2nd Mar 2023 - Vinhosby Robin. Fri, 3 Mar (Updated at Sat, 4 Mar)
We were treading the grapes in Portugal with Vital this week, for the richly thematic game of Vinhos. I'm not always a fan of the really heavy games, but in this case I find it works well: the game goes into enough detail to transplant you into the theme, mulling over your use of wineries, staff and barrels. You devote yourself to producing the finest wine in the heat of the September sun, and your brain gets utterly frazzled...
I can't think of another game where the turn time increases as exponentially as this one. We rattled through the first "half" in no time, whereas by the last round I could have gone into the other room, joined a game there, finished it and been back in time for my next turn in Vinhos. But the other room had all gone home by then anyway. It's ironic that the choice of good options is so much larger in the first few rounds, and you can make the biggest impact on your ultimate score at that point; yet we all devote so much more time and effort to deciding between option A and option B at the end to gain an extra point or two. I've played this game many times and still not taught myself to do it the other way round.
Vinhos has long been one of my favourite games, basically because I approach it the way I would approach actual wine making: sitting back while the sun sets on the Douro terraces, enjoying the ambience. So playing it in the tournament has come as a bit of a shock, as we end up scrutinising all the actions for the best possible way to score points, rather than just feeling good about producing top-quality wine. Even in very well-balanced games like this one, there is a best strategy, which the tournament manages to tease out. I was too distracted by the thematic immersion to focus on that, and I didn't win - but I did manage to produce two successive port wines of the highest possible quality at the end, which was more fun.
I'm not sure if there's a record for most games played in a night at the club, but Table 4 surely broke it last night. They were up to 6 when I last checked, and may have got even further? Either way, The Resistance, Parade, Tsuro and an old favourite of mine - Cash & Guns - were all ticked off while we edged through a couple of rounds of Vinhos. At the other table in the side room they also managed to get in 2 games: one was Barrage with the new Nile Affair expansion. I was curious to know how that went, but instead I was briefed in great detail on the numerous variants of Sudoku that Ed was playing on his phone during the downtime.
Elsewhere in our room they were playing Faiyum, which is a game set in Ancient Egypt with crocodiles. Sounds fun, and possibly explains why there are no longer any crocodiles in the Sahara(?), as they get built over as the game progresses. And the last table were playing Paris, followed by a game called Garum that I'd never seen before. It's by a Portuguese designer who is not Vital Lacerda, about a fermented Portuguese export that is not wine. Garum is, or was, a celebrated fish sauce which the game blurb claims was a motivation for the Romans to conquer Lusitania. So long and thanks for all the fish. Anyway, the game itself is a nice little pattern-building / area-control combo about getting all the right fish. Personally I prefer wine, but I would like to try this one too.