Sunday, March 4, 2012

Life: If only it were as easy as start with a car, get a job, get married, get a house, have kids, retire.

Today we're talking about the classic game LIFE.  I have to be honest upfront and say that this is one of my least favorite classic games.  My sister loved it, but to me, the biggest choice was which path to choose when they went separate ways, and if I should buy stock in a number or not.  To me, the game was far too much luck, and no choice, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

There are a few things to like about the Game of Life.  It is a fairly accurate portrayal of the major events that can happen in one's life.  It does reward going to college, so that's something positive to take away.  It does require one to get married before having kids, and not to play any kind of personal view card, but being married before having kids is a good value to teach kids playing the game.  The board is visually appealing, especially with the hills and buildings giving it a 3D view.  In the version I have, the pieces are of good quality, the people pegs fit in the minivans without issue, and the tokens and cards are high quality.

As for the negatives, there are many.  A player is completely at the mercy of the spinner most of the time. Spin high consistently and you'll finish early, but the odds are you won't have enough life tiles to actually win.  Spin low consistently and you won't get bonuses at the end, but you should have a lot of life tiles to make up the difference and then some.  That brings me to the next point, life tiles.  The distribution is too random.  Someone could get 3 tiles, and each have $250,000, while someone else gets 6 tiles at $50,000, and is nowhere close to the person who only got three.  In addition, the job pool is fine, but determining salary based on a random pull is just an odd choice, same thing with the house.  In fact, it's better to have the cheapest house possible because there's no appreciation or resale of the home at the end.  It's a great idea for a house, but the mechanic makes no sense.

I don't want to bash Life too much. It was a game that my mom and sister would actually play, and that resulted in some good family time.  It is an easy enough game to play with young kids, and it gives people a journey to go through.  There isn't a lot of competitiveness or player interaction here, but it's kinda fun to watch what other people are doing.

One improvement I would offer is to use a d6 for movement instead of the 10 spot spinner.  It would make the game a bit longer, but it would also keep players closer, and give more chances to earn life tiles.

There aren't many hobby games that use the theme or the mechanics of Life, so it's hard to find a comparison.  Games where you roll the dice, or spin a spinner and see what happens just don't make for strategic gameplay.  The closest game I know of is This Game is Bonkers, but that's only in mechanics.

I have played and enjoyed Star Wars Life, but copies are hard to find these days, and only getting harder to find.  If you like Life and Star Wars and you see this at a garage sale or thrift store, PICK IT UP! It's worth it.


  1. I really liked Life as a kid. The version you're referring to is a newer reboot they did in either the late 90s or early 2000s. There were no life tiles before then, which is nice since they're cluttery and really serve no purpose other than making you feel like you have a ton of money at the end of the game. In the earlier game, I feel like there were fewer components (no houses if I remember correctly), but possibly more places to fail. Does your version have insurance? I felt like that aspect was very realistic and strategic because you have to decide whether you spend your money early on to prevent disaster or do you push your luck and hope you don't land on a "House Fire" tile.

    1. It does have insurance, but that only furthers the problem. It's just one more part where luck plays in and you've either wasted money on something you don't need or kick yourself for not having what you do need.