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Subject: Vegas Showdown Review rss

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Wade Schwendemann
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San Diego
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This game is a heavily themed strategy bidding game, with an element of tile placement and connection, ultimately rewarding those who keep their eyes on their scoring. The winner is of course the player who accumulates the most victory points.

I’ll start with my only real complaint about the game, and that is the pieces that come with it. The board and rooms are nice, thick cardboard that will stand up to lots of use. The playmats are pieces of paper that are folded, and very flimsy. The markers are wooden and nice, but the poker chips are the absolute cheapest plastic chips ever. Since the poker boom most probably have better chips than these lying around, and if you are so inclined, adding about 50 of the higher quality chips will enhance the game, at least to me.

Each player starts out the game the same, with an empty casino. It’s his or her job to fill it with different rooms, all of which can bring increased revenue, increased population, or increased fame (victory points). Some rooms bring more than one of these at a time, and some bring all 3. These rooms are the most sought after, and the most expensive.

Turns progress like this:
1). Drop prices on premiere rooms that are up for bid, but not sold yet.
2). Draw a card if there are any open spaces for premiere rooms, and follow the instructions on the card on which sized rooms to fill the empty spaces with.
3). Collect income (players collect the lower amount of their revenue or population).
4). Bid on rooms/take other actions (once a player is outbid, that player can place their pawn on any other bid, or not bid at all).
5). Pay for and place rooms, if legal, and complete other actions.
6). Pass first player button.

This is a fairly simple concept. Each player starts with a revenue of 5 and a popularity of 8. They all start with $20 in cash. Each playmat is empty at the start.

The only part that could be challenging to the new player is the bidding. A player can bid on one thing, and then if he or she gets outbid, can outbid another player elsewhere. You’re not committed to staying in the same bidding line. The player you outbid can go outbid you, the first player who outbid you, or someone else. Or they might not have enough cash left or might not want to spend it all, and they can take a different action.

The cards you draw can have a profound impact on the game. In addition to telling you which pile to draw the premiere rooms from, the cards can either reward those who already have things built, or eliminate a choice from the game for that round (if slot builders, lounge builders, or restaurant builders go on strike, for example). This makes each game a little different, and not completely predictable. I actually like that aspect of it. If you don’t like not being able to perfect your play based on the lack of random elements, this may not be the game for you.

Any yellow room purchased must have a traceable path to the yellow ‘Casino’ entrance; any blue room purchased must have a traceable path to the blue ‘Hotel’ entrance when played. It doesn’t matter if you go through green or other blue or yellow rooms, so long as you can trace a path to that entrance, you can play the room. Provided that is, that there aren’t any other required rooms first. None of the base rooms (slots, restaurant, and lounge) have any pre-requisites, but several of the premiere rooms do.

Probably the most difficult concept to understand is that once you’re outbid, you can go to any other bid, and don’t have to stay with the one you’ve started with. You can also stop bidding at any time and choose the publicity or renovate actions.

Publicity simply earns you one fame point, and allows you to place one room into your casino if you have one that you haven’t placed yet, either because you renovated recently or because you purchased it before you had the prerequisites, hoping that you’d get them eventually.

The renovate action allows you to remove up to 2 rooms from your casino, and allows you to place up to 2 rooms onto the casino however you’d choose.

As a general rule, the yellow rooms will increase your revenue, and the blue rooms will increase your popularity. Some of the premiere rooms will do both. These tend to start at a prohibitive cost, and your opponents will be eyeing them the same as you are. Keep a close eye on how much money everyone else has, as that will help you know what to bid and when. The amount of cash each person has is public information, so they have to tell you if you just ask. Remember, you don’t have to start the bidding at the minimum, and you don’t have to only increase the bid by one increment. If you really want the slots this round (to increase your revenue by one), then if someone bids 5, jump up to 9, that way they’d have to pay 12 to outbid you.

One of the great things about this game is that it really does have a different feel with a different number of players. The game actually has different room availability for 3, 4, or 5 players. In a 3 player game, only 3 of the premiere rooms are available for purchase each turn. This often results in a slightly longer game, as the game ends only when you can’t refill a room slot or someone fills their entire playmat with rooms. The 4 player version adds the 4th premiere room space, and the 5 player game allows 2 basic slot tiles to be purchased per round.

The last thing to mention is the end game scoring. In addition to fame points earned along the way through publicity actions and placed rooms, plus some of the cards, there are a lot of points to be won when the tiles run out. Whoever has filled casino or restaurant sections, connected doors, top 3 revenue or popularity, or cash on hand in increments of $10 earns money. In addition, some of the premiere rooms have diamonds on the corners, and any tri-corner or complete diamond scores victory points as well. This end of game scoring often pulls a player up to victory. Its critical to consider the end game scoring in the mid-game, particularly when it comes to positioning the rooms with the diamonds, as there aren’t all that many of them, and you’re not likely to be able to win too many from your opponents.

I’ve got quite a few plays of this game in now, and I enjoyed the game so much I bought it for myself after about 4 plays. It’s got more strategy than you’d think at first glance, and I like the auction mechanic a lot. Part of the fun for me is trying to guess what my opponents are going to want to do, and then making that a little more difficult for them while still getting what I want at the end of a turn.

In this game, everyone has the same goal; its how they choose to go about it that makes the difference. I already mentioned bidding strategy earlier, but I think it’s important to talk about that a little more. Watching how much money everyone is going to make at the start of next turn gives you a lot of information, as you can quickly determine who might be competing with you for the room you want next round. It’s a good idea to evaluate all the premiere rooms that come up and determine if you’d like them, and what price you’re willing to pay to get them. Some of the rooms provide a lot of fame points, and those might be worth getting for a hefty price in the late game, but not so much in the early-mid game, where you’re still trying to solidify your base and increase your per turn income.

I like to start the game with my eyes squarely on something to bring in income on the first turn. Each player starts out with a gap of 3 between their revenue and their popularity. Increasing your popularity doesn’t help you for a long time. Increasing revenue does. If you can’t get slots, table games, or a sports book on the first turn, I think you either buy the lounge to setup the exits out of your restaurant side for the next few turns or don’t spend. Getting frozen out of the revenue tiles round one stinks, but it isn’t unrecoverable, particularly if you’re well positioned to purchase something without being outbid too much in round 2. Don’t go more than 2 rounds without picking up something that you can place that gives you income, or you’re starting to get into a very deep hole.

Don’t be afraid of buying something you don’t have the prerequisite for if it’s a good deal. Picking up a fancy restaurant or nightclub can be a coup for your casino, and you can always place a tile through a publicity action later on in a round where you don’t really have the cash on hand to compete with the other players in a big auction anyhow.

I really don’t like the renovate action. I’ve never seen it used to such a good effect that it made it worth it. Taking an entire turn to move up to 2 tiles, and losing what they gave you while they’re off the board just doesn’t seem like a winning strategy. Your opponents will be using this turn to purchase more tiles for their casinos, and you can bet they’ll be tiles you wish you had. I suppose if you’re faced with a situation where the game can’t end in the upcoming turn, and your renovation would earn you an extra 7 or 8 points (through connecting, completing one side or the other, or diamond scoring) that it might be worth it. One or 2 points isn’t enough to justify the loss of time though.

Overall I really enjoy the gameplay that Vegas Showdown offers. The bidding element of the game and the fact that you can drive up the prices on your opponents while eyeing something else for yourself all along is a fun element, although it can backfire on you. The little amount of chance with the cards and tiles ensures that every game is at least a little different. The game is dripping with theme and is a quick play, taking only about 45 minutes to an hour on average, no matter how many players there are. I’d rate the game an 8/10, and not higher just because I’m not so sure how many different viable strategies there are yet. Well, that, plus the cheap poker chips and playmats. Maybe with more plays I’ll understand a couple more nuances of it, and that’ll increase my opinion of the game.

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Chris Schenck
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Dayton
Ohio
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It's a shame that Vegas Showdown was such a bust in the big box chains, because it really is a wonderful euro -- with primary themes of auction/bidding, tile placement, and resource management. It's always been a hit with the non/light-gamers in my group, as well as the more experienced folks.

I agree with your take on the Renovate option. It's generally a sign that you've mismanaged your purchases or placements throughout the game. Still, it's a great option to have available. I've seen players take one or two renovates in a row and move their victory prospects from a dreary position to a very competitive one.

What an outstanding game. It's been too long since I've played it, and this review has encouraged me to get it out on the table for one of this week's game nights.

Thanks for the review!



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Max Jamelli
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I usually see renovations/do renovations when there is little else I can do. If the cards dictate publicity isn't an option and I can't afford/don't want any other buildings - you have to renovate. I usually renovate once or twice a game though (so long as they aren't good tiles I want and can afford) - usually to create diamonds.
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John W
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Schwade wrote:
As a general rule, the yellow rooms will increase your revenue, and the blue rooms will increase your popularity.

Each player starts out with a gap of 3 between their revenue and their popularity. Increasing your popularity doesn’t help you for a long time.
Small correction - It's population (as you mention earlier in the review), not popularity in these sections.

Quote:
Don’t be afraid of buying something you don’t have the prerequisite for if it’s a good deal.
Actually, if you play with cutthroat players (like on GameTableOnline), buying something you don't have the prerequisite for is just giving other people the opportunity to make their night by blocking you out of that future purchase.

I've repeatedly seen players do sub-optimal purchases just to screw someone out of that prereq they were planning on.
Some players hold the theory of "costing your opponent points gains you points" quite seriously.... even when there's no rational justification in-game.
 
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Randall Bart
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Winnetka
California
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Schwade wrote:
The playmats are pieces of paper that are folded, and very flimsy. The markers are wooden and nice, but the poker chips are the absolute cheapest plastic chips ever.

The unmounted player boards are just a complete screw up. I don't understand why so many people complain about these chips. I was a professional poker dealer, and I would hate to use these chips for poker, but they aren't being used that way here.

Schwade wrote:
This makes each game a little different, and not completely predictable. I actually like that aspect of it. If you don’t like not being able to perfect your play based on the lack of random elements, this may not be the game for you.

You mangled the wording there, but I agree with what you are tyring to say. I think this game has about the right amount of randomness.

Schwade wrote:
The game actually has different room availability for 3, 4, or 5 players. In a 3 player game, only 3 of the premiere rooms are available for purchase each turn. This often results in a slightly longer game, as the game ends only when you can’t refill a room slot or someone fills their entire playmat with rooms. The 4 player version adds the 4th premiere room space, and the 5 player game allows 2 basic slot tiles to be purchased per round.

I agree that it's well balanced for 3, 4, or 5 players, though with 5 the slots seem to run out too quick.

Schwade wrote:
I really don’t like the renovate action. I’ve never seen it used to such a good effect that it made it worth it. Taking an entire turn to move up to 2 tiles, and losing what they gave you while they’re off the board just doesn’t seem like a winning strategy.

If you pick up to rooms and place them back down in the same action, you never lose the income/population/fame of the rooms. I've used renovate successfully. You generally don't have enough cash to buy a room eveyr single turn, so you need to take renovate or publicity. If renovate can get you two points, it's better than publicity.

Schwade wrote:
The game is dripping with theme

Wellll.... I am not much into theme. The theme works. The actions make sense relative to the theme.

Schwade wrote:
Maybe with more plays I’ll understand a couple more nuances of it, and that’ll increase my opinion of the game.

It's not all that deep. Your strategy is influenced by what is available. There are not a lot of strategy options. It's not that good to have a lot of one thing. It's not like you go for a slot strategy or restaurant strategy. You go for income in the early turns, then shift into points. It's quite like Saint Petersburg that way.
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Rob Bradley
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reapersaurus wrote:
Some players hold the theory of "costing your opponent points gains you points" quite seriously.... even when there's no rational justification in-game. .


Gamer's creed: "First do some harm."
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Jason Lott
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Quote:
Probably the most difficult concept to understand is that once you’re outbid, you can go to any other bid, and don’t have to stay with the one you’ve started with.

Although it will be familiar to those who have played Amun-Re, which has the same bidding mechanism.

A clear review for a great game!
 
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Michael "Tie-Dyed-Eyes"
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Barticus88 wrote:
Schwade wrote:
The playmats are pieces of paper that are folded, and very flimsy. The markers are wooden and nice, but the poker chips are the absolute cheapest plastic chips ever.

The unmounted player boards are just a complete screw up. I don't understand why so many people complain about these chips. I was a professional poker dealer, and I would hate to use these chips for poker, but they aren't being used that way here.


I counter-disagree. I think the poker chips totally detract from the feel of the game. I can buy nicer poker chips down at the Rite-Aid on the corner. Until my host busted out his nice chips, I felt like we were playing "Pahrump Showdown."
 
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Randall Bart
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revtiedye wrote:
Until my host busted out his nice chips, I felt like we were playing "Pahrump Showdown."

No way. It's at least Wendover Showdown.
 
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