Game: Lords of Vegas
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Designer: James Ernest & Mike Selinker
Lords of Vegas is a rare game in our collection – a game that I hadn’t heard of but that Amy knew about and wanted to try! (Typically I’m the one constantly bringing new games into the house.) When we started to play with gaming groups it was apparent that Lords of Vegas wasn’t the most popular title and we were unlikely to come across it naturally so we bought a copy and it was one of the pretty early additions to our shelves.
In Lords of Vegas you are each a casino building magnate who is trying to build the best casinos in the best spots surrounding the strip in Las Vegas. You start small with small casinos, but soon you’re dreaming big and only larger, more impressive casinos, with prime position right on the strip will keep you ahead of your competition. On your turn you first draw a card from the deck – the card will be one of 5 colours, representing 5 different casino themes and will give a grid location eg. C7. You claim the lot of land indicated by the grid position then the colour pays out. All players gain one money for each of their lots and then one money for each dice pip they have in an appropriately coloured casino. Scoring takes place for all of the casino bosses – the player with the highest value dice in each coloured casino of that colour. The number of points you get is equal to the number of tiles in the casino.
After scoring and pay out, you can then use your money to take actions. You can pay a building cost to build a casino tile on a lot you own or pay double to spread into a lot that no-one owns yet. The colour of casino you build is up to you – you can either match adjacent tiles and grow casinos or start your own in a different colour and you’ll probably be informed by how many cards of that casino colour are yet to come in the face down deck. The boss of a casino can pay to change the casino colour to suit card colours they think are more likely to show up, anyone in the casino can pay to reroll all the dice to try their luck at becoming the boss, and enable them to score points for the casino, plus their are a few other ways to spend your money such as betting at other people’s casinos.
One of the unique features of the game as it progresses is that you need more than one point to move up on the scoring track. The intervals increase to 2/3/4 points, so you need to have larger casinos to help you make these jumps. This really gives the game direction as you progress. A game end card is located near the bottom of the deck, which gives a final scoring to all casinos with an edge onto the strip and then the game is over and a winner is declared.
|The game board during the early stages of the game.|
The game works perfectly well with two players, with the only modification being to remove one city block from the game. However, I definitely don’t enjoy it the most with two primarily, I think, because there is too much direct conflict. If you’re not the boss of a casino then your only opponent is. If you don’t have a purple casino when purple scores, you can bet your opponent does. The game can very quickly become one sided and feel pretty futile for the player on the back foot, just because luck of the draw didn’t give them adjacent lots or re-rolling all the dice in one casino didn’t go your way. I often find myself really enjoying the start of the game and becoming frustrated by the end. With more players though, there’s more variety in casino ownership and I think it makes for a much more balanced game, even though achieving higher scores can be a bit more challenging when everyone’s out to change the ownership of the casinos on a more crowded board or deliberately create more, smaller casinos to get a colour advantage over other players.
My reservations on Lords of Vegas as a two player game will hold my rating back, but in spite of this I really see the game’s merits. It’s thematically very strong, with a couple of the elements of the game really having a gambling spirit about them. It is quite heavy on the luck elements with both luck of the draw determining land ownership and dice rolling playing a part in a few mechanisms, but for me that does seem to evoke the ‘easy come easy go’ nature of wealth in a place like Vegas. Lords of Vegas seems pretty unique in our collection, so definitely deserves its place. Hopefully we can try and introduce it to some new players to try the higher player counts more, but for now the Yellow Meeple gives Lords of Vegas a 6.5/10.