Roanoke – the Star City Game

Recently, our family stumbled upon a rare find at a yard sale: a mint condition board game called “Roanoke: the Star City Game.” This 25 year old collectible is (in the experience of our family) a fine way to have some family fun while affirming our identity as Roanokers.

So this board game is, in the words of the creators, “Similar to other popular board games” (*ahem Monopoly ahem*), but with Roanoke Valley properties and attractions taking the place of venues from some other, oh, hypothetical New Jersey beach city.

My kids were amused by this game for several reasons. First, many of the properties on the board are places they know and love. There’s apparently more satisfaction in “owning” the Transportation Museum or Mill Mountain Zoo than in some random Boardwalk or Pacific Avenue. Second, they enjoy seeing which of their favorite places are considered most valuable. Why does the Hotel Roanoke cost twice as much as the Mill Mountain Star? And the mall is more valuable than the Transportation Museum? Really? Third, the game builds in some well designed twists on “other popular board games” which my kids liked. Instead of jail, you get to go “relax” at Mill Mountain Coffee Shop. You have an accident and have to go to Carilion hospital for surgery. Oh, and the cards are full of references to (and logos for) 25-year-old Roanoke businesses, a good portion of which no longer exist.

On top of playing a vintage game that is connected to our everyday lives, the Star City Game has some minor educational value for the kids. All the prices are inflated from the original “other popular board game”, so there’s some math involved in making change for their transactions. (As of yet they find nothing particularly amusing in having to pay $1000 for dinner at Corned Beef and Co.) And of course it’s a learning experience about real world economics… at least, the part about forcing your competitors out of business and jacking up prices. Maybe not the part about collecting free money every time you pass “Go” (or is this just a subversive way of normalizing the idea of Universal Basic Income?).

Our kids aren’t yet at the stage where they can appreciate a hardcore, days-long, wheeling and dealing game of Monopoly, which is perhaps just as well. As I recall from my childhood, Monopoly can turn mild-mannered fathers and uncles into rather cut-throat horse-traders. But for now, we’ll just enjoy a good laugh when we get to “go directly to Mill Mountain Coffee Shop” without “crossing the Skywalk.”

Since nabbing our game, we have seen others around at antique markets. So if you see one, grab it and spend some entertaining family game nights jockeying to control the purse strings of Roanoke! 

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Tim Carr

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