We were kindly gifted Viticulture World for review by Stonemaier games, a cooperative expansion to the base game Viticulture. In this review, we will focus solely on Viticulture World, but if you would like more info on the base game, please follow the link HERE. In the cooperative expansion, players will work together while trying to become prestigious in different parts of the world. You will take all the knowledge you have from Viticulture and try to expand upon it while working together for a common goal. All players must reach 25 points, and the prestige token must reach the end of its track to win.
Viticulture World requires the base game in order to play but has a significant amount of pieces and components that make it feel as though it is a completely new game. Meeples, markers, and cards are the only pieces from the base game that you will need. It also works with other Viticulture expansions. However, we did not play with any other expansions. Viticulture World includes a new game board with an altered layout, new cards, continent cards (a sort of story mode), hats for your meeples (more on this in a bit), and introduces innovation tiles and events.
Setup is almost identical to the original Viticulture but will depend upon your player count, any expansions you want to include, and it introduces the difficulty scaling of continent cards. Continent cards are an interesting and inventive way to include a sort of campaign to the game. No longer will you be playing in a mysteriously located winery. Now you will decide upon your difficulty with different regions of the world you choose to play in and learn a few things about the history of wine in the region. As you progress through the deck, you travel through time and go through a journey together as events in history unfold. Perhaps you will earn more prestige if you decide to limit alcohol production during the United States’ prohibition era or maybe if all players are able to hire a worker you will earn more prestige during an economic boom. Events and locations are marked by the cute red bell token that comes with the expansion and the inclusion of this simple token serves as a reminder of what bounty (or scarcity) is at the location and round. The continent cards for Viticulture World also include a great nod to another great Stonemaier game, Charterstone! You can learn how to play on the introductory level with the Greengully continent cards. You can also read our review of Charterstone HERE if you have not played it and would like a bit of context. You will place 1 of your workers on the prestige map (which will get you bonuses as you earn prestige) and place 2 blue hats and 2 yellow hats on 4 different workers. So you will start with 4 small workers with hats and your grande worker. To finish setup, you will include innovation tiles and set up the event deck (which consists of the continent cards).
Turns are slightly different than the original Viticulture but just different enough to make it feel like you are playing a new game. First players will select their wake-up positions, which are now in the form of a dial with two concentric areas. These two areas will allow you to collect a one-time bonus (per year) at the beginning of each year and a second bonus at the beginning of fall. The second bonus is a choice of a card of your choice, 2 lira (the game’s currency) or aging 1 grape token. It is a handy choice to be able to make that decision mid-turn as it makes it easy to better plan last-minute decisions. Worker placement is nearly identical, except for the addition of seasonal workers. Remember the blue and yellow hats we placed during setup? Well, now the workers wearing blue can only work during winter and the workers with the yellow hats can only work during the summer. Seasonal workers cannot earn any bonuses associated with locations. The grande worker can be placed anywhere, including already filled spaces, just like the base game. Instead of training a worker to gain a new meeple, your seasonal workers are upgraded to trained workers, and their hats are removed, allowing them to be placed on either summer or winter. Trained workers can also earn any location bonuses. Training workers can benefit your game strategy by allowing you to focus more on summer or winter actions in a round where needed.
Spaces are nearly identical in terms of usage to the base game with a few changes and a few new spots. During summer you can now pay one to gain one. You can discard 2 cards/3 lira/1 victory point/1 grape token and exchange it for any of the others. (i.e. you can discard 1 victory point and gain 2 cards or 3 lira or 1 grape token.) Another summer action that is exclusive to Viticulture World is the Innovation markers. These markers serve to give you additional bonuses whenever a specific action is used. At the start of each year, new innovation tiles are drawn and placed on the board and using the Innovation space during your turn (and paying any costs associated with it) a specific tile can be upgraded so that instead of taking the basic action, it will now give you an altered version that gives you a bonus in some way.
Rectangular innovations alter the rule slightly such as allowing you to plant 2 vines instead of just 1. Oval innovations give you a bonus (if written) or another space’s bonus (if it has an arrow, it will get the bonus it is pointed at even if it’s another season) AND will also allow any number of workers to be placed. Using innovation tiles early in the game is recommended as you will gain better actions and bonuses throughout play.
As you play the game, you must communicate any plans to other players, as the game is cooperative. All players must meet the win conditions or all players lose. There will be ways to earn prestige as the game progresses. For example, on the North American continent, every time you earn prestige, you move your meeple on the Frame Track along a selected path. You immediately earn the bonus when you are on the spot that indicates the bonus. Some are one time only, and others last as long as you are on the space. When you reach the end of the map, you may take the trained worker and add it to your player mat as a bonus worker.
Language Barrier Playability: Not good. The game requires a lot of translation and requires constant communication in order to progress. The game is playable but would require translators to be working the entire time.
Replayability: Good. With varying levels of difficulty and a multitude of cards to select from and a modular board (while using the innovations) the game will feel different each playthrough.
Artwork: Great. Nearly identical to the base game in terms of what is included but adds new artwork to cards. The game also adds a bit of Charterstone flair!
Quality: Excellent. The pieces are painted well, the hats are easily removable and sturdy, the gameboard is well made. As always, Stonemaier Games have great quality materials and components.
Strategy: Complex. This game is complicated and requires a lot of communication to be successful. However, usually about mid-game you can tell whether or not you will win. This can also change your strategy which complicates things further.
Instruction Manual: Good. The manual wastes no time telling you the parts that have changed and what has stayed the same. It presents new rules and examples clearly and has a clarifications page for any parts that may have been missed. It did take a few readthroughs to remember what parts were from the base game vs the expansion since it had been awhile since we’d played Viticulture.
Organization: Excellent. Stonemaier does a great job of organizing their components and making the focus of their games the gameplay itself instead of setup.