Viva Schadenfreude! A review of Las Vegas

In Las Vegas, designed by Rüdiger Dorn and produced by Alea/Ravensburger, players take the role of high-rollers on the Las Vegas strip. Six casinos are ripe for the taking and you’ve got the skills and the dice to do it! Trust in your luck, roll your dice then tactically place the dice on the appropriate casino in order to win the big payout. But other players are watching you and may grab the jackpot right from under you if you are not careful…and perhaps a bit cruel. Anything that happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas but that doesn’t mean what happens isn’t mean as hell! No-one ever made their fortune on the strip being nice and friendly…well, some do but that is a completely different game…


  • Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
  • Players: 2-5
  • Game Length: 30 minutes
  • Ages: 8+
  • Category: Dice Games
  • Mechanic: Are Control/Influence, Tactical Schadenfreude

What is it?

Dinner and a show.
Dinner and a show.

Las Vegas is a light, simple and fun little dice-rolling game where six iconic Vegas casinos are represented by small cardboard templates done in a retro-50s, neon-sign, martini-lounge design. Each casino has the face of a dice on it numbered from one to six pips. The box contains a veritable ton of dice in five different colors, the six casino templates, banknote cards and an active player card. Let me sit back now, exhale slowly and plead to any publisher considering including paper money in their game – don’t. Instead check out Las Vegas and glory in those delightful banknote cards. Invest in card money and pork rind futures! You can’t lose!

Set-up: Simply line up the six casino templates in row on the table then deal money to each casino. Banknotes are dealt to each casino until each has at least $50,000 in front of it. Since the banknotes range in value from $10,000 to $90,000 there will be some casinos with larger payouts than others. Each player then gets eight dice in one color. If you are playing with less than 5 people, then each player will get a certain number “neutral dice” of one color (the rulebook recommends using the white dice) that will count as an imaginary player when each casino is scored. Instead of neutral these dice are pure lawful evil.

Player Turns: The active player will roll all their dice and then arrange her dice by the amount of pips. So, for example, a player could roll 3 ones, 2 fours, and 3 sixes. The active player then determines which casino to place the corresponding valued dice. So, in this example, the player could place the 3 ones on the casino displaying 1 pip or the 2 fours on the one displaying 4 pips or 3 sixes on the one displaying 6 pips. Moving clockwise, each player rolls and allocates their dice in a similar manner, each time re-rolling the unused dice until everyone is out of dice.

Older adults love this game.
Older adults love this game.

Then each casino is scored. Players with the greatest number of dice present at a casino will win the largest banknote in front of that casino. If more than one banknote is available for a casino than the player with the next most will get the next highest banknote and so on until all the dice are accounted for. However, any players with the same numbers of dice will cancel themselves out and their dice are removed from the casino without a banknote. For a thematic thrill, I say these players “busted” at the tables. There is an added level of interaction by being able to tie a player and effectively nullifying their presence at a casino. It is also a good way to stay in the lead or to slow down the current leader. When banknotes are won they are kept face down in front of the player so it takes some effort track who is actually in the lead. Once the players’ dice are scored, any leftover banknotes are discarded. The next round is set up by everyone retrieving their dice and new banknotes being distributed to the casinos.

Neutral Dice: These dice are far from neutral! They can be maliciously applied during the dice placement portion of the round. I love these extra dice. Don’t play this game without them. If you want schadenfreude! If you relish in it. Delight in it. If you lather up in schadenfreude when you bathe, then include these dice. They are evil. Amazingly, delightfully evil…Even in a game with the full complement of players, find some dice to add as neutral dice. Since they tag along with your normal dice they tend to multiply in highly contested casinos and can totally change the power dynamic when they add up. It is especially fun when they tie the leader out of a big payoff.

What did you think?

Blue is tied out by white and green takes the night!
Blue is tied out by white and green takes the night! [source]

Here is the thing…I dislike gambling games and despise casinos but this game was recommended so I tried it and was not disappointed. According the BGG the developer of the game stated Las Vegas as “an easy, dice-rolling, fun-and-luck game with a lot of interaction and schadenfreude“. Schadenfreude? Absolutely! Count me in.

The more influence you have at a casino the more money you win when you score the round.  While this is a light, fun dice rolling luck-fest there are some amazingly tactical decisions that need to be addressed each round. Decisions are going to reflect the amount and value of banknotes at each casino; where your fellow high-rollers are placing their dice and how large everyone’s dice pool is at that moment. So you need to carefully manage your dice and not deplete your dice pool too early in the round. If you do you may be dice-less while your competition slowly nitpick your casino influence down. Add to that those sneaky, sneaky, sneaky neutral dice and the decision space opens up just enough to have a delightfully fun time destroying the hope and dreams of those around you.

I also enjoy that it focuses almost entirely on the area-control mechanic in a thematically approachable manner – casino gambling. Making this a perfect game to introduce the mechanic to emerging gamers when games such as Small World don’t appeal due to the high barrier of entry or the theme. Similar to how SOS Titanic introduces cooperative play through a familiar theme (the Titanic) and a familiar mechanism (Solitaire), Las Vegas introduces area-control through dice rolling.

Two elements of the game make this game a complete win for me – the “ties cancel players out” and the “dummy dice.” These really ramp up the interaction between players and broadens the decision space without overloading new players. They have to be placed along with the normal dice of the same number. So the “dummy dice” really allows you to force a tie with other players but they can really add up since multiple players can place dummy dice in the same casino. When more are added, they may “untie” a player and putting them back into the running.

Bottom Line: With slim rules, a fast set-up and a quick play this is light, fun after-dinner gaming at its best and will be my go-to filler game for a while. Despite all the dice, this game is more than the luck of the roll (not much more but still provides some nice tactical decisions). Great for families as a friendly introduction to board games and good as filler for experienced gamers needing a break. If you don’t like a bit of luck in your game, then you may want to avoid this one but if you also like a bit of “screw you” in your game then it will be 30 minutes well spent.

Closing Verse:

Viva Las Vegas!
Bright flashing lights and laughter,
bind me to vengeance.

RWF_art (1)

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