Friday, August 12, 2016

All Fun and Games

Lately, I've found myself thinking about the board games I used to play when I was a kid.  These were generally trotted out at Christmas, bank holidays or other family gatherings in order to try and keep the peace with some kind of group activity.  The trouble was that favourite games like Monopoly and Cluedo only seemed to stoke up the rivalries and inevitably ended in ill-tempered arguments and accusations of cheating.  (Whoever turned out to be the murderer in Cluedo, for instance, would always claim that it was a set-up and that the cards put in that 'solution' envelope had been rigged by one or more other players).  Personally, I always found the newspaper-based game Scoop more enjoyable (technically speaking, I suppose that it wasn't really a board game, having no 'board' upon which the players competed, as such).  It just seemed less cut-throat and competitive and didn't seem to bring out the worst in the players.  The copy we had was pretty ancient - two of the newspapers represented,  The Daily Sketch and the News Chronicle, were long since defunct, (it wasn't until an eighties reissue of the game that they were replaced by the Sun and News of the World) - and included the original cardboard 'telephone' which was used to determine events like whether stories were accepted by the editor, for example.  This device fascinated me - you had to move this cardboard lever according to some pattern in order to 'dial up' the editor.  The later versions of the game replaced it with some sort of plastic telephone - I have no idea how that was operated.  I'm sure it wasn't as much fun to operate as the original, though.

The game, if you aren't familiar with it, involved each player trying to complete the front page of their newspaper with different types of story (crime, politics, entertainment, or even the prized 'Five Star Exclusive', for instance) and adverts.  In order to do this, you had to collect various cards representing reporters, photographers, ad executives and so on, which enabled you to 'pitch' stories to the 'editor' via that phone device.  I don't recall all the intricacies, but I enjoyed playing the game immensely.  A lot of that enjoyment came from the stories themselves, which came printed on cards which slotted into place on the 'front page'.  They are were all utterly bizarre, involving such things as 'murder by telephone' (a poison dart being inserted into the earpiece of the receiver, so that anyone answering the phone received a fatal dose of the toxin), a fake Martian spaceship, a house building robot, a talking monkey - you get the idea.  These stories entertained me greatly and, to this day, inspire the stuff I write for The Sleaze. I have no idea whether anyone still produces Scoop, but I got to thinking the other day that it would be ripe for a modern makeover.  I'm sure that there must be some way in which to incorporate phone hacking, for instance, maybe even Page Three girls, celebrity scandals and the paparazzi.  (The original did, sort of, reflect cheque book journalism, as I recall each player having to pay for stories using a stack of 'cheques' each paper had).  After all, to this day they are still producing variations of both Monopoly and Cluedo, two games I found far less entertaining than Scoop.

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