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We were visiting my parents this past November and my 8 y/o daughter was rummaging through the 'game closet'. She stumbled across 'The Game of Life' and asked if we could play. We said yes and had 5 people playing. It was brutally painful and lasted for what seemed like hours. This was the version my sister and I had received during some 70s or 80s Christmas, so it was pretty beat up and still as bad as I remember. But, for some odd reason or maybe the colorful wheel, my daughter fell in love with it and asked for it for Christmas. Without consulting me, my wife actually went out and picked it up.
So, I've played about 3 games of Life over the past week or two and thought I'd write a review on the new and improved version. They have changed the game since my 70/80's version and to be honest, the changes are actually pretty good. Here are my thoughts on the "new" Game of Life:
Board and Pieces
The board hasn't changed much since my 70/80's edition. The rolling hills, the little white plastic buildings, the really bad spinner wheel that flys off the board if you spin it too hard. To be honest, the board has changed a bit - slightly newer artwork and the majority of the spaces on the board have been updated. They've also changed the people. The cars are the same, but the people are a little blockier - I suppose this is to make it easier to handle. Although, they are still pretty small.
The game also comes with a money tray, new House, Career, Salary, Stock Market and Insurance cards. I'll discuss these under Rules and Game Play. Of note, the card stock is of decent quality.
Rules and Game Play
For those of you who have played Life in your youth and those of you who haven't, I'll go over the game play very briefly and spend the majority of my time on the new rules.
The object of the game is to have the most money at the end of the game. You do this by making your way through "life". You start out in you teens and decide to either go to college or go into the work force. After this decision, the game plays the same for either choice. You work your way around the board by spinning the wheel and moving anumber of spaces equal to the number on the wheel. Throughout your journey of life you get married, buy a house, have kids (maybe) and other assorted adventures until you wind up in retirement, where you can either go to shady pines or your millionaire's mansion. That's the game in a nut shell. Now, on to the new rules.
The first and one of the better changes they've made deals with your career. In the past, your career path was upto how well you could spin the wheel. In the updated version, you actually get to select your own career. You randomly select 3 career cards and pick one that you would like to be. The only difference between the college and non-college path is that there are a few careers that require a college education. Once you pick a career you get to randomly select a salary. If the color of your salary matches a color on your card, you keep the salary. This part is a little broken as you can have a doctor making $40,000 and an accountant making $70,000. But, all in all, this is a pretty good enhancement.
The second enhancement is that each career has a symbol on the card. There are now spaces on the board that correspond to your career. If someone lands on one of the spaces with the symbol for your career, they pay you money. For example, the accoutant gets money from any player that lands on the "Pay Taxes" space and doesn't have to pay any themselves. Again, I thought this was an interesting and a good enhancement to the game.
The third enhancemet is the housing market. In the previous version, you had to stop and pony up some cash to buy a house and that was it. In this version, you get to determine if you even want to buy a house or not. If you do, you randomly select two house cards and can buy one of them. You also get a chance later in the game to sell your first house and buy your second house. At this point, you spin the wheel and depending on the number you can either lose money, break even or gain money on the sale of your house. Again, another very good enhancement.
The fourth enhancement is with the various insurance and stock market cards. In the current version, they've done away with life insurance and only offer car and house insurance. The house insurance price varies on the house you purchase.
They've also changed the stock market. Now you have the option to buy a stock card (you can only have one of these during the game - unless you land on stock boom and then you can get an extra stock card). Unlike the original version, you don't have to bet your stock to make money. Your stock card has a number on it, whenever someone spins your number on the wheel you get money.
The fifth enhancement is the use of "Life" tiles. These are little cardboard tiles that you get when you land on certain spaces during the game. They have various things that can happen to you during your life and the corresponding money you would receive if it happened to you. When you pick them up, you can't look at them. They have to stay concealed until the end of the game. Then you can flip them over, add them up and tack the money onto your final score. I found this part to be a bit broken and a waste. I'm not quite sure why they introduced this except for maybe helping decide ties at the end of the game. But, for the most part, they don't add much to the game.
The last of the changes/enhancements were with the spaces and game play. There doesn't seem to be as many opportunities to have kids in this version. My daughter and I played one game and both of us finished with no kids. Not a big deal, but I remember when I used to play the older version you used to get kids left and right. (BTW - they've also done away with selling your kids at the end of the game. This was a rule I never quite understood and I'm glad they've gotten rid of it).
They've also done away with a number of the odd things you had to do prior to retirement (besides selling your kids). In the previous version, there was a spot you had to stop at and if you wanted to risk everything you could put all of your money on one number on the number line. You then had to spin the wheel. If it landed on your number, you won and it didn't matter what anyone else did. The game was then over. They've done away with this too. I'm assuming because it totally broke the game.
Anyway, I think I've typed way more than "The Game of Life" deserves. To be honest with you, the latest version isn't too bad. Don't get me wrong. I won't be busting this out on game night with the guys, but its enjoyable enough to play with your kids. My daughter is 8 and absolutely loves it (she also loves Carcassonne and TTR, so at least I've got her playing good games). The game plays to the stated time of about 30 minutes. I believe we played one game in about 20 minutes.
Would I recommend it? It depends on who you are. If you have kids, then yes. I'd recommend it. The new enhancements make it tolerable and whatever they've done to the game play its quickened the game, so you can finish a game in 30 minutes and go play Carcassonne or something. I'd give it about a 4 or a 5 on the BGG scale.
I just got to play the new version with my nephew this weekend...they did make things a bit more challenging then before. A few clarifications:
1) Careers - In the beginning, now, you have to decide whether to go for career or college. If you go career, you get a random career, and a few of the big careers (like doctor) say "require degree" and you must reselect. If you go to college, you start by immediately borrowing $100,000 which costs $125,000 to pay back (great realistic move). You get to choose between 3 random careers. Each career card has 2 salary ranges on them. For example, Yellow represents the top salary range and has a $100,000 salary in the deck. Doctors have a yellow range, but artists are only red and green. Also, each career has a unique special power which the player has to watch for. For example, the artist gets $10,000 everytime someone spins a 1 (i.e. stops to shop for art). The tech support career gets $50,000 every time the spinner comes off of the track (hee!) and the Entertainer gets to switch to a yellow salary card is someone spins 2 consecutive 8, 9, or 10 (they hit it big)
2) LIFE tiles - about 20% of the spaces in the game give you a LIFE tile. LIFE tiles are hidden money amounts ($10,000 to $50,000 with flavor text) so that noone knows for sure who is winning. Also there are a limited number of tiles, so when the pile is depleted and you land on one, you can take a tile from an opponent instead (a way to attack the percieved leader).
3) Finishing the game - As mentioned earlier, the endgame has been modified. It used to be that if you thought you were going to finish with the most money, you went to the millionaire acres, and if you thought you couldn't win, you could bet everything you owned on 1 number to win. I don't think that rule was broken, nor was it unrealistic. I just think that they decided that they didn't want to encourage that kind of recklessness toward your retirement savings, so they have a new ending. If you think you will finish with the most money, you go to millionaire acres, or you can go to the retirement home and get a single LIFE tile. At the end of the game, the person who goes to millionaire acres and does end up with the most cash gets 4 LIFE tiles, while everyone else gets none. Finally, you add the life tiles to your money to determine the winner.
I was surprised at the amount of decisionmaking and rules that have been added to the game. We played with my 6-y/o nephew and he enjoyed the game, but really wasn't able to make good decisions.
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
Just imagine the red offboard up here. I'll create it Real Soon Now...
Yes, I know a proper 18XX tile should have a tile number.
It sounds like there are enough gameplay changes to truly deserve the separate database entry from the classic The Game of Life -- it's a lot more than just updated artwork and prices.
And it's not "selling your kids at the end of the game" -- it's your kids supporting you in your old age.