Strategically Thematic: Vinhos

August 16, 2017

Strategically Thematic is a segment featured on The Dice Tower's bi-weekly Throat Punch Lunch videos about games where the theme and mechanics go together really well.

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Hi! This is Ambie from Board Game Blitz, and this is Strategically Thematic, a segment where I talk about theme in different strategic games. This time, I’m talking about Vinhos.

Vinhos is a game where you’re a wine producer in Portugal. You want to make the highest quality wine you can, building up your reputation and prestige by selling your wine and bringing it to trade fairs. The game takes place over the course of 6 years. Each year, you can perform two actions, like building vineyards, wineries, or cellars, hiring enologists or wine experts, selling wine, or going to the bank.

In order to make quality wine, there are a lot of actions that you’ll need to do. Building up your wine estates with vineyards, wineries, and enologists will allow you to produce better wine, but you’ll need to go to the bank in order to get the cash to build up your vineyards. At the end of each year, your vineyards produce wine, and your wine that you had from before will age, potentially making it more valuable. In order to score well at trade fairs, you need to produce high quality wines with good features like taste or aroma. There’s a special track for the trade fair, and you score victory points based on how well you’re doing in the trade fair relative to other players. But the trade fair track doesn’t reset, since your popularity from one year will carry over into future years.

Another part of the trade fair is the managers. There are three different managers that taste the wine, and each year they’re looking for different qualities in the wine. If you manage to make wine that pleases them, then you can develop a relationship with them. Then, in the future, you can give that manager wine in order to do bonus actions or get special end of game scoring points. You can also sell wine to local hangouts to get money, or to international markets to get money and points if your wine is good enough.

One really neat and thematic thing in the game is these weather tiles. This represents the weather each year, and it affects every player. If there's a bad year, everyone's wine that year will suffer, and if it's a good year, everyone will make good wine! I don’t really like wine, but this mechanic really made me think of when people say something like 2005 was a great year for wine.

Another interesting thing is that you can build your estates in different regions of Portugal. Each region has different characteristics and abilities in the game based on real life. For example, the Minho region is humid and their wines are usually drunk within a year, so you cannot build a cellar in that region, and wine can only be stored for one year.

Vinhos is a great game with a lot of mechanics that work well together to bring the theme of winemaking to the table. There are interesting decisions on how you'll make good wine, which wine you'll bring to the trade fair, and which wines you'll sell, and there's so many things to do in the game in order to try to make the best wine. Thanks for watching Board Game Blitz! Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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