Las Vegas Royale Review
Gambling is at the heart of a lot of popular board games. From the push-your-luck genius of Can’t Stop, through to that stalwart of tabletop flutters, Wits & Wagers. There’s something about seeing how far you can push the whims of Lady Luck, in a safe environment, that appeals to pretty much everyone. Las Vegas Royale is a remake of the 2012 classic, Las Vegas, which adds in some of the elements from the expansion, and gives the whole thing a little spit-and-polish.
It doesn’t take a genius to guess that a game called Las Vegas Royale might have something to do with the gambling center of the world. As a Euro game fan, I’m used to games that have a very thin theme, but the theme on Las Vegas Royale is thinner than a Downing Street party excuse.
Topical humour. Can’t wait to see how that one ages in a few years time.
Dice, dice, baby
The concept behind Las Vegas Royale is so simple, it’s amazing it wasn’t used years before the original Las Vegas game. Each player rolls their handful of dice, picks one of the face-up values, and puts all their dice matching that number onto the casino with the same number. The casinos, in this case, are cardboard tiles around the central dice tray that comes with the game. Each casino has two, randomly chosen, money cards next to them. The person with the most dice in a casino after all the dice are placed, wins the higher value card. Second place gets the lower value card.
Reading that back, it doesn’t sound that exciting. It sounds like Heckmeck with dice. The piece of utter genius that Rüdiger Dorn injected into this game’s lifeblood is what happens with ties. Tied numbers of dice count for nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The dice just get removed. When that happens it can mean that someone who left a single die their gets the big money, while everyone else is left licking their wounded pride.
That all sounds pretty simple, right? Fun for a round or two, then it goes back on the shelf to gather dust. Wrong. Las Vegas Royale’s simplicity isn’t a weakness, it’s its greatest strength, and it’s why I love the game so much.
Do one thing, and do it well
My wife and son aren’t the biggest board game enthusiasts in the world. The chances of me getting them to even consider playing a heavy Euro or something like that, are non-existent. Although it means I don’t get to play as many games with them as I’d like to, they make for an excellent litmus test. I setup Las Vegas Royale one night, and despite the obligatory eye rolls, we played. Well, slap my ass and call me Susan if they didn’t love it! We immediately played it twice more, and again on the following nights too.
Rüdiger seems to be able to turn his hand to any style of game, at any weight, and he’s sorely under-appreciated. Las Vegas Royale is a perfect example of this. I’ve introduced the game to other, experienced gamers who had never played it, and they’ve loved it too. The mechanisms in the game are so simple to teach, and so easy to understand and interpret. The gameplay is almost entirely emergent, and it’s so fast to come to the surface.
The lack of real theme, and the abstraction of what you’re doing in the game, make it something that literally anyone can enjoy. If you get tired of the main game, there are some neat ways to keep it fresh, too. There are a set of expansion tiles included in the box, which you can add to the lower-value casinos to expand them with new actions, and Vegas-related minigames. In my experience, some of these are better than the others, but there’s nothing to stop you having house rules about which stay in the box.
Las Vegas Royale deserves a place in everybody’s game collection. If you’ve got family or friends who don’t like “Those complicated games you always try to get us to play”, this is the perfect game to get them playing something different. On the other hand, even the most hardcore of hardcore wargamers need light relief sometimes. Las Vegas Royale delivers this in spades.
I think the biggest problem the game has is with the name and styling. The original Las Vegas had one of the bright and cheery Alea boxes of the time, but this new version is sleek, black and gold, and very different to look at. There’s no immediate connection to the previous game, if you’ve played and enjoyed it and would be keen on an updated version. The other difficulty it faces is the fact that Lords of Vegas exists. Okay, it’s very hard to get hold of, but when you mention ‘dice game’ and Las Vegas in the same sentence, Lords of Vegas is the one you’ll get pointed towards.
These things notwithstanding, Las Vegas Royale is an excellent game. Simple rules, addictive gameplay, and one of those rare games that gets better the more players you have. Playing with three is fun, but playing with five is absolutely brilliant. Lightweight, quick, easy, and pretty much guaranteed to get anybody playing.
Review copy kindly provided by Ravensburger. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Las Vegas Royale (2019)
Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
Publisher: Alea / Ravensburger
Art: Antje Stephan, Claus Stephan
Playing time: 30-45 mins