Last night the worker placement fan club wing of the Fenland Gamers met up to make wine by playing Jonathan's Christmas present from his son Viticulture.
On my way to the meet I realised I had forgotten my 6S, which meant I was going to have to ask Jonathan for copies of any photos from the evening for the post. Seconds after I arrived, Jonathan pulled up in his car. He had just nipped home because he had forgotten his phone also!
We were playing the essential edition of the game, which is basically the second edition of the game plus some hand picked modules by the game designer Uwe Rosenberg from the Tuscany expansion.
The essential edition of the game is like the special edition Star Wars, the second edition and Tuscany expansions will not be reprinted, the essential edition is it, the only one you will be able to get.
While setting up the game it became apparent very fast that Jonathan had forgotten the games money. Which meant you guessed it, Jonathan popping home to get the games currency. Luckily the secret Bat Cave that Jonathan lives in was nearby.
The delay while Jonathan fetched the moolah was worth it. Before Christmas Jonathan had a slight inclination that he'd be getting Viticulture so he hunted down the metal coin pack for the game. I can tell you this bit of pimping the components of the game was well worth it. The coins are gorgeous. I can't believe that they won't be making these any more, that's a mad decision. The coins look fantastic, have a lovely feel to them.
Playing the game was a delight, I really enjoyed playing it. There are some very nice mechanics in the game.
First off is the Waking mechanic, where you decide the order of play that round. If you really want to go first and grab a particular place on the board, you can grab that (if it hasn't been chosen already), but you get no bonus. Otherwise you may decide it's more important to gain one of the bonuses, the further back in the turn order you go the more powerful the bonus. These bonuses range from drawing cards, getting money, or victory points to having an extra temporary worker to place.
I like this mechanic for deciding turn order, it's similar to Five Tribes. Except in Five Tribes you are deciding how much you are prepared to pay to go first.
Similar to the Manhattan Project and Coal Baron where by taking an action first you influence the cost of that action for the next player that turn. Which enables you to have a negative influence on the other players. In Viticulture this is reversed. Meaning the second player to take the action gets a positive bonus, often repeating that action again, for instance instead of playing one visitor card they can play two.
Breaking each round into seasons, and having actions only available in a particular season is a nice touch, and helps get the theme over really well.
Speaking of theme, I think this game oozes theme. The whole vineyard, making wine, comes across really strongly.
I love how victory points are not just something you are striving to gain, but also a resource you can spend to gain an advantage.
I took an early lead in the victory points, which I was able to maintain for most of the game, even when I was manipulating the victory points to get some advantage on the board. Most of my victory points came by lots of little actions and bonuses, Mat and Jonathan got most of their points from completing orders. I think I only completed two contracts, for six or seven victory points in total.
Yes the completed contracts give you more victory points, and recurring money. But the chipping away tactic I used in this game seemed just as effective. I did reach the twenty victory points first, triggering the end game.
That end game or final turn was very tense. Mat and Jonathan were only a couple of points behind me at this point. A completed contract or two, which they looked like they could do, would push them to victory. I needed to disrupt their plans, and try and complete a contract.
I knew my only contract was not something I could complete. I didn't have the resources.
During the Summer phase I played a card that allowed me to discard a couple of cards and draw one of each type I had discarded. It was risky, I needed to top deck a good card to help me. It paid off.
During the final Winter phase I had to try and stop them completing contracts. Mat completed one, taking him two points ahead of me and into the lead. Jonathan took the draw contract action, phew that helped me ALOT. I followed that action, but I got the bonus of drawing two contracts, hoping to get one I could complete. Phew the cards were smiling on me tonight. I had a contract I could complete for two victory points. I had top decked again.
However by completing his contract first, Mat had given me the win! Being second to do the complete contract action meant I not only got the two victory points for completing my contract and drawing level with Mat on points, I also got an extra victory point giving me the win!
As I previously said, this last round was very tense. It was so close, any of us could have won. Jonathan had been frustrated in that last round unable to complete a contract. Mat nearly won. But Lady Luck and the cards smiled on me.
This was an awesome game, it will definitely go on the wishlist.
Afterwards Mat showed us his new game Trickerion – Legends of Illusion. We didn't play it, that will be for another night. But this worker placement game about being magicians and performing magic looked amazing. It was so thematic, and had a look and feel that really invoked the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the magic acts of that age like Houdini, and the theatres of the time.
The light brown faded colour scheme really made the look of the rules and player aids fit in and feel part of the whole period it was set in.
So the game looks beautiful and thematic, I can't wait to play it.
Whilst looking at Trickerion Jonathan confessed with out any prompting or arm twisting, that he had a chequered past as a magician! So we have said when we play the game Jonathan has to set the mood of the evening by performing some magic!!!
We also after using my discussion piece I had taken along (the Pandemic Legacy rule book) come up with a plan for getting the game to the table.
This was a really awesome evening of gaming, I had a great time (and not just because I won for once). Thanks guys for a great evening.