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Plugged In

New vs. old: Which board games are better?

Plugged In

It's all about retro reboots these days -- and it's no different with board games. Topping Hasbro’s 2013 calendar are streamlined, stripped-down, and simplified versions of three of its most celebrated classics: Yahtzee, Jenga, and Monopoly. But are they really better, or just different? Here’s how the new hotness matches up to the tried-and-true versions.

World Series of Yahtzee

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(Credit: Hasbro)

Beginning its life as a mobile app, World Series of Yahtzee comes to the real-life board game world this year. It streamlines the traditional dice-rolling game by essentially giving all the players a single scorecard to complete, consisting of just eight specific dice combos. You’re all rolling together, trying to score the rolls before anyone else. A flashy (not to mention noisy) electronic timer keeps track of who’s scoring what and keeps the pressure on those who are lagging behind.

There’s little or no downtime between turns, and once all eight combos are taken, the game’s over. It includes enough components for four players, and while the color choices are a touch questionable (seriously, whose idea was it to have black dice with the spots highlighted in dark red?), that’s easily fixed if you have a few dice laying around someplace.

Old or new Yahtzee? New. Gimmicky though the electronics seem, they genuinely add a fresh feel to what we could charitably call Yahtzee’s “well-trodden” gameplay.

Jenga Boom

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(Credit: Hasbro)

Stack ‘em up, knock ‘em down, stack ‘em up again. Dexterity and patience are the keys to success in this family classic, but Boom adds another element to the block-balancing gameplay: a timer that’ll blow the whole thing sky-high at a semi-random point during one player’s turn. Y’know, in case the game wasn’t tense enough already.

Adding the timer shortens the game considerably, which cuts both ways: the game doesn’t drag on, but you do spend proportionally more time restacking the blocks. More time than playing the game, maybe. It also takes the focus away from skill, replacing it with a good-size dose of random chance. That’s good for littler players who get to laugh when Dad blows the stack up, but seasoned Jenga players won’t look on it as an improvement.

Old or new Jenga? Old. We’re not nuts about the timer.

Monopoly Hotels

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(Credit: Hasbro)

Gone is the board, gone are the iconic playing pieces, gone are the houses -- in fact, the only bits of the traditional Monopoly game left in this card-game spin-off are the money, the hotels, and the screw-you attitude.

As you’ve probably guessed from the name, Hotels focuses on building up a Trump-like hotel, floor by floor, and filling the rooms with paying customers -- but the real fun is in messing with your opponent’s hard-built empire. Most cards give you ways to force your opponent to close down his rooms, steal his cards or money, and even demolish floors of his building. Hilarity (or frustration) ensues.

Sure, it doesn’t sound much like Monopoly, but although the gameplay is wildly different the <i>feel</i> of the game is surprisingly similar. Make no mistake about it, it’s an aggressive and confrontational game, which makes for good times -- if you’re in the mood. A lot like Monopoly proper, in other words. Unlike Monopoly, though, the whole shebang’s over in a scant 20 minutes, and that’s a major point in its favor.

Old or new Monopoly? Both. Hotels has less in common with its namesake than Hasbro’s other 2013 offerings, but this is a strong game in its own right...as long as you like your games with a mean streak as wide as Boardwalk.

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