Is the “Game of Life” a Game of Luck or Skill (or Both)?

Board game, The Game of Life, is shown with colorful pawns and background
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For years I have been playing the Game of Life (the board game). Some days I win, some days I lose – but my main focus is really on the fun that we all seem to have around the board. I recently got me thinking about how much luck and skill is required in the game. For me, it was all about the fun, so it was a difficult one to answer. 

Most people never really give a second thought to what type of game they are playing. Currently, I have been wondering what type of game the Game of Life is. And so I decided to do a bit of research. 

The Game of Life is a game of random chance that requires a bit of skill too. It is safe to say that the Game of Life is a game of both luck and skill. Luck and skill are presented in the following ways:

  • Random chance or luck: the game includes a spinning wheel that determines progress on the board and cards are drawn along the way that can deter or spur on a player’s progress.
  • Skills: players must be able to count and read, as well as to make “good choices” from those presented to them. Reading and counting (adding and subtracting) will help a player get through the game with ease.

I had never really thought about the Game of Life in this way. Now that I know that the game requires skills and involves luck or chance, I see the game in a different light. My wins suddenly are not quite as triumphant, and my losses are not quite as soul-destroying. 

One could say that the knowledge that it is a high-chance game, mostly based on luck and vaguely based on skills, has provided me with a more balanced approach to playing the Game of Life. 

I decided to look a little deeper into the luck and skills involved in playing the Game of Life. I was quite impressed with what I found. If you want to find out what I learned, read on. 

Luck and Chance Involved in Playing the Game of Life

When playing the Game of Life, there are various times that you will encounter luck. Let us take a look at the gameplay to understand more about luck’s role in the game.

The Game of Life (Board Game) - spinning wheel
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Spinning the wheel.

When you start the game, each player spins the wheel. The player who spins the highest number starts the game, and the rest follow in a clockwise direction. If you start first by spinning the highest number, it is by pure luck/chance. If you start last, it is much the same – purely based on luck. Of course, this is not the only time you spin the wheel and encounter luck or chance. 

Every time a player takes a turn, they must spin the wheel to determine how many spaces to move forward on the board. The number that you spin can either spur you ahead on the board or have you land on spaces that bring about hardships and thus deter your progress. This is all purely based on luck. 

Betting on the wheel or buying stocks.

In the Game of Life, there is the opportunity to buy stocks in an attempt to bet on the wheel. When a player buys stocks, there is a number on the stock card. When another player spins the wheel and it lands on that number, the player who holds the stock card featuring that wheel number is paid a lump sum. Yes, it’s very much like gambling, but in the game of life, it is meant to be viewed as an investment. 

This is another way in which players are exposed to luck or chance. Winning that money by betting on the wheel with stocks cannot be by skill, but only by luck. 

Drawing of cards.

All along the way, players must draw cards. The cards that are drawn come from 4 separate piles of draw cards as follows: career cards, house deeds, stocks, and salary cards. When you draw one of these cards, there is no telling what your next step will have to be. The cards have instructions and either positive or negative monetary values on them. The instruction and the monetary value on the card are all by chance, and a player has no way of controlling or choosing that. Luck is at its greatest during the card drawing part of the game. 

Skills Involved in Playing the Game of Life

Children playing board game illustration
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Now that we have taken a look at the luck and chance involved in the game, you might want to know if there are any actual skills involved. There are, of course, skills involved in playing the Game of Life. These are as follows:

Reading.

Of course, there is quite a lot of reading to be done in the Game of Life. Even if you cannot read or there are kids still learning to read that are playing, it is possible to play, though. Other players can simply help you through the game. That said, it is a lot easier if each player can read or has basic reading skills.

Counting.

There is a lot of counting involved in the Game of Life. Players will need to spin the wheel and then move forward the number of spaces that they have spun. There is more counting involved when players have to add and subtract the monetary value that is reflected in their cards. There is, even more, adding and subtracting at the end of the game when players have to go into retirement and pay their outstanding dues. Counting thus forms a large part of the game. 

Making good choices.

What most people do not think about is the actual choices that are involved in the game. Making the right choices involves a certain amount of skill. The game is designed to reward good and moral choices. When you make good choices, the game rewards you. That is not luck or chance. That is merely the skill of making good, well thought out choices. 

Using Skill & Luck to Win at the Game of Life

When you take a look at the Game of Life, you might realize that there is a lot more luck or chance involved than skill. Yes, that is true, but there is still skill involved, regardless of how minimal. The reality is that some people will have more skills than others if they know the “tricks of the trade”. 

Game of Life by Hasbro with the career choice of going to college or not
Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock.com

What if I told you that there are some tips and tricks that you can use to boost your skills in the game and ultimately start to win more often? Let us take a look at these tips and tricks below:

  • Play the game with the objective in mind. If you know that the objective is to earn as much money as you can before you retire, you can set your sights on achieving that goal. 
  • When you buy stock cards, you increase your chances of earning more than 3 times their value. Do not pass up the opportunity to buy stock cards.
  • Skip on paying for a car and household insurance, as it amounts to more than what an accident would cost you.
  • Have a clear understanding of the rules. If you know the rules of the game, you can use them to your advantage. And if anyone is trying to win by not playing by the rules, you can call them out on it. Enforcing the rules is a great way to win. 
  • Do not choose to get married and have children just because it seems like the acceptable norm. Sometimes choosing a career and not getting married can ensure you a win.
  • If you do not buy a house, you will only have to pay rent, which will amount to far less than what you will have to pay to buy a house. 
  • Rather go to college instead of trying to retire first for the extra points. Collecting “payday” money will amount to more than the money you receive for early retirement.

These are just a few of the tricks you can have up your sleeve to be better skilled at playing the Game of Life. Some might even say that being tricky and knowing what to do and what not to do is a skill in itself.

Last Word

When it comes down to determining whether the Game of Life is a game of luck or skill, it must be said that it is a game of both. While playing, you won’t use just luck or just skill; you will use both. Regardless of how much luck and skill you are using, you can prepare to have spans of fun. That is guaranteed.