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Review: Munchkin

Review: Munchkin

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Go down in the dungeon.
Kill everything you meet.
Backstab your friends and steal their stuff.
Grab the treasure and run.

Title: Munchkin
Designer: Steve Jackson
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Players: 3 – 6
Play Time: >60 minutes
Setup Time: <5 minutes
Difficulty Rating: 4

As promised the Arcade is turning it’s attention to other gaming formats and while we’re not saying goodbye to consoles and PCs we are picking up cards, rolling dice and trying not to throttle each other with gaming mats! While no stranger to the world of Cards, Dice and Character Sheets, I’ve only ever been a casual Games Master, dabbled with Yu-Gi Oh and been bamboozled by Magic the Gathering all of that has changed in the last few months and Munchkin has been the game to kick start my new love of all things non-digital!

First published in 2001, Munchkin has gone on to spawn dozens of expansions and special themed packs, it has been translated into 17 different languages, memorabilia and accessories.The reason for it’s success is obvious to anyone who has played the game – it’s simplicity, playability and the fact the game doesn’t even take itself seriously!

The objective of Munchkin is pretty straightforward – you must reach level 10 before any other player, to complete your task and reach 10 you will have to slay monsters, sell items or have enough luck to draw some very handy free level cards.

Since I started playing Munchkin I’ve gone on to play and grab some more games, when you pick up something new and rip into the packaging (by rip I of course mean gently exhume the contents of the box/pack like you were removing priceless artifacts from a lost Egyptian tomb!) and more often than now I’ve found myself staring in shock and fear at what sits before me, the daunting task of learning a whole new game, picking apart the rules and assembling a new board – that does not happen with Munchkin. You have two types of cards (which are divided further but I’ll get into those later) Door Cards and Treasure Cards – door cards are picked/opened at the start of a player turn and once more (known as Looting the Room) if the player doesn’t draw a Monster from the deck.
Drawing these cards you can as stated encounter Monsters who upon defeat (provided you are strong enough to do so and the other players aren’t hearltess tyrants hellbent on ruining you, your game and your entire life!) leave behind their treasure and increase your level and put you one step closer to level 10 and winning the game. Not so fast! Monsters don’t just go down that easy, you’ll have to not only match the strength of the monster, you’ll have to beat it and if you can’t then you better have something up your sleeve (not literally though because that’s cheating!) because it’s going to come after you and do some pretty Bad Stuff to you!
However if one of the other players is so inclined they can throw their hat (if they are wearing one) into the ring and help you out but at a cost and it’s not always treasure… what’s a new sword worth when they can laugh at you for almost losing (or in a certain Arcade Staff Writer’s case, actually losing) to a Level 1 Potted plant… (cough Naomi cough!)
As well as Monsters players can draw Curse cards which can do anything from force you to lose equipped items, lose levels or even change your sex – these can of course be played on other players if the cards come into your hand at the beginning or by looting the room.

As a player you begin the game as a classless human carrying no equipment and over the course you can equip various race/class cards each with their own bonuses and penalties and specialised equipment.

Cards include:
Monster / Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) / Class (Warrior, Wizard, Cleric, Thief) / Curse / Equipment / Go Up a Level (GUAL) / Enhancer – of course with the various sequels and expansions to the game there are more classes, races and cards to choose from, some of these include Cthullu Munchkin complete with Cultists, Space Munchkin if you fancy building your own laser weapon and even Booty Munchkin if you ever felt like roaming the high seas. Having tried several of these themed Munchkin sequels I have to say I still find myself returning to the original, it’s nice to play something new or even combine them together but you can’t beat where it all started and with addition of expansions that allow to explore dungeons, cheat some more and even have steeds, why go to outer space when you can backstab your mate right here!

It all sounds easy but then you throw in the element of competition, trust and betrayal and suddenly you find yourself immersed in a game with people you once called friend all out for their own glory and if they happen to rub your face in the dirt as they gracefully ascend the leader board then all the better.The game does not require a huge amount of space, there are no finicky tokens or expansive boards, there are two decks of cards and a die, that’s it! From my kitchen table to the rocky mahogany table in my local pub, you can take the game anywhere and set up your game and lose friends at your leisure. Games can last anywhere from 30 minutes to well over an hour, it all depends on how fast you can grab those levels and how cruel your best mates are. After the first round I had picked up the basics, after the first game I had figured it all out and now after countless games I wouldn’t trust any of my friends as far as I could throw them.

Now I barely mentioned the fact that the game is just one big joke! The cards whether they are Monsters, Curses and Treasures are hilariously scripted and you’ll find yourself picking up (with their permission of course) others cards just to oogle over the cute illustrations by John Kovalic or chortling at the description:

You should know better than to pick up a duck in a dungeon… Lose 2 Levels
+1 Bonus Rat On a Stick… Hey! It’s better than nothing!
Level 14 Stoned Golem You may choose whether to fight the Stoned Golem or just wave, walk past and let him keep his treasure (Exception: Halflings look tasty and must fight!)

If you are looking to start off in the world of Card Games then you cannot go wrong with Munchkin, if you’re trying to convince a friend to try their hand at something other than mashing buttons and colourful Hi-Def graphics then think no further. Munchkin sinks it’s teeth into you and won’t let go, like a Level 2 Pitbull!

[easyreview cat1title=”The Arcade Verdict” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”10″]

If you want to pick up your own copy of Munchkin or any of the numerous expansions and sequels then the Arcade recommends you check out BoardGamer.ie

Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!

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