Vegas Showdown – Games I Play

Vegas Showdown

I haven’t done a Games I Play post in a while and I have been meaning to. After getting a chance to play Vegas Showdown with Scott over the weekend I thought now would be a good time to do a quick write up about it. Remember, this isn’t really a full review so I will try to keep it short. There are, as always, good reviews over at the Geek including a review by Yehuda Berlinger who was kind enough to link to our blog way back when we were first getting started.

Vegas Showdown Overview

Vegas Showdown is a game designed by Henry Stern and has been called an American Eurogame by many people, and really I can’t disagree. Essentially it’s a bidding game played in a number of turns. It has been compared to Amun-Re, Alhambra, and Princes of Florence, among others. I haven’t actually played any of those games so I really can’t verify the similarities but with so many people making similar comments it seems likely the games are at least comparable.

Interestingly Henry Stern has been placed in charge of Heroscape over at Wizards now that the game has been moved from Hasbro greater to Wizards of the Coast. Since I like what he did with Vegas Showdown I am hopeful that he will do good things with Heroscape.

The turn order is:

  1. Drop prices
  2. Flip new tiles
  3. Collect income
  4. Take Actions
  5. Adjust Revenue, Population, and Fame
  6. Move 1st player marker

In the game you are designing a hotel and casino and trying to make it as popular as you can. To do this you buy different rooms and arrange them in your building. There are three basic rooms (Slots, Lounge, and Restaurant) and a number of special rooms in three different sizes which become available randomly.

At the beginning of each turn the minimum bid for the special rooms drops by one spot. During step two, “Flip new tiles,” a new tile is added if the number currently available is lower than the maximum. Then all players collect income and take actions.

Essentially there are three actions you can take: Bid, Publicity or Renovation. Bidding simply involves putting your action token on one of the available rooms and offering a price (the minimum or greater) for that room. You can be outbid by other players and when that happens you get to take a different action (including another bid).

Publicity awards you one Fame (the currency for winning, essentially victory points) and also lets you place a previously purchased room onto the board (you can always place rooms immediately but you can also save them till later if you do not meet the building requirements or simply don’t feel like placing them).

Renovation allows you to remove two rooms from your playing area and then put two rooms into your playing area (same two or different, it doesn’t matter). This is usually done because there are end game bonuses for the way your Hotel and Casino are constructed.

In a three player game there are three special rooms available at a time, and four available in a four or five player game, so it has some built-in scaling.

What I Like About Vegas Showdown

I am not a big Eurogame fan. Often the games feel stuffy to me, with few actual decisions to make. What I mean by “actual decisions” is that often when your turn comes around you really feel like you only have one choice to make. I know a lot of people like Eurogames, and I do enjoy some of them, but I tend to prefer playing games that are not in this category. In part that is why I find my like of Vegas Showdown so interesting.

One of the things that makes this game different from a Eurogame is the events that happen every time a new tile is flipped. These events are fairly small but I feel that they make the game feel more lively and there is more to hope for on each turn. Some people have complained about these events, saying they make the game more random. This is true but they can also be planned for and doing so gives advantage to the player than knows the deck better and is better prepared. I have also commented before that I like games that force you to recover from events, and that I like events in general, and this is another example.

Another thing I like about Vegas Showdown is how quickly it moves. Some Eurogames (Puerto Rico for example) can get bogged down in the middle with players who are not doing well and no longer care enough about the outcome. Vegas Showdown isn’t short but neither is it long and players don’t have to wait too long for their turn to come up.

What I Don’t Like About Vegas Showdown

While Vegas Showdown is not my favorite game there is actually very little that I dislike about it. Some people have complained about the components but I find them reasonable and adequate. Others have complained about the events but I like events. The only thing I could really complain about is that sometimes the bidding is a tad annoying but since it’s a bidding game you certainly should know what you’re in for before you start and if you don’t like bidding games maybe you should stay away.

Thoughts on the Design of Vegas Showdown

While I like the game quite a bit in a lot of ways it isn’t amazing original. Many people have compared it to other games and from what I have read these comparisons seem valid. Still I feel that the simplicity of the design, while not incredibly unique, is solid.

There are several tactics I have seen people win with and for the most part people that play walk away having enjoyed it.

The main design concept that I appreciate is again the events. I don’t think that they are devastatingly game ruining or broken in their ability to assist a player and yet they have an impact and that impact is felt. They also feel fairly balanced and they make the game feel different from turn to turn. If you are not a fan of events it is likely you won’t like them of course but for me they really do kind of make the game.

In Conclusion

While this game just came out in 2006 and won Game Magazines Game of the year it is unfortunately now out of print. Copies are still out there however and I recommend anyone interested should grab one. I almost wonder if their attempt to grab attention by basing the game on casinos (with the rise of casino gambling and recent Hold ‘Em attention it seems like a good move) ended up distracting and confusing people. The game doesn’t actually involve any gambling or betting or anything of that sort but perhaps people assumed that it did.

If you have played the game feel free to sound off!

    Scott Says:

    For me it speaks well of the game that, upon completing the first play through, I wanted to play again immediately.

    Scott Says:

    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
    -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    I wouldn’t call Vegas Showdown perfect, but if I had to guess I’d bet the design once occupied a position of being more complex, and then was pared down to what was published. Whether or not it’s similar to others, unless it outright copied them (I’d be surprised), Vegas Showdown has achieved something close to just the right amount of complexity to be interesting while maintaining enough simplicity to play well, quickly and with fun.

    It was enough to convince me to pick it up, and I’ll be playing again real soon.