Lords of Vegas
Destined to be the epicentre of gambling, the area now known as the Las Vegas Strip was nothing more than a desert in the 1940s. In Lords of Vegas, this is where you and up to three other entrepreneurs come in. With dreams of being the next Donald Trump flashing through your minds, players scoop up property, build casinos and make risky business decisions for a chance at ruling the Strip. I’m not much of a gambler, but Lords of Vegas is a wildly fun strategy game where every move creates drama amongst everyone involved.
There are a lot of components that make Lords of Vegas tick. Featured on the game board alone are clusters of coded lots that contain dollar and die values. Along three quarters of the edges is a score track with unique intervals as players progress. On the one remaining side are spaces to keep track of all of the cards that have been played.
Then there are all of the modular bits that go with it. You’ll get a stack of paper money, cards, along with dozens of colour-coded dice, chips and casino tiles. Each player manages their own chips and dice of the same colour, but are free to build casinos in any colour. The sheer number of components make for a game that can be initially daunting, though you should be able to shake that nothing before wrapping up your first playthrough.
Each turn starts with a player drawing a card from the deck. This card indicates the lot that they are now entitled to, which they mark with a chip. After that, every player gets $1 million for any lots that they own. The last step in the draw phase is where the magic happens. Each of these cards is also colour-coded with the casino tiles. For instance, if a green card is drawn, every player with green casino tiles will be rewarded in bonus cash and points. The most lucrative of cards in the deck are those labeled as The Strip. When these come out, any casino of any colour that has at least one tile sitting on the strip will get paid.
Rewarding players in this manner leads to a number of positive benefits. For one, players are constantly gaining money, even when it isn’t their turn, which keeps everyone engaged and excited for the game to move forward. Also, the act of building a casino in specific colours will have tremendous ramifications, with the draw phase being just one of the many factors that play into your colour decision. Do you build all in one colour to win huge when that colour is drawn? Do you aim to build casinos to win smaller payouts, but win more often? Or do you build based on draw trends? Maybe you want to build on a colour that’s either showing up a lot, or a colour that isn’t showing up much in hopes that it’s turn to blow up is just around the corner? It’s always interesting to make those decisions or watch others do the same.
Once all of the draw-related transactions have been completed, you’re free to move into the action phase. From here, you’re free to manage your empire in a number of different ways. You can build a casino on a property you own. You could orchestrate a trade between yourself and someone else. Maybe you’ll expand on an existing casino by purchasing a matching colour tile beside it. Or maybe you’ll go gambling at another player’s casino for a chance to win big at their expense. Of course, if you lose, you’ll only strengthen their position with the extra income.
My personal favourite actions in the game are remodeling and reorganizing. By remodeling, you change the colour of an existing casino into a new one. This can be done to simply hedge your draw phase bets elsewhere, but you can also use it to match an adjacent casino owned by another player to take it over. When you pay to reorganize, all dice in a casino that you’re in have to re-roll their values. By doing this, you get a chance to improve your influence rating for higher payouts. However, it’s more fun to do this to overthrow someone else that is the boss at a casino you’re part owner of. Whenever people make these moves, they immediately cause a rise out of everyone at the table, followed by loud cheers or angry scowls from everyone involved.
Admittedly, keeping track of everything happening or everything you can do is a lot of work. This is going to be particularly daunting for your first time through, especially if you don’t already have experience with other designer board games. Even after you and your group get a hang of it, turns may play out a bit slower than you’d like because of all of the planning involved. But if you give it an honest try, this game is so worth it.
There are so many different ways to be successful at the game, which really gives you a sense of ownership over the action, even if there are many elements where luck is involved. Every action by you or anyone else matters a lot and it’s exciting to watch or be a part of, even when you end up on the wrong end of it. I also love how the feel of Vegas gambling permeates through everything you do to further emphasize its great theme. Lords of Vegas asks you for a lot, but it truly does pay off in the end. As of writing, this is my new board game jam and one I highly recommend.
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