Cardboard Children - Lords of Vegas
Sometimes you look at a board game's box and you say to yourself “I am never going to roar and pump my fist in the face of my enemies playing this thing.” Some games look like fist pumpers, and some just don't. Lords of Vegas doesn't look like a fist pumper at all. It's all BUILD CASINOS and EXPAND YOUR INFLUENCE and MAKE MONEY. Where exactly in all of that are you going to pump a fist?
LORDS OF VEGAS
Lords of Vegas is a game for 2-4 players, and it's all about building casinos along The Strip in Las Vegas, whatever “The Strip” is. I think “The Strip” is just a big road, like a big main road or something. I'm not sure if that's what they call the actual big main road in Las Vegas, or even if there is only one big main road in Las Vegas. It's probably just a nickname for the big main road. You know - “Yeah, baby, meet me on The Strip.” Or maybe it isn't. I have no idea.
Anyway, sorry, anyway, the board has The Strip right down the middle. It's a big main road, and there are areas on either side where casinos can be built. Players go through their turns building and expanding their casinos, and trying to take control of other players' casinos--
WAIT! This is gangster stuff, right? Like in famous cinematic films The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, where the Corleone family were trying to move in on some casinos on The Strip in Las Vegas. Did they ever mention “The Strip” in The Godfather? I remember Marlon Brando running around with orange peel in his mouth, but I don't remember any references to The Strip at all. This is like some sort of fantasy board game!
Every potential casino lot has a die printed on it. That die represents the power of the lot, in a sense. When you build a casino on one of the lots you own, you will choose a tile in a certain casino colour and place one of your own dice in the middle matching the value on the lot.
And hey! Turns are so simple. You draw a card. The card tells you which lot on the board you now have ownership of. If it says B4, you place a token on space B4. Then the card tells you which casinos pay out cash and points. This is done by colour. A purple card means the purple casinos pay out. Right? And if you're a player who has built casinos with purple tiles, and you have your dice in there, you sum the total of the pips on all those dice and take that much money. Then the casino bosses score points. You get a point for every tile in the casino that's being scored. A 4-tile casino gets you four points and a bada-bing you're on the score board. Lucky lucky!
(Sometimes The Strip scores too, which means all casinos that face onto that main road down the middle start pumping out coins and points. Those are expensive, high value properties. You WANT those.)
Then you take some actions. You can BUILD! Anywhere you own a lot, you just pay the price printed on the board and you place a tile of your choice and a die. Casino built! You can SPRAWL. That means you can expand your casino into another space on the board, at a cost. And at a risk! Because there's the chance someone might draw a card that gives them ownership of that lot, replacing your die with theirs. You can REMODEL, if you're the boss of a casino.
Let's talk about being a Boss. Let's say there's this Gold casino with three dice in there. There's the blue player's die, which is a 4. The green player's die, which is a 6. And the red player's die, which is a 2. The green player is the boss of that casino. Very simple, very easy to track, VERY LIKELY TO CHANGE.
So, REMODEL. Yeah, a boss can change the colour of an entire casino if he can afford it. Why would he do this? Well, maybe not many green cards have come out of the deck and it's likely that green will start paying out. You want to have a green casino ready to score, right? Or maybe by changing the colour of your casino it will merge with a neighbouring casino to create a giant SUPERCASINO FOR THE AGES.
The REORGANISE action is wild. Let's go back to our Gold casino, with Blue at 4, Green at 6 and Red at 2. The Red or Blue Player can pay hard cash to force a re-roll of all those dice to try to create a new boss. It's always risky, because there's no guarantee your roll will make you boss. But it's exciting as all hell, and you can increase your chances of winning the roll by getting more of your dice into the casino.
THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON IN THIS GAME.
I CAN FEEL YOUR FIST STARTING TO PUMP.
Finally, you can GAMBLE. Once a turn, you can visit another player's casino and make a bet on a simple die roll. The house has an advantage, as ever, but it's a way to ask Lady Luck for a leg-up when funds get tight, or when you're trying to leech money away from a particularly wealthy casino boss.
The game plays like this, with casinos growing and spreading and changing ownership, until a Game Over card is drawn. The player with the most points wins.
I'm late to look at this game. I've had a few people recommend it, but every time I picked up that box I thought to myself “This looks kinda... boring.” And it's the exact opposite of boring. It's entirely fistpumpering.
From a simple concept – buy spaces of different die values in a choice of colours – the game spirals off into a multitude of knife-edge decisions. You can apply a lot of strategy to your play, sure, but there will always be that beautiful element of calling plays with your gut alone. Do you sprawl your casino into a space you might later lose? What about if you reorganise it, to try to lower the die value of that space, making you secure as the casino boss if a change of ownership does happen? That's just one tasty decision in a game full of them.
And don't panic about the luck element either. The game isn't luck-dependent, it just encourages a push-your-luck style of play that will, on average, even out in favour of the smartest player. You can swing the odds in your favour. Get more dice into a casino and you will have more attempts to roll high if someone should try to reorganise it. Or you can go balls-out, laying big bets at other players' casinos to try to delay their spending plans.
I had an amazing two turns in my last game of Lords of Vegas. I was ahead, feeling confident. The player before me made a big bet at my casino to try to sap my funds. She lost, putting another 25 million into my bank. My fist pumped. My casinos were all silver, so I started calling myself “Bobby Silver”. In an American accent. On my turn, I made some massive moves. I used that new 25 million bucks to switch the colour of one of my casinos, creating a giant casino the likes of which you would only see in Las Vegas or something. The player who would play next said she was going to reorganise it. I had to make sure she couldn't afford to do that. I bet 10 million at her casino. I rolled a Double 1. JACKPOT. She had to pay out to me DOUBLE!
MY FIST PUMPED
PUMP PUMP PUMP PUMP PUMP PUMP
It's still pumping.