*As a disclaimer, I am friends with the designer of this game and first played it at a designer event earlier this year. I also think this game is a lot of fun and I think you will too!
I am walking around the Granite Game Summit in April of 2017. I just finished playing a game of Automobiles, which is a pool building game all about racing. The game was decent but it took a while to get through because no one in the group had played it before so we were slogging through the rules. I get up to take a breather and stumble upon the designer tables. There I see my friend and game designer, Chris Anderson, demoing a couple of his games… most notably a small social/party game coming on Kickstarter right now from Button Shy Games, In Vino Morte.
This is a very simple, social group game. Each round one person assumes the role of the bartender. They get a small deck of wine and poison cards. The bartender gives each other player, including themselves, either a poison card or a wine card face down. What you have in your ‘cup’ is hidden information, even to you… only the bartender knows what everyone has, if they can remember. The only rule with distributing drinks is there must be at least one wine card and at least one poison card. Then going clockwise, each player has the option to either drink what they have in front of them or trade their ‘cup’ with any other player. When a player chooses to drink during the round, they flip there card over revealing if they had poison or wine, giving the rest of the group more information. If they choose to trade, the cup cards are kept face down and it goes to the next player. Once it gets around to the bartender, everyone who still has a face down card gets to flip their card to reveal if they had poison or wine. Those who had poison are out of the game and a new round begins with a new bartender. This goes on until only one person is alive. Yes, you can play with two players heads up.
This game is super simple and there really isn’t a lot to think about or a lot to do, but here is why I love this game: In Vino Morte creates a meta-game unmatched by any other game I have played, including classic social deduction games like The Resistance. What I mean by meta-game are the group specific qualities that persist round the round and game to game when a group plays multiple times in a row. This could be in game actions – the bartender always gives poison to a certain person – or the banter around the game. The group dynamics this game sets up is amazing! I never know if the bartender chose to poison me (although if it was Chris the designer her probably gave me poison) and I make a hasty switch only to unfortunately poison myself. Or I could take a calculated risk and drink what I have been served and in relief realize it is just wine. I have never had so many laughs with a group as we stayed up late into the night at the Summit!
There is bonus content for the game as well that puts a little twist on the usual gameplay. One in particular I find to be a must add is the cheese expansion. This of course adds cheese cards into the mix which are face up and given out after the wine and poison cards are distributed. When you drink with cheese in your possession, it reverses the effects of what you drank. Wine will kill you and poison will get you to the next round. Also, on a players turn, you can choose to drink, switch drinks with another player, or give your cheese away. The base game is great but cheese adds another dynamic to contend with and I found it to be the most fun way to play In Vino Morte.
In Vino Morte riffs off of The Princess Bride battle of wits and does it extremely well. Whether or not the players get into this theme does not take away from the experience. For me, it is the group who plays the game and the setting of the game that makes it fun. At the Granite Game Summit, we played this game late into the night on Saturday of the convention. Game after game became funnier and funnier as feuds were formed, trust was broken, and the most hilarious and unpredictable deaths occurred. This is a group game I will have on hand wherever I go. It is simple enough to explain in under a minute and the experiences can last hours.
Check out the Kickstarter page! I know I will be backing. One to support a friend, and moreover, to support a really fun game.