(image courtesy Shadowen @ BGG)
I’ve previously talked about Nexus Ops, an Avalon Hill game that should not be judged by its cover art. Clearly Avalon Hill needs some new artists because Vegas Showdown falls into that exact same category. The box and even the components are very lackluster but the game itself turned out to be a real surprise.
Vegas Showdown is a game of making the best hotel/casino possible. You will be bidding against other players for new rooms to place in your building. These rooms bring in more income, allow for more guests and ultimately earn you points. Each turn some new rooms get placed out if the bidding table has open spots, players earn income and take turns bidding on the rooms up on the auction block. Winner pays for their new building tile, places it on their building mat and play continues until one of the stacks of buildings is exhausted or one player completely fills up their building.
The auction system in Vegas Showdown is extremely simple. There are bidding tracks next to each tile that is up for sale. On your turn you place your bidding token on one of those tracks. If someone else is already on a track you must outbid them and they get their piece back to rebid when their turn comes around. Once everyone has placed their bid token you pay for your tiles, place them, adjust your income/capacity/victory points accordingly and do it all over again.
That’s pretty much Vegas Showdown. It really is that simple. There’s a pretty healthy dose of luck as to which tiles get turned over and what special effects kick in when new tiles are revealed but the player that paces their purchases and picks up the right tiles at the right time will certainly do well. Unpurchased rooms drop in price each round so there’s also decisions to make on how long you wait for something to drop in price before jumping on it. What really impresses me is that I’ve seen people win using very different strategies. Some of the rooms may only be placed if you have the prerequisite room and the quantities are limited so you also have to decide which rooms you really want to battle over.
(image courtesy ronster0 @ BGG)
What impresses me most is that there are several different paths to victory. You might shoot for the very nice rare rooms, build out lots of smaller rooms, focus on rooms that nicely fill out your building mat or just go for the really good deals. The rules are very simple – you can likely explain the entire game in under five minutes – meaning you can dive right in and the fun is immediately apparent. There’s enough depth to the game and interesting decisions to be made, though, so the game feels interesting every time. Placing rooms in your building also has a very nice puzzle aspect as you try and maximize your available building spots and points earned.
If you do pick up Vegas Showdown, be sure to have a set of poker chips handy. The game does technically come with chips to represent the players’ money but they are really cheap, thin plastic chips. Using a nice set of weighted poker chips goes a long ways towards adding to the Vegas feel of the game and just makes the game more enjoyable. Unfortunately the other components are on the cheap side as well: player mats are glossy paper instead of boards and minimum bid discs tokens are small red discs that slide around too easily.
I’d love to see a premium version of Vegas Showdown released sometime with upgraded components. The game is well worthy of a re-release and deserves the royal treatment. If you can find a copy, be sure to pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.