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Subject: Play the Game Not the Box rss

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Chris Baylis
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EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!
MAYFAIR GAMES Andrew Bond 2-6 Players Aged 14+
In the 1940’s & 50’s the News was read daily by the populace via the media of newspapers. Then late 50’s and the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s we learned of day to day life mainly from the papers and the ever-growing visual of television. In the late 80’s everything changed as the internet came into our lives, into our homes via the computer revolution and the internet. Although newspapers and TV survived and are still around today, they no longer carry the majority of News because the Social Media spreads the word faster than any newswire or television can.

EXTRA! EXTRA! takes us back to the days of the newspaper as portrayed in the wonderful movies such as The FRONT PAGE with the inimitable Jack Lemmon and hangdog Walter Matthau; DEADLINE MIDNIGHT with Jack Webb and William Conrad; DEADLINE USA with Humphrey Bogart with a little CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles) thrown in for good measure.

To encapsulate the world of the newspaper office you first have to envisage a building beginning with a murmur and reverberating with action, typewriters clickety-clacking at speeds almost beyond human capability, and the newswire buzzing with a constant drone as the latest news fizzies along it.

Stories begin with Sources, travel through the various newsdesks into the whirl that is Operations where they are sorted and slapped on the Editor’s desk for approval or scrapping. The game reflects this by three separate action boards, conveniently named Sources, Operations and Editor’s Desk, and 6 other boards, one per player, that represent the major sections of a top newspaper:- Business (Bulletin), Political (Post), Home (Herald), Leisure (Leader), Sports (Star) and World (Weekly).

Players take one of these boards each and flip it to the side depicted in the selected scenario card. These cards basically determine which side of the player boards are used and which decks of cards are used in the game; giving numerous opportunities for varying the game play each time you set up for a session.

The Game Boards are positioned on the table (so everyone can reach them etc) so that Sources and Editor’s Desk are adjacent and Operations sits next in line – there is a red arrow that shows the flow order of the active reporters for the end of the round which allows you to use cash and cards collected at the beginning of the arrow with actions that follow; a very neat and logical design.

The Player’s Boards show the spaces, as squares, where the stories are to be laid (typeset), with different shades for each type of newspaper being used for the game; Tabloid, Berliner, Broadsheet plus Column and Header spaces. Also on this board is your Copy Desk, spaces where you put stories you haven’t decided whether to use or not yet, a Coffee Mug where you place your inactive reporters (meeples you have yet to bring into play) and cash spaces where you place your active reporters. A minor confusion here; there are 4 cash spaces each marked with $100 bills (the cost of hiring each reporter) on which you place the reporters you are using this round, but you can have up to 5 active reporters in a round, so the question is “where do you place the fifth reporter and does he get paid the same $100 as the others?”. Okay that’s two questions and the answers are “I don’t know, and Yes”.

Every round there is a set up of story boards in varying sizes and orientations, where necessary there must always be a choice of Portrait or Landscape, plus cards from the Features, Photo’s and Copy decks. You need the different orientations because once you have placed a story on your board it cannot be moved. Copy cards are positioned along the top of the Newswire. There are 6 spaces and although the rules don’t say it in text there is an illustration that shows you put three cards, one from each deck, out to begin with. Any of these not taken during the round are shuffled along to the Operations board and new cards added to the Newswire for the next round. Any remaining from these at the end of the round will displace any remaining on the Operations board, those cards being discarded.

Money, as in real life, is hard to come by and so like all good newspapers who don’t make money by having Page Three Girls (they weren’t thought of until the late 60’s early 70’s) to sell extra papers, you need to take on some advertising. This is in the form of selling space on your paper and of course this space is required for stories. Stories bring in VPs at game end whilst Adverts do not, however if you don’t take any adverts it is unlikely, not impossible, that you will not have enough money to pay your reporters and buy stories etc.

You do get $400 at the start of each Round, but reporters cost $100 each so it’s a case of easy come easy go as far as cash flow is concerned. Sometimes you may need to spend money (invest) on a story because you fear another player wants the same as you. If you place a reporter on a space to get a particular story (or any space actually, except those like Advertising where multiple reporters are allowed) you can be bumped off by another player placing a reporter with more money than you placed – remembering that you don’t have to place any money when you place your reported but it can deter others if you do. Of course you have the opportunity to get “your” story/space back but it will mean you have to up the bid before your reporter can regain the space. Newspapers are always at each other’s back and throats when it comes to getting an exclusive.

Stories often require a mixture of Photos and Copy, shown as cameras and typewriters on the cards. To be able to get a story you must be able to provide the necessary cover, you cannot block a space to prevent another player taking it if a) you cannot use it and/or b) you haven’t the resources available. You collect the cards by going to the Newsdesk and grabbing the cards on display from under the cities. Cities gain new cards each round randomly, cards being drawn from the three main decks, and then placed under their associated city. There is a limit to the cards you can hold but this, in our experience, is rarely reached as you haven’t enough actions to take cards for the sake of taking them, you are best to only go for cards that you are going to use in the same round or perhaps the next one.

This is one of those games where there are times when you put your plans on the table and then hope that you get the resources to make those plans succeed. The exceptions and preclusions, of course, being as already noted.

Our older players immediately remembered the old board game SCOOP! When they saw EXTRA! EXTRA! For the first time and realised it was about placing stories that were on cards. It doesn’t play like SCOOP! Though if I am going to be a little reminiscent (and if my memory is working right) the story cards in SCOOP! actually had a short tale on them whereas the story cards for EXTRA! EXTRA! are simply game pieces. Of course the tales on the SCOOP! cards didn’t impact the game – catching a giant trout was just as likely to be a headliner as catching the Great Train Robbers – but they just added a little more flavour and fun. Also in EXTRA! EXTRA! there is no telephone to dial to try to get a Triple Star story but there are several other ways of boosting a story’s value.

There is a lot more in the game than I have gone over here but I think I have said enough for you to know if it is your type of game. It is a resource/man/money management game with excellent set collecting and building aspects. Overall EXTRA! EXTRA! is a much better game than the box art gives it credit for. Yes the box art is good and representative of the newspaper office from the old days, but it doesn’t grab attention enough to draw people towards it. If you can get players involved playing it I would almost guarantee they will be coming back for more regularly, but you have to get over the visually unattractive hump of box art before you can grab their attention. One way to do this is to invite your players for a game and have it set up, box out of site, before they arrive. This worked for us though it is why this review has been a little longer coming than hoped for. I would put a game or three out for players to choose from, as to be the next game we concentrated on for playing and reviewing purposes, and EXTRA! EXTRA! was always left at the gate. So I did what I said above and now it is a firm favourite for regular gaming sessions.



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Andrew Bond
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Chris

Thanks for the favourable review of Extra! Extra! I'm glad you are enjoying playing it.

Your mention of Scoop! is apt, since that is the game which inspired me to design EE. I enjoyed playing Scoop as a boy and wanted to make a modern version of it, less luck based (no telephone, alas) but still fundamentally a set collection game. I wish we could have had real stories on the tiles, but they would have been a challenge to write (and we could have potentially been criticised for copying Sccop too closely).

Andrew Bond
 
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Andrew Bond
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A version of this review with pictures can be found at Chris's website, here:

http://www.gamesgazette.co.uk/gg/main.php?p=content/Board%20...
 
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