The game consists of a track, on which players travel by spinning a small wheel with spaces numbered 1 through 10, located in the middle of the board. The board also contains small mountains, buildings, and other similar pieces, so the playing area does not appear flat. Playing pieces are small, colored plastic automobiles which come in six different colors (red, blue, white, yellow, orange, and green), and each pawn has six holes in the top in which the people pegs are placed throughout the game as the player gets married and has or adopts children.
Each game also includes a setup for a bank, which includes imitation money (in denominations ranging from $5,000 to $100,000), insurance policies (automobile, life, fire, and/or homeowners' insurance depending on the version), $20,000 promissory notes, and stock certificates. Other tangibles vary with the game version.
To determine one's salary, a player could travel one of two routes at the beginning of the game. The shorter route was entitled Business and resulted in the player receiving a set salary of $5,000 per Pay Day. The longer route was entitled College and could earn the player anywhere between $6,000 and $20,000 per Pay Day. Taking the College route also meant taking $40,000 of bank loans that had to be paid off in order to win the game. Both of these initial routes joined back together at the first Pay Day.
The Game of Life copyrighted by Milton Bradley in 1963 had some differences from later versions. For one, once a player reached the Day of Reckoning, he could end up at the Poor Farm, or he could become a Millionaire Tycoon and move on to Millionaire Acres (later renamed Millionaire Estates). This version had Art Linkletter as the spokesman, included his picture on the $100,000 bills, and a rousing endorsement from Linkletter on the cover of the box. It was advertised as a "Milton Bradley 100th Anniversary Game" and as "A Full 3-D Action Game."