It’s like Scythe but older and better.
Viticulture came out in 2013 and it was developed by Stonemaier Games. That’s the same company behind the hit diesel punk game Scythe! Viticulture sees you being in charge of a vineyard in Italy as you try to amass 20 abstract victory points.
You’re going to be planting vines, harvesting grapes, and turning them into a variety of wines. You’re going to be upgrading your vineyard too; adding a tasting room to increase the effectiveness of the tours you give to visitors, building a yoke, or irrigating your fields.
That’s great but what’s the core mechanic? It’s worker placement and boy is it tight. Each action, like planting vines or giving tours has a number of slots. You can only place workers in there if there’s a slot available (there’s a Grande worker which ignores this). In a two player game there’s only one slot per action. There will be groans on the first turn when you sneakily go out to get more vines before your friends.
How do you decide on who gets to go first? We’ll there’s a coooooool thing called the Wake Up Track, players are going to place a token on the the track to determine the order. Different areas of the track will give you different bonuses. So if you want to be the absolute first person to go, you can get the #1 slot with no extra actions, the last slot can give you an extra worker for the entire year! DECISIONS MUST BE MADE.
There are seasons too! You didn’t imagine that summer would last forever did you? Spring is the phase where you decide on turn order. In summer you’ll plant vines and give tours. In autumn you’ll draw some cards. In winter you’ll make wine! Importantly your meeples have to last you the entire year, if you use all your workers in summer then they’ll be knackered so you wont get anything done in Winter! MORE DECISIONS.
But why is this better than Scythe? Well there’s immediately conflict, but it’s not framed as a head to head battle to the death but more of a friendly competition which seems to go down well well with the people I’ve played with. The conflict has winners and losers but the loser isn’t totally screwed. In Scythe when your workers get attacked or your mechs destroyed they get transported back to the start and they’ll take an age to get back into the action. There’s none of that slog in Viticulture.
The theme is just so much nicer than the oppressive grind in Sycthe. I understand that’s the point of Scythe but I’d much rather have a glass of wine with Viticulture than a shot of vodka with Scythe.
Viticulture also goes to 6 players out of the box! Scythe with its miniatures requires you to buy an expansion to get to 6-7 player. Did I mention how compact the Viticulture box is? It’s so dense and packed with content where as the Scythe box is huge but somehow still feeling quite empty.
One negative aspect is the UI of the player tableau. Scythe has nice slots for the tokens, each of which has a very distinctive design. Viticultures tokens are all very similar and quite confusing, and without the slots of Scythe it gets a bit confusing as to what token represents your cottage vs your medium cellar.
If you don’t have either, buy Viticulture. If you don’t have Scythe, buy Viticulture. If you have Viticulture, play Viticulture.