Review: National Enquirer Game
Publisher: Tyco Games
Year: 1991
Tagline: The Outrageously Funny Headline Game!

The cover looks like a tabloid magazine cover

how we met

I have been wanting a headline game for awhile now, and I see them every so often. And rarely the same one – they are legion. But I would be hard-pressed to imagine a more appropriate headline game for the blog than one based on the illustrious print tabloid National Enquirer. Picking this up at thrift was a no-brainer. 

how it plays

The object of National Enquirer Game is to have the most points at the end of play. Play ends after four entire games have been played, each consisting of three rounds. Players take turns being the EDITOR in each game. So, 3 rounds = 1 game and 4 games = one play with a winner at the end.

The cards show Princess Diana, a baby doll head, a scantily clad woman, some dancers, Gorbachev and a parade
A random sampling of photo cards

At the beginning of a game, the EDITOR deals 1 photo card face down to each player, including themselves. The EDITOR then reaches their hand into the magical bag of COPY TILES and places a “generous portion” of them onto the COPY DESK board in the middle. These COPY TILES are words: nouns, verbs and adjectives. 

The copy desk with a bunch of word strips on it
Use your words…

The EDITOR then flips the ONE MINUTE TIMER and all players flip their photos and start to dig out of the same pool of COPY TILES to make their headlines. 

COPY TILES consist of different colors, and if your headline is made up of all the same color (red, blue or green) then your score gets doubled, so you may want to have a care if you can. Time is short though, get that headline together. 

This word tile shows letter D with a blank line behind it
A few of the COPY TILES are blank, so you can turn them into any word beginning with that letter

When time is up, each player presents their headline to the EDITOR and they decide the scoring within the guidelines of the game. Players get one point for each COPY TILE used, negative points for incomplete headlines, negative points if they took COPY TILES that they did not use, and there is some subjectivity to whether or not the headline goes with the photo. And yes, the EDITOR gets to score their own headline too. 

Jot the scores down and repeat this process with the same EDITOR where Round 2 gives each player 2 photos and Round 3 gives each player 3 photos. Once the third round is complete then the next player becomes the EDITOR for a new game.

Rules look like a tabloid front cover
The rules look like a tabloid too!

The player with the most points at the end of four games wins! 

how it went

National Enquirer Game rules state that four players is the optimum for the game, so we had that going for us. One house rule I would strongly suggest is to only allow one hand at the COPY DESK. I spent our first round looking at Bill’s left hand hoarding the COPY DESK as he also fished the tiles with his right hand. 

Several hands sorting through the words
It gets frenzied in here

The game is relatively dated, as you can imagine for a news-driven game from 1991. We are all the right age to remember the characters in the photos, some of us more distantly than others. The game has Gorbachev, Prince Charles, Nixon and other news-worthy figures. But even if you don’t know a lot of the photos, it’s not a big deal. The game is also full of random people, chimpanzees, cars, weird people wearing masks and the kind of randomness you would expect from a tabloid magazine game. 

I like how you can kind of make the game more or less challenging by merely adjusting how many COPY TILES you allow as the EDITOR. One of my rounds I intentionally picked out fewer COPY TILES and we had to fight a lot harder for our headlines as a result. And that timer is quick. 

I am not a big fan of the scoring, although I don’t think it could have been done any differently really. Bill thinks that the player to go last will always win because they have the scoring power at the end of the game. That is a pessimistic view, but perhaps true. It certainly was true in our game. I think there is potential to break the game with the wrong person wielding the score power. I wouldn’t have the patience to come to an agreement though either. 

We had a lot of fun playing. We laughed a lot, and sometimes the magic of just the right combination of photos and tiles to tell a story happened. Sometimes we played it safe with boring but practical headlines that applied to the photos. 

I always appreciate how John really steps into the role he is supposed to play in a board game. He acted like an EDITOR and his turn at the helm made it feel like we were really pitching headlines until he said, “Looks good. Print it!”

This headline says "Two-faced psychotic splits with yuppie lives as surprising american teacher"
Looks good. Ship it!
This example is a sexy woman with headline "Teensy weensy charismatic burglar gobbles up massive renowned trillionaire wimp"
This photo headlines itself, but this will score a bundle as all blue words
Photo of Prince Charles says "Prince Charles crazy about one-armed pygmy Saddam Hussein"
All green, with both the photo and COPY TILE for Prince Charles!
This one says "Prissy bureaucrat rejects two-faced beer-bellied evil hot dog murderer and then mugs king kong"
If you go for mixed colors or black COPY TILES, make it as long and beautiful as you can
This headline is "Strange witch cheats amazing bean role tortures shocking junky"
A sexy woman, what appears to be a burning carrot and what appears to be a glory hole. This one was tough

We all dreaded Bill’s turn as EDITOR. But I have to say he was actually a lot more fair than I had expected. But he wiped the floor with us in scoring. Keri, John and I were pretty close in scores, and Bill beat John by over 40 points. 

play or pass

Play a couple of times if you find it cheap. You need a group that is at least attempting to be fair in scoring. But ultimately this is like a lot of games where you are required to be creative – you get out what you put in. I don’t think the replay value is high, and you go through nearly 100 of the 256 photo cards in a single play. But it can be absurd and ridiculous fun for a limited time.