Las Vegas (Dice Game) – Why didn’t I think of that?
Have you ever played a game that was so simple, components-wise, so elegant, rules-wise, yet so engaging, play-wise, that you thought to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?!!!” For me, Las Vegas is that game.
Genius game designer Rüdiger Dorn, took essentially 5 sets of 8 dice, 6 pieces of cardboard illustrated with casinos numbered 1 thru 6, and some cards depicting money and created a game that is engaging, strategic, interactive and super easy and quick to learn.
In Las Vegas, your ultimate goal is to acquire the most money. Your only means of acquiring said money is to play at the six casinos – and win. You win money at a casino by having the most dice there at the end of the round – without tying anyone.
If a casino has more than one banknote, second place, etc. pay out, too. Ties always negate each other with pay-out going to the player with the next-most dice at the casino – again without tying. Sometimes only the house wins.
Each player takes eight dice of her own color (red, green, blue, black or white). If fewer than five are playing, distribute the 8 white dice as equally as possible among the players. They’ll count as neutral dice playing for the house.
Place the six casinos in a line in the middle of the table. At the beginning of each of the four rounds, draw banknotes for each casino until at least $50,000 is showing for it. The “banknotes” are actually 54 cards that you shuffle together and deal out randomly to the casinos. There are 5 each of $90,000, $80,000, $70,000 and $60,000; 6 each of $50,000, $40,000 and $10,000; and 8 each of $30,000 and $20,000. Thus the amount of money that can be won at some casinos could end up being a lot more than $50,000, making them more desirable to play at and contend for.
On your turn, roll all of the dice you have left – all of them at the start of the round; fewer and fewer as the round goes on. Then, you must choose exactly one of the numbers rolled and place all of your dice showing that number – including any white ones – on the matching-numbered casino. It doesn’t matter if you or another player already has dice on that casino or not.
It is then the next player’s turn to roll and place dice. Play continues thusly until all players have placed all of their dice.
When the last player places her final die on a casino, all of the casinos pay out:
- First, check each casino to see if two or more players have the same number of dice there. Wherever this is the case, each of the affected players takes all of their affected dice on that casino back to their supplies. White “house” dice count just like a player’s dice.
- Next, distribute the banknotes for each casino. The player with the most dice on the casino receives the highest-valued banknote and takes her dice back – just from that casino. Any remaining banknotes are distributed to the remaining players with dice on that casino in descending order – based on the number of dice they have there. Should there not be enough banknotes to go around, then the remaining players miss out. Any banknotes left on the casino after distribution, go back to the house. Place them face-down beneath the pile of banknotes.
Pass the start-player marker. Set up the casinos with banknotes for another round. And do it all over again – four rounds total.
The components are simple: 5 sets of colored dice. They’re nice dice: hefty with a good feel to them, but nothing particularly special. The casinos are thick cardboard ovals depicting well-known casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada: 1 Golden Nugget, 2 Caesars Palace, 3 The Mirage, 4 Sahara, 5 Luxor, 6 Circus Circus. Nothing spectacularly special here either.
The game play, however, is both luck-based and strategic. It’s also extremely engaging.
Developer Stefan Brück at alea describes Las Vegas as
“An easy, dice-rolling, fun-and-luck game with a lot of interaction and Schadenfreude.”
Schadenfreude? I looked it up: Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. (It doesn’t translate well to a single word in English.) It’s an apt description for Las Vegas, though, because if you want to win big, you’ll often have to tromp all over the plans of other players.
On alea’s difficulty scale, it rates a 1, meaning it’s super easy to learn and play. I totally agree with that assessment. However, there’s more strategy here than at first meets the eye.
For example, I like to play my dice sparingly giving me more options after the other players have run out. Of course, the dice aren’t always cooperative about that. You can also use the white neutral dice to your advantage: ideally placing them so that they tie/neutralize an opponent vying for control of your desired casino. Remember though: when you place dice on your turn, you have to place all of the dice showing a particular number – doesn’t matter what color they are.
I like games with hard choices that lead to agonies and ecstasies: Which way do I go? Darn I chose the wrong way! or Yay! That worked out perfectly! Las Vegas provides that in spades.
Technically, using the white dice as neutrals in a 2- to 4-player game is a variant. I think it adds such an interesting dimension to the game that we always play that way.
Las Vegas supports 2 to 5 players ages 8 and up and plays in about 30 minutes. It was originally released in Europe as simply Vegas. The only difference I can find between the two releases – other than the name – seems to be the languages the rules are provided in. Vegas includes rules in English, French and German. Las Vegas includes rules in English and French only.
Whatever name it goes by, Las Vegas is a light, casual game that’s easy to learn and quick to play. It’s perfect for families, non-gamers and gamers alike. It also makes a great filler between heavier games or when you don’t want to think too much. Whoever you play it with, you’re sure to hear plenty of cheers and groans when you roll and place your dice.
It’s so simple, elegant and engaging, you’re bound to ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
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Next week: the 12-module expansion for Las Vegas – Las Vegas Boulevard.