Review: The Mad Magazine Game
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1979
Tagline: (none)

how we met

I picked up The Mad Magazine Game at a random toy show in Wisconsin for a few bucks. I certainly didn’t anticipate finding it at a toy show focused on cars, but the price made sense.

I grew up with Mad magazine. I didn’t purchase every single issue but I was a pretty regular reader from about 1988-1992. I was really looking forward to how this property would translate to a board game.

how it plays

The Mad Magazine Game is a roll and move game where the goal is to be the first to lose all of your money. As you travel around the board you may end up gaining money, losing money, trading money with another player or even moving chairs.

overhead view of Mad magazine board
our play

The game is very Mad magazine in its contrariness: gameplay around the board is counter-clockwise, rolling the dice is only allowed with your left hand (or you suffer a penalty) and, as mentioned above, the goal is to lose your money. The card deck has similar consequences as the roll and move but frequently introduces humor to the event.

close up of a portion of the board
a close up of a portion of the board

It’s a random-fest where just as you think you are moving ahead, you may in fact be moving behind.

how it went

I want to begin by diving into everything I enjoyed about The Mad Magazine Game. I like the graphic design of this game. A couple of the humorous cards were delightful. The end.

A lot of the comments and reviews on BGG lament about the poor score The Mad Magazine Game has received on the site. They say a lot of the things I have said or thought about better games: that it’s light, have some fun, relax, enjoy yourself, don’t take yourself seriously! I get that, I really do. But this game is tough.

This game is essentially the true anti-Monopoly. Do you dislike Monopoly? Try removing everything that makes Monopoly a viable game and reversing everything else, then add a nice design and a physical challenge or two. That kind of sums up The Mad Magazine Game.

The humor of the game is very Mad magazine, but it was lazy in its repetitiveness. Basically you win money, lose money, swap money or change chairs. Some of the cards from the CARD deck require you to act something out such as balance a card on your head and walk backwards or act like a rock or defy gravity. But the majority of the CARD cards also fall back to winning money, losing money, swapping money or changing chairs.

sample cards
sample cards, aren’t they pretty?

There are a couple examples of unique humor in the CARD cards, but they are very rare. One example is a card that simply says “This card can only be played on Friday” — and that’s it. It would have been nice to see more of these cards. Instead: Win money. Lose money. Swap money. Change chairs. Rinse. Repeat.

mad magazine money close up
example of a cute joke in the game

I said before that I read Mad magazine from about 1988-1992, which was about age 9-13. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I outgrew Mad magazine. Maybe it outgrew me. Maybe my focus just shifted, and by the time it shifted back we were not speaking the same language. I can see how playing this game growing up will endear you to it, and I can see how people would have fond memories of their play and be protective of that fun. I can also see introducing the game to a new generation of kiddos as a soft introduction to subversive humor. There’s something to be said for all of these things.

play or pass

Pass, friends. This game is dull and does not save itself with the rare venture into physical humor. There have been times in the past that Mad magazine pokes fun at its own audience with its merchandise. I can only assume this is one of those examples. Shock value is not enough, and something valuable was lost here.