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That's Life! traditional layout

That’s Life! traditional layout

Wolfgang Kramer is one of my favorite board game designers, chiefly because he co-created El Grande, one of the funnest board games of all time.

That’s Life! (originally Verflixxt, when published overseas) is a much simpler board game that will probably appeal to many more of you than the heavier El Grande.

That’s Life! is a roll-and-move fame along the lines of Chutes & Ladders without the chutes and with significant and interesting decisions to make along the way.

The initial path along which you move 3 pawns consists of just 34 tiles (including the start and finish tiles). Leaving the start tile, you first encounter 8 red tiles showing negative numbers from -1 through -8. Following are 6 neutral “fortune” tiles. Next are 8 green tiles with positive numbers from +8 through +1. Finally there are 10 more negative tiles ranging from -1 through -10.

The key mechanic in That’s Life! is that, if your pawn is the last token to leave a tile, you must take that tile home. At the end of the game, you’ll score the number of points (positive and negative) on all tiles you’ve collected.

Sounds simple enough, but there are 2 twists that make the game much more interesting.

First, if you take home one of the “fortune” tiles, you get to convert a negative tile into a positive. Thus what looked like a poor acquisition of a -7 tile, for example, suddenly becomes a boon of +7 when paired with a fortune tile. That’s a significant swing of 14 points!

Second, all the fortune tiles, as well as the +8 and +7 tiles, start with a neutral “guard” cylinder not owned by any player. It must also be removed before a tile can be claimed. However, you can’t move a guard unless some player’s pawn is on the same tile.

That's Life! alternate layout, since it doesn't really matter

That’s Life! alternate layout, since it doesn’t really matter

From 2 to 6 players can play That’s Life! Since there are only 6 fortune tiles, competition for them can be fierce with 5 or 6 players. Even with only 2, you might struggle to win several of them.

As you roll the 6d and vacate tiles, the path becomes shorter and shorter. At the end of the game, there may only be a handful of tiles left. When all players’ pawns have reached the end tile, values on collected tiles – accounting for fortune tile changes – are totaled, and the player with the most victory points wins.

The construction of the tiles is wonderful. There are all very thick and sturdy. The artwork I believe is supposed to reflect the theme, as in – Ah, well, that’s life!

Fun Meters (out of 5)
Party: 3
Strategy: 3
Family: 5