Game Buzz: Lords of Vegas

The first time I heard the title for Lords of Vegas, I thought of a game where Las Vegas as a mythical place where a group of gods hold court.  The gods are competing for power, and their supporters build temples in their honor (aka casinos).  The Strip then becomes their battleground, and the various landmarks become their palaces.  This, of course, is not what the actual theme of the game turned out to be, but I think it’s an interesting idea.  Someone get on that.

Lords of Vegas - image by BGG user Zaphod

Lords of Vegas is a game that has just recently been released by Mayfair Games, and was designed by James Ernest and Mike Selinker.  Art was done by Franz Vohwinkel, as well as the team of Fastner & Larson.  The game is for 2-4 players, takes about 60 minutes, and is probably good for people ages 10 and up.  In the ACTUAL game, you are one of real estate developers that sees massive potential in the Las Vegas area for a luxurious oasis in the middle of the desert.  During the game, you’re going to try to construct the biggest and most profitable casinos on the Strip.

Before I get into a discussion of the game, I need to compliment Mayfair on starting to put game rules up online.  I’ve looked online for Mayfair rules many times before and haven’t found them.  But glancing around their site, they’re finally putting rules up.  Hooray!  For one thing, this is one way I decide if I want to buy, or even play a game.  I understand that some companies want to protect their intellectual property.  But I think that publishing the rules is one of the best ways to advertise, and I’m glad that Mayfair is going that route.

Game in play - image by BGG user diddle74

OK, the game.  You get a board showing the strip, 55 cards, 40 player markers, 48 six-sided dice, 4 scoring chips, 45 casino tiles, and paper money.  Sigh.  People are still putting paper money into games.  Even in a game about Las Vegas.  Couldn’t they have used cubes for the player markers and scoring track, and poker chips for the money?  That would have been nice and thematic!

Anyway.  Each player gets a color of dice and markers, as well as two cards.  The two cards indicate your starting lots, as well as your starting money.  Your two cards then get discarded face up so everyone knows what is out of play, and the End Game card gets placed on the bottom quarter of the deck.

On your turn, you draw and play.  To draw, you take a card.  First, you’ll take over the lot indicated on the card.  If it is empty (a lot), you can place one of your markers there.  If it is occupied by a tile (a casino), replace the die that is present with one of your own, keeping the same value.  Next, all occupied lots pay one dollar and all casinos pay money and/or points.  Money is either paid by color or to casinos that border the Strip, and gives you $1 per pip on the dice you have in the casino (by the way, the money is actually in millions, but it’s too much trouble to write out).  Points go to the boss (the player with the highest valued die in the casino), who gets awarded one per tile in the casino.  The strange thing about scoring points is that some of the spaces are more than one point from each other.  If you would land on a space between two printed point values, you must stop at the lower value and lose the excess.  You get points individually from the casinos, so a bunch of one-pointers wouldn’t score at all if there are two points between numbers.

When you play, you can take actions.  Available actions are build, sprawl, remodel, reorganize, and gamble.  You can take as many of these as you want, and you can take any of them multiple times (except gamble).

  • To build, pay the indicated cost on the board to place a tile on one of your owned lots.  You’ll also place a die in the center of the tile with the indicated value face up.
  • To sprawl, you pay twice the amount of an unowned lot to place a tile there.  It must be adjacent to an already placed casino tile, and you must be the boss of that casino.  You’ll place one die on the space with the indicated value face up.  This is dangerous because the card belonging to the lot is still in the deck – if another player draws it, they’ll replace your die with one of their own.
  • To remodel, you must be the boss of the casino and pay $5 per tile in the casino to change them ALL to a different color.
  • To reorganize, you pay $1 per pip in the casino, then reroll all of the dice.  Basically, you’re trying to become the new boss with this action, but the risk is that you’ll make your greatest nemesis the boss.
  • To gamble, you go to another casino where another player is boss.  You bet up to $5 per tile in that casino.  The other boss must match (no refusals), but can also lay off on the bank (meaning that the bank finances half of the bet).  You’ll then roll two dice, and collect the pot as long as you don’t roll a 5, 6, 7, or 8.  If you do, the other boss collects.  If the other boss used the bank to lay off, they either only pay out half with the bank paying the rest, or they collect half with the bank collecting the rest.

If, after any action, there are ever two dice in one casino tied for the highest value, they must be immediately rerolled.  This game also has a rule that trading is an available action at any time during the game.  You can offer money even if it isn’t your turn…however, all trades must be resolved during the turn.  This rule is there to prevent people from stabbing you in the back.

The game ends after the End of Game card comes out, or when someone hits 90+ points (which doesn’t seem to happen much, if at all).  The player with the most points wins, with money as a tiebreaker.

Lords of Vegas seems like almost pure chaos.  The amount of dice rolling that goes on, and the fact that your points are mostly dependent on being the boss, seems like this will be a massive luckfest.  But it looks like it could be a lot of fun – I guess you have to go in with the mindset that you’ll have to be lucky to win, and be determined to have a good time.  I don’t think this game is a buy for me, not yet.  I do want to try it out however.  Read more about people’s impressions at BGG if you’re interested in learning more.

Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.

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