What: A thrilling recreation of the Las Vegas commercial boom
Time: 60-90 minutes
People: Almost anyone, though pre-teens might struggle
Available: On Amazon
Why we recommend it
It’s the distant past. Not so long ago that things were in black and white, but probably old enough that life unraveled in sepia for those alive at the time. In these forgotten days, Las Vegas was just another unloved patch of Nevada; an arid desert bereft of any kind of glitz or glamour.
In real life a handful of scheming developers took it upon themselves to exploit the 1931 change in gambling laws, and by the 1950s the scene was booming. What came next, of course, is history.
Lords of Vegas casts you in the role of a Howard Hughes wannabe, back before all that happened. You’re handed a small number of vacant plots of land and a few million dollars. Your job is to start building casinos and begin raking in the cash.
The earliest choices you’ll face are not only where to construct your casinos but also how to decorate them. Will you go for an ancient medieval theme with knights and wizards, or something more futuristic like an alien-focused setup?
What you choose will matter, because as the game unfolds different types of casino will flow in and out of fashion. The most fashionable casinos will be full of punters, filling the bank accounts of the casino’s owners in the process as well as scoring them points.
Earn some of this cash and you’ll be free to start expanding your empire, either by building a greater number of casinos all over the city or by consolidating your efforts into a slightly riskier mega-casino project that could result in a huge payday. As the vacant lots are developed by your rivals, the grid quickly becomes crowded and competitive so you’ll need to shift your strategy as you progress.
Stretch yourself too far or suffer the misfortune of some unlucky dice rolls and you might find yourself on the receiving end of a hostile takeover. In these circumstances, part of your casino empire will effectively be operated by one of your opponents – meaning they’ll get all the points and the money when visitors show up and you’ll have to make do with just a few dollars.
Like the famous Vegas strip, aggressive commercialism rules supreme in this game. The most ruthless players will stand a better chance of winning, though those with a shrewd sense of a bargain will also be tough to beat.
The game’s at its funniest when you prepare some kind of mad plan for supremacy, which inevitably starts to fall apart as other players block your moves and get in the way of your wild get-rich-quick scheme. You might even find yourself down to your last million dollars – which of course you’ll take over the road to risk it all on another player’s dice tables. You’ll get luck and somehow triple your money with some chance rolling, and the crazy plan is back on!
It’s no surprise either that luck plays an important role in Lords of Vegas, but the game never feels unfair or punishing.
It looks pretty, and does a good job of making you feel like you really are an old-school Vegas tycoon. Lords of Vegas sits naturally among any serious gamer’s collection, but we recommend it as an alternative to Power Grid or Ticket to Ride – both games that make decent early purchases for newer gamers that are just getting started.
Check out this episode of Board Game Royale, the Best Play podcast, to discover how it stacks up against gaming classic Camel Up.
Pick up Lords of Vegas on Amazon here, and you’ll be helping Best Play with our many costs.