The chance to play an out-of-print boardgame doesn’t come by very often, so I pretty much leaped at the opportunity to try The Mad Magazine Game when a friend brought out her family’s copy. Printed in Singapore way back when the publication had an office along Alexandra Road, this relic turned out to still be in good playing condition. Other than the usual signs of age and wear — faded colours, concaved cards, et cetera — we pretty much had everything necessary to get started. So we did.

Mad Magazine

Mad is an American humor magazine founded in 1952 by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines, launched as a comic book before it became a magazine. It was widely imitated and influential, affecting satirical media as well as the cultural landscape of the 20th century, with editor Al Feldstein increasing readership to more than two million during its 1970s circulation peak.
The magazine is the last surviving title from the notorious and critically acclaimed EC Comics line, offering satire on all aspects of life and popular culture, politics, entertainment, and public figures. Its format is divided into a number of recurring segments such as TV and movie parodies, as well as freeform articles. Mad’s mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, is typically the focal point of the magazine’s cover, with his face often replacing that of a celebrity or character who is lampooned within the issue.

What it’s about

The Mad Magazine Game has a clear goal: Be the first player to declare bankruptcy. It’s very much a spoof of Monopoly, though with some Mad-style additions to keep things aligned with the brand’s image.

A Gaming Nation - The Mad Magazine Game board

With “Mad” in its title I don’t think this was popular in 480BC Sparta.

2–4 Players | 45–90 minutes
What you get:

  • 1 board
  • 2 dice
  • 4 playing pieces
  • 24 cards
  • Money in various denominations

You’ll also need:

  • A sense of humour
  • Enough space to move around

The most striking difference lies on the board itself, where alternate paths cut into the middle. Getting into these loops are a matter of luck but once you do, you’ll lose money faster than signing for a new car. It’s also possible to get “stuck” in there, bouncing back-and-forth for amazing value per turn.

However that’s still a little too predictable for my taste which is why I’m fond of the swapping mechanic. Every so often a space or card demands players to exchange money or even seats — inheriting everything from its former occupant, including money — immediately negating any advantage you may have had. Since it’s fairly random there’s not much you can do to prevent it, leaving fate to Lady Luck and the Gods of Comedy.

The madness doesn’t stop there. A rule explicitly states you must roll die with your left hand or risk having all opponents passing you $500. You may  be asked to jump and stay airborne for 37 seconds, act like a rock, or cluck like a chicken and lay an egg. Ridiculous, yes, but you’ll do it anyway because the point is having fun. If your birth stars aligned right you could even get the coveted Alfred E. Neuman bill, valued at a troll-worthy $1,329,063.

A Gaming Nation - The Mad Magazine Game $1.3 million

Stare deep into his eyes and know your place in the game: dead last.

What it’s like

Hilarious! Once things are all set-up, all it takes is for one quick read of the rules to get the game rolling. The cards and board spaces are all self-explanatory, and any confusion can be officially resolved with a majority vote. If anything, the hardest thing to come to terms with are some of the quirkier rules, purely as a result of unfamiliarity.

The charm only began to disappear by the fifth consecutive game, when the funny stuff starts getting recycled. And since everything is random you can’t mix up your approach either, so player fatigue settled in then too. Hence it’s best used as a starter or in-between other games if you have a long session coming up.

Lastly, while it says you can play with two players I highly recommend you do so with three instead — the swapping mechanic makes more sense then.

What you should do

A Gaming Nation - The Mad Magazine Game verdictFind it! The Mad Magazine Game doesn’t stack up to some of the antics in modern party games of course; if you’re looking for something far more risqué or adult then there are plenty of alternatives out there. On the other hand, it has the unique position of being family friendly, easy, and familiar (kids still play Monopoly right?). It’s so casual that the only thing cut-throat about it is in finding a copy.

It may be out of print but don’t give up hope! As the one I played was printed in Singapore, you may just get lucky by asking relatives and poring through their storage. Given how much history and comedic value this actually has, it’ll be worth the effort.

Official Site: None
Designer: Parker Brothers
Publisher: Parker Brothers (1979)

No. of players: 2-4
Playing time: Approximately 45 to 90 minutes
Ages: 8 and up

A personal copy was provided for this review.
Played at McDonalds in Bishan Park, Singapore.