Viticulture versus Vinhos

by Stephen Venters

Should I buy Viticulture or Vinhos?

I see this question posted a lot on various board game forums, so I thought I'd discuss both, their similarities and differences, and provide some guidance to which one you should buy.

Viticulture Essential Edition Vinhos Deluxe Edition

The Basics

The theme of both games is, of course, wine making. In both games you are a wine maker trying to build up your winery. While both are Worker Placement games, their game play and other mechanics are quite different.

Viticulture Vinhos
Versions Viticulture (2013)
Viticulture Essential Edition (2015)
Vinhos (2010)
Vinhos Deluxe Edition (2016)
Designer(s) Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone Vital Lacerda
Publisher Stonemaier Games Eagle-Gryphon Games
History The original version of Viticulture was released via Kickstarter in 2013 and was Jamey Stegmaier's first major success. However, game play was marred by balance issues and lack of depth. In 2014, Stegmaier released the Tuscany Expansion which included a set of modules that saved Viticulture from being a mediocre game lost to obscurity. Most people considered the game only worthwhile playing with the Tuscany Expansion.

In 2015, Stegmaier released the Viticulture Essential Edition which included the original base game and the critical modules from the Tuscany expansion that fixed its issues. Then, in 2016, he released the Tuscany Expansion Essential Edition which contained the rest of the modules.
The original version of Vinhos came out in 2010 in Europe, then later in the US. It was well received and, at the time, it was considered quite heavy and complex.

In 2016, Lacerda released Vinhos Deluxe Edition which reworked a couple of aspects of the original game's mechanics to streamline them and slightly simplify game play. Since the original game was still very playable, the Deluxe Edition included it too, so players had the choice of playing by the original rules or the reworked rules. Most people have a preference for one of the rulesets and usually stick to it. Conveniently, all of the expansions work with either ruleset.

The Details

Because Viticulture Essential Edition and Vinhos Deluxe Edition are the latest versions of each game, I will use them for the rest of the comparisons.

Viticulture Essential Edition (2015)Vinhos Deluxe Edition (2016)
Weight Medium with a weight rating of 2.91 (out of 5.0) on BGG Medium-Heavy with a weight rating of 4.05 (out of 5.0) on BGG
Time to Play 45 - 90 minutes 60 – 135 minutes
Game Play Viticulture is an Agricola style farming game about running a vineyard, growing grapes, and making wine. The game is played over a number of rounds containing four phases (called seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter). It is largely focused on growing and harvesting grapes and then producing wine. The flow of the game follows a very Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 pattern which can be a bit dull for players looking for more depth. Watch this brief overview (5:34) by The Rules Girl on BGG for more details on game play. Vinhos is an economic game about running a wine empire that not only has elements of wine making, but also includes things like marketing and wine competitions. The game is played over 6 rounds (called years). Players only get two actions per round, so getting action combos for your workers is critical. While wine making is part of the game, managing your wine business is the bigger focus. Watch this brief overview (4:37) by LonelyMan BG on BGG for more details on game play.
MechanicsContracts, Hand Management, Solo / Solitaire Game, Turn Order: Auction, Victory Points as a Resource, Worker Placement, Worker Placement, Different Worker TypesArea Majority / Influence, Variable Phase Order, Worker Placement
Randomness Viticulture uses cards that you draw from during the game. Like any game that uses cards, if you draw well, you'll do well, and if you draw poorly, then you'd better know the game well enough to compensate. Likewise, your hand of cards is hidden information from your opponents. Aside from the initial setup of shuffling a several stacks of chips, there is very little randomness. Predicting your opponent's moves is critical to the game play. Further, there is no hidden player information.
BGG Rating 7.912 - 23rd overall 7.457 - 110th overall
Cost Viticulture is a mass produced game with an average level of production quality. As of the writing of this article, you can buy it from Stonemaier Games for $60 or you can find it on Amazon for under $50. As with all Lacerda's games, they aren't cheap (if you can even find a copy for sale). They are highly sought after by fans and the components are high quality production. As of the writing of this article, you can buy it for $100 at Eagle-Gryphon Games. On the aftermarket such as Geek Market, a copy will cost you $140 or more.
Expansions The main expansion is the Tuscany Essential Edition (2016), but there are a number of other ones. There isn't a main expansion, but there are a couple of smaller ones that change up existing game play such as additional regions and new types of experts.

My Thoughts

Viticulture is a perfect example of how the Kickstarter age has allowed untested, unbalanced, and under-designed games to flood the market. I played the original version when it first came out and can verify it was dull (do step 1, then step 2, then step 3, repeat) and broken (you could win the game without producing any wine whatsoever). Thus, they released an "expansion" to fix the issues they missed during playtesting. This business model really annoys me because it puts the burden of playtesting on backers, then forces them to purchase more content in order to have a playable game. That said, objectively, Viticulture with the Tuscan fixes (aka. the Essential Edition) is a decent game. It is fun in a light-weight sort of way.

On the other hand Vinhos is a solid game that is an entry point to a new level of board games; Lacerda's games are "gamers' games". Vinhos is tight, complex, well designed, and well tested. Further, despite having a reimplementation, the original Vinhos is solid, too, and played well. When the Deluxe Edition was released, they took great pains (and expense) to include it in the box along with the reworked version. It's like getting two games in one box. But the Deluxe Edition is expensive (as are all of his games), so you're making an investment for your collection.

Which Should You Buy?

Both are highly rated games, so your choice comes down to what types of games you like.

If you like lighter-weight games or are fairly new to gaming, I recommend Viticulture Essential Edition. It's a more accessible game for those just getting into Worker Placement games. It's also good if you like games with an amount of randomness in them. It's fun and plays up to 6 players, though it's best with 3 or 4.

Assuming you can afford it, go with Vinhos Deluxe Edition if you are an experienced gamer who likes heavier games with tight game play or you dislike randomness in your games. Vinhos will hone your game playing skills and is a great entry to Lacerda's other games, all of which are stellar.


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