In this 2 to 5 player game about making wine, you play a relative of a recently deceased viticulturist who has left his entire estate to the one relative (player) who can collect the right combination of grapes to make the best wine. Seems like a very mean ‘last will’ to me but let’s carry on with this great game in a tiny box. Let's jump into La Vina!
Depending on the number of players you set up the modular board, shuffle the grape cards and make a face-down pile. Then hand each player 2 basic starting baskets (one with 2 capacity and the other with 3 capacity), each player also receives a grape picker card and meeple of the same colour.
Place all of the prestige tokens (points) in the middle of the table, hand each player the required number of barrels and place the required number of tools in the middle of the table. Then place two grape cards face up at the top and bottom of each square on the board with the bottom card only showing the grape variety and number. Also, place the required number of upgraded baskets in the middle of the table.
The modular board is made up of squares with 2 spaces in each. Only 1 meeple can occupy a space at any time (therefore 2 meeples to a square) and any time you move your meeple you may not stay in the same square. Turn order is always played from the back to the front so at the start of the game place the meeples in reverse order (1st player at the back, last player at the front).
The first player receives 1 prestige, with the second receiving 2 and so on.
The last part of the setup is to shuffle and place the required amount of winery cards in the centre of the table and place one wild grape token at the exit area of the board.
In a 2-player game, you control 2 meeples each the first player receives 1 prestige and the second player receives 3.
Starting with the 1st player (the furthest back) you move your meeple to any square on the board and occupy 1 space and then take the topmost grape card from either side of your location and place it in 1 of your baskets.
Then each player in order (from the back onwards) also moves their meeple to another square and takes a grape. All future turns will be taken from the back onwards and you must move forward to another square. However, you can take a grape card from either your starting square or the square you finish on.
This provides a good feeling of strategy to the game as you can block spaces to stop your opponent from getting the perfect grape card that they need.
You can skip as many squares as you like but it might mean you are waiting a while for your next go. You also have the option to jump right to the exit area of the board to score for that round. The benefit of being first to do this is that you will receive the wild grape token and be first next round, however, the other players can take as long as they want to reach the exit so you may be waiting a while.
When you collect a grape card, you have to choose which basket you wish to place it in or you may discard the card. When you place a card in a basket you have to consider which varieties of grape the wineries require. At any time during your go, you can dump a whole basket into the discard pile or move all grape cards from one basket to the other as long as there is room in the receiving basket.
The grape cards contain the following information, type of grape, value of the grape (top right of the card) and if the grape comes with any tools.
Some cards contain a tool icon (billhook, shears or boots) and when you take one of these cards you may also place the relevant tool (if it is available) on your grape picker card in one of 2 spaces available.
On your turn, you may use either or both of the tools and then discard them back to the centre of the table. The billhook allows you to take the bottom card when picking up a grape card. The shears allow you to take two cards and the boots allow you to take a grape card from the square behind your meeple. You can combine these benefits by using both tools at the same time.
Making A Delivery
When you reach the exit of the board you can make 1 or 2 deliveries to the wineries. To do so you take all of the contents of 1 of your baskets and compare that to a winery card. If it meets the minimum requirements, you place one of your barrels in the space on the winery card and take the required amount of prestige tokens.
This is where clever management of your grape cards and baskets is important because if a winery card only requires 1 type of grape, but your basket contains more than 1 you cannot deliver it to that winery.
Some winery cards do require a mix and in that case, you may be able to make the delivery as long as your basket contains the correct ratios (at least 50% of the delivery is the main grape with at least 1 other type of grape making up the rest). There is also a winemaking cooperative card that will take any number and type of grape and will pay out half the value. This is a great way of offloading a basket that would otherwise be useless.
Upgrading Your Basket
When you leave the player board you may also upgrade either or both of your baskets by paying the cost difference from your prestige tokens. For example, the starting 2 capacity basket has a value of 5 and if I wanted to upgrade it to the 4-capacity basket which has a value of 12 I would have to pay 7 prestige tokens from my supply.
End Of The Round
Once all of the players have reached the exit of the board a new round begins. This game does not have a set number of rounds instead you keep on playing until one player has placed their last barrel in a winery and then all players finish the current round.
To start a new round, replenish all of the taken grape cards so there are 2 at each square on the top and bottom and place a new wild grape token at the end of the board. Finally, you place 1 prestige token on each of the winery locations that are not yet completed (except the cooperative winery). These prestige tokens are then available to the player that places the last possible barrel at this location.
End Of The Game
Once the end of the game has been triggered you finish that current round and then add up all of your prestige tokens. The player with the highest total wins and they take possession of the vineyard. In the event of a draw, the winner is the player who was first to exit the board in the current round.
La Vina is a great game that plays well at all player counts and does not outstay its welcome on the table. When playing this it is not uncommon to finish the game and everyone agrees to play a second game straight away. Probably doesn’t hurt to have a glass of real wine on the go whilst playing as well, you know just to get in the spirit of things.