If wine is good for something, it's making everyone your friend. So, it's no surprise to me that Stonemaier has released Viticulture World, turning the classic wine-making game into an cooperative experience.
Viticulture World does breath some extra life into Viticulture, giving you a reason to break it back out. At the same time, veterans who have played Viticulture might be put off by the fact that it is basically the same game with altered spaces/goals and will likely take twice as long to play.
One of the “faults” of Viticulture is that, just when you get the everything running well, the game ends. You never feel you get to really witness your engine in action. The extended requirements for cooperative victory in Viticulture World means that you do get to watch it (hopefully) chugging along. It also supercharges the zero to sixty capability of that engine. Viticulture World gives you all of your workers at the beginning of the game but handicaps them with...hats. Yellow hats for “trainee” summer workers and Blue hats for “trainee” winter workers. As they become fully trained workers, capable of being played in either summer or winter and collecting bonuses, you remove the hats (collective “awww” of disappointment).
One of the things I love about Viticulture World is that it doesn't fall into Cooperative game trap of “Trying to overcome the Deck of Many Bad Things.” You want to play smart and plan well. The included challenges are various continents and, instead of relying on having random bad things happen to you and your cohorts via a deck of cards, it instead uses those decks to give you more options. One of the keys to that is the Innovation Tiles, which let you purchase “upgrades” to the default worker placement spaces. The rectangle tiles let you take better actions for better rewards or play two visitor cards instead of one...and reward you for playing multiple cards. The oval tiles remove the one or two meeple limit to spaces and will also give you bonus lira or cards. And you are rarely stuck in a position where you can't help another player because, when you play your Grande worker, you are allowed to give/trade items with another player. It's easy to say “Don't sleep on the Innovation Tiles” but the give/trade action is just as key to succeeding.
The introductory continent Greengully isn't just training wheels, it's more like a self-driving bike. It literally throws points at you at various points in the scenario. More tutorial than challenge, it does succeed in giving you the basics you are going to need to learn to succeed. Viticulture World almost has a Legacy feel. The included continent challenges feel like linked scenarios that escalate in difficulty. Put them in little sealed envelopes and you have Viticulture World Legacy. Sure, you can replay them over and over (shuffling them allows the challenges to come out in different order) but will you? All of the various continents are well-balanced. Which is to say that each one lasts six “years” and in year four you'll be convinced there is no possible way to succeed and, yet, you'll often barely eek out the win in the last year, even on the last possible turn. Still, the order the Innovation Tiles come out (in scenarios where it isn't dictated by the deck) can significantly impact how “easy” a continent is, with discussions of how if X tile would have came out in Year one, this would have been a cakewalk.
In order to win each Continent challenge, all players much reach 25 Victory Points in addition to getting the Influence track to 10 points. Advancing the Influence track to ten involves throwing lira at it. In most scenarios/continents, you can only count on getting maybe 50% of those needed points by hitting goals as they are presented. It's a bit of a shift from the base game, where lira becomes less important as you progress in the game. The VP/Influence tracks mean you really must pay attention to where the others are lacking, especially in later rounds, so that you can work to boost everyone to victory. This is where cards that were negative in the original game suddenly become very positive in Viticulture World. Before, you would debate the use of a card that gave everyone victory points in exchange for giving you a boost in Lira. Now, it's a reason for high fives around the table. And you will want to coordinate with the other players. Like saying “When I play this Summer Visitor Card, everyone will get their Grande Worker back. So, use your Grande on your first or second turn so that everyone has a chance to use them a second time when I do play it.”
Viticulture has proven itself as a enduring worker-placement title. Adding the Co-operative element (along with what I consider the Legacy element) means, going in, you know if you like the game itself. So, if this sounds like something you will dig, you will dig it. I love the elements they have added, even if I am not a huge fan of how much it adds to the playtime (Each new continent you play feels like a teaching game...but on a much smaller level).
A review copy of this release was provided by the publisher.