A House in the Desert-Thematic Gambling in New Vegas
Gambling in games is often thought of as a throwaway mini game. A simple side activity that can be accomplished between main objectives, similar to how one may visit a site like “casino.com” between accomplishing the “to do’s” of the day. Fallout New Vegas takes a different approach however. The Fallout series begins after a nuclear world war leads to the eradication of the world, with small settlements of humanity held up in vaults, reemerging decades later after the nuclear radiation has lessened. When the bombs dropped over Nevada, as shown in New Vegas, the wasteland had to adapt its culture of gambling and booze to fit the now scorched Earth. The majority of the wasteland play Caravan, a new game created from the wrecks of the old world, while those in New Vegas (a luxurious piece of the strip seemingly untouched by the warheads) relish in the classic gambling of yesteryear. Its these two types of gambling that help drive the narrative as a whole, combining the ways of the old world while mixing or contrasting it with the new adapted forms of society.
Caravan is a card game played by caravan guards and various other characters encountered throughout the Mojave. Players build their decks by combining various loose cards found throughout desert in a combination of 30, with cards of the same suit and number allowed so long as they are not part of the same set (i.e. two king of spades are fine, so long as they are not from the same casino). Stakes are often low, being a mixture of bottle caps, NCR money, and legion coins. The objective of Caravan is to build three caravans (bids) between values of 21-26, while preventing your opponent from doing the same. The game begins with each player drawing eight cards and building their caravan with either an ace (aces are low in caravan) or numerical card. Each turn a player can either play and draw a card, discard and draw, or completely disband a caravan by removing those cards. The next card played after the initial starter will determine whether the values ascend or descend. Every card must match the flow or be of the same suit, which will change directions where applicable, but cards of the same number cannot be played in sequence regardless of suit. A winner is chosen when two out of the three caravans on the opposing team are sold to the victor, with them having been outbid by making caravans larger in number without breaking the limit.
Caravan is a game created entirely through adapting to the various shifts in the Mojave thanks to the fallout, with its odd rules and strategy. Its currencies being a mixture illustrate just how massive the balance for power amongst the legion and NCR is, as well as the mass use of caps as a common currency.
Beyond the deathclaw and cazador infested deserts, there lies a section of the Nevada landscape seemingly untouched by the nuclear wars that engulfed Fallout’s universe: The New Vegas strip. New Vegas is the player’s destination for revenge in lore, yet it is also the gambling capitol of the wasteland run by the mysterious Mr. House. While games of chance and neon lights are what Las Vegas is best known for, they’re the familiar in an alien world for New Vegas. The gleaming lights of the Lucky 38 act as beacon for wary travelers looking to strike it rich. Multiple casinos liven the strip, from the Gomorrah to the Tops, each sporting their own style. The selection of games consists of slots, roulette and blackjack. The player’s success in these games is directly linked to how much was invested into their luck stat early in the game. As players progressively win, they’re encouraged by the staff to continue (until they’ve won a bit too much), mirroring how real-world casinos encourage their guests to continue playing. Various quests later in the game involve the casinos and politics on the strip, ranging from Mr. House’s interest in the developments of Caesar’s Legion to the interesting meals served at the Ultra-Luxe casino. These facets illustrate that the strips and its various powers at play each have their own unique agendas, capping off in Mr. House’s quest to retake Nevada as its own, free from Legion and NCR control (which you yourself can take up if you so choose). The New Vegas strip is a segment of Nevada that desperately tries to maintain to old world ideals yet is still finding itself having to adapt to the inescapable realities that life has forever changed. This is shown in the way the casinos still maintain their pre-war appearance and function but must bend to the various factions vying for power as well as the amenities lost due to the fallout.
Amongst the irradiated creatures and dangerous raiders of the wasteland, survivors still gather to take part in games of chance. Whether it be the newly constructed games of caravan taking place along desolated highways and trading posts, to the way formerly thriving sections of the strip are having to adapt to the new ways of life in the scorching Nevada sand. Through a simple pull of the lever or draw of the card Bethesda is able to encapsulate just how different life has changed and how little war hasn’t. Fallout: New Vegas was released in 2010 on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. If you’d like to read our review on New Vegas, click here, likewise if you’re more into modding, click here to read about the fan project “Falllout 4: New Vegas”. Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the newest anticipated entry, Fallout 76, click here to learn how Bethesda wants to make the upcoming multiplayer title last forever.