Radio Review #69a – Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture

 

tuscany_cover

(2014 – Stonemaier Games)

 

“Take a bottle, drink it down….pass it around….”

 

Small publisher, Stonemaier Games is recognized in the community both for the production quality and thematic focus found in their first two releases (Viticulture & Euphoria). Both published with the help of hugely successful Kickstarter campaigns, Viticulture & Euphoria have both seen 2nd editions, are both currently ranked in the top 300 games on boardgamegeek.com. Not a bad start for a small publisher. Today, I’ll be taking a look at Viticulture’s unique expansion, entitled Tuscany.

Tuscany is unique in that it follows the “legacy” format, previously seen in Rob Daviau’s Risk: Legacy, released in 2011, and soon to be used in Plaid Hat’s Seafall and Z-Man Games’ Pandemic: Legacy. For those unfamiliar with how a legacy style game works, the core goal is to create a unique game experience for a group of players through the course of multiple game sessions. When a player wins a game, he will be able to make choices that affects future games, whether it be breaking rules, destroying components, or even revealing new cards and gameplay mechanics not previously seen in the game. All with the understanding that by the end of a certain number of sessions, the group of players will have a completely unique game from anyone else.

While Tuscany doesn’t exactly stick to every characteristic of a legacy game (there’s no destroying of components or permanently writing on the game board), it’s this idea of unveiling the game mechanics and expansion components in tiers, one session at a time, that invokes the legacy aspect. Since the expansion is meant to be explored in this way, I’m going to go about this review a little differently than my normal format. There are three tiers to Tuscany, each will multiple additions to the game. I’m only going to cover the Tier 1 mechanics and additions, leaving the Tier 2 and 3 items for you to explore on your own, if you choose to pick up a copy (though below, I will post pictures of all components that come in the box, so do with that what you will). I think it’s only fair to those interested in how Tuscany works, but no reason to spoil all of the fun. Plus I don’t really fell like throwing up the word “SPOILER” in 48 point font all over the place. It may scare the small children. For those interested in the base game, Viticulture, I’ve previously done a review on its 2nd edition. So I suggest reading that first, or taking a look at some of the other great written reviews and videos on boardgamegeek.

 

 

 

Components:

 

 

Tier 1:

– Update tiles and miscellaneous components for those with 1st edition Viticulture

 

– Solo Variant components

 

– Tuscany Chronicle recording sheet

 

– Mama & Papa cards

 

– Property tiles

 

– Advanced Visitor cards

 

– Patronage cards

 

 

 

Tier 2:

– Tuscany extended game board

 

– Influence tokens

 

– Special Worker tokens

 

– Special Worker cards

 

– Structure boards

 

– Structure cards

 

– New Visitor cards

 

 

 

Tier 3:

– Mafia cards

 

– Arboriculture & Formaggio boards

 

– Arbor cards & Arbor Visitor cards

 

– Morale tokens

 

– Cow tokens

 

– Cheese Cellar tokens

 

 

 

 

Tier 1 Gameplay:

After players complete their first session of Viticulture, the winner will have the opportunity to “uncork” one of the Tier 1 expansions, thus adding it to the game. Players can then play through multiple sessions of the game with this new expansion, until they decide they are ready to uncork the next expansion (allowing the winner of the latest session the choice). Tuscany comes with a recording sheet that will let players keep track of the dates, scores, winner, and unlocked expansions from the various sessions.

Once all Tier 1 expansions have been opened, players can then begin to add in the Tier 2 items, and then continuing to the Tier 3 expansions. Note that when playing with Tuscany, all unlocked Tier 1 and Tier 2 expansions are used in every game. Using Tier 3 expansions are a bit different however, in that only one Tier 3 expansion is used in each game. So even if all Tier 3 expansions have been unlocked, players will have to choose which one to use for that session. As I mentioned before, I’ll only be taking a look at the four Tier 1 expansions for the purposes of this review. Let’s take a look at how these initial tier additions work:

 

 

Mamas & Papas

With the base game of Viticulture, each player begins the game with two regular workers, a Grande worker, and three coins. However, the Mama & Papa expansion will introduce an asymmetrical aspect to setup in that each player will start with a different set of items. At the beginning of the game, each player is randomly dealt one Mama card and one Papa card. Each Mama card includes two regular workers and lists a number of plant, visitor, and wine order cards that the player will draw, and in some cases additional coins. Each Papa card includes a Grande worker and list an amount of coins the player will start with. The Papa cards also let the player choose between a listed structure, an extra worker, a victory point, or a listed amount of additional coins.
Player A receives the following Mama and Papa cards at the beginning of the game. This means that he will begin the game with two regular workers, two plant cards, and a summer visitor card (based on his Mama card). He will also receive a Grande worker, three coins, and either a Wine Cellar structure or four additional coins (based on his Papa card).

 

 

 

Advanced Visitors

This Tier 1 expansion introduces advanced versions of the summer and winter visitors found in in the base game. There are 15 summer and 15 winter advanced visitor cards that are shuffled into the regular summer and winter visitor cards at the beginning of the game. Let’s take a look at some of these advanced visitors and what they provide:

 

Advanced Broker – This visitor allows the player to pay 9 coins to gain 3 victory points, or he can choose to lose 2 victory points to gain 6 coins.

 

 

Advanced Assessor – With an Advanced Assessor, the player will gain a coin for each card in his hand, or he can choose to discard his hand to earn 2 victory points.

 

 

Advanced Queen – This visitor forces the player to the right to make a choice. He must lose a victory point, give you 2 cards, or pay you 3 coins.

 

 

 

Selling Property

In the base game, players are each provided with three fields in which to plant and grow their grape vines. Players can combine vines up to a maximum value of 6 in each field. While each player has three fields available, its possible they may never end up using all three. Therefore, Tuscany provides the concept of selling property.
At the beginning of the game, a tile is placed over top of the “sell grapes” action space on the game board. This space will now read “sell grapes or flip 1 property”. Then, each player is given three property tiles with a value listed at the bottom of each tile (a 5, a 6, and a 7). These tiles are placed over top of the player’s three fields on his personal board. The maximum value that can be planted on each property matches the value listed at the bottom of the tile. During the game, players can choose to sell one of their properties as long as it is vacant of grape cards, by taking the “sell grapes or flip 1 property” action. This will then reward the player an amount of coins equal to the value of the flipped property. Later in the game, if the player finds that he’ll need to use the property, he can take the action again, paying the listed value of coins and flipping the property back to its active side.
Player B has two active fields that are both currently growing various grape vines, and an empty property (worth 7 coins) that he is currently not using. He finds that he would like to gain some quick coins, needed for building some new structures for his vineyard. Therefore he takes an action to flip this empty property tile, selling it for its 7 coin value.

 

Later during the game, he has finished building many of the structures in his vineyard and decides that he would like to starting planting grapes on this 3rd property. To do so, he would need to purchase it back by taking another action to pay 7 coins to flip the property tile back to its active side. He can then start planting new grape vines on it during future turns.

 

 

 

Patronage

During the game, players will attempt to complete Wine Orders in order to gain Victory Points as well as residual payments from year to year. If you remember, Viticulture is treated as a race in that the 1st person to complete a set number of Victory Points wins the game. Viticulture is also designed in a way that game sessions are usually won or lost by only a few Victory Points. Because of this, Victory Points are quite a commodity and any slight advantage in gaining extra can be crucial.

 

Patronage cards are treated similarly to Wine Orders, but give players certain end-game objectives that if completed, will earn the player an additional 2 Victory Points. Thematically, you can treat this as performing a specific request from a loyal customer. At the beginning of the game, each player is randomly dealt one of the nine Patronage cards. Each Patronage card has a front side that depicts a generic customer photo and lists a Wine Order calling for a wine bottle with a value of 5 and rewards 3 Victory Points if completed. Patronage cards are completed the same way that Wine Orders are, by taking the “fill 1 Wine Order” action, though they will not reward any residual payments. After completing the Patronage card (removing a wine token with a value of at least 5 from a cellar), the player is awarded 3 Victory Points and the card is placed next to his player board. It is now considered active.

Once active, the player can attempt to complete the objective listed on the back side of the Patronage card. If the player can complete this objective by the end of the game, he will receive another 2 additional Victory Points. Let’s take a look at a few of these objectives and what they include:

– If the player has planted to most grape vines in a single field, he will be rewarded 2 additional Victory Points.

 

– If the player ends up having the fewest built structures in his vineyard, he will be rewarded 2 additional Victory Points.

 

– If the player is earning at least four residual payments a year by the end of the game, he will be rewarded an additional 2 Victory Points.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts:

While I’m tempted to delve into every detail, component, and mechanic that is included in Tuscany, I really don’t want to spoil the fun of unlocking everything. It is such a clever and intuitive way to not only teach the various expansion modules, but also do it in a way that is streamlined and not overwhelming. Some of the extensions are minor (as with the Mama & Papa start cards), while some are quite large additions to the base game (as with the Tier 2 board extension). But all of the expansion modules work quite well together and seem to flow in a way that seems deliberately organized. The best and more complex additions are saved for the last Tier and it is nice that these are kept separate from each other when used. Players can essentially have three different style games by including one of the three Tier 3 expansions in the game.

As with any Legacy-style game, the biggest stumbling block comes with players that do not have the same consistent gaming group. Tuscany is meant to be played over numerous sessions with the same people, allowing that group to unlock and learn the many expansion parts step by step. Of course, it wouldn’t be incredibly hard to teach some of these modules to new players, but it may be a bit overwhelming to attempt to include them all. Tuscany truly shines when it can be unlocked (or “uncorked”) as intended, therefore it is important to consider this going in.

I’m really interested about how this Legacy-style format could be used in other games and expansions going forward. I would love to see something similar from Stonemaier with an expansion for Euphoria. Tuscany feels as if it includes 2-3 expansions in one box. Each of the Tier 3 modules on their own feel like mini-expansions and that doesn’t include the other eight Tier 1 & 2 modules, plus additional components for solo gameplay. This should be an essential purchase for any fan of Viticulture in that it includes a wealth of replayability and provides new ways to explore the game‘s depth and strategy.

 

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