Munchkin

"When you find yourself in the company of a halfling and an ill-tempered Dragon, remember, you do not have to outrun
the Dragon ... you just have to outrun the halfling."

- Ancient Geek Proverb

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/sjg1408.jpg)

This weekend, men and women like you and me will be flocking to Indianapolis to attend this year's Gen Con. They'll spend four days rescuing damsels in distress, crawling through dank dungeons, vanquishing mighty foes, and spending far too much money on twenty-sided dice. It is a celebration of the original geek culture. Not all of us are lucky enough to attend, however. Some aren't willing or able to travel to Indianapolis with the sole intention of pretending to be a gnome. But if you still want to celebrate the fine art of tabletop gaming, there's a game that will take you back to your days of minotaurs and magic missiles. That game is Munchkin.

Originally developed in 2001 by Steve Jackson, the man behind legendary RPG system GURPS, Munchkin is a card game infused with the spirit of pen and paper role-playing games. Full of inside humor and dead-on satire, the game is Jackson's love letter to the industry he helped create, packed with the kind of incessant taunting borne from a deep love of the genre. It plays fast, it's loose with the rules, and it appeals to the gamer locked deep inside us all. One night playing Munchkin will make you recall your college days spent drinking absurd amounts of Mountain Dew and scribbling stats on your character sheet. For better or for worse.

Playing Munchkin is simple. Get two to five of your friends to sit down at a table and give them markers for ten levels (poker chips work well). Players take turns drawing a card from the door pile and reacting to what they find. If it's one of the game's brilliantly designed monsters, players can either try to fight the creature or run away by rolling a die. Combat is won or lost based solely on the levels of the player and the monster. Whoever has the higher level wins. So if you encounter a Level 10 Net Troll, for example, you have to be level 11 or higher to defeat him. Once the foe is dispatched, you draw treasure cards and go up a level.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/Munchcard3.jpg)

The treasures you gain can take many forms. Often they are ridiculous weapons or armor that give you bonuses to your level in combat, such as Boots of Butt-Kicking or the Cheese Grater of Peace. Sometimes they're items that are usable only once, such as Yuppie Water, an item usable only by elves, or the Magic Missile, a giant rocket that gives you a bonus in combat. If you're really lucky, you'll draw a card that gives you a free level for whining at the GM or invoking an obscure rule.

If you can't finish that Plutonium Dragon off on your own, you can ask your fellow players to help you out. Negotiation and backstabbing are the keys to getting ahead in Munchkin, and you'll often have to resort to bribery to further your cause. Of course, there's always the chance that your party will take an opportunity to screw you over by using potions or curses against you, or summoning extra monsters for your combat. Alliances shift quickly in Munchkin and rarely last. Players continue to take turns until someone reaches Level 10, at which point the game ends and the winner typically mocks his inferior party members and their heritage.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/cardsample.jpg)

Obviously, much of the appeal of Munchkin is the humor. Each of the 168 cards in the core game has an irreverent quality to them, often found in the original illustrations by Dork Tower creator John Kovalic. It's not at all uncommon for an entire table of players to burst out in laughter at the battle conditions involved in facing, say, a Level 8 Gazebo ("You must face the Gazebo alone"). But at its core, Munchkin is fun because it reminds us of all the pros and cons inherent in tabletop gaming. Anyone who's ever rolled a rogue will spend the game awash in memories of a simpler time of karma pools and calculating THAC0. And those of us who have never purchased an overpriced set of dice might just find themselves opening a door to an entire new hobby.

So this weekend, while the masses are congregating at Gen Con, gather your own party and play a few hands of Munchkin. With its hand in your gold pouch and its tongue firmly in cheek, Munchkin captures the essence of the dungeon crawling experience without the pesky pens, paper, or role playing.

Munchkin
Official Site
2001
Steve Jackson Games

Comments

Ok, now that's just funny. I'm tempted to get it, but there is no one I could play with so..

Well maybe one guy, but he's busy getting tested...

The cards are funny but me and My wife and I like "Ninja Burger" better.

We also play Talisman from time to time (but she is a quitter ) .

Looks like something worth checking out to me. Looking at their site, they actually have a number of "flavors" you can get it in, including space and secret agents.

I'm even more interested in their books for playing Munchkin with the d20 system instead of cards (if I'm reading things right.)

I played Munchkin for the first time a few weeks ago (Space Munchkin to be exact) and had an absolute blast. Once you realize that the rules are vague on purpose, and the lack of clarity in the instructions is designed to incite shouting matches, and negotiations between playeres, the bottom really drops out and the fun begins.

It's really worth checking out.

Nice article! Always nice to see reviews of board/card games here. Personally, my friends are having a good bit of fun with Memoir '44 lately

Is this something that can be enjoyed by a group with no role-playing game experience? It sounds like fun, something that I might be able to get a co-ed group together around, but the closest thing to this that we've ever played is Lunch Money.

Great to see board/card games getting some time on GWJ, thanks for the review, Cory!

I have to say that Munchkin is one of my least favorite games, it suffers from Steve jackson syndrome (all about the art/humor, little to no strategy or long lasting appeal). There are so many great games out that i'd like to see plugged here, like Caylus, Twilight Struggle, and Ticket to Ride to name some off the top of my head. Hope the trend continues.

ps. the caveat to my dislike of munchkin is that pretty much any game can be fun with the right people.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Is this something that can be enjoyed by a group with no role-playing game experience? It sounds like fun, something that I might be able to get a co-ed group together around, but the closest thing to this that we've ever played is Lunch Money.

You'll miss some of the inside jokes without the rp experience, but it's still a great game. I've played it with mixed groups (D&D'ers and people with girlfriends) and everyone had a blast. I love this game, only downside I see to it is that it's quite luck-dependent. If you get behind at the start (too strong monsters, no good gear) you'll trail behind the entire game.

As board game collector, it sounds like this is right up my alley.

Thanks,
Edgar

Munchin is an absolute blast, and I recommend it. Fair warning though, if you have non-geek non-gamer friends (who wouldn't get the satire) an alternative might be in order, such as Fluxx or Nanofictionary.

I love this game, but I dont own it. I do have Munchkin Fu which is good for kung-fu fans and combinable with any other Munchkin game. Tons of fun going at the evil hordes with my elf-ninja with a wicked katana, 2 mooks and a duck of doom

I'm inclined to disagree, jonny. It's true that any game can be fun with the right people, but Munchkin is a typical Jackson game in that it amplifies the social element. Sure, you come for the zany humor, but you stay to pile up everything you have against a friend and then extort five treasure cards to help him get out of the hole you just shoved him into. The social aspect is emphasized, and I can happily live with that.

I just realized that a friend of mine that I thought might be interested in playing this game already owns Star Munchkin. Perhaps I can get some Star Munchkin action this weekend!

polypusher wrote:

I love this game, but I dont own it. I do have Munchkin Fu which is good for kung-fu fans and combinable with any other Munchkin game. Tons of fun going at the evil hordes with my elf-ninja with a wicked katana, 2 mooks and a duck of doom

Yes, Munchkin is a great game, and I find Munchkin Fu to be even more enjoyable, as it goes a couple rungs higher on the power ladder.

In the twenty someodd years I've known the SJ crew, I've never seen them come out with something that didn't make me giggle. My biggest regret when leaving Austin was that I didn't get to play with them any more. (Well, that and I didn't have a small tactical nuke to leave as a going away present for my ex and his teenage mistress.)

I'm forwarding the thread to some of the gang, I think they'll enjoy the writeup, and will think it particularly amusing that you picked up the duck.

Munchkin's a lot of fun to play, especially when it's 2 in the morning and everyone's a bit loopy on lack of sleep and determined to be the victor. I agree that luck plays a big part of how well you wind up doing, but it's not as big of a killer as dejanzie indicates. If you play the right cards at the right time, skill will overcome luck eventually.

The Star Munchkin's laser-taser-mazer-dazer-bobazer makes me laugh every time. Thats 4 or 5 cards that combine to one beast of a weapon. I dont think I ever lost with most of that assembled.

Well, I spoke to my friend, and assuming I can talk my fiancee into this, I will be playing Star Munchkin this weekend!

How long does a typical game last?

Fedaykin98 wrote:

How long does a typical game last?

I haven't played in awhile now but I'd say games can last 1 to 1 1/2 hours (the "official" playtime is 45-60 minutes but games always go a bit longer). It depends on the number of players and how badly people gang up on the leader. My only real issue with Munchkin is that the end game can drag on a bit as the game as a very high "screw the leader" factor; as soon as someone is close to winning everyone else will pile on them to try and stop the win. Maybe some sort of team play variant would help eliminate that a bit. Usually the winner is whoever gets to level 10 first, but perhaps you could make that the end game trigger but the winner is the team that has the highest total level, making people less likely to always pile on and allow your teammates help you out. I might see if I can talk some friends into playing again and try some sort of team-based game.

Anyway, I find the game to be a lot of fun. You can't take it seriously at all... it's meant to be a light, easy, nonsensical card game. If you're a RPGer it's worth it just to read all the cards and the artwork is terrific. There's a lot of luck and not a ton of strategy but if you want some good laughs Munchkin might hit the spot.

On a side note, I just discovered this site. Looks like a fun place to hang out

Fedaykin, just as a side note: if you find a loophole, exploit that sucker for all its worth.

It's in the spirit of things.

I'd say games last less than an hour, but only because I'm a good player and I'll spring a bunch of "instant level" moves in a single turn and reach 10 before anyone gets concerned enough about my progress to screw me over.

Didn't they also release a series of hardcover books called MUNCHKIN D20, that was an actual RPG system?

"Dreaded Gazebo"-- can I assume from your name that you're a KODT fan?

It's on! I've got 4 players lined up already (I read that the game accomodates 3-6). I'll probably stop by a local gaming store beforehand and grab regular Munchkin just in case we want to try that as well.

Dreaded Gazebo wrote:

On a side note, I just discovered this site. Looks like a fun place to hang out :)

This place is it. Finding GWJ for me was like coming home.

SommerMatt wrote:

"Dreaded Gazebo"-- can I assume from your name that you're a KODT fan?

It comes from both Munchkin and KoDT I haven't read KoDT that much, just a few that a friend of mine has, but I distinctly remember the gazebo incident. There's also a card in Munchkin called the Dread Gazebo which I'm assuming to be a nod to that cartoon. Both inspired my username here which is also my Xbox Live gamertag. I've been using the Duck of Doom as my avatar on various forums for a long time, too.

There is a Munchkin d20 system. I haven't actually looked at the books myself but as I understand it they are rules, items, monsters, etc. to add onto any d20 system:

http://www.sjgames.com/munchkin/rpg/

Dreaded Gazebo wrote:
SommerMatt wrote:

"Dreaded Gazebo"-- can I assume from your name that you're a KODT fan?

It comes from both Munchkin and KoDT I haven't read KoDT that much, just a few that a friend of mine has, but I distinctly remember the gazebo incident. There's also a card in Munchkin called the Dread Gazebo which I'm assuming to be a nod to that cartoon.

Well, welcome aboard from one Wisconsinite to another. I LOVE KODT... started with issue #2, and never looked back. It's maybe getting a little long in the tooth right now, but those first few trades (Bundle's of Trouble) are definite must buys for anyone who at any point carried around a leather pouch full of polyhedrons.

I ran out and bought this last night. Demiurge may want to look into some kind of commission.

SommerMatt wrote:
Dreaded Gazebo wrote:
SommerMatt wrote:

"Dreaded Gazebo"-- can I assume from your name that you're a KODT fan?

It comes from both Munchkin and KoDT I haven't read KoDT that much, just a few that a friend of mine has, but I distinctly remember the gazebo incident. There's also a card in Munchkin called the Dread Gazebo which I'm assuming to be a nod to that cartoon.

Well, welcome aboard from one Wisconsinite to another. I LOVE KODT... started with issue #2, and never looked back. It's maybe getting a little long in the tooth right now, but those first few trades (Bundle's of Trouble) are definite must buys for anyone who at any point carried around a leather pouch full of polyhedrons.

So... what does KoDT stand for? I'm guessing Knights of the D[something] Table. Do I get a cookie?

Knights of the Dinner Table, I think. I've never read it, tho.

McChuck wrote:

I ran out and bought this last night. Demiurge may want to look into some kind of commission.

With my luck, I'll probably get a butt-pat from Steve Jackson. Not that I'm complaining...

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Knights of the Dinner Table, I think. I've never read it, tho.

I'm gonna go buy myself a cookie!