LIFE, also known as The Game of Life, is a board game originally created in 1861 by Milton Bradley, as The Checkered Game of Life. The modern version was originally published in 1960 (then "endorsed" by Art Linkletter, with a circular picture of him on the box) by the Milton Bradley Company (now a subsidiary of Hasbro). Two to six players can participate in one game; however, variations of the game have been made to accommodate a maximum of eight or ten players.
The game was originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley as The Checkered Game of Life. This was the first game created by Bradley, a successful lithographer, whose major product until that time was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a clean shaven face, which did not do very well once the subject grew his now-famous beard. The game sold 45,000 copies by the end of its first year. Like many games from the 19th century, such as the The Mansion of Happiness by S.B. Ives in 1843, it had a strong moral message.
Bradley's game did not include dice, but instead used a teetotum, a six sided top (dice were considered too similar to gambling).
The game board was essentially a modified checkerboard. The object was to land on the "good" spaces and collect 100 points. A player could gain fifty points toward this goal by reaching "Happy Old Age" in the far corner, opposite "Infancy" where one began.
In 1960, the one hundredth anniversary of the game, the form of the game now known as The Game of Life, was introduced, designed by Reuben Klamer. There were many re-publishings over the years, including 1959, 1961, 1966, 1978, 1985, and 1992.
The game consists of a track, on which players travel by spinning a small wheel with spaces numbered 1 through 10, located in the middle of the board. The board also contains small mountains
, buildings, and other similar pieces, making the playing area three-dimensional
. Playing pieces are small, colored plastic automobiles
which come in six different colors (red, blue, white, yellow, orange, and green), and each pawn has six holes in the top in which the blue and pink "people pegs" are placed throughout the game as the player "gets married" and has or adopts "children". (Some "early modern" editions have eight automobiles.)
Each game also includes a setup for a bank, which includes play money (in denominations $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, and $100,000), insurance policies (automobile, life, fire, and/or homeowners' insurance depending on the version), $20,000 promissory notes, and stock certificates. Other tangibles vary with the game version.
The Game of Life
copyrighted by the Milton Bradley company in 1963 had some differences from later versions. For one, once a player reached the Day of Reckoning, he could end up at the "Poor Farm", or he could become a Millionaire Tycoon and move on to Millionaire Acres.
This version had Art Linkletter as the spokesman, included his picture on the $100,000 bills, and a rousing endorsement from Linkletter on the cover of the box. It was advertised as a "Milton Bradley 100th Anniversary Game" and as "A Full 3-D Action Game."
To determine one's salary, a player could travel one of two routes at the beginning of the game. The shorter route was entitled Business
and resulted in the player receiving a set salary of $5,000 per Pay Day. The longer route was entitled College
and could earn the player anywhere between $6,000 and $20,000 per Pay Day. Both of these initial routes joined back together at the first pay day.
About halfway through the production of this version, many dollar values doubled (possibly to reflect inflation
). This description focuses on the later version with the larger dollar amounts.
The late 1980s version also replaced the familiar convertibles from earlier versions with Chrysler
-esque minivans. (1960s era convertibles were still used in some early 1980s sets.)
To determine one's salary, a player could travel one of two routes at the beginning of the game. The shorter route was entitled Business
and resulted in the player receiving a set salary of $12,000 per Pay Day you land on. The longer route was entitled College
and could earn the player anywhere between $16,000 and $50,000 for every Pay Day you land on. Both of these initial routes joined back together at the first Pay Day.
"Share the Wealth" cards
Distributed with this game were a number of "Share the Wealth" cards. Each player started out with one, and earned another card if "Pay Day" was reached by exact count. There were three types: Collect, Pay, and Exemption, and they were used as follows:
- If a player landed on a space where money was collected from the bank, or received a Pay Day, an opponent with a Collect card could steal half the collected money from that player.
- If a player landed on a space in which money was paid to the bank, or had to pay Taxes, the player could present a Pay card to an opponent, who immediately had to pay half of the first player's penalty.
- If a player had an Exemption Card, a Share the Wealth card levied was canceled; both cards were then removed from the game.
Upon adding a member to the family (getting married, having children, etc.) the player "collected presents" from each of the other players. At marriage, this amount was determined by spinning the wheel: spinning 1, 2, or 3 was worth $2,000 per opponent; 4, 5, or 6 was worth $1,000; 7 through 10 earned nothing. In the case of children, the player was awarded a flat $1,000; if the player had twins or adopted two children, the amount was doubled. A house cost a flat $40,000, and buying one was one of the red spaces (i.e. all players had to buy a house at the time they landed on or passed this space.)
Insurance and Stock
In this version, the three insurance policies (automobile, life, and fire) prevented the player from being affected by a number of "tragedy" spaces throughout the board (house fires, car wrecks, etc.) which cost the player a significant amount of money if he/she landed on it without being insured. Buying life insurance activated certain spaces which awarded dividends if landed on. Automobile and fire insurance could be lost permanently if the player landed on a "careless" or "reckless driver" space (at least one edition had the humorous misspelling "Wreckless driver".) Life insurance had the possibility of "maturing" with large financial gains if a person holding a policy landed on the corresponding space.
The Stock certificate played a much more important (and realistic) role in this version than in later versions. Purchasing a Stock certificate cost $50,000; however, many of the high-payout spaces (such as "striking oil" with its $480,000 payout) were only active if the player owned stock. In addition, a couple of white spaces allowed the player the opportunity to "play the market" if he or she desired, in a game similar to the Lucky Day space (explained below). If the bearer landed on a space indicating a rise in stock prices, the player collected money accordingly, and if he/she landed on a "stock prices drop" space, they likewise lost money.
Several of the spaces were marked "Lucky Day"; if the player landed on a Lucky Day, he/she immediately received $20,000 (paid with two $10,000 bills.) The player could keep the money or gamble it for the chance to turn it into $300,000. To gamble, the player placed each of the $10,000 bills on one of the numbers printed on a large "number strip" provided with the game, and spun the wheel. If it landed on an empty number, the player lost the $20,000; however, if it landed on a number with a $10,000 bill, he/she was given $300,000. Comparing the payout (15:1) to the odds of winning (5:1), it was always advantageous to gamble here.
When a player reached the end of the game, s/he could retire to the "Millionaire" space if s/he thought s/he had the most money. In some circumstances, all players would retire here after reaching the end of the game, at which point they would count their money. The player with the most money won the game.
If a player was trailing near the end of the road, s/he could make one final gamble in an attempt to become the "Millionaire Tycoon". They selected one number on the number strip, and placed their car on it. Upon spinning the wheel, 9 of the 10 numbers forced the player to move to the "Bankrupt" space, losing the game. However, if the correct number was selected, they became the Millionaire Tycoon and automatically won the game.
The Game of Life
was updated in 1992 to reward players for "good" behavior, such as recycling trash and helping the homeless ("penalty" spaces in previous versions.) The 1992 version of the game proceeds as follows:
Careers and Salaries
There are still two routes at the beginning of the game, now labeled Career
. Selecting the College route now places the player in debt from the very start; however, the probability of landing a better job and a higher salary is much better than selecting the Career route. If the person lands on a "trade a salary card" space, the player had the option of "trading up". At the shared end of both paths, the player's career and salary are decided by chance. A Career Card (with such occupations as a teacher, police officer, athlete, and travel agent), as well as a Salary Card (ranging in $10,000 increments from $20,000 to $100,000) are selected, as outlined below.
If a player chooses Career, the shorter path is taken. At its end, one occupation card and one salary card are chosen. If the selected Career card says "Degree Required", another Career Card must be drawn. The player continues the game with that specific career and salary unless another event affects the player.
If a player chooses College, two Promissory Notes must be taken from the bank for tuition, and must take the longer path (which in this version is also more "dangerous" than the Career path.) However, at its end, three Career cards and one Salary card are chosen, and may choose one from each set after looking at them.
Types of spaces
As in the 1980s version, most of the spaces on the game board are orange, and their instructions are only followed if they are landed on. The "Pay Day" spaces are green and impact the player when landed on or passed over. Red spaces now always signify a major life event (e.g. graduation
, buying a house, retirement
), and must be stopped on even if the spin is greater than the number needed to land on them. The "decision" spaces are now blue, and if landed on, the player can choose to follow them or do nothing. "Taxes Due" is now a normal orange space, and is also only active if landed on.
Most of the spaces requiring the player to pay money to the bank have a symbol next to them, each of which corresponds to that on one of the career cards. If any opponent has that career card, the money is paid to that opponent instead of the bank. If the player himself has that career, no money is paid.
There is only one space on the board that will award the Police Officer money from another player. This is due to a special rule regarding this career. If any player spins 10 while an opponent is the Police Officer, that opponent may collect a $5,000 "fine" from the spinning player for "speeding".
A major change to the game in this version is the collection of "LIFE Tiles" as one progresses through the game. Every time a player lands on a space marked with the LIFE logo, he/she collects a LIFE tile, (a small rectangular game piece with the "LIFE" logo on one side and an event on the other along with a sum of money collected from this accomplishment). (These also replace the previous "collecting presents" rule.) On each of these tiles is a major life event (e.g. climbing Mt. Everest
, curing the common cold
, building a better mousetrap
, etc.). Each of these tiles bears an amount from $50,000 to $250,000. The tiles are not revealed until all players have "retired", at which point they are flipped over and their total is added to the player's money total.
If at any time the draw pile of LIFE Tiles is depleted, a player may steal one from any active player remaining in the game, or certain "retired" players (see Retirement section below.)
Buying a house
One of the red spaces in the game is buying a house. At this point in the game, the player must immediately draw one House Deed and pay to the bank whatever that house costs (ranging from a $200,000 Victorian mansion, to a $40,000 "split-level" shack.) From then on, homeowners' insurance may be purchased for a price listed on the house deed.
Insurance and Stock
In this version, there are two insurance policies (automobile and home owners') that prevent the player from being affected by a number of "tragedy" spaces throughout the board. Purchasing a Stock certificate still costs $50,000, however its role is very limited in this series. Upon purchasing stock, the player chooses a stock card numbered between 1 and 9. From that point, any time any player spins that number, the stockholder collects $10,000 from the bank. A player may only hold one stock card at a time unless landing on a space marked "Stock Market Zooms", at which point a free stock card is chosen. Likewise, "Stock Market Slumps" costs the stockholder one stock card. Each number has only one stock and will not be available to others as they are being purchased.
When a player reaches the end of the game, there are two options to "retire". One is to place their car at Millionaire Estates (largely unchanged from the previous version), or, may retire at Countryside Acres (previously the "Bankrupt" space). Each has its benefits and risks.
If a player thinks they will end the game with the most cash, the best option is to retire at Millionaire Estates. Four LIFE Tiles are placed here before the start of the game. After all players have finished the game, they count their cash on hand; whoever has the most cash receives these four tiles (in the rare occurrence of a tie, they are split). However, if other players are still playing the game and the LIFE Tile draw pile is empty, these players may still steal tiles from anyone retired at this space.
If a player is not confident in the amount of cash on hand, they may retire to Countryside Acres. By retiring here, they collect one LIFE tile, and no other players can steal tiles from him/her for the remainder of the game.
After all players have retired, the amounts on the LIFE Tiles are revealed, and whoever has the most money (cash on hand added to the combined total of one's LIFE Tiles + house value) is the winner.
In 1998, a CD-ROM
version of the game was produced by Hasbro which added computerized animations and short animations to the game. An option was also given for players to compete in games over the Internet
Two versions of the game were offered on the CD-ROM. The Classic game followed the rules of the current board game. An Enhanced Game was also offered which replaced the LIFE Tiles with "Life's Little Games" (simple arcade type games which offered the player a chance to win bonus money.) Several features of the 1980s version were also resurrected for this version of the game, such as "collecting presents" for marriage and kids (one spin at $2,000 times spin for marriage, one spin at $1,000 times spin for a child, two spins at $1,000 per spin for twins) and exacting "Revenge" on other players (If one landed on a Pay Day space, one would take an amount of money equal to one's salary from a player of one's choice. Players retired at Countryside Acres were presumably immune from being selected). Also the routine for retiring changed. Retired players still spun the wheel on their turn, this time to gain or lose money. The difference between Countryside Acres and Millionaire Estates is that the former only had one space in which the player could lose money, but the payouts were lower. The latter offered bigger payouts, but also had more numerous and severe penalty spaces, thus adding more risk to retiring here. This changed retiring strategy quite a bit, making come-from-behind victories possible if Millionaire Estate retirees' luck turned for the worse:
| Number spun
|| Countryside Acres
|| Millionaire Estates |
|| -$25,000 |
|| $25,000 |
|| -$50,000 |
|| $50,000 |
|| -$75,000 |
|| $75,000 |
|| -$100,000 |
|| $100,000 |
|| -$150,000 |
|| $200,000 |
In the Enhanced game, when a player landed on a space that would ordinarily award them a LIFE tile, they instead spun the wheel. Random items were assigned to each space, being either a cash amount or one of "Life's Little Games". The exceptions were: 10, which allowed the player to spin again and multiplied the player's winnings from whatever they landed on. The space started at Double, and the multiplier increased by one for each successive spin of 10; and 5, which was marked "Revenge" and gave the player another spin, but not before choosing one opponent to take one's winnings from the "little game" from (or presumably give to, if the player finished with a minus score in Up or Down). Players retired at Countryside Acres are immune from being selected.
The values used in "Life's Little Games" were typically $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, and $100,000. Regardless of whether a player clicks DONE, exhausts all turns, or (in the case of Skunk Money) loses the accumulated winnings, all boxes are revealed before the next player spins.
The player has four tries to reveal as high an amount as possible (similar to Punch a Bunch
on The Price is Right
; ironically, TPIR also has an unrelated pricing game called "Safe Crackers
"). If satisfied that (s)he cannot achieve a higher amount with any remaining attempts, the player clicks DONE.
Up or Down
There is one of each denomination from $5,000 to $100,000. There is also one of each denomination in the negative, which subtracts this amount from a player's potential gain (and is painted the complementary color
). A player can choose as many spots as seen fit and stop at any time by clicking the DONE box.
Get a Life
All letters in the word L-I-F-E must be uncovered in six clicks or fewer. Every letter appears alone in three different spots on the grid, in the form and colors of the Life ident. If the word is revealed in four clicks, the player gains $100,000. In five clicks, the gain is $75,000. In six, it is $50,000. During the course of this game, a corner display, again in the form of the LIFE ident, keeps track of the player's progress by indicating which letters have and have not yet been uncovered.
There are two of each denomination from $5,000 to $100,000. The player has six tries to reveal two identical amounts. The game ends upon a match or exhausting all six turns.
There are no $75,000 or $100,000 spots on this board. One spot is worth $50,000; two are worth $20,000; six are worth $10,000. One spot reads DOUBLE YOUR WINNINGS and thus doubles the potential amount. The other two spots contain a skunk
. If a skunk is uncovered, the game ends and no money is gained. A player can stop at any time by clicking the DONE box.
There are two of each denomination from $5,000 to $100,000. Like Treasure Chest, the idea is to uncover two spots containing the same denomination. Unlike Treasure Chest, a player can achieve more than one match over the course of the game. In this take on the Memory Game, the player has four tries and therefore eight clicks to get as many matches as possible.
Only included in the PC version, this game involved a player moving a crane left or right on top of a game board very similar to Plinko
from The Price is Right
. When the player was satisfied with the crane's position, they dropped the ball into the board, where it would land in a slot on the bottom. The slots were labeled with money amounts ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. No more than one ball at a time could occupy a slot. If a second ball did land in a slot, both balls would be destroyed, leaving the slot empty. After six balls, the total winnings were tallied and awarded to the player. The player could also stop early by clicking the "stop" button.
The Highway Patrol rule was simply created for amusement and extra spice for the game.
How it works:
Players must first vote who will be the Highway Patrol officer, who will be the one to monitor and alert any player that has spun a 10. That player will then be required to pay the bank $5,000 (in the early version of the game $10,000 was the amount required). This rule was later removed due to confusion on whether the money should go to the bank or the designated Highway Officer.
In the 1980s (present) version of the game, the rule was brought back and the following changes specified for the "Highway Patrol" rule:
1. The players are required to vote for a highway patrol officer (optional).
2. The Violator must pay $5,000.
3. The payment goes to the bank.
Another PC exclusive, this game was essentially the converse of Crane Dump. It involved the player moving a white bucket between the slots of Crane Dump. When they were satisfied with the bucket's position, they dropped the ball from the crane above (the crane in this game was stationary) in hopes that it would land in the bucket. The player was allotted six balls; each ball that successfully landed in the bucket awarded the player $50,000, making the maximum possible winnings $300,000.
During the first release of Milton Bradley's "The Game of Life", Consumers/Players often complained about the lack of rules and instructions. In response Hasbro made more rules and more technical terms or parts within the game. The following were the specifications or changes made by Hasbro in the production of the game (1980 - present):
1. The amount of money given to each player at the start of the game $50,000 was changed to $10,000
2. The number of Share the Wealth cards handed out in the start
1x card = 3x cards
3. The number of tokens in the set 8x cars = 6x cars
4. Starter Homes resale value was increased
5. The Highway Patrol was created (See how it works in the "Highway Patrol" Section)
6. Some College Careers were edited
7. Career bonuses were added
8. There were no career cards, just career spaces
2000 (40th anniversary) edition
A 40th anniversary edition was released in 2000. The biggest change to this game was the replacement of the Travel Agent with a Computer Consultant, and changes to corresponding career spaces.
An updated version of the game's 1992 format was released in 2005 with a few gameplay changes. The new Game of Life
was more realistic and tried to add in extra elements to reduce chance, although it is still primarily chance based and still rewards players for taking risks.
In the 1992 version one who started College would receive $40,000 in debt. The current version places such a player $100,000 in debt. One still receives the same benefits for starting College as in the 1992 version.
You can only get the lower salary cards for a starting wage. Another addition to the careers was that of special attributes. For instance the Rock Star career track has a special ability that if an 8, 9, or 10 is rolled in two consecutive turns the player gets a "Big Break" and automatically gets the yellow $100,000 salary card. Another special attribute is that the Teacher can get a "Summer Job" which allows them to collect the payment of on-board spots of another career. In addition, the computer technician's prior $5,000 bonus was increased to $50,000.
Selling one's house
There is an addition of a new space where a player can sell his house. The sale price of one's house is determined by multiplying (or dividing) the original price of the house by an amount determined by spinning the wheel (similar to the enhanced game on the CD-ROM). If a low number is spun, the player loses profit, a mid-range number breaks even, and a high number nets a tremendous profit. If one sells his house in this manner, another house is bought, and the process is repeated (without option) at the end of the game.
LIFE tile reductions
In the 1992 version the LIFE tiles ranged in value from $50,000 to $250,000. This often changed the outcome of the game as it made it possible for the poorest person in the game to win right at the end when they were redeemed. To alleviate this problem, the LIFE tiles have been reduced in value down to a range between $10,000 and $50,000.
Jobs in Life
- Doctor: Degree required.
- Computer consultant: Any time the spinner stops between numbers or comes off the track, collect $50,000 to fix it.
- Artist: Collect $10,000 from a player who buys your art (spins a 1).
- Salesperson: Collect 5,000 when another player buys stock or insurance.
- Athlete: You may trade in 4 life tiles to get the yellow salary card ($100,000).
- Accountant: Degree required.
- Teacher: You may draw a career card after all players have a job. You get the benefits but not an extra salary.
- Entertainer: If two 8s, 9s, 10s, are spun in a row, replace your salary with the yellow salary card ($100,000) if necessary.
- Police Officer: Collect $10,000 from any opponent who speeds (spins a 10).
Yet another version of the game was released in 2007 with a few more gameplay changes. The primary change is that all of the jobs except the Police Officer lost their special abilities.
Jobs in Life
- Salesperson: Salary $20-50,000; taxes $5,000
- Hair Stylist: Salary $30-60,000; taxes $10,000
- Mechanic: Salary $30-60,000; taxes $10,000
- Police Officer: Salary $40-70,000; taxes $15,000; collect $10,000 from anyone spinning a 10
- Entertainer: Salary $50,000 (no max); taxes $20,000
- Athlete: Salary $60,000 (no max); taxes $25,000
- Teacher: Salary $40-70,000; taxes $15,000
- Computer Designer: Salary $50-80,000; taxes $20,000
- Accountant: Salary $70-110,000; taxes $30,000
- Veterinarian: Salary $80-120,000; taxes $35,000
- Lawyer: Salary $90,000 (no max); taxes $40,000
- Doctor: Salary $100,000 (no max); taxes $45,000
- The game was endorsed by Art Linkletter in the 1960s. It is now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. It spawned a book, The Game of Life: How to Succeed in Real Life No Matter Where You Land (Running Press), by Lou Harry.
- In the REM song Man on the Moon, The Game of Life is mentioned along with other board games.
- The highest sum of money that a player can earn in the most current "Game of Life" is $3,115,000 this is taking into account that the player lands on all of the spaces that give money and that the player has the highest salary amount.
- Some critics have noted that luck plays too large a role in determining the winner of the game, with Life Cards, which are essentially random being the prime determinant of the winner. Aspects of the game where a user has to make a decision, such as attending college or purchasing insurance, have a very small effect in the outcome.