I saw this advertised as a special at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. After reading about the game online, I briefly considered buying it, then decided I could better spend the money on something else for my son for Christmas. I didn’t see any of the games on the shelf the next time I shopped there, so I figured they had all sold out.
Yesterday I browsed the after-Christmas clearance shelves, and found a few boxes of this game. This time I grabbed it (along with a tin of delicious chocolate mint cookie bites). Our older son has been away all day (since 4 AM) at a show choir competition (if they make it to finals, he won’t be back till around 1 AM). But the rest of us just celebrated my birthday (2 days late, since Jon had to work on Thursday) with mint chip brownies (yes, we like chocolate and mint!) and THE GAME OF LIFE: Extreme Reality Edition.
In some ways, it’s like traditional LIFE. You decide whether to go to college or get a job right away. You get married, then buy a house (though these can be pretty exotic), and you might have some babies. You get paid on payday, sometimes you win prizes or get paid for doing something special, and sometimes you have to pay for either some activity, or some disaster that happened. You collect LIFE cards, and at the end these help determine the winner (the person with the most money).
But unlike the regular LIFE game, where life goes pretty normally, and the only variety depends on whether you land on this space or that one, in Extreme Reality LIFE you never know what might happen. There are sections of the board where you can choose between the regular track and the extreme track, depending on whether you want to play it safe or have an adventure and take some risks. Whichever track you are on, anytime you land on a space that doesn’t have an event or instruction written on it, you have another player read one of the Story cards (which come in regular and extreme versions).
Even on the regular track, you have some interesting adventures. Usually you end up making some money, from writing a book (or blogging!) about them, or selling something you created or invented. My husband complained that the game was rigged, because I nearly always made money, while he often had to pay for his (mis)adventures. Of course, I also won the lottery three times (there are lottery spaces, and everyone plays each time anyone lands there) – the spinner just seems to like me.
The most interesting cards are the Extreme Story cards, which are used when you are on the extreme track. What is most interesting about them is that they are true stories, submitted by real people during the creation of this board game. Each card shows the first name and the country of the person who submitted it. The game is worth what I spent for it (which wasn’t very much) just for the fun of reading some of the crazy things that have happened to people. (Here, too, I ended up making money from my Extreme Story, while my husband ended up paying.)
There are even blank story cards, and instructions how to use the computer to print out your own real-life stories. I suppose the time I had a head-on collision due to a flock of turkeys crossing the road might qualify, though I’d have to figure out what kind of monetary value to assign to it. (Surprisingly, we ended up ahead, because the car we had purchased five weeks earlier – which was totalled in the accident – turned out to be worth more than what we owed for it.)
This game is supposed to go faster than the regular game, though I can’t say whether that’s true because I had to keep referring back to the rules to figure out what to do at each new kind of space. Some of the other new features in this game are job promotions (each career has four salary levels), spinning to find out how many babies you get, putting children in daycare if you have too many to fit in your vehicle, and choosing a plot of land to build your house (each of which can be rented as a vacation home for $100K by other players). There are a couple of details that Hasbro needs to clarify because the instructions are unclear or contradictory.
An additional level of chance is built in by the red and black stripes on the spinner. Each time you get a story card, whether you read the red story or the black on is determined by the spinner. The same thing determines whether you have to pay for your wedding or if your family pays, whether you have to pay interest on your loans (at a very steep 50%!), whether you have to pay for treatment in the hospital, and more.
At the end of the game, you sell your house (a lack in the regular game that never made sense to me) – though how much you get for it depends on that red/black spin again. You won’t have collected nearly as many LIFE cards as in the regular game, but if you finish first you get three extra (two for second, one for third). You even get money for each kid you had (a compensation for all the money you may have spent on daycare).
In the regular game, your kids go to college and by the time you retire you might be a grandparent (I’ve always found it amusing the times I didn’t have kids and still ended up a grandparent). But here you might still have kids in daycare when you finish, a fact I find a bit odd. But it is supposed to be a fast-moving game, with adventures that you might not want to try once you reach middle age. So I guess it means you cram a lot of living into a short time.
High stakes, high adventure, and hopefully lots of fun. It may not be realistic, but we certainly enjoyed it, and I look forward to playing again sometime when our older son is around to join us.