I always like it when Derek is in town visiting the in-laws because it means he spends a lot of time playing games with us at the store. Besides being a great player he always wants to try something new and last night it meant we played Vino by Rio Grande Games. Though it had been available for a while and I had seen the game played a number of times, I had yet to play it. I had noticed how pleasant looking the board was in a very pleasing artsy way. Vino is a game about owning vineyards as opposed to a game about money. Careful management of turn order and a secret bid to determine where each player is buying vineyards provide for a lot of possibilities. Although it is a game where the vineyards make money for the owners, it is not about the money as, at the end, a player may have more money than they can spend if they bid or play unwisely. There is plenty of good player interaction with an excellent and simple market dynamic. It plays in less than two hours without long breaks between action for any player.
This said it has perhaps the worst production values of any game I have ever seen. Its artsy board rapidly gets distracting and, though pleasing to look upon, it is hard to follow. The colors chosen for the board allow persons of all color-blindness types to experience the confusion of their disability. Each player keeps track of their vineyards on a separate card using round balls which bump easily from number to number yet are arranged in a way which makes it impossible to tell an opponents vineyard count from a distance. The player screens are too small, the playing pieces again hit all the common color-blindness types and only some of the chips are transparent. Even the layout is confusing and the choice of when to use paper counters or plastic chips seems random. In the end, when we had finished, Derek was confounded by trying to fit the pieces in the box which seemed to be a puzzle all its own. Although the game plays well and is interesting, the only way they could have worse production values is if they put it in a tube with a paper board. Although I give it an 8 out of 10 for the play over all the game is only a 5.