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Cardboard Children: Life

Play Life

Hello youse.

There is a real craft to writing a good board game rulebook. A great rulebook gives you the information you need in an elegant and simple way, and excites you about the game you're about to play. A bad rulebook hides the information within clutter, intimidates the reader, and makes them put the game away and pull out King of Tokyo instead. Rulebooks fascinate me, and so I'd like to take a little step away from our usual coverage this week so that you can read some rules.

The rules for Life itself.


Life is a game for one player. In this challenging game you will try to build an efficient system for coping with the chaos of the universe. While you can't win this game, your objective is to reach the end of the game with as many personal victory points achieved as possible. While this scoring is ultimately meaningless, it will ease your transition into post-game oblivion.


1. Take the Sperm and the Egg and combine them to create life.
2. Wait.
3. Wait.
4. Wait and hope.
5. Use Medical Ultrasonography to assess the success of the game setup process so far.
6. Wait.
7. Wait.
8. You are ready to play!


Life is played over a terrifyingly uncertain number of game rounds. Each game round consists of four phases.

1. Spring – In this phase, the player prepares for the rest of his round with hope in his heart.
2. Summer – In this phase, the player tries to put some of his plans into action but is horny and distracted.
3. Autumn – In this phase, the player tries to rush into some plans, aware that time is running out in the round. A depression starts to sink in.
4. Winter – In this phase, the player must say “I can't believe it's Christmas already” and then fall into a strange mood that alternates between joyful and suicidal.

If at any time during the game the player cannot continue with his round, perhaps because he doesn't exist anymore, the scores are tallied and then quickly forgotten.


During this phase, the player prepares for the rest of the round by setting some Plans.

The phase consists of these steps.

1. Advance the Life round marker by one step. If the marker reaches 40 on the Age Track, take the Morbid Thoughts deck.
2. Set Plans. (The player will believe he has an unlimited deck of Plans, but in truth there is only seven or eight. When the Plan deck is empty, shuffle discards and re-use.)
3. Resolve Illnesses. (If the player has illnesses from previous rounds, he must resolve their actions now. If he stops existing as a result of one of these actions, wipe all plans off the table with a sweep of an arm and a wail of horror.)


During this phase, the player attempts to put his plans into motion.

The phase consists of these steps.

1. Execute Plans. (If the player has the Resources listed on his Plan, he may execute the plan. Unfortunately, these resources are not included within the components of the base game of Life.)
2. Make Excuses. (If the player has failed to execute a Plan, he must take an Excuse card and add it to those already in his play area. Please ensure you have a big enough table.)
3. Wander Off To Try And Have Sex. (The player must now leave the table to try to find someone to have sex with. It is summer, and it is hot, and have you seen what people are wearing this round?)
4. Suffer Guilt. (Take 9000 Guilt Tokens.)


During this phase, also known as the Panic Phase, the player can try to get his round back in some sort of working shape.

The phase consists of these steps.

1. Set More Plans. (The player can now search through his deck and his discards for a couple of Plans that look easy to execute quickly. Please note that there is actually no further opportunity to Execute a Plan in this game round.)
2. Stare Into Space. (The player may now stare into space for a period of time of his choosing. During the game, this step may also be referred to as “Stare At A TV”, “Stare At A Ceiling”, “Stare At A Neighbour's Bin” or “Stare At Your Own Reflection”.)
3. Advance The Downer Track. (Move a step further along the Downer Track. If you reach the Total Downer area, repeat the entire Autumn phase forever.)


During this phase there is renewed hope for the player, tinged with a strange sadness.

The phase consists of these steps.

1. Declare Disbelief. (The player must make this statement out loud - “I can't believe it's Christmas already!” In the early game rounds, this statement must be made in an excited and joyful tone of voice. In the later rounds, a despairing and frightened tone is essential.)
2. Clear Play Area. (The player might as well now clear the whole fucking play area because they did absolutely fuck all this game round, as per usual.)
3. Give and Receive Gift Cards. (The player can now choose the very best cards from the Gift Deck and award them to other players. Please note that Life is ultimately a solitaire game, and no other players really exist. The player must pretend that they do for this phase. He must also randomly draw some Gift Cards from the deck and be disappointed by them.)


You can't win this game. Every great person in human history has played this game and not one of them has managed to win.

The game ends when you end.

Try to arrange for someone to tally your Victory Points at the end of the game. Be sure that this person can be trusted to exaggerate your VP total during a eulogy at your funeral.


1. Is there a multi-player variant for this game?
You can pretend there is for a while if it makes you feel better.
2. Do we have to play this game? I hate it.
Unfortunately, if the game Setup has been completed, you are expected to play the game to a finish. Also, there ARE no other games, so you might as well play it. What else are you going to do?
3. Will there be an expansion for Life?
No. But every player's experience will be forever coloured by the vain hope of one.


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