- Designer: Jose Ramon Palacios
- Publisher: Devir
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 45-60 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by DEVIR
The story in the rulebook for La Viña is that the previous owner of the vineyard has gone off to the great wine bar in the sky, and he wanted to leave his vineyard to the player who could make the best wine from this grapes; thus a competition is held to determine the winner. (hey, I don’t make this stuff up, I just write about it).
In the game, the board forms a track that represents the rows in the vineyard. Cards are arrayed on both sides of this track, representing the different grapes that you could pick. Players move through this one-way vineyard, and each time they make it to the end of the row, they can sell the grapes they have collected to different wineries; each wants a certain combination and quantity of different types of grapes.
Each player gets a grape picker card and the wooden meeple that matches the color. Players also get some barrel tokens – one is used for each delivery of grapes in the game. The board is set up (varying lengths based on player count) and then the grape cards are shuffled, and two cards are placed above and below each aisle. The top card should hide most of the bottom card (so that you cannot tell if there are any tools on the bottom card. Players arrange their tokens in reverse player order – that is, the starting player is furthest away from the board. Each player also receives their starting grape basket cards as well as a handicap of points to balance out starting position. At the end of the row, a wild grape counter is placed as well as a number of winery cards and the wine co-op card.
The game is played in a number of rounds, and in each round, the players will make a single trip through the one-way vineyard. Turn order changes in this game, and the player who is furthest in the rear of the line of meeples goes next. On a turn, the player must move his meeple forward to an unoccupied space (2 spaces per winery row) or to the end of the row. Before or after moving his meeple, he may choose an available grape card – that is a card which is not covered by another grape card – and places that card in one of his baskets. Each basket has a card capacity printed on it, and you cannot exceed that capacity. If the grape card shows a tool on it, you take a corresponding token from the supply to show that you now have this tool. You are limited to having no more than two tools at a time. If you want, you can discard an entire basket of grape cards OR you can transfer all the grape cards from one basket to the other so long as you don’t exceed the limit. Tools can be discarded to take special actions such as taking a covered card, taking 2 cards at a space or taking a card from a space behind you. Multiple tools can also be combined to possibly allow you to take 2 cards from a space behind you.
If you move to the end of the row, you can no longer pick grapes in this round. If you are the first to leave, you take the wild grape counter. Then, you can make 1 or 2 deliveries – each delivery is made up of ALL the grapes in a single basket. Each winery has a type (or types) of grape that they want printed at the top as well as a quantity of those grapes. If you can meet the needs of the winery, you can deliver those grapes and place one of your barrels on the winery card. Take VP markers equal to what was printed on the space you covered. Finally, you can decide if you want to upgrade your basket(s) by paying the difference in cost between the old and new basket. Now, move your meeple back to the starting area but be sure to leave room as play in the next round occurs in the same order of exit in the last round; that is, the first player to leave the vineyard will start the next round.
Once all players have exited the vineyard, the vineyard is magically reset. All rows are replenished to having 2 cards on top and below each space, and a new wild grape counter is placed at the end. Any winery that has at least one empty delivery slot gains a 1VP marker. The player who delivers the final delivery to each winery will take all the VPs that have accumulated there.
The game continues through the completion of the round when a player uses his final barrel counter. All players can exit the vineyard and make their final deliveries. Then, the player with the most VPs wins the game. If there is a tie, it is broken in favor of the player who came out of the vineyard later in the final round.
My thoughts on the game
La Viña is a nice easy going game of set collection and grape management. There is a nice challenge trying to pick the grapes that you want in order to meet the needs of the winery. Maybe you’d rather concentrate on picking up tools first to use to devastating effect later in the game. Early on, you have plenty of options and plenty of time to pick what you want. As the deliveries start to be made though, you need to keep your eye out on what your opponents are doing. If you see them going for the final delivery on the same card that you’re trying to do, you may need to beat them out of the vineyard lest they snake the last spot away from you.
The components are nice, but I have a serious issue with the VP markers. First, they are officially called prestige markers, and they are four different shapes, a ribbon=1vp, a seal = 5vp, a bottle =10vp and a diploma = 50VP. Frustratingly, the rules refer to them by their names rather than their values. This just leads to confusion. Why not just say 1VP or 5VP. Anyways, the rules say you can freely convert between shapes as needed, so there is no reason for the terminology. Furthermore, the rules say that you are not obligated to show your VP total. However, as the markers all have a unique shape; even if I can’t read the number on them, I can still generally tell what you’ve got. The whole system is just un-necessarily unwieldy. The rulebook requires a whole page just to explain the VP markers, and there is no reason for this.
Of course, the rulebook is 24 pages long, and while the pages are small, that seems like a lot for a game of this easy complexity. The game is really quite simple to play – VP confusion notwithstanding. I have only played with the higher player counts, and it works well with 4 and 5. There are rules to scale the game for lower player counts, and with 2 players, each gets 2 grape pickers in the same color, so I imagine it feels very similar to the 4p games.
For me, it’s refreshing to have a wine game that isn’t overly complex. Grand Cru, Viticulture, Vinhos, and Toscana are all too complex for me to play with newbies – casual friends that come over to drink wine. La Viña is in a nice spot as a less complex game that shares the theme. Here, you’ll be up and running in less than 10 minutes – less than the time it usually takes people to even get Vinhos set up!
For a casual night, or maybe with some wine-drinking friends; I’d grab this and a bottle of Cabernet and sit down for a nice game.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor