Your Best Life
- Designer: Yaniv Kanaha
- Publisher: Wizkids
- Players: 1-8
- Age: 10+
- Time: 45 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher
Says the publisher: “Will you go on vacation with each other or build the house of your dreams? Will you raise a big family, or do you prefer to party with friends every evening? Why not both?! Go ahead — try to have it all! Your Best Life is a flip-and-write life story game. Playing as couples or singles, players manage their happiness and joy as they experience various choices in their lives. Each turn, players choose cards with the actions that will build their character and family unit. Players mark their actions on their individual or family sheets in order to “live” the most successful life!
Players can choose to invest in a myriad self-improvement options relating to education, creativity, business, friendship, nutrition, and even romance. Take vacations with family, friends, or on your own. Experience both the stress and joy children can bring — and even spend time with pets! Invite players to your important life events with customizable invitation cards.
Balance health, knowledge, social skills, finances, time, and even a little bit of luck to come out on top. After ten rounds, all players score their character and family sheets, and whoever has the most life achievement points wins.“
The roll and write (RAW) genre has been one that burst onto the scene a few years ago, and there seem to be new releases daily. One of the variants is a flip-and-write, where instead of using dice, games use cards as the randomizerl In this game, each player gets a Character sheet for themselves. Interestingly, the game allows you to play as a Couple or as a Single – and you can mix and match this as players wish. Each family unit (whether Single or Couple) gets a single Family sheet as well.
The personal sheets have a number of different areas, each with two or more tracks on them. They represent the different options you have to take in your life. For instance, in the Health area, you have tracks for Rest, Meditation, Sport and Nutrition. Other than Health, the Personal board is where you track advances in Knowledge, Social skills, Time and Likes. The Family board has a few different tracks to note where you use your Time and Money. On all of these tracks, there are bonuses which can be achieved as you make marks along the paths. The Family board also has a Stress track as well as a chart where you can note your Happiness and Joy.
In setup, players choose Shared and Personal goals as well as getting an asymmetrical start from a randomly dealt Background card. The Post A Story, Vacation and Children decks are shuffled and placed on the table. The Action card deck is shuffled and a 4 card display is dealt out.
The game is played over 10 rounds, each with the same pattern:
Renew Action Display – make sure 4 new cards are placed face up for the new round
Choose action cards – players “simultaneously” place their action token next to one of the Action cards in the display. If you are in a Couple Family, you cannot choose the same card as your Family partner. If multiple players choose the same card, all those players gain one Like and can mark an X in the Like section of their personal sheet.
Check Stress/Relaxation – Each player looks at their card. For each card that has one or more Stress icons on it, one player from that card takes a matching number of stress dice and rolls it. For each stress icon rolled, all players at that card mark one space on their Stress track (on their Family board). Do this for all cards. Then, check cards for relaxation icons; for each of these seen, you ERASE one mark from the stress track. Note that as you move between areas on the stress track, you will gain/lose Happiness.
Use Actions – Now make marks on your Personal or Family sheets based on the other Action icons found on the card that you chose – make 1 X per icon. The green four-leaf clover is a Wild action and can be used on any track. After all the actions on the card are taken, each player gets an extra action – if you are in a couple, you take one icon from your partner’s card. If you are a single, repeat one action from the card you chose. As mentioned earlier, if you reach a bonus area, you immediately get things: advancing on other tracks, gaining happiness or balance, or possibly other extra actions. Blue bonuses are one-time and only apply to the particular player; Purple bonuses are couple bonuses and each partner gets the bonus (if single, you get it twice!)
- Digital Persona area – top of personal sheet – here is where you mark your likes. As you cross spaces with icons, you gain things or post a story to social media by playing a story card to the table. You get the bonus on the card. If other players “like” the story, they also get the bonus, but then you get more Like marks too!
- Romance area – bonuses are granted when both members of a couple have finished a particular section of the track. If you are single, you simply get the bonus when finishing the section
- Children cards – Couples or Singles can have a kid when each member of the family gives up one time action. Draw a Child card and place it next to your family sheet; you now have an extra track to fill – and if you do not fill it up by the end of the game, you’ll get a penalty for being a bad parent.
- Vacation – costs two money actions, draw a Vacation card and then choose one of the bonuses. If you pay all the money yourself, you get two bonuses at least (just like real life)
- Health area – note that there are bonuses as you move across each of the four tracks, but also bonuses for completely filling in a column
- Opportunity icons – these are seen in the different tracks; when you cross off a square that opens up an opportunity, if you are able to spend an action as indicated, you gain the opportunity and cross off one space on the opportunity track at the bottom of your personal board.
- Balance – you might do things that change your Family Balance – update the number in the area near the top of your Family Sheet as directed
Record Happiness – When all actions are taken, each Family notes their current Happiness score in the chart. Happiness does not reset each round; it is a cumulative score.
Play through this pattern for 10 rounds. Note that you gain Joy from your personal goals at the end of rounds 4, 7, 10. Your personal goal card will tell you how many Joy points to record based on the number of marks you have made on a particular area on your personal sheet.
After the 10th round, you score the game. There is a chart on the Family board to assist in the tabulation.
- Score your personal sheet – look at each row on your sheet and sum up the right-most score in each line that has been reached (on the opportunity row, it is the leftmost space not crossed off).
- Score your family sheet – Again, look at each row on your sheet and sum up the right-most score in each line that has been reached
- Happiness and Joy – Sum all of the Happiness and Joy scores noted on the chart on the Family Sheet
- Children and Shared Goals – for each track not filled on a Child card and for each Shared Goal not met, mark down the penalty for each
- Balance Scoring – Take your game end balance score and multiply it with the lowest non-negative line of your personal sheet. Members of couples each calculate this and sum their two values.
Single players double their score. The Family with the most points wins. Ties are not broken.
My thoughts on the game
Your Best Life is an interesting take on the flip and write genre – mostly due to the way it lets you work alone or with a partner. In our games so far, we have had a mix of both singles and couples, and it seems to work fairly well. I’m not sure at this point if the scoring is balanced; though it seems to work as the single person simply doubles their score to get an equivalent amount of a couple.
I like the way that the action cards give you a number of different possibilities as to where you can make your marks, and the extra action here seems to possibly favor the couples over the single as you get access to a wider range of icons when you use an icon off your partner’s card as opposed to doubling up on an icon from your single card.
The timing is a bit wonky, and I think this is the sort of game where you have to go with the flow. The rules tell you to simultaneously choose which action card you want to play on, but there are times that knowing where someone else plays is important – whether you’re trying to gain a thumb for yourself or possibly deny a thumb to an opponent. We just kinda let people see where everyone else goes, and then if people want to change their mind, that’s fine too.
The actual rule for how to play your cards also seems to be buried a bit in the middle of the page, but the rules want you to do the icons on your own card first, and then afterwards, you do the extra action from your partner’s card (or the duplication from your single card). It is unclear how/when players should post their stories, etc – as the possible extra actions can definitely change things or maybe open up other opportunities. It’s also a bit unclear if you can combine the different actions – i.e. can a single use one money action from his regular card to pay for half a vacation, and then use the second money action from his extra action to then take the vacation? Or must that all be done in the same phase?
There are plenty of chained actions here, and you have to be diligent about tracking what you still have to do each turn. We have found that it’s helpful to write down actions yet to be used in a corner of your personal sheet. When you play in a couple, this is especially important because your partner might be giving you actions based on their turn, and you’ll need to remember that you get a thumb and a money action. Going back to the timing, sometimes you end up having to retrace your steps, because maybe you weren’t expecting a money action (as there isn’t one on either player’s card), but then your partner gives you one, and then this changes your plan as now you can take advantage of an opportunity that required a money action, and now your whole turn has to be rethought. Is it an AP disaster? Could be. We just house ruled (eventually) that once you made a mark, it was done and you moved on. If you got an action later that would have changed things; tough luck. And if you paused too long to wait and see what was coming, the rest of us harangued you into making a move.
The scoring is a bit complex, and this is the sort of game where most marks on your sheet lead towards a score; but trying to figure out the most efficient path is not as easy to see. In my games, I have always tried to focus on happiness, as this score is recorded each round and it is cumulative. Getting an early bolus of happiness could pay rewards at the end of many successive rounds. Looking past that, you have multiple bonus card criteria to work on, as well as trying to score the bonuses for progressing upon the different lines on your sheets. The scoring is complex enough that it’s really hard to guesstimate where you are, to the point where I don’t even really bother to try to figure out my interim score – I just play and then do the math at the end. I think that this also lessens the AP somewhat as it’s super difficult to min/max a move; so you just do what feels right and you move on.
Rules – the rules are a bit disorganized. I had a hard time getting a feel for the game from reading the rules alone; it came together a bit better after playing a few practice rounds; but even then, it took a bit of looking at the sheets and dealing with things to figure out how it all works. Maybe it would have been better if the sheet areas were explained first before I was told how to mark them? As it is, the rules start out with telling you where to mark Happiness and Joy, without explaining what those things are or how they affect you in the game. Then it goes into setup. Confused? Yeah, I was too. Maybe the game is just on the more complex side, and it’s one of those games where you’ll have to play it once to figure out what is going on. It also doesn’t help that some of the graphics have typos on them – making it really hard to figure out where you’re supposed to mark things like your Joy.
Your Best Life is an interesting and fairly chaotic flip and write. I think it does a good job capturing the hectic modern lifestyle, where you are pulled in all directions, but only have time (actions) to do a few things each turn. It’s not a game for rules sticklers as I think there are a lot of places where you’ll have to make your best guess on what to do. The game takes 40-60 minutes; there are only 10 rounds, but there are times in the game when you really have to think about which actions you want to take and then which order you want to take them in.
I like the idea that the game can be played as a Couple or a Single. There are plusses and minuses of either arrangement, so I think game-wise, it all evens out. There is definitely a lot going on, and just like my best life, I’d prefer a tighter, more rules governed experience. You’ll enjoy the game more if you enter it with a free-wheeling attitude and just take things as they come. Just like real life, if you overthink things, you’ll lose all the enjoyment out of it.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor