For fans of heavy board games, there’s a magic combination out there and that’s Ian O’Toole and Vital Lacerda. This designer/artist combo is responsible for some of the best heavy games on the market. Vinhos Deluxe is what you get when this pair resurrects a now-classic board game about winemaking in Portugal.
Vinhos Deluxe is an update to the 2010 classic Vinhos by Vital Lacerda. This new updated edition features a totally updated graphic design and updated rules. For fans of the original, you have the 2010 Reserve rules and for newcomers, to the series, there are the updated 2016 Vintage rules.
Disclosure: Eagle-Gryphon Games were awesome enough to provide me with a review copy of Vinhos Deluxe. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What you get with Vinhos Deluxe Edition:
The original version of Vinhos was designed by Vital Lacerda, featured art by Mariano Iannelli and was published by What’s Your Game? in 2010. This new updated edition of Vinhos, Vinhos Deluxe, was also designed by Vital Lacerda but features updated artwork and graphic design by Ian O’Toole. Vinhos Deluxe was published in 2016 by Eagle-Gryphon Games.
This is a big meaty board game box filled to the brim with wood and cardboard. For a good look at everything, you get in this box be sure to check out our Vinhos Deluxe unboxing video on YouTube. One bit of warning, this was one of the first unboxing videos I ever recorded so it’s not up to our current production standards.
The biggest thing in the box is a rather huge six-panel two-sided board. One side of the board is meant to be used for the 2016 Vintage rules and the other for the 2010 Reserve rules. Similar to the main board, the four individual player boards are also two-sided for the two different ways to play the game.
There are three rulebooks included in Vinhos Deluxe Edition. The first is a reference book that lists all the components, how to set up the game and descriptions of all of the bonus tiles and wine expert abilities. The other two books are the full rules for playing either the 2016 Vintage version of the game or the 2010 Reserve version.
All of these books are well laid out and very easy to read. Information is presented in the order you will need it to play. I particularly like that setup information is in a separate reference booklet. There are a ton of examples of every step of the game, something that makes learning this rather heavy game easier (which is also something I talked about recently in my article about what designers can do to make heavy games more approachable).
Another great inclusion for making the game more approachable are the player aids. These are made to look like wine tasting menus and have a great overview of play plus a break down on what each of the worker placement spots on the boards is used for.
Next, we have a ton of cardboard for you to punch out. All of these pieces punch easily. They are also some of the thickest cardboard pieces I’ve seen in a board game, about twice as thick as you get with most games. There are the Vintage Tiles featuring the weather and the wishes of the Wine Magnates, plus Vinyard Tiles, Winery Tiles, Cellar Tiles, Wine Expert Tiles, Porto Tiles, a ton of Wine Markers, currency in the form of Bagos, Magnate Action Tiles, Magnate Multiplier Tiles and Fair Tiles.
Vinhos Deluxe also comes with a number of wooden components. These include Enologist and Farmer meeples, a Taxation Marker, Renown Cubes, and Wine Feature Markers (with four stickers you need to apply to them). You also get an Action Marker, eight Barrels and ten discs in four different player colours.
Finally, there are two stacks of cards used to randomize wine regions when playing with less than four players and for playing the solo mode.
All of this can be stored in the included box insert. While not the best on the market it does a great job of keeping everything in place and, due to the fact that it includes a plastic lid, it even holds things in place when the game is stored vertically.
Overall I was very impressed by the components in Vinhos Deluxe. Most notable is the thickness of the cardboard used. This makes everything very easy to pick up during play, which is something I really appreciate.
An overview of how to play Vinhos Deluxe:
In Vinhos Deluxe players take on the role of winemakers in Portugal, one of the world’s leading wine producers. This is a trading and economics game that encompasses all aspects of winemaking from setting up an estate with your first vineyard in one of the ten wine regions of Portugal, and improving that estate by building vineyards and cellars, to hiring enologists and farmers, utilizing wine experts to get more done in a year, selling wine to local establishments to generate income, shipping wine overseas and even attending the world wine festival to showcase your best wines hopefully impress the three very picky Wine Magnates.
As I’m sure you can tell by now this is a meaty game with a lot going on. On top of that Vinhos Deluxe includes two different ways to play. One is the 2010 Reserve edition of the game that closely resembles the original Vinhos released in 2010. It only features a few minor rule tweaks and balances. Then there’s the 2016 Vintage which is an updated, more streamlined, version of play, that is a bit lighter and quicker and much more approachable for new players.
Below I will do my best to try to summarize the game without getting into every little detail. I will first describe the 2016 Vintage version of the game and then talk about the differences with the 2010 Reserve.
Playing Vinhos Deluxe 2016 Vintage:
At the start of a game of Vinhos Deluxe, each player starts with one estate containing one Vinyard, a Wine produced by that Vineyard, and one Magnate Action Tile. Each of the ten different wine regions on the map also provides a different bonus and players get that bonus for the first estate created from that region.
These bonuses are all tied to actual wine characteristics of each region and include things like getting a free Farmer, a free Cellar, a free Winery, producing wine that presents well at the tasting festival, or the ability to produce port which is of higher quality than normal.
Finally, for each vineyard founded in a region, one Reputation Cube is added to that region on the board. These can later be spent to up the value of wine from that region.
Before I get into actions, one important concept in Vinhos is the difference between Wine Quality and Wine Value. Wine Quality is determined by the vinyards in a players estate, any farmers present, any winery present and if that winery has an Enologist working there. This is set when the wine is produced and cannot change during play. Wine Value on the other hand is more variable, value modifiers are added on top of quality. Things like cellars, the region a wine comes from and the reputation of that wine’s region can all affect Wine Value.
A game of Vinhos Deluxe is played over six rounds. At the start of each round, a Vintage tile is flipped over. This sets the weather for the season which affects wine quality during production. It also indicates what the Wine Magnates will be looking for at the Wine Tasting Fair and which Wine Experts can be used at the Fair.
During each of the six rounds, players will get to take two actions. Players can also earn bonus actions through Magnate Action Tiles. After each set of two actions there is an upkeep phase and then a wine production phase.
Three times during the game the normal flow of play is interrupted and a Wine Tasting Fair is held. Interestingly the timing of this fair gets quicker as the game progresses. The first fair is held after turn three, while the second takes place after turn five and the last happens after turn six. So players have progressively less and less time to prepare for each fair.
Actions in Vinhos Deluxe are determined through worker placement on what the game calls a Quadrel, which is a three by three grid of actions. Players start in the middle and can move their workers one spot in any direction for free, or two spots if they pay $1 to the bank. In addition, if they land on the spot with the round marker currently in it they must pay an additional $1 to the bank. Finally, if they spot they choose has any other player’s workers on it they must pay that player $1.
The actions available include:
Buying up to two Vineyards – These must come from different regions. These can be used to improve an existing estate with a vineyard from a region the player has already invested in that produces the same colour wine, or to start a new estate. When starting a new estate the player will also receive the region bonus. For each Vinyard bought a reputation cube is also placed in that region.
Build a Winery – Players must purchase one or two wineries for $3 each. Wineries improve wine quality on their own and can be improved if the player later purchases an Enologist for their wineries.
Hiring Enologists and/or Farmers – Players must purchase farmers for their vineyards and/or enologists for their wineries. Both of these increase the Quality of wine during production. Players can buy up to two staff with one action.
Ship Wine – Players spend a wine from one of their estates and place a barrel onto a shipping spot that is equal to or lower than the shipped wines Value, then score points for the number covered. Barrels placed here stay until the end of the game and are part of an end game area-majority-style scoring.
Sell Wine – Very similar to shipping wine, except that players earn money instead of points and also have a way to get their barrels back. There are three places to sell, each spot wanting different values and types of wine. Note this is one of the very few ways of getting money in this game.
Hiring Wine Experts – Players purchase one or two Wine Experts. These experts can be used (one per turn) to give the player bonus actions or can be saved to be used during a Wine Tasting Fair. The wine expert abilities allow players to do things like add reputation cubes to a region, skip paying the movement fee when taking an action, take back a barrel, earn some money, etc.
Pass and do a Press Release – The final action spot allows players to pass and pick their personal player order for the next phase of the game. In addition, players have the option of sending a press release. Doing this is basically like going to the Wine Tasting Festival early which can be advantageous in some situations.
Note that I only listed eight actions, this is due to the fact that Buying Vineyards is on the quadrel twice.
After each player has taken two actions everyone gets a chance to take back one of their barrels from the board. Players only start the game with two barrels but will get a chance to earn more later in the game.
During the production phase, each estate will produce wine. First off all existing wine ages and players move their wine markers one spot to the right. Note that starting Estates can only hold two wine tokens and any wine that ages past these slots spoils and is wasted. Cellars have four spots and can thus hold wine longer as well as increasing the value of the wine as it ages.
Play continues with players taking actions and improving their estates until we get to a Wine Tasting Fair.
At each fair, each player submits a press release by selecting one of their wines to feature. They get a number of fair points based on the value of this wine. They then pick one of four display booths at the fair that provides them with an immediate bonus (money, bonus fair points or a free wine expert). Next, players can spend Wine Experts. Each wine expert tile spent will increase the players Fair points. There are four expert types and which type of expert can be spent is based on the vintage tile displayed at the start of the game round.
The last step of the fair is impressing the Wine Magnates. There are three of these and, based on the vintage tile currently revealed, they will each be looking for a specific wine. One of them will want either a white or red while, the next wants wine of a specific value and the last wants wine from specific regions. For each of these qualities that the submitted wine matches the player can earn another wine barrel from that magnate, up to a maximum of two barrels per fair.
After all of the players have submitted a press release, they score points based on their position on the fair track. Note the fair track does not reset between fairs, points earned stay for future rounds. Once points are scored players can now trade in wine tokens for Magnate bonus tiles. During the first fair, these tiles all give players bonus actions (each being a somewhat reduced version of the quadrel action spots). In later fairs, end game scoring tiles come up. These require the player to lose not only a wine but also a barrel from their supply (which is locked in for the rest of the game).
After each wine tasting fair, players get to flip over their used Wine Experts and Bonus tiles and can use them again. Note wine experts used during the fair are discarded, so they cannot be used for bonus actions.
After the third tasting fair, the game ends and you calculate final scoring. This includes a number of items including money left over, wine left in a players estate, majorities on the shipping tracks, and end game bonus tiles collected from magnates. These end game bonus tiles are a huge mix of things that cover almost all aspects of the game, players can earn points for the number of vineyards, farmers, wine tokens, enologists, filled estates, and more.
The player with the most points wins.
Changes for the 2010 Reserve Rules in Vinhos Deluxe:
There’s a Bank – The biggest difference between the 2010 and 2016 rules is a bank and investment system. The kind of thing you expect to see in heavy euros like train games. Instead of just a pile of Bagos in front of everyone, players now have to handle their on-hand cash and also money in the bank. The bank action replaces the second vineyard buying spot on the Quadrel. Players can now take the Banking action where they can deposit money into the bank, invest money, and/or take money out.
Maintenance Phase Changes – In this phase players no longer get barrels back. Instead, bank investments come into effect with players gaining or losing money in the bank based on their investment level. At this point, players must also pay wages (in this edition, each enologist must be paid $1 per season).
Cannot Hire Farmers – Farmers still exist as a region bonus for one specific region but you cannot hire them.
Selling Wine – When selling wine you now get money in the bank instead of cash on hand. Also at any time, you can remove two barrels from any one establishment. Doing so also lets players place reputation cubes on two different vineyards.
Buying Items – The cost and the number of things you can buy have changed. For example, enologists now only cost $1 but they must be paid wages each maintenance phase. The vineyard action now lets you buy any number of vineyards at once, as long as each comes from different regions. While cellars have to be bought one at a time and only cost $2. Etc.
Wine Experts – Players can use any number of these for bonus actions in a turn but can only hold a max of six of them. Also, their use in tasting fairs has completely changed.
The Wine Tasting Fair – This is the second biggest change besides the bank. The wine tasting fair plays out very differently in the 2010 Reserve version of the rules. First off, the value of the wine submitted does not translate into fair points, instead, it sets how many Wine Experts you can use during that Fair. The player then takes a fair marker showing that number of experts and places it into a fair booth and gets the bonus (money, fair points, or a free wine expert). They then immediately score fair points based on two out of the four wine qualities as determined by which both they picked.
Bonus Action Tiles and End Game Scoring Tiles – These have been completely removed. Instead, once players have a barrel on a magnate the player, on their turn, can discard wine to use one of that Magnate’s bonus actions or place that barrel on one of that magnates end game scoring spots. These are all fixed spaces on the board, not tiles that are collected by players.
Once all players have picked a booth, players then blind bid a number of Wine Experts. This is done simultaneously and revealed once everyone is ready. Players then score fair points for each expert they played. These points are based on the current position of each wine quality on four different tracks. These tracks represent taste, smell, look and alcohol percentage. The tracks are adjusted at the start of each round based on what shows on the current round’s vintage tile. They can be further adjusted based on which Wine Experts are played.
Overall as you can probably tell the 2010 Reserve version of the game is a step up in complexity and weight with a lot more for players to think about and manage.
Vinhos Deluxe also offers a solo mode
This method of play is card driven and achievement-based where you play to beat your own personal achievement score each game. It uses the 2016 Vintage rules as it’s base but has a full set of unique rules for the AI player where they don’t require a player board.
Actions taken by the AI player are determined by one set of cards when a region or other random number must be generated another set of cards are used.
What did I think of Vinhos Deluxe?
Before even playing Vinhos Deluxe I knew I was going to enjoy it. This type of heavy engine-building game is right in my wheelhouse. What I didn’t expect was just how much I would enjoy this game. A big part of that is how well everything in Vinhos ties to the theme. This is a perfect example of a heavy meaty game that’s actually rather easy to digest due to having its theme is so well integrated.
Along with that, this version of Vinhos does a lot of things right for making the game more approachable, like having a very well designed player aid, varying the component types items that are used for different things, having excellent design and iconography, and a solid rulebook.
Every time I have sat down with someone to play Vinhos Deluxe they have started off intimidated but then quickly point out how much easier the game is to play than they expected. Now that’s not to say the game is easy, it’s learning the mechanics that is straightforward. Learning to play well is a totally different matter as there is a lot going on in this game (as I’m sure you can tell from my attempt at a short summary of how to play above).
One of the things that surprised me about this game is its appeal to players that don’t normally like heavy games. Again I think it’s that connection to theme and mechanics that makes this work but I’ve gotten players who claim they hate games like Food Chain Magnate and Indonesia to not only play Vinhos Deluxe but to greatly enjoy playing it.
Vinhos Deluxe is what I would call an elegant game in many ways. This elegance goes beyond the top-notch components and Ian O’Toole’s excellent design work and actually encompasses the mechanics of the game itself. The way the game flows as you play… it just feels right. I especially love the way the game ramps up as it goes on, with it seeming like you have all the time in the world before that first tasting fair, but then are stuck with so little time and very limited actions before the last one. I enjoy seeing my estates grow and the wine they produce improve year after year. There’s just something very rewarding about playing this game. Something you just don’t get from lighter fair.
If I had any complaints about Vinhos Deluxe it would be in the sheer number of rules, especially when you compare the two different versions of the game included in this box. With this many different moving parts, it’s easy to forget something. I know we have made a number of mistakes in our early games. Things like forgetting that players only get the region bonus for their first vineyard placed in a new estate and not for every vineyard purchased, or forgetting to place renown cubes in a region, or placing renown cubes for items rewarded for region bonuses, or not remembering that shipping and selling wine requires wine of a minimum value and not an exact value, or misunderstanding how some of the bonus tiles work.
This is a game that I strongly recommend you re-read the rules after your first few plays and see if you missed anything on those initial plays.
Overall I have greatly enjoyed every game I’ve played of Vinhos Deluxe and look forward to playing the game even more and exploring new strategies. If you are a fan of heavy engine building games that are closely tied to the theme you probably already own Vinhos Deluxe and if you don’t you should fix that. I don’t think you will be disappointed. Where I will also suggest this game is for players who normally prefer medium weight games because what we have here is a heavy game that is surprisingly easy to learn and one that I have found that a lot of non-heavy gamers have really enjoyed. For those who like lighter games and games that you can play in about an hour or less, you probably want to stay away from this one, but if you are ever curious about trying some heavier fare I think Vinhos Deluxe would be a great place to start.
I am most definitely a fan of heavy board games and I love it when I can find a heavy game that is as approachable as Vinhos Deluxe. It’s a meaty game that I can actually share with a broader audience and not just those that love huge complex epic games.
Are you a fan of heavier tabletop games? If so I would love to know which is your favourite. Tell me about it in the comments below.