|By Alan Kwan|
Vegas Showdown is a terrific multi-player game, but it doesn't work for two players. A two-player variant would allow this excellent game to be enjoyed when you can't get three players around the table, but such a variant isn't easy to construct.
In conceiving a two-player variant, an important goal is that each tile should retain its strengths and weaknesses as in the standard game with more players. This allows the two-player game strategies to remain similar to those used in the standard game, especially in the evaluation of tiles. If some tiles in the two-player game have distorted values, it would call for distorted strategies that are different from the standard game.
To preserve the tile values, the following concerns need to be addressed --
- Each player should be alloted an average of 6 to 9 premier tiles per game. More tiles would distort the value of red corners, in particular.
- The number of game turns should be similar to that in the standard game. Otherwise, the value of income (printed Revenue and Population) will be distorted.
- In order to preserve the 'event values' of the tiles, most of the event cards should be revealed during the game.
- The 'prerequisite values' of the tiles should be preserved. Prerequisite values would be altered if some arbitrary number or set of tiles was removed from the game.
The solution proposed here uses a 'neutral player' who bids on tiles to place some of them out of the players' reach during play. This method is not entirely my idea -- the concept of using a neutral player has been discussed elsewhere on the web -- but I have refined the details.
The method presented here focuses on premier tiles and Slots, because they are the main focus of the bidding. Between experienced players, there is much competitive bidding over Slots and premier tiles, but there usually is little competition for Lounges and Restaurants.
- During setup, use 13 Slots but only five Lounges and three Restaurants. Return the remaining tiles to the box. Premier stacks are set up normally.
- Two or three 6-sided dice are needed. Designate each premier space (except the one marked "4-5 players") by two numbers on the dice: the first = "1,2," the second = "3,4," and the third = "5,6." It's best if one of the dice is a different color (conveniently identifiable as the "Slots" die; a yellow die is best).
- Use the Bid markers of the three unused colors (preferably with yellow among them for the Slots) for the neutral player. The neutral player does not record Fame, Revenue, or Population and has no money.
- At the beginning of the Choose Actions step each turn, the neutral player places one or two bids on the premier tiles and possibly one bid on the Slots, determined by a random dice roll. This is done before the players choose their actions.
- Each turn, one die is rolled to determine the neutral player's bid on the Slots. Subtract one from the die roll for each Slots tile the neutral player has previously bought, and consult the following table:
|0 or 1
|2 or 3
|4 or 5
No roll is made for the Slots if there is a Slot Builders On Strike Event, if the Slots tiles are exhausted, or if the neutral player has already bought seven Slots tiles.
- The neutral player does not bid on premier tiles on turn 1. On turn 2, he rolls one die and bids on the corresponding premier space. On later turns, he rolls either one or two dice --
For each die rolled, the neutral player places a bid on the minimum-bid price of the indicated premier tile. The neutral player, however, never bids equal to or higher than the starting-bid price of a tile. If the rolled premier tile has its minimum-bid price set equal to or higher than its starting-bid price, the neutral player does not bid with this Bid marker this turn. Similarly, if there is an event that prohibits bidding on that tile, the neutral player does not bid.
If two dice are rolled and both indicate the same tile, the second Bid marker is placed on the next higher space above the first, effectively increasing the price a player needs to pay to outbid the neutral bidder. (If a Good Relations event is in effect, the second Bid marker is placed two spaces higher than the first. If that space is the starting-bid price of the tile, the second Bid marker is not placed.)
After the neutral bid(s) are placed, the players choose their actions normally. They may outbid the neutral bids. (If the Visionary event is in effect, the player gains 1 Fame.) If a neutral Bid marker is outbid, it stays where it is for the turn; the neutral player will buy nothing with that Bid marker for this turn.
At the end of the Choose Actions phase, the neutral player 'buys' any tiles with a neutral Bid marker that has not been outbid. Remove these tiles from the game. At this point, adjust the number of dice which should be used next turn, depending on whether the neutral player bought a premier tile or not.
When the Slots Surplus event is drawn, the neutral player rolls to see whether he buys a Slots tile. On a modified die roll of 2 or higher (representing a bid of $7 or more), the neutral player buys a Slots tile during the event, before the players take their turns for the event.
- If the neutral player did not buy any premier tiles on the turn before, he rolls two dice this turn.
- If he bought one or two premier tiles on the turn before, he rolls one die this turn.
At the end of the game, the player with the highest Revenue earns 3 Fame (instead of the normal ranking bonus), and the other player gets no bonus for second place. The same applies for Population. All other end-game bonuses are scored normally.
About the Author
Alan Kwan is the owner of a board game specialty store in Hong Kong, a long-time gamer, and Yinsh World Champion 2004.
Read Alan Kwan's complete Vegas Showdown strategy guide --
Part 1: Fame
Part 2: Know Your Objective
Part 3: Basic Tiles
Part 4: Fancy Tiles
Part 5: Top Tiles
Part 6: Branch Tiles
Part 7: Large Gaming Tiles