Battlestars bore a striking resemblance to Squares, except that it had only six celebrities who sat in triangles. Each celebrity was surrounded by three numbers forming a triangle around them. A randomizer selected one of the numbers, which corresponded to whichever celebrity would be asked the question. Also unlike Squares, the questions offered two possible answers. If a player "captured" all three numbers surrounding a star, they then had to "capture" two more in a similar fashion to win $500 and the game.
This show provides examples of:
- The Announcer: Rod Roddy (1981-82) and Charlie Tuna (1983). Roddy would later become known as the announcer on Press Your Luck and The Price Is Right, and Tuna as the announcer on Scrabble after Jay Stewart's departure from that series in 1986.
- Bonus Round:
- 1981-82: Battlestars Two (though it was often just called the "picture round"), which obscured a famous person's face under 16 blocks. Three blocks would be removed via scanning magnetically-encoded cards in a decoder, and later on a fourth one would be removed via a contestant's pick. Getting it with three/four blocks removed won $5,000 note , and each block afterward lowered the jackpot.
- 1983: The Main Event- this used the three celebrities the winner captured. Each was asked a multiple-choice question with three answers given, and the contestant could choose to agree or disagree with each. The contestant won $500 for each right answer, and a Progressive Jackpot if all were correct.
- Color-Coded Multiplayer: The panelists' backdrops turned either red or blue according to which contestant captured them. The champion was blue and the challenger was red, the reverse of what's usually seen on game shows.
- Golden Snitch: One player could light up numerous lights in a row, then lose due to missing a question and having the opponent light up the critical light.
- Obvious Rule Patch: In the first run, the Battlestars Two endgame originally just had the three blocks removed via cards; sometime around early December 1981, they started letting the contestants pick any number before the cards were scanned. However, this would often lead to a wasted pick (and hence having to scan another card), so they changed it quickly to have the contestant pick a number after the cards were scanned.
- Opening Narration:
- 1981-82: (names of the six celebrities). Those are the Battlestars! And here's the man in command, Alex Trebek!
- 1983: (names of the six celebrities), all on The New Battlestars! And here's the man in command, Alex Trebek!
- Panel Game
- Progressive Jackpot: For The Main Event endgame, the Battlestars Bonanza typically began with $5,000 cash plus a total of about $2,000-$3,000 in prizes, increasing until won.
- Recycled In Space: It's literally The Hollywood Squares IN SPACE!
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: for the first run, it went from a Hollywood Squares-esque front game, to an endgame involving magnetic cards revealing a famous face. When the New run came along, this was averted, as that run's endgame was actually relevant to the front game.