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THAT’S LIFE/VERFLIXXT

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Rio Grande Games/ Ravensburger, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes, $29.95)

 

Sometimes a game surprises you. That’s Life (aka Verflixxt in its original Ravensburger edition in Europe) arrived as a dice game. But a dice game with only ONE die?!?! Seems strange. But in the talented hands of Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling, the game takes on more substance that one might reasonably expect which explains why the game ended up with a Game of the Year nomination.

That’s Life comes in a big red box that holds a host of quality components. There is, of course, the one die. But along with the die are 18 pawns (two for each player in their chosen color) and 8 “guards” (wood colored tokens) and a bunch of “route cards” which bring the challenge to the game.thatslife

The 32 route cards are three types of octagonal disks: 8 “plus”, 18 “minus” and 6 “fortune”. These are arranged in a certain order to create a path from the start tile to the finish tile with negative value tiles leading to the fortune tiles leading to the plus tiles and then through a gauntlet of more minus tiles before reaching the finish line. (As a play variant, other tile arrangements are suggested including arranging the tiles in a totally random order!) One guard is placed on each fortune tile as well as on the +8 and +7 tiles. Each player places his 2 pawns on the start tile. The youngest player has the honor of going first.

On his turn, a player rolls the die and is immediately faced with a choice. He may move ONE of his pawns OR, if any other player pawn is sharing a disk with a guard, move ONE of the guards. In all cases, movement is always forward. Backward movement is not allowed nor is there a limit as to how many pawns may occupy a disk. Now here comes the catch.

Whenever a pawn is the LAST piece to move from a disk, the player controlling that pawn takes the disk. As disks are collected, gaps are created in the path but that’s all right. They are simply skipped over. Players will score points based on the values of the disks. For example, a green +3 disk will be worth 3 points at game’s end; a red -7 disk will deduct 7 points from your final score EXCEPT….That’s where those fortune disks come in.

Fortune disks have a special power and it’s big! They change the negative sign of a tile to a positive one! For instance, if a player has collected that -7 disk and a fortune disk along his travels, then that -7 disk will transform into a +7 value! It doesn’t stop there either. You can convert as many negative tiles into positive ones at the rate of one conversion per fortune tile! Once everyone has completed the circuit, the player with the highest score wins the game!.

While not a game with the depth of some of Kramer & Kiesling’s “gamer’s games” such as Tikal (Spring 1999 GA REPORT) or Torres (Fall 1999 GA REPORT), That’s Life has more heft to it than it appears. Dilemmas mount as the game progresses. You have two pawns under your control. How will you use them? Sprint ahead to be the first to occupy a tile and, hopefully, exit it and collect it? Or stay behind to prevent others from staking claims. And just how far should you sprint? If you finish with one pawn left behind, your movement choices are sharply curtailed! How should you best maneuver your pieces so that those fortune tiles fall into YOUR lap? (Fortune tile possession can make or break you as the swing in point values can be immense!) And when should you move a guard to maximize your own position and hinder the opposition?

Sometimes you’ll make the right choice. Sometimes you won’t. Sometimes, luck will favor you. Other times, you’ll get a bad break. There’s a lot more here than meets the casual eye. But that is as it should be. After all, That’s Life!- – – – Herb Levy


 

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Fall 2005 GA Report Articles

 

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