Welcome back to Designer Friday! Are you excited? I am excited. Ahem, let’s move on. Today’s feature is on Jamey Stegmaier.
I happened upon him, and his games by accident. Being still fairly new to the modern board game hobby, I went a bit crazy looking for new games coming out when we started our collection, and I happened upon Viticulture. I had missed the Kickstarter, as I had no idea what that was at the time, but was lucky enough to discover this game just as it was arriving in stores.
Wine, and board games. I will say again… wine AND board games. Now I don’t mean drinking it, although playing this game would give you an excuse to get into the ambiance of the game by doing so. Viticulture is a beautifully designed game, both literally, and figuratively. The game board, and personal player boards are all crafted of high quality materials. The player meeples are all customized (cellar, rooster, wine bottle, irrigation, trellis, and so many more meeples). The theme of the game is very smoothly consistent throughout.
Your player board represents your wine-making business with vineyards, crush pads, and wine cellars, as well as various buildings that can help you throughout the game. You start with two regular, and one grande worker. Starting player is decided by placement on the wake-up track, using your rooster meeple. If you play first, you have placement advantage, and later player spots have bonuses, from cards, to a victory point, to an extra temporary worker meeple.
In player order you will play on the spring (left) side of the board, placing a worker on an available space, and taking that action. These vary from giving wine tours for money, to planting vine cards in your three fields, etc. You can use your workers as long as there is an open spot on the action spot. The grande worker allows a player to take an action where all the spots are already full. At any point on another turn you can pass. Once all players have passed you move to the fall side of the board. During the switch over you can choose to grab a summer or winter visitor, these are cards that have various benefits when you take the action that allows you to play them. Remember that if you play all of your meeples on the spring side, you will not get them back until the end of the year, so will have no workers for the fall side.
The fall actions are different than the spring ones. This is where you can harvest grapes from vines at their value on the cards, and put them in your crush pad. You can make wine from your grape tokens; this is where you move your grapes from the crush pad to the cellars at the same value level. You can draw wine order cards, train more workers to get more meeples. You can also fulfill wine orders, cashing in wine tokens of the requested type, and value to get victory points, and increase your residual payments.
When everyone is done with all their actions, the year ends. Residual payments are paid out at the amount, from 1-5 lira, your wine bottle meeple is on, you age your grapes, and wine tokens, if you can, and you discard down to seven cards in hand, if you have more. Then player order will change. Players take their rooster, in the existing player order, and place in a new spot. Now players play in order from top to bottom. The game plays from year to year, until a player reaches 20 points, which triggers end game. The year is played out, and the player with the most points, therefore the best vineyard, wins.
Then came Tuscany, oh Tuscany. This is a wonderfully large expansion to Viticulture. It comes with three tiers, with each tier having three small expansions, for a total of nine options to add to the base game. One is an extended player board which divides the board into four different action sections instead of two, another varies the starting player resources, and others add a cheese making or a fruit orchard component. I have played with the first six of nine expansions, and look forward to a chance when I can play the last tier of three.
Due to its popularity, Viticulture Essential Edition was created last year. It combines some of the components of the base game, and some from Tuscany. There were some small variations in the rules, and I like this new option, but I am glad I have the full base game, and its expansion. It offers so much variety, and for me that is an important factor in game play.
Then came Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia. A dystopian game where you want your workers, as I lovingly say ‘happy and dumb’. I have played this with two, and with six players, and it is fun all around. It is a very detailed game with lots of various strategic options, so I would consider it on the heavy end of a medium worker placement game. Your dice are your workers, and their face value determines where you can or want to place them. If the total face value of available workers is too high it means your workers have gotten smarter, and won’t work for you anymore, so you will lose one. The happier you are the more cards you can carry, allowing you to use them in your game play.
There are four factions, each in an area of the board, with actions that are thematically appropriate. The end game is reached when one player has placed all of their stars on the various spots that you can place them. The board is busy, and can be intimidating to many players, but I was able to teach this to some newer gamers, and after some time they picked it up, and really enjoyed their play through.
Stonemaier Games, Jamey’s board game publishing company, also helped publish a game called Between Two Cities by Ben Rosset & Matthew O’Malley. A semi cooperative, tile placement, city building game. How can a game be semi-cooperative? Well you are building a city of 4×4 square tiles with the player on your left, and one with the player on your right. Your final score after three rounds is the lower score of your two cities. This balances out the game to keep you from building one city to the detriment of the other. You want both cities to score high if you want to win. The first and third round you start with seven randomly drawn tiles; you choose two, one for each of your cities. You pass the rest to the player on your left in the first round, and right on your third round. You do this three times, and discuss which of your chosen tiles goes in which city, and where.
Placement of your tiles matter as at the end of the game, the five different types of buildings will score for different scoring reasons; some being what they are or are not next to. The second round is a choice of two tiles from three you randomly choose. These are sometimes trickier as they are two buildings in size, and orientation of the buildings forces them to be placed vertically or horizontally.
It plays 1-7 players, with cards for the solo variant. It is extremely interactive as you have to discuss with your neighbours your tile placement. Gamers, and non-gamers alike have enjoyed this game when it is brought to the table.
Stonemaier Games’ most recent production, Scythe was successfully backed on Kickstarter, yes and I most certainly did. It is a mash up of early 1900’s society, and mech tech. It is a 4X game in an alternate Europe-type universe. This makes it mostly a strategic game, with the individual hidden objective cards adding a luck variable to balance things out.
In addition to designing board games, Jamey Stegmaier also has a blog where he talks about crowdfunding, board game design, and all things related to those. I recently gifted my other half, Jamey’s recently published book “The Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide: Building a Better Business by Building Community”. I think the title speaks for itself, and is a great resource for anyone who is interested learning more about using crowdfunding sites to produce their creation, and create a community of like-minded individuals in the process.
Jamey Stegmaier has just a few games under his belt but the attention to detail in their creation from start to finish, his presence on social media, and interaction with the gaming community at large shows continues to impress. Jamey’s Stegmaier, and Stonemaier games create games that all levels of gamers can both appreciate, and play with confidence.
Now go forth and…. Play all the games.