Cullen appeared as a regular host or panelist on 31 TV game shows. Only seven
released home versions while Bill was associated with them. Here we have the
last of those seven, “Blockbusters,” released shortly before the incredibly
disappointing cancellation of the series by NBC.
“Blockbusters” was basically a demented version of tic-tac-toe, with a grid of twenty hexagons containing letters of the alphabet. Correctly answer a question with a word starting with the proper letter, and you capture that hexagon. A solo player needs to connect red from top to bottom, while a family pair connects white from side-to-side. The first to accomplish their goal wins the game and $500. Two-out-of-three wins the match and the right to play Gold Run. It was a simple, vastly-underrated, and ingenious game which deserved a longer life. Simply put, it was a million-dollar concept, captured perfectly by Milton-Bradley with game materials that look like they cost ten cents to make.
First, you set up the cardboard and transparent plastic gameboard, and insert one of six (wow, SIX!) twenty-hexagon grids into the window. And by the way, you’re not going crazy, the grids are arranged “upside-down” compared to the actual series.
The red and white hexagons packed with the game are flimsy little vinyl pieces that you rub onto the window until they stick, which is a bit of a chore. Also, the best thing you can do with this version is play it with a really dumb opponent, because the hexagons begin peeling and falling off once you get seven or so on there. This can be (slightly) remedied by just keeping the selections jumbled together on the board instead of branching out, but strategically, this isn’t always the best thing to do.
If you get through a whole match without getting frustrated, the winner plays Gold Run, modified in this game to use single-initial answers like the front game. No grudge there, as coming up with a pile of Gold Run boards would have been time-consuming and more costly (although in England, Gold Run was adapted as a deck of cards that might have worked rather nicely).
For such a good game show, this is a pretty unattractive game. The board is impractical, with a plain-looking orange, white, and red frame. The got the design of the gameboard wrong, and vinyl-on-plastic isn’t as reliable, as, say, solid plastic pieces inserted into frames might have been (and again, this is was England did with their “Blockbusters” game). These changes might have made the game more expensive, but I personally don’t mind paying a little more for better quality, and this game could have had a lot more quality injected into it.
sidenote, I may own the only American “Blockbusters” home version with a Gold
Run board. I picked this up from Ebay and opened the box to find that somebody
craving authenticity went ahead and made a Gold Run board. I don’t know what the
correct answers are, but note that one set of initials on the board is “B.C.”
Far be it for me to make presumptions, but if this person liked the game enough
to make their own Gold Run board, it stands to reason that they might include
Daddy Bill. (We’re also guessing that since it was 1982 and “Annie” was huge in
that year, A.Q. is probably Aileen Quinn. If you have guesses for any of the
other initials, we’d love to hear from you.)