Ever fight a big floating nose or a gazebo? Neither had I…that is, until I played Munchkin for the first time a few nights ago. I first saw the game when browsing the “TableTop” videos, which are hosted by Wil Wheaton on Geek and Sundry. I enjoyed watching Felicia Day, Sandeep Parikh, Steve Jackson (Munchkin’s creator), and Mister Wesley Crusher himself backstab their way to victory. As someone who is a fan of lighter dungeon games, it didn’t take much arm twisting for me to buckle down and order it.
Munchkin tasks players with getting their characters from level “1” to level “10.” The first player to do so, wins the game. It sounds like a very simple goal, but the other players aren’t going make it so easy for you (unless you bribed them before the game started). Players will constantly be helping each other, only to turn around and step on each other’s faces to ensure that they get to the finish line first. Before we take a look at the components and gameplay, I want to point out that the “deluxe” version is simply an upgraded version of Munchkin that includes a bigger board, player pawns, and colored male/female cards so players can keep track of what sex they are. Yes, you read that right.
Board – The board contains ten squares that number from “1” to “10”, representing the levels that players must advance through in order to reach victory. As players defeat monsters, they’ll move up in level and their player pawns accordingly.
Treasure Cards – Players are awarded treasure cards when they defeat monsters. Treasure cards can do various things, but for the most part, provide a permanent or temporary bonus in some way, shape, or form. You’ll find gear to equip your character with to increase your attack power, just to name an example.
Door Cards – Door cards can also be a variety of things, ranging from monsters and curses that players will need to deal with, to different races and classes that players can become to give them unique bonuses.
Player Pawns & Die – The player pawns don’t do much other than for players to keep track of what level they are on. The die is used when fleeing from a particularly hard monster to determine a successful (or failed) escape.
Setup & Gameplay
Players choose a color and receive a character pawn and a male/female card of that color. Players will begin as the sex they are in real life and flip their card to the appropriate side. All players start on level “1” and receive four of each card type. Everyone will have the ability to sort through them and lay down any race or class cards they have (one each, unless a card says otherwise) and any items that they can equip. There are limits to what you can equip…though if you’ve ever played any sort of RPG, you’d be familiar with the armor slots and two 1-hand/one 2-handed weapon rule.
On a player’s turn, they’ll be able to do the following, in this order:
1) Play any cards they have in their hand, as well as sell cards for their gold value listed to increase in level. (1000 gold = 1 level)
2) Flip over a door card. A few different things can happen here:
If it’s a monster, the player will fight or run. The monster’s attack value is the level listed on the top of the card. The player’s attack value is their current level + their gear + any special cards that can be played. Ties, by default, go to the monster. The player can ask for help from other players, often resulting in bartering and deal striking. For example, Bill might help Ted, but only if Ted is willing to give him two of the three treasures that he’d receive for defeating the monster. Other players can step in during combat and help the monster with various cards, in case they feel that the current player is too far ahead. Yes, you could screw over the current player by helping the monster, then offer to help defeat said monster for some of the treasure…because that’s just how you roll.
If the door card is a curse, it is resolved. If the door card is anything else, the player keeps or plays it. In either case, the current player can “look for trouble” and play a monster card from their hand to fight. If they choose not to, they can instead, “loot the room” by taking a door card for their hand.
3) Players discard down to five cards, giving the extra cards to whichever player(s) is on the lowest level.
Players advance in level by selling treasures, defeating monsters, and through special circumstances like cards. There’s a bit more to it than that, but I’ll opt to continue on to the review rather than recite rules that you can just look up yourself here: Munchkin Deluxe Manual.
First, I want to mention that clean up was simple, which always makes me happy. There aren’t that many components, so sorting cards was the extent of our post game “celebration.” The cards themselves are well done and maintain a light, PG-13-esque humor. My thirteen year old step-daughter chuckled at the card that featured the troll reading a porn magazine. Everyone playing enjoyed discovering a new card, mainly just to see what kind of silly joke / pun was on it.
The game mechanics encourage social interaction, which is always a plus. You’ll often see two or more players agreeing to work together (for a cut of the treasure cards) only for another player to throw in a card that throws a wrench into their well laid plans. The kids were very active in trading items and discussing bonuses with one another.
My other half, unfortunately, did not like the game and cut out about fifteen minutes in. At first, all of the different cards overwhelmed her and she wasn’t sure what everything did. As she watched us play and with me helping, she grasped the basic concepts but didn’t find it all that fun. I don’t fault her, as everyone has a different taste in games. She enjoyed Lost Cities and Nile DeLuxor, so it all comes down to what someone likes and doesn’t.
The kids loved it. There were often times where I just let them go to town and do their thing while I sat back, nodding sagely while being completely oblivious and lost. Anthony Jr (16), Carolyn (13), Devonn (11), and Vinnie Jr (11) all enjoyed battling monsters to level up. We ended up all reaching level nine at the same time and it became a furious fight to see who could beat the next monster that appeared on their turn first. I got a monster and thought I had the game in the bag with my attack power of “35” with all of my gear and bonuses, but all four kids ganged up on me, played every negative card they had, and beat my “35” with a “37”. I lost my die roll when I ran, so I died. On the very next turn, Carolyn drew a level two monster and no one had any cards left to stop her (they used them all on me) so she easily pulled ahead to victory.
As such, there is a bit of luck when drawing cards. If you continuously draw curses instead of monsters, you may not be able to advance as quickly as someone else. Catching up can be difficult if you’ve had a bad run of cards. All in all, Munchkin is a fun little game that five out of six of us enjoyed playing. I recommend giving it a look.
Final Verdict: 7/10