I’ve been roleplaying for 32 years – twice the length of the entire lifespan of many of the people who have beaten me in Magic: The Gathering. I’ve played in campaigns and delved into dungeons with my friends more times than I care to admit. I’ve also had some players who insist on being … difficult. The cleric feels like he is honor bound to the God of Death and today, his God is telling him its my fighter’s time to go. Or, some jerk magic-user wants to shoot magic missiles at the darkness.
Well, Munchkin is the way to get back. A simple card game that can be played in under an hour with three or more players, this wonder by Steve Jackson Games works in a co-op/competitive mode where early rounds have a lot of mutual support and at the end-game everyone is out for themselves.
The Basic Game
The Munchkin basic game comes with two decks of cards (Doors, and Treasures) a single six sided die, and a rules foldout. This can be picked up by absolute rookies in just a few minutes. Each player, in turn, equips treasure and plays events, culminating in kicking in a door to a mysterious room. The random monster or curse behind the door will need vanquished, which is a simple matter of exceeding the monster’s power with the hero’s strength (level + bonuses). Friends may help … either side. The single six-sided die is used sparingly, there is little chance involved, just luck of the draw and strategy.
The game is quick, first to level 10 wins, and since everyone can see how close each player is to ultimate victory, friends turn on you fast, everyone trying to undermine the other.
There are multiple starter sets. The basic Munchkin plays in a traditional Dungeons & Dragons, with a humorous twist (the Broad Sword, for instance, can only be wielded by females). There is Star Munchkin, for alien-hunting action, Munchkin Bites!, which parodies the “teenage vampire OMG” fad (personally, I’m Team Guy-Who-Almost-Hit-Bella-With-A-Van), Munchkin Fu for martial arts mayhem, Super Munchkin, Munchkin Impossible, Munchkin Cthulhu, and many, many more.
The great part of the series is that all of the sets play together. Want Vampires in Space – mix Bites and Star Munchkin. Kung-fu Pirates, no worries. Or a massive free-for all with as many sets as you wish. The cards are color-coded so after the game is over you can get them back together if you wish. Personally, I have a Munchkin Conan the Barbarian set mixed with my first basic Munchkin set as standard mix.
There are also booster packs that add new cards, some based on famous geek franchises like The Guild, others to add more … just more.
This is almost a joke. The rules aren’t more than 8 pages in total, much of which is examples. Place a card near your side and its on your character. Keep in your hand stuff to help you or hurt your opponents, bust out Level Up cards at the last minute and kill that final monster to take the game. I’ve marked this lower than the other categories due to the fact they are so … lacking. There are times when improvisation is necessary to keep the game going.
Munchkin is a fast and fun game that can be played with a lot of people and have a genuinely fun time, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. At $25-$30 for a starting price, it can’t be beaten for the money, either. I keep a version in my car and one out at the campsite for pick-up fun.