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Subject: Munchkin Review rss

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Steve Tudor
United Kingdom
Malvern
Worcestershire
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You probably know that a Munchkin is a creature of diminutive stature that likes their roads yellow and constructed from a sturdy brick, you may know that a munchkin is a breed of small cat, and if you play role playing games you may have come across the term munchkin as a player who plays to win rather than for the roleplaying experience.


That’ll be £20


The latter term is what the Munchkin is referring to in this comedy card game for 3 to 6 players. Munchkin is a humorous pastiche (or piss take for those without A-levels) on common Dungeons and Dragons tropes. The aim of the game is for players to be the first to level 10 by amassing as much equipment as possible and killing monsters. Players take turns to enter the next room in the dungeon by turning over a dungeon door card and fight what is inside. Combat is simple; if your level and all your bonuses add up to greater than the level of the monster you win, claim the treasure and go up a level. If the total is the same or lower you have to run away by rolling a dice. Fail the roll and ‘bad stuff’ happens according to the monster’s card. Once the monster is beaten you get to take the treasure cards. These give you equipment which add bonuses or one-off abilities.


A typical Munchkin monster


Not all of the door cards are monsters however. Some are curses that have an immediate negative effect. Some are random events that you can take into your hand and play later as either a bonus to yourself or a hindrance to the other players. Some again are classes and races that add bonuses to your character and allow the use of restricted equipment.


The bow with ribbons adds a combat score but only if you’re an elf.


Often you are going to come across a monster that you can’t defeat, especially early in the game, so you can make a deal with another player to come to your aid. You then have to convince or bribe them to help you. What you offer in return can be absolutely anything. You could be offering up the treasure at stake, your current prized equipment or even having to mow the lawn or wash the dishes for a week. On the opposite hand you can try and hinder other players by playing events from your hand. This feature helps to level the playing field as players tend to pick on whoever is in the lead or the players falling behind tend to group together. This wheeling and dealing is what makes the game interesting; refusing to help a player that’s in the lead or having to give up your prised equipment for a player’s help.

The rules as written here seem really simple but unfortunately the rule book doesn’t like to put across these rules in a simple concise manner. The basic rule mechanics are fine, opening doors, fighting monsters are well explained but what isn’t clearly defined is what should happen when a class, race or effect is picked up from the door pile. This lack of rules clarity appears to be done on purpose, suggesting the game is supposed to cause arguments amongst players.

Humour comes in the form of cards and the players’ mischievous nature as you gang up on the leader or help out the runt of the group and change your allegiance at the drop of a hat. The cards themselves are funny providing you are aware of the fantasy RPG tropes, those people not au fait with vorpal swords and gelatinous cubes won’t get the joke. And the joke can run out quite quickly; in a 3 player game you will work your way through most of the deck, in a 6 player game you will easily go through the deck of cards a number of time. You can always add to your deck from one of the huge range of expansions and basic sets covering many other themes such as sci-fi, westerns and even Cthulhu.


What do you mean you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons? Then this might take a bit of explaining.


One big drawback to Munchkin is its price. For a typical retail price of £20 you get one dice and two decks of cards. The cards are colour and are well illustrated by Dork Tower artist John Kovalic but the box seems very sparse and you never feel you are getting value for money. In addition you need something to keep track of everyone’s level. The rules suggest pen and paper or poker chips but when you’ve forked out that much you’d expect some tokens or counters in the box. You could argue that this is and expensive hobby and that seems a typical price but it comparing it to other boxed card games and you definitely don’t get as much for your money.

Munchkin is a fun game but its mechanics seem to be missing something. Its quick to set up and the game flows quickly but there is a lack of depth. The humorous cards and the blackmailing and backstabbing of your friends are what bring the game together but the jokes can wear thin quickly and it never feels like good value for money.

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Mark W
United States
East Islip
New York
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Ugh, I've played D&D and plenty of RPGs, but I think Munchkin humor is the worst. I always hear the jokes are good but get stale fast. I don't think the majority of them are even worth a chuckle the first time around.

/crotchety old man?
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Liam Liam
Scotland
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An interesting read - thanks for posting.

You're a bit kinder than I am when it comes to Munchkin
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Cory Ledoux
United States
Dallas
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It's a mediocre kids game at best. It should never be played with more than 3 people (if it should ever be played at all). I don't think anything else needs to be said about this game.
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G K
Canada
Calgary
Alberta
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I always think Munchkin is like the Monty Python's Flying Circus of boardgames. Serious television and movie critics will say that it's only silliness without substance and not worth watching. Some viewers will say they don't find it funny and don't like the humour, and shake their head at anyone who does. However, for the many fans no amount of critiquing will take away the fun they derive from it.

Munchkin is popular for a reason, and I don't think it's because of Steve Jackson's superior marketing, or because those who play it "don't know any better". It's not exactly a mainstream game, but more enjoyed by rpg geeks and gamers who have been exposed to so called better games. For some reason they actually like playing it, and have fun despite the lack of meaningful decisions, the high amount of luck, and the fact that it can sometimes take a long time to finish. Go figure.
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Mister P
Australia
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Interesting points. I enjoy the humour but the gameplay seems tedious to me.
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