Review: Monster Mash!
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1987

Cover has a green monster getting thwacked

how we met

The Kane County Toy Show happens twice a year, in April and October. I particularly love to attend the October show because it is full of spooky toys, decorations and games. And I have seen Monster Mash! at the show 30 times in various states of disrepair, usually with a very heavy price tag. So I never picked it up.

But one glorious day Bill was at a thrift shop and found a beautiful, complete, wonderful copy for just a few bucks. And he brought it home. And that’s how we met.

how it plays

Monster Mash! gameplay is so simple that there are no instructions, just the box back that indicates players should push the button on the monster machine to show a random monster, then thwack that monster card hard with your THWACKER™ hand (a long plastic arm with a suction cup at the end)! The game includes 27 different monster cards that are laid out in front of the players for optimal thwacking. If an already-captured monster comes up then other players will attempt to steal it from you. The first player who captures five monsters wins Monster Mash!

The monster machine with a large button at the top that you press, and the three sections randomize into a monster
The monster machine. Note the big button in upper right corner that will fetch you a new monster

how it went

Our gameplay was a long time ago now, but it was also stunningly violent and I remember it well.

Hands gesturing wildly over monster cards
The live portion of this photo shows a THWACKER™ hitting the table between those hands

We gave each player a damp paper towel to help their THWACKER™ hand pick up cards, and that worked very nicely. Highly recommend having those handy.

Because Monster Mash! has the rules on the back of the box only, the game is ripe for house rules. Things that you may want to house rule:

  • Does the first person to thwack the monster get it, or do they need to transport it safely to their area? We often had players try to steal the monster en route. Annoying, but probably fair.
  • Is there any punishment for thwacking the wrong monster? Many people play that a wrong thwack causes you to forfeit a captured monster.
  • Bill is not allowed to bodily block you from accessing the monsters.
  • Keep your elbows to yourself.

In terms of pattern recognition games, Monster Mash! is a really good time. The monster machine is a great way to randomize monsters, with the drawback that repeat monsters happen pretty consistently. But stealing someone’s captured monster is just another part of the gameplay.

The THWACKERS are long yellow arms with orange suction cups
Our heroes, the THWACKERS™

The challenge of Monster Mash! is obviously to quickly determine the monster you are looking for and then to find it. Drinking may not be a great idea during this game not only because you may easily knock your drink down, but you can’t afford any delayed reaction if you hope to win.

Monster cards showing some similarities and differences
Three of the 27 possible monster combinations

Throughout our play we all thwacked a good share of monsters, each other, the air, the table, and especially the other THWACKERS™. Bill won our first game heartily.

play or pass

Very much play! I’m not sure I would describe Monster Mash! as elegant or anything, but it’s such brutal fun. This game is kind of expensive if you try to hunt it down. I think it’s worth keeping on the wish list though, and you may just stumble upon a bargain at thrift like we did.

If you know of another game that implements this type of lively pattern recognition, please comment and let us know!