“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.”― Andre Simon
Running a vineyard isn’t easy. Workers need to be dispatched, fields harvested, wines created and aged to perfection, and structures built. But this is the easy part. What happens when unexpected elements are introduced that may dash all your well-laid plans?
You might have a secure strategy when it comes to playing Viticulture, but with the Tuscany expansion, you are going to have to rethink everything you thought you knew about wine making and running a vineyard.
How to Play
Tuscany expands on the world of Viticulture, and how you play the game is exactly the same. Each of the new expansions has a new set of rules (too many to explain here), but the core of the game is the same. Please check out the How to Play section of our Viticulture review in order to get a sense of the game.
Perfect Pairing, or Sour Grapes?
Tuscany comes with three tiers of expansions that you unlock as you play. It is a system based on the legacy game style. But unlike a legacy game, the expansions don’t completely take it over and make it into a new game you can never return from. Once you have unlocked all the tiers, you can add in as many as you want, or even go back to basics with just the base game. Some game expansions for other games do nothing but make the game more complicated and clumsy, but thankfully Tuscany is not one of those.
With this expansion, myself and my opponent felt it made the game more thematic. We were able to feel more immersion into the game. I had trouble getting him to play Viticulture in the first place, and while he liked the mechanics, the whole wine-making idea didn’t mesh with him. I found it enjoyable, but it was hard to pull him into playing with me. Tuscany changed all that. Although he still isn’t a fan of the wine theme in general, the new aspects of the game, as well as the third-tier expansions, allowed him to have fun as it felt more like a story, which was a huge plus for him. I also found it to be way more fun than simply running a vineyard!
Whoever was the winner of the previous game gets to choose what expansion they would like to “uncork” next. Expansions this way are slowly integrated and increases the complexity of the game as you progress. There are restrictions, though, as all the tier-one expansions must be added before any tier-two ones, and then all tier-two ones must be in place before the third tier is unlocked. Although you can play with everything in the first two tiers, only one of the third tiers can be played at a time.
An element that has nothing to do with game play but that I found was a nice touch is the inclusion of a chronicle book. With it you can record the names of the winners as well as what expansion they unlocked. It isn’t necessary, but it’s fun to see how the expansions were unlocked and by whom.
Because Tuscany really is about the discovery of each new tier, I decided to focus on the first one only, and give a brief sense of the other two. The first tier can give anyone an idea of what is being added to Viticulture and how it will affect the game play.
Mamas and Papas was the first expansion we decided to unlock, and it only really affected the setup of the game. With the Mama card, you learn what your starting cards will be, as well as how many workers you will begin the game with. I really enjoyed this random element. It meant that I never knew what cards my opponent had. Normally in Viticulture, you at least know that everyone starts out with a pinot vine card; now that may not be the case. You might not even get a starting vine card, which may influence where you want your placement to be on the wake-up track. I usually start off with trying to get an extra worker, but when I didn’t start with a vine card, I changed my strategy and went for the “draw a vine card” option on the track.
Additional choices to be made come with the Papa card. He will either give you additional cash or a structure for free. I found that this can influence your strategy for the remainder of the game. The extra capital may be nice to start out with, but if the structure he gives you can help you plant nicer grapes right away, then perhaps that would be better for you overall. We never saw any Mama or Papa card that started a player off with an obvious advantage, which gave us the sense that this expansion was well balanced.
Patronage was next on the list. If you pay any wine token of at least five, you get to flip your patron card and find out your personal end goal. We really liked this new aspect of the game. It added a hidden element, so that you were never sure if you had won until your patron cards were revealed. It mattered a lot when our games were close, sometimes coming down to the patron cards winning or losing us the game. It felt to us like Lords of Waterdeep in that the game is never truly won until all the points are tallied, and you have your own hidden agendas. It also gave us something else to strive for other than creating wines and filling orders.
Property gives you new ways to take advantage of your fields. You can “sell” them for the price listed, and they then become unavailable to you to plant vines until that amount is repaid to the bank. I found this added another layer of choice to the game. Strategy wise, do you even want to sell your fields, do you have to repay the loan, or are you willing to take the risk and lose a field for the rest of the game? I found that with my regular two-player games, I only usually utilize two fields to their full potential. The property expansion gave me an excuse to earn some quick money by selling my previously useless field. It also allowed me to quickly add structures to my vineyard, and overall made the beginning of the game go by that much quicker. Out of all the first-tier expansions, I found this one to add the most to the game while you are playing it. The others really are only for the beginning or the end.
Also, a first-tier expansion is the advanced visitor cards. These update the visitors that you get in spring and fall to come to your vineyard. I always had trouble with the visitor cards in the base game. They were either perfect and helpful or so useless I would never use them throughout the game. I have played games where it seems like every card I have just didn’t line up with my strategy, or I got them too late in the game to do me any good. Whereas my opponent, it seemed, would draw a perfect combo every time. These new cards feels as though you can utilize them every time you pick one up, so do so immediately. I think it balanced out the visitor cards, and I found myself going to spaces in order to draw those cards rather than avoiding them like the plague!
Tier two adds special visitors, special workers, an extended board (that allows new elements to be utilized), and structures. Once all the first two tiers have been uncorked, you can add one of the tier-three expansions. They include Mafia, Arboriculture, and Formaggio. If you think that is all you will get, you are sorely mistaken. Also included is a solo variant, as well as a pack of cards marked “Open at your own risk.” So much is packed into this expansion, and even though it is on the pricey side, it is well worth it for the increase in replayability you will get. No two games will ever feel the same!
Components of the game are the same high quality you can find in the base game of Viticulture. One key difference is the insert of the box as it is amazingly well designed. It is sturdy enough to hold everything that comes with it, and each section is labeled to identify what expansion fits where. I loved it! As someone who is a bit of an organizational maniac, it was so refreshing to see a well thought out and implemented insert. Tuscany‘s rule book is incredibly descriptive, with lots of detail regarding each expansion and how you go about uncorking them. It is very polished and comes with a quick reference sheet that breaks down how each expansion is used.
Tuscany adds so much to Viticulture it can be overwhelming, but the game holds your hand every step of the way. The rules advise you to play each expansion a couple of times to get comfortable with it before you move on. Each expansion is seamlessly integrated, and it feels like it fleshes out an already full game. It adds more tension, choices, and an element of discovery when you uncork each new expansion. By deviating from the legacy format and allowing the expansions to be used all together or separately, it allows you to pick and choose what ones you want to use together, not unlike choosing what wines to drink from your cellar.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Stonemaier Games for providing a review copy of Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture