Monday, October 25, 2010

The Game of Real Life

I was given the Game of Real Life by a friend, who had it given to them by someone else. Other than Hot Potato a game should not be passed around this much, so I was a bit leery about this game from the start. The Game of Real Life is a more realistic approach to the Game of Life, the classic game of happy endings. Apparently real life is filled with nothing but drugs, prostitution, early death and pain. I suppose that’s not entirely false and actually makes a decent premise for a game. Honestly though the game is not much more than a “roll the dice, move your mice” with some colorful details and some options along the way. But, like real life, much of the decision making is really out of the player’s hand. The game is for two to six players and should not take more than a half hour, considerably less if a couple players meet unfortunate endings. Which they probably will.

The best part of the game is the diary. All the players are given a diary sheet to keep track of their life events. It’s nothing all that special, but I like that the game creators wanted to put some sort of element into it that gives it some life. It’s nice to be more than just the sum result of some dice rolling and a score at the end. The problem is that you think that the diary will be a nice, flowing narrative of your character’s life when it is actually just a bunch of short sentences summarizing what happened to you. The game turn is very quick (just roll and read) so it does not leave you with much time to create flowery prose.

The object of the game is to be the player who has the most happy faces at the end of the game. Living for a long time helps because it allows you more time to collect happiness, but it is possible to win even if you die early if those are some real happiness filled years of youth. Happy faces are gained by all sorts of activities; marriage and kids, vacations, and many other things such as your own pizza, catching leaves on a fall day and seeing a unicorn in the forest. Strangely, the single biggest happiness provider in the game is found on the heroin chart. Granted, some of the other heroin uses create disastrous situations, so it’s not always a happy ending. It’s really not a happy ending in most situations. Cris, Mike and I played the other night. Mike was a drug addict witness to an infant having their throat slit, Cris was a prostitute that died in World War III and I perished in a nightmare of a nursing home. At least I made it to old age, not bad for someone who was disowned by their family, shot in a drive by and had some bad experiences with LSD.

The board itself is a blur of lines, small type, colors and some drawings. It is very confusing and the fact that the print is so tiny and facing off in all directions makes it very hard for the player to read what is going on. What space am I on? Can you read that for me? And the game pieces are rocks. Actual rocks. I suppose they are little bit glossy actually. I don’t mind the low-tech approach to the game, but the design of the board could have been a lot better. It’s not just that it does not add a ton to the game, but I would say that it actually detracts since it slows things down as you try to figure out the space that your rock just landed on. And the spaces are very little. Also, maybe we had too much wine when we were getting started but it took us several minutes just to locate the starting point on the board. Not a great sign.

The Game of Real Life is fine if someone wants to give it to you, but I’m not sure that I would recommend buying it. If you are used to Life and Monopoly than it will probably be exciting and funny and perhaps an impetus to look further into the world of board games, which is a great thing. I’m not saying that I will never play it again, but it is not at the top of the list.

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