I wouldn’t have thought that ‘Express’ versions of old Hasbro games would interest me much, but the fact that a friend recommended Monopoly Express, and 2 of the games in the line were designed by Knizia was enough to get me to take notice.
The games in the Express line are 20 minute dice games based on the themes of classic Hasbro games. The games aren’t really similar to their namesakes in many ways(at least not the ones I’ve played), but the themes are incorporated well, and give a decent feel that you are actually playing some sort of version of the classic. The current games in the line are: Sorry Express, Scrabble Express, Monopoly Express, Clue Express and Battleship Express. Risk Express is also available in Europe, but Hasbro USA has not released it here. This is probably because A) they are crazy B) they are being run by a bunch of lobotomized monkeys, or C) all of the above. Risk Express is a Knizia game and it’s an excellent little dice game. Well worth the import if you’re into that sort of game. But hey, we’re not here to talk about Risk Express, we’re here for Battleship Express…
Battleship Express is an extremely simple little dice game that really has no connection to Battleship. There’s no hidden information of any kind, and there’s none of the basic feel of Battleship incorporated into the game. That said, I think the game works well with the Battleship theme. It’s a game of attack and defense and you really do feel like you’re in a battle with your ships.
Battleship Express comes in a dice bowl just like the rest of the games in the Express line. The US editions of the games have a cheaper quality bowl than the European versions, but they do the trick just fine. Inside the bowl are 15 ship tiles of nice thick cardboard, and 8 dice. The tiles are very nice and actually much nicer than the paper thin territory tiles of Risk Express. The dice, however, are not nearly as nice. They are black plastic dice with stickers on each side. Both Monopoly Express and Risk Express have nice heavy dice with embossed figures on each side. Other than the so-so dice, Battleship Express is a nicely produced game in a nice portable case. Well worth the price.
Monopoly Express is basically a solitaire game of press your luck. Risk Express adds in some player interaction since you can attack other player’s territories. Battleship Express is all about the interaction since the entire game is about attacking the other players.
There are actually two games that you can play: The Captain’s Game and The Admiral’s Game. I will be describing the “Advanced” Admiral’s Game here. The Captain’s Game is basically the same, but without any of the ship powers. I’ve never played it, although I plan to try it with my 5 year old. So, on to the Admiral’s Game…
Each player receives 5 ship tiles…one of each ship: Battleship, Destroyer, Aircraft Carrier, Submarine, Patrol Boat. You take your tiles and make a line in front of you in any order that you would like…this is your ‘Fleet’.
On your turn you choose one of the ships in your Fleet to attack with. You move it to the front of your line and then choose an opponent’s ship to attack. You can only choose one of the first 2 ships in their line to attack. You check your attacking ship and it tells you how many dice you attack with. You roll that number of dice and check for hits. Each of the 8 dice is the same. 5 of the sides match the colors of the 5 ships, and the sixth side is a “burst” or “wild”.
You set aside any hits and then re-roll based on your attacking ship’s powers. Once your number of hits equals or exceeds the defense number on the ship you’re attacking, you sink it and take it as a point. The first player to a set number of points wins. Here’s a breakdown of the individual ship powers:
Battleship: Declare target. Roll all 8 dice a total of 4 times. Bursts do not count as hits.
Destroyer: Declare target. Roll 6 dice a total of 2 times. Bursts count as 2 hits.
Aircraft Carrier: Roll 6 dice THEN declare your target, then roll 1 more time. Bursts count as 1 hit. The Aircraft Carrier can also attack from anywhere in your line, so you don’t have to move it to the front where it is vulnerable.
Submarine: Roll 3 dice a total of one time. A single Burst will sink whatever you are attacking. Submarines can attack any ship at any place in a Fleet.
Patrol Boat: Roll 5 dice a total of 3 times. Bursts count as 1 hit.
And that’s pretty much it. On your turn you pick a ship to attack with, move it to the front of your line, and then attack another ship. If you sink it you get points, if you don’t you just pass the dice. Pretty simple.
Battleship Express is a very simple game to play and teach/learn, but there are some choices to be made. Don’t expect anything too challenging though because you’ll be disappointed. This is clearly a light filler that takes maybe 5-10 minutes per game. It’s all about the fun of attacking the other player’s ships and hoping you’re still standing at the end. There are definitely choices to be made and odds to be weighed, but even for a dice game it’s pretty light. In one way it’s sort of like Knizia’s ‘Double or Nothing’. If you’re just going to pick it up and try one game, you’d probably hate it. Give it a few plays in a row though and pretty soon you’re yelling at the dice and having a good ol’ time. We played seven times in a row the first time we played and had a lot of fun. I’ve played with 2 and 3 players and it works fine either way. I was actually expecting it to stink with 2 players based on the rules, but it’s still fun.
We quickly discovered that this is a very easy game to just make up variants on the fly. In our first 7 game session we played a few different ways just to keep things interesting. We played 2 player with all 20 tiles….just randomize them and make 2 fleets per player with restrictions on who can attack who. We played a standard game but set the 2 extra Submarines off to the side…if you wanted to you could attack one and if you were successful you could add it to your fleet. I also tried a solitaire variant where my 5 ship fleet went up against a line of 15 ships. I’d attack the first one and keep moving down the line. If I missed, then that ship got one chance to sink my ship. None of these are amazing variants that I’m necessarily recommending. I’m just saying that the game takes 5-10 minutes, so it’s fun to just try different things to change things up a bit.
Overall I really like Battleship Express. It’s not a favorite game. It’s not a favorite Knizia. It’s not necessarily even a favorite dice game, but it is a lot of fun. If this was a $30 big box game I would be very disappointed, but as a $10 dice game from Hasbro I’m very happy with the purchase. It’s not nearly as good as Risk Express, but I’d say it’s probably as good as Monopoly Express although they are very different games. I’ll give it a 7/10 and recommend it, but only if you’re looking for something light and dicey.