An `80s Houston Flashback, Via A Board Game

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What did you do last Friday night? I played a board game with an old friend and her parents. Twice. And I could have gone for a third time, but the folks were tired and wanted to go to bed. The game: Boomtown Houston.

It came out in 1980, and my friend Carolyn’s dad, Bill Merriman, did the drawings for it. Another guy, Robert Heineman, designed it. It’s kind of like Monopoly, but I think it’s better.

Boomtown is a strategy game simple in concept but surprisingly difficult to master. The board features several groups of properties – Rice, Montrose, River Oaks, Downtown, Bellaire, West U. and others. Four people can play, as characters Billy Bob, Fast Eddie, Aunt Hattie and Day Bue, charmingly drawn in old-fashioned style by Merriman.

Each player starts out with a certain amount of money and bids against the others, trying to build real estate empires. At the end of the game, players total the value of their properties based on how many empires they’ve built.

The game is pretty much impossible to find these days, but people from a certain era could have one stashed away somewhere. Carolyn remembers her family having a bunch of Boomtowns stacked in a closet. For years, whenever someone’s birthday rolled around, it was time to get out a Boomtown and wrap it up.

But recently, she remembered the game and asked her parents to get it out. At first they couldn’t find it, and she was afraid the once bounteous Boomtown supply was completely gone. They eventually found a few copies, some of them wrapped.

The winner of both our games? Bill Merriman, a.k.a. Billy Bob, who bid his way to a lucrative River Oaks empire, among others. I demand a rematch.

Cathy Matusow

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