Originally posted at https://mikemeeple.blogspot.com/2018/07/a-mike-meeple-review...
by Steve Jackson Games
Welcome to Munchkin Land
If you've never played a tabletop RPG, you wouldn't know, but what they say about those gaming groups is true. Everyone starts off their adventures feeling like this Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas at Helm's Deep, but sooner or later, the game becomes Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail.
In all fairness, I didn't make this comparison up, there's a whole meme out there of the same thing, but I can't think of a more appropriate example!
But here's the thing. For me, THAT'S when those games became really FUN! When the players forget about their preconceived notions of being "COOL" and just let themselves have fun. Because, I'll be honest, after a long week of work, and someone at the table is just stewing on something, like a joke or some in-game event too seriously, it ruins the whole game.
Enter Munchkin. Munchkin was published by Steve Jackson Games and is a sort of metagame. It was a casual card game that poked fun of all the little tropes and foibles of games like Dungeons and Dragons. And it BLEW UP! We got every theme under the sun: Space Munchkin, Zombie Munchkin, Cthulhu Munchkin, Marvel Munchkin! Part of me is convinced that Steve Jackson is hard at work trying to figure out how to do Munchkin Munchkin!
So, now, the newest Munchkin game is a spin-off, called the Munchkin Collectible Card Game. Is it the next step in Munchkin-volution or is it just a Steve Jackson Games' attempt to get that sweet, sweet TCG money...?
Munchkin The Gathering
I'm going to start by saying this. The Munchkin Collectible Card Game is not Munchkin. If you're looking for another standalone or expansion for the game you love, you will not find it here.
The Munchkin Collectible Card Game is a 2 player bluffing duel style game where players choose their class, build their decks, and then spend turn after turn using Mischief, hiring Monsters and Allies, and equipping Loot in order to reduce their opponent's life to zero. Sound familiar?
While this may not be the first time we've heard this story, Munchkin CCG is quick to flip the script. You see, when you play a Monster in Munchkin CCG, you place it face down on the table, with a number of Gold sitting next to it. Now your opponent has the opportunity to either fight the Monster or Run Away. If they choose to fight, the Monster if flipped face up, you lose the Gold next to the Monster, and Damage is dealt in typical fashion to Monsters and Players. But if the other player chooses to Run Away, then you take back all the Gold next to the Monster to possibly hire a different Monster from your hand instead, and the Monster is placed off to the side, still face down, waiting to be added to back to your hand next turn.
Now, here's the catch. Your opponent can only do this for free ONCE on their turn. After that, each additional time they Run Away, it's going to cost them 2 Life, AND they'll never know if the card you just played was really a Monster costing 5 Gold, or a useless spell that you faked them out with.
So, on your turn, you could play a 0 Cost Monster face down, and put like, 4 Gold next to it, to psyche out your opponent into wasting their free Run Away, then play your ACTUAL big Monster with 4 Gold. Or your little Monster with 4 Gold, or whatever the heck you want to get inside your opponent's head!
And THAT'S the beauty of Munchkin CCG. Where normal collectible card games force you to play your own cards to the best of your ability, Munchkin CCG forces you to play your opponent. This is not a string-your-cards-together-to-make-infinite-damage-loops kind of a game. This is a deduction game. It doesn't matter how good my cards are. What matters is how good I make you THINK my cards are!
That said, there is a downside to bluffing too much. If you're ever caught Cheating (playing a card that is either not a Monster or a Monster that you haven't paid enough Gold for) then YOU take 2 Damage, so Cheat, but Cheat wisely.
Little People, Big Game
Okay, so I have been out of the collectible card game scene for a while, the last one I played competitively was the original Vs. System by UDE back in 2006, but I have to say, the cardstock on Munchkin CCG feels cheap. I don't know if it's just because I've been spoiled by the linen finish found on more traditional board games and deck builders, but there you go. Not to mention the Damage and Gold Tokens are the same component, so that can get a little confusing.
The art, though, is fantastic. One of the best parts about any collectible card game is seeing all the different art styles blending together to create this gaming world. With Munchkin CCG, the art style is pretty well established, but there are still enough individual artists giving it their own flavor to keep it fresh.
And the cards are still FUNNY, and more importantly, they link thematically to play! Drop Bear lets you drop the card PHYSICALLY onto the other cards in order to deal more Damage! That's a tournament legal card which require your own dexterity to play! That's awesome! Could you imagine if you had to flick your cards at your opponent to cause extra damage whenever you used Bolt Lightning in Magic, or ACTUALLY had to bring small cuddly creatures with you in teeny tiny inhumane container to summon Pokemon?!? We'd all be in jail...
Buy It!, Try It!, or Fly It!
So, I really like this game. This is the first collectible card game that I have played where it truly is player vs. player, and not deck vs. deck, and for that, I think the game design of Munchkin CCG is brilliant. However, I did come across a little bit of unbalance between character classes some of them are more useful than others, and I personally think the Wizard is just damn useless, but that's what expansions and boosters are for, right?!?
Overall, I think it's a fresh take on, quite frankly, a crowded market. I mean, there's the grand daddy of them all, Magic, but there's also Pokemon, My Little Pony, I think Yu-Gi-Oh! is still a thing... Not to mention the LCG's like Game of Thrones, Legend of the Five Rings, and Netrunner (though not for much longer) and you could also add in Dice Masters to that mix... So, will it stick around long enough to be worthy of a hearty investment and effort needed to collect enough cards?
I don't know.
The longevity of games like this come from the strength of the meta, and at this point and time, as of the writing of this post, I think Munchkin CCG is just too new, though there are indicators that things are heading the right direction. My own friendly local game store, Crazy Squirrel Games, has been promoting the crap out of it, with strong support in the form of Learn-How-To-Play Events and Tournaments. Not to mention, with one expansion already out and another coming down the pike, it gives me confidence that Munchkin CCG could be a contender.
However, based solely on gameplay, and as a game for you to get 3 or 4 decks built up to play with friends and family, it's a solid choice that will give you a different experience than just slamming your best monsters into their best monsters...
One of the best reviews I have ever read. Thank you.