Review: Las Vegas

By Dave Neumann 16 May 2013 0
Looks just like Vegas. Minus the ladies of the night. Looks just like Vegas. Minus the ladies of the night.

Las Vegas. A neon-lit oasis of human debauchery in the desert of Nevada. A place where the affluent pray at their shining temples to Mammon and the unwashed huddle in hopeful despair for the chance to, someday, worship alongside them. Here the seven sins aren’t taboos to be avoided, but instead an industry concerned with emptying your wallets and dragging your soul to the depths of hell.

Here is a town…wait…what’s that?

Oh, I’m writing about Las Vegas the iOS app? Oh. Well, forget all that crap, because this app and the real Las Vegas have absolutely nothing in common. Except the dice, I guess. Both Las Vegas the city and Las Vegas the digital board game have dice, but that’s where the similarities end.

So, does this luck-filled dice-fest have any business joining the ranks of the much ballyhooed board game ports that we’re seeing on our tablets lately?

I’m happy to report that it does.

Yes, we finished the round with $0. I hate Rose. Yes, we finished the round with $0. I hate Rose.

In its cardboard form, a game like Las Vegas is what we’d call a “filler”. You play it while waiting for someone to show up to game night, or between heavier and longer brain-burners. It’s not meant to be a main-event type game, like Eclipse, Le Havre or Puerto Rico. 20 minutes and put it away. This attribute serves the game well on iOS, as this is one to play in the doctor's waiting room or on the bus. Decisions are quick and tactical, with little (or no) long-term strategy anywhere in sight.

The object of the game is be the one with the most cash at the end. At the beginning of each round money is distributed randomly to numbers 1-6 which are represented by casinos. Turns consist of rolling a virtual handful of dice, sorting them by number, and then deciding which dice stay in its casino and which you take back to roll later. At the end of the round, the person with the most dice in each casino wins the highest division of money, with everyone else getting lesser shares, if they’re available. Where it gets interesting is the fact that tied players get bupkis. So, blocking your opponents becomes just as important as placing your own dice and winning money. Oh, and did I mention that blocking someone can really make them angry? This blocking mechanism saves Las Vegas from being a boring luck-fest and gives it a little meat. The game also comes with a variant gameplay option which allows each player to throw neutral dice that can only be used for blocking. Winning scores without the variant were somewhere north of $600,000. With the variant we were lucky to hit $400,000. It’s a much more bloody, more interesting, version of the game.

Alea iacta est! Alea iacta est!

Aside from gameplay, the presentation is impeccable. The app screams polish and I can’t think of another game that handles dice rolling this well. It’s the first game where I’ve felt like I’m physically rolling dice. Sure, the dice might bounce like they’re made of flubber, but in general, the dice mechanic and animations are really well implemented. Las Vegas utilizes Game Center for asynchronous online games, and this works well, too. Turns can be fired off quickly, and its a real sucker punch to open up the app and find that your opponent just stole away your $90,000 payday.

Ravensburger really have done a great job of taking a light game and building a smart and easy-to-learn app that should be popular among all mobile gamers and not just serious board gamers. While not nearly as deep as some other heavy Euros we’ve seen on our tablets, Las Vegas can stand proudly among them as an engaging and worthwhile entry into the field.

Viva Las Vegas! (Sorry, but you had to know that was coming at some point.)

Review: Las Vegas

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