I confess: I’m a board game geek.

Clue is a blast. It’s thrilling to learn whodunit and find out just where in the mansion Mr. Boddy meets his untimely demise. Was the murder weapon the revolver, the candlestick or the rope?

I’m always up for Trivial Pursuit, Risk or Battleship. And after I discovered a 1930s board game called Star Reporter, I just had to buy it on eBay.

But my board-game days came to a halt nearly two years ago after my first child was born. Spare time is rare now. So when I recently learned about the new speeded-up versions of classic board games with the slogan “take a 20-minute game break,” I was intrigued. Would express versions of Monopoly, Scrabble and Sorry! be as much fun as the originals? I decided to roll the dice and find out.

Monopoly Express

The games in Hasbro’s Express series each come in round 6-inch diameter plastic boxes, a definite plus because they’re better for traveling and storage than bulky cardboard boxes that rip apart around the edges.

To play Monopoly Express, my husband, Richard, brother Randy and our friend Ricky gathered at my parents’ house, a great venue because it has a wonderful game table and free babysitting. Growing up, Randy and I were competitive playing the original Monopoly, so we highly anticipated discovering a new way to play the game.

The Monopoly Express game board is slightly larger than a compact disc. All the players laughed at its diminutive size, because it suffered the same scale problem as Stonehenge in “This Is Spinal Tap.” The tiny board also was challenging for us 20- and 30-somethings to read.

Figuring out the rules took longer than playing the actual game, which involves rolling 10 or 11 dice. There are four green houses, but missing are the fun silver game tokens, hotels, Community Chest cards, Chance cards, array of properties and, the best part, colorful cash. Colors on the Monopoly Express board represent properties, but you don’t retain any of them turn to turn.

“This doesn’t feel like Monopoly,” Randy said. “The fun of Monopoly is landing on expensive property with a bunch of hotels and wheeling and dealing.”

My feelings exactly. So after playing a couple of 20-minute games of Monopoly Express, we went on to old-school Monopoly. It took more than three hours to play one game, but the board got interestingly scary as players filled the coveted blue and green properties with hotels. I wasn’t the winner (Richard was), but I beat Randy so I felt victorious.

I also won a game of Monopoly Express, but that came from rolling dice and hardly any strategizing, so I didn’t feel the rush of triumph like I do with the original.

I’d play Monopoly Express again only if there were no other games in the house.

Scrabble Express

The original Scrabble is my favorite game. Richard and I played almost weekly before our son, Alex, was born. We have fond memories of playing the travel version on a mountain-hiking break in Arizona.

So it was fitting that Richard and I play Scrabble Express on a rainy Sunday afternoon while Alex was napping. We were skeptical when we saw that dice with letters had replaced the beloved wooden tiles. But the fold-out board – happily much larger than the Monopoly Express one – looks like a miniature replica of the original with double and triple letter and word scores.

Playing Scrabble Express also feels a lot like the original. It begins on the star in the middle of the board and letters are drawn out of a bag.

“I really like this,” Richard said. “I’d play again.”

Scrabble Express is different from the original in that there are never more than two words on the board. I missed studying the board when the game is over. I also mourned the loss of the “Q;” the speeded-up game has a “Qu” instead. There are plenty of words containing “Q” that don’t require a “U” such as faqir, qanat and sheqel.

Those quibbles aside, Scrabble Express is a keeper.

Sorry! Express

I didn’t grow up playing Sorry! Maybe it’s because the name is lame. “Sorry” is something you tell people when you step on their toes, not when you’re playing a board game.

With co-workers Gail, a Sorry! aficionado, and Jocelyn, a fellow gamer and Sorry! rookie, I played the original first. This is the game with the primary-colored pawns you move around the board to your home base. It felt long and tedious, but it’s probably good for helping kids learn to add and subtract.

Then we dove into Sorry! Express, which felt more interactive and surprising than the original because players can take tokens from each other depending on what they roll. Plus, each of our lightning-paced games took a little more than five minutes.

“This is fun,” Jocelyn said. “I like it better than the original.”

Well put. Sometimes quicker can be better.


Equipment: Board, 2 dice, silver tokens, 32 houses, 12 hotels, Chance and Community Chest cards, Title Deeds cards and play money

Object: Become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling property.

Average play time: 3 hours for two players, up to 4 hours for more

Grade: A-

Monopoly Express

Equipment: Board, 11 dice, 4 houses and score pad

Object: Be the first player to earn $15,000 by collecting color groups. On each turn, you roll the dice one or more times trying to collect money by completing color groups. The trick is to know when to stop rolling. If you roll all 3 “Go to Jail” dice, you’ll lose everything you’ve collected during your turn.

Average play time: 20 minutes for two players, 30 minutes for more

Grade: D


Equipment: Board, 100 letter tiles, velvet letter pouch, 4 tile racks

Object: Players form interlocking words, crossword fashion, using letter tiles of different values. Players compete for high score by taking advantage of premium squares on the board.

Average play time: 50 minutes for 2 players, more than an hour for more

Grade: A

Scrabble Express

Equipment: Board, 12 letter dice, letter pouch, one-minute timer, score pad and pencil

Object: Be the first to score 200 points by forming high scoring words, taking advantage of the values of the dice as well as the premium squares on the board.

Average play time: 20 minutes for 2 players, 30 minutes for more

Grade: B+


Equipment: Board, deck of cards (no 6s or 9s), 16 pawns (4 each of 4 colors)

Object: Be the first player to get all 4 pawns from your color “Start” to your color “Home.”

Average play time: An hour for two players, 90 minutes for more.

Grade: C-

Sorry! Express

Equipment: Start base, 4 home bases, 16 pawns (4 each of 4 colors), 3 dice

Object:Be the first player to get all 4 pawns of your color”Home.”

Average play time: Less than 10 minutes for 2 to 4 players

Grade: A

Five speedy board games you probably never heard of

1. Carcassonne. Create cities, farms and roads. 2 to 5 players. Ages 8 and up. 30 to 45 minutes.

2. Citadels. Build a collection of buildings. 2 to 7 players. Ages 10 and up. 20 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Through the Desert. Create long camel trains. 2 to 5 players. Ages 10 and up. 15 to 45 minutes.

4. Ticket to Ride. Create tracks between cities. 2 to 5 players. Ages 8 and up. 30 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Zooloretto. Fill up a zoo with animals. 2 to 5 players. Ages 8 and up. 20 to 40 minutes.

Source: Virginia Backman, board game salesperson at TableTop Game & Hobby, 6840 W. 105th St., Overland Park, Kan.

Resources for Express Monopoly, Scrabble and Sorry!




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