Today I’d like to introduce you a game that’s a big favorite amongst my family – Vegas Showdown. This is an easy game to learn, and doesn’t take very long to play. It is a basic auction game where several different items are available, and you need to manage your money to decide when to buy the right item.
In this game you own a hotel-casino in Las Vegas and are developing your property as the game proceeds. Which player can create the best destination and build his fame in this town? To do so you’ll need to bring in revenue (by adding slot machines and other gaming places in your casino), increase the population of patrons coming into your hotel (they like to eat at restaurants), and also increase your reputation with special destinations (nightclubs and theaters do nicely).
Let’s look first at your basic mat, with smpty spaces for development. Off to the right is where your revenue (the dollar token) and your population (the meeple) are measured:
Each turn you bid on an item, and then place it on your mat. Based on what you purchase, your revenue, population or fame will increase. Then on the next turn you collect your income. But your income is based on whichever is lower between your revenue and population. So if you spend too much time focusing on adding gaming opportunities, your hotel business will lag behind. If you look at this next image, you can see how one player fared at the end of her game. Her revenue at that point had reached 12 and the population is 16. That means she was currently earning 12 in income each turn.
So maintaining a good balance is important. Speaking of bidding, let’s look at the bidding board. (Click on the image to see it full-sized; it will be easier to follow what I have to explain next.)
Your current fame is measured on that outside track with little stars (it’s really the same as victory points in other games I’ve reviewed). In the middle are various items available for bidding. Several are standard – slots (+1 revenue), lounges (+2 fame) and restaurants (+2 population). The 4 at right are “premier tiles” which are more expensive but provide greater benefits. For example, the sports book at lower right gives you +2 revenue. So each round, the players in turn place a pyramid marker to make a bid on an item. The bid amounts are staggered; each is 2 more than the previous. Once everyone places an initial bid, anyone that was overbid has the opportunity to bid again – perhaps bidding even higher on that item, or switching to bid on something else. Once all bids are resolved, players take their items and place them on their mats.
There are some restrictions on how items can be placed on your mat. Yellow tiles must be linked to your casino entrance. Blue tiles must be linked to the hotel entrance. And green tiles can go anywhere. Any tile you place must be connected to other tiles in some way – notice the walls and entrance doors on each tile. So you’re trying to lay things down in a way that gives you options to put down more tiles in succession. Also notice some tiles have red triangles on them. These can be layed down in combinations to form diamonds, which are worth more bonus points at the end of the game. You get fame points for full diamonds, and also for 3/4 diamonds. Let’s look at a final layout for our player we talked about earlier. She’s got a nice set-up here:
Notice first of all that all of her yellow tiles are correctly placed as they can all be accessed from the casino entrance at left. As for diamonds, she’s got a full diamond there in the center between the theater and the five-star steakhouse. If the game were to continue, perhaps she could squeeze in some fancy slots next to the theater to create another 3/4 diamond.
Now, those premier tiles start pretty expensive – the starting bid is shown by the number in the square on the tile (the night club says 42). But at the beginning of each round, the minimum price for each premier tile drops down by $4, so eventually they do get cheaper. Maybe you want to save up for one of those big tiles anyway, so what do you do? That’s where you may want to pick one of the other 2 options on the bidding board. The first option is Publicity, which grants you 1 fame point, and costs you nothing. The other option which is very handy later in the game is Renovation. That allows you to pick up and move 1 or 2 tiles on your mat and rearrange them somewhere else. Also, if you ever purchase an item you can’t place, choosing Renovation later will give you the option to put it on your map. It’s also worth noting here that some tiles have prerequisites, so you have to have a particular tile on your mat before another can go down. An example on our player’s mat above is the night club – it requires having a lounge first. (Actually I took a little artistic license with the photo above – the five-star steakhouse has a prerequisite of a fancy restaurant, so placing that tile is invalid as shown.)
That all sounds relatively easy, but there is a deck of cards which adds some spice to the mix. For every premier tile that is purchased, in the next round the starting player will flip over a card, which tells which tile stack to draw from (small square, rectangle, or large square). And on the card you’ll have some instructions to follow. Some cards restrict what can be bid on that round (“restaurant workers on strike”), others may increase or decrease the minimum bid price for premier tiles. So these cards help keep things interesting, and lead to one of the ways the game can end.
The game ends when either a player has completely filled his mat, or when a card tells you to draw a particular type of tile that you have run out of. At that point players tally up their final bonus points. Bonus points are awarded for having full casino and hotel sections; for having a continuous path from one entrance to the other; for having the most revenue, population and cash; and for those little red diamonds we talked about earlier. The player with the most points wins!
I’m a big fan of this game – even though I’m not very good at it! Although there is a certain amount of repetition in how the game progresses, I find most players enjoy the challenge of creating their own floorplans. Vegas Showdown is a good game for players at all skill levels. It is designed for 3-5 players but I prefer it with 4 or 5. This is a relatively short game, taking only about an hour and 15 minutes. Vegas Showdown was published in the U.S. by Avalon Hill, although it is currently out of print. But don’t let that distract you from getting it – plenty of copies were printed, and it’s easily available from most websites, including Boards & Bits.
Thanks for reading my review – and I’ll be back soon with a beginner’s guide to Pandemic!