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Alan Kwan
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Vegas Showdown
Strategy and Tile Analysis
==========================


written by Alan Kwan


Fame points
-----------


The object of the game is to earn the most Fame points. There
are several sources for Fame points:

1. Fame printed on the tiles

Many tiles have Fame points printed on them. The green tiles,
especially, have higher printed Fame.

2. Publicity

Every time you do Publicity, you earn 1 Fame. In other words,
every time you do something other than Publicity, you sacrifice
your chance to earn 1 Fame (unless the "PR Scandal" event is in
effect).

3. Completion bonus

You get Fame bonus at the end of the game for filling your
Casino, for filling your Hotel, and for connecting your Casino
with your Hotel.

4. Highest Revenue / Population

You get Fame bonus at the end of the game, according to your
rankings in Revenue and Population.

5. Money

At the end of the game, you get 1 Fame for every $10. Since
money is also used as tie-breaker, the system is entirely
equivalent to simply scoring 0.1 Fame for each $1. Thus,
whenever you buy a tile, not only do you sacrifice the 1 Fame for
Publicity, you also sacrifice Fame equal to 1/10 of the cost of
the tile.

Unlike St. Peteresburg, where money is worth very little at the
end of the game, in Vegas Showdown the amount is significant.
The net gain from the printed Fame on most of the tiles is very
small (if not negative), after subtracting the starting-bid price
and the 1 Fame for Publicity. However, in practice, it is still
in many cases better to spend your money before the game ends,
because the price has dropped and because of other bonuses you'll
get from the tiles.

The money bonus is significant, and often outbidding an opponent
for an unplayable tile, just to prevent him from getting it, will
result in a loss to yourself close to or greater than your
opponent's net gain which you are preventing. Often, he can just
go buy something else, or at least do Publicity. Unless your
opponent is relying on a very fragile plan or unless the tile is
really way too cheap, one should be cautious about bidding for an
unplayable tile in the late game - you are throwing away several
Fame points doing so.

6. Red corners

You get Fame bonus at the end of the game for putting red corners
together. This is dependent on both the tiles you get, and your
layout. The tiles with red corners tend to have fewer doors and
more walls, so they can create layout difficulties when placed in
the center, but if you place them in a corner, you forfeit the
red corner bonus.

Typically it is quite easy to put everything you buy onto your
board and get the 13 Fame for completion, but when you factor in
the red corners, it becomes a lot more complex to "optimize". To
be good at this without having to Renovate unnecessarily, you
need to know the tile mix and plan in advance.

The more red corners you already have, generally the easier it is
for you to score more points with another red-cornered tile. You
can think of red corners as something like the orange aristocrat
scoring in St. Petersburg (but here it is much better balanced!)

I refer to the "completion" bonus and the red corners together as
the "layout" elements. In Princes of Florence, you only have to
fit everything onto your board, and the layout doesn't matter
beyond that. In Alhambra, the layout also affects wall scoring.
In Vegas Showdown, getting the tiles you need to score the
completion bonus and red corners, and putting them in the right
places, are important parts of a successful strategy.

7. Events

Some events give you bonus Fame. Some of them give you Fame for
certain tiles (the "basic" and "Fancy" tiles). One gives you
Fame for connecting your Casino with your Hotel, and one gives you
Fame for red corners. And the two "Ad Campaign" cards allow you
to trade cash - before getting income for this turn - for Fame,
at a rate much better than the end-game bonus.

One wants to have cash left in hand for the Ad Campaigns ($10),
and also for the "Slots Surplus" event ($7). But in this game,
there is always the temptation to spend all your cash on the
important tiles. Vegas Showdown is a game about cash management,
and a small degree of randomness is a part of it - wish you good
luck!


Main Strategy
-------------


* Bargains

The strategy in Vegas Showdown revolves around getting tiles
at bargain prices, especially premier tiles when their prices
drop, and bidding against the fellow players for these bargains.

In order to take advantage of low prices, you need to have enough
cash. Even when you cannot win the bidding, it is useful to have
enough cash to bid up the price, so that the opponent is not
getting a bargain tile for too cheap. After making sure that
your opponent has to pay a "fair" price for the tile, you can
then go buy something else at its own "nice" price.

Income is important, but equally important is saving up your
money from turn to turn, and spending them on good bargains, and
resisting the temptation to overpay for a tile. Unlike some
economic games like St. Petersburg and Puerto Rico, income can
get quite expensive to develop, so don't overpay for even income.

* Early income and late Fame

Those familiar with recent economic games know the theory of
going for money early, and victory points (Fame in this game)
later. This of course applies here too, but grabbing
opportunities is more important, because prices fluctuate
throughout the game. In the early game, eveyone has less income,
so you can probably get Fame for cheaper than in the late game.
(For example, you can expect to get a Night Club for cheaper in
the early game than in the late game.) Also, the chances for
buying Fame with your money are more limited than many other
economic games. Thus, a pure early money, late Fame strategy
doesn't always work well: it depends on what opportunities are
available, and what the competition is doing.

* Auction tactics

Each turn, your best play should be determined by what is
available, and at what prices. If everything seems expensive,
you can take the time to buy a Lounge or Restaurant you think
you'll need if you have extra cash, but if your cash is tight,
it's better to go Publicity and save up the money. If there is
just one cheap item, you should bid on it somewhat - at least,
bid up its price against your opponents to a "fair" level. If
there are several cheap premier tiles, don't bid too high, but
rather settle for any of the good bargains available. And save
up enough money for the action: even buying a Slots for $5
(because you don't have enough money for other things) is not a
good deal, when everyone else is buying Fancy Lounges and Fancy
Restaurants for $12.

* Publicity

Taking Publicity is often a good move, not a last resort. You
gain one Fame without spending any money, and on following turns
you have more cash to go for the better bargains. You don't have
to buy something every turn just because you can; sometimes a
tile isn't even worth the Fame value of 1 for Publicity plus 1/10
its cost, let alone the extra potential of having cash.

* Renovation

When you place your tiles, it is best to either have some plan or
keep more flexibility, so as to avoid having to Renovate.
Sometimes it is even better to withhold placing a tile
(especially if it isn't immediately generating income), so that
you can place it elsewhere later with a Publicity instead of a
Renovation action. But sometimes Renovation is necessary,
especially for the purpose of aligning the red-cornered tiles
(many of which have poor doors) together for a large bonus. In
some cases, you need to be planning for future Renovation when
placing a new tile. Even though the 1 Fame for Publicity may add
up and become significant, if you do Renovation only once or
twice per game, that costs you only 1 or 2 Fame, so don't be too
hesitant to Renovate when you need to. Of course, it is a good
time to Renovate during the "PR Scandal" event, but do not wait
until the event to do Renovation: remember that there are the
"Master Designer" and "Master Planner" events too.

* Evaluating the tiles

When evaluating a tile for purchase, the factors one need to
consider are (please refer to the next section):

1. its printed values
2. its "layout" value : shape, red corners
3. its prerequisite value : the availability (quantities) and
values of the tiles it serves as a prerequisite to
4. its event value (generally a minor factor)


What follows is a close examination of all the tiles in the game.
I hope that this guide can help the player to more keenly
perceive the subtle values of each tile (not just its printed
values!) and to more accurately assess the available tiles during
play.


The Tiles
---------


A tile serves mainly two kinds of purposes. One is to earn for you
Fame points, in one or more of the 6 forms listed about (#2
excepted). The other is to serve as prerequisites for other
tiles, as specified on the Building Prerequisites Chart.
Occasionally you might need a "layout prerequisite", where your
layout is so blocked that you can't place a certain tile without
having some other tile in place first (for example, when your
Lounges are so cramped that you can't place a Night Club).

A tile has the following attributes:

Name
Color: yellow (Casino), blue (Hotel), or green
Type: basic, or some kind of premier
Price: minimum-bid price (basic) / starting-bid price (premier)
Printed values: Population, Revenue, and Fame
Shape: size and doors (officially "entrances")
Red corners (yes or no)
Building Prerequisites relations
Event potential: some event cards name specific tiles




Basic tiles
-----------


Unlike premier tiles which are drawn randomly, the basic tiles
are always available (until the stack is depleted), and their
minimum-bid prices do not drop. Each type has two event cards
associated with it (one gives bonus Fame, the other bonus money),
and a pair which prevents bidding on that tile.

* Slots
price : 5
1 Revenue
small tile with 3 doors

The Slots is usually worth more than $5 in the early game. It
allows you to increase your Revenue cheaply, and is usually a
heavily contested target in the opening game. Its printed values
exceed its price, and should be bid up.

However, its layout value is small. It is a small tile, thus not
effective at contributing to filling your Casino. And it is the
only small tile which does not have red corners. Having 3 doors
is not bad, though.

The Slots serves as an important prerequisite for the Fancy Slots
(and there are 5 of them) and the Dragon Room.

* Lounge
price : 9
2 Fame
medium tile with 6 doors

It is very important to notice one fact: the Lounge is not worth
it for its printed values alone. When you buy a Lounge, you pay
$9 for 2 Fame, for a net gain of 1.1 Fame. But if you go
Publicity, you gain 1 Fame without having to spend any cash.
Tying down your cash for a mere 0.1 point gain is not worth it.
If you want to get 2 Fame, don't buy a Lounge; go Publicity
instead.


On the other hand, the Lounge is the tile with the best layout
value in the game (except that it does not have red corners).
Being a medium tile, it can fit in narrow places or span a useful
distance. And it's a green tile, which can go into either your
Hotel or your Casino as you see fit (and you can relocate it
later by Renovation). Its 6 doors greatly relieve any layout
problems you may have.

In particular, as the Hotel entrance tile, it makes a nice
partition, allowing you to then place a Restaurant with its wall
against the edge of the board. But the problem is that, these
two tiles together cost $24 - and they do not increase your
income at all. If you place a starting Lounge at the Casino
entrance instead, it helps you fill your Casino more easily, and
is also somewhat helpful towards layout.

The Lounge is an important prerequisite, but that is for tiles
which provide mostly Fame, so it does not hurt (when considering
the printed values) to get the premier tiles first, then get the
Lounge later. It also has some event value. But I would say
that, the main purpose of the Lounge (until you have got a green
premier tile) is its layout value, which does in a subtle way
justify buying this tile early.

* Restaurant
price : 15
2 Population
large tile with 6 doors

The Restaurant gives you 2 Population - which is easily useless
for quite a while, because one starts the game with more
Population than Revenue.

Being a large tile, a Restaurant is very helpful towards filling
your Hotel. 6 doors are great if its wall is against a board
edge, but otherwise (e.g. as the Hotel entrance tile) its
2-space-long wall can become quite inconvenient.

While its printed values are weak, the Restaurant is an important
prerequisite for the blue premier tiles. The Fancy Restaurants
are especially good tiles (when their prices eventually drop).
Blue tiles bring income, and it can be problematic to buy premier
tiles before buying the basic Restaurant (which is expensive),
because then you can't enjoy the extra income until at least two
turns later. So here's the dilemma: if you buy a Restaurant, you
may not have enough money to win the blue premier tiles, while if
you don't buy a Restaurant, you can't play the nice blue premier
tiles you get.

The Restaurant also has higher event value than the others. In
addition to higher bonuses for the tile-specific events, the
"Convention" event effectively gives a cash bonus to blue
tiles.


Section Conclusion
------------------


When we compare the three types of basic tiles, we can see that
they serve very different functions. In the early game, the
Slots is great for its printed value, and it is worth it to buy
multiple Slots, until one's Revenue catches up with one's
Population. The Lounge has no more printed value than its cost,
and is bought for its layout value; often one is enough, though
sometimes a second can be helpful. Until your Revenue catches up
with your Population, the Restaurant's printed value isn't much
useful, but you may need one for its prerequisite value. One is
enough for that purpose, so don't waste your money on a second
Restaurant in the early game (which is a typical novice's
mistake). Later, though, there may be good reasons you may want
it: when you need the Population and you can't get anything
better, or when you really need it for your layout, to fill your
Hotel and such.


Fancy tiles
-----------


The Fancy tiles all have red corners, and are specifically named
on event cards together with the basic tiles. They serve as
prerequisites for the important top tiles.

* Fancy Slots
price : 18
1 Revenue + 2 Fame
small tile with 2 doors + red corners

The Fancy Slots has fewer doors than the basic Slots, and can
sometimes be inconvenient, but that can be alleviated with some
advance planning.

It is the cheapest tile with red corners. Its printed values are
not bad for its price: Revenue is useful in the early game. The
red corners can give you extremely good bang for the buck if you
can use them well.

* Fancy Lounge
price : 33
1 Population + 4 Fame
medium tile with 3 doors + red corners

The Fancy Lounge comes with some significant amount of printed
Fame, and is the prerequisite for the very important Theater.

But also not to be overlooked is that, it is a medium tile,
meaning that it has twice as many red corners as a small tile!
Besides that, the Fancy Lounge also has good doors among
red-cornered tiles. Its medium size sometimes allows it to fit
into places which large tiles cannot. In addition to its printed
values, the Fancy Lounge has high layout value, especially
towards building a red-cornered kingdom.

* Fancy Restaurant
price : 33
2 Population + 1 Revenue + 3 Fame
small tile with 1 door + red corners

The Fancy Restaurant has red corners, but otherwise its poor
shape has minimum layout value. Being a small blue tile, it
contributes little to filling the Hotel; having only 1 door, it
tends to create layout difficulties.

But it has great printed values, generally better than the Fancy
Lounge: 1 extra income is always better than 1 more printed Fame
if there are more than 10 game turns remaining. And when the
game ends, the Population and Revenue values may be worth some
Fame, if they contribute to a better ranking in the final scoring.


Top tiles
---------


The 3 top tiles are the best tiles in the game, and they are
unique, with only one copy each. They are also the only tiles with
two prerequisites: the corresponding basic and Fancy tiles. They
don't have the event value as Fancy tiles, but their superb
printed values stand out from the crowd.

* Dragon Room
price : 42
4 Revenue + 6 Fame
small tile with 1 door + red corners

The Dragon Room has the single highest Revenue value in the game.
If you have excess Population, the Dragon Room is very valuable.
Its shape is poor just like a Fancy Restaurant, but that doesn't
really matter if you can use the Revenue.

* Theater
price : 52
1 Population + 12 Fame
large tile with 3 doors + red corners

The Theater is the most valuable tile in the game. Remember that
the object of the game is to earn Fame - and this tile gives 12!
Plus, it is a large tile with lots of red corners, and is a green
tile, thus easier to place for optimized red-corner bonus. It is
probably the only tile in the game which is easily worth the
buy-out price of $52, if you have the cash.

However, one thing should be kept in mind: getting the Theater
does not single-handedly guarantee that you win the game. The
Theater is a good way to score a bunch of points in one punch,
but there are many other ways to score points. Hoarding your
cash and waiting for the Theater, while allowing the other
players to buy tile after tile at bargain prices, is clearly a
losing strategy. You need to keep the other players honest by
competitive bidding, but if they overbid, you can Publicize and
save your cash, hoping that the Theater will turn up as your
ultimate reward.

Novice players sometimes forget to leave enough space on their
boards for a large tile near the end-game. Keep this in mind.

* Five-Star Steak House
price : 42
2 Population + 1 Revenue + 6 Fame
medium tile with 2 doors + red corners

Compared to the Dragon Room, the Five-Star Steak House has
balanced values. Its values are indeed similar to the Fancy
Restaurant, but with 3 more Fame. Contrary to its name, the
"Five-Star" Steakhouse has 6 "Stars" (Fame) instead of "Five".

But the unique Steakhouse is more than just a Fancy Restaurant
with 3 more Fame. Its layout value is better, especially since
it is a red-cornered medium tile, so it can generate another 2 or
3 more Fame (for its extra red corners) if put in the right
location.

Its shape, with 2 doors on a medium tile, is relatively better
than the Fancy Restaurant, but not really good by the average
standard. Together with a few Fancy Restaurants, they may give a
headache to the architect, especially an ambitious one who wants
the red corner points.


Branch Tiles
------------


The branch tiles are large tiles with interesting printed values
but no red corners. They can efficiently fill your Hotel or
Casino, but they don't have the red corners, the prerequisite
value or the event value of the Fancy tiles.

* Night Club
price : 42
8 Fame
large tile with 4 doors

The Night Club has the second highest printed Fame in the game,
but it doesn't have red corners. Its shape is not bad, with
large size and good doors. It is the only tile in the game which
has an additional placement restriction.

Many other tiles have good values in the form of printed Revenue
and Population, or red corners. But when you cannot use those
for your position, printed Fame gives the most direct benefit.
If you are using the Night Club's layout value to fill your
Casino or Hotel, that's even better.

Some players (who are familiar with economic games) may think
that an early Night Club is not so good, because it ties up your
money without generating income. That is correct, and that's why
you should wait for a cheaper price before buying it - a price at
which it is a good buy.

* Buffet
price : 33
3 Population + 1 Revenue
large tile with 3 doors

The Buffet has the highest Population value in the game. But in
the early game, that is not really useful for quite a while
(especially because they are not your 9th and 10th Population
points, but rather your 11th to 13th points), so avoid overpaying
for it. One should watch out when buying a Buffet: with no
printed Fame nor red corners, it perhaps isn't worth as much as
what its list price implies. Though, it can't be a bad buy if at
$12, for 1 Revenue and a large-sized Hotel filler, even if you
never use the Population. What about at $18? Its printed values
look great when compared to the Restaurant, but the Restaurant
is the prerequisite ...

Layout-wise, one can fill his Hotel with a Restaurant, a Buffet,
and a Lounge, allowing him to place the red-cornered tiles in the
middle for the bonus.

Should you get a Buffet early, you should then try to make good
use of it by developing your Revenue. You can bid more
aggressively on yellow tiles: unlike those players with 8
Population, your income growth won't hit the ceiling of your
Population for quite a while. You should especially pay
attention to getting your first Fancy Slots and Table Games,
which serve as prerequisites to the high-Revenue tiles.


Larger Games Tiles
------------------


The larger gaming stations give the players alternatives to the
Slots. Just like the branch tiles, they don't have the event
value of the Slots.

* Table Games
price : 18
1 Revenue
medium tile with 5 doors

The Table Games gives only the same Revenue as the Slots for a
higher price, but it has better layout value. Not only does it
fill more of the Casino, but it also has more doors.

As the prerequisite for the High Rollers Room, it also has
profitable pre-requisite value.

If given a choice between a $9 Slots and a $12 Table Games, I
would usually prefer to bid on the Table Games, especially if I
already have a Slots (and thus don't need its prerequisite value).

* High Rollers Room
price : 25
3 Revenue + 2 Fame
medium tile with 2 doors

The High Rollers Room has excellent printed values, but it has
few doors and no red corners.

Its 2 doors are both on the same side of the tile. It is ideal
to place this tile in a corner out of one's way, especially since
it doesn't have any red corners. Otherwise, its walls may block
your board very badly. Once you get a Table Games, it is best to
plan and prepare a place to put the High Rollers Room.

* Sports Book
price : 25
2 Revenue
large tile with 5 doors

Note: there is a confirmed (with the game designer) misprint on
one of the Sports Book tiles. There should be two "A" tiles and
one "B" tile. I suggest that, one of the "B" Sports Book tiles
be shuffled into the "A" pile during set-up. (Don't worry that
it is "marked".)

The Sports Book gives 2 Revenue without a prerequisite, and it
has large size for filling your Casino. Its printed values and
layout value are okay.

But it has smaller prerequisite value than the Table Games. Not
only is there only 1 Space-Age Sports Book as opposed to 2 High
Rollers Room, but also it is an over-priced tile, and as a "B"
tile, it may come out too late to be useful, or sometimes not at
all. In contrast, one of the High Rollers Room is an "A" tile,
and it can be very productive to get it early.

When one places a Slots at his Casino entrance, because of the
assymmetrical shape of the Sports Book, it is probably better to
place it with its wall facing downwards, like an inverted "T"
(than with the wall facing upwards like a "T"). This way, should
one get a Sports Book later, he can conveniently place it with
two open doors towards the Hotel side.




* Space-Age Sports Book
price : 52
1 Population + 3 Revenue + 4 Fame
large tile with 3 doors + red corners

Looking at the printed values, the Space-Age Sports Book seems
overpriced. The Theater is stronger, and the two other top rooms
don't seem any weaker than this one. One might argue that a
large tile has so many red corners to justify a high price, but
in practice a large tile often yields only 1 or 2 more Fame in
red corners than a medium tile, if at all. (This is because
often the large tile is added to the fringe of the group of
red-cornered tiles, instead of starting with the large tile at
the center.) Its doors, on 3 different sides of the tile (and
identical to the Buffet), are perhaps better than the Theater,
but this is usually not a significant point.

The reason behind the pricing is probably because, the Space-Age
Sports Book has only one prerequisite, so it is not supposed to
give as much bang for the buck as the top tiles, which have two
prerequisites. In practice, the player should keep this point in
mind, and not confuse this tile with a top tile: do not be
tempted to overpay for this tile by its list price. Wait for it
to drop to a good price before buying it, and if an opponent
overbids, just let him buy it and save your money for something else.

It does have some good value, after all, so do buy it if the
price is right.


==============
END OF ARTICLE
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Alan Kwan
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Thank you guys for the feedback; I have edited and refined the first half of the article based on your feedback.

I deleted the old half-article, and posted the full article in a new thread here.
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Doug Orleans
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Great point about the slots and sports book asymmetry. I would never have thought that it would make a difference if the wall were facing north rather than south!

Also, I think it's important to realize that the printed minimum cost doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with the expected value of the tile. In some sense, the price reduction mechanism is just a way to be able to see in advance what premier tiles will be available in the near future, with the side effect that you could buy one early if you really want to overspend.
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Henry Stern
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Excelent article Alan, very nice work.
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