If you haven’t already read my review of Viticulture Essential Edition, you can check it out here. It’s a really fun worker placement game that I highly recommend. The theme doesn’t feel like it’s slapped on, each step is related to making and selling wine, and it plays well. Now that I’ve had a few chances to also play the single player “Automa” variant, I wanted to give a brief overview of that as well.
In the Automa variant, you’ll have 7 rounds (or years in game time), to beat an imaginary opponent who is already at the 20 Point mark. Each round/year, an Automa card is drawn and this tells you the placement of the opponent’s worker pieces. For example, the Automa opponent card may tell you to place the opponent’s workers on the Plant, Give a Tour, Harvest a Field, and Fill spots for that year. You’ll then have to plan your strategy accordingly based on the spots that have already been taken.
Another difference in the Automa variant is that glass markers are placed over each number (1-7) of the wake up order chart. This is how you keep track of how many rounds you’ve completed. Also, when you choose the number you want for that round, you not only take the associated bonus, but also the glass marker.
This marker will then allow you to take the bonus placement spot on the board. For example, you choose to take the #2 spot in Spring. This allows you to take a Vine card and the glass marker covering the 2. You place your first worked on the “Give Tour To Gain 2 Lyria” spot, but using the glass marker, you’ll able to place your worker on the “+1 Lyria” bonus spot, which would normally not be permitted in a 2 player game. The glass token is discarded after the round is over.
You can also set the level of difficulty in which you’d like to play single player mode. In “Very Easy”, you get an 8th round in which you’re allowed to choose any wake up turn order bonus and get an extra token. In “Easy”, you start with 3 victory points, but play only 7 rounds. In “Normal”, you start with 0 victory points and play 7 rounds. In “Hard” mode, you continue drawing Automa cards until it allows your opponent to place at least 2 workers in Spring and Winter, and in “Very Hard” mode, yuo play with “Hard” rules, but the opponent starts with 23 victory points.
Sadly, I have yet to beat the Automa opponent in Normal mode. I’ve only lost and tied a few times, which keeps me coming back for more. The amount of strategy is pretty surprising as you have a very finite amount of time and resources to get 21+ points. Whenever you can’t get your gaming group together to play, this is one single-player variant that works very well.