How to ruin every classic board game, in 30 minutes or less

The Washington PostAugust 8, 2013 

The makers of Monopoly have introduced Monopoly Empire, trumpeting name brands and an estimated 30-minute playing time.

Monopoly in 30 minutes? And with brands instead of properties? This must not pass Go.

The essence of Monopoly is the long hours of knock-down, drag-out game play. Of course it's unbearable. That's the whole point.

"You kids want to play Monopoly?" was your parents' way of saying, "We'd like to watch Lawrence of Arabia twice, and when we come back you will just barely have gotten around the board."

Monopoly Empire, the latest edition of the game, gives players the opportunity to buy and sell brands. Instead of Boardwalk and Park Place, why not invest in Coca-Cola? And, even more alarming, you can finish a game in half an hour.

Is speed really worth it? If speed is all that we crave, we'll ruin everything.

And if Hasbro is doing this to Monopoly, what are gamemakers going to do to the rest of the board-game world? First they came for Classic Monopoly, and I said nothing, because I never really liked that iron anyway. But what's next?


Here are our predictions for what board games' awful future holds.

Sorry: New 30-Minute-or-Less Sorry is exactly like regular Sorry, but you go around the board in the opposite direction. Suddenly, everything's much easier.

Risk: Instead of invading territories to take control of the board, new Risk requires U.N. approval from other players. Kamchatka's permanent seat on the Risk Security Council makes any movement difficult. The highlight of the game is when you all send a single cavalryman to observe an election in Irkutsk and it goes pretty OK. (This is not shorter than regular Risk, but it is too boring to play for more than 20 minutes at a time.)

Life: Impose a Rockstar Cutoff of 27 years old for all players. Live fast! Don't bother with a family. Instead of focusing on milestones such as paying off your student debt, getting the Victorian house or retiring to Millionaire Estates, fill your tiny, expensive peg-person car with cocaine and try to amass as many Twitter followers and Facebook friends as possible.

Dream Phone: New 30-Minute Dream Phone is like regular Dream Phone, but with caller ID.

Battleship: The new edition includes a nuclear option — a button to sink all of the other player's ships at once. And destroy the entire board. Pro: Game ends in a single second. Cons: Have to buy a new game board; rest of toy box contaminated with fallout. An alternative shorter version just closes the Strait of Hormuz instead of nuking the board, but that's crazy! Who would close the Strait of Hormuz?

Clue: Shorter Clue incorporates forensic science. The game is over the second the autopsy results arrive — it can be as quick as one minute. (Depending on your state's backlog, playing time may vary.) This is America, so the weapon is always going to be the revolver.

Hungry Hungry Hippos: Because of the Hungry Hungry Hippos' dietary restrictions — Orange Hippo can't eat gluten, Blue Hippo is lactose-intolerant, Yellow Hippo is lacto-ovo-vegetarian, Green Hippo is trying the paleo diet — the game ends before it starts because no one can figure out which of the balls are safe to gobble up.

Scrabble: New Scrabble is like old Scrabble, but you're allowed to use the names of online start-ups, Kardashians and celebrity babies. Nothing is prohibited. Everything is a word. Game definitely ends in 20 minutes or when your father stalks away from the board muttering, "This is just wrong; this is just wrong."

Candy Land: You are permitted only a single serving of candy. Border-control officers prevent you from leaving the Peppermint Forest to visit the Chocolate Swamp. They insist that you can't read — if you could read, you would be playing any other game on Earth.

Chutes and Ladders: The game is a flat playing board that you proceed across in a linear fashion while your parents hover nearby. For added safety, all tokens are swaddled in thick layers of padding and forced to wear helmets. No chutes! No ladders! Someone might get hurt, and then all of Mother and Father's efforts with the Stanford preschool feeder circuit will be for naught.

Chess: A rabble of pawns seizes the kings and queens and bears them off the board to be beheaded. Over in 10 minutes, but the degree of ensuing chaos and length of time required to establish a stable follow-up system of government varies by players.

Othello: All the pieces are the same color to start with.

Trivial Pursuit: Like regular Trivial Pursuit, but you can use Google.

Connect Four: New, abbreviated Connect Four requires you to only Connect One.

Checkers: You open the box, and there's no board, just a transcript of the pivotal Nixon speech. Bonus collector's edition comes with tiny cloth coats.

Pictionary: Like traditional Pictionary, but you can write words instead of just drawing. This still can take a while, depending on the penmanship of the other players.

Settlers of Catan: Instantly upon arriving in Catan, all your settlers perish because they are not immune to the local diseases.

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