The Game of Life (Simpsons Edition)

Milton Bradley/Hasbro, 2004, 2-6 players, ages 9 and up. Another baby boomer staple, this game goes back a lot further than I ever would have imagined. According to various other websites I've explored (and let's face it, everything you read on the web is the gospel truth, no?), this game actually had its origins in the 19th century! "The Checkered Game of Life" was invented by the honest-to-gosh actual Mr. Milton Bradley in 1861. This was Milton's first game, and he sold 45,000 copies by the end of that first year. Like many games from the 19th century, it had a strong moral message. In this instance, good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds are punished. In that same vein, Bradley's game did not include a die, but instead used a "tee-totum", a six sided top (dice were considered by many to be wicked items fit only for gamblers). The gameboard was essentially a modified checkerboard, and the object was to land on the "good deed" spaces and collect 100 points. You could also gain 50 points towards your goal by reaching "Happy Old Age" in the far corner, opposite "Infancy" where you began.

"The Checkered Game of Life"

In 1960, one Reuben Klamer designed an updated version in honor of the Milton Bradley company's 100th anniversary. In this now familiar version, between 2 and 10 players each would get a plastic car in which they collect their "family" throughout the game. Each turn consists of spinning a wheel with the numbers 1 to 10 on it. As one progresses through the game, players collect cards with life events on them (e.g. give birth to a baby girl, take out a $10,000 mortgage, etc.). The game board had small mountains and other similar pieces, so as to not appear flat. The player with the most money at the end of the game wins. The game was even endorsed by family values guru Art Linkletter Yet another version was released in 1992, updated to reward players for various new age "good" behaviors (recycling trash, among other things). It is now part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

I was very fond of playing this game in my youth, and picked up this new "Simpsons" edition to play with my family. Unfortunately, it introduces a fair amount of irrelevent foofarah to the proceedings that complicates things without really adding much to the entertainment value. Frankly, if you need to spend more than about 10 seconds reviewing the rules of a family game, something has gone amiss. Still, my son is a big fan of The Simpsons, and he seems to enjoy it well enough (although I hear his pals down at "The Y" basically play with their own ruleset, eschewing a lot of the unnecessary complications introduced in this edition).

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