The Game of LIFE is one of America’s earliest and most enduring board games. First introduced in 1860 by the Milton Bradley company, the game was originally called The Checkered Game of Life. Even in its early stages, the game we still play today had the same premise, with players moving around the board and passing through the different stages of life, including going to college or going straight to work, getting married, having children and eventually retiring — hopefully with a fortune in the bank.
As with any board game, The Game of LIFE had specific rules that have changed somewhat over time, particularly with the introduction of special themed versions like the Pirates of the Caribbean edition. The basic version played today first appeared in 1960, 100 years after the initial introduction. Before you start to play The Game of LIFE, you need to learn the rules, set up the game and dole out some startup cash to each player. If you’ve lost your instructions, here’s the breakdown of how much money you start with as well as the other key rules of gameplay.
Setting Up the Game
In addition to handing out startup money, you must set up other cards and items before you can play the game, including snapping 3D pieces and the spinner onto the board. After shuffling the pile of LIFE tiles, four tiles must be drawn and placed next to Millionaire Estates. The remaining tiles are drawn by players during the game. In the most common recent version of the game, cards must be separated into four themed decks: Career Cards, Salary Cards, House Deeds and Stocks.
Older versions of the game may include other types of cards, such as Share the Wealth and Long-Term Investments, while newer specialty versions may include cards for Pets, Actions, Adventures and more. If applicable (depends on version), Spin-to-Win tiles (and any other version-specific accessories) are placed face down near the board, and the Spin-to-Win colored strip is positioned along one edge of the game board. Cards for Bank Loans, Homeowner’s Insurance and Automobile Insurance are separated and placed near the board within easy reach of players.
Between two and six players can play The Game of LIFE. Each player picks a car and a blue or pink peg to represent themselves as the driver in the car. One player is chosen to be the banker throughout the course of the game. This player sorts the money into separate piles by denomination and gives each player $10,000 to begin The Game of LIFE.
How Does the Game of LIFE Begin?
Before you begin the game, you must decide whether you want to go to college or start a career immediately. If you decide to go to college, you immediately take out a loan for $40,000 and choose a Career Card that says “Degree Required” as well as a Salary Card. If you decide to immediately start a career, you choose a Career Card and then move your car to the corresponding spaces (Start Career or Start College). College careers offer higher salaries but immediately put players in debt. Once you are on the appropriate starting space, you can spin the wheel to move and take your turn.
How Does Gameplay Progress?
As the game progresses, you move along the path on the board, landing on spaces with different colors for different purposes. Most spaces are orange, and you simply follow the directions on the space (if applicable). If you land on a blue space, the directions listed on the space are optional. If you land on a green space, you collect your salary from the banker. As soon as you encounter a red space, you must stop immediately, even if there are moves left on your turn, and follow the instructions on the space. Red spaces include Job Search, Get Married and Buy a House, all tasks that players must complete in The Game of LIFE.
If you land on a LIFE space, you can choose a LIFE tile from the LIFE tile pile. Don’t look at the back of the tile! These game perks aren’t revealed until the end of the game. The board also includes special spaces that may require you to pay money to another player or the bank. These include spaces related to your career or another player’s career as well as spaces for paying taxes.
How to Purchase Insurance Protection and Take Out Loans
You can buy homeowner’s insurance, automobile insurance or stocks at the beginning of the game or at the beginning of any of your turns — but not at the end of your turn. Insurance can protect your car or house from damage or theft, and stocks pay out when any player spins the number on your stock on the wheel. You may also take out loans from the bank at any time, but these must all be paid back when you retire.
How to Retire and Finish the Game
When you get to the retirement space at the end of the game board, several things happen. First, you must repay any outstanding loans you took out during the game. Then, put your deed and insurance out of play, but keep your stocks in front of you, so you can continue to collect on stock payouts from spins until everyone else has reached retirement. If you believe you will end the game with the most money, park your car at Millionaire Estates. If not, park at Countryside Acres.
Important: If you park at Millionaire Estates, your secret LIFE tiles aren’t safe from other players, who can still take them if they land on a LIFE space on the board, and the LIFE tile game pile is empty. If you park at Countryside Acres, no one can take tiles from you.
After everyone has retired, the top contenders parked at Millionaire Estates count their money, and the richest player parked there takes the four tiles that were placed there at the beginning of the game. If there is a tie, each player takes two of the tiles. The player who has the most money at the end of the game — no matter where they are parked — is the winner of The Game of LIFE.