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Subject: Munchkin: The Game People Love to Drop-Kick…for some Reason rss

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Dustin Whitmire
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“I'd rather have teeth pulled for 2 hrs than play it again.”
“I am left with no choice but to assume that its fans are self-abuse experts with deep-rooted psychological problems”
“I wish to purge the earth of this pile of dung.”
“I don't need to play this to know it sucks.”
“Things I would rather do than play this game: Watch my mother strip”



Ah yes, welcome to my review of Munchkin by Steve Jackson Games.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever seen one of those fundraisers where somebody went and got an old vehicle, spray painted it with a rival football team logo, and people come and pay money to beat the holy snot out of it? Well, that gets sort of close to the inner delight and knee jerk impulse people have in dog cussing the game of Munchkin.



And I’m a bit mystified. This review will explore some of the wonderful things about Munchkin and probe the question “How hard can a rented mule be beat while carrying a deck of Munchkin?”

Any Munchkin haters are welcome. Come. Relive the moment.

BACKGROUND
I started gaming in 2006. Before that, I only knew Risk, Monopoly, Yahtzee, and similar such games. Munchkin and Settlers of Catan were my first eye openers into this huge world of games that I never knew existed. Settlers didn’t come natural to me at first, and so it didn’t capture my attention. But Munchkin clicked.

I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to play Munchkin any time I could. A friend had all the expansions at that time, and I read through all of them. My appetite for Munchkin was virtually insatiable. I was incapable of being burnt out, and getting a game going amongst the 15 or so friends that I play with was never a problem. Nor did I ever hear a complaint about the game.

By 2009, I had played a lot of Munchkin, but my gaming palate had broadened, enormously. Since 2009, I have essentially (other than with my wife a few times) not played Munchkin in virtually 3 years. Not because I don’t enjoy the game, but there are so many other games that successfully vie for my attention. I would gladly sit down for a game of Munchkin, but it doesn’t get requested, and I don’t offer.
Munchkin was a gateway game for me though. It got me into the FLGS, and from there I went all over the gaming spectrum. I have a warm place in my table top soul for Munchkin. There is a genuine attachment.

MUNCHKIN: THE GOOD
So, imagine my surprise as I learn that Munchkin is as loved as a mole on the buttock. Yes friends, I now realize to love Munchkin is to be a complete loser; an anathema; the leper of the gaming community. “Can any good thing come out of Munchkin?” (John 1:46).

Here are some great things about Munchkin:
• Every game is different
• The person in last place, can always come back
• Practically innumerable, creative combinations can be played on an opponent
• The “I just totally messed you over; have fun with that” moment
• Highly interactive
• Tongue-in-cheek theme
• Simple game play
• Lots of variety. Almost every card is unique
• Inexpensive (compared to board games in general)
• Easy to explain. Intuitive to grasp.
• Memorable moments. Talking of when I played this and this …and you died

MUNCHKIN: THE BAD
Now I’m not going to tell you this game doesn’t have its flaws. I just don’t understand what the big deal is.

Length: I read people complain about the time. Well, I agree, it’s a long game. Do you not like long games in general? Do you only like 20-30 minute games? Well, cool. I get it. But if it’s the length, and you like other long games… …Do you take your game box of Twilight Imperium or Axis and Allies, go out back, and take a big poo in it, because it’s long? No, I doubt it. So, there has to be something else than the time. The time on game boxes lie. They are lying liars. I love Descent (2nd Edition), for example. It says a campaign only takes 20 hours - *spitting water out of mouth* yeah right!

Jokes: Here is the big compliment the game gets. It’s like when people in the South say “God love ‘em, but…” because what follows is a verbal rear end smashing. I love this game, and I never thought it was funny. I’ve never grinned at a single card; maybe I thought one or two were clever, mind you, but not funny. So many people say this too, for some reason. Did they come into the game thinking it was about humor? It’s not why I play the game. I don’t think it’s the reason anybody who enjoys this game plays it.

Luck: Yes, there is luck, and it can be painful, or should I say, Munchkin-y. But can I suggest that there is not nearly as much luck in this game as might be accused. I won’t bore you, but a player has their fair share of control. If you play this game like a draw the card, read the card, sit there till your next turn, kind of game, then you really haven’t played Munchkin.

Well, I’m fair, so here is where I’m going to agree with the angry mob:

• Unclear, mutable rules
• Potentially anti-climactic ending (lvl 9 stopped by everyone playing their cards, next person wins)
• Repeated turns of drawing curses
• Repeated turns of not drawing monsters
• Players who are turds/jerks

Now, in my opinion, all these things can be resolved. I won’t go into how or why; my point is to be fair to those who don’t like the game. These things seem realistic to me. Saying it’s a 1 and the jokes are not funny boggles my mind.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
This game sells like crazy. They’ve got to be doing something right. If you walk into a FLGS they will have Munchkin and all its thematic variants and expansions stocked. They don’t do this to round out their inventory and torture unsuspecting victims – the game sells. And more importantly, the expansions sell. People buy the base game and come back and buy all these expansion packs… because they like it.

So I’m curious. What stirs the animosity to this game? We lovers of Munchkin must be shunned, moved outside the camp. Could it be:

• You legitimately don’t like it. It’s not your style or the mechanics don’t do it for you
• Somebody who didn’t really know what they were doing taught the game
• It’s popular to bash on the game, and it’s group think.
• You sat there, drew a card, read it, and waited for your next turn thinking that’s how this game is played
• Someone didn’t tell you that this game can take a couple hours
• You never experienced the true joy of a “I just totally messed you up; have fun with that” moment and “while I’m at it, here’s ‘Mate” moment.
• You don’t like aggressive, confrontational games

I don’t know. But I love this game. It’s awesome.


Edit: spacing
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Toms Leikums
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Munchkin certainly is from the category - like it or hate it. My gaming group adores this game and I understand why.
Munchkin gives the main thing we look for in games - fun. We are not the serious type of gamers, who sit around the table for hours, rethinking strategies and so on. Although, of course, Agricola, Power Grid and many other medium+ weight games still see the table quite often.
Anyway - Munchkin gives so many themes to laugh and make jokes about. And sometime these jokes stay around long time after the game (let's take for instance the classic Change Sex Curse - when we have the reason to discuss, whether the cursed one during and after game was peeing standing or sitting; or Item in Cowboy Munchkin which allows other players to think the indian name for Items holder). Well, it is stupid, but Munchkin gives light and realxed feeling around the board with lots of competition added.
And I really dislike the snobbish attitude from many self proclaimed true gamers, who declare that Muchkin, Monopoly and even Settlers are garbage.
OK, maybe these games are mainstream already, but that's how it works - the selling records show the popularity and if it was such a crap as everyone say, noone would buy them.
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Bill Holmes
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Munchkin is a fine game, and a lot of fun, and I don't know why it gets the hate it gets. Certainly its in the same category as Fluxx.... i.e. fun, chaotic, could possibly last a long time. I play Munchkin with the family at get togethers and everyone loves it, gamers and non gamers alike.
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My biggest pro about Munchkin is the this one:

First off the rules are very simple and also people that do not usually play boardgames at all, grasp the concept pretty quick and have a fun time. After some rounds of Munchkin people that only know the classic board games said to me "I never thought that board games could be this fun"

And this is Munchkin strongest point in my opinion, you get them hooked!

Also Munchkin in my opinion is nice "warm up" game to start the evening. And then move on to the more longer games. At least that is how we handle it.

With all that said, my personal preference of board games are very time consuming strategy games, dungeon crawlers and co-op games. But I love Munchkin for what it is, and I had always a great time playing it

Also I think that elitism and trash talking has no place in gaming. It is fine if you dislike a game but to mock others and look down on them, cause they enjoy a game that you personally dislike. Is always wrong in my book
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Eric Matthews
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I defend munchkin all the time, and love it; however the argument that it is too long is valid. It is too long for what it is, and I do think that is true. Comparing it to a long heavier game isn't useful in this context; heavier games do come with more serious emotional investment by players and can handle more time commitment.

When someone starts a game of Twilight Imperium or even Risk they are already buying into the idea that "we are about to start this epic game." With games like Munchkin the theme and "feel" of the game just do not support that expectation and tolerance. The wide variety of length is also an issue. Munchkin might actually end in 30 min, but also could easily hit 2 hours.

I do wish that instead of just bashing the game there were more posts and threads with ideas on how to make it shorter without losing what is great about it. We see threads for uncessasary variants all over the place on BGG including unreleased kickstarters.

If munchkin were shorter or even more predictable in length, it would hit my table more.
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tim thorson
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Ganybyte wrote:
I defend munchkin all the time, and love it; however the argument that it is too long is valid. It is too long for what it is, and I do think that is true. Comparing it to a long heavier game isn't useful in this context; heavier games do come with more serious emotional investment by players and can handle more time commitment.

When someone starts a game of Twilight Imperium or even Risk they are already buying into the idea that "we are about to start this epic game." With games like Munchkin the theme and "feel" of the game just do not support that expectation and tolerance. The wide variety of length is also an issue. Munchkin might actually end in 30 min, but also could easily hit 2 hours.

I do wish that instead of just bashing the game there were more posts and threads with ideas on how to make it shorter without losing what is great about it. We see threads for uncessasary variants all over the place on BGG including unreleased kickstarters.

If munchkin were shorter or even more predictable in length, it would hit my table more.


Agree completely. This game is great in the 20-40 minute time frame. But due to its simplicity and depth, a one to two hour game gets stale.
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Seth Owen
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Shadow_Tracker wrote:
Munchkin is a fine game, and a lot of fun, and I don't know why it gets the hate it gets. Certainly its in the same category as Fluxx.... i.e. fun, chaotic, could possibly last a long time. I play Munchkin with the family at get togethers and everyone loves it, gamers and non gamers alike.


And not coincidentally, I think, Fluxx is another wildly successful game (in sales) that also seems to have a lot of hate directed at it.
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Bill Holmes
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BGG has it rated a 6.06 with 12001 votes...... it must be doing something right, because last time I checked 6 out of 10 is better than average!
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Dustin Whitmire
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superflypete wrote:
Here's the deal:

-The game isn't fun enough to engage you through 2 or 2.5 hours if you have 4 players beating one another to death.

-The humor wears thin after the third play.

Here's other reasons:
http://superflycircus.blogspot.com/2010/03/munchkin-proof-th...


I agree with your critic that the game didn't (I believe it does now) come with dice/markers/whatever to count your levels.

Interesting take on Steve Jackson being a wizard marketeer to explain the success of the expansions and spinoffs; a stretch, but I give it some credence.
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Chris
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This reminds me of car critics reviewing pure hybrid/electrical cars.

Being that they are hard core about it, anything that is just functional i.e. "It's funny, it's a fun game." like a car that will drive you from point A to B is looked down on.

I have loved this game with friends and family, but it could be easily be played by an automatic AI player without losing much of anything.

I own it and have defended it many time here. It is best if it can be under an hour.


 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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Cosmic Encounter is pretty much the same thing but with 5 for the win condition instead of 10, while still being very much about cards and diplomacy. Also, fighting players instead of monsters is cool, and having that fight get settled by playing unknown cards with numbers against each other is better, to me, than the very deterministic way combat is decided in Munchkin, with all variables known at all times.
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Matt N

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The analogy that's meaningful for me (but probably not for plenty of others) is that Munchkin is like a meme. It's great and amusing at first, but the longer it goes on, the worse it gets. If you're stuck with it for long enough, you may dislike it enough to offset the original entertainment and then some.

painkiller wrote:

Munchkin gives the main thing we look for in games - fun. We are not the serious type of gamers, who sit around the table for hours, rethinking strategies and so on. Although, of course, Agricola, Power Grid and many other medium+ weight games still see the table quite often.


But I thought people can't play games like Agricola and have fun...
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Pete Henninger
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Just picked this up recently and haven't played yet. Having read the review, I'm looking forward to giving it a try.
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that Matt
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Shadow_Tracker wrote:
BGG has it rated a 6.06 with 12001 votes...... it must be doing something right, because last time I checked 6 out of 10 is better than average!

I'm pretty sure that a 6.0 qualifies as "pretty crappy" by BGG standards. Of the 44 games with at least 10000 ratings, Munchkin is #42.

(And UNO has a 5.3...)
 
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10.000 ratings and still "6" ?... not bad at all.

I like Munchkin... Cthulhu Munchkin and Zombies Munchkin to be exact. Not something for all the people but for a zombies and lovecraft fanatic they are a lot of fun.

I think this game is not for boring euro groups were players get serious... forgetting they are playing a game Its for people that like to have fun on a theme they enjoy. A take that and very confrontational game indeed. Not for everyone but there is plenty to choose from.

Oh, by the way... I hate FLUXX But that is another story Still a 6.48 for FLUXX and 6.06 for Munchkin tells me the scales are not very good. Not to mention FLUXX is not really a game... But... that is for another review.

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I'm just dipping my toes into board/card games now, and chose Munchkins, because it looked like fun, its fairly affordable, and seemed relatively simple to pick (important if I'm going to get my computer game playing mates into it).

Had half a dozen or so games now, and I'm still enjoying it. Its pretty light hearted, casual fun.

Not sure if I understand all the vitriol posted about it. Like anything, not everyone will like it.

(wooo, first post...)
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willdesigns wrote:
10.000 ratings and still "6" ?... not bad at all.

By the BGG rating system, a 6 means "OK game, some fun or challenge at least, will play sporadically if in the right mood."

That's hardly a glowing review.

Also bear in mind that people do not tend to rate games they don't own or have only played once or twice. If you dislike a game and seldom play it, you are more likely to try to put all thought of it behind you rather than rushing over to BGG to give it a bad rating.

So actually, a 6 is very, very bad.

The reason the game sells like hotcakes is because fan service works as a marketing tool. Even if your feelings about Munchkin are only tepid overall, you might buy the Cthulhu version or the ninja version if those things are relevant to your interests. More likely, if someone knows you are a gamer who is into one of the thousand Munchkin themes, they might gift you a copy because they heard it's a popular game.

Munchkin is lucky enough to have gotten started well before the current golden age of gaming in America, and it has been coasting on a reputation it would never have earned if it had been born into competition with the far better games we see in the present.
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Joe Deschenes
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I have been gaming well over 20 years now. About 5 years ago the owner of my FLGS and I were chatting about games we've been playing. He brought out his Munchkin deck and gave me a brief overview of the rules. I frowned at him, I had seen Munchkin everywhere before that and honestly I had bought into the hate the Geek community seems to have towards this money printing machine Steve Jackson created. He explained the game play to me and I instantly panned it, thinking it was about equal strategically to the playing card game WAR I used to play as a kid. Told him thanks but no thanks, and went on my way.

Last night I busted out my new copy of Blood Rage with my homeboys and we had a night full of glorious death. After it was done, one of them asked if we wanted to try this copy of Munchkin his wife picked up over the weekend. Having lost Blood Rage by about 130 points, I was already feeling pretty down, figured what harm could it do...

Three of us played it, and to my surprise we had a pretty good time doing so! We love Cosmic Encounter in our group, and with all the back and forth card play, Munchkin kind of felt like Cosmic Lite (Very Lite). It is very random, not necessarily fair, and there doesn't appear to be much in the way of strategy. It still manages to be fun, however. We laughed out loud at a lot of the humour (the jokes will get old fast I'm sure) and there was a lot of trash talking, deal making and back stabbing. We relish the chance to yank the rug out from under someone's feet in our group. It is satisfying to see someone add up all their bonuses and card effects to determine that yes indeed, they have enough to beat this level 16 monster... and then slap a +10 upgrade on the monster to steal their thunder and say "I'll help you beat him now if you give me those rewards (insert evil laughter here)." We even played it a second time!

I readily admit now that I must be a gamer snob... it's easy to do when you make this whole gaming thing one of your passionate hobbies or even a livelihood. Classic case of judging a book by its 40-something covers or however many the number of sets are at now. I would agree the price point is a bit steep though for the content.

 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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That's exactly the point, though - why play Munchkin when you can play Cosmic? It only plays to five points instead of 10, which means you get to the fun backstabby phase earlier.
 
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Joe Deschenes
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Jythier wrote:
That's exactly the point, though - why play Munchkin when you can play Cosmic? It only plays to five points instead of 10, which means you get to the fun backstabby phase earlier.


I agree with you J, two reasons I can think of Munchkin over Cosmic though would be player count and player choice. I do not like Cosmic with 3 or 4 people very much, I feel Munchkin would play a bit better with that amount. We normally play Cosmic with anywhere between 6-8 players though. The sci-fi theme of Cosmic and the deeper complexity of the alien powers and phases might scare off some players more than Munchkin too. For example, our girlfriends/spouses would likely enjoy Munchkin more than Cosmic, particularly with all the various themes available. Aliens just ain't their cup of tea...

Personally though, hands down Cosmic over Munchkin yes. I just wanted to confess that I had an unwarranted hate for this game and wanted to make amends. I don't think it deserves the all the bad rap it's received.
 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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JuggaJoe wrote:
Jythier wrote:
That's exactly the point, though - why play Munchkin when you can play Cosmic? It only plays to five points instead of 10, which means you get to the fun backstabby phase earlier.


I agree with you J, two reasons I can think of Munchkin over Cosmic though would be player count and player choice. I do not like Cosmic with 3 or 4 people very much, I feel Munchkin would play a bit better with that amount. We normally play Cosmic with anywhere between 6-8 players though. The sci-fi theme of Cosmic and the deeper complexity of the alien powers and phases might scare off some players more than Munchkin too. For example, our girlfriends/spouses would likely enjoy Munchkin more than Cosmic, particularly with all the various themes available. Aliens just ain't their cup of tea...

Personally though, hands down Cosmic over Munchkin yes. I just wanted to confess that I had an unwarranted hate for this game and wanted to make amends. I don't think it deserves the all the bad rap it's received.


I like the phrase, possibly used in this thread already, that it's 15 minutes of fun jam-packed into 2 hours. I don't discount the 15 minutes of fun, I just think that the other 1:45 isn't worth it. But the first time you play it, it is better as you catch the nerdy in-jokes.
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