Apart from his Age of Steam expansion, Vinhos was Vital Lacerda’s first published game — and paid homage to winemaking in his native Portugal.
How does the game fare in this prolific designer’s catalog? Read our Vinhos: Deluxe Edition review to find out!
Vinhos: Special Vintage 2016 Overview
In Vinhos, players act as Portuguese wine producers who make high-quality wine by expanding their Estates with vineyards, wineries, and cellars, hiring farmers and enologists, and selling their wines locally and abroad to increase their reputation.
Vinhos: Deluxe Edition includes all the rules and components for 2 versions of the game: 2010 Reserve and Special Vintage 2016. The Reserve version replicates the original game with a few minor tweaks; Special Vintage is an updated and more streamlined version.
In this review, we’ll only be looking at this 2016 version of Vinhos — and going forward, we’ll simply refer to it as “Vinhos.”
Vinhos is played over 6 rounds and each round consists of the following:
- Start of Year, in which a new Vintage tile is revealed (setting the weather conditions and the Magnates’ expectations)
- Action Phase
- Maintenance Phase
- Wine Production Phase
The rounds and their phases are tracked on the “Quadrel,” an area of the main board also used for players to select their actions.
At the end of rounds 3, 5, and 6, a special Wine Tasting Fair is held for players to show off one of their most valuable Wines and possibly earn victory points and Magnate tiles.
After the Start of Year phase, each player performs 1 action in turn order. Then, each player performs a second action.
As mentioned, the Quadrel depicts the 9 action spaces a player can choose on their turn. These actions are:
- Vineyards (appearing on 2 action spaces)
- Wine Experts
- Press Release
When you perform an action, you must move your meeple (Action Marker) to a different space. However, there are some movement rules to follow and you may even have to pay to use an action space. The movement rules are:
- Moving to an adjacent action space is free, whether orthogonally or diagonally adjacent.
- Moving to a non-adjacent space costs $1.
Furthermore, you must pay $1:
- If the action space has the Round Marker and/or
- To each player present in the action space.
The Vineyards action appears twice on the Quadrel because it’s important; without a Vineyard in your Estate, you will have no way of producing Wine — high-quality or otherwise.
There are 9 different regions where you can buy a Vineyard — and they all produce red and white Wine.
When you buy a Vineyard from a region, you’ll have to pay its associated cost, but you’ll also receive its bonus. Some are immediate (you get a Winery tile or Cellar, for example), while others come into play when you sell or produce wine.
Additionally, you’ll place one of your Region Markers in that Vineyard’s region — granting you access to the region’s precious Renown cubes.
Renown cubes are added to a region in many ways, such as performing an action in one of your Estates associated with that region. Any player with a Marker in a region can use its Renown cubes to increase their Wine’s value.
Winery tiles increase an Estate’s Wine quality; each tile automatically increases a Vineyard’s Wine production by 1. With an Enologist working at a Winery, the production quality is increased by another 2.
The Enologists and Farmers you hire work on various tiles in your Estate; each Winery tile can hold 1 Enologist, while each Vineyard tile can hold 1 Farmer. Both these employees increase the quality of Wine you produce.
Furthermore, you may rearrange these employees on your player board before every Wine Production phase.
Each Estate on your player board has a Warehouse that can hold 2 Wine tiles. However, these Warehouses can be upgraded with Cellars to double an Estate’s storage. Cellars also increase a Wine’s value since you can store (read: age) your Wine for longer.
During the game, you’ll need money to invest in your winemaking venture, so you’ll have to sell wines locally to earn some quick cash.
The locals requirea specific kind of Wine (red or white) of a minimum value (as shown by the number on their space, which also indicates how much money you’ll receive for selling there).
Additionally, you need to place 1 of your Barrels on the space, thus meeting the local’s demand and blocking it from other players.
Players start the game with 2 Barrels, but you can earn up to 6 more by impressing Magnates throughout the game.
Exporting works similarly to selling, except you earn victory points instead of money.
The “Export” area of the board also has some end-game scoring opportunities; the player to sell the most in each column earns the victory points depicted above it.
Wine Experts have 2 functions in the game: they have a special ability and can help you earn more Fair points by promoting your wine.
On your turn, you may use up to 1 of your Wine Expert’s special abilities. However, if you do, it is turned facedown and cannot be used for the Wine Tasting Fair. (Luckily, after the first and second Fair, all Wine Experts are flipped faceup and made available again.)
The Press Release action is always free for players to move to, regardless of how many other players are there.
This action allows you to present a Wine from your Estate to earn Fair Points for the next Wine Tasting Fair.
Moreover, you may discard any faceup Wine Expert tiles if their specialty matches those depicted on the Vintage tile to earn even more Fair Points.
Finally, if you meet the Magnates’ expectations (shown on the Vintage tile), you may take up to 2 Barrels from them.
You can only perform the Press Release action once before an upcoming Wine Tasting Fair.
If you choose not to take this action before the Fair, you can still do so before it begins, but you will likely miss out on some bonuses and won’t have access to precious Barrels.
After all players have performed their second action, the Maintenance phase begins. During this phase, players simply remove 1 of their Barrels from the “Sales” area of the board, making it and its space available for the next round.
Wine Production Phase
Before producing new wine, you must age what is currently in your Warehouses/Cellars by shifting the tiles 1 slot to the right.
Then, each player’s Estate with at least 1 Vineyard produces 1 Wine tile. The quality of the Wine the Estate produces is as follows:
- +2 for each Vineyard
- +1 for each Farmer
- +1 for each Winery
- +2 for each Enologist
- ± according to the Vintage Tile’s weather conditions.
Wine Tasting Fair
At the end of the third, fifth, and sixth round, there is a Wine Tasting Fair. Any players who didn’t take the Press Release action may now do so for free. Then, the Fair begins!
Players compare their Fair points and score victory points according to their position (first, second, or third). Players in fourth place don’t score victory points, but they get a Wine Expert tile for free.
Then, players may discard a Wine tile to buy a Magnate tile in turn order. This continues until all players have passed, thus marking the end of the Fair.
There are 2 types of Magnate tiles players can buy: green Action tiles and purple Multiplier tiles.
The green Action tiles have a special ability that players can use on their turn before or after their main action.
Like Wine Expert tiles, they are turned facedown after use and only flip faceup after the first and second Wine Tasting Fair.
Multiplier tiles grant a player a unique end-game scoring condition. However, you must place a Barrel on it to score.
End-game and Final Scoring
After the third Fair, each player may take 1 more action. Then, players earn victory points for:
- Their leftover money
- Half of the quality of each Wine in their Estates
- Majorities in the columns of the “Export” area
- Multiplier tiles
Vinhos: Special Vintage 2016 Review
Vital Lacerda is one of my favorite game designers; 3 of his games sit comfortably in my top 10 games of all time (Kanban, On Mars, and Vinhos).
He often incorporates an interesting theme into his game’s mechanisms and does it so well that, if you understand its basic concept, you’ll know what strategies to pursue to succeed.
Vinhos really nails this aspect of his games. If you have a basic understanding of how grapes become the wine that you buy, it won’t take you long to understand Vinhos.
For instance, you know that if you want to get anywhere in the game, you need to start by buying a Vineyard.
This is especially true because Vinhos is one of Lacerda’s “lighter” heavy games and works linearly. You must accomplish one thing before you can do the next, and so on.
However, Vinhos is still an exciting and tense gameplay experience, even if it isn’t as complex.
That’s because a huge part of the game’s tension is how tight money is; you’ll never feel like you have enough and often must sacrifice an action or high-quality Wine to make a few dollars.
Vinhos is a fantastic game if you’re looking for a highly thematic experience that will work your brain.
If you’re looking to step into the wonderful world of heavy Lacerda games, Vinhos is a great entry point.