The Game of Life, also known simply as Life, is a board game originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley, as The Checkered Game of Life. The Game of Life was America's first popular parlor game. The game simulates a person's travels through his or her life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. Two to six players can participate in one game. Variations of the game accommodate eight to ten players.
The modern version was originally published 100 years later, in 1960. It was created and co-designed by toy and game designer Reuben Klamer and was "heartily endorsed" by Art Linkletter. It is now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and an inductee into the National Toy Hall of Fame. It later spawned a book, The Game of Life: How to Succeed in Real Life No Matter Where You Land(Running Press), by Lou Harry.
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 well once the subject grew his 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 Mansion of Happiness byS. B. Ives in 1843, it had a strong moral message.
Bradley's game did not include dice, instead using a te totum, 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 50 points by reaching "Happy Old Age" in the upper-right corner, opposite "Infancy" where one began.
In 1960, the 100th anniversary of The Checkered Game of Life, the first modern version of The Game of Life, a collaboration between Reuben Klamer and Bill Markham, was introduced. The game was re-published many times over the years, including 1961, 1966, 1978, 1985, 1992, 2000, and 2005.
The modern game consists of a track on which players travel by spinning a small wheel (in the center of the board) with spaces numbered 1 through 10. The board also contains small mountains, buildings, and other three-dimensional objects. Playing pieces are small, colored, plastic automobiles which come in red, blue, white, yellow, orange, and green; each car has six holes in the top in which blue and/or pink "people pegs" are placed throughout the game as the player "gets married" and has or adopts "children". Some "early modern" editions have eight cars.
Each game also includes a setup for a bank which includes play money in denominations of $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, and $100,000 bills; automobile, life, fire, and/or homeowners' insurance policies (depending on the version); $20,000 promissory notes and stock certificates. Other tangibles vary between versions of the game. $500 bills were dropped in the 1980s as were $1,000 bills in 1992.
How to Play
Before you start the game, make sure that each piece is attached to the board in the correct spot. Next, mix up the Life tiles and take four (don't look at them) and place them near Millionaire Estates. The rest of the tiles are for the draw pile. Separate the other cards into four piles: a Salary pile, House Deeds pile, Career pile and
Stocks pile. They go face down at any edge of the board. The same thing occurs with the Homeowner's Insurance Policies, Bank Loans and Automobile Insurance Policies.
Choose one player as the banker. The banker organizes the money, then gives each person $10,000. Now, each player chooses a car and a peg to place in the driver's seat.
Who Goes First?
Decide who goes first by spinning the wheel. The player with the highest number goes first. If there is a tie, the players with the highest number spin again.
Taking Your First Turn
On your very first turn, you must decide whether you want to begin a career or go to college.
If you want to begin a career, put your car on the Career space and have another player hold the Career deck and spread them out so you can pick one. Some cards say Degree Required; if you pick one of these then you must pick again. After you get your career, have the player spread out the Salary Cards and pick one of those. You now have a career and a salary and should spin the wheel as you would on any other turn.
If you wish to go to college, place your car on the College space, then have the bank loan you $40,000 for college tuition. Spin and move your piece as you would on any other turn. After a few turns, you eventually land on the Job Search space. Stop here, whether you have moves left or not. Have a player spread out the Career Deck. Pick three random cards, look at them, and choose one of those cards as your Career. Now do the same thing with the Salary Card: pick three to choose from and select one to keep.
Regular Game Play
On each consecutive turn, you spin the wheel. Move ahead the indicated number of spaces. If that space is already taken by another player, move to the space just ahead of that player. Read the space and follow the instructions. When you have completed any tasks or directions, then your turn ends.
Stocks, Insurance and Loans
At the beginning of each regular turn you may also choose to buy stocks or insurance and take out loans from the bank. Once you have spun the wheel to take your turn, you no longer have the option to purchase these items.
As you play the game you will also encounter different colors of tiles. Each tile color has a different meaning.
- Green tiles are your Pay Days. When you pass or land on one of these (similar to Monopoly), simply receive your salary.
- Blue tiles mean you can follow the instructions on the space if you want to.
- Orange tiles mean you have no choice but to follow the directions on the space.
- Red spaces mean you have to stop on the space, even if you have moves left. Follow the instructions on the space and spin again. Each red space has unique instructions because it deals with Job Searching, Getting Married and Buying a House.
Throughout the game board are other game spaces that require you to take specific actions.
- Landing on a life tile space means you take one LIFE tile from the pile, unless there are none left, which means you take one from another player.
- Career spaces match the career cards, so if another player lands on this space and someone has this card, the first player pays the second player. If you own the career card, then you pay nothing. If no one has this card, then the player who lands on it pays the bank.
- The Buy a House space requires you to stop and purchase a home. Draw a card from the House Deeds pile and pay for the house you've chosen. You must pay the full amount, even if that requires you to take a loan from the bank.
- Other spaces require you to get married or add children to your family. When you land on these, add pegs to your vehicle according to the instructions. You also get to take a LIFE tile on these spaces.
Retirement and Winning the Game
When you have reached the end of the game, you must choose whether to retire at Millionaire Estates or Countryside Acres. If you retire at Millionaire Estates, you have the chance to receive four additional LIFE tiles if you are the richest person to retire there. At the end of the game, all players repay their loans and add up their LIFE tiles and money. The player with the most money wins the game.
Playing by the Rules
Sometimes life doesn't work out the way you want it to and that's also true in the Game of Life. Even if you do not get the salary you want or end up with a car full of kids, you must continue to play by the rules. If you try to cheat your way to success in the game, just as in real life, you will find that you will probably fall before you reach the top.
Revisions and Expansions
The Game of Life, copyrighted by the Milton Bradley Company in 1963, had some differences from later versions. For example, once a player reached the Day of Reckoning, they had to choose between moving on to Millionaire Acres (if they had a lot of money), or trying to become a Millionaire Tycoon (if they had little or no money) with the risk of being sent to the "Poor Farm".
This version had Art Linkletter as the spokesman, included his likeness on the $100,000 bills (with his name displayed on the bills as "Arthur Linkletter Esq.") 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."
Winning Moves currently markets a classic 1960's edition.
About halfway through the production of this version, many dollar values doubled. This description focuses on the later version with the larger dollar amounts. The late 1980s version also replaced the convertibles from earlier versions with minivans. Early 1960s-era convertibles were still used in the 1978 edition.
The "Revenge" squares were renamed "Sue for damages" in the 1978 edition.
The Game of Life was updated in 1991 to reward players for good behavior, such as recycling trash and helping the homeless.
An updated version of the game was released in 2005 with a few gameplay changes. The new Game of Life reduced the element of chance, although it is still primarily based on chance and still rewards players for taking risks.
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