I also really like #7 (extra worker) early, as well as #5 (probably taking a yellow visitor since they are better in setup).

Mid Game (turns 3-5)
In the mid game, you're progressing your economic engine, and sculpting your hand until you have a plan to get to 20 points.
* Harvest every turn,
* Accumulate order and visitor cards (see below),
* Get incidental points (wakeup #6, filling an order, playing a scoring visitor card),
* Building medium cellar and probably large cellar.

You can also take some extra actions when you have time, such as make wine, train worker, gain $2.

At some point, you will have enough orders + visitors in hand that you have a path to 20 points in relatively few actions (say, within 2 turns). This begins the End Game, where you just want to fulfill all your scoring cards as fast as possible, and no longer do any surplus actions.

In the mid game, players usually want to go first and should take #1 in wakeup. The other player should take 1VP if they have good cards already. Otherwise, you can take an order card or a visitor card.

End Game (turns 5-7)
At this point, both players are likely set up and have possibly harvested enough times. The remaining work that needs to be done for someone to get to 20 is:
* Play some amount of visitor cards for VP.
* Fill some wine orders (including any straggler actions of harvest / make wine / build large cellar, that didn't get completed yet).

In this part of the game, virtually all the actions in summer are useless, except for Play visitor card. This should always be blocked by 1st player even if the card played is not useful, in order to stop 2nd player from playing a scoring card.

The key winter actions are highly contested: make wine, fill order, play winter visitor. Turn order is also really important, so by this point, the starting player should choose 1st in wakeup order, and the other player can do one of Order Card / Visitor Card / 1VP, depending on what they need. I usually just take the VP, since the Cottage has provided me with more visitors than I can play, and I tend to have enough order cards.

You need to be aware of what you and your opponent need to do in Winter, in order to effectively block them, and keep from getting blocked. Look at where players are in the wine cycle - do they need to make wine, or fill an order? Blocking those could be good. Choosing 'play visitor' is also a safe bet. Besides the great cards available at all stages of the game (and especially scoring cards late), there are 5 each of fill order / harvest field cards, and 10 make wine cards, in the blue visitor deck. So if you try to block 'make wine' action, there's a good chance your opponent can respond by instead making wine by playing a blue card. This could be OK on a non-final turn since it depletes their visitor card, but it could be a disaster on the last turn if you were counting on locking them out of making wine.

Note: Here's where I might be wrong about Tasting Room + Windmill being useless. If you had these, you could use 1 worker for 1 VP once or twice a year, and get more value out of the summer actions your opponent's ignoring. It still doesn't seem like you have time to get this all going, but in my next few plays I'll see if I have time to sneak a few points this way.

Misc Tips
* It's bad if you don't have anything to do in one of the two seasons. This is somewhat unavoidable late-game (nothing to do in Summer), and doesn't matter as much in the early game (not much blocking). This is important because if your entire turn has to take place in e.g. Winter, you're more subject to blocking there, while your opponent doesn't get blocked at all in Summer. It's better to take 2 actions each in Summer and Winter for 2 years, rather than year 1 = 4 Summer, year 2 = 4 Winter.

* If you'll go first on the last turn, keep a summer visitor ready to play. Ideally you'd have a good one, but make sure to keep even a useless one regardless, so you can take the spot first and block your opponent.

* When setting up your R+W field, the Pinot is the best wine (or maybe Sangiovese + Malvasia), and second best is a pair that requires you to only build one building (so a 3+1, 2+1, 2+2, or 3+3). Looking at how many of each vine are in the deck, I found it about equivalent to go for a convenient vine (takes about 2 draws to get one on average) vs having to build both irrigation + trellis ($5 and 2 actions). Currently I'm just accepting that playing 3+2 or 4+2 etc is fine, but if someone shows otherwise w/ a careful analysis I'll switch to trying to draw the right vines.

Visitor Cards
I think about these in a few categories.
* Econ / Action Advantage,
* Scoring Cards,
* Bad Cards i.e. the multiplayer-focused ones, and a few others.
Some cards have an 'OR' option that lets you choose scoring or econ. The best cards combine both action advantage and scoring. E.g., Judge discards a 4+ wine to get 3 points, whereas Bottler makes 3 wines to get 3 points (if you set it up). Both cards get 3 points but Judge sets you back and Bottler puts you way ahead! The other type of strong card is e.g. Homesteader, which gives a ridiculous action advantage when you're setting up, for a cost of 1 VP.

I have a bias to play visitor cards when I have a chance, even if I'm not fully maximizing the card's potential. The 'play visitor' space gets contested really fast, and with a Cottage out you're likely to have too many cards to play. So saving a card for later often turns into having a good card unplayed at the end of the game. I try to keep a few of the expensive scoring cards around at the end of the game (e.g. the ones that make you pay $9, or uproot+discard 2 fields), and play them on the last few turns.

It's useful to keep an action-advantage winter visitor card in reserve for when you get blocked on fill-order / make-wine. Examples of these are Jack of all trades, Crusher, etc.

The Organizer is a unique card with a situational but powerful effect. Done right, this can lock them out of not only Summer, but also most of Winter, if they were relying on a key Summer action (planting, building a Cellar). It's tempting to try and also get multiple bonuses, but I've found this is hard to set up, so don't worry about it and just go for the Organizer whenever a) they really need a Summer play, b) you can do a bunch of stuff in Winter.

Prior art
These previous articles cover related ground.
* EE strategy
* Original game strategy
* One Pinot Vine strategy (original)
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