Like many games, it has a strong moral message. The game does not include dice, but instead uses a small wheel with spaces numbered 1 through 10. Dice would give the impression that players are gambling with their lives.
The game board can be seen above. Each player starts as a "Patient" in the lower right corner of the board. Players take turns spinning the wheel, risking their future health prospects. The object of the game is to land on the "good" spaces and collect benefits from the government while working toward the ultimate goal of reaching the "Physician" in the lower left corner.
Players must avoid the “Day of Reckoning” and the "Poor Farm" on their way to reaching the “Physician.” Some players may be fortunate to become a “Millionaire Tycoon” and receive concierge medical care in a foreign country. Players are led to believe they are free to choose their doctor and health coverage during the game, but in reality they are being manipulated for the benefit of egomaniacs and thieves.
Players are pawns, I mean, players use pieces (pawns) consisting of small, colored plastic cars which come in six different colors (red, blue, white, yellow, orange and green). Each pawn has six holes in the top in which the blue and pink "people pegs" are placed throughout the game as the player "gets married" and has or adopts "children."
Each game also includes a Federal Reserve Bank (which issues play money in denominations of $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, and $100,000) and a government mandated insurance policy. (About halfway through the production of the game, many dollar values doubled – possibly to reflect inflation caused by over stimulation of the money supply.)
Types of Spaces
All of the spaces on the board require the player to pay the insurance company or face significant fines from the government. The board includes spaces for "Major Tax Increase," “Higher Deficits,” and “Ballooning National Debt.” Players may protect themselves from these spaces by opting for “strictly rationed access” and “lower quality of care.” If at any time the draw pile of LIFE Tiles is depleted, a player may appeal to the “death panel.”
Salaries and Careers
There are two routes at the beginning of the game, labeled Career and College. Once a player selects a route, he continues the game with that specific career and salary until his employer can no longer afford the insurance premiums and “dumps” him into a government-run insurance program. Regardless of the route selected, all players are in debt up to their eyeballs from the very start due to the past board games created by Congress. These include Social Insecurity, MediFraud, Corporate Welfare, and Subsidies for Farmers in Dark Blue Suits. The probability of a better job and a higher salary is much greater on the College route than the Career route. A player selecting the College route, however, faces greater tax increases in the future to pay for higher health costs caused by increased demand for “free” services.
Jobs in The Game of Life and Death
Doctor: Degree required. The doctor is the only person who works and trains like a dog for 10 years and then gets second guessed by bureaucrats and accountants. The doctor’s salary and job satisfaction prospects are grim, unless he went to medical school overseas and is willing to work for peanuts.
Artist: This is a person who previously worked for a living, but quit his job because Nancy Pelosi said he no longer had to work now that he can get government health insurance.
Athlete: This player may trade in four LIFE Tiles to get an astronomical salary and marry a pretty cheerleader. These jobs are necessary to keep the masses preoccupied so they don’t discover they are being ripped off and revolt.
Accountant: Degree required. These jobs are in high demand given the complexity of the game and the difficulty of figuring out where the hell all the money goes.
Entertainer: If two 8s, 9s, or 10s are spun in a row, this player replaces his or her salary card with the yellow salary card and immediately proceeds to the next White House dinner to entertain the President.
Government Worker: This player may draw a career card resulting in extra benefits with little or no chance of layoff provided union dues are paid promptly.
"Share the Wealth" cards
Distributed with the game are a number of "Share the Wealth" cards. Each player starts with one, and earns another card if "Pay Day" is reached by exact count. There are three types: Collect, Pay, and Exemption, and they are used as follows:
1. If a player makes a large campaign contribution to an influential Senator, he can steal money from the federal treasury.
2. If a player cheated on his Taxes, he can be appointed to a position in the Administration. The player may present a Pay card to an opponent, who immediately has to pay an IRS penalty or face 10 years in federal prison.
3. If a player has an Exemption Card, a Share the Wealth card is canceled. Both cards are then removed from the game, and the player retires immediately to a private island with a multi-million dollar bank account and a private jet.
There are two insurance policies that prevent a player from being affected by a number of "tragedy" spaces throughout the board. One version is for poor schmucks like you, and the other version is for members of Congress and their wealthy supporters. Buying insurance results in the government deciding what health care you can get and when you can get it. Any time a player spins, the insurance companies collect $10,000 from the government.
If a player does not have an insurance policy and lands on a "tragedy" space, the player pays an obscene amount of money for health care and moves to the "Bankrupt" space. Insurance can be cancelled if the player questions the Constitutionality of Congress’s latest power grab.
The Game of Life and Death rewards players for "good" behavior, such as consuming every new medication concocted by the drug companies and requesting unnecessary diagnostic procedures to avoid malpractice lawsuits.
If a player lands on the "Unsustainable Entitlement Program” space, he can choose between higher unemployment, fewer jobs, lower wages, or slower economic growth.
Several of the spaces are marked "Lucky Day." If the player lands on a Lucky Day, he immediately receives $20,000. The player can keep the money or take a chance on a back alley doctor. To gamble, the player contacts a friend who has an acquaintance who can put him in contact with the guy who knows how to get in touch with a doctor that will see you right away, but you have to pay cash. Of course he’s a real doctor! With all these government regulations, though, he’s had a hard time getting his license. It’s just a matter of time before they review his application and approve it. He went to the best medical school in the country. I don’t know what country, but he’s a very good doctor. Just go see him!
When a player reaches the end of the game, he can retire to the "Still Kicking" space if he thinks he has the will to live. In some circumstances, all players can retire here after reaching the end of the game, at which point they count their scars and any remaining vital organs. The player with the most vital organs wins the game.
If a player is trailing near the end of the game, he can make one final attempt to see the “Physician." The player selects one number on the number strip and places his car on it. Upon spinning the wheel, 9 of the 10 numbers force the player to move to the "Access for the Elderly Denied" space. However, if the correct number is selected, the player becomes the Millionaire Tycoon and automatically wins the game.
Some critics have noted that luck and influence peddling play too large a role in determining the winner of the game. Aspects of the game where a player has to make a decision, such as which doctor to visit, what treatments and medicines are good, what foods to eat, and how much exercise is appropriate, have a very small effect on the outcome of the game. As the frequency of play has increased since its creation, though, this criticism has found less and less favor as people begin to realize the insanity of a small number of bureaucrats in Washington, who after all aren’t any smarter than the rest of us, try to manage the health needs of hundreds of millions of people.