The Rules of Concentration

Concentration had a simple format. Two players took turns trying to match prizes on a board with 30 numbered panels (25 with Trebek); each successful match credited the player with that prize and revealed parts of an underlying rebus puzzle. The first contestant to solve the puzzle won all the prizes credited to him/her. If the player matched FORFEIT ONE GIFT or TAKE ONE GIFT cards, a prize had to be forfeited or taken immediately. A player was allowed to call numbers as long as he/she could match prizes. A player’s turn ended when he/she called two numbers that were not attached to matching prizes.

Also hidden on the board were two Wild Cards (three with Trebek); a Wild Card was an automatic match with whatever else the player called. In the early 1970s, a car was awarded if the player called two Wild Cards in the same turn. Bob Clayton used to say between rounds: “When you call that double Wild Card, whether you win the game or not, what you do win is a Nova Coupe by Chevrolet.” He would then do a voice-over of a short film promo of a Nova driving down what looked like a desert road. (courtesy of Michael Kotler)

Jason Bereza offers this information on Jack Narz’ syndicated Concentration:

  1. Two contestants competed for the entire show.
  2. At the start of each game, Narz revealed four of the prizes as announcer Johnny Olson described them. The rebuses were now in full color.
  3. The first game had two Wild Cards, and the second had four. A player who matched two Wild Cards won $250 cash, regardless of the outcome of the game.
  4. The TAKE ONE GIFT cards were still used, but the FORFEIT ONE GIFT cards were gone. At the same time, Narz introduced other special cards, such as Free Look (which automatically revealed that part of the rebus) and Bonus Number (which, if matched, allowed two extra picks).
  5. In the 1977/78 season, the Double Play round could be played for up to three prize packages in addition to the car. The contestant determined his/her prize by playing a matching game before Double Play, with the four prizes hidden on a nine-panel board. If the Wild Card was uncovered during this stage, the contestant played for all of the prizes revealed to that point.

On Classic Concentration, whenever a player uncovered a Wild Card and a prize or a TAKE, the natural match was automatically revealed. Matching two Wild Cards credited the player with $500, and finding the third Wild Card immediately afterward was worth another $500. Therefore, a contestant could reveal as many as five pieces of the rebus on one turn.

The CC board had no FORFEITs but two pairs of TAKEs. The TAKEs had to be matched by color, but the player was allowed to save a TAKE for later use. The CC board had its own special cards: Cashpot (which started at $500 and increased by $100 every day until a player solved a rebus with the Cashpot credited to him/her) and 5 Bonus Car Seconds.

Original Concentration did not have a bonus round, but it did have special features (described later). The Narz bonus round was Double Play, in which a contestant could win a car by solving two fully revealed rebuses in 10 seconds. Bill Frank recalls a filler “Money Game”, which Narz played with the two contestants if time permitted after the second rebus round. No head start was offered in this game. Instead of the standard prizes, the players had to match amounts of foreign currency; Narz would note the equivalent in U.S. dollars when a match was made.

The Trebek bonus round also offered cars, but the object was to match seven car names on a 15-panel board within the allotted time. Success meant that the contestant won the last car matched. The base time was 35 seconds; five seconds were added to the timer on every defeat or when a contestant won “5 Bonus Car Seconds” in a rebus round. At first a contestant played the car round as long as he/she won rebus rounds, but later car winners were retired as champions.

The special features in the original Concentration included “The Cash Wheel” (1960), “The Envelope” and its unknown contents (1962), the annual “Challenge of the Champions” (begun in 1963) and the “$100,000 Shower of Money”. Concentration also had special games: international theme weeks, anniversary games with celebrity players, Halloween costume games and Christmas charity games with celebrities in Santa Claus suits (the stars played for the show’s favorite charity, CARE).

Here’s a sample board from Gene Davis in Nashville. Don’t try to solve the rebus — it has no solution!

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