Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Game Show Board Games: Password Plus (2nd edition, 1979)

Five years ago, when I did a feature on the board game version of the original Password, I promised to do a future post on Password Plus. I didn't expect to take five years getting to it, much less to have moved to a new blog in the meantime, but the future is finally here!

The television version of Password Plus aired from 1979-1982, and represented a return of the Password concept after just a four-year absence. Like the original game, Password Plus is designed for four players, in two teams of two players each. One player on each team will give one-word clues for the round while the other tries to get the "password" for those clues. The main difference between Password Plus and its predecessor involved the "Password Puzzle," in which five "regular" password clues referred to a single overarching person, place, or thing. Players now advanced in the game by solving the puzzles, rather than the individual passwords themselves. However, the scoring system is one area in which the board game differs, if only slightly, from the television show it emulates. On the show, a game is won at $300, and the first two puzzles are worth $100 each, with the third and fourth (if necessary) puzzles worth $200 each. In the board game, every puzzle is worth $100, with just $200 winning a game (enabling an entire game to be completed within the three Password Puzzles visible on the game board). The game has one potential design flaw, in that both "clue givers" have access to the Password Puzzle answer for each set of words, and this could easily influence the kinds of clues they might give for the non-puzzle passwords intended to lead to that answer. I'm not sure how to avoid that problem unless a player is designated as "host" rather than playing the game with the others, and ultimately it's only a minor concern.

Once a game is won, the winning player gets to play "Alphabetics" for up to $5,000. Unlike many games that require a separate book or card to play the bonus games, the Password Plus board game includes the Alphabetics round on the same cards. The display card is raised just slightly to reveal a string of ten letters, in alphabetical order (starting with "F" in the example shown). Likewise, the corresponding clue card has all ten words, again in alphabetical order, at the bottom of the card below the three Password Puzzles for that game. The idea is to get one's partner to guess all ten passwords, as always using one-word clues only, within 60 seconds (using the sand timer provided with the game). As in the game, if an illegal clue is given (two words, using the intended password as a clue, hyphenated clues, or non-existent words), that word is tossed out and the ability to win the $5,000 is lost. However, Password Plus was somewhat unique among game shows in that contestants could still win "big" money rather than just the $100 per correct response. The $5,000 was simply reduced by $1,000 for each illegal clue given, so the player could still win, say, $4,000 if the other nine words are guessed correctly. The board game faithfully replicates this rule.

Wikipedia rightly points out that Password Plus and the later Super Password were virtually identical, with only slight changes in scoring and cash prize amounts. Milton Bradley released three editions of Password Plus, yet apparently no board game versions of Super Password at all (although Super Password was released in computer and electronic hand-held versions). Still, if you really, really wanted to play Super Password, you could do so with these materials with little difficulty. You'd just need to think up some hard-to-guess words to use for the "Cashword" bonus, which Password Plus doesn't have.

While Password Plus wasn't the last Password spin-off to get a physical board game, the next one wouldn't come for almost thirty years, when Million Dollar Password came to exist.* While I do indeed have the board game version of that show, too, I'd better not make any promises, lest it take another five years before I get to it!

*This, of course, isn't counting the several more recent board game versions of the original Password to have come out in the intervening years.

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