Board Game App Review: Viticulture

4/10 A messy attempt that lacks any polish

Available on:
Steam for PC — $14.99
Apple — $8.99

Google Play — $9.99

This week, I’m reviewing several different board game apps. These reviews are primarily looking at the quality of the app and content. Previous reviews:

I had avoided the digital version of Viticulture for a while because of negative reviews. It was a lazy iOS port with a crowded UI and other problems. But recently, the devs finally updated the UI for desktop, making much better use of screen real estate. However, many other problems persist.

For one, the menu has no labels or tooltips. There’s no way to know what the buttons do other than to explore them through trial and error. How is it possible to miss something so basic and after so long? This wouldn’t be a huge issue if not for another problem, lack of clear controls and poor visual feedback. The button to pass your turn is not labeled and has no tooltip, and it’s effectively hidden in an odd spot (not next to the main button to confirm your action). While trying to find controls in the menu, I clicked a mysterious button that took me back out to the main menu without a confirmation prompt, and I couldn’t find a way to return to the game (if it was even still up and didn’t end immediately).

In general, the organization of the UI could be better, less cluttered around important areas, and there’s a lack of visual feedback that can make it difficult to follow what’s happening. There is only an audio cue when coins or points are earned; you don’t actually see how much was gained. And yet, when playing and using visitor cards, it’s a tedious array of windows and confirmation windows and selection windows. And the default game speed is painfully slow. While the main board view has an improved UI that makes use of a larger desktop screen (as opposed to iOS), these individual windows still seem to be the iOS versions with large icons and wasted space, and they rely entirely on swapping between windows instead of containing information in a single window.

I don’t even have my own screenshot because I refunded the game.

This is the first Steam game I ever refunded. Viticulture is a worker-placement classic, but the app is a work in progress. They have overlooked many basic elements of app design, and it makes me cautious to buy any of their other board game apps. And $15 is way too much for a clunky mess.

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