Guide to the Game of Life

Known as the first parlor game that became popular in the United States, The Game of Life is a board game where players take turns in moving around the board to collect money, get Life pieces, and reach the end tile. Throughout each player piece’s journey, he or she will face numerous situations based on real-life events, such as paying rent, getting married, having children, and working in the office.

By going through these life events, players will get money, lose money, or acquire Life pieces, and once they reach the end tile, which is the retirement space, the one who collected the most money and Life pieces wins the game.

The game may look relatively simple, but the little details and rules in the Game of Life can make the gameplay more complicated, similar to how living in the real world is not simple as you would have to pay taxes, mortgages, and bills.


The original Life board game was called the Checkered Game of Life, which was invented by Milton Bradley in 1860. Bradley was a businessman who owned a lithography machine that he used to sell prints or portraits of famous people, with one of them being Abraham Lincoln. Bradley tried to sell hundreds of copies of Lincoln’s portrait, which shows the president without a beard. When Lincoln grew out his infamous facial hair, Bradley’s portraits of him did not sell well as people wanted to own portraits that feature Lincoln’s latest look, and the poor sales of his products almost bankrupted his business.

Thankfully, it was also during that time when Bradley created a board game that will eventually sell like hot cakes in the United States. It was named the Checkered Game of Life, and the objective of the board game is for players to go through several real-life situations on the board and collect points on the “good” tiles that show positive words like success, honor, and bravery. When all of the platers eventually reach the end space, which is called “Happy Old Age,” the player who got 100 points wins the game.

Bradley got the idea for the board game when he was reflecting on the ups and downs in his life. It was also during this reflection that he realized that the goals that every person needs to accomplish in life are to persevere in bad times, be thankful for the good times, and be content when he or she gets old. This moral lesson is still present in the modern version of the Game of Life, but the board game now has an added message where you would have to be rich to be happy, which is contradictory to Bradley’s beliefs as he did not think that money brings happiness.

The popular modern edition of the Game of Life was introduced in 1960 and was conceptualized by Bill Markham and Reuben Kramer. The board game now features cars as game pieces and tiles that form tracks when combined. The car must move along the track, and the number of spaces that the vehicles will move to depends on the number indicated by the spinner included in the package.

In addition, the tiles show different real-life events like getting married and having kids, and the added family members are represented by the tiny pegs that can be inserted in the holes of the car game piece. Also, the board game has physical play money bills that range from $5,000 to $100,000. Along with the bills, the game has insurance policy cards, stock certificates, and action cards to make the game more complex.


For our gameplay guide, we will be using the Electronic Banking edition, which eliminates the use of paper money and replaces it with debit cards that are much more convenient for players to use. All the money transactions in the game will be handled by the electronic banking unit, where you can input how much money you have to pay or how much you are going to earn for specific actions or situations.

At the start of the session, you would first have to place the board on a sturdy table to prevent game pieces from moving around. Then, you must place the spinner on its designated corner of the board. Players will then choose a game piece and a peg of the same color, and once all players have picked their piece, everyone must use the spinner one by one. Whoever gets the highest number in the spinner will go first, then the player with the second-highest number goes next, and so on. Players must have $10,000 before the game’s beginning.

Once the player who moves first used the spinner, he or she will then choose the path that the game piece will take, and these paths are the Career Path and the College Path.

If the player chose the Career Path, he or she would draw one card from the deck of Career Cards, and the job indicated on the card will be his or her career. After drawing a Career Card, the player will then draw from the Salary Card, and the money shown in the card will be the salary he or she will get whenever the game piece goes to or passes through the Pay Day tile.

If the player chooses the College Path, he or she must first go through a number of tiles before being able to choose a career. After the player reaches the red tile of the Career Path, he or she must stop the turn there regardless of the number indicated on the spinner. The player will then draw three cards from the Career Cards deck, and he or she can choose one career out of the three. He or she will then draw three cards from the Salary Cards deck and choose one indicated salary.

All players must then take turns in using the spinner to reach the goal; however, there are many tiles on the board where they must draw an action card that tell them what they need to do with their cash on hand. For example, an action card may require them to pay a specified amount of money before ending the player’s turn. Some action cards can give you cash, but most of them will certainly take your money away from you.

Along with the Pay Day tiles, there are also Stop tiles that force you to end your game piece’s movement on the board. In these Stop tiles, you will face the most significant events in your game piece’s life, such as buying a house, finding a partner, or having babies. If you land on the “buy a house” tile, you are required to pay the amount indicated on the tile, but if you don’t have enough money in your hands, you will need to get a loan from the bank.

If a player reaches the last tile on the board, he or she must pay the loans that were acquired during the game piece’s travel around the board. He or she must then wait for the other players to reach the end tile and pay their loans. The player that was able to get the most money out of the session wins the game.

Where to Buy
Hasbro Gaming The Game of Life Electronic Banking
The Game Of Life Adventures
The Game of Life Zapped Edition
Game of Life - Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest Edition
The Game of Life The Wizard of Oz Board Game, 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Variants and Special Editions

Along with the Electronic Banking edition, there are other excellent variants and special editions to choose from for the Game of Life. Some of these variants may have changed the rules a bit to make the gameplay simpler, while other editions may feature popular movie, TV show, or video game franchises.

Here are some of the best and most popular special editions you can buy in hobby shops and online.

Game of Life Adventures

The Game of Life Adventures replaces the board found in most Life editions with cards that you need to collect to gain the upper hand against your opponents.

Cards are divided into four categories, which are Adventure, Career, Family, and Wealth. All cards will indicate specific actions that players need to do before they end their turn, such as swapping cards with others or discarding a card. A player wins the game if he or she has the highest accumulated points that are shown on the upper left corner of the cards.

Game of Life Zapped Edition

This version of the Game of Life requires you to download the free Life board game app on your smartphone or tablet and use it as a spinner that you can place on the board.

Besides the spinner, the app also allows you to customize the pegs that you by adding hairstyles, hair color, and clothes. You can put different clothes for your avatar, and you can also customize the pegs that represent your spouse and your kids on the board.

Game of Life Pirates of the Caribbean Edition

The Pirates of the Caribbean Edition of the Game of Life features treasure and sailing-themed life events and game situations that will make you feel like a true pirate while playing the board game.

This special edition has games pieces that look like ships instead of cars, and it also has board parts that resemble mountains and islands to make the board appear 3D.

Game of Life The Wizard of Oz Edition

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz film, the makers of the Game of Life released a special edition of the board game that features the famous characters and locations shown in the beloved cinema classic.

Players must move their piece, which looks like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, along the Yellow Brick Lane to reach the Emerald City. During the adventure, players must deal with tasks or events that are based on the iconic moments of the film, such as the encounter with the flying monkeys, the conversation with the Wicked Witch of the West, and many more.

The Game of Life has stood the test of time not only because of its fun and enjoyable gameplay mechanics but also because of the life lessons that it brings to players, especially the young ones who are playing the game with their parents. The board game teaches us that we must push through in reaching our goals despite the many hurdles that life may give us, and we must strive to live long enough to see the fruits of our labor.