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Store:  Strategy Games
Theme:  Business, Wine
Format:  Board Games


English language edition

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Ages Play Time Players
12+ 60-90 minutes 3-5

Designer(s): Christwart Conrad

Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Goldsieber

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Product Description

In this game, players acquire vineyards in 9 regions in Italy. Players choose from five kinds of grapes when they first start buying in a region, but not all grapes grow in all regions. The players then sell their wines by type, driving prices down for everyone. Players also have the opportunity to affect the price of the wines in other ways.

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Christwart Conrad

  • Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Goldsieber

  • Year: 1999

  • Players: 3 - 5

  • Time: 60 - 90 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 1,480 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4 in 13 reviews

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Good buying/selling game
December 30, 2001

The game takes a little getting used to but then plays smoothly. I disagree with earlier comments:

1) The market moves very rapidly, too rapidly for any real strategic planning.

I don't agree. You know who is strong in a particular group. If you have competition, you better plan to sell ahead of them. The way to do that is to SELL LESS WINE the previous turn. Then you will go before them (albeit $200 poorer) and sell the wine and undercut their profits. In fact, if you depress the price enough, your opponent will be forced to sell his other wine and raise the wine you just sold.

2) It is not really a simulation at all; it is more an abstract game.

Got that right, and neither is any German game a simulation. They are all abstract games with light themes. I like simulations (wargames and science games like American Megafauna), and I like Euro games. Settlers of Catan isn't a simulation. I can't think of any Euro ([page scan/se=0130/sf=category/fi=stockin.asc/ml=20]Ursuppe included) that's a simulation. Its not a pure abstract game like Siesta.

> Every year you do not generate more wine, nor does unsold wine do you any good later. It is more an abstract representation of territorial change. If you are looking for anything vaguely economic, look elsewhere.

The theme is not 'realistic'. But the buying and selling mechanism is ok. If there is a large sale before you come to market, the price will be depressed.

3) There is too much kingmaking going on--affecting the market, choosing which regions to go after, etc. are all more oriented towards who you are helping next rather than yourself. It feels like a lot of turns are really deciding who you want to help out, which is fine, but does not lend itself to strategic play beyond politics.

The last turn certainly has the kingmaker problem. Other than that, its not a big deal except with a vindictive player, and that's true of any German-style game. To avoid the kingmaker problem to some extent, try to maximize your score or relative position.

by Jay
Good to the last drop
May 13, 2001

As both an economics major and a wine lover, the initial appeal of Vino was obvious. I thought that I would give Vino a try. I'm glad that I did.

My gaming group slowly realized the complexity of the game mechanics. Where to buy? What to grow? How much to buy? How much to sell? Do I buy all of the public vinyards in a region to deny the lucky loser his spoils? There is no end to the list of questions.

We did not find that the market moved too fast for long term planning. If you are selling a grape variety and you come to the market after a large quantity of that variety has been sold, the price will be depressed. If you come with a different variety, relative scarcity indicates that the price for your variety will be higher. If several people are producing your variety, you can choose to continue to grow that variety at a reduced price, or you can choose to grow a new variety. This is free market economics at work.

The public vinyard giveaways and the beautiful components all add to the enjoyment in playing this game. Highly recommended.

by Greg
July 06, 2000

The game is a lot of fun, with several tough decisions per turn. There is no clutter and the game plays smoothly. The consequence of an action may not be apparent for a turn or two, but pay attention. By watching the other players you can estimate their next turn's actions and plan accordingly.

Beautiful components. No problem telling any grapes apart because you just read the type next to the region. Even if you are color blind it will have zero effect on play.

Details, Details!
July 05, 2000

After having it in the arsenal for several months, our group is thoroughly convinced of the quality and playability of this game.

Vino does have a couple of problems. The colors chosen for the regions are very hard to tell apart--three light purplish-pinks and two light olive-greens--what were they thinking? (The board looks very nice when it's all set up, so maybe that's what they were thinking.) Anyway, once you manage to sort them out at the beginning of the game, you're set.

Also it would facilitate matters if the regions were numbered as well as named on each player's vineyard card, as they are on the board. Occasionally a player will accidentally mark the wrong region during the part of the round when everyone simultaneously and secretly designates the two regions they intend to buy in on that round, and a misstep here can be huge.

The most discouraging problem, though, is that an essential rule is buried on page 5, does not appear on the game summary card, and is counterintuitive enough that it's unlikely to occur to anybody without a clear explanation. When you sell wine, the most you can sell is the number of bottles showing on your vineyard card--but, confusingly, when you make the sale you do not reduce the number of bottles showing on your card by that number! Instead there's a 'vineyards lost' number next to the 'market change' number you have to know to refer to. Many people have played their first game of Vino with this rule wrong and have never come back for their second game, and this is a shame!

Once you've got it all straightened out, though, if you enjoy a close contest where you're fighting for inches from start to finish, you'll find that Vino is a challenging and delicious experience. The 'government giveaway' mechanism is a brand new one where, in each region, some of the vineyards are set aside to be 'given away by the government' at the moment when all the 'private' vineyards are bought up. Weirdly, the government gives one vineyard to the player who owns the most private vineyards in the region, two vineyards to the player who owns the second most, and all the rest to the player who owns the third most! The jockeying for position to come in second or third instead of first and, going against that grain, the buying up of government vineyards to keep them from being given away are the little engines that make this game go like no other.

The margin of victory in Vino can usually be counted on your thumbs, so you really have to grind it out, and you'd better want a serious game before you start. But if this kind of thing appeals to you, you'll be getting Vino out to play again and again.

Great business game
May 23, 2000

I'm surprised this game hasn't sold as well as less worthy but glitzier games. Its a subtle business game where you concentrate on improving your position, rather than screwing the other players even though it doesn't benefit you.

The physical components are excellent, and being color blind is not a problem after the first turn because you don't need to use any of the region/grape chits after the first turn.

Its not a cut throat game, and is well suited to family play. I've played it 9 times with my wife and her parents (they like it too!).

The decisions are:

  1. deciding which region will be subject to the next or next next government giveaway. In my experience you will probably lose the game if you don't get a piece of the early action, and don't let one player run the board in an inexpensive region like Abruzzio.
  2. deciding which grapes (brands) to concentrate on. If only one person has Barbara grapes it might be worth muscling in on them. If you and another player are competing for Montepulciano, you might want to grab a single vinyard in a region that allows Monty grapes, just to box him out.
  3. placement - deciding which vinyards to buy. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature, but be careful of tactical mistakes.
  4. selling just enough of the correct grape to gain enough money, and leave you set up for the following turn (i.e its not always worth selling the most if it means you'll go last the following turn), so you can sell a big load before an opponent.

One rule players sometimes miss is the wine cellar card reflects the number of vinyards on the board. It's not additive from turn to turn. This means that if you don't sell 3 bottles of X, you may only sell 3 bottles the following turn, not 3+3=6. Just reset the player wine cellar card to reflect the map each turn, and you'll do fine.

by Dave
Truly Unique
January 30, 2003

From start to finish this game plays smoothly, keeps your interest, and keeps you entertained. Unlike some of the opinions in other reviews, I think the rules were written very well and were very clear. The game mechanic is a little different, and takes some getting use to but once you understand it, it makes perfect sense. In addition, a 'demand line' really throws a curve in the production and selling of grapes - depending on what types and how many grapes are in circulation, the 'demand line' will vary the overall profit of your sales...if the market is saturated with that type of grape, you lose money - if it's rare, you make more money.

The game also looks great, from the board, to the clear colored counters, to the info cards (just keep your eyes on the round wooden grape markers...they tend to roll away). My only complaint about the game is that many regions on the board are very similar in color - this makes telling them apart difficult unless you really look...but it's no big deal.

Vino is a keeper.

Mechanism and gameplay outweigh the component problems
May 06, 2000

This is a nifty little game that has some really interesting ideas that you can appreciate while you are playing it. On a scale of 1-10, I give it a seven, taking 2 points off for the various problems with the components as described below, and 1 point for having a replay value that I suspect might be limited, although after four games I and my group are eager to play again. I also am hoping for myself or someone else to get a brainstorm for a 2-player variant. If you think of one, e-mail me!

As for game particulars, I feel the balance of the game is excellent, with selling, price-setting and subsequent player ordering keeping a very nice check on any runaway leads. In one game I managed to become the only grower of Barbera grapes, which gave me a definite edge, but even then, the huge dent in the market after I sold them necessitated my boosting it back up with other grape sales. I lost that game, mostly because I misjudged which would be the final round of the game, and didn't buy up vineyards before. He who is awarded the most gov't issued vineyards generally wins, and the line between who is awarded how many vineyards is often difficult to predict. It never seems as though the mechanism is doing something you don't even realize (my only beef with games such as Knizia's Samurai) but it is hardly ever obvious, either. I look forward to the next game from Christwart Conrad.

The component problems have been covered in another review, and while I don't feel as strongly about them as the other reviewer did, one of the first things that occurred to me as I familiarized myself with the many bits was 'Man, I'm glad I'm not colorblind'. You need good light and a close look to discern some of the region's chips. The set-up is a bit laborious, but with four people doing it it only took about 3 minutes. The dark-colored tiddlywinks never caused us any problem, but the little rolly grape-balls were a definite brainfart on the part of the component design team... Duh! So far it's only been a source of laffs when someone loses a grape overboard, but if the entire abacus-like scoreboard were to be swiped it could, potentially, ruin a game. As a side note, all of these components are very well-made and attractive to look at, if not well thought-out.

In closing, I would not call this a family game, but I think it's fine for a low-key gaming group. We had plenty of fun pronouncing toungue-twisters like 'Montepulciano', 'Abruzzo' and 'Liguria' with a cheesy Italian accents based on cartoons and bad movies. Vino is not a must-have game like Settlers or El Grande, but I would put it on a playability par with such games as Elfenland, El Caballero or Chinatown. The price is a little steep, especially since you could get a game like El Grande or Stephenson's Rocket for the same price. But the theme is fun and carries well, the mechanism is unusual and entertaining, and you get to laugh at fellow players who lose their marbles! (I just can't decide if those things are a plus or minus...)

by Dr Jay
Grapes of Wrath--Not!
January 17, 2000

When first looking at Vino, I was attracted to the subject matter of grape growing. Perhaps it is the Southern California influence and all those wine bottles you sample in the supermarkets. Our group consisted of four spirited players who played to possess the most vineyards at the end of the game.

The rules took a little while to master, but the enjoyment for three hours proved their worthiness. In any succession of rounds you have three sequences: (1)buy vineyard(s), (2)sell wine, and (3)change the player turn order. The player turn order changes to the starting player becoming the individual who has the least amount of 'new money' from the sales. The connected circular numbers on the board for private and government-owned vineyards took some getting used to. It was fun to remove the wine bottle to indicate no more government giveaways occurred in a particular region. In many regions you have the choices of at least two to three different kinds of grapes (available grape variety markers), but you can only choose one of each kind. As the game progressed, I began to receive an education about terms, such as Trebbiano (T) and Montepulciano (M).

One of our players, new to these kinds of game, bought most of the vineyards of one type in Campania. The other players tended to spread their resources in Veneto, Toscana, and Trentino, Italy as well as Sardegna. I didn't particularly like the rule in case of ties that the player who bought the most expensive vineyard in a region always had the first choice (furthest on the path) to sell that particular kind of wine. Another rule that took a little getting used to involved placing your 'new money' to the right of the player information card, while the 'old money' remained at the left of the card.

As with certain oil and gold finding games, the market became a crucial element of the game. For example, if you sell two vineyards, then you move another type of wine label up two (in demand) on the market table (-500 to +500). You have a screen in front of you at all times to tell how many vineyards are lost, total income received for vineyards sold, and how market change is affected (up or down). Therefore, those two vineyards would have move the demand down for that wine, but I could move some other kind of wine up two or one type up one and another kind up one. Also, when your last vineyard is sold in a region, you are out of the region until you buy in it again. When the last wine bottle (six at the beginning for regions) is sold, the government-owned vineyards are no longer distributed. I remember one region, Abruzzo, where a limited number of vineyards were possessed by me. That gave me second place in the region when all the private vineyards were sold. I was entitled to two government vineyards because of the rules. Those rules helped to secure more vineyards for the final count.

Certain players adopted the strategy of buying the least expensive vineyards during the game (40s, 90s, and 120s). Others spent considerable cash, making sure the region, Trentino, for example, always had one more vineyard than the other players. This race for Trentino proved disastrous for the second and third place players. My advice: Choose as many regions as you can afford and spread the resources. Another player offered this advice: Secure a few vineyards quickly at the beginning or be blocked out as the game progresses.

The ending scores show how close the game became with the vineyard numbers: 35, 24, 20, and 16. One player commented the game provided a good ratio of buying and selling. As far as I know, this game becomes my first encounter with the designer, Christwart Conrad. If this game is a sample of his design work, I commend Mr. Conrad and want to see more designs by him.

Veni, Vici, Vindat .....(I bought) VINO!
January 06, 2000

What a magnificent game! This is game #2 from Mr. Conrad, author of Medieval Merchant, also a very fine game.

The focus of Vino is to be the owner of the most vineyards at game's end (not necessarily the person with the most moolah or wine).

After a semi-random beginning of obtaining vineyards, in each round players secretly choose 2 regions where they wish to buy vineyards. There are some good rules on resolving ties (thus creating a balancing mechanism) and thereafter players add to their wine cellars (to eventually become wine sellers). The focus of these choices can also bring about in some regions government 'freebies' of vineyards (doled out in a 'reverse' order... the player with the most vineyards in a region gets first choice, but only one vineyard, while 2nd place gets two vineyards and 3rd place gets all the remaining vineyards in a given region! WOW... do you have to be alert or what??

Of course, you must sell wine (and only of one variety) to make some money to buy more vineyards. But, when you sell, you depress the market by reducing the number of vineyards you have that produce that kind of wine! At the same time, you may well cause the increase of the price(s) of other varieties of wine (which your opponents undoubtedly hold)! Tough choices!

This balance of both making money, but giving up producing vineyards (simulating the exhausted land which must recover in order to grow more grapes... very clever, I must add) as well as potentially helping out one or more opponents makes VINO extremely challenging and great entertainment.

The game ends when the last government giveaway occurs; players total vineyards with ties resolved by cash holdings (ok, finally a use for the money!).

I cheerfully admit that I am a big fan of Medieval Merchant, with its unique focus of play. VINO seems to have improved a bit over MM with careful, methodical (but not overly analytical) play required in order to be in position to win, all without dice, cards and other random events (other than the unavoidable factor of an inexperienced or (dare I say) idiotic opponent whose 'bonehead' decisions screw you and help others) make for a delightfully challenging game. I did not award 5 stars only because I recognize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for certain kinds of games (thus, I am trying to avoid being so biased as to give a game a top rating only because I love it, and don't care if you do!) and the unique strategems of VINO may not appeal to everyone. My group loves it. I think it is a very worthwhiile addition to any game collection and applaud Mr. Conrad on his ability to author two games that have won special places on my game shelf (and have been very popular with my gaming group). VINO is a worthwhile purchase if you enjoy balancing a number of factors repeatedly throughout a game in order to succeed.

by Fred
Worst Written Rules I Have Seen in Some Time
December 31, 2001

There are a number of things that make Vino appealing, like the quality of its components and its stock market theme, to name two commendable and noteworthy examples.

But do the rules need to be that badly written? If you go to so much trouble producing quality components, a rulebook AND a quick reference card, why make the rules obscure? How can people miss out on the fact (for example) that when you sell grapes, you don't move the grape counters back a bunch? True, the first attempt at this game was at 1:30 am after playing a 5-player La Citta and consuming LBV Port and Sake, but when the rules are well written, that is not a problem. The group took excellent care of tougher games like Java, Tikal, La Citta, and Medina under similar conditions. Poor rules have no excuse, since rules should be the core of the game.

I would be remiss if I left out mentions of outstanding rules as examples of what SHOULD be done. The best rulebook by far is Attila's. Serenissima's is--in my eyes--second, especially when you realize how many pages there are fluff.

Next time I play this game (and I believe it has potential, so there will be a next time), I will rewrite the rules and put them on boardgamegeek.

Vino or something else is the same
January 25, 2001

It's a quite fast game and a pretty one. I believe that the game concept is easy and not very new. It is based on a matter of offer and request. The more one wine is on the market, the less is the value.

You earn money (and win) selling wine. It's very important to make a trust on two types of wine so you can sell one in a turn (producing the other) and the other in the subsequent turn.

Very good materials and graphics and something more... it is set in Italy!

This game is all right
October 26, 2000

There is the shadow of a great game mechanic here, but it is buried underneath the wrong theme and suffers from playability issues. Here are some of the problems with the game:

  • The market moves very rapidly, too rapidly for any real strategic planning.
  • It is not really a simulation at all; it is more an abstract game. Every year you do not generate more wine, nor does unsold wine do you any good later. It is more an abstract representation of territorial change. If you are looking for anything vaguely economic, look elsewhere.
  • There is too much kingmaking going on--affecting the market, choosing which regions to go after, etc are all more oriented towards who you are helping next rather than yourself. It feels like a lot of turns are really deciding who you want to help out, which is fine but does not lend itself to strategic play beyond politics.

Do not play this game if you are colorblind
April 26, 2000

I want to start out by saying, I agree with the previous reviewers that this is a strong game of thought and strategy. I've played the game ~8 times, all 4 and 5 player games. On play alone, the game rates 4 stars, I'm happy to play it but it's not a game that our group gets excited about.

Unfortunately, the part of the game that stands out is Vino may have the worst 'quality' game components ever made. The board design is beautiful, and upon first inspection the play pieces are functional. However, the beauty is the Achilles heel of the game. It is next to impossible to tell the various regions' wine counters apart. The shadings of the colors are just too close in at least 4 of the 9 regions. In fact, in all of the games we've played someone has always misidentified a wine chit during the start round, and thus bought a vineyard in the incorrect region. However, this can be corrected by writing the region #'s all the counters, but should't that have been picked up during play testing?

The next issue is some of the vineyard chips are not opaque and have to be moved around to see the cost of the vineyard underneath, but this is a minor issue compared to the wine/region coloration issue. Also, a color blind player in our group is unable to tell 3 of the 5 player colors apart.

Finally, the players keep track of there vineyard totals with tiny wooden purple balls. And during set-up/pick-up someone will inevitably drop one or two of these little balls, and being small and a dark color they are HARD to find.

After our last playing, we came to the conclusion that the only way an interesting, quality game like Vino could be made less appealing is if it had a roll up map and the game came in a plastic tube.

My rating for the game is 4 stars for play, and 1 star for the components and graphic design.

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