If you’ve never heard of Star Reporter it’s not too surprising. It’s a board game that was first published in 1937 with various incarnations coming out until the last version was printed in 1960. My dad played it when he was a kid (I didn’t realize until recently he never actually owned it, he always played a friend’s copy), and he’s mentioned occasionally over the years how much he enjoyed it and would like to play it again. So I found a nice copy of it on eBay and gave it to him for Father’s Day this year. As soon as he opened it and looked at it all he said, “OK, let’s play a game!” My mom was like, “Right now?” and Dad replied “Well yeah!” I’ve now played it twice and Dad has played it three times. It’s an absolutely classic board game, a real slice-of-the-times kind of thing, and pretty fun to play to boot!
In Star Reporter each player is a reporter trying to collect stories represented by News Cards. Each card has a location on the board to travel to, and getting there nets you points and a new story to chase. Travel can be via one of three methods: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (that would make a good movie title!) Road travel is slow but available at any time. Trains allow you to go to any adjacent city, but are unreliable. And airplanes allow you to travel to any other airport on the board but they are hard to get to.
On his turn each player declares which mode of travel he is using then rolls two six-sided dice. For the road you just count out the spaces and move that far (you can go forward or backward or one each if you’re trying to hit an exact spot). In order to use the railroad you have to roll an even number on either die (75% chance, but sometimes it feels like a lot less!). If you land on an airport you instantly travel to any other airport. The rules changed slightly from version to version (Dad distinctly remembers that in order to fly in the version he played you had to roll doubles), but that’s the basics.
On the pics above you can see the blue dots representing the road, the white lines of the railroad, and the red airports on the edges (and one in the middle). In most of the versions (except the one I happened to get) the game came with 6 colored pins and you would actually stick them in the board to show where you were! Thus most copies are in pretty bad shape after being stuck with pins for the last 60 years or so. Finally for this version someone wised up and they included these absolutely gorgeous playing pieces to use instead:
They’re really cool and even though they’re plastic they almost look like stained glass. You use the tip of the cane to mark your position on the board and while it’s not perfect (you have to be very precise, any small bump moves it out of position, and it’s tough to see when you’ve got multiple pieces in the same area) it’s a lot better than sticking holes in the poor game board!
Play continues as normal until someone rolls double 6s. Then it’s time for a Headline (these were originally known as Disaster cards, apparently before Parker Brothers had a PR department). These are stories that are worth a lot more points (40 – 50 instead of the usual 5 – 20) and are up for grabs for everyone. This happens the first 4 times a set of double 6s is rolled. The next time boxcars come up a Scoop card (formerly known as Calamity) is drawn; it’s worth a huge number of points (100) and once that is collected the game is over. Players count up their totals and the high number wins.
Overall it’s a pretty fun game! There’s a HUGE amount of luck involved; if a Headline or the Scoop comes up close to where you are it’s a big advantage. Whoever happens to get the Scoop is probably going to win since it’s worth so many points. But I honestly think it’s OK to have a game with huge swings based on luck. The idea that every move has to be balanced and everything has to be equal is a pretty modern attitude in gaming; there’s something to be said for “letting the chips fall where they may”.
Pretty unlikely you’re going to run into this one at your local game night but if you ever get a chance to play it give it a try!