Frequently Asked Questions
Please note that I mean no disrespect to the games I mention below. For every flaw in great games like the ones I name here, there are dozens of upsides. But we've tried to try to make Viticulture only have upsides, as any game designers would. Here's why Viticulture is a worthy addition to your game collection:
1. Balances, no checks: In almost every game I know, there are checks and balances. For example, in Stone Age and Agricola you have to feed your family. I think balances are good, but I've removed the checks, because checks can be really frustrating and antagonistic. In Viticulture, you're always moving forward, and your job is to manage all of that forward momentum. Someone might choose an action that you were hoping for, but in doing so, you still have other options to choose, and if you're the first player to choose those options, you get a bonus. I want players to walk away from the game feeling elated, not frustrated.
2. Conflict, not Hostility: In some games, there are ways to "attack" other players--this happens all the time in Dominion, and the robber baron does this in Settlers. I see it as my responsibility as the designer to remove unneeded frustration from the game. Unlike Risk, I don’t want to incentivize or allow the targeting of any one player in Viticulture.
3. Scaleability: I think this might be the true genius of the game (if I may say so myself). I want Viticulture to be almost the same game with any number of players. Dominion is best with 3 players. Fresco is best with 3-4. You can only play up to a 5-player game in Agricola. Stone Age only goes up to 4, and the game changes quite a bit with fewer players because you can't choose things that you can choose with 4 players. I don't like any of that. With Viticulture, the worker slots available scale based on the number of players. The UI for the scaling system is simple and intuitive--you can understand it with a quick glance. It's almost exactly the same game with 2 players as it is with 6, and even a 6 player game shouldn't take longer than 60 minutes. I think the 6-player threshold is key so that three couples can play the game on a game night.
4. Replayability: Agricola is endlessly replayable, I'll give you that. But Stone Age and Fresco, the other two games this game is similar to? I love them both, but each has about 3 specific paths to victory, and you really have to put them in the closet for a year after a long game night with either one so that it feels fresh the next time you play. Viticulture has tons of paths to victory, most by choice, but some are affected by luck and the choices other players make. I'm sure every game wants to brand itself as "replayable," but everything I've done for the last 8 months of testing has been with replayability in mind, and I think we accomplished that goal.
5. Production: In Stone Age and Agricola, you're not really making anything. Sure, you build huts in Stone Age and you cook carrots in Agricola, but production is a one-stop shop. In Viticulture, you're strategically choosing exactly what types of vines you're going to grow (there are tons of combinations), when to harvest those vines, when to crush your grapes to turn them into wine, and what type of wine you want to turn them into. You're truly producing something. We've honed the process so it's intuitive, but it's enough so that you get to feel like you've put yourself into each barrel of wine you produce.
6. Turn order: We borrowed the best element from Fresco and put it in our game: Determining what time your workers wake up compared to other workers to determine who goes first. This ensures that player order is a choice, not determined by rotation (like in Stone Age) or whoever happened to pick the first player marker in Agricola (for that person it's a choice, but not for everyone else). There’s no kingbuilding in Viticulture.
7. Duration: I think the ideal board game is one in which you get to build something new and incredible in 60-90 minutes, several times in the same night. Agricola is a great game, but it takes 3 hours. You can usually only play once a night even though the first game leaves you hungry for more.
8. Counting Victory Points vs. Ending the Game at a Certain Threshold: As gamers, I think we’ve gotten used to the inevitable “counting of victory points” stage at the end of the game. We don’t even consider it a chore by this point. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I prefer the Settlers method of “everyone is in the game until someone reaches a certain number of victory points” level, so Viticulture uses that to trigger the end of the game.
9. Flow: Whenever a player has the potential to take a really long turn, there is the potential that other players will disengage. Viticulture is built for constant engagement because each turn consists of a single choice: Where to place your worker. You place a worker, and you’re done. Next player. Sure, you may need a few seconds to complete the action, but any choices you make at that point (i.e., on which field to plant a vine) only affect you, not the other players. Every turn is a tiny manageable decision that any player can make within seconds.
10. Setup: Some games take 30+ minutes to simply get set up and ready to go. By the time you start the game, you feel like you've already played a game! Viticulture takes 5 minutes to set up, max.Last updated:
The short answer: If you're a gamer, you will enjoy the base game, but after playing it 8-10 times, you'll want the expansion. If you're not a gamer, you will probably be perfectly happy with the base game.
The long answer: The expansion will essentially double the complexity of the game and add about 15 minutes to the overall playing time. It involves the addition of olives, apples, and tomatoes, all of which you harvest on your fields just like the grapes, but you process them on an extension to your vineyard mat (unlike the game board, you can choose your worker actions unencumbered by other players on your vineyard mat extension). 18 new "arbor" cards are also added to the game in their own deck that you can draw from by taking the "draw a vine card" action. These additions add value to your wine orders and can be used to improve worker morale (the workers aren't happy that you've given them all these additional duties).
What do we mean by "Kickstarter exclusive"? The additions for the expansion are not enough to warrant a box for themselves, so even if the game is a huge success, we won't be selling the expansion by itself. We might try to find another way to package it--perhaps with the game at some point at a $60 price point--but this is definitely the best time to ensure you get it.Last updated:
Sure, Viticulture isn’t the only wine-themed strategy game out there. But it captures the romanticism of owning a winery better than the others—it’s not even close, really (compare the Viticulture board to the Vinhos board, for example). There is a difference between being overly complicated and cleverly complex, and we believe that Viticulture is the only game in this category that falls into the latter category.Last updated:
The two stretch goals that aren't self-explanatory are the double-sided board ($35,000 stretch goal) and the cheese-themed expansion ($75,000 stretch goal).
double-sided board: If we reach this stretch goal, the game board in every copy of the game will have two sides: The standard side and the art-only side. The art-only side will have as few words as possible on it so players who already know what the actions mean can enjoy the art as they play.
Cheese Expansion: Wine and cheese go hand in hand, so it makes sense that this would eventually be an expansion for Viticulture. However, the idea really started to take form when people started to comment on the Kickstarter page and on BGG about a "kitten expansion," due to both Alan and Jamey's status as cat owners. Through those forums, the idea of a kitten expansion started to take shape, but the joke turned into a legitimate idea when someone mentioned that the cats could be used on your vineyard to keep rats away from the cheese. Thus the cheese expansion was born.
We want to be completely transparent in saying that we have not designed this expansion at all. However, if this reward level is reached, we will work night and day to pull it and the corresponding art together without interrupting the existing production schedule of the game so the cheese expansion can be included in every pre-ordered copy of the game (along with the existing expansion). This will be a significant expansion that will require us to layout and produce an entire new sheet of cards (not a minor expense) and extensions to the vineyard mats. But if we reach this lofty goal, it will absolutely be worth it.Last updated:
One full-color rulebook
Cards (122 total)
42 vine cards (green deck)
36 wine order cards (purple deck)
20 summer visitor cards (yellow deck)
20 winter visitor cards (blue deck)
4 promo cards
1 double-sided game board
6 double-sided vineyard mats
36 worker meeples in 6 different colors and 1 gray temporary worker
60 clear acrylic grape and wine tokens
6 wakeup tokens (roosters)
6 victory point tokens (corks)
6 residual payment tokens (wine glasses)
48 structure tokens in 6 different colors (8/color, 8 different types of tokens)
108 punchboard lira coins (78 bronze ₤1 coins, 18 silver ₤2 coins, 12 gold ₤5 coins)
1 first-player token
Every copy of the game pre-ordered through Kickstarter will contain all of the stretch goals.Last updated:
We went for a whimsical approach to the project video by spoofing the film "Sideways." In the movie, two guys (Miles and Jack) go on a road trip to Napa Valley on the eve of Jack's wedding. Miles is a wine snob (hence the connection to Viticulture), and Jack is a bit of a womanizer. They meet two women and lie to them--Jack tells the women that Miles is a published author, while really he is still writing his book, and Jack fails to mention that he is getting married in the very near future. You can watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhqUtxFotqE
Thus for our video, the "lie" that Alan and Jamey fabricate is that they've already published a board game, while in reality it's going up on Kickstarter in the near future. When the women find out, they're hurt and angry despite their love of the game. It's all very tongue in cheek.
The actors in the video are Jamey and Alan, as well as Alan's wife and a friend of Jamey's. We had a lot of fun making the video, which only took about four hours to film on an iPad. Editing the video on the iPad's iMovie app took much, much longer. We hope you enjoyed the result.
The music in the video, which is essentially available for purchase at the $9 level, is by Fallen Flag (their song, "Call It a Crime," is at the beginning and end of the video) and Here Lies Yonder (their song is "Dark Days"). We really appreciate their help, as purchasing the rights to "No Rain" (the original song featured in the trailer for Sideways) would have been impossible.Last updated:
May is a conservative estimate—we’re going to get the game in your hands as soon as we possibly can. But after the funding goal is reached, we still have some graphic design and art to complete, and then the printer (Panda Games in China) has to review the game, create the molds and templates, print and package the game, and ship it across the Pacific. Then it has to be taken by truck to the distribution center (which may be Alan’s house), packaged, and shipped to each of you. Hopefully it’ll be earlier than May, but that’s our current estimate.
Also, to anticipate the question about why we’re printing in China and not the US: Printing this game in the US is cost prohibitive by a factor of 3 or 4, particularly at the level we’re trying to produce (1,500 copies minimum). Plus, the Panda Games corporate office is in Canada, and it has been a delight to work with Chris Matthews up there. It’s very rare to encounter someone with the attentiveness and responsiveness as Chris.Last updated:
· Viticulture is like Monopoly with more sophistication, more than one piece per player, and no dice—you get to choose where you place your pieces.
· Viticulture is like Cranium with all the social interaction and fun, but your ability to perform is shown by your strategic choices instead of your sculpting or singing skills.
· Viticulture is like Trivial Pursuit without the trivia, dice rolling, and pie pieces (okay, it’s nothing like Trivial Pursuit).
· Viticulture is actually more like if the excellent strategy games Stone Age and Fresco had a baby, and that baby’s formative best friend while growing up was Agricola.Last updated:
Definitely. Perhaps you don’t like wine, or you don’t drink alcohol, or you legally can’t drink alcohol yet. Viticulture remains a game that can transport you to somewhere new and offer you a special experience. It would probably be a very similar game if it were about creating magical potions or breeds of cute kittens, but we chose wine, and we think you’ll appreciate that choice regardless of whether or not you care about the beverage.Last updated:
Jamey has maintained http://jameystegmaier.com/ for the past 5 years. The topics vary greatly, but at heart the goal of the blog is to engage people and generate conversation. The blog has averaged 650 hits/day in 2012.Last updated:
If the campaign is successful, why would I order on Kickstarter instead of pre-ordering through the Stonemaier Games website?
Viticulture is expected to retail at $45 (not including shipping), so it’s a bargain here. You’ll also get the game as much as a month faster than anyone looking to buy it on Amazon or in stores. You'll only benefit from the risk-free guarantee if you pre-order through Kickstarter. Only Kickstarter backers are eligible to receive the promo cards and the cheese expansion (if we hit $75k for the latter). Last, this is your only chance to buy the Kickstarter-exclusive expansion as part of the main game--in the future, it will be available packaged with other expansions, but not by itself.
Plus, you can get the add-ons below, which you can't get after the campaign!Last updated:
Get Your Game First, Ready-to-Play and Sleeved: You may now add $19/game to your pledge to have all cards in your copy of the game fully sleeved with premium Fantasy Flight clear sleeves (the cards have images on the front and back), all punchboard tokens punched and ready to play, the game autographed by the designer, and the game will be moved to the very top of the list for shipping priority. Note: All Kickstarter backers will get their games before the game is available anywhere else.
Other Add-Ons: You may add $1 to be a part of the $1 reward level (an on-camera toast to you). $1 max for this, though, because we're taking one sip of wine per $1 backer without stopping until we're done! You can also add $4 for mp3 downloads of the two songs featured in the video.
US: For the $59-$149 levels, add extra copies of the game + expansion at $41/each (or $71/pair). For the $35-$499 levels, add the embossed wine glasses at $25/pair and the engraved corkscrews at $11/each (or $19/pair), both for December delivery.
Canada: For the $59-$149 levels, add extra copies of the game + expansion at $46/each (or $81/pair). For the $35-$499 levels, add the embossed wine glasses at $25/pair and the engraved corkscrews at $11/each (or $19/pair). All add-ons are shipped with the base orders in May.
International: For the $59-$149 levels, add extra copies of the game + expansion at $51/each (or $91/pair). For the $35-$499 levels, add the embossed wine glasses at $25/pair and the engraved corkscrews at $11/each (or $19/pair). All add-ons are shipped with the base orders in May.Last updated:
Thematically, grapes should go bad instead of staying on the crush pad and aging from year to year. For several months of testing, that was how things worked--the grapes stayed on the crushpad for a year, and then you had to throw them away, which makes sense. However, there were several problems with this. The biggest was that it put a ton of pressure on crushing grapes whenever you harvested--if you couldn't crush, you might as well not harvest, because you're just going to lose those grapes. We considered letting grapes stay on the crushpad for 2 years, but then you have a hard time tracking which gapes you harvested this year versus last year.
Because of that, the game lost a lot of winter strategy. There were simply things you had to do in the winter if you wanted to make wine, and if you couldn't do those things, you couldn't harvest. It removed choices from the game, which wasn't good. Leaving the grapes on the crush pad and aging them (because if they don't age, harvesting the next year makes you have overlapping tokens, which is frustrating for players) and then making them into wine at a time of your choice adds a lot of strategy to the game.
Now, what we've done to mitigate the effects of grapes aging is that there are only three pricing tiers for grapes even though their values go up to 9. That way, even though your grapes age for the sake of other gameplay, you don't gain a monetary value unless you wait for them to age several times.Last updated:
Jamey Stegmaier has had http://stonemaiergames.com/2012/07/27/hello-world/. He grew up playing strategy games such as chess, Stratego, and Risk, and as an adult he has discovered a host of incredible Euro games (his top five are Agricola, Stone Age, Dominion, Settlers of Catan, and Fresco). Meanwhile, since he was a child, Jamey has been designing strategy board games as a hobby. He has a strong passion for creating games that bring people together in the spirit of fun, competition, and strategic thinking.
Jamey is a transplant from Virginia who graduated from Washington University in 2003. During his college years, he fell in love with St. Louis and has lived there ever since. He currently lives in the Central West End with his two cats, Biddy and Walter. His other hobbies include reading, http://wrinkle.jameystegmaier.com/, http://jameystegmaier.com/, watching movies, and playing soccer. You can https://www.facebook.com/jameystegmaierblog or https://twitter.com/jameystegmaier.
Alan Stone has been a boardgame player and fan since early childhood. At some point there was a realization that all the available games were just a matter of dice rolls, knowing trivia or acting silly all with a touch of strategy kicked in. These were all fun, but they lose steam after a while.
Then came chess, the perfect game because there is no luck and every game is different, but chess has an enormous learning curve and most people don’t play it. Alan wanted to play games with friends, but the market just didn’t seem to have the right fit.
Then Alan was introduced to a flood of new games within the span of a year. Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Carcasone, and finally Agricola. All beautifully crafted strategy games with ever more diminishing reliance upon luck and a game that changes every time it’s played.
These new games had an enormous impact on Alan, as his social life got a little more geeky the gears began to turn on game creation. Meeting Jamey and collaborating on Viticulture has given Alan a creative outlet that can’t be matched anywhere else. Game creation is a joy as there is no problem that cannot be fixed with creativity and playtesting.
Alan grew up in central Missouri and now lives in St. Louis with his wife Erin, son Eliot, two dogs Rufus and Sidney, and two cats Blender and Milkshake. Alan has too many pets.
You can see their photos and all corresponding hyperlinks here: http://stonemaiergames.com/about/Last updated:
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