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Game review: Lords of Vegas is a dice-rolling extravaganza using area control

Lords of Vegas isn't a board game about gambling, it's about real estate development in Las Vegas. Players compete to develop the biggest and best casinos along The Strip in an attempt to score the most points. It takes skill and luck to win. The game accomodates two to four players and lasts about 60 minutes.

Each player receives a reference card, dice, chips and a score marker. The game board is placed on the table and shows a chopper's-eye view of The Strip in Las Vegas. A bunch of undeveloped lots are depicted ready for development. Players compete for these spots.

To begin the game, each player gets two random lots in the city for free. They place ownership markers there. Lots are part of different-sized areas on the board, some consisting of six, nine or 12 lots. Players can build in an area and expand from lot to lot creating enormous casinos.

To be a real estate developer in Vegas, each player will need tons of money. Cash is raised each turn for a variety of things. A little money is earned for every lot owned and a little bit more is earned for every casino owned. Money can be spent to build casinos on vacant lots, remodel old casinos or for an attempt at the reorganization of the management of a casino.

When a player wants to build a casino, he or she pays the amount listed on the lot on the board, chooses one of five different-colored casino companies and places one of his or her dice there. Eventually the dice of two different players belonging to the same colored casino will be next to each other on the board. The owner of the highest-valued die in a casino chain is the boss of that casino and will get to score points. Boss control of a casino is important because it is the only way to score points.

The most interesting part of the game is when each player takes a turn and draws a card. A person never knows what might come up. The card shows what lot the active player receives for free and what color casinos pay out for that turn. For example a player draws a purple card. He or she places an ownership token on the lot featured on the card. Then each player gets paid for every lot owned and every purple casino. Then the boss of each purple casino group scores points on the victory point track.

Additional things a player can do on a turn are to try to become the boss of a casino group by reorganizing, expand by buying an adjacent lot to an already owned casino, gamble at an opponent's casino or change the color of an owned casino by remodeling. Visible on the board at any time are the revealed cards of each color. There are an equal number for each. If five of the purple cards and only one of the brown cards is visible, odds are a person should buy a brown casino because it is more likely to pay out on a future turn.

There is a lot of luck in this game but there is also a surprising amount of strategy. Players need to play the odds of every situation to win. What casinos should be purchased? When is it right to try to take over a casino's ownership? These are questions that must be answered to win.

The game has very unique play mechanisms and moves quickly to its conclusion. Players are engaged all the time. It's fun to see what cards get drawn each turn. Players who enjoy an equal mix of luck and strategy will enjoy this game. The theme may turn off some people, but the focus is more on real estate development than gambling. There is also an expansion to this game that adds some new elements. Find out more at