Arvuutin and Toscana

Arvuutin cover art by Sampo Sikiö

Arvuutin is a new Finnish trivia game from Onni Games, the makers of Politix and Aether. This is a Finnish-only release, so I’ll keep this short: it’s a rather clever game, where everybody answers the questions simultaneously by playing number cards (all answers are numbers 1-100). Closest answer wins. Winner gets the question cards and the value of the cards in the end of the game depends on how many questions were asked in that category.

There’s some balancing: if you know the answer, you may not have the right cards in hand to express it. Lucky guess in the general area may well be enough to secure the card, especially if other players are passing to draw more cards. Better knowledge will prevail, most of the time, but you can do well with educated guessing and some luck. The game is short, so the suffering doesn’t last long and if you like it, a re-match is easy.

I like it, and I do hope it does well in the Finnish market – I don’t see why it wouldn’t, as it’s fun, it looks like fun and trivia games in general seem well-liked.

Toscana cover artToscana has English rules in the box, so it’s more of general interest (the game is available at Essen, I believe). It’s a game about wine business: players build farms to make wine and try to sell it to the markets for maximum profit. It’s a fairly light game, but has some clever ideas of supply and demand.

It’s a wine-based economy: workers are paid with crates of red wine. The masters prefer white wine. You can lobby the local wine association (their opinion affects the values of the wines) with crates of champagne and pay crates of rosé to directly fix the prices. Crates of water are used to water the fields so they produce (there are also water fields, which, once properly watered, produce a crate of water).

There are seven rounds (at most). During each round, players have three actions. Everybody does one action, then second and then third, but the three different actions can be taken in any order. There’s hiring the workers, watering the fields and buying or selling, where you can buy or sell from the market.

The market is affected by the wine association, supply and demand (store full: price drops; store empty: price rises) and the price change tile played by each player after each round.

Players must keep a good supply of red wine to hire the workers, white wine to hire the masters and water to water the fields. Champagne and rosé can be useful to adjust the prices. Once the basic needs of running the business are satisfied, players can freely buy or sell wines.

The economy seems a bit odd, after the first game, as water can be very expensive and watering the fields with expensive water to produce worthless wine is just wrong, theme-wise. I’m not so sure about the markets, that is, but I’ll have to play again. In our first game we did see some serious money made with both rosé and white wine, so it wasn’t all about water. Fortunately a second game is happening today, with wiser players, so perhaps it’ll be better.

In any case Toscana was fun to play, the theme is interesting and the graphical design (by Paul Laane, the designer himself, who is a graphical designer for a living) is very coherent and stylish. The game looks very good, that is. I’m guessing the game is targeting casual gamers with an interest in the topic and in slightly more demanding games, and for those types Toscana will probably offer a good mix of (at least apparent) skill and randomness with a meaningful theme (unless the water business bugs them).

So far I’d say Arvuutin is a keeper and Toscana won’t make the cut – it’s not a Winsome train game, and that’s the sort of business game we prefer. I do want to play Toscana at least few more times, because I don’t think I’ve seen all the game has to offer and I want to give it a proper review. Also, I’m interested in hearing what my gamer friends think of it. It’s also interesting to see how much I’ll be able to dominate the game when I have some previous experience while the other players don’t have…

All in all I’m glad to see serious Finnish games made. Both Arvuutin and Toscana are respectable games and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. The quality of Finnish game design seems promising to me.

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