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Subject: Lords of Vegas: A Thematic Builder For Lovers of Lady Luck rss

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Seth Brown
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WHAT IS IT?
A property development game where players build up Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

COMPONENTS
9 cardboard Casino tiles in each of 5 colors, 12 plastic dice and lot markers in each of 4 colors, 55 cards of standard quality, 1 large Vegas board with a grid of lots, 4 player aids, paper money in 4 denominations. Everything of very solid quality excepting the tiddlywink-like lot markers.

GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF
Players each start by drawing two random cards and placing lot markers on the indicated lots, as well as receiving a small amount of starting cash.

On your turn, you draw and reveal a card, which indicates a lot on which you place one of your markers. Then all lot markers pay off a dollar each. The revealed card also has a casino color, and any players with dice in a casino (Casino = contiguous set of same-color tiles) of that color receive a dollar per pip. In addition, the boss (Boss = the owner of the highest die in a casino) of each casino matching the color on the card receives points equal to the number of tiles in that casino.

After those payouts are made, you may take any number of actions, including:
*Build - pay the indicated cost to replace one of your lot markers with a casino tile and one of your dice.
*Sprawl - pay double the indicated cost to expand a casino where you are the boss to an adjacent unowned lot by placing a casino tile of the same color and one of your dice.
*Remodel - Pay to replace all tiles in a casino where you are the boss with tiles of a different color. If the new color matches an adjacent casino, they become merged into a single new casino.
*Reorganize - Pay to re-roll *all* dice in a casino.
*Gamble - Only once per turn, you may choose another player to serve as the house as you gamble by rolling two dice. You pay the house on a 5-8, otherwise the house pays you.
*Players may also trade with the active player at any point.

When the "end game" card is drawn, all casinos touching the Strip in the center of the board pay out, and then the highest score wins.


GOOD POINTS
*Lords of Vegas is a good-looking game. While not exactly intricate artwork, the board is a nice homage to Vegas with the middle strip brightly lit and the crossroads. The rest of the game is very brightly colored, from the paper money, to the 5 colors of casino tiles, to the colorful dice that sit amidst them. The overall effect is pleasantly colorful and nice to look at, but not overly artsy because

*Components are clearly designed for ease of use. The board has each lot very clearly marked and showing the starting die for that casino. The large colored dice once placed are easy to read anywhere on the board, and the player aids concisely lay out the available options for the turn. And most importantly, the cards revealed each turn are very clear, with both color and casino name indicating the payout, while the lot is indicated in the center of the card in a large easily-readable font.

*Easy to learn and play. The above two points both aid in making this game quick for anyone to pick up. Add to this a fairly straightforward set of options and plenty of randomness both in the card draws and dice rolls, and you have a game that even non-gamers will be able to play without much difficulty.

*Feels appropriately Vegas-like. One of my opponents pointed to a spot on the board and said, "I basically stayed here when I was in Vegas", which makes me think the board did a good job. Once the board fills up, it looks like a very colorful expanse of sprawl, which is appropriate. The paper money which uses famous Vegas acts like Elvis and Sinatra instead of presidents -- a nice touch. And you can even go to the casino of another player and gamble where the house enjoys better odds than the player, the act of a desperate man. All together, it makes for a nicely thematic package, especially considering:

*Plenty of tension from hoping for a lucky die roll or card draw. Everything is a gamble, not only where you build and what color you build, but especially the ability to sprawl into a lot you shouldn't be in and then hoping that nobody draws that card to get for free the tile you just paid to build. Merging casinos usually means someone is losing ownership, which leads to frequent reorganize rolls where everyone will be begging their dice for a 6 and even a dark horse with a single die can win. If you're ousted, you really hope your turn to reorganize again comes up before that casino pays out; likewise if you've just taken control you're begging for the next card to pay you before you lose control again. Definitely has that Vegas feel of anxiously hoping the next card/roll sees Lady Luck handing you a payout and not kicking you in the butt.

*Clever scoring mechanism means no grinding rats for XP. The score track, once you get 8 points, requires you to get 2 points at once (from a single casino) to move forward. This number keeps rising every few spaces after that, to 3 points at once, then 4, etc. The result is that you can't simply own a plethora of tiny 1 or 2 space casinos uncontested and expect to get anywhere; if you want to win, you need to be scoring those bigger casinos, which are naturally frequent targets of hostile takeover attempts.

BAD POINTS
*4-player game can be prone to minor confusion. Although we didn't have this issue at all in the 2-player game, or even much when playing with 3, playing with 4 players led to some frequent forgetting of whose turn it was, since players are paid out when it isn't their turn. (There is a current player card, but this did not entirely stop our confusion.) Confusion was only compounded by the fact that many of the player colors match the casino colors, so when quickly scanning the board to do payouts, it's easy to make a mistake as to which of green dice in yellow casino, yellow dice in green casino, green in green, etc., you are supposed to be counting.

*The amount of luck is pretty high for such a long game. The length isn't too bad in the 2p game, but with 4 players the payout phase of each turn (counting all those pips of different colors) can take a little while, which adds up over the course of the game. Still shorter than many Eurogames to be sure, but sufficiently long that some may be irritated by the high degree to which the outcome of the game is determined by luck rather than strategy.


CONCLUSION
Lords of Vegas is a luck-heavy romp through property acquisition in Vegas. If I were feeling clever, I'd describe it as if Acquire put on a party hat, had a few drinks, and let loose. In spite of the time needed to count pips in a 4p game, LoV moves at a good clip, and with payouts every turn and constant dice rolling, it always feels like something is happening. While in the end it's too luck-heavy for my own tastes, LoV is a very active game that seems likely to be suitable for gamers and non-gamers alike.

IS IT FOR YOU?
If heavy luck and random reversals of fortune are off-putting to you, you won't enjoy the fact that LoV is basically nothing but. A roll of the dice, the luck of the draw, and then some more rolls of the dice, all constantly-shifting fortunes largely beyond your control.

However, if that sounds like fun to you, Lords of Vegas has lots of it. Buckets of Vegas-y goodness dripping from every facet, from the faithful recreation of the Strip on the board, to the constant rolling of dice, to the inevitable cheers and laments as people's fortunes are made and hopes are dashed, to currency featuring the Rat Pack. If you're looking for an action-packed dice-roller heavy on theme with some building and plenty of jockeying for control, look no further.
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quohog the great
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Thanks for the review, but i'm curious as to how many times you've played this game.

Yes there is a luck factor in here but IMO its more than a luckfest that your conclusion conveys. To me and my group we acknowledge that there is luck in this game but its all about judging/assessing risk/reward and mitigating it to your personal end.

Granted we may be looking deeper into the game than others. but i have countless plays of this game and enjoy it even though i'm rarely the victor.

with my group the time seems to go quickly since we have a dedicated banker and use chips instead of the paper money provided and first pay lots first and then the casinos it takes generally 15-30 seconds per card flipped in order to payout. But chips help greatly because they are faster and easier to use than counting out paper money.

The biggest time issue is that so much can happen in a 4 player game that is beyond your control after your turn ends. like you are fighting with the player on your left for one casino and they take it back over on their turn. and you have 3 more draws where you are not the boss. but that is were mitigating luck and chosing your battles wisely comes in handy.

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James Cheng
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Thanks for the review, but I'm curious about the lack of mention on trading? From some of the comment I've read online, wheeling and dealing seems to be part of the game as well, which would mitigate some of the luck.
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Seth Brown
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Argh, my browser just ate my lengthy reply, so let me try a shorter one.

quohog wrote:
Thanks for the review, but i'm curious as to how many times you've played this game.

Yes there is a luck factor in here but IMO its more than a luckfest that your conclusion conveys. To me and my group we acknowledge that there is luck in this game but its all about judging/assessing risk/reward and mitigating it to your personal end.

with my group the time seems to go quickly since we have a dedicated banker and use chips instead of the paper money provided and first pay lots first and then the casinos it takes generally 15-30 seconds per card flipped in order to payout. But chips help greatly because they are faster and easier to use than counting out paper money.

I've played the game 4 times, which is enough for me to know it's a lot more luck than I like. Yes, you can be better or worse at the game, and yes there is some skill involved in mitigating the luck, but I stand by my conclusion that those frustrated by heavy amounts of luck are likely to find Lords of Vegas a poor fit. I tried to make clear in my conclusion that while the game is too luck-heavy for me, I still think it's a good game for many people (as opposed to something like LCR which is a no-skill luckfest I'd recommend to nobody).

We used a dedicated banker as well, but as mentioned under the confusion section, counting things up took a little time (which I'm sure improves with practice). I've heard people prefer chips for this reason, but I'll admit to really liking the paper money with Vegas performers.

eunoia wrote:
Thanks for the review, but I'm curious about the lack of mention on trading? From some of the comment I've read online, wheeling and dealing seems to be part of the game as well, which would mitigate some of the luck.


I added trading to the turn summary, which I'd forgotten to do since it's not on the player aid list. It's true trading could certainly mitigate some of the luck; between stubbornness of some players, reluctance of new players to trade, and the fact that half of my games were 2p, trading didn't happen so much.
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Moe45673
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I'm surprised you had folks reluctant to trade. Boardgamers may not be easy to find but fans of Monopoly should be an easy conversion
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Seth Brown
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Moe45673 wrote:
I'm surprised you had folks reluctant to trade. Boardgamers may not be easy to find but fans of Monopoly should be an easy conversion


Well, one of those stubborn folks was admittedly me; I don't tend to like trading in games (nor does my partner), and as long as I didn't fall behind by not doing so (since other people weren't trading) I was just as happy to have no trading in the game. I'm no fan of monopoly either.
 
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quohog the great
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trading is rare in my games too. i personally don't like the trading mechanic because maybe i'm not good at it but typically when trading happens its when someone in third or fourth is trying to better their position which in turn solidifies someone elses position. while its not technically kingmaking the one not in the trade and affected by it often gets the screwed feeling.
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Moe45673
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quohog wrote:
while its not technically kingmaking the one not in the trade and affected by it often gets the screwed feeling.


Exactly. A trade between two players is to mutually benefit them at the cost of the other players. Which is why, in such a scenario, YOU should do a deal of your own!
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Sean West
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Moe45673 wrote:
quohog wrote:
while its not technically kingmaking the one not in the trade and affected by it often gets the screwed feeling.


Exactly. A trade between two players is to mutually benefit them at the cost of the other players. Which is why, in such a scenario, YOU should do a deal of your own!

That was exactly the thought that crossed my mind as well.
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quohog the great
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seanmwest wrote:
Moe45673 wrote:
quohog wrote:
while its not technically kingmaking the one not in the trade and affected by it often gets the screwed feeling.


Exactly. A trade between two players is to mutually benefit them at the cost of the other players. Which is why, in such a scenario, YOU should do a deal of your own!

That was exactly the thought that crossed my mind as well.


I know this should prob go to strategy or general discussion but this is where things get hazy because if 3rd makes a deal with 1st to eventually overtake current 2nd. then 1st will get ahead. 1st wouldn't allow a trade with second because they would put them on their own tail and 3rd would trade either because it would potentially nullify the trade that was made with 1st. so 2nd can only logically trade with 4th and usually there is a reason they are in 4th and most trades available will be either too costly to 2nd because the person in 4th is usually there for a reason, or potentially shooting themself in the foot because 4th is usually so out of the running that even a trade can't help them.

Perhaps its my groups playstyle.
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