Welcome to August, everyone! Convention season is in full swing, which means lots of announcements and game releases are happening, but I’m still your local misanthrope and actively avoiding crowds. Maybe one day I’ll go to one of these big shows, but for now, here’s a quick summary of the games I played this week!
The group was keen on returning to Viticulture World this week, so we tackled the Europe continent scenario and dealt with the great wine blight of phylloxera. Viticulture World is the cooperative expansion to Stonemaier’s classic game, Viticulture.
I’ve you’ve never played Viticulture, it’s a worker placement game set in Tuscany. Each player is trying to build a wine farm, plant and harvest grapes, turn the grapes into wine, and sell the wine for victory points. This expansion turns the competitive game on it’s head by forcing players to work together. To win in Viticulture world, all players must meet or exceed 25 points, and have collectively accumulated 10 influence points by the end of the 6th year.
The European event cards provided grants, making it cheaper to build buildings in one year, then in the next year made it more expensive to plant vines. At one point local government set a legal definition of wine, which reduced the quality of wine we produced, but also generated us more money and points in the end. Also unique to the European scenario, was the fact that each player had their own personal objectives to achieve. My objectives had nothing to do with grapes or wine, so I focused on generating money and erecting buildings. By the end of the game, I had only fulfilled a single wine order! All my other points came from buildings, trades, and other sources. I was also the first person to cross the 25 point threshold! If only I could do so well during the competitive game!
In the final two rounds of Viticulture World, I had pretty much done everything I needed to do. I was 5 points away from 25 points, but I knew I would get 3 from other people’s actions, and I just needed to do a single trade action to get my final 2 points. At the start of the 5th round, we still needed 4 more influence points, however, so I spent the last two whole rounds giving tours to generate money and buying those 4 influence points. At the end of the game, someone managed to hit 30 points to earn another influence point, and we earned an influence point via the yearly event, effectively turning my entire final round pointless.
This begs the question, what should you do if you manage to complete your objectives by round 5? you’re left to just mill about, trying not to get in the other player’s way as they continue to earn points for themselves. Should you start making up your own objectives? Try to see how far you can exceed the victory point thresholds? It’s a little sour that 20% of my gameplay was wasted. It wasn’t fun or interesting for me, as I just waited for everyone else to catch up, but in the end, we won the scenario.
Viticulture World is still a great co-op/collaboration game. During our game one person proudly proclaimed that this was his favourite cooperative game of all time (it wasn’t me. My favourite coop game is Burgle Bros). It’s always a good feeling when you see one of your friends so enamored with a game. I’m still excited to explore the other event decks to see what surprises are in store!
Brian Boru: The High King of Ireland
Brian Boru: High King of Ireland by designer Peer Sylvester tasks players with uniting Ireland by utilizing a unique trick-taking mechanism to run this area majority game.
Each round starts with a draft, doling out the cards between players, then, turn by turn the lead player places a focus token on a city, and places a card matching the colour of that location. All players have to play a card, but unlike many other trick taking games, they do not have to follow the suit. After everyone has played a card, players resolve the actions on the card they played in ascending order. Everyone who ‘lost’ the trick takes one of the actions from the bottom of their card, letting them place influence on the marriage track, repel invading Vikings, or gain influence in the church. The player who played the highest card of the colour matching the city wins the trick and gets to take the top row action instead, which always includes taking that focus token and placing one of their influence discs onto the board.
Brian Boru was a very interesting take in area majority, which is a genre of games I don’t generally particularly like. I did enjoy the choice of playing a low-Ish card and hoping that you’ll win the trick, but also being prepared for the likely event that someone else takes the trick from you. It seems to really benefit players to get early majorities in the provinces, as players who want to wrestle control from you will need to exceed your influence, and the opportunity to do so is quite limited