If you’re a fan of Jamey Stegmaier’s Viticulture, then Tuscany hits the spot. It’s like a crisp glass of wine, fresh off an Italian vineyard. Tuscany: Essential Edition is an expansion for the superb Viticulture. Believe us, it really is essential!
Viticulture is a worker placement game, set in Italy, where players compete to grow grapes. They then work to turn those grapes into wine, which they then sell for victory points. So what do you get in Tuscany: Essential Edition? Quite a lot, as it turns out. And because it’s produced by Stonemaier Games, the component quality is fantastic.
Tuscany provides a new, bigger main board. The core actions remain – you’re still planting grapes and selling wine. But there’s new options too, with action spaces now within spring, summer, autumn and winter. The Wake-Up Chart has extra layers to it, as well. This means more goodies each year, depending on where player opt to go in turn order. Plus, there’s a map of Tuscany with a area control mini-game aspect, for more end-game points. Will your influence of fine wines spill over across the region?
Also, a deck of 36 Structure Cards offer a fresh new angle to your farm. Players get an extension to their player mat, where they can pay to build Structures. Some provide personal worker placement spots for you alone to visit. Others provide game-long benefits, discounts and freebies.
Finally, each player gains two Special Workers. These are adorable wooden meeples with painted-on overalls or pigtails! A combination of two Special Worker cards give these colleagues extra abilities, each time you place them. They cost a more to train than regular extra workers, but they’re more than worth those extra lira!
Whether you play these three modules one at a time, mix and match, or play with all three at once, one thing’s for sure. Tuscany: Essential Edition provide countless hours of modular fun. Now, where did you put that corkscrew?
Player Count: 1-6 players
Time: 60-120 minutes
The Viticulture: Tuscany expansion turns a good game into an incredible one. I have always admired Viticulture for its fresh take on the classic worker placement mechanic. Some of my favourite aspects of Viticulture include the division of available actions into seasons, the Wake-Up Chart to determine player order, the Yoke as a private action space, and the Grande Worker, all of which distinguish Viticulture from other games in the genre. I was then delighted to discover that the Tuscany expansion takes each of these aspects, develops them and makes them even better.
The New Features: Extended Board
The Viticulture: Tuscany expansion is essentially three independent expansions in one: the Extended Board, Special Workers and Structures.
While the base game divided action spaces into Summer and Winter actions, the Extended Board adds action spaces to all four seasons. This makes player order and deciding when to pass even more important. The Wake-Up Chart has also been updated to offer bonuses throughout the year. A player must decide whether to go later in the turn order to gain better bonuses in more seasons but risk missing out on the action spaces they need. The new Wake-Up Chart prevents the new seasons from giving the starting player too significant an advantage and balances the game well. It also gives the player the opportunity to gain bonuses which they might be reluctant to acquire by using a worker. These are two ways in which the Tuscany expansion wonderfully develops Viticulture’s unique features.
The Extended Board also adds the Influence Action, introducing an element of end-game scoring. When someone takes this action, they place a star on a map denoting different regions of Tuscany. Each region gives the player an immediate bonus, like Lira or cards, and (if they have the most stars in that region) points at the end of the game. While I wouldn’t necessarily pick this up if it was an expansion on its own, it’s a nice part of the bigger expansion, ensuring that the winner is not purely dictated by who can rush to 25 points (no longer 20) the fastest.
Other new action spaces include the Trade action, which allows players to exchange cards, Lira, points, and grapes, finding a use for useless cards in your hand. There is also the Sell One Wine Token Action, allowing players to discard a wine token for points. The latter of these new action spaces adds a great dimension to the game, whereby orders are no longer the only way to acquire points.
The New Features: Special Workers
The second expansion module is the Special Workers expansion. In the Tuscany rules, there is a note from the designers which acknowledges that they knew they had stumbled across a great mechanic in the Grande Worker and wanted to develop this idea in the expansion. The result of their efforts is Special Workers, two of which are available for all players each game for an extra Lira when training a worker.
The workers, like the Grande Worker, function differently to basic workers adding a great element of decision making regarding when to play them. These 11 potential special workers include the Farmer, which allows the player to gain any bonus on an action space which the Farmer is placed on, regardless of whether they are on a bonus action space. Another is the Chef, which may be placed on an occupied action space by bumping the occupying worker back to the opponent's pool. The designers clearly realised they had struck gold with the special worker mechanic and have wonderfully developed it in this expansion. I sincerely hope to see this concept explored in future worker placement games.
The New Features: Structure Expansion
The Final expansion module, and perhaps my favourite, is the Structure Expansion. Viticulture: Tuscany comes with an extension to the player boards with room for two orange structure cards. These structure cards can be acquired from the Wake-Up Chart, influence map, trade action, several bonus actions and their own action space. Once acquired, they sit in the player's hand until they are built at either of the two build structure action spaces on the board by paying their monetary cost.
These structures will either offer a private action, give the player a continual ability, or provide a residual bonus at the end of each year. The Cask is a private action which allows the player to age one wine twice when they take the action.Meanwhile, the Aqueduct gives the player the ability to ignore the structure requirements when planting. Finally, the statue gives the player a point at the end of each round. The private actions are the most interesting element of this expansion, offering a player an action which cannot be taken by other players and is always available to them. Again, I hope to see this element adopted in future board games.
Final Thoughts on Viticulture: Tuscany
It should be a surprise to no one who has read this far to hear that I think Viticulture: Tuscany is an excellent expansion, essential for any Viticulture lover. They have taken all the most interesting elements of the game and developed them in an interesting way so that this game stands out even more prominently in its genre. The most wonderful thing for me (a fan of Viticulture) is that playing the Tuscany expansion still very much feels like playing Viticulture and is no way alien from the base game. For this reason, I doubt I will ever go back to playing the base game without the expansions. Stonemaier Games really have perfected a game I did not think could get much better.