Making wine is not an easy venture. It’s not really something you should attempt on your own. (Yes, I know there’s a solo mode, but go with it for now.) Sometimes, you need a friend to help you gain prestige and victory points. And that is where Viticulture World – Cooperative expansion comes in! I’m going to make a general assumption that you, dear reader, know how to play Viticulture. If you don’t know, here’s a How to Play I wrote! At the very least, you’re aware of Viticulture and possibly the Tuscany expansion. But this is a review about the brand new World expansion, and I gotta tell ya, I’m excited to talk about it.
The gameplay of Viticulture World is much the same as regular Viticulture, with or without the Tuscany expansion. You’re placing workers out to gain grapes, convert them to wine and sell that wine to fulfil orders. You can also build buildings and generally improve your own vineyard. However, in Viticulture World, you can do a few new exciting things and that’s what I’m going to focus on. Let’s start in the set up.
Firstly, the cards. Viticulture World uses the same cards as regular Viticulture and Tuscany, but some of these are incompatible with World’s gameplay. So you’re given a bundle of cards with a black border. Some are summer visitors; some are winter visitors and some are buildings used in Tuscany. All you need to do is swap these out for the ones in the current deck with a white border and you’re good to go. In gameplay terms, they’re the same but if you draw a black bordered card, you discard it and draw a new one. It basically saves you having to remove and add cards each time you play a different variant. Also, there are new Mama and Papa cards which have different backs to the ones in the base game. The Papas from World have a red back and the Mama’s have a blue back, which can all be shuffled together to give you the possibility of a non-heteronormative couple, which is a nice touch.
Now the workers themselves. In original Viticulture, you generally received two regular and one grande worker. We like to call him Big Gary. Now you’ll get four workers, plus big Gary, but these small workers don’t have the same level of freedom they once did. Instead of being able to go into whichever season they pleased, they’re now seasonal workers and wear a hat to show which season they belong to. Yellow for Summer, blue for Winter. The “train a worker” action doesn’t add to your worker pool, instead letting you remove a seasonal workers hat and making them a Trained Worker. More on them later.
Finally, the board. There’s a whole change up to the board, including some new action spaces, a new scoring track and a total revamp of how spring works. There’s a whole new story which plays out during Viticulture World. Each game is played with a wine making continent for you to explore, each with their own difficulty and unique challenge. Pick one of these, take the scenario cards from the deck and place the deck in the spot on the board. On your first playthrough of a continent, you are recommended to order the cards from 1 to 6 and play through it, giving it a shuffle in a future game.
At the start of a year (round), of which there are six, you turn over the top card in the scenario deck and read it out. There will be something unique happening during this turn, like an extra action spot which gives a massive discount to upgrade a location. Did I say “upgrade a location?” Oh yeah I did. You see, below the scenario deck, there are four innovation tiles, two rectangular and two oval. These tiles can be bought to upgrade the action spots, making them much more powerful.
The rectangular tiles affect the action themselves and the oval tiles overwrites the worker spots. By playing an oval tile, you can change the individual worker spots to become open spots, meaning more workers can go there. There’s also something on the tile which is a little bonus for any trained worker who goes there. See? Told you we’d be back to the trained workers. Lastly in spring, you choose your wake-up positions together. It lets you figure out how the best actions to take and which benefit you will get. Even better, when you pass into autumn, you get a choice of bonus to get.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as the base game, and in order to win the game, all players will need to reach 25 points and collectively, the team needs to get 10 reputation points. Anything less than that, it’s a loss!
Now. I’m going to be honest. When I first heard a cooperative expansion was coming out for Viticulture, I wasn’t sold. And you can’t ignore that there was… a problem. As part of the South American continent, there were historical figures who are included for players to use in the game. Two of those characters were Conquistadors, and understandably, there was a backlash. Now each game that was already printed comes with a replacement pack to remove those characters from the game, and I believe the new print runs will just go with the new cards.
However, this expansion gained a lot of hype online and I wanted to check it out so I played the introductory game of Greengully. And my life, was I wrong about my impressions. We lost the game, because this is a hard cooperative game, but it was a blast! I had a huge amount of fun, even though we came so close and couldn’t make it.
There is still an element of the gameplay which I’ve always found an issue with Viticulture and that is the luck of the draw. It’s a big factor with this game, with four different decks to draw from, and with only 6 rounds, drawing the wrong cards can really hamper you. It’s why we play with a house rule that you draw an additional card of the type you’re drawing and then discard down to however many you were meant to draw. But you can’t really do that with the innovation tiles.
Instead, you get what you get and if the action upgrade tiles come up and are useless, like drawing extra vine cards in the last round, you just ignore it. It’s not a big thing but drawing the tiles in the right order really makes a difference. After all that, I think the ability to upgrade the actions makes things very interesting and it gives you a real incentive to upgrade those spots. Upgrading the action spots is also a huge boon, being able to put more workers down and not block each other is fantastic.
If you want to make wine across the world, working with your friends and taking on a real challenge, you’re going to want to check out this Viticulture World expansion. You don’t lose the heart of the game, which is still an amazing game, but you gain some more depth and variety that keeps it from getting stale. A couple of extra elements, like using your grande worker to swap cards, coins, grapes and wine with each other, make things much easier at times, but not so easy that you can win every time. I like to think I’m a pretty competent gamer but I’ve lost the introductory mode both times I’ve played it. And now I cannot move on until I finish this continent! I think that’s a sign of a good game. It keeps you coming back for more!