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Published on August 20th, 2015 | by Justified Croak

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Munchkin Card Game Review

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Average play time per game: 90 minutes

Suitable for ages: 10+

Number of players: 3-6

Mechanics: Take That, Hand management, Dice rolling

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Munchkin – A term used by Roleplayers to describe an individual who takes part in such activities yet has no interest in playing a role. These individuals are often more concerned with killing monsters, looting treasure and levelling up. Treating tabletop roleplay more like a speed run of an RPG video game. Such players are often the bane of those that prefer role-playing as an immersive experience.

The Munchkin Card Game is designed around the idea of just such players. Not interested in character development? Bored of all those lengthy dialogues? Want to smash some thing in the face with a tuba? For both everyday munchkins and serious roleplayers letting off steam, Munchkin as been accruing geeky fans for over a decade.

The premise is simple. Kick open the door – fight the monster – loot the room – gear up – get ready for the next room. Players take turns in doing just that. The winner is the first player to level 10

Note that whilst there are many, MANY variations on the munchkin games (including but not limited to zombie, cowboy, Cthulhu, vampire, spy, apocalypse and space themed) for this review I will be focusing on the original core game.

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Setup.

You will need a way of tracking player levels. Counters, pen and paper, the official Munchkin level counter app or dice all work well. Every player starts at level 1.

Sort the cards in to two decks. One of door cards and the other of treasure cards. These two card types are easily distinguished via their card back.

Each player draws 4 cards from each deck for a total of eight.

Designate first player. GO GO GO!

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Gameplay

First off, there are two main types of card a player will encounter. Treasure cards and door cards. There are many subcategories of cards within these two main varieties.

-Door cards, these represent the encounters you will have as you run through the dungeon, castle, where ever your imagination has placed you. Often these are monsters to be slain, but also curses, races, classes etc.

-Treasure cards are just that. They are often the reward for slaying a monster from the door deck but on occasion they may be acquired from a few other, cheekier methods. Treasure cards are most often items, weapons and armour to slap on your character to make them more efficient at getting more treasure.

Play begins with a player deciding what he is going to use from his starting hand. Generally a player will play any items, armour and weapons that add to his strength and also any class or race cards that may give him bonuses and abilities during the round. Once a player has completed their initial “character generation” they may commence the round proper.

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Phase one – kick open the door

Flip the top card from the door pile face up. If it’s a monster it needs fighting.

Combat works nice and simply. Each monster has a combat strength. As does each player, which is composed of that players level and any modifiers from items, weapons and armour etc. they may have equipped. These numbers are compared and the highest number wins. Monsters win ties. If a monster is slain by a player, then they gain one level (some times more depending on the monster) and may draw treasure cards equal to the number indicated on the monster card. If the player is unsuccessful they must run away.

To run away a player rolls a D6. A roll of 5 or more indicates a successful escape. For 4 or less the player is caught and the monster’s “bad stuff” occurs as printed on the monster card. This could be to discard a card from your hand, lose an item in play or even death.

Defeated or victorious monsters are then discarded once either of the above has occurred. If the door card drawn was not a monster then it is usually taken in hand by the player who reveals it unless of course the card is a curse card. Curse cards take effect as soon as they are revealed and nearly always both bad and infuriating.

Phase two – Look for trouble/Loot the room

If no monster was revealed from the door deck then a player may opt to play one he has in his hand OR he may loot the room, which is simply to draw a door card face down and take it in to hand.

Phase three – charity

At the end of a turn a player may have no more than 5 cards in hand. They must play or use cards to get down to this amount. If they don’t want to or are unable to then they much select cards equal to their excess of five and give them to the lowest level player or players if there is a tie.

I don’t know a single Munchkin player who actually does this. We all keep to the hand limit but anything over is straight up discarded. Try the official rule by all means but your likely to find that after a while your just passing the same cards round the table because nobody can/wants to do anything with them.

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Death – If at any point a player dies they loose all their stuff. They keep their class, race, curses and level but items, weapons and armour are discarded. Then that player reveals their hand. Each other player, starting with the highest level, takes a card from the dead players hand and adds it to theirs. This is referred to as looting the corpse. On the dead player’s next turn they draw 8 cards (4 treasure, 4 door as they did in their first turn) and may begin again.

The fun part – if that’s it then Munchkin sounds pretty dull right? Well the coolest bit is players can get involved in each others turns. For better and worse. For example players can strengthen monsters their opponents are fighting, or even weaken them if they’re feeling friendly and want to lose the game. They may even add a whole new monster to the combat so their opponent now has to deal with two monsters, both with levels, effects and bad stuff. There is a whole mess of nasty tactics you can throw at your mates in Munchkin like alchemical agents that stop them from running away, curses to mess with their long term plans and more than a few ways to steal their items.

To balance this the player who is fighting the monster may use his own one shot items to try and weaken the monster back down. Alternatively a player may request help from another player. Munchkin leaves the details of such an arrangement up to the player. “give me a hand and I’ll give ya a treasure? Two? …. Fine three treasures! But remember my generosity!” monsters defeated this way only usually grants a level increase to its initial target.

So be prepared because when you reveal a level 1 monster in the dungeon, chances are as you’re fighting it, it’s going to get a lot nastier, then slightly friendly for a second and then back to nasty again but it’s okay because the elf cleric said he’d give them a hand so long as they slip them a tenner afterwards.

Victory – occurs when a munchkin reaches level 10. The final level must be achieved through victory in combat. No sneaky level gains aloud.

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Opinion

For a lot of people this is an old standard. Munchkin has been going years and it’s now at the point they’re running out of ideas for themed sets. So much so that they’re now just straight up combining Munchkin with other board game to see what happens. Queue Smash up: Munchkin. It is still weird to me that that’s just a thing now.

However, classic or not I’m kind of done with Munchkin. I’ve been playing this game on and off for years as new sets come out and nothing changes but the jokes. Don’t get me wrong I owe Munchkin a fair bit. It was one of the gateway games that got me in to gaming as a hobby and no doubt so many others, but I just think there are much better card games out there that are just as light and perform the same role. Epic Spell Wars, Infernal Contraption, the upcoming Junking.

If you’ve got £20 odd quid knocking around and are looking for a light hearted gift for your geeky mate, or are interested in the hobby but don’t know where to start then go for it, as there’s no mistaking that munchkin is a classic that needs to be played, if only once. If you’re not one of the above then you probably already have a copy. If you do, then you either see Munchkin as the greatest thing of all time or your a bit tired of it like me. Either way I’m sure we can all agree it’s certainly served its purpose and will always have a place in our local gaming store but I’m not sure how much longer I’m gonna keep this around on my own gaming shelf. Seriously when I pulled this off the shelf today to check the rule insert, I felt like a wizard blowing dust from an ancient old tome…

Justified Croak

Justified Croak loves nothing more than books, miniatures, board games, RPG supplements and clever Ikea storage that helps me cope with all of the above.

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