Just because I talk about Pay The Rent and the Showcase Showdown doesn't mean that's the only interesting stuff going on on The Price Is Right. They've got another pretty neat new pricing game, but it doesn't lend itself to thoughts about its strategy or game design. It's got great props, though: Rat Race.
The gimmick is there's an S-shaped race course for five mechanical and brightly colored rats. By correctly estimating the price of three small prizes, the contestant wins picks of up to three rats. The rats then are let go and run the race. The rat which comes in first wins a new car; second and third win smaller but still substantial prizes. And the contestant wins whatever prizes his or her chosen rats have won. This may sound a bit convoluted, but then the rules to the game show Card Sharks sound convoluted; when you see them in action, though, they're obvious.
As game design goes this is excellent all around: most importantly, the centerpiece has a nice big set of real objects moving around. Pricing games with motion film better than games without. (See also: Plinko, Cliff Hangers, Hole In One ... Or Two, and the late, lamented Penny Ante.) And the items and pricing ranges to win rats increase by an order of magnitude, so it's more exciting than the pretty-much-the-same-range of the small prizes for Cliff Hangers or Spelling Bee or such.
A loophole in the design I hadn't thought of came up this week, though: what happens if the contestant doesn't get any of the price ranges right? On Tuesday that exact situation happened, and Drew Carey admitted they couldn't really run the rat race while the Sad Trumpet Fanfare played. He told viewers at home to pick their own rat in their head and watch; they ran the rats while going out to commercial.
More remarkably than this, on Wednesday's show they played Rat Race again and the contestant got all the small prizes wrong again, forcing me to check whether I wasn't watching Tuesday's show by mistake a second time. Nope, according to the Showdown statistics I was gathering. They just had two bad players in successive shows. Weird.
Trivia: The International Labor Organization, formed as part of the same Paris Conference which formed the League of Nations, had representation from Germany from the start. Source: Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World, Margaret Macmillan.
Currently Reading: Summer Of Love, Lisa Mason. It putters along merrily along well-worn closed-time-loop battle-between-alternate-futures paths and then gets resolved in the squicky way.