The Viticulture World board game, published by Stonemaier Games, expands the original Viticulture into a cooperative experience emphasizing global influence and the shared goal of making superb wines.
Viticulture World is designed by Mihir Shah and Francesco Testini. Each game features an Event deck tailored to specific regions of the world, and each offers its own unique take on the industry of viticulture. If you’ve ever seen Alan Rickman and Chris Pine in the movie Bottle Shock, you know that wine-making regions are quite particular about their history.
What do we think about Viticulture World? Let’s check it out – with or without the cheese!
Viticulture World Gameplay
Viticulture World is played using many of the same components as the base game of Viticulture. Over time, Viticulture has been re-released as Viticulture: Essential Edition, later followed by the Tuscany Expansion. Viticulture World can be played with the Structures from Tuscany, along with any set of Visitors cards that you want to use.
For information on the base game of Viticulture, check out our review of the base game.
Although the board may look a bit different, the core gameplay of Viticulture World is quite similar to what you’re familiar with. Over the course of several years, players will be placing their workers into action spaces in Summer and Winter. This will allow them to plant grapevines, harvest fields to make grapes, convert those grapes into wine, and eventually sell that wine and spin a profit.
Notable additions to the gameplay are the aforementioned Event Deck. At the beginning of each year, the top card of the Event Deck is flipped which will provide some kind of modifier for the current year. This might mean granting access to a new action space or it might give another benefit. There’s a helpful introductory deck included with the game that introduces the new concepts of the game, and it’s a really good starting point for learning the ropes.
There are also Innovation tiles in the form of rectangles and ovals. These can be placed to enhance action spaces in the form of providing a better effect or by expanding a space to accommodate more workers while supplying a bonus to trained workers.
Which brings me to hats! There are yellow and blue hats that fit snugly over the top of your worker meeples. When a meeple has a hat, they are a seasonal worker. This means they can only be placed on actions in seasons that match the hat – blue hats can be placed in Winter and yellow hats can be placed in Summer. Instead of recruiting workers during the game, you can train your workers so they can be used in any season.
The last major change in Viticulture World is the Influence track. This is a separate tracker that measures the collective progress of all players. After all, if one of us succeeds, we all succeed! Since the game is cooperative, you’ll need to coordinate who is spending coin to help bump that Influence up.
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Viticulture World!
Everything that comes in the box with Viticulture World meshes precisely with the other components from the base game. Even if you’re mashing three different games together, it’s all seamless.
The best example of this are the little silicone hats for the worker meeples. I’ve heard some people say that the meeples don’t stand upright or that the hats don’t stay on well, but I didn’t have any bad experiences there. My hats fit snugly on the little worker heads.
I also appreciate that the innovation tiles are cardboard. You’re moving them a lot more than you think, and they would be taking a beating if they were just cards. Between moving meeples on top of them and swapping the unused ones every turn, the tiles are constantly moving. Cardboard means that they’ll be able to take it in stride.
It’s also worthwhile to note that Stonemaier included replacement cards for some of the visitors from the base game. These have a black border, indicating that they’re incompatible with Viticulture World. So, once you swap out those cards with the new borders, you only have to worry about managing a single deck, which is nice.
Being a cooperative game, Viticulture World really relies on open communication between the players. Placing your grande worker on a space where another player already has a meeple allows you to trade goods with them. This is something that you’ll want to do often, especially when it comes to the wine order cards. It turns those dead cards into playables for someone else.
Another key strategy is that you’ll want to be buying those innovation tiles. The earlier that you pick them up, the more long-term benefits that you’ll reap from their bonuses. Viticulture has always been about tough choices, because there’s always one more action that you want to do that you just don’t have a worker for. These innovation tiles add another layer to this because now you have to choose between better actions or bonuses. Oh, the humanity!
Per the usual, Viticulture World forces you to optimize and streamline your actions, or else you won’t be able to win the game. It’s a delicate balance between planting grapevines and turning them into wine. Add in the fact that you’re doing it with other people collectively, and the pressure is suddenly turned up to 11.
Again, the aesthetics of Viticulture World blend perfectly with the base game of Viticulture. The depictions on the Event cards are especially well-done, and help to encapsulate the global feel of the game. Plus the introduction deck is all set in the world of Charterstone. Crossovers unite!
The little hats are sure to turn heads as people walk by, making them wonder if they’re truly seeing meeples with accessories. It’s a trend that is just starting to catch on, and I anticipate us seeing more meeples decked out in bling as the years go on.
My only gripe with the design decision is that the text on the actions and innovation tiles doesn’t stand out as much as I’d prefer. It sort of blends in with the background, meaning that you might need to focus a little longer to read it than normal. It’s not unreadable, just not easily readable.
Viticulture World is obviously designed for people that already love Viticulture. I can’t think of many examples where a cooperative game is actually an add-on for an existing game, although I’m sure there are plenty of examples that I’m just not familiar with. This makes Viticulture World something of an investment if you’re starting from ground zero, because you need to pick up the base game on top of it.
At the same time, I’m likely going to be playing the Viticulture World version of the game going forwards. For one, it actually got my wife to sit down to a game, which is a huge win since Viticulture isn’t typically a type of game she’s interested in. But the cooperative aspect is a really big draw for her! I think we could actually play the base game now that she’s familiar with how it all works.
I also recommend Viticulture World if you like challenging cooperative games. Even the introductory scenario can be tough, even though it feels like you’re getting ample opportunity and every advantage to win. Keep in mind that basically everybody needs to get up to 25 points, though, which isn’t always happening in the base game. That’s where the challenge comes in, and then it’s amplified by the Influence track requirement.
With a variety of event decks, Viticulture World has plenty to keep you occupied and entertained in the world of Viticulture.
My main takeaway on the vibes that Viticulture World provides, is that it still gives you that same feeling of mid-game helplessness that I always get from the base game. I’m always looking at the scores around Year 4 thinking that there’s no way I’m going to pull this off, and then a switch flips and the scores start rolling in.
That same tension is felt in Viticulture World, and I absolutely love that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s frustrating to feel helpless as the endgame approaches, but the good feeling that comes from turning the corner is a real rush!
Because it’s cooperative, Viticulture World also gives you that sense of sharing information and knowledge across vineyards. You want your fellow vintners to succeed so that you can win the game, and there’s a lot of collaboration around which actions people can take to ensure everybody makes progress every season.
Viticulture World: Bring More Cheese!
Viticulture World hits the table many years after the initial Viticulture release and it seriously invigorates the game. It’s an addition that is worthy of the time to dust off your copy from the shelf and give it some new love!
For that reason, and because Viticulture World elevates Viticulture to new heights, we are awarding Viticulture World with our very own Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness award! The game allows us to clink our glasses and toast our successes year after year.
You can pick up Viticulture World from Stonemaier Games directly, or from your FLGS!
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some grapes to stomp!
Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Viticulture World from Stonemaier Games in exchange for an honest review.