I love Stonemaier Games — legitimately love them. I’m not going to even pretend it’s something else. They are a company that just seems to do everything right. First, there was the really wonderful winemaking-themed worker placement game, Viticulture, that we couldn’t stop playing and has graced our table many, many times since the game debuted. (See my original review.) Next, came the gorgeous and fun area control game about a dystopian future, Euphoria. (Read Curtis Silver’s review.)
Not content with releasing two great games last year, the company decided to do more. Putting together 13 limited edition versions of the Viticulture game, Stonemaier auctioned all the copies on BoardGameGeek, with each copy tied to a blog that supported the company early on. The cherry on top was that half of the proceeds went to a charity of the blog’s choice.
Finally, if you’ve ever been curious about how to run a Kickstarter campaign, the more vocal half of Stonemaier, Jamey Stegmaier, keeps an ever-increasingly long list of mistakes, victories, and lessons learned from their two successful campaigns on the company’s blog. There are no secrets here, Stegmaier tells all, hoping to spread the word and help others. It’s a combination of Kickstarter 101 and how to start a business, all in one.
There are other reasons too, like their 100% money-back guarantee or their commitment to their customers. While I could go on, I won’t, because it would get even more embarrassing for me. Still, it’s easy to see why Stonemaier is a favorite among gamers, not just yours truly. So, when Jamey emailed me and asked me if I wanted an early look at their next Kickstarter campaign, I couldn’t say no.
The project, which hits Kickstarter today, is the highly anticipated Tuscany and it is an expansion to Viticulture. Based on their track record, I expected big things from Tuscany and I wasn’t disappointed because Tuscany isn’t just one expansion, it’s a set of eight (not counting stretch goals). The expansion is intended to be introduced legacy-style, like the innovative Risk Legacy game. However, by comparison, Tuscany is non-destructive.
It helps if you’re a seasoned Viticulture player and you will need the base game to play Tuscany. Once you are ready to include Tuscany in your games, play one last full game of Viticulture. The winner of that game (and every third game after it) earns the right to select (or “uncork”) the expansion to be included in the next game. Expansions are split into three tiers. The first two tiers have four and three expansions, respectively, and the second tier can’t be accessed until the first’s have all been added to the game. The catch is that once an expansion has been added to the game, it remains a fixture in every subsequent game. The third tier expansions are modular and can be swapped out for one another.
I’m going to go into brief detail about how a few of the expansions work. If you’d like to keep the expansions a surprise for the shared experience as the designers intended, please stop reading this paragraph and skip to the next. For those who want to know just a little more, read on. The Property expansion, one of my favorites, allows you to sell unused fields for money. You can reclaim them, but at a cost. Patronage cards provide new goals for individual players and surprise bonus rewards at the end of the game, similar to Lords of Waterdeep‘s Lord cards. Finally, there is an extended board that drastically changes the way the seasons work in the game.
There’s one final thing to mention about the expansion … and that’s the price. If you want to wait and see what others say and buy it from your FLGS, that’s certainly a prudent course. However, Tuscany will retail for $70 in game stores. Buy it from Kickstarter now and your cost will only be $45, which is still a high price, but you get an awful lot for your money and you’ll be getting a huge discount.
Tuscany is really a tremendous addition to an already fabulous game. Player interaction is kicked up a notch, while many of the expansions also introduce unknowns that will have you second-guessing your opponent’s and your own actions. Know that each expansion adds a significant and fun twist to the game and ones that will challenge you to rethink how to develop a winning strategy. So uncork a wine and uncork some expansions. Tuscany is finally here and it is very, very good.
Update: Impressively, Tuscany met its funding goal within 15 minutes of launching. Nice job!