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VINETA

Reviewed by Herb Levy

VINETA (Immortal Eyes Games/Winning Moves, 2-6 players, ages teen to adult, 30 + minutes; $30.95)

 

If stormy weather looms outside your window with rain pounding on the roof like it’s the end of the world, you might be able to better empathize with the inhabitants of the Nordic city of Vineta. These unlucky denizens of the “Atlantis of the North” are about to suffer the outrage of the Norse gods. These determined deities seek to sink the city while trying to save their favored followers in Vineta.vineta

Vineta, designed by Fabiano Onça, Mauricio Gibrin and Mauricio Miyajin, comes without a board. Instead, the city of Vineta is built from 9 board districts. The game also comes with 59 wooden houses, 80 god cards (six sets of 30), 6 god chips, 7 house tiles, 9 district tiles, both a starting player tokens, four pages of rules and a dual set up/card explanation sheet.

The district boards are placed together to form roughly three concentric circles (marked by color: red, yellow and green). One more color of houses than the players in the game are used (the remainder placed back in the box). The house tiles of those colors as well as the district tiles are shuffled separately and each player draws one which is kept secret from the other players. Both of these tiles give the players a vested interest in the game’s outcome as players score more points if the district they have drawn survives the angry waters and the houses they rescue match their drawn color.

All player start with a deck of 30 god cards and the matching god chip. The oldest player starts and he begins by placing one house of any color in any city district. This continues until ALL houses have been placed within the city. Each players shuffled his deck of cards and draws 7 cards as a starting hand. There are eight rounds to the game and each round, one district will sink and the card play will determine which one.All players simultaneously select ONE card from their hand and, starting with the start player, cards are revealed in turn. (Once played, a new card is drawn from the player’s stack so he always has 7 cards in hand.) There are two basic types of cards: Flood and Action.

A Flood card carries a number from 1 to 4. When playing one of these, the player chooses which district that card will affect and shows it by placing his god chip on that district. If the player is adding his card to a district already having a flood card in play, no chip is used. Only districts bordering the ocean can feel the effect of a flood. At the end of the round, the district with the highest number of flood cards on it will SINK!

Action cards modify the play and come in several varieties: Intervention (which will add OR subtract a total of 7 from Flood cards played in a specific district), Changing Wind (which shifts ONE Flood card from a district to another), Calm Seas (which removes one Flood card from play), False Hope and Rescue (cards which remove 1 or 2 Houses, respectively, in a district with a god chip to a district without one), Move (which allows the complete switch of Houses from one district to another), Panic (where three Houses in a district are moved to three different districts), Quarantine (prohibiting ANY Houses from moving in or out of a particular district) and One Card More/One Card Less cards. All players generally play three cards in a round. Playing the One Card More Action card extends the round for an additional play. Conversely, the One Care Less reduce the round to a play of two cards per player. (Should it happen that both the More and the Less cards appear in a round, they cancel each other.)

With the round concluded, the district with the highest total in Flood cards sinks and is removed from play. Houses trapped in the submerging district go to the players who have helped sink the area and are distributed in the order of Flood cards played. The player who owns the first card played gets first choice of a House, the owner of the second card gets second pick and so on. Should there be more Houses than cards played, the rotation begins again. After eight rounds, when only one district survives, we score and this is where those House and District tiles come in.

If the surviving district matches your District Tile, you score: 2 points if your district is a center one, 5 if it is one in the middle and 7 if you have managed to protect an outer district. Houses still standing on the last District matching your House tile net you 3 points each, houses in your possession of that matching color are worth 2 while other color Houses you have accumulated add 1 point to your score. The player with the highest total wins. (Tie breaker? Having the most Houses of your color on the final district.)

Originally published in Italy, this version of Vineta comes with a few changes. As mentioned, this edition throws the board overboard. The board is nice but purely cosmetic and not essential for play. Speaking of cosmetics, the icons used on the Action cards are not intuitive (forget the fact that houses can actually MOVE from district to district!) making the summary sheet of what the Action cards can do very useful. It would have been nice to supply sheets of those Action card summaries for ALL players. (Towards that end, you can download such play aids at the Winning Moves site: www.winning-moves.com). A more important difference in this version is a tweak in scoring. In the original, all captured houses were worth 1 point. Now captured houses of your own color are worth 2 points.

Vineta fall into the category of survival games where it’s better to be lucky than smart. Good luck if you’ve drawn an outer District tile. You know that’s a hard section to keep dry through eight rounds and even if it’s worth more points if it survives, the odds are not on your side. And luck is a large part of the process as you see your color houses disappear into the drink. Without a doubt, the game is chaotic; long range planning is difficult at best. This will turn off gamers who shy away from games with such a large does of uncertainty and lack of control. But this is not to say that the game doesn’t have its good points.

There is an undeniably perverse pleasure in sinking the city, a pleasure heightened when the houses there are not of your secret color nor the district the one you are hoping to save. Not knowing precisely what will happen next has its own appeal. For those players, Vineta is a game of watching a city sink and rising to the occasion. – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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