Dale Yu: First Impressions of Vegas and Wanzen Tanzen

So far, 2012 is earning the title of “The year of the dice game”.  It feels like many of the new releases from Nuremberg involve dice.  Some of the dice games are novel, some of them are dicey versions of board or card games, and some are repackaged versions of older games.  We’ve already discussed a number of the new dice games in the past few weeks – Keltis Wurfelspiel, Einfach Genial wurfelspiel and Wurfel Bohnanza – all of which fall into the dice-implementation of an older game category. This week, I’ll give my first impressions on two other games, Vegas (novel) and Wanzen Tanzan (mostly borrowed).


Designer: Rudiger Dorn
Publisher: Alea
Time:  25 minutes
Ages:  8 and up
# of players:  2-5
Times played: 1 with borrowed copy at Gathering of Friends

Vegas is the new Alea release – this one coming in a smaller box.  This is definitely a move away from the more complex games that I used to associate with Alea with a Complexity rating of 1

The goal in Vegas is to earn the most money by skillfully placing dice in the different casinos over the four rounds in the game.  The board, as it were, in Vegas is made up of six different tiles – each with the real image and title of a Vegas Casino (though I do not think that there is any official licensing going on here –just different laws/practices with trademarks in Germany).  Each of the casinos is associated with a specific die face.

There is a deck of cards in the game which represent the money.  Money is available in denominations ranging from $10,000 to $90,000 (in increments of $10,000).  The board set up for each round is simple.  Cards are flipped up from the deck until there is at least $50,000 total available at each casino.  This might only be one card (i.e. the first card flipped up is a $70,000), but could also be many cards ($10,000, $20,000, $10,000 then $80,000).

Start player is determined and that player rolls all 8 of his dice.  He is not allowed to modify or re-roll any of his dice.  He simply takes ALL the dice of a single number onto the casino which matches that number.  Once that group of dice has been placed on the casino, then the next player in clockwise order rolls his dice and does the same.  Each turn, players roll all dice they have remaining and place ALL of a single number.  This could mean that some players run out of dice before others – if so, players with no dice left to roll are simply skipped in order.

At the end of the round, scoring is fairly simple.  Whichever player has the most dice at a casino will take the largest denomination money card available there.  The second place player gets the highest remaining card, and so on.  There is a slight twist (a la Raj or Hols der Geier) that any players who are tied for number of dice at a casino eliminate each other.

So, lets say that 4 players are at the Luxor, and there are 3 cards available (80K, 30K, 10K):  Blue 4 dice, Red 3 dice, Yellow 3 dice, Green 1 die.  Blue has the most dice at that casino and takes the largest card, $80,000.  Red and Yellow cancel each other out and get nothing.  Green has the next highest unmatched total and gets the $30,000 card.  As there is no one left, the $10,000 is uncollected and will be discarded from the game.

After all the money has been collected, any remaining cards are simply discarded from the game, and the 6 casinos are set up again as at the start of the game.  The start player rotates to the next player clockwise and dice are rolled again.  This continues for a total of 4 rounds (regardless of the number of players in the game).  At the end of the fourth round, whichever player has the most money wins.

So – what are my first impressions of the game?  I like it.  Our 5p game played quick, maybe 20 to 30 mins including figuring out the rules.  There is a little bit of decision making space in the game – mostly in deciding how to try to leverage your majorities in the casinos.  But, it’s just a little space.  In the end, it’s a dicefest.  Roll the dice, hope they come up with the numbers that you want, and you win if that happens.  Many of the “decisions” in my game were straightforward.  Though I didn’t feel entirely in agreement, at least one of the players in my game stated that Vegas played him rather than the other way around.

When there is a single high card at a casino ($80K), there was a big advantage in our game to being the first one to get 3 or 4 dice on that tile – usually off a lucky initial roll.  Given the all-or-nothing nature of scoring, as well as the penalty of getting nothing for a tie, sometimes placing 3 or 4 dice early on was enough to deter others from even trying to play there.

The fact that you can’t re-roll any dice though sometimes forces (or causes) you to play onto tiles where you don’t think you can compete.  For instance, say I’ve already got three “5s” down, and my roll comes up 5,5,5,5,1.  Even if someone already had a bunch of dice on the 1 casino, I’m probably still going to put my single “1” there so that I have 4 dice to roll next turn.

Also, if there isn’t a big target that you’re shooting for (or if your initial roll doesn’t let you go for what you want), you could slow-play the round and place only one die each roll.  If the other players are placing multiple dice early on, you could get a few rolls all on your own at the end when you know exactly where the dice will be on the casinos, thus making sure that you get value for as many of your dice as possible.

However, as there is no re-rolling, luck on the final roll of a round makes the game unpredictable.  The best laid plans can still be cancelled out by an unlucky roll.  In my game, twice did my final roll of a single die cause me to tie someone – and therefore cause me to be left out of the payday.

Is this luck/variance fun? Sure.  There were plenty of laughs and groans as the dice were rolled.  However, this high level of luck also guarantees that Vegas will never rise above “filler-dom”.  It’s a game that I’m glad to have played, and given the ease of learning/teaching and the small size box, it’s a game that I would likely pick up to add to the collection if it were on a prize table or if it were available as a trade option.  If nothing else, it will be a fun game to play with the kids or with non-gaming friends that are over.  But will this be something I’m playing in 2013 and beyond (or even past Essen 2012)?   Honestly, I’m not sure about that.

Opinions on Vegas from other Opinionated Gamers:

Jonathan Franklin:  Oddly, it plays up to five players, but is four turns.

Honestly, Vegas is what it is.  I’d play it if people wanted to, but probably would prefer to play other dice games

Rick Thornquist: I remember playing a game with Stefan Bruck of Alea a few years ago.  I won’t tell you the name of the game.  Ah, what the heck, it was Indus (if you don’t know the game, count yourself fortunate).  After the game, I asked Stefan what he thought of it.  After pausing for a few moments, he said, “This game is… unnecessary”.  That’s what I think of Vegas.

In my opinion, the game is simplistic, unoriginal, and uninteresting.  I’ve got nothing against simple games – hey, I love 6 Nimmt! and Geschenkt.  Vegas, however, has none of the spark of those games.  The design is pedestrian – I can’t imagine it took more than two minutes to design this game – and playing it was, for me, unfun.  There are so many other good light games out there.  My advice is to avoid Vegas and play those instead.

Dan Blum: It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. It reminds me a bit of Alea Iacta Est, which also involves players setting aside some of their dice each turn to compete with others at multiple locations. Alea Iacta Est, while interesting, wound up being a little too long and involved for its heft, at least for me. Vegas, on the other hand, isn’t involved enough – it needs something added to give it real interest. I’m willing to play it, as it’s short and provides some amusement, but there are so many better fillers that I can’t see myself buying it.

Joe Huber: While I disagree with Rick on Indus – which, to me, feels like a nice variant on Backgammon – I agree entirely with him on Vegas, if for a different reason.  Well, mostly different – I found the mechanisms harmless enough, and with some mild originality.  But Las Vegas is one of my least favorite places I’ve ever been, and as a result I find it a thoroughly unappealing theme for a game.

Ratings on Vegas from the Opinionated Gamers:
I love it!
I like it… Dale Yu, John Palagyi
Neutral… Dan Blum
Not for me… Rick Thornquist, Joe Huber

Wanzen Tanzen

Designer:  Reinhard Staupe
Publisher:  Amigo
Time:  30 minutes
Ages:  8 and up
# of players:  2-4
Times Played: 4 with purchased copy

I had Wanzen Tanzen brought over from Germany last month at the recommendation of some of my friends.  I played it a few times at the Gathering before I realized that I had played something very similar to this in the past.  While there are a few differences, Wanzen Tanzen appears to be a reimplementation of Sharp Shooters, a game that has been available here in the US for years.

The goal of the game is to have the most points whenever either of the game end conditions is met.  Players can score both negative as well as positive points.  Positive points are scored whenever a player is able to complete a goal card.  Negative points are scored for accumulating bug tokens – which are collected when you are unable to reach your goals.

At the start of the first turn, the 5 penalty cards are placed on the table (-1 to -5) with the -1 being available first and going down to the -5.  A deck of scoring cards is also constructed (15 cards out of the total in the box).  This card will be worth between 1 and 5 points and will have some goals on it.  An example card might have:
·         Three of a kind
·         1 1 6 6
·         Small Straight

On your turn, you roll the dice (you start with 5 dice).  After each roll, you have two choices: you must either freeze at least one of the dice (and then re-roll) or collect a bug token and re-roll all the dice you just rolled.  Bug tokens are bad because you will be forced to take one of the negative scoring penalty cards if you get 5 bug tokens.

You continue to roll dice (and go through the two choices) until one of two things happens:  either all the dice are frozen or you have collected 5 bug tokens.  After the fifth die is frozen, you check to see if you’ve met at least one of the goals on the card.  If so, you mark off the goal you have met.  If you have met multiple goals, you choose only one to mark off.  If the goal you marked off is the last goal on the card, you take it into your scoring pile and it is worth however many points are listed on it.  Another scoring card is then exposed for the next player to roll against.  If there are still goals left on the card you rolled against, you can either choose to keep rolling (with 5 dice) to try to reach more goals or end your turn with no further penalty.

If, instead, you haven’t met any of the goals on the card, you must take two bug tokens and pass the dice to the next player.

If, at any time, you have 5 bug tokens in front of you, you have to take the lowest value penalty card and your turn is over.  All of the players get to turn in their bug tokens, so everyone starts with a clean slate again.  So not only do you get stuck with a penalty, but you help out the opponents who might have been close to getting their fifth bug as well!

The game continues until either all 15 scoring cards are collected OR all 5 penalty cards are handed out.  At that time, the game ends immediately, the points are summed up, and the player with the most points is the winner.

The management of the bug tokens is an interesting mechanic – it gives you something more to think about than simply rolling dice and hoping they come up with the right numbers.  There are definitely times in the game that you’re better off passing a scoring card off on someone else rather than pushing your luck and risking taking a penalty card as a result of your abject failure to roll well.   There are also some times when it might be worth it to collect a bug token to be able to re-roll an extra die – when you’re searching for a particular die for instance.

While there are some decisions to be made, you still don’t have a lot of control over the game.  It can be a bit frustrating if the player to your left is beating you, as there isn’t much you can do to “stick it to him” while he has the ability to put you in a bad situation all the time.

It’s an interesting enough game, and is a nice filler in a small box.  But, is there enough different from Sharp Shooters?  At this point, it’s unclear on that point.  The amount of translation needed to use the cards is minimal, but it might be enough to keep the game on the shelf when there is a version of the game in my native language available.

Opinions on Wanzen Tanzen from other Opinionated Gamers:

Larry Levy (2 plays):  Wanzen Tanzen is a simple dice game with a relatively low skill level.  Deciding which dice to freeze takes a little thought and having to manage your bug tokens is a nice refinement.  Most of the fun of the game, though, comes from the oohs and aahs following lucky rolls or spectacular failures (and the inevitable smack talk that follows).  As a family game or a light party game, then, it works just fine.  If you actually want to think as well as be entertained, though, there are many better dice games available.

By the way, I don’t see much similarity with Sharp Shooters.  There’s nothing like the gradual buildup of penalty tokens in the earlier game and that’s the major innovation in Wanzen Tanzen.  Sharp Shooters isn’t bad, but I think I’d rather play Wanzen Tanzen.  They’re fairly different titles, though.

Joe Huber (1 play, with Larry): For me, Wanzen Tanzen is – not in terms of mechanisms, but in terms of the feel of the games – Vegas but with a much more appealing theme.  Both are equally light; Wanzen Tanzen seemed to draw the players in a bit better, and I felt like there were slightly more interesting decisions because of the differences in the interaction between the games.  Not a game I’ll seek out, but not one I’d object to if the table wants to play it.

Ratings of Wanzen Tanzen from the Opinionated Gamers:
I love it!
I like it…
Neutral… Dale Yu, Larry Levy, Joe Huber, John Palagyi
Not for me… Tom Rosen

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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4 Responses to Dale Yu: First Impressions of Vegas and Wanzen Tanzen

  1. Eric Brosius says:

    You know, there are some people who just love rolling dice. I can think of several gaming friends for whom the physical action of rolling dice is a big attraction. But it’s really hard to design a dice game that will appeal to the rest of the population. I enjoy some dice games—Can’t Stop, Exxtra, King of Tokyo and even Cosmic Wimpout—but there are a lot of them out there that do nothing for me. (I guess Backgammon is a dice game too, and I like it as well.)

    • huzonfirst says:

      Eric, there are a number of recent dice games that work for both the “I love to roll dice” crowd as well as for more serious gamers. The best example I can think of is Pickomino. If you want to turn your brain off and just roll dem bones, it can be great fun (particularly if there aren’t too many players in the game). However, if you have a feel for probability management, there’s actually quite a few interesting decisions in the game. There are other examples as well.

      I’m hoping that Step by Step, the latest title in the Schmidt Easy Play series, will also fit into that category. The rules look quite interesting, as a push-your-luck game with a different take on the genre than the classic Can’t Stop. But I haven’t had the chance to play it yet.

      • gametool says:

        I thought Step by Step was fairly dull. It is similar to the Keltis dice game, but everything except the dice-rolling part is less interesting. The dice-rolling mechanism isn’t bad, but it doesn’t save the game for me.

  2. Henning says:

    “Sharp Shooters” is a different game, released in Germany at least twice as “Gambler” and “Engel und Bengel”.

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