Terroir is a tile-based wine tycoon game which will have you battling with weather and disease to create your very own five star wines. It can be an incredibly challenging game which incorporates a variety of features common in strategy, simulation, and tycoon genres. The beautiful low-poly graphics and atmospheric soundtrack make it easy to get immersed in the world of wine making. The majority of the challenge itself comes from the dynamic weather which can either make or break your wine during the growing period.
You begin your simulation with a field, a lake and an estate tile where you process your wines. Many of the tiles in Terroir have a unique attribute. For example lakes have the adjacency bonus of protecting your vines from certain diseases while forests can boost your vine production. This element of tile management and the purchase of new tiles is where you will employ most of your strategy within Terroir. While you might expect rapid expansion to be the key to success, as it is in many farming games, with that comes the very likely prospect of bankruptcy. One bad wine is all it can take to bring about your demise, especially in the early game. This is mainly due to the fact that a badly rated wine will not sell anywhere near as well as one which is highly rated and so you will quickly find your maintenance fees creeping up on your profits.
The main goal in the game is to create five-star rated wines as these will both sell for a higher price and give your estate a higher renown (which is necessary to upgrade your estate among other things). This is done by discovering, through trial and error, the perfect combination of four different elements: Acidity, Sweetness, Tannins and Body. These elements can be influenced in a variety of ways from the ripeness level at harvest to further processing stages such as crushing, squeezing and ageing. Once you have bottled your wine at your desired values you can then send it off to a range of different critics who will give your wine a rating in addition to one tip as to an element which is either too high or too low. Although this might seem like a daunting task to get right initially, the less acclaimed critics will be much more lenient on your wine’s final values and so will make getting your first five-star wine a breeze after some trial and error. The challenge then comes with trying to please higher acclaimed critics or in adopting new grape varieties, as each variety has its own unique perfect combination.
The weather and your skill at canopy management can also change the final rating of your wine adding either positive or negative effects to your bottles when it comes to rating or price. For example, allow your grapes to over ripen and not only will you have a grape with basically no acidity and far too much sweetness but you will also be hit with -1 star off your final rating. These effects are permanent although you can still overcome problems with the balance of acidity and sweetness through further grape processing. It will however add a significant amount of time before you can bottle and sell your wine.
Pacing is a mixture of both worlds, with nothing to do but wait as the previous season’s wines age in their barrels to a flurry of management in the clipping and trimming of a fresh new season. This is then followed thick and fast by the processing in the months which follow. Time marches steadily on in a month-by-month pace and so I quickly found myself forgetting about wines I had left to age once a new season began. This left me with some far from desirable wines which I ended up selling at a loss just to get rid of.
All in all, Terroir is a challenging experience to jump into for the first time. Information is doled out in small doses and although there is a spoken tutorial guiding you to the basics of the game it far from prepares you for the difficult world of wine making. A great year can net you riches while a bad year can lead you to ruin. If the weather is somehow not random enough for you, you can also try your luck at a Chance and Circumstance card similar to the Chance and Community Chest cards in Monopoly. Overall, if you revel in a steep learning curve and don’t mind keeping notes while you play, Terroir will provide both tears and happiness in your pursuit of great wine.
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