Welcome to is a brilliant flip-and-write game from 2018 that seemed to sell in bucketloads due to the simple and accessible mechanic, appealing theme and art, and satisfying scoring options. There have been a number of expansions and different boards for this due to its popularity, and now we have Welcome to New Las Vegas, a mid-range variant to add a bit of flesh to the bones.
The mechanics of this genre are simple. Roll a dice or flip a card; then write down what the card or die shows. It’s a simple but satisfying thing to do with the multiple scoring opportunities and different ways each player can use each roll/flip. Think Yahtzee. Due to the genre's huge popularity, there was a bit of a boom in 2018. Alongside Welcome to we also saw other giants of this world with Railroad Ink and That’s Pretty Clever. Then in 2019, Cartographers, Silver and Gold and the much-anticipated sequel to That’s Pretty Clever, Twice as Clever. We are living in the golden age of roll/flip-and-writes. However, most are quite simple and while they offer a lot of fun, they do not scratch the itch some gamers have for something a little crunchier.
Welcome to New Las Vegas doesn’t do that in a highly complex way, but it certainly adds some more options and choices, making the game more of a strategic thought process. We have more decisions to make now which reward the more calculated player, and I love it!
Do you feel lucky?
The core mechanics of the game are pretty much the same. Flip three cards, choose one number to add to your street and one power to utilise. Players of the original will be largely familiar with the base rules. However, there are a few new twists to add some layers of fun and thinking. First up, and my favourite, there is now a Limousine driving around the board, that you can control. Each time it moves past specific casino entrances you will accumulate end game bonuses. But be sure to make it back to the start before the end of the game, otherwise, you will lose a lot of these points. It’s a brilliant little mini-game within the main mechanic which I adore.
The next major change is the scoring bonus around sequential odd-even casino numbers. Previously, we were just looking to have ascending or descending numbers. Now you get bonus points if you have casinos in a row with all odd or even numbers. This is a minor rule, but a major change to the game. It makes every choice more complex just with this simple layer. No longer can you just add a ‘four’ after a ‘three’ and be ok with it. Of course, you could still do this, but it won’t get you as many points. I love it.
We also now have avenues as well as streets. Running top to bottom, there are columns that, when filled, you can circle the hotel at the bottom of each avenue for more end game bonus points. And on the top row, there is a golf course that you could build as each casino opens for some big end game multiples.
All of these points go onto the second score sheet, which is the major mechanical change to Welcome to New Las Vegas. Instead of scoring on the sheet where you are marking your streets, you now have a completely separate second sheet for this. This makes the scoring look initially more complicated, but really it is very similar to the first game.
Bright light city!
Welcome to New Las Vegas offers a lot more options both mechanically and with the scoring. As such, you will feel more invested in your turns. I love Welcome to but find I am often just going through the motions as the choices are not that great, and the results of them not overly significant. Once you get a flow for the game, you pretty much know where you need to place each number. With Welcome to New Las Vegas, there is a lot more to think about. As such, I would wager it would take a lot more games to get into an autopilot mode. The game suggests you shouldn’t play this unless you have played the original, but I disagree. I think it is more of a choice between what type of game you want.
If you are looking for a nice simple flip-and-write game, you won’t go wrong with Welcome to. It’s a brilliantly smooth game that plays quick and is a lot of fun. If you want something with a little more strategy, go for Welcome to New Las Vegas. You absolutely don’t need to have played the first. And if you already have the original and love it, I would encourage adding this to your collection too, as it brings a lot more to the table and I think you will probably enjoy it more. The original Welcome to is still great to play with players who are new to the genre and want a quick introduction to this type of game.
Both Welcome to and Welcome to New Las Vegas have excellent solo modes in the box, but I would say the version here in Welcome to The New Las Vegas is better. It is a very satisfying experience that is a little more challenging than the original. Some reviewers have said it is overly complicated, but it really isn’t. This game is absolutely not overwrought, messy or obtuse as some reviewers have labelled it. It is different and more complex than Welcome to, but then isn’t that the point?
One of the most attractive things about both Welcome to and Welcome to New Las Vegas is how well the game scales. And by that, I mean how easily it can be played with multiple people. The game length does not alter if you are playing solo or with 100. If anything, it may be quicker the more players there are, as with more people, the more likely it is that someone will trigger an end game mechanic sooner.
You also only need to have one copy to play online with friends. Everyone else can use the free app or print off sheets to mark. Or the host could always post out sheets in advance if they like. The host then flips the cards and shows to all players. It’s a brilliant game to play online for these two reasons, and I would encourage anyone looking to host an online game night to check this out.
With this comes one massive benefit and one minor issue. The game plays quickly as everyone is playing at the same time. There is no downtime. On some occasions you may need to wait for a player to finish thinking about a turn, but not often or for long. Most of the time, it is a case of flip cards, mark score sheet. This happens quickly and simultaneously. However, this does also mean that what you do has zero effect on the other players. You cannot try to interrupt or spoil other people’s plans, which some may love, but others may feel it’s missing something. A lot of roll/flip-and-writes are quite solitaire experiences, even when playing en masse. So, this really is more about the end score. The highest overall total is really all players are chasing.
If games for you are more about trying to get a better score than others or beat yourself from previous turns, then this is fine. But if you want something during the game to judge yourself against and interact with other players, then look elsewhere. This is much more of a solitaire experience, where you try to maximise the cards and the order they come out to achieve the highest score. I love this and find it very satisfying, and considering it is quite a short game, then you can always play something with more interaction afterwards.
The theme in Welcome to is what appeals to so many players, including myself. Despite this not changing massively in Welcome to New Las Vegas, it does feel somewhat more abstract now. Perhaps this is due to the lack of player sheets with the cool art that you saw in Welcome to. Or maybe the Las Vegas theme feels more foreign to just building streets, I am not sure.
Overall I have really enjoyed playing both Welcome to and Welcome to New Las Vegas. I would say Welcome to New Las Vegas is the better game marginally. But I am happy to have both and will still play both a lot. However, if I had to pick just one to play right now, it would be Welcome to New Las Vegas. It appeals more to me, really just because of the Limousine!