Tuscany: Essential Edition adds 3 new expansions to Viticulture Essential Edition. You can read my previous reviews of both the multiplayer gameplay and Automa variant of Viticulture Essential Edition if you haven’t already. It features a new, larger game board, special worker meeples, wooden stars, worker cards, structure game boards, and new structure cards all for only $20-$30 USD.
I thoroughly enjoy playing Viticulture Essential Edition. Both the multiplayer and solo variants are a lot of fun and the gameplay is well-balanced. The question is, will an expansion that adds another 30-60 minutes of gameplay enhance the experience or does make it drag on too long? From what I’ve played, the time estimate of 60-120 minutes is accurate and the added depth is completely worth the price.
My only qualm with Viticulture Essential Edition is that the initial gameplay is very Lyra-focused. Half way through the game, it switches over to only focusing on Victory Points and you have an abundance of Lyra, which you can’t use. Often, you’ll end up at a point where there aren’t any actions you want/need to take and you’re wasting turns. Tuscany Essential Edition solves this issue as it adds a ton of options that are available to you on each turn. The specialized workers, stars, bonus spots, and structure cards really add levels of depth to the game that keep it fresh.
Before drafting your Mamas and Papas cards, you randomly draw 2 Specialized Worker cards. You should also receive a pack of bonus cards that you can shuffle into the standard deck. You then assign one of the new grey Specialized Worker meeples to each card. When you choose the Train a Worker action, you can opt to pay an additional Lyra to unlock one of the Specialized Workers in your color. In my games, we found these workers to be very useful depending on which cards were drawn.
You also now have the option to place wooden star tokens on a map of Italy in the lower-left corner of the game board as an action. Depending on where you place your colored star, you can receive money or draw a vine, visitor, order, or structure card. At the end of the game, whoever has the most stars in a region of Italy receives the Victory Points associated with the area. However, the Victory Point aspect of the map is advised against when playing a 2-player game as noted by the rule book.
Tuscany Essential Edition also has new structure cards that you may opt to build and place on your player board extension that is included. Some of the new structures will provide residual benefits (e.g. Receive a Victory Point every time an order is filled) or you can choose to place a worker on the card like an action space (e.g. Receive a grape token and Lyra). Many of the first action spaces on the Tuscany board also have bonus actions now, which is very helpful in 2-player games.
Another change is in the seasons in which you play. Whereas in Viticulture Essential Edition, Spring is when you chose when your workers wake up and Fall is when you choose a visitor card, in Tuscany Essential edition, you can take actions in each season. These elements combine to turn Viticulture into a more immersive experience.
Overall, Tuscany Essential Edition makes a great game even better. It adds enough variety to keep gameplay fresh and provides plenty of options on each turn. I’ll probably never play Viticulture Essential Edition again without the Tuscany Essential Edition expansion unless we want the experience without the 90-120 minute time investment.