Originally released back in 1960, The Game of Life is generally considered a classic board game. The basic premise of the game is that you live through a person’s life which includes many major life events. When I was a kid I remember really liking the Game of Life. As I grew up though I started to realize that the game has some issues leading to a game that relies almost entirely on luck. While I like the premise of The Game of Life, the game has too many flaws which is why I have been looking for a game that improves upon it. I was hoping that the Game of Life: Extreme Reality would be that game as it is a spinoff of the original The Game of Life. The Game of Life: Extreme Reality takes the original Game of Life on a wild ride that barely differentiates it from the original game.
How to Play The Game of Life: Extreme Reality
- Shuffle the LIFE tokens face down. Place a number of LIFE tokens face down on the Winners’ Podium spaces equal to the number on the spaces. The rest of the LIFE tokens are set off to the side.
- Shuffle the land tokens and place one face down on each land space on the gameboard.
- Sort the cards by their type. Shuffle each type separately and place the piles next to the gameboard.
- Place all of the people pegs near the gameboard.
- Choose one player to be the banker. All of the money and loan certificates are sorted into the money tray. The players will start the game with no money.
- Each player is given a reminder card, a car, a house stand and a lottery token of the color they choose. The golden lottery token is placed next to the gameboard. Each player will place one person pawn into their car to represent themselves.
- The player with the most extreme hairdo will start the game.
Playing the Game
On each player’s first turn they will choose whether they want to start on the college or career track.
If the player chooses to take the college route they will take a $20k loan from the bank. They will then spin and move around the college track. The player won’t get their career card until they reach the end of the career track (see the corresponding space below).
If the player chooses the career path they will randomly take three of the career cards. They will then choose one of them for their career. The player then spins the spinner and moves their car.
After their first turn each player’s turn will begin by spinning the spinner. They will then move their car around the board following the arrows for the number of spaces they spun. When a player lands on a space they will take an action based on the space they landed on (see below for details). Multiple players can occupy the same space.
After a player has taken their action play will pass to the next player clockwise.
If you ever have to pay more money for something than you have in cash, you have to take a loan out from the bank. When you take out a loan you take the corresponding loan certificate from the bank and place it in front of you.
At any time during your turn you can pay back a loan as long as you have enough money to pay back the loan amount and the interest. You will choose which loans you want to pay back, and then spin the spinner. If you spin black you will only pay back the loan amount to the bank. If you spin red you will have to pay back the loan amount plus the 50% interest.
Each space on the gameboard will have the player who lands on it take a special action. To see what each space does find the corresponding section below.
White and Black Spaces
When a player lands on a blank space they will take one of the story cards. They will read the card and take the corresponding action.
If they land on a white space they will take the top card from the story deck. The player to their left will read the story (red or black) depending on where the spinner landed on the inner ring of the spinner.
When you land on a black space you will take the top card from the extreme story deck.
LIFE Token Spaces
When a player lands on a LIFE Token space they will take a LIFE token. The token will be kept face down in front of the player until the end of the game. If a player lands on a white space they will take a white token, and if they land on a black space they will take a black token. If there are no tokens left of the type you are supposed to take, you can steal tokens from the other players (without looking at them).
When a player lands on the lottery space all of the players will get to play the lottery game. The player that lands on the space will get to choose their numbers first. They will use their lottery token and the gold token to choose two of the numbers on the lottery track. Then moving in a clockwise direction all of the other players will place their token on a number that hasn’t already been taken.
After everyone has placed their lottery token, the current player will spin the spinner. If the number spun matches the number chosen by one of the players, the player that chose that number will win the lottery amount from the bank. If no one chose the number that was spun, the spinner is spun again until someone wins.
Have A Baby
When a player lands on this space they will have the opportunity to have children. They will spin the spinner. On the outside of the spinner there is an arrow. The section of the Babyometer that the arrow points to determines how many kids you will have. You will take the corresponding number of people pegs and add them to your car. If your car is full you will put the remaining kids into your section of the daycare on the gameboard.
When you land on this space you will choose one of the other players to swap careers with. You will exchange career cards and any promotion tokens already acquired. Each player will now receive their new salary anytime they reach a pay day space.
Lose Your House
When you land on this space your house is repossessed. Return the house card and the house token to the banker. The land token remains on its current spot on the gameboard.
Whenever you land on or pass through a green space you will take the action for the space.
When a player passes or lands on the Pay Day space, they will collect their salary from the bank. A player’s salary is equal to the number on their career card corresponding to how many promotions they have received.
Pay Day and Promotion
You will first take a promotion token and add it to your career card. You will then receive your new salary from the bank based on how many promotion tokens you have.
The player will have to pay $50,000 to the bank for each kid that they have in daycare (the kids they couldn’t fit in their car).
When you encounter a red stop space, you will stop moving your car even if you have spaces to move remaining. You will take the corresponding action and then spin again to keep moving.
When a player reaches this space they will spin the spinner. If you spin a four or higher you pass your exams. Randomly choose three of the college career cards. Choose one of them and put back the other cards.
If you spin three or lower you failed your exams. First you can pay $50,000 to buy your degree and choose your college career as described above. Otherwise you can end your turn and try to spin high enough on your next turn to get your diploma.
When you land on this space you will spin the spinner. If you spin black you won’t have to pay for the wedding. If you spin red you will have to pay $50,000 for the wedding. Then choose a peg to represent your spouse.
Players who reach this space will randomly choose three of the house cards. They will choose one of the three houses to purchase. They return the other cards to the bank. The player will pay the bank the corresponding amount of money (taking out loans if needed).
The player takes the corresponding house token for the house they bought and slides it into their stand. The player then chooses one of the unoccupied land spaces and places their home on the land token.
Choose Your Path
When you land on this space you will get to choose whether you want to take the safe or risky route. The white route is generally safer while the black route is riskier.
Pause – Try for a Baby
This space is treated the same as the Spin For a Baby space (see above). The one difference is that the player can choose to stop on the space even if they have spaces to move remaining.
Pause – Buy A House
A player can choose to land on this space even if they have moves remaining. If the player already has a house they must sell it. They will spin the spinner to sell the house.
- If the player spins black they will sell their house for the boom (larger) price.
- If the player spins red they will sell their house for the recession (smaller) price.
The player will then buy a new house as detailed earlier.
When a player lands on this space they will spin the spinner. If they spin black they won’t have to pay anything and they will move their car to the Discharged arrow. If the player spins red they will pay $50,000 to the bank. They will then spin the spinner and continue moving around the board.
End of Game
Players will keep moving around the board until they reach the final space. The first player to reach the final space will place their car on top of the first space on the winner’s podium. The second player to reach the final space will place their car on top of the second place. The game will then end. The player who is furthest along the track but didn’t reach the finish space will be placed on the third space. This process is followed until all of the cars have been placed on the winner’s track.
Players will then tally their scores by adding up the following to get their total points.
- Players will take the LIFE tokens from their space on the winner’s podium and turn them face up in front of themselves.
- If the player has children, they will take $50,000 for each child from the bank. This includes children you left in daycare.
- Players will then sell their house. They will spin the spinner and sell their house for the corresponding amount based on whether they spun red or black. They will take the corresponding amount of money from the bank.
- The players will take the land token from where their house was placed and turn it face up. The value shown on the other side of the token is added to the player’s total.
- If players have any other LIFE/Extreme LIFE tokens in front of them, they will flip them over.
- Players who still have outstanding debts will have to pay them off. Spin to see what you owe for each loan as detailed earlier and pay the bank the corresponding amount of money.
- Players will add in their remaining money.
The player who scores the most total points will win the game.
My Thoughts on The Game of Life: Extreme Reality
While most people were probably already thinking this, The Game of Life: Extreme Reality shares a lot in common with the original The Game of Life. You still spin a spinner and move around the board as you play through a person’s life. You still go through college/start your career, get married, have kids, buy a house, and deal with other events that impact your person’s life. At the end of the game whoever acquires the most money/life points wins the game.
As most people have likely played a version of The Game of Life before I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about the gameplay. On the surface I actually really like the idea behind The Game of Life. Playing through a person’s life is a good theme for a board game. There are things that I like about The Game of Life which includes the game being really easy to play. Unfortunately the game relies on a lot of luck. You make a few decisions during the game, but your fate in the game basically comes down to who is the luckiest player.
As I like the premise behind The Game of Life but wished that some of its flaws were fixed, I was hoping that The Game of Life: Extreme Reality would be the solution. There are three main areas where The Game of Life: Extreme Reality differs from the original game.
The most notable difference between the two versions is the length. I didn’t specifically count the spaces on the different versions of the game. It is clear though that The Game of Life: Extreme Reality streamlines the gameboard as it is noticeably shorter than other versions of the game. While the original game usually took at least an hour to play, The Game of Life: Extreme Reality takes closer to 45 minutes to play.
I have mixed feelings about the shorter length of The Game of Life: Extreme Reality. On the positive side the original game was always a little on the long side. For a game that relies on so much luck, it is generally not a good thing for it to take so long. On the negative side though The Game of Life: Extreme Reality goes too far in streamlining the game. The game feels like you are racing through your character’s life. In one game two players had finished the game before the other players had barely reached the midpoint. I like that The Game of Life: Extreme Reality tried to speed up the game but it goes too far.
The second major difference comes from the premise that this is an extreme reality. Basically what this means for the game is that you will encounter many more wild swings in the game. You will regularly encounter experiences which gain or lose you a lot of money. Your finances and life in general will swing wildly back and forth. One turn you could gains hundreds of thousands of dollars and the next turn you lose it all.
This even impacts the children mechanics in the game. Maybe this was just us but when playing the original Game of Life we would regularly end up having a lot of kids due to landing on the corresponding spaces. I remember times where we had to use two cars just to fit all of the kids. The Game of Life: Extreme Reality embraces this by making it really easy to have a large family. In one turn alone you can have up to five children. Instead of having to move around two cars though the game introduces daycare where you put your kids that you can’t fit into the car. Kids can have a big impact on your fate in the game as they can earn and/or lose you a lot of money in the game. In general you are probably best off filling up your car but trying to avoid adding kids to daycare.
I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the extreme swings in the game. I didn’t mind the children mechanics as they add a little strategy to the game as you have the opportunity to try for kids or pass on the opportunity. I didn’t like the other wild swings in the game though. They just seem to add even more luck to the game. The few decisions you get to make in the game don’t seem to really matter when you can earn or lose hundreds of thousands of dollars just by landing on a space. This makes The Game of Life: Extreme Reality feel like it relies on even more luck than the original game.
The final difference comes from the theme. The Game of Life: Extreme Reality modernizes the original game. This includes adding wild events that can happen to you during your life. Regularly you will end up landing on spaces that force you to read a story card. These stories are based on things that happened to real people. In addition to giving or taking money away from you, these cards give some flavor to your person’s life as it gives them life experiences. I think this helps the game as it brings more character to the people that you are playing as.
I will say that some of the events break the theme though. While some of the things in the game are pretty extreme, you can make a good argument that some of the events aren’t all that extreme. The reward/punishment for quite a few of the events don’t make a lot of sense either. For example in our game one of the people ended up going into space when they were still in college. This put them into huge debt which stayed with them for most of the game. You could make a good argument that it would be a pretty stupid decision for a poor college student to waste $200,000 to go to space. It makes no sense that you wouldn’t receive some LIFE tokens for the experience though.
Should You Buy The Game of Life: Extreme Reality?
At the end of the day I didn’t know what to think about The Game of Life: Extreme Reality. In some ways I think it is better than the original game and in other ways I think it is worse. The main gameplay is exactly the same as the original game so your opinion of the original Game of Life will be a good indicator on whether you will like The Game of Life: Extreme Reality. The first difference between the two games is that The Game of Life: Extreme Reality is considerably shorter than the original game. In some ways I like the shorter length but the game goes too far as it ends too quickly. Second the game adds a lot more wild swings to the game where you can lose or gain a lot of money quickly. I didn’t really care for this aspect of the game as it seems to add even more luck to the game. Finally the game adds a bigger emphasis on storytelling which helps build a more interesting backstory for your character.
My recommendation for The Game of Life: Extreme Reality relies significantly on your opinion of the original Game of Life. If you don’t really like the original game, I can’t see you liking The Game of Life: Extreme Reality either. If you like the theme of playing through someone’s life but aren’t a big fan of The Game of Life itself, I would recommend playing CV or The Game of Life: Twists & Turns as they are considerably better games in my opinion. If you like the original Game of Life though and want a shorter game with wilder swings in luck, I think you will enjoy The Game of Life: Extreme Reality.