Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tuesday Reviewsday: Munchkin

Players: 3+  
Playtime: 45minutes+
Replay Value: 10/10
Munchkin is a role-playing card game based on old-fashion dungeon crawlers which makes it sound complicated and boring. However Munchkin strips away the tedious character creation, grumpy dungeon master and in-depth creation of a big complicated fantasy world, and just leaves you with good ol' fashion monster squishing, back stabbing and hilariously illustrated shenanigans.

Designed by Steve Jackson, Munchkin casts you and your friends as Level One Classless Humans. Your goal is to be the first munchkin to reach level ten. You'll need to work together with your friends when you encounter a big scary monster you can't squish on your own, but you'll also need to stab them in the back to stop them winning. Pro-tip: don't be the first person to backstab someone, your friends will hold it against you for the entire game, and every other game you play after that.
Just like in regular adventuring, you want to kill monsters and get loot. Your turn consists of kicking down a door and dealing with what you find behind it. Munchkin makes your adventuring simple with two decks of cards, one deck of Door cards (for kicking) and another deck of Treasure cards (for looting). At the beginning you are dealt 4 of each card, to give you some starter loot and ability to mess with your friends. To begin your turn you 'kick down a door' by drawing a door card and placing it face up on the table. In theory all your adventuring buddies are following you into the room, but since you're the Munchkin who kicked the door, you get to deal with the consequences of what's on the other side, while they cower in a corner.

Door cards generally fall into three categories: Monsters, for fighting; Curses, for getting screwed over by; and other stuff, which doesn't immediately effect you. Other stuff can be things like a new race or class for your Munchkin, who can then become a Dwarf (and carry extra stuff) or a Halfling (and sell your stuff for twice as much Gold). Curses pretty much always suck, they'll steal your footwear, make you lose a level, or change your gender (which costs you 5 combat points in your next fight since you're so distracted by your, ahem, unexpected change).

Kicking down a door and finding a monster is good, mostly. If you're lucky you get to kill a Level One Potted Plant for some easy loot and a level, if you're unlucky you'll run into Level Fourteen Stoned Golem (If you can't beat him, he has the munchies and he eats you). Your combat level is decided by your actual Level plus any weapons and armour you have, such as a Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment (+3) or a Singing and Dancing Sword (+2). If you can't win on strength alone, you can throw a potion at the monster, or ask a friend for help. Generally your 'friends' are happy to help, for a sizeable portion of your loot. If you're winning you'll suddenly find yourself short of friends, and they'll start backing the monster and feed it a Potion of Halitosis so you are stunned by it's terrible breath (+2 to the Monster).

If you beat the monster you get Levels and loot. If you lose you can try and run away by rolling 5+ on a D6 dice, but if you get caught horrible things happen. Pukachu vomits all over your cards and you have to discard them (they're gross anyway), the Insurance Salesman talks you into buying stuff you don't need and you have to sell your items, and the Wannabe Vampire makes you listen to his melancholy backstory, lose 3 levels from sheer boredom.

Munchkin is reasonably simple once you get the hang of the basic rules, but that doesn't mean you can lose the rulebook, or high-speed internet. The first few rounds will be polite and friends will help friends beat the bad guys and become the best Munchkin they can be. Until it looks like someone might win, then you stop playing Munchkin, and start playing Be A Dick To My Friends. Disclaimer: If you play with me and my partner, we will have a full-blown rules-disagreeing shouting match at the table. Every time.

When someone is fighting that final monster to win the game, everyone gets to mess with them. There are cards in the deck that turn a regular Monster into an Ancient (+10) monster, ones that make him Intelligent (+5) potions that can hinder the player, and cards that will call extra Monsters to fight together. While the strongest monster in Munchkin is a Level 20 Plutonium Dragon, it is hard to win the game without a combat level of 35+, because your friends are Dicks. Munchkin games generally involve lots of swearing, fist shaking and fake-storming out of the room.

As much fun as being a complete dick to your friends is, you can enjoy Munchkin without it for a more family friendly game. Most of the cards are family friendly (although if you have kidlets, you might want to screen the deck first) and they are all brilliantly illustrated. While 'Big Foot' isn't a funny name for a monster, the drawing of a giant sandal-clad foot and a hairy leg get a chuckle. The Helm of Courage sounds pretty average, but the cartoon Dwarf with a bucket on his head optimistically swinging his sword completes the joke.

The rules in Munchkin are very open to interpretation. Whenever the card contradicts the rulebook, you're advised to follow the card. Whenever the card is ambivalent the rules suggest the most Munchkinly interpretation. And when you can't figure out exactly what that means, you're encouraged to cheat.

Steve Jackson joined Wil Wheaton on Tabletop to play Munchkin and not only was he a dirty cheater, he won the game by distracting the other players from his dodgy maths. All in good Munchkin spirit.

The only problem you'll ever have with Munchkin is getting off the ground. Occasionally you can be really really unlucky and never encounter a monster that you can beat. If you can't get loot, it is very hard to get strong enough to beat monsters. If you can't beat monsters you can't get loot. Generally if you are this weak your friends will help you, but sometimes luck of the draw means you still don't get any useful loot. Or you get some decent loot, but draw curses for the next three turns in a row, and go from winning the game to coming dead last. Even so, when you aren't winning you will still get enough cards to mess up your friends game, and laugh at their despair as you snatch victory away from them time and again.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...