Monster Crunch!: The Breakfast Battle Game is a great little trick-taking card game, served with a liberal helping of nostalgia, and topped off with a splash of wholesome milk.
As much as that was a snazzy soundbite ripe for quoting, it’s also a pretty decent description of the game. Each player gets to choose their favourite Monster Cereal character to play with. Each character has its own identical deck of Cereal Cards, individualized with that character’s image and logo, a Cereal Bowl Placard to play Cereal Cards “into”, and two unique Monster Power placards that can be used to break the rules in different ways. They also start with a single Milk Token.
The first player will play a cereal card into their bowl, the player next to them may only play cards of equal or greater value as the previous player. If a player can’t, or chooses not to, play a card then they pass by eating the cereal in their bowls and moving those cards to their scoring pile and taking a Milk Token from the middle. Play continues until only one player remains in the round with that player scoring and starting a new round of play by playing any card from their hand. The hand ends when any player is able to play their last card, at which point everyone discards any unplayed cards, scores any last played cards, and draws a new hand.
Now, I’ve mentioned Milk Tokens a few times. Beyond just adding to the cereal theme, a player may use them to play more than a single card at once. Individual Cereal Cards have values ranging from 1-12, and normally a play is only allowed to use one card at a time, but if they spend a Milk Token they can play a second card, if they spend a second Milk Token they can play three cards, and so on. In order to play additional cards, they must either be the same number as the first card (5-5-5) or sequential (2-3-4), and the combined numerical value is what the next player must match or exceed on their turn. It was always fun for the first player to play a 2, followed by a 3, followed by a 20. Thanks, guy.
As far as gameplay goes, this is frightfully good. (sorry, I had to say it.) It’s simple, the single-use Monster Powers throw in just the right amount of chaos, and the heavy cardboard (non-card) components have a nice weighty feel to them.
As far as nostalgia goes, that depends a bit on where you are reading this from and how old you are. If you are the United States some or all of these characters are probably iconic to you. If you are in Canada (as many of our readers are), you may only recognize them from American tv commercials, although several of these cereals have been available here on and off over the years. If you are from somewhere overseas, you likely have no idea what I’m blathering about right now. Similarly, depending on your age you may only recognize some of the Monster Cereal stars, so let’s do a quick introduction.
Chocolate-flavoured Count Chocula and strawberry-flavoured Franken Berry were first introduced in 1971, as the only chocolate and strawberry flavoured cereals on the market at the time. Both products were the same marshmallow laden corn cereal, just in different flavours, with mascots styled after Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula and Boris Karloff’s Monster from Frankenstein, complete with vocal impersonations of the two stars.
Boo Berry joined the duo in 1973 with a blueberry flavoured variant, embodied by a ghost who’s voice was modeled after Peter Lorre. Interestingly, Lorre is probably more well known (in the horror genre) for parodies and impersonations of his distinctively creepy voice, than for any particular horror role he actually played.
Fruit Brute was a werewolf inspired, fruit flavored, cereal that launched in 1974 but discontinued in 1982 to be replaced five-years later, in 1987, by the nearly identical Fruity Yummy Mummy that only lasted until 1992. Because neither fruity cereal truly captured the hearts (or maybe stomachs) of children the same way the first three did, there are many people who only know the two from their short-lived return for Halloween in 2013.
Much of the most recent retro-cereal-goodness coming from General Mills has, somewhat sadly, been available exclusively to Target stores in the US. Even more disappointing, at least for international Monster Ranger types, is that this game is following that trend. If you are outside the good ol’ US of A you’re going to have some difficulties getting ahold of this one, and whether it’s worth the trouble for is a decision I can’t really make you. As a straight game that I very much enjoyed playing, I would still be inclined to say not really, despite how fun it is. As a piece of sugar-coated childhood memories, it may well be worth it to you, and I would encourage you to go with that feeling.
There’s actually a fan-run Facebook page for the Monster Cereals at facebook.com/pg/monstercereals
[BONUS: Here’s the first tv commercial for Count Chocula and Franken Berry, Followed by the debut commercial of Boo Berry]