When it comes to iOS ports of physical board games, Ravensburger Digital has a rather good track record, with hits like Whoowasit? and San Juan and Scotland Yard under their belt. And with this week’s release of Las Vegas! they are aiming for another big payoff.
As far as the source material goes, I can’t say that Las Vegas was a boards game that I was familiar with before playing the digital version, but as a fan of Ravensburger’s previous work, I was eager to dive into this release.
Las Vegas! is set in the iconic titular city outside a strip of casinos. The basic gameplay is super simple…roll dice…place bet…win money. Well…ok…it’s a little more than that but that’s pretty much the gist.
The board is set up with six casinos, numbered one through six. Atop each casino there is one or more printed dollar amounts (from $10,000 to $90,000). Players take turn rolling their 8 standard six-sided dice trying to match the numbers on the dice to the numbered casinos. After launching your dice onto the felt with a satisfactory swipe of the finger they are automatically stacked up in front of the correspondingly numbered casinos. The player then “bets” one of these groupings of dice on its paired casino to try to win that casino’s jackpot.
By placing your stack of dice on that casino (adding them to any of your dice already residing there from a previous turn) you are betting that you will have the largest stack of dice in front of that casino at the end of the round. Once a group of dice have been played they are removed from your hand and you continue rolling smaller and smaller numbers of dice. After multiple instances of rolling and playing when all players no longer have any dice, the money distribution begins.
At the end of the round, the player with the most number of dice on any given casino is awarded with that casino’s jackpot. However, if two players have the same amount of dice on the same casino, their dice are not counted and the money goes to the next highest player. If a casino has multiple cash amounts, then these are awarded based on ranking, with the player with the most dice receiving the top amount, next highest getting the second amount, etc. Not all of the jackpots will be awarded in a given round and some players may go home empty-handed. I am definitely making this sound a lot more confusing than it is. Play continues for four rounds, with new random amounts of money allocated to the casinos each time.
Like nearly all Casino games (and dice games in general), Las Vegas! does have a fairly strong luck component. Those looking for a solely strategic experience may find themselves a little disappointed by this, but that being said, there is still a good deal of strategy to be had with respects to deciding which casino to place your dice on. Do you block another player? Do you spread your dice around or go for the cheaper casinos in hopes they’ll be less popular and you can win some money?
I found the variant gameplay mode to be more strategically satisfying (and thus more fun for me). It adds 4 “neutral” dice to each players hand and these are played just like the normal dice, but act as an extra player who can steal jackpots or eliminate other players by matching their die count on a particular casino. It adds a whole new element of craftiness and can often lead to situations where you end up blocking yourself from earning money.
Las Vegas! features both local and online play and leaderboards are based on how big your total stack of cash is, which accumulates across all games played. One nice thing is that whether playing locally (with AI opponents of varying difficulty) or online, your total cash count seems to sync properly across devices. Up to 4-player multiplayer match-ups can be done locally via pass and play or asynchronously using Game Center. Online matches also have a betting mechanism that lets you bet that you will win the round or not in hopes of winning a little extra cash. In my testing, the online multiplayer worked quite well, but the game could use a better way to quickly switch between active online matchups.
Ravensburger tries to capture the glitz and glamour of Vegas by decking the game out in bright neon colors, however I think they may have gone a little overboard with the bright lights of the city, as they end up washing out the dice a little and make the ‘total scores’ info at the top of the screen a bit difficult to read (especially) on the iPhone. Sometimes I also found it to be a little difficult to tell exactly which casino I had selected to play your dice on, before confirming the action. If they would just unscrew a bulb or two, I think it would make for a crisper and easier to read experience.
Las Vegas! is a great casual dice game than can be picked up and played anywhere. It is even more fun with friends where often games will come right down to the wire with the winner being indeterminable until the last die is cast. You’ll need a little luck and strategy to be a high roller in Las Vegas!. If you are on the fence with this one, I’d recommend rolling the dice and picking this one up.