Here’s a review of Sellaista sattuu, the Finnish edition of Verflixxt! / That’s Life!.
That’s Life! is a roll and move game from Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, better known from their more serious line of action point games (Tikal, Java and Mexica). However, That’s Life! is a pure family game; no more, no less.
Roll and move
Roll and move is probably the simplest mechanic there is and for good reason serious board gamers tend to loathe it. In That’s Life! Kramer and Kiesling take what’s probably the simplest way to improve any game with roll and move -mechanic: add more pawns for each player. When you have several pawns to choose from, the luck of the die tends to even out and there are more choices on what to do.
In That’s Life! the strategy succeeds. While the game is still far from strategical, there are usually plenty of options to keep it interesting. Choosing which of your pawns to move is usually fairly straightforward, though sometimes the choosing the better of two moves is a question of taste and not that obvious. There are also neutral pawns (more about those later), which increase options and give opportunities to affect other players.
Players march their pawns on a track made of tiles. Each tile has a number value from -10 to +8. There are more negative tiles than positive, but also six wild card tiles, which can turn positive tiles to negatives and vice versa. The board layout can be randomized, which provides some variability.
Whenever player leaves a tile and no pawns remain, the player must pick up the tile. When all pawns have finished the course, scores are calculated and the player with the most points (or least negatives) wins.
The best tiles (that is the wild cards, +7 and +8) start with guardians. Guardians are neutral pawns, which can be moved by any player, but only if they are with a player pawn. Of course you want the guardians to leave the good tiles you’re standing on, but you could also make them leave the big nasty negative tile your opponent is on…
Simple idea, fun game
While That’s Life! is certainly nothing but a fairly simple roll and move game, I still enjoy it. My wife likes it — that’s always a positive. I wouldn’t bring this out to a meeting of gamers, as it’s too big box for a filler fare like this, but would probably suggest this in a more casual crowd.
I also see That’s Life! as the next level from the simple board games for kids. You know, use the simple roll and move games to teach basics like rolling dice, taking your turn and counting steps, then get them playing something like this to teach the basic strategy and evaluating possible moves.