Retro Review - Scoop By Waddingtons (1955)
Antony Brown is a games analyst and inventor who writes regularly on board games. His Retro Reviews take a nostalgic look at games of the past. This article looks at the 1955 version of Scoop.
Read all about it! Read all about it! "First Lunar Landing. Far eastern rocket lands on the surface of the moon." So proclaims one of the news stories in Scoop.
If you think the headline sounds more like Quatermass Experiment than Apollo program you are quite correct. Scoop was originally published in 1953, the year when the Quatermass Experiment was shown on TV for the first time and the faint bleeps of Sputnik echoing through space were still years away. Not even Elvis was around - he wouldn't be staying at Heartbreak Hotel for few more years yet.
Scoop was a classic family game that was published in a variety of versions over a period of about thirty years. The object of the game is to fill the front page of a newspaper with the highest value stories and advertisements. Each player gets a newspaper front page to fill. You can choose from Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, The Times, News Chronicle and Daily Sketch. The selection of newspapers immediately reveals the game's era. After publishing for nearly a century the News Chronicle folded in 1960 and was absorbed into the Daily Mail. The same fate befell the Daily Sketch in 1971.
There are four types of story - crime, general, star and triple star - and not all news stories have the same value. The game mechanism is card collection - quite simple but with some opportunities to steal cards from your opponents. However, two factors make Scoop one of the finest retro games to collect - its ingenious telephone device, which remains a marvel of cardboard engineering to this day, and the dated look and feel of the news stories and adverts.
The telephone depicts a picture of an old Bakelite phone - the standard dial telephone used in the UK from the 1930s to the late 1950s. By moving a small handle to the left and then returning it to its starting position a message appears randomly in the centre of the phone. To obtain a story a player must collect three Scoop cards - a reporter, a photographer and a telephone card. The player then dials the number on the telephone card to get editorial permission to run the story - if so, an appropriate story card is taken and place on the player's front page.
Players also obtain advertisements by collecting a set of three Scoop cards - salesman, artist and advertiser's approval. The adverts are a veritable time machine, taking you back to an era when Lyle's Golden Syrup "spread a little happiness", when BOAC would fly you "worldwide in supreme jet comfort" and Dinky Toys had over 160 models and "new additions every month." The ads make you realize how graphic design acts like a date stamp, immediately affirming something belongs to another fashion, another time.
The news stories are printed on small cards with text so small that clearly only the headlines were meant to be read, the designers not wanting to the game to die with players reading the stories rather than playing. However, in the name of research we squinted and stared to uncover some of these imaginative gems. Two examples.
First, there is the story about the discovery of a peace weapon, "a new heavy gas called nethometypol which has the effect of rendering whoever inhales it unconscious." Little did the inventors know that 50 years later nethometypol would be produced naturally by watching an England World Cup game. Then there is a story that eerily echoes the movie Frequency with its headline "TV Set That Will Pick Up The Past". This possibility seems as remote today as did back in 1950s but the irony is that you can pick up the past by playing retro games like Scoop.
Perhaps the one thing the original Scoop doesn't have is a front page for The News Of The World, a paper that was closed in July 2011 amid the phone hacking scandal in Britain - itself a story that could not have been even conceived back in 1953 in the era of the Bakelite dial phone! (N.B. It is included in the 1988 edition along with Today).
Verdict: A classic retro game. Delightful components and content make it a veritable time capsule.