Board game manuals Wiki
The Game of Life(2016)

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 simulates a person's travels through his or her life, from high school graduation to retirement, with jobs, marriages and children (or not) along the way. 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 modern version was originally published one hundred years later, 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).



The Checkered Game of Life board

The game was originally created in 1862 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.[1]

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, 1992, 2000, and 2005.


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 (pawns) 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 of $1,000, $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.

1960s 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!"


knnlTo 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.

1970s/1980s version[]

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. The longer route was entitled College and could earn the player anywhere between $16,000 and $50,000 for every Pay Day. 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.

Life Events[]

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 landed on 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 they landed on a "stock prices drop" space, they likewise lost money.

Lucky Day[]

Several of the spaces were marked "Lucky Day"; if the player landed on a Lucky Day they 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, the player 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 they could retire to the "Millionaire" space if they thought they 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 they could make one final gamble in an attempt to become the "Millionaire Tycoon". The player 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, the player became the Millionaire Tycoon and automatically won the game.

1991 version[]

The Game of Life was updated in 1991 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 and College. 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 the player 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 three Salary cards are chosen, and the player 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, marriage, 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.

Occupation spaces[]

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.

LIFE Tiles[]

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 they collect 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 he or she 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.

CD-ROM version[]

In 1998, a CD-ROM version of the game was produced by Hasbro which added computerized moves and short animations to the game. An option was also given for players to compete in games over the Internet.

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
1 -$5,000 -$25,000
2 $5,000 $25,000
3 $10,000 -$50,000
4 $15,000 $50,000
5 $20,000 -$75,000
6 $25,000 $75,000
7 $30,000 -$100,000
8 $35,000 $100,000
9 $40,000 -$150,000
10 $45,000 $200,000

Life's Little Games[]

Different 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). 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 the games. One exception was spinning 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. The other exception was spinning 5, which was marked "Revenge" and gave the player another spin, but not before choosing one opponent from whom to take one's winnings from the game (or presumably give to, if the player finished with a negative score in Up or Down). Players retired at Countryside Acres are immune from being selected for revenge.

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.

Safe Crackers[]

The player has four tries to reveal as high an amount as possible. 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.

Treasure Chest[]

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.

Skunk Money[]

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.

Crane Dump[]

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.

Trash Can[]

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.

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.

2005 edition[]

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.

Starting College[]

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.

Career Renovations[]

You can only get the lower salary cards for a starting wage. Special attributes were also added to the careers.

Jobs in Life[]

  • Doctor: Degree required. the doctor is the only person capable of getting the yellow salary card without luck/wasting tiles.
  • 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. the accountant collects taxes.
  • 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).
  • all jobs have a circle label. if a person lands on a space with this label on it, all money goes to you.

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.

Current Version[]

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. Other changes include a return in Share the Wealth cards, the Lucky Spin and withdrawing insurance policies. There are many more stop spaces, with choices similar to Twists and Turns.

Jobs in Life[]

No Degree Required[]

  • 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 $5,000 from anyone spinning a 10
  • Entertainer: Salary $50,000 (no max); taxes $20,000
  • Athlete: Salary $60,000 (no max); taxes $25,000

Degree Required[]

  • 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


  • In Retirement, you can not be sued or otherwise penalized. However, you may collect on your long-term Investment card.


  • 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.
  • The highest sum of money that a player can earn in the most current "Game of Life" is $3,115,000, and can only be achieved if the player lands on all of the spaces that give money and has the highest possible salary.
  • In the current version it is possible to become a grand parent without having had or adopted kids.
  • In the case of a stock card the player holding a stock receives pay anytime the number is spun. including spins for home resale value.


  • 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.[2]

Other versions[]

  • Super Jinsei Game series
    • Super Jinsei Game Super Famicom video game (1994)
    • Super Jinsei Game 2 Super Famicom video game (1995)
    • Super Jinsei Game 3 Super Famicom video game (1996)
  • The Game of Life in Monstropolis (Monsters, Inc.) (2001)
  • Sailor Moon Edition (Japan Only)
  • The Game of Life Card Game (2002)
  • Fame Edition (or Game of Life Junior/travel version) (2002)
  • Star Wars: A Jedi's Path (2002)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (2004)
  • The Simpsons Edition (2004)
  • Bikini Bottom SpongeBob SquarePants Edition (2004)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
  • The Game of Life/Yahtzee/Payday Game Boy Advance game
  • Twists and Turns Edition (2007)
  • The Game of Life Wii game (2008)
  • Indiana Jones Edition (2008, Target exclusive)
  • Pokémon Edition (Japan only)
  • Spongebob Squarepants Edition (2008)
  • Family Guy Collectors Edition (2008)
  • The Game of Life WiiWare game (2009) (Japan Only)
  • The Wizard of Oz Edition (2009)
  • The Game of Life Classic Edition iPhone game (2009)

In Popular Culture[]

Template:In popular culture

  • The post apocalyptic Anime series Desert Punk has a character who became rich by discovering and reprinting the Game of Life.
  • In the R.E.M. song "Man on the Moon", The Game of Life is mentioned along with other board games.
  • In the episode of the television show South Park entitled "The Death of Eric Cartman" during season 9 of the series, the children can be seen playing a game called "LIVING," which is an obvious cameo appearance of the game.
  • It appeared on an episodeTemplate:Which? of That '70s Show.
  • Adult Swim's Robot Chicken sketch, involving a blue and pink peg. As the segment goes on it gradually turns to dark humor.


  1. Lepore, Jill. The Meaning of Life "The New Yorker," May 21, 2007.
  2. Template:Cite book

External links[]

  • Template:Bgg