Base price: $12.
3 – 9 players.
Play time: ~10 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Logged plays: 6
Full disclosure: A review copy of In Vino Morte was provided by Button Shy.
Back with more Button Shy! I’m trying to get a few more of these done before GAMA, since, you know, I’ll be out for a week and probably not doing much writing, so getting a bit of a head start on them is usually a good idea. Unfortunately, I’ve been under the weather lately, so it’s been tougher to get ahead on the writing train. We’ll see what happens! Thankfully, Button Shy’s wallet titles tend to provide great review canvases, so let’s see what’s happening with In Vino Morte!
In In Vino Morte, something is killing the guests. It might be you. Unfortunate, but that’s how a dinner party’s got to go, sometimes. But now, wouldn’t you know, you keep drinking wine so that people don’t think their wine is poisoned, and you’ve started to lose track of the wine and the poison and the wine and the poison and you get the idea. Dangerous business, but someone’s got to do it. The next round’s on you, but who’s going to survive?
None. Choose a player to start dealing, and give them a set of Wine Cards:
Also give them a set of Poison Cards:
You should be ready to start!
A game of In Vino Morte is played over several rounds, ending when only one player is left alive. To play a round, the dealer chooses from the Wine and Poison cards, creating a set of cards equal to the number of players. There must be at least one Wine and one Poison among the set they’ve picked.
Then, the dealer deals the cards out to each player. They can look at the cards before they deal, or not! Whatever they feel like. It’s a battle of wits. After that, every other player gets exactly one turn. On their turn, they may Drink or Swap. To Drink, immediately reveal your card. If it’s Wine, you stay in. If it’s Poison, you immediately die, and are eliminated from the game. Tough luck. To Swap, choose any other player (including the dealer) with an unrevealed card. Swap your card with theirs, without looking at either card.
Play continues in clockwise order until every player except for the dealer has taken exactly one turn. All remaining players with unrevealed cards Drink simultaneously. All remaining players begin another round, with the dealer role passing to the first not-eliminated player to the current dealer’s left.
Once there’s only one player left, the game ends! That player wins!
Player Count Differences
Not really very many, technically, since the game comes down to the dealer deciding how many “good” and “bad” cards they want in play. If there’s only one Wine, well, then there’s just a lot more chaos with no real outcome. If there’s only one Poison, then more players dilutes the worry, to a degree. There are more players who could have the One Bad Card than you. Beyond that, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend starting with three players, ultimately you’ll probably have a round with increasingly fewer players in it, anyways, so you’ll get down to that at some point. I think it’s pretty fun regardless, provided the group is into it.
- If you’re the dealer, you’re basically doing performance art just as much as strategy. Lie, mess with cards, pretend to shuffle, whatever you feel like you need to do to get players to doubt you or trust you or anything in between is fair game. Your only strategic contribution to this game is really just setting the stage. You can start with perfect knowledge, if you want, or you can go for pure chaos, or you can lie about how many Wine or Poison are in play. It’s all legal, and all encouraged. I personally like to shuffle the cards so that I can’t be read, but it’s fun to lie about how many Wine and Poison are in play to add some tension. Then, if people read that I’m lying, they might think I’m lying about my card being good or their card being bad, not necessarily about how many cards in play are good. You can get really tricky, here! One fun thing to do is to look at a specific card, tell everyone “what” the card is, and then see what happens. Do they all try and steal it? Now, try a very strange lie. Put one Poison in play, and tell everyone that card is the only Wine card in play. See what happens next. Who knows! Depends on your group.
- Drinking is sometimes a valid strategy. Ideally, you want to have a Wine card when you choose to drink, but there’s something to be said for going out on your own terms, I suppose. It may be worth asking the dealer if your card is Wine, if you think you can read them.
- Swapping is basically just adding more entropy to the system, but it might pay off. You don’t really have a good sense of whether or not the card in front of someone else is good (unless the dealer says it is). If you swap, you’re trusting someone’s judgment, but you won’t know until it’s far too late to do anything.
- If you see another player swap, you’re going to have to decide if you trust that they made the right decision or not. If you think they grabbed a Wine, take it! Just be careful, because if enough people go after a card, that might cause a chain reaction of swaps which will just effectively randomize the play area. Though, again, that might work in your favor!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The theme is goofy and plenty of fun. The game largely boils down to the classic Battle of Wits from the 1987 classic The Princess Bride, but now you get to be the Man in Black, the Sicilian, or both! It’s up to you. Unfortunately, you cannot poison or save everyone, but that’s the way things go, sometimes. If you manage to memorize the entire monologue, however, I will be impressed. I think the inherent silliness of this game makes it great for casual audiences and folks who aren’t used to board games, but it’s just too compelling for experienced gamers to just not be into. Honestly, it works for basically everyone I’ve played it with.
- The art style is very nice, as well. I like how simple and straightforward it is, but I also think the muted color scheme works nicely, here.
- Naturally, very portable. Button Shy, at it again. I have a stack of wallet games that I would refer to as “slightly problematically high”, but, you know, it is what it is. I love how easy they are to take places.
- Honestly, the best way to teach the game is largely just to demonstrate a few rounds. There are a few Button Shy games that I really like for this, but In Vino Morte and Sprawlopolis tend to work the best for “here, I’ll explain on the fly”. I really like games that work well in this simple of a space, and I think In Vino Morte is dead simple to learn, pun intended, emphasis mine.
- I like that the dealer gets to decide how many players get to survive. I think it’s a fun bit of controlled chaos to add into a round, and it gives the dealer a very fun way to play. Do you go big and risky and give out only one Wine? Do you split it half and half? How does your choice affect your own survival rate? There are so many group dynamics at play that it’s hard to say, which makes it even more fun.
- It’s a good opener or a great way to wind down a game night. Again, the simplicity helps, but also the speed of play makes it super quick and simple. It’s similar to how we used to play Love Letter when I was getting into gaming; this would probably occupy a similar niche, especially since we also used to get ourselves eliminated for stupid reasons when we played Love Letter.
- There’s some elements of social deduction to this that I think would annoy me in certain contexts, but it really depends on your player group. One could play this as asking every dealer a bunch of questions to try and determine the location of the Poison(s), but … that sounds a lot less fun. I think that, for me, the snap deduction elements of this game are much more appealing than the social deduction elements. The nice thing is that you don’t personally have to participate in much bluffing, if you don’t want to. Players have to Drink or Swap, regardless of whether or not you answer their questions.
- Be careful with the cards. As with most games where the cards need to all look the same, the slightest nick can sometimes make the cards distinguishable. Thankfully, the game comes with 9 of each, so you should have a few extras in case something happens.
- I feel like this is a bit obvious, but this is a much better game for higher player count situations than lower ones. At three, it’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but it is definitely more exciting when you have a lot more players, just because often, more entropy and more variance works its way into the round. It’s not necessarily a problem with the game, but is worth noting.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think In Vino Morte is very enjoyable! I think, though, it’s a party-ish game that’s almost entirely group-dependent. There are a lot of groups that I could bring this to where it would fall completely flat. I’ve even been asked, “is this even a game?”, before, which is kind of humorous. Of course it is. But the joy is in the investment. It’s not necessarily the mechanics of the game (though they’re simple and so easy to understand), it’s me asking another player, “Hey. We’re good, right? You wouldn’t do me like this.” and them agreeing, only for me to drink and them to immediately betray me. I expect it. Or maybe I didn’t! It’s impossible to say. And I love that about the game. I love shuffling the cards very obviously and watching another player try to read me, only to guess wrong and I reveal that I was only faking shuffling while keeping the safe card tucked away the whole time, ready to deal it to myself. It’s extremely goofy, and it should be treated as such. So it’ll stick around in my collection of great opening or closing games for a game night. If you want to recreate that classic Princess Bride battle of wits, or you just want to play something fast, quick, and silly, then I’d recommend giving In Vino Morte a try! Button Shy’s got a clever one.
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