I’ve mentioned various toys in the past on this site which were on my Christmas list but which the red suited one failed to bring, but today’s post is about one request which did turn up in my stocking come Christmas Day morning.
The Game Of Life is, as the name suggests, based around the story of a person’s lifetime. The idea is as you travel around the game board different events will shape out a fictional life history for each player. Each player chooses a different coloured car, and inserts into the driving seat a little pink or blue peg, depending on whether they are a girl or a boy (though I suppose there was nothing stopping you living out a life as the opposite sex, as the choice of male or female was largely irrelevant).
You car is your playing piece, and as you spin the rainbow coloured spinner to travel around the board there are certain squares you can land on which then add further little pink or blue pegs to your car. First you get married (nope, no choice in the matter on this one) and then further round the board certain squares would present you with a child (or possibly even twins) to build up your family.
Going back though, your first decision in the game was whether you should go to University or jump straight into the world of work. Going to college meant you could get a better paid job, which since the ultimate aim of the game was to be the player with the most money at the end meant this could well be the better route to take. As with life itself though, there was no guarantee this would be the case…
As you progress round the board you encounter various types of spaces, much like any similar board game, with some yielding you extra money, whilst others might mean you have to shell out for a fine or repairs to your house. At regular intervals there were Pay Day squares, which gave you an amount of money depending on what job you ended up getting at the start of the game.
There was also the option of buying yourself insurance and the option to purchase status symbols, such as villas in the sun or flashy cars, which all helped build up a nice little nest egg for you when you reach retirement at the end of the game. Make more than a million and you would end your days in the Millionaire’s Mansion, otherwise it was the slightly less glamorous world of the Retirement Home for you.
In terms of complexity Game of Life sits somewhere between a standard boardgame of the “roll the dice and follow the instructions on the square” style of board game (as almost always featured in those Annual books you can get at Christmas) and something like Monopoly. There wasn’t as much strategy involved as Monopoly, but at least the Game of Life had a definite end point which you knew would be reached within an hour or so of play.
I’ve yet to mention the most stand out (if you’ll excuse the pun) feature of Game of Life though, which was the board itself. It game with a load of little plastic buildings and hills which slotted into the board to make it a little more three dimensional. The biggest of these pieces was the central mountain which housed the trademark spinner, which looked really nice and also meant it was much harder to lose than the dice that come with most games.
The Game of Life was one of my favourite board games as a kid, and I guess I can’t have been the only one. Whilst it has been updated and changed many times, the Game of Life first appeared in the 1960’s and is still going strong today, and is also available in various special editions and in computer game form.
Finally, it may surprise you (it certainly did me) to learn that a very similar game could actually have been enjoyed by someone who could be considered a Child of the 1880’s! Game of Life was originally released by Milton Bradley (actually a real man, and not just the name of a company) in the 1860’s. Back then it’s full title was actually “The Checkered Game of Life” and it was far simpler, being just a square board divided into black and red squares, and more like those Annual style board games I mentioned earlier.