The Conception of Viticulture: November-December 2011

2 August 2012 | 2 Comments

I originally came up with the idea of a wine-creation game back in November 2011. I had seen a lot of games run successful Kickstarter campaigns, and I thought it might be high time to make my lifelong dream of publishing a board game come to life. So I got to work.

Why wine? A few reasons. First, wine is highly romanticized. I bet everyone knows at least one person who has said, “I’d love to have my own vineyard someday.” I don’t even drink wine (I love the idea of wine, but it gives me migraines), and yet I love the idea of having a vineyard!

Second, as open as I am to medieval fantasy games with knights and castles and magic, not everyone is. I wanted to create a game for gamers and non-gamers alike. I think Settlers of Catan has done wonders as a gateway game, opening people up to the possibility of strategy games instead of just poker, Monopoly, and social games like Cranium. All of which have their place. But I’d rather play a Euro game any day of the week, and I wanted to let people realize that thinking a little bit on game night can actually be a good thing.

Thus I wanted to create a game with very little luck. I thought I’d do this by making all choices equally accessible to all players. Everything’s right out there on the table. Although the final version of the game has some of that, these early versions took it to the extreme.

Originally the game used tiles instead of cards for the grapes. But I soon realized that tiles, even prototype tiles, are really hard to shuffle. So I eventually replaced them with cards. I also didn’t want there to be a common game board. That eventually changed too when I realized that some common conflict is good.

Look at all those words! Way too much information to digest.

There are lots of little nuances about this version of the game (it’s actually version 2–I forgot to take photos of version 1), but the one cool thing I’ll point out are the wine orders. In every version of the game there is this concept of “wine orders.” You get points for supplying merchants with wine–in this case, different types of whites and reds.

Well, in this early version of the game, the merchants ordering the wine were countries. Players sold wine to Spain, to France, to the US, etc. Each country was represented by the blue/white cards on the left. When a country no longer needed white or red wine based on their demand, you could no longer sell to that country.

This was a good concept in principle, but in reality it frustrated players to no end, partially because of my execution. Players had to reach certain levels of winemaking expertise to sell to some of the pickier countries, so all too often players were stuck with no country to whom to sell their wine. It was too unpredictable and too frustrating, so I changed the concept to something you’ll see in future versions of this series.

Last, I learned that some randomness is good, as it adds to the replayability of the game. But randomness needs to be controlled by individual players. For example, if you have a deck of cards from which players draw, let the players have control (through their tactical choices) over how many cards they draw. In this early version of the game, I had random grapes being sold by a vendor that everyone had access to, but individual players had no control over how many grapes were made available. They were at the whim of the shuffler, and so the first player to act each round had a huge advantage over the rest.

Lessons learned. :)

2 Comments on “The Conception of Viticulture: November-December 2011

  1. Wow, it is really neat to see the early concept of this game through your pictures after having played the finished product.

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