Review: Viticulture: Visit from the Rhine Valley

Designer: Tido Lorenz, Jamey Stegmaier
Artist: Beth Sobel
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Category: Worker Placement
Players: 1-6
Price: $20.00 StonemaierGames.com

Visit from the Rhine Valley is an expansion for the popular game Viticulture. Replacing the visitor cards from the base game, it provides new strategic possibilities and emphasizes the winemaking process. Since it does not introduce any additional rules systems, it is easy to “plug-and-play.”

Review

As I’ve said before, I really, really enjoy Viticulture (and its expansion). In general, euro games are not my thing, but this one is so tightly designed, so beautifully produced, and so unexpectedly thematic that it just works.

Visit from the Rhine Valley is a small-but-mighty expansion for the game. Consisting of two new decks of cards, it replaces the summer and winter visitors from the original game with new ones. This may not sound like it would do much to change the experience—after all, it doesn’t add new mechanisms, but rather substitutes existing cards—but surprisingly, these alternate visitors give the game a very different strategic feel. They narrow its focus, putting a strong emphasis on making and selling wine.

While Viticulture is deservedly popular, I have heard some folks say they feel the base game lacks in this area. To them, it seems un-thematic that someone can win by using a bunch of “Spend X to get points” cards, rather than by making and selling wine. Visit from the Rhine Valley addresses these concerns; while not every single card pertains to winemaking, the lion’s share do.

The backs of the cards are different from those in the base game, such that players can pick which deck(s) they wish to use.

I enjoy the variability of these new visitors, but I was never of the opinion that “the points strategy” was problematic to begin with. In my Viticulture review, I told an anecdote about a time that one of my gaming buddies almost won without ever making wine. I said:

I also dig the nod to Gaia Project. Nice gamer-geek Easter egg.

“The fact that the game accommodated such an outside-the-box strategy showed me just how balanced and robust it really is; I know a lot of games that would fall apart if someone tried something like that.”

Therefore, to me, the Rhine Valley visitors provide nice customization options, but they are not “the solution to a problem”—as far as I’m concerned, Viticulture never had a problem that needed solving in the first place. Thus, I do recommend this expansion, but possibly for different reasons, depending upon your opinion of the original game:

  • If you think Viticulture does not do enough to stress winemaking, this expansion will be just what you’re looking for. It does more to incentivize players to follow the “thematic strategy,” while still offering lots of decisions (e.g. “Do X OR do Y”).
  • Or, if like me, you think the game is perfect as is, this expansion will provide you with new variety to play around with.

Either way, Visit from the Rhine Valley is worth checking out.

A review copy was provided by Stonemaier Games.

The Bottom Line

Visit from the Rhine Valley is a great choice for fans of Viticulture. Highly recommended.

 

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