Las Vegas Royale
- Designer: Rudiger Dorn
- Publisher: alea (Ravensburger)
- Players: 2-5
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 40-60 min
- Times played: 3 with review copy provided by Ravensburger USA
Las Vegas (the original) is one of my favorite games of all time. It is a light family style game, but there is definitely a bunch of difficult decisions to be made in the game as well as just enough meanness towards other players to keep things interesting. Luck plays a big role in the game as well, and this uncertainty due to the cubic luck bringers makes the end result of each round unclear until usually the final roll of the round. I can teach the game in 2 or 3 minutes, and it’s the sort of game that nearly everyone that I have shown it to has grokked within a few rounds. I have multiple copies of the game – one at home, one at the lake house, two homebrewed mini versions including one that fits into a plastic playing card deck holder that I keep in my car for ultimate Liliputian game emergencies.
So, I was pretty excited to hear that a new “royale” version was coming out – though with some trepidation because I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my beloved Las Vegas. As it turns out, you can mostly play the original game with the pieces here in Las Vegas Royale – though the money card denominations are a little different, so it won’t be exactly the same. But it’s close enough. But, let’s talk about the updated version!
I’ll start be describing the base game in Las Vegas Royale. The six casinos are set up around then central dice tray. The money card deck is shuffled, and six pairs are dealt out. The sum of each pair is calculated and the highest sum is placed near the “6” casino, then next highest near the “5”, etc. If there is a tie, the pair with the highest individual value card is placed on the higher casino. Play then goes around the table. The active player rolls all his remaining dice (starting with 7 regular dice and 1 “biggie”). Of the rolled dice, the player chooses any one value, and then places ALL of the dice with that rolled value onto the casino of matching number. Each player also starts the game with 2 chips (each valued at $10,000). If you decide that you don’t like your roll, you can spend a chip to pass on your turn and not place any dice. The next player then goes, rolls, and places dice (or passes with a chip). This continues until all dice have been placed on the casinos. Then it’s time to resolve the casinos and pay out.
At any casino, count up the number of dice that each player has (noting that the “biggie” die is worth 2 regular dice). Any players which are tied for the number of dice at a casino are removed from the reckoning. Of the remaining players, the player with the most dice gets the larger of the two money cards. The player with secondmost gets the lower valued card. Any uncollected cards are simply discarded. This continues until all six casinos have been resolved.
The next round is set up with six pairs of money cards being dealt out and then again placed in the casinos. Each player also gets two more chips for the next round, and then the whole thing is done again. A third round is played identically and then the game ends. The player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner. If there is a tie, the player with the most actual money cards and chips is the winner.
This version is pretty close to the original game – with the changes in the distribution of money cards, the addition of the chips that allow you to pass and the biggie die. But, this isn’t even the main game. There is another level of complexity in the full game – and this is the addition of action tiles. There are 8 double sided action tiles in the game, three of these are chosen at random and placed next to the “1”, “2” and “3” casinos. Any time that a player places a die on one of these three casinos, they also activate the tile which is associated with that casino.
The rest of the game plays the same. I’ll explain two of the tiles as an example. For the Jackpot tile – there is a special jackpot marker which starts the round on the leftmost ($30,000) spot. When you place a die on the corresponding casino, you then take an extra black pair of d6 and roll them. If you roll 7 or a pair, you win the amount of money where the marker currently resides (and then the marker resets back to the $30,000 space). If you do not win, you move the marker one space to the right so that the next person to roll has the chance to win even more money.
The Block It tile is seeded with 9 grey pipless dice. They are placed to match the pattern seen on the tile. The first five times that the matching casino is used, that player chooses one unchosen set of grey dice and places them in any one casino. Grey becomes an “extra player” at that casino, and if they match the number of dice of any players there, those players will be eliminated in the reckoning.
Otherwise, the game plays the same. In each of the three rounds, the tiles are shuffled and new ones are chosen for the next round. The rules even say that you could choose to increase the number of tiles used – obviously to a max of 6 in each round – but I find the rules as written offer a nice choice to the player. If you choose the higher numbered casinos, you fight for larger money cards, and if you stick to the lower casinos, you may not get as much money, but you do end up getting the extra bonus action afforded to you by the tile.
Overall, I like Las Vegas Royale. It maybe loses a bit of the simple elegance of the original, but the changes give you a little bit more to think about, and it’s a nice change. I like the way that you can mostly play the original with this, so you really get three different versions in this box. The addition of the chips gives you a little bit of a chance to mitigate lady luck when you get a bad roll. I can’t count how many times I’ve had a perfect round go south when my final die comes up and causes me to tie someone at a casino and I lose out on lots of money. Now, you get a chance to take a re-do. Or… you can use your chips to strategically pause and let other players place their dice first so that you can see where it’s best for you to go. It’s an interesting change in strategy, but one that also makes the game a bit longer and thinkier.
The different action tiles are a nice addition as well. Some of them simply help you earn more money, while others add strategic choices to the game. I really like the way that the Block It tile gives you almost an “attack” against other players as you can force ties in places. They add a nice sense of variety to each game (heck, each round) – though again, you trade the added actions/complexity at the expense of elegance.
The original game was rated 1/10 on the complexity scale by alea, and I was surprised to find that Las Vegas Royale only gets a 2/10. I would have maybe given it at least a 3, but hey, it doesn’t really matter – it’s just a number on a box.
Oh, and speaking of numbers on boxes, interestingly the side of this box has a big number “1” on it. Is Alea starting yet another set of numbered games? I wonder what the next one will be!
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor
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