The Game of Life Rules: From Set-Up to Gameplay

Updated October 20, 2021
Cheerful family playing board game

One of the oldest American board games, the Game of Life, can be fun to play. But without the right instructions and rules, it can also be very confusing. Knowing where to put all of the tiles, how to use the cards, and how to move your car are all important when it comes to navigating the Game of Life. Just like the ever-changing landscape of the real world, having a blueprint handy to show you how to navigate the ups-and-downs of life will make your experience playing the popular game a breeze.

The Game of Life

The Game of Life, a redesign of Milton Bradley's original Checkered Game of Life and released in 1960, focuses on simulating the ups and downs of life in mid-century America across a winding and colorful board game. The game's rules state that it's made for two to six players. However, there is no optimal number of players that make the game more enjoyable. To play at this fictional 'game of life,' you obtain money through landing and passing specialty spaces and collect Life tiles so that you can have the most monetary value at the end of the game.

How to Set up the Game

Before you start the game, make sure that each of the board's pieces is attached to the board in the correct spot (check the bottoms to find the corresponding numbers on the board's slots). Next, mix up the Life tiles and take four of them without looking, placing them near Millionaire Estates. The rest of the tiles are left for the draw pile. Separate the other cards into four piles: a Salary pile, House Deeds pile, Career pile, and Stocks pile. These piles go face down at any edge of the board. The same process goes for the Homeowner's Insurance Policies, Bank Loans, and Automobile Insurance Policies as well.

Select a Banker

Next, choose one player as the banker. Once you've determined who's going to be banker for the game's duration, they'll need to organize the money, then give each person $10,000. Now, each player chooses one of the cars and a peg to place in the driver's seat.

Who Goes First?

Decide who gets to go first by spinning the wheel. The player with the highest number on the 1-10 wheel gets to go first, with everyone moving clockwise in order from there. If there's a tie, the players with the highest number spin again.

The Things to Do on Your First Turn

On your very first turn, you must decide whether you want to begin a career or go to college:


If you want to begin a career, put your car on the Career space and have another player hold the Career deck and spread them out so you can pick one. Some cards say Degree Required; if you pick one of these, then you must put the card back and pick again. After you get your career, have the player spread out the Salary Cards and pick one of those. You now have a career and a salary and should spin the wheel as you would on any other turn.


If you wish to go to college, place your car on the College space, then have the bank loan you $40,000 for college tuition. Spin and move your piece as you would on any other turn. After a few turns, you'll eventually land on the Job Search space. Stop here, whether you have moves left or not. Have a player spread out the Career Deck. Pick three random cards, look at them, and choose one of those cards as your Career. Now do the same thing with the Salary Card: pick three to choose from and select one to keep.

Regular Game Play After the First Turn

On each consecutive turn, you spin the wheel and move ahead the indicated number of spaces. If that space is already taken by another player, move to the space just ahead of that player. Read the space and follow the instructions, making sure to stop at a space with a red stop sign beside it. Once you've completed any tasks or directions, your turn ends and play passes on to the next player.

Game of Life Board

Buy Stocks, Insurance, and Loans if You Want

At the beginning of each regular turn, you may also choose to buy stocks or insurance and take out loans from the bank. Once you've spun the wheel to take your turn, you no longer have the option to purchase these items.

  • Auto Insurance - If you'd like to purchase auto insurance, pay the banker $10,000 at the beginning of your round and take one of the purple policy slips of paper.
  • Homeowner's Insurance - Once you own a home, you can purchase homeowner's insurance at the beginning of your round for the amount listed on your specific home's card. Pay that amount to the banker and then take one of the green policy slips of paper.
  • Stocks - If you'd like to purchase a stock, you can do so at the beginning of any of your rounds by paying the banker $50,000 and selecting a stock card from the deck. Now that you own this stock, you're entitled to $10,000 from the bank every time any player spins the number corresponding to your stock card.
  • Loans - You can purchase bank loans from the bank, starting with $20,000 and up. Make sure to pay off these loans and the $5,000 interest that comes with them before you retire or else face some debt that'll lower your final score.

Special Tile Colors to Watch For

As you play the game, you will also encounter different colors of tiles, and each tile color has a different meaning.

  • Green Tiles - These tiles are your Pay Days. When you pass or land on one of these (similar to Monopoly), simply receive your salary from the bank.
  • Blue Tiles - These tiles mean you can follow the instructions on the space if you want to.
  • Orange Tiles - Landing on these spaces means that have no choice but to follow the directions on the space.
  • Red Tiles - These spaces mean you have to stop on the space, even if you have moves left. Follow the instructions on the space and spin again. Each red space has unique instructions because it deals with Job Searching, Getting Married, and Buying a House.

Other Spaces You'll Land On

Throughout the game board are other game spaces that require you to take specific actions.

  • Life Tile Spaces - Landing on a life tile space means you take one LIFE tile from the pile, unless there isn't any left, which means you take one from another player.
  • Career Spaces - Career spaces match the career cards, so if another player lands on this space and someone has this card, the first player pays the second player. If you own the career card, then you pay nothing. If no one has this card, then the player who lands on it pays the bank.
  • Buy a House Spaces - The Buy a House space requires you to stop and purchase a home. Draw a card from the House Deeds pile and pay for the house you've chosen. You must pay the full amount, even if that requires you to take a loan from the bank.
  • Get Married/Have Children - Other spaces require you to get married or add children to your family. When you land on these, add pegs to your vehicle according to the instructions. You also get to take a LIFE tile on these spaces.

Retirement and Winning the Game

When you have reached the end of the game, you must choose whether to retire at Millionaire Estates or Countryside Acres. If you retire at Millionaire Estates, you have the chance to receive four additional LIFE tiles if you are the richest person to retire there. At the end of the game, all players repay their loans and add up their LIFE tiles and money. The player with the most money wins the game.

Play by the Rules

Sometimes life doesn't work out the way you want it to, and that's also true in the Game of Life. Even if you don't get the salary you wanted or end up with a car full of kids, you have to continue to play by the rules. Although it's fun not to play by the rules all of the time, when you try to cheat your way to success in the game, just like in real life, things don't always work out as you'd hoped they would. So, if you've got winning on your mind, then make sure to follow each and every step as they'll get you closer and closer to dominating your competition.

The Game of Life Rules: From Set-Up to Gameplay