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How to Play Viticulture: Essential Edition

viticulture how to play feature

Viticulture has been around for nearly 10 years. It was the game which launched the juggernaut that is Stonemaier Games with their first Kickstarter, something we discussed in our Stonemaier Top 5.

Over the years, Viticulture has been updated with alterations, expansions, and a completely revised edition. With the announcement of the upcoming Viticulture World, a cooperative expansion of a modern-day classic, there’s going to be a shake-up of the winemaking world… or at least the board game version. If you’re wanting to take your first steps into the vats and crush your own grapes, let us give you the low down on how to play Viticulture Essential Edition.

Set-Up

Place the main game board on the table and give each player a vineyard map with the workers, wake up token and structure tokens of their player colour. Place the residual payment token (wine bottle) of each player on the centre space of the residual track in the bottom right of the mainboard and the victory point token (corks) on the Start/Zero spot of the track along the bottom. Give each player the three field cards for their player board, one marked with a 5, one with 6 and one with 7. 

Shuffle each of the four decks of cards: green vine cards; yellow summer visitors; purple wine cards; and blue winter visitors. Place the shuffled decks facedown on the indicated spot on the board. Place the glass grape and wine tokens within reach of everyone, along with the lira tokens. Choose a first player by drawing one of the rooster tokens at random and give that player the bunch of grapes first player token. 

Finally, each player draws a Mama and Papa card from the shuffled decks. These cards provide you with unique starting benefits, including your workers, money, cards and potential structures. For an advanced variant, you can draw two Mama and Papa cards and choose whichever you prefer. Once all players have chosen, each player claims their starting resources and the game is ready to begin. 

Gameplay

Viticulture is played over an unspecified number of rounds, known as years. Throughout each year, players will take actions in the four seasons, placing workers into the different spots in summer and winter, and making choices in spring and autumn. The number of spots available in each summer and winter action is dependent on the player count, with three spaces under each action.

For a solo or two-player game, only the left-most spot is available. A three or four-player game includes the middle of the three, which also has an additional bonus, and the five and six-player game uses all three spots. When players place their workers, they may place them on any of the spots available, depending on player count. For example, in a three-player game, you do not have to place your worker in the left most spot, instead choosing the middle spot. Once all the spots have a worker in them, the action cannot be taken unless a player chooses to place their grande worker. If they choose to do this, they place the grande worker near the spot to take the action. A grande worker may also be placed as a regular worker.

Whenever you place a worker, you must complete the action. You cannot place the worker to block an opponent and not take the action. 

Spring

Starting with the player with the first player marker and going clockwise around the table, players place their rooster on the wake-up chart on the leftmost side of the board, gaining the benefit. This indicated how early players are willing to get up to take action in the game. Getting up early means you get the first choice of action spots, but the bonus is lesser than if you stay in bed until noon. Sleeping in, however, gives you fewer options on the board. The starting player maker is only used to indicate who gets the first choice at the wake-up chart, not who takes the turn. From this point on, follow the order on the wake-up chart. 

Summer

In player order on the wake-up chart, players either place one of their workers on one of the action spots with a yellow circle (on the left side of the board), and take the action stated there, or pass. If a player passes, they take no more actions in this phase and they slide their rooster over the vertical line of the wake-up chart to indicate they have passed. A player must pass if it is their turn, and they have no workers remaining. Once all players have passed, we move into autumn.

All the actions are outlined on the board, but here’s a quick overview of the main action. In brackets is the bonus if the middle spots are in play. Players can:

  • Draw a vine card. (Draw two cards.)
  • Give a tour to gain 2 lira. (Gain an additional lira.)
  • Build any structure and pay the cost. (Gain one lira. You can consider this as building with a one lira discount.) Structures are placed on your player board and provide ongoing benefits.
  • Plant a vine card into one of your fields. (Plant two vine cards.) The total value of the vine cards (stated in the coloured circles at the bottom) in your field cannot exceed the value of the field.
  • Sell at least one grape or buy/sell a field. (Gain a victory point.) When you sell a grape, remove the grape token(s) from your crush pad on your player board and gain the lira value indicated between the two crush pads. Alternatively, if you sell a field, flip it over to reveal the sold side and gain the lira value in the top left. You may not sell a field with vines planted in it, nor can you plant vines on a sold field. You can also buy a sold field back for the value in the top left. 
  • Play a summer visitor card and gain the benefit. (Play additional summer visitor cards.)

Autumn/Fall

Again in player order, players draw a card from the summer or the winter visitor deck. If they have built the Cottage on their player board, they can instead draw an additional card from either deck, meaning they can draw either two summer, two winter or one of each visitor type. 

Winter

If you still have workers remaining after summer, you can take the actions on the right side of the board (blue circles). 

All of the actions are outlined on the board, but here’s a quick overview of the main action. In brackets is the bonus if the middle spots are in play. Players can:

  • Draw a wine order card. (Draw two cards.)
  • Harvest one field. (Harvest and additional field.) Choose a field and add grape tokens to your crush pad based on the grape type and total value. For example, if a field has a value 1 red grape and a vine with 1 red and 1 white, you would gain one value 1 white grape and one value 2 red grape. You cannot gain more than one token of a particular grape value. If you already have a grape value you would gain, you would instead place the grape token in the next available space below it. 
  • Pay four lira to gain an additional worker. (Gain 1 lira.) The newly trained worker is placed on the mainboard and is available to be used in the next year. 
  • Fulfil a wine order. (Gain one victory point.) Remove wine tokens from your board that equal or exceed the values stated on a wine order card. Gain the victory points and advance on the residuals track the number of spaces stated on the card to a maximum of five.
  • Makeup to two wine tokens. (Make an additional wine token.) Move grape tokens from your crush pad to your cellar to an equal or lesser value. The exception is creating blush or sparkling wines, which use the total of multiple grapes used. You cannot make a wine valued higher than a 3 if you do not have the medium cellar built, or a wine valued higher than a 6 if you do not have the large cellar built. You must have the medium cellar built before you can build the large cellar. 
  • Play one winter visitor card and gain the benefit. (Play an additional winter visitor card.)

In addition to the seasonal worker spaces, players can also choose to place their worker on the circle on their player board if they have built the Yoke or on the “gain 1 lira” spot on the board. Uniquely, this spot can hold more than one worker. 

Next Round Set Up

When all players have passed in winter, all players follow these steps:

  1. Age grapes and wine tokens. Move all grapes and wine tokens up the their respective tracks. However, you cannot age a wine token if you do not have the appropriate cellar built, as with making wines. 
  2. Return all workers. Bring all your workers home. They’ve had a hard year. 
  3. Collect residuals. Consult the residual track and gain any lira you are owed. 
  4. Discard down to 7 cards. You can hold any number of cards of any particular type but at the end of the round, you must discard down to 7 total. 
  5. Rotate the first player token. 

Game End

The end of the game is triggered when a player has gained 20 or more victory points. The current year is finished and the player with the highest victory point total wins. Tie-breakers, if there is a tie, the player with the most lira wins. If there’s still a tie, the highest total of wine value in the cellar wins and if there’s still a tie, the highest value of grapes on the crush pad wins. If there’s STILL a tie, spin a bottle or share the victory. Or just play again! It’s up to you.

Finishing Touches

Something to consider. Some players find the random element of the cards as a potential hindrance because there’s very little control over the way your game can play out. If that’s something that causes some issues for you, here’s a handy little house rule. Whenever you draw a card, be it an order card or a visitor card, draw one more and choose which one to keep. It won’t change the Viticulture gameplay, but it will change the experience and that is just as significant.