Game: Lords of Vegas
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Las Vegas, the city of sin. Bright lights, loose women and empty promises. No city will suck you in and drain you dry faster than Vegas. The whole place was built with precision to extract as much money as possible from you, all the while selling you the dream that you will be the one making money. But for all the things that happen to the visitors are nothing compared to what happens to the owners, corruption, greed, theft, even assassination. There is no evil so great as a man seeking wealth, and in Las Vegas, everyone is!
Lords of Vegas is a 2-4 player casino management game in which you compete to gain control over the sprawling Las Vegas strip and earn lots of money! The game is impeccably themed with aspects of card counting, and dice rolling luck combined with power struggles over the biggest casinos. In Vegas everything revolves around money and Lords of Vegas simulates this by having a flexible turn system where you can do as much as you want, so long as you can pay for it!
At the start of every turn a card is drawn, this card has 2 important attributes, a colour and a grid reference. The colour tells you what casinos pay out this round, you earn 1 point for every square of casino in that colour you own and you earn money based on the number of pips showing on your dice in casinos of that colour. Larger casinos earn more points, but can be co-owned by players, in these cases there is only 1 boss, the player with the highest numbered dice in the casino (ties force dice to be rerolled) and while everyone earns their money, only the boss earns points. This becomes increasingly important later in the game as the score tracker starts having barriers to progress and you can only pass them if you earn enough points. Each casino scores separately too, so you can’t get past a 3-point barrier with 3 size 1 casinos, you need a size 3 or bigger to progress.
|The game set up ready to play, the drawn cards are displayed on the right so everyone knows the odds of the next cards being drawn.|
The grid reference tells the active player which lot they now posses. You start with 2 lots and then get 1 each turn, while not in use you rent them as car parks for a little casual income, however the true money and, of course, points are in casinos. It costs money to build casinos depending on location, once you do build one you place a coloured dice in the centre to indicate your control. You can later pay money, equal to the number of pips shown on the dice in a casino, to reroll all the dice. This leads to power struggles for ownership, but in true Vegas style is a gamble, sometimes you pay a lot of money to reroll a casino and end up with worse dice, therefore less income and your opponent gets bigger dice, making it more costly to reroll and retaining their control. You can also re-theme your casinos for a fee, this means that you can use a small casino with a high dice to take over a big casino with smaller dice, or simply change colour once you think that no more cards of that colour are going to be drawn.
One of the most important parts about Lords of Vegas is card counting, each game you insert the game end card ¾ of the way down the deck, meaning you aren’t playing with a full deck of cards. This is very important as the colour of cards that have been drawn is public knowledge, there are 9 of each colour so if 6 yellow cards have already been drawn and only 1 purple then that may make your decision about what colour to invest in. Then again you might be unlucky and have it turn out that 6 of the purple cards are in the last, unused, quarter of the deck. In true gambling style you play the odds and hope to win, but sometimes luck is just against you.
Lords of Vegas is probably one of my favourite heavy luck games, but I think that is mostly due to the theme, Vegas is about luck, about being lucky and going home rich, or losing it all. It’s also about booze, loose women and quickie marriages, but thankfully they didn’t try to simulate everything. I’m a little sad that they went with paper money when they could have made really nice poker-chip themed currency tokens, but that’s honestly a small gripe. My main complaint really is about the fact that it’s luck based, I’m not the hugest fan of games where your victory is shaped very much by fate. Granted it’s no Talisman, which I swear plays itself, Lords of Vegas does everything it can to tell you the odds so you can make the best decisions possible. The score tracker with barriers is a great idea, however it can lead to issues as players are naturally drawn to certain scores as the game progresses. If you can stand the luck then Vegas is a great game, but in my opinion it’s a little too much and does lead to people feeling victimised at times, still it’s beautifully themed and surprisingly simple to pick up.