Updated: Jun 6, 2020
We realized early on that the game mechanics and themes of Stonemaier Games appeal to the full gambit of players at the Nerd Garage. We slowly played through their catalog, next on the list, was spending time in Italy. We were fortunate to be taught the base game by a knowledgeable and patient teacher, and we were hooked. I lean toward impulsive, therefore decided that we required Tuscany Essential, Viticulture Moor Visitors Expansion, and Visit from the Rhine Valley. The guidance from seasoned players was to start slowly with Tuscany and, when comfortable, add the expansions one by one. That fell on deaf ears. This is not sass or rebellion, just excitement to dig into a challenging game. It took a few plays to grasp the whole kit and kaboodle and getting through our missteps on the rules, all while relishing each game.
Why are we bringing it up now after seasons of play? When we went on Pandemic lockdown, we thought we could get through the backlog of games that were still shrink-wrapped that have been tasked to play and share our thoughts on but found it difficult to concentrate and focus. We all felt anxious and fatigued. The comfort food that was generally on the should not eat list was all that we craved and now on the table. Sitting at the table together each night was calming. This philosophy was extended to board games. We played what made us happy, and the first game was Viticulture Tuscany Essential and have played it oodles of times these past two months. Tuscany is of the rare few Stonemaier Game that we had not shared our thoughts on, and I thought there may be other impetuous players out there and might need some encouragement.
~We have found ourselves in rustic Tuscany and in charge of a vineyard that requires much attention. We assemble some workers to start, hopefully acquiring more along the way, but we must first plant some vines on our few plots of land. Once the grapes are ripe, we can harvest them and put them in our small crush pads. If we work hard and dream big, our meager beginning can grow to tasty aged wines and filled merchant orders to create the most celebrated winery in Italy!
Photo Credit: Stonemaier Games
Tuscany Essential Edition features three expansions to Viticulture: the extended board (and 36 wooden stars), structure cards/mats, and special workers.
The Viticulture Moor Visitors Expansion adds 40 new visitors to any version of Viticulture. Also included are corrected reprints of the Promoter and Harvest Machine cards.
Visit from the Rhine Valley, an expansion for Viticulture, provides you with a new set of eighty visitor cards that focus less on victory points and more on the wine business itself. These cards have their own unique backs as they must be played without other visitor cards from Viticulture, Tuscany, and Moor Visitors. (LOVELOVELOVE)
This game board has four seasons for worker placement. The various new action and bonus spaces broaden the choices and are advantages to building a better engine. The Influence Map, we found the “Place a Star” useful to gain a much-needed coin, cards, or Victory Point, all while banking Victory points for the end game. *Do not forget about the Influence action because the player with most stars in that region gain the ending Victory points.
The New Wake-Up chart is slick. Streamlined the process and adds a multitude of options to speed up your engine. At the start of the game, a random player picks a wake-up position (we roll a D20). After that, the person that first runs out of workers/actions at the end of year picks up all their workers (making those spots available) and then gets to pick their wake-up position for the next year (if you take the last place, you are required to take position #1 the following year). We found that this rule kept the plotting and planning continually. During the Winter phase gave cause to pass early to acquire the Wake-Up stop before the other players. The Summer Trade bonus is handy for swiftly obtaining a coin or victory point. Trade Action offers a trade, two cards, three coins, one Victory Point, or one grape for any of those items. We found the trade a practical way to rid your hand of useless cards for much-needed coin or last chance effort Victory point.
The Fall has a convenient option to build a structure instead of waiting for the next year. Our favorites are in the Winter season. The Sell Wine for coin option, the in the nick of time to grab some cash before the next year and the gain a Structure card. Some of the Structure cards are game-changers, and we are not saying it’s unproportionable because there are many compelling cards in the deck.
Victory Point track now has the game end at twenty-five points, and the track goes beyond that to forty points. We routinely play to forty. There is usually a query about should a game be longer, and we have tried it on few of the Stonemaier games. In the other games, the trial adequately proved sloggy and did not achieve the proposed effect, however in Tuscany, the heightened race for the win continued to the forty Victory Point end game! We may endeavor to fifty Victory points next game.
Mechanics that Worked – for Us
It all begins with the Mamas and the Papas. These cards make a new experience for each game from the get-go. Mama gives workers, coins, and cards. They are all different with a variety of combinations. Papas offer a Grande Worker and choose buildings, currency, victory points, or additional workers. Clever objective to have all players start with different components. The choice of your Mama and Papa drives the structure of play AND changes each game.
Maintaining patience while building your powerhouse of a vineyard. Stand by for the better combo of grapes rather than planting immediately to get grapes to harvest.
We are utilizing Special Workers. Our front runners are Professore, who gives the ability to retrieve a worker from an action space to be used again that year, and the Merchant, when played after all players have passed on the season, gives the ability to draw any one card.
The Structure cards are a lofty way to accrue Victory points when you build them. Structure cards that involve, the Filling orders and Aging grapes are tussled over for advantages.
The Fields have been tested to see if planting all three is advantageous and we found that two fields were sufficient and the influx of cash selling a field early in the game was significant.
The popular spots and the Wake -up chart were five and six. The advantages of more Winter cards, Aging Grapes, and placing a star proved more beneficial than being first to a season. Gaining the Summer cards with discounts on buildings, drawing wine orders, and making glasses are essential for our mechanics and will accelerate your vineyard and Victory Points.
Drinking a nice Malbec from Viticulture glasses benefits our playing.
Bits and Bobs Essential Game
Worker Meeples – thirty various colors and one grey
Grande Workers- six
Fifty Grape and Wine tokens
Six Wake Up Roosters
Six Victory Point Tokens
Six Residual payment tracker tokens
Forty-eight wooden structure tokens
Metal Coins (I think we ordered these for the game)
One grape token
Influence Tokens- thirty-six
Vine Cards, Wine Order Cards, Summer Visitor, Winter Cards, and Automa Cards.
Extended Board, Influence Tokens, Special Workers, Structure cards, and Forty New visitor cards.
Board- Four full worker placement seasons, Adjusted and added bonuses on actions, Extended Wake-up chart, Grey “any card” icon, Influence map, Trade action, Sell wine action, Extended Victory point track, and end of year Clean-Up and Wake-up sections.
Tuscany Essential Edition is worker placement; however, the deck building is paramount. Coming up with a winning strategy accommodating both the luck of the draw play style can be challenging, but well worth taking. The multitude of combinations available to each player in each gameplay makes this game fresh each time it’s on the table. There not many games that when you finish, you want to reset and start right away. The base game Viticulture, Tuscany, and all the expansions are seamlessly combined to become that game we reset for a new game right away. In these days of Pandemic isolation, we have escaped to the wine country in Tuscany for hours with this game.
Tuscany: Essential Edition
Designed by Jamey Stegmaier & Alan Stone
Art by Beth Sobel
Published by Stonemaier Games – 2016
1-6 Players – 60-180 minutes
JOIN THE GAME!