Game Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
Artwork: Harald Liekse, Markus Schmuck and Mia Steingräber
Players: 2-5 players
Ages: 8 and up
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Awards: 2012 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee, 2012 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Nominee, 2012 Japan Boardgame Prize U-more Award Nominee, 2012 Spiel des Jahres Nominee, 2013 Årets Spel Best Adult Game Winner, 2013 Le Lys Grand Public Finalist, 2013 Le Lys Grand Public Winner
Recently I was in need of another family friendly game that could be pulled out after dinner, when my in-laws were over that would allow us all to enjoy some more family gaming time. They love games like Timeline and Buccaneer Bones because they are cute, simple, fun and especially with Timeline, interesting. These games always elicit a lot of chatter and laughter around the table, so seeking that simplicity and fun I bought a copy of Las Vegas by Ravensburger. It was incredibly well received in 2012 as you can see by the awards and nominations listed above, so I was pretty confident this was going to be a great buy. After playing it several times, I can say that it is a very easy game to play and teach but it just is not compelling or even fun enough to want to take it off the shelf again.
Las Vegas is a very light game by Ravensburger that is all about dice rolling and managing those rolls to take control of casinos on the Las Vegas strip while earning the most money. Game setup is quick; just place the six casino markers in the middle of the table in die order as each is labeled 1-6 and hand out 8 dice of the same color to each player. Lastly, you shuffle the banknotes and add them above each casino marker until the value is at least $50,000. With the randomness of the banknotes, there will be multiple denominations on some casino markers bringing the total over the $50,000 level; you want to see that since that makes the dice bidding, or the betting as the game prefers you to see it, a little more interesting. Once all of the components have been doled out, assign the the start player card and it’s time to start slinging them bones!
On your first turn, roll all eight of your dice and choose one number from those that you have rolled and add all of those same numbered dice to one of the casino markers. On each subsequent turn, you will roll the remaining dice and place all of the dice of one number on a casino that you choose. This continues until every player has placed all of their dice, when you are out of dice you just pass when it’s your turn.
You can add dice to a casino that you or another player has already placed dice on, this is where the area control comes in. If you can out roll another player by having more dice on the casino at the end of the round, then you claim the lions share or possibly all of the jackpot that casino has depending on how many banknotes are on each casino. This jackpot is indicated by the banknotes above each casino at the beginning of the game and each subsequent turn, so it will fluctuate constantly.
There is a bit of strategy here, but it’s not deep. Your choices are simple, do you slow play your dice, spreading them around and trying to steal away casinos that other players are overlooking? Do you invest heavily in the casinos with the most money or do you snipe away with those casinos with heavy investors since ties cancel each other out? So there is strategy but it’s not deep, which is great for playing with younger children, a little guidance is all they’ll need.
After everyone has placed their dice, you count up who has the most dice on each casino and they received the highest denomination banknote. If there are multiple notes, they are then handed out in descending die order and if there are ties, those cancel each other out with the next highest die count winning. So you could come in and snipe two other players who have placed several dice on a casino and cancelled each other out by placing a single die.
There is a variant listed in the rule book that in all honesty, should be the only way to play the game. The variant has each player getting an equal number of white ‘neutral’ dice and playing those the same as they play their own dice with the difference being that these are for an ‘imaginary player’. So any die you place of your color that has a matching white die, you place those as if they were your own. If you’re not careful, you could lock yourself out of making money or letting someone else jump ahead of you. It’s a clever addition and really is the only way to play the game, without the white dice in play the game play gets very stale, very quickly as the dice are doing all of the work and you have no control.
The game ends after four rounds and the player with the most money wins, it’s a simple format and simple game that takes about 20-30 minutes to play. I’m a fan of simple games because they are quick, fun time fillers that are easy to teach my in-laws who are in their 70’s but I think the game is so simple that it’s just not very fun. Las Vegas wasn’t a big hit with anyone at the table and everyone begged off a second game when I offered which I had expected because I had the “is that all there is” feeling at the end of the game myself the first time with it.
The strategies are minimal but there was nothing very compelling to the game, or even fun. You rolled dice and placed them based on what you got, there is no way for you to change anything with a re-roll or use of any modifiers or powers. In essence, the game plays itself and you are just along for the ride as a spectator with some small decision making involved but nothing that makes you feel really in control or driving the game forward. Player interaction is really non-existent since you are just placing what you rolled and less excitement leads to less back and forth between players.
While not a bad game, Las Vegas doesn’t offer much either. If are looking for a dice rolling game with simple area control mechanics to use as a gateway game for novice gamers or kids, you might want to get it in trade or on sale because the MSRP on this is far above the value the game offers.
Company Website: http://www.ravensburger.com
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ravensburger
Note: A review copy of this game was purchased by me.
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