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"Vinícola" is the Portugese word for "winery," and while designer Vital Lacerda has used that name on his prototype for at least a year, it won't work on the published game due to inevitable comparisons with any other –cola games on the market. Thus, the game will be published under the name Vinhos.
In the game, players buy vineyards, cultivate vines, manage their storage needs, hire oenologists, and otherwise manage affairs like a real vintner in order to earn tons of money when they sell wines to restaurants, cafés and other clients.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com
After pouring through two hours of rules, I wondered what game about wineries had been purchased. Then, a light of vineyards dawned. The game in its intricacy is beautifully designed. You first see a colorful board with places clearly explained for the different actions. You can only take two actions a phase. The board is divided into a roughly drawn map of Portugal; an area called a Quadrel (similar to a rondel with more spaces for choosing actions); a wine-tasting fair with score numbers; export and local purchase areas; a bank where investments can be affected; an area (similar to Caylus) for three major wine buyers to sample your product; and a place for the weather.
Of course, your objective is to gain the most victory points. You increase your victory points with three wine-tasting fair turns of the third, fifth, and seventh. The game has a finite quality with seven turns, usually lasting about 2-3 hours. You start by first investing in a winery. You may produce red or white wine. You should not be daunted by the German rules; simply, find the English rules on the Internet under Boardgamegeek. You now look on the vineyard tile and notice a price in the middle and a value of 2 for each winery when the production phase occurs.In the upper part of the tile is your choice on the right side for white wine or red on the left side. That brings up the phases in each turn: (1) weather check; (2) action phase; (3) maintenance (paying taxes); (3) production phase; action phase; (4) maintenance (paying taxes); (5) production phase; and wine-tasting fair (selected turns).
Once you have purchased your first vineyard, it is necessary to purchase a winery and an enologist (a kind of weeple chemist). All these items can be obtained on the Quadrel (action area and round track). It is important to know how to move in the Quadrel. You may move (for free) diagonally or orthogonally (that is, adjacent). More than one space in those directions requires paying $1,000 bagos (or think of as bucks or dollars). If you move into a Quadrel space occupied by another player, you pay that gamer $1,000 bagos.
One of the spaces you can move into is the Banco do Vinho (or Wine Bank Account). The first player starts with $11,000 bagos, while the second player starts with $12,000 bags with each additional player $1,000 bagos for players up to five. I played the two-player game, but the game looks just as exciting for four (2-4 players).
In the Quadrel part of the board, actions can include buying vineyards, building wineries, hiring Enologists, building cellars, selling or exporting produced wines, hiring wine experts, or pass as well as creating a press release for the wine fair to come in selected turns. Let's take a couple of examples of actions: building cellars and hiring wine experts. Cellars are more important than the two warehouses you are given for starting a new vineyard. Cellars allow you to store four wines with the "aging" process allowing the movement of the small wine tile forward to the right for three additional squares. The warehouses only have two squares or slots. Unfortunately, if you do not sell your wine tile after the fourth movement forward on each turn, you lose that opportunity.
Wine experts are a great deal of fun, including ones for aroma, look, taste, and alcohol content. To me learning about how wine is judged became another plus of the game. Each wine expert tile is so well designed that you tell at a glance whether the person is examining the bottle, sniffing the glass, or taking a swig of the wine, It costs the player $1,000 bagos to invest in a wine expert, and that tile becomes quite valuable at the wine fair. Additionally, on certain squares of the Quadrel you can obtain a wine expert for free. During the game it is crucial to have many wine experts to help you gain additional points at the wine fair for aroma, look, taste, and alcohol content. You strive to show your best wines, either white or red, and gain the attention of "managers" who are interested in a wine with a certain color and vintage.
We haven't talked much about exporting and sales. On an action, as mentioned earlier, you can decide on the Quadrel to sell your wine to the locals. You place one barrel from your vineyard on, let's say, the No. 7 red. How did you arrive at that 7? You probably added the one vineyard (worth two) plus the winery (worth two)plus the Enologist (weeple) worth one and the wine itself in the warehouse or cellar (worth two). You can then, at the appropriate game moment, add seven bagos to your original amount in the Wine Bank. The Export Board Section is even more lucrative, because, in that portion of the board, you place, say, a No. 9 in a column or row and receive that many victory points immediately. In our first game we discovered that saving up for export meant gaining more victory points quickly on the scoring track. Suppose you want to make the No. 10 instead of 9; you would need to have purchased or obtained renown cubes to increase the value. The rules say, either in the local sales or export board areas, the value must be equal to or higher than the requested value.
I don't want to overwhelm you with the additional details of the wine-tasting fair, but you can gain an advantage at the fair in later going in a different turn order as well as scoring points for aroma, taste, look, and alcohol on the fair scoring track. The game plays surprisingly well, and one begins to plan for additional vineyards and wineries to make more money. It gives you the real feel for wine development. I have also learned to appreciate the role of the vintner.
The game receives a high rating because of its educational quality and its superb attention to detail. I understand Z-man Games may be planning an American version sometime in the summer or fall. Still, you can order your copy from your favorite Internet company or What's Your Game German company. Start enjoying the grape!