Snakes and Ladders
Snakes and Ladders is one of simplest games ever designed, but in my opinion one that resembles life the most. Players roll dice to move forward. The die roll depict efforts made by humans to move forward in life. Some action leads to a lot of forward movement (high dice roll) or very little forward movement (low dice roll). However the real essence of the game is the presence of ladders and snakes. These depict random events with huge consequences. So if you land on a ladder it gives you a boost, like chance encounter that give you shortcut in life and if you land on a snake it hurts you and you drop down a lot. Plus it is a multiplayer game so while one person wins, the others can do well as well. So its not a zero sum game where if player wins the others loose by an equal amount. Thus the game tracks the results of effort (dice rolls) to move forward in life, but also introduces the element of luck (good and bad). It shows how luck can be decisive and most of the time overshadow the result of effort.
Chess is a easy game to learn but difficult to master. Its a two player game and if one player wins the other looses though draws/stalemates also tend to occur. In essence chess is competitive/combative in nature. A very intellectual game that simulates the mind. Its is perfectly symmetrical in all senses. The board is symmetrical, both sides have exactly the same number and type of pieces. The players have perfect information as well, in the sense that all the opponents pieces are visible at all time. There is no element of luck and skill is all that matters. The spaces on the board have no value and neither do the pieces of the opponent that we might capture, only the king matters. As long as ones king is alive, the game is not lost and no matter how many other pieces we may have lost, if you capture the opponent king we win. Chess teaches about gaining and maintaining initiative, maintaing tempo, creating room for maneuver for yourself can cramping room for maneuver for your opponent. It teaches studying alternative line of action and reaction. In a nutshell chess is full body work out for the mind.
The game of GO is even simpler than that of chess to learn but is much more difficult to master. GO is a two player combative game and is even more symmetrical than chess. However GO introduces the element of capturing the board space as well as enemy pieces. These are added to calculate who has won. This is unlike chess where only the king matter and games can end in three moves if your opponent blunders. Thus in GO there is no magic piece (like the parrot of the magician in tales of Arabian Nights, or like the center of gravity as defined by Clausewitz) the capture of which lead to immediate victory. The game of GO goes on till neither player can move and this make a long and intense struggle, a struggle of positioning just like in chess but also a struggle of attrition. In GO the losing side continues to solder on and inflict damage even when its position is hopeless. Very similar to real life.
Poker (Texas Holdem)
Poker is the most interesting game on our menu. It is not comparable to chess or Go in terms of sheer intellectual complexity. However it posses many feature that make it very similar to life. To start with it is a multiplayer game, with the option for players being able to withdraw if they feel their chances of winning are poor. Its is not symmetrical and contains hidden information (i.e the cards of other players) public information (cards on the table) and evolving information (cards on the table that are revealed as the game progresses). The players strategy changes depending on his sitting position viz. a viz. other players and it also changes as other players drop out during play and also it also changes depending on the size of the size of the pot. Also the human interaction level matters in poker as players try to bluff and counter bluff. Thus reading the other players is perhaps more important than reading your hand. Players can even agree to split the pot. Thus poker represents the dynamic nature of human affairs quit well. It is a very good representation of politics, diplomacy and war. Basically of human life itself.