Reviewing board games that shed a tear.

Welcome to New Las Vegas - Board Game Review | The Tabletop Crier

Welcome to New Las Vegas boardgame box



a review of the board game Designed by Alexis Allard and Benoit Turpin

Players: 1-50    Time Investment: 35 min


Three teardrops for Sobbing

Game Aesthetic


Ah, the components section. Well, I'll admit that they're just standard for this game. For those of you who have never played Welcome To before, the game comes with nice player sheets and "normal" cards. No fancy finish or special stock, just "normal". While the rulebook suggests that you take two sheets per player I personally think it's manageable (and more economical) to just use one sheet. Ideally in the future I would laminate a few of these sheets for replayability but for now the game pad is quite hefty and can withstand several plays. At the time of writing this we're not quite to that "unlimited" player count level of gatherings so it should suffice.

Still very happy that they kept this game box compact like Welcome To. Games that can fit several players or games that are meant to be fillers at game nights should almost always fit in a small bag or when we travel again, a carry-on. You never want to be encumbered by a filler game!

Welcome to New Las Vegas three decks of cards
Similar to Welcome To but with new powers relevant to the new installment.
Those shiny bright signs are exciting!

Artwork by Anne Heidsieck

This game is mostly about flipping numbers and writing numbers, so there isn't too much to comment on in the area of artwork but I will say that I'm a bit irked about the solo cards. The diversity of people represented in the architects cards is laughable and some of the more difficult AI opponents present as white men. C'mon now.

For the overall aesthetic I do appreciate the consistency to the first game as psychologically you may want to feel at ease before you dig into the rulebook. This new installment art is nothing special and frankly doesn't need to be.

My absolute favorite look exclusive to this game is the shows! Love the color and the lights, and really enjoy the glowing red carpet. It's a fun time to imagine what it's like for the limo to pass by the sights. On the player sheet itself, they did a fantastic job at creating glow that wasn't distracting and that didn't make the sheet unreadable. So many times on game artwork it becomes more of a distraction than helpful but in this case it was Goldilocks-level right.

Welcome to New Las Vegas streets page
When you get up close and personal, all the glowing signs and red carpet
make you feel like you are there. Such a shame that you'll need to scribble all over this.

The First Turn


The options are the easiest part of the game to explain to anyone: pick a pair of cards to put into your part of New Las Vegas. However it is not guaranteed that you'll figure out where they lead because much of the scoring in the game -- which I'll get to -- is dependent on specializing and not necessarily diversifying effort.

The beginning of the game may feel overwhelming and you wouldn’t be wrong even if you've played Welcome To before. Everything you do in the first few placements on each street will impact the rest of the game and the pressure is unbelievable in this way. 

I would say that if you could have only one “trashy” street (trashy in this case meaning not scoring well in any area) that it would be ideal. From there it’s just building on what you have already done (to lean into a specific type of scoring) or trying to build towards something. For example, focusing hotels by getting into all of the streets to make the avenue, starting the limo on its journey, or attempting to build out the end casinos to have a full golf course. 

One of the hardest things to figure out is whether to lean into scoring or give yourself room for more casinos using the crane. I’ve found from experience that those who don’t balance new construction with taking advantage of old construction (i.e. already-built casinos) end up losing out on accelerated scoring. Opponents that have taken the risks to open up unbuilt casinos have tended to win.

Rewards and Objectives

There are clearly two things you want to do: mitigate debt, and also guarantee scoring.

The game provides lots of different ways to score, and it seems like the contracts give a very small edge but not enough to warrant focusing on them. 

In fact, more so than in Welcome To, I’ve found that you do need to try and get through all of the scoring and perform well in them because you give the other opponent(s) too much of a lead if you don't. 

A lot of the scoring punishes those who cannot keep up with the current game leader but things accelerate so quickly that it’s near to impossible to check on the opponent’s sheet to maybe make estimates on how far ahead or far behind you are. This has definitely snuck up on me before, where I thought I was doing well and we got to end game scoring and I was beat in almost every section. 

There are two sections that don’t care what the other opponents do: golf courses and the limo. If you can mitigate your loans and also make improvements on the default scoring you can score well in those two areas. It’s always possible to notice how many loans you have (i.e. how much money you owe) so there is always the option to take that will get you more money in the vault. One way to do this is getting limo to visit "mafia spots" in which case you know that the objective is two-fold: get that limo moving and open casinos on its path that have a stack of bills. 

Things that perpetuate debt that you have to be careful with: new casino construction and using special inauguration powers. Don’t be afraid to use the inaugurations if you think it will give you more points and if you think you have the cash flow to do it. 

Yes, there are projects!
And no, none of this will make that much sense until you know how to play.

Ability to Pivot

There really isn't any room to pivot, since you need to almost decide from the beginning whether you'll be going for odd or even streaks on a street, whether you'll start filling out certain sections to get to hotels, or whether you're going to build out the space to favor limo stops. All of the aforementioned cannot be undone or begin later in the game because everything builds off of the early game.

One major example from my pain in this game was with the limo. You cannot pivot at all with the limo since there are restrictions on where the limo can go after it has been somewhere and the positioning of the lights if you didn’t get the chance to review what the possibilities were and ended up opening casinos that did not fit the limo route you began. Definitely the most heartbreaking is not being able to make it to all the casinos that had interesting points.

Unlike many games that fail at designing a good solo mode, I very much approve of the rules and mechanics in this one simply to practice and have the room for making mistakes. This way you can find your own personal styles and logic to find clever ways to pivot in a multiplayer game.

Welcome to New Las Vegas end game conditions
It almost looks like you're back in school doesn't it?
Despite very good iconography this is clearly more involved than its predecessor.

Game End

One of three end-game conditions I have found that more likely to happen is the ribbons on the inauguration track rather than completing the casinos simply because while it is not a requirement to have all casinos be odd or even on the street, most feel compelled to close them in tight together. It doesn’t always work out that way to get exactly all the numbers since distribution is similar to Welcome To and skipping every other number makes the ascending requirement even more difficult. I have yet to play enough times to see all three contracts completed! This was a more common occurrence in vanilla Welcome To than it is here, even more so than completing all casinos.

Aquatica - Board Game Review | The Tabletop Crier

Aquatica boardgame box


a review of the boardgame Designed by Ivan Tuzovsky
Players: 1-4    Time Investment: 30-60 min
Two tear drops for Weeping

Game Aesthetic


The main game board and the cards are standard quality but the two things that really shine in this game in terms of components are the player board and the Mantas. I have never played a board game that has a mechanic for raising locations where the components themselves can make it easier to understand. Location cards safely slide up and into the player board due to the three-layer cardboard design without being damaged. It's amazing! Picking up, placing, and flipping over Mantas has a rewarding tactile feedback and the detail on the molds for these minis is fantastic. The stingers on the end of the Mantas are sharp, by the way, so be careful. My only complaint with the Mantas is the symbols painted onto them can be difficult to see, especially if they are colors closer on the spectrum to gray.

Aquatica king card, starting characters and trained manta miniatures
Players get a King, starting character cards, and 
a set of trained mantas

Artwork by Irina Kuzmina, Andrew Modestov, Oleg Proshin, Artur Varenyev, and Marat Zakirov

It's not entirely clear with this size of an artist team who contributed where but I can understand why you would need a team this big. The main game board has a gorgeous underwater scene in the background, all of the player boards have sea creatures pulling up locations, then there are the locations themselves, the Kings, starting character cards and finally the ocean character cards. That is a TON of art, with all sorts of variations in scenery and color. I've played the game a few times now and still couldn't tell you if there were any repeats. The style of art in this game could easily be printed and framed for the wall, and there is an impressive sense of depth and distance. In a time where we've been inside for too long, all of the seascapes are a welcome feeling of escape.

Aquatica character and location cards
The Sea Horse brings forth a wave of new locations using Scout

The First Turn


The two main resources in this game are Coins and Power, so it's at least obvious in the beginning of the game that you need these in order to acquire locations. They didn't make a fancy player board for locations for no reason! From there, you'll understand that playing cards are how you take actions so acquiring cards with the appropriate resource type is a viable move. The game makes resources acquisition a little tricky in that you do not hoard them so you must be able to pay at the moment of purchase. This helps make resource management more approachable since you only need to plan for those moment to moment. You luckily also have four starting "trained Mantas" that will help augment your actions one time until you flip them (note: flipping is a separate action and refreshes the ability).

Aquatica is one of those games that requires you to have a main action of playing one of the Character cards from your hand, so the gameplay is straightforward in terms of the category of action but not necessarily in the type or style of action you take. In other words, Character cards all have different abilities and it's up to you to choose what you want to do with them. They will allow you to Recruit new Ocean Character cards to augment your starting deck, Buy Locations (at the top of the location card, the value next to the coin icon), Conquer Locations (at the top of the location card, the value next to the trident icon), Raise Locations, Score a fully risen Location, or Scout for more Locations.


Aquatica conquering location card
Legioner is great for conquering locations if you're low on coins

Rewards and Objectives

Very prominent and obvious at the top of the main board are four goals. The base goals are to have 8 Character cards in hand, 5 Locations on the player board, 3 or more Locations in the Scoring pile, and 2 or more Wild Mantas. Being first to each of these goals will cost a trained Manta but are worth eight points each, which is very good. Be careful doing this though, since this is one of the end game conditions!

Rewards is by far the most difficult to understand and assess in the game, mostly because you can get so many of them working independently of each other on the Location cards. This is especially true when you start raising locations and ignoring some rewards to gain others. You will find yourself possibly overcalculating Raise effects, trying to gauge whether it's time to start pushing for fully raising a Location -- and therefore Scoring it later -- or milking it for its benefits for as long as possible.

Though it's not a formal reward, learning how to use the synergy of your cards, Mantas, and locations to make powerful turns is my favorite thing about this game. I honestly have not been able to consistently be first or second on all the base goals yet, and the game box comes with additional goals to make gameplay varied. Time and repeated plays will tell if I can ever justify adding the new goals! I fully plan to get there.

Ability to Pivot

If you picked a Location that you end up not liking later, your only choice is to Raise it fully and then Score it. Since you cannot just replace Locations at will, if you have not set up your character cards or available mantas in such a way to speed up this process you'll have a spot on your player board that's just stuck. You almost always want to be keeping locations partially raised to your benefit for only so long as it makes sense and then retiring them immediately after. 

The inability to pivot is also true with whether you have missed out on recruiting the right characters. If you're still stuck with your starting hand, you'll be having useless turns just getting your cards back from the discard pile and opponents will be making more progress than you. In this game you want to have an excess of resources and you never want to be just barely paying for something or relying too heavily on mantas.

Aquatica locations goal manta placement
It may be daunting at first but
getting the five locations goal is doable

Game End

There are three endgame conditions: 1) one player has accomplished all 4 goals, 2) the Location deck runs out, or 3) the Ocean Character deck runs out. When this happens, every player takes one more turn and then scoring starts. You get 1 Prosperity point for each Character card in hand, including the king; Goals points, and Prosperity Points shown on the Location cards that made it into the Scoring Pile. The player with the most points wins, and ties are broken by number of Mantas in the player's reserve.