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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Munchkin Gets a Grudging Thumbs Up

My wife was rather displeased with me when I brought home a copy of Munchkin Bites a couple months ago.  Admittedly, she wasn't in the best of moods at the time and perhaps made a snap judgment, but she tends to stand by her initial assessments.  Subsequently, I feared that there would be very little Munchkin fun going on in our household.  Sigh.

Fortunately, we held a game night with some neighbors a few days later, and we decided to start off the evening with my shiny new Munchkin game as a light, fluffy game before moving on to the heavy stuff.  That plan fell flat, though, when the game ended up taking three hours to finish--and in fact, only ended when I decided enough was enough and let Mike win.  We were all rather new to the game, and with six players, we ended up burning through the Treasure deck.  Eventually, the only things in the deck were one-shot items we kept using to prevent people from winning the game.  They kept getting reshuffled and redrawn, until it was clear that winning the game was technically possible, but mathematically unlikely, accept in the event that someone chose to allow someone else to win.  So that's what I did, because the game had been going for far too long.

Still, the game had mostly been fun.  More importantly, it gave my wife a taste of why it could be fun, so she was willing to give it a chance this holiday season as we visited various relatives.

Munchkin, by Steve Jackson Games, is a series of card games and expansions that satirizes traditional role-playing games.  The original Munchkin game (and the one with the most direct expansions) riffs off Dungeons and Dragons.  Players start the game as an equipment-less, item-less human with no powers and no class (har har).  Each turn, a player "kicks open the door" by drawing a Door card and revealing it.  He or she may run afoul a curse or a trap, or encounter a monster to fight, or he or she may find a Race, Class, or Power card that will grant various useful abilities.  By fighting monsters and using certain cards, players may draw from Treasure cards, hopefully finding useful items to play that will give them bonuses in combat. 

The eventual goal is to reach Level 10 before anyone else.  Levels can be gained by selling 1000 gold-worth of items, use Go Up A Level cards (which often have amusing titles such as Invoke Obscure Rules or Bribe GM With Snacks), or by defeating monsters in combat.  The final tenth level can only be acquired through combat, which makes things tricky and amusing, because players have a wide variety of ways to affect another player's battles.  There is subsequently a lot of player interaction, an element that occasionally fails to turn up in some of the games my wife and I play.  (I'm looking at you, Dominion.)

There is also a trading aspect that further encourages player interaction.  Upon encountering a particularly strong monster, one player can say to another, "If you help me defeat this monster, I'll give you two of the Treasure cards straight off the top of the deck."  In other instances, someone may say, "You're a Wizard, right?  I have this Pointy Hat of Power that gives a +3 Bonus in combat.  It's only usable by Wizards.  Can you offer me anything for it?"

There are plenty of different types of Munchkin games, all of which satirize the stereotypes of your favorite things: cowboys, kung fu movies, pirates, sci fi movies.  They even have a Munchkin Impossible game for all you spy movie buffs!
The art and card names tend to be pretty funny, although occasionally a bit obscure.  I think my wife's favorite moment happened when her brother used Magic Missile to attack The Darkness.  (For those unfamiliar with the reference, please watch this amusing video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHdXG2gV01k)

We already owned Munchkin Bites, and were pleased to receive the original Munchkin game for Christmas.  (Thanks, Alex and Sheena!)  I have to admit, though, after playing the game so many times during the past few days, I'm a bit Munchkin-ed out.  Still, at least I was able to convince my wife that the game is fun.  I'll take that as a win.

 Still, I'll be glad to give the game a little rest.  At least until our next game night.


  1. It might be a while before we have another game night. Unless you and your mission friends can actually track down a night that works for everyone.

  2. That's been proving difficult. Tyson seems to work a lot and Parker seems to date a lot. But I'm hopeful that the new year will prove to be a good year for getting together for games. Also, who knows, maybe some new gaming couples will move into our complex.