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Subject: Impressions after trying the finished product rss

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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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I played the PnP version of Viticulture several times during the game’s Kickstarter campaign and wrote a review of it back then. This session report is a short follow up to that review, because I have now played the final version of the game.

In my review I had a disclaimer informing the reader that I had had some communications with the designer Jamey Stegmaier and thus might be considered biased. Since then I exchanged a few hundred emails with Jamey discussing game design, Kickstarters etc. and I now consider Jamey a friend and have joined The Stonemaier Games advisory board (this involves no financial interest in the company or the game). So while I of course try to be completely honest in my assessment I feel that I need to disclose the above.

While playing the PnP version I of course couldn't judge the component quality. Now that I have the final version of the game I must say that the game looks great. High component quality, the game board is gorgeous and suits the theme very well and every game token is custom made for the game in a shape that indicates what the token is for. The only exception to this is the tokens that represent grapes and wines. These are fine in the regard that they do look a bit like grapes and they are transparent, which is useful because you need to read the player mat they're placed on, but unfortunately they're a bit too large for the space set off on the player mat, so if you have lots of grapes or wines some of them will be pushed a bit off position and it becomes fiddly. There is also one sour grape about the art: One of the Kickstarter pledge levels allowed you to have your portrait incorporated into a card in the game. The problem with this is that in a few cases this have caused modern haircuts and glasses to end up in the art of a game taking place in premodern Tuscany.

After having my advance copy of Viticulture sitting around unused for too long I finally got to play it, when an old friend visited yesterday. We played the game twice just the two of us.

My friend is very prone to analysis paralysis. Actually he’s so prone to it that in our old gaming group his surname is the shouted tauntingly every time someone is taking a long time to make a move . In all fairness part of the reason is that he's simply the most intelligent guy in the group and is capable of thinking more moves ahead and weighing more options in his head than the rest of us. I also had to explain the rules, so I think we spent around four hours playing the two games.

In the first game I was the first player and went for the strategy of focusing of producing wine from the beginning while my friend instead went for the get-lots-of-workers-strategy.

Because of these choices of strategy I got ahead quickly on victory points, but then his superior numbers started to have an effect, and he began to catch up to me. We had an exciting race, where I won the turn before he would have overtaken me.

In the second game my friend was first player and he went for the produce wine fast strategy, so I needed another strategy and went for a strategy of producing very little wine and instead going for alternate VPs such as via the tasting room and the turn order track.

Towards the end I was ahead but was running out of most resources while my friend had built up stockpiles and would soon have been able to fulfill large wine orders by the bucket load. Seeing this I started a desperate end rush with my few remaining resources. The end rush worked out great leaving me basically without wine, grapes or wine orders and I made it to 23 VPs against my friends 17. However had the game gone further than that I would have been standing still rebuilding my resources while my friend would have rushed past me using his large stockpile.

We both had fun. I was reinforced in my initial rating of the game as an 8/10 (corresponding to “very good” on the BGG scale) and it didn't make it worse that the end product looks gorgeous and is up there in art and component quality with the best of the established players (pun intended) in the eurogame business.

My friend also enjoyed the game and he compared it to Puerto Rico, which was one of our absolute favorites back when we had a gaming group going.

We both agreed that Puerto Rico seemed to have a wider range of strategies and counterstrategies, but also that Viticulture has a lower barrier of entry making it easier to play with nongeeks.
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Peter Brahan
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Thanks for the session report, or "mini review" as I see it. I am anxious to get this game (in a few weeks!!!!) and can't wait for it. Your comments have reinforced my decision to back this game.
 
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Jamey Stegmaier
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Morten--Thanks so much for the riveting write-up. I'm thrilled that your friend compared it to Puerto Rico--that's quite a comparison!

One element of Viticulture you touched upon is the endgame. For those who don't know the rules, Viticulture is played in years. If someone reaches 20 victory points, the game ends at the conclusion of that year. However, a player can get up to 25 victory points (the tiebreaker is money). So you near the end of the game you might just barely be able to cross the 20-point threshold, but you don't know which wine order or visitor cards your opponent is holding, any of which might take them over 20 points. Thus, even though the points are out in the open, there is still some mystery surrounding how many points other players will end up with.

Morten, did you play with the grande worker?
 
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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amyandpeteb wrote:
Thanks for the session report, or "mini review" as I see it. I am anxious to get this game (in a few weeks!!!!) and can't wait for it. Your comments have reinforced my decision to back this game.


Hi Peter

I'm glad you found my post useful. I planned on just writing a few lines with an update to my original review, but you're right it ended up being more of a mini review .
 
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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jameystegmaier wrote:
Morten--Thanks so much for the riveting write-up. I'm thrilled that your friend compared it to Puerto Rico--that's quite a comparison![/quote]

I made the same comparison myself when I first played the games, and yes coming from my friend and I that's a lot of praise because we really like that game.

[q="jameystegmaier"]One element of Viticulture you touched upon is the endgame. For those who don't know the rules, Viticulture is played in years. If someone reaches 20 victory points, the game ends at the conclusion of that year. However, a player can get up to 25 victory points (the tiebreaker is money). So you near the end of the game you might just barely be able to cross the 20-point threshold, but you don't know which wine order or visitor cards your opponent is holding, any of which might take them over 20 points. Thus, even though the points are out in the open, there is still some mystery surrounding how many points other players will end up with.


Thanks for adding that remark, it's important for understanding my two short session reports if you don't already know the game.

jameystegmaier wrote:
Morten, did you play with the grande worker?


No, we played the core game only. For the first game my friend played we wanted to start without the expansion, and for the second game we were running out of time, so we didn't have time for me to reread and explain the expansion rules (I don't remember them well enough to play without a reread).
 
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Matt Smith
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In one of my gaming groups there is a guy named Josh, who is extremely intelligent, but prone to AP. Whenever someone is taking to long (looks in the mirror), we all say "we're waiting on Josh!"
 
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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mvettemagred wrote:
In one of my gaming groups there is a guy named Josh, who is extremely intelligent, but prone to AP. Whenever someone is taking to long (looks in the mirror), we all say "we're waiting on Josh!"


That sounds familiar .
 
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James Cheng
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mortenmdk wrote:
mvettemagred wrote:
In one of my gaming groups there is a guy named Josh, who is extremely intelligent, but prone to AP. Whenever someone is taking to long (looks in the mirror), we all say "we're waiting on Josh!"


That sounds familiar .


I haven't encounter any AP problem with my four plays, mostly because the only veteran player (ie: me) never has such problem, and the moves are generally pretty straight forward.
 
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Morten Monrad Pedersen
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eunoia wrote:
mortenmdk wrote:
mvettemagred wrote:
In one of my gaming groups there is a guy named Josh, who is extremely intelligent, but prone to AP. Whenever someone is taking to long (looks in the mirror), we all say "we're waiting on Josh!"


That sounds familiar .


I haven't encounter any AP problem with my four plays, mostly because the only veteran player (ie: me) never has such problem, and the moves are generally pretty straight forward.


My AP problem wasn't caused by Viticulture, but by my friend .
 
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