Who You Callin’ Munchkin?

A couple years ago I had a sleepover at my house for our youth group’s guys, during which I introduced them to the awesomely dorky card game Munchkin.  If you’ve never played it, Munchkin’s kind of a satirical blend of D&D and other fantasy RPGs, where you try to level from 1 to 10 before anyone else.  There’s monsters to fight, treasure to accumulate, gear to wear, sex changes to be had, and many cards you can throw at opponents to cripple their progress while advancing your own.  The general atmosphere in a Munchkin session tends to start out friendly and cooperative (you can help other players fight monsters if you want) then moves to antagonistic and brutal backstabbing toward the end game.  It’s a riot.

Anyway, the game was a hit at the sleepover — we had about 12 people playing it at once, forming alliances and whatnot — and for one of the teens, it became his new favorite game.  So he went out, bought the starter pack, and introduced his family and friends to it.  Unbeknownst to me until recently, they’ve had a regular Munchkin night going on and were more than eager to come over to our house last night for a few hours of dungeon-crawling madness.

Marriage pro-tip: Playing games together strengthens your relationship while providing things to do and talk about.  My wife and I often bring games like Boggle and Mille Bornes to restaurants to play before and after the meal, and it just helps give us something to do together that’s both fun and communal.

One of the aspects of Munchkin I was thinking about is how the game incorporates PvP without it being an overt “I’m attacking you with a fireball!” sort of affair.  It’s completely optional as well — you can all play the game peacefully and cooperatively if you like, but there usually comes a point where personal advancement dictates that you trip up the other players so you have a shot at winning.  PvP is more of a metagame, winning or losing the whole deal, instead of smaller battles.  You can curse other players, throw additional monsters their way, refuse to help them, or play cards to wreck their gear and advantages.

Unfortunately, Munchkin requires at least 3 people (4-6 is preferred) to work, so we can’t duo it at home.  We’re looking for a rematch later in July, and hopefully get our own regular group going with it after that.

10 thoughts on “Who You Callin’ Munchkin?

  1. spinks June 27, 2010 / 11:40 am

    I have to admit that I think it’s more fun to read the cards than actually play the game, it never feels well balanced to me.

    Another card game I do recommend (and you can play with two although it’s better with more) is Fluxx. It’s very neat, because playing the cards actually changes the rules. Def worth a check.

  2. Brian 'Psychochild' Green June 27, 2010 / 4:59 pm

    I’m partially in agreement with Spinks here. The cards are a hoot for people who have played a bit too much D&D in their lifetime. But, the game itself tends to boil down to luck at the end. The first person who tries to get the winning level will get all sorts of nasty stuff thrown at them, virtually guaranteeing a loss. The second person gets the leftovers and might lose. The third person will usually catch everyone without the “good cards” to stop them, so it might be a pretty boring battle that takes the prize at the end.

    I think there should be a rule that encourages people not to throw the nasty cards at the first winner. One way might to allow people to keep playing to determine winning order, but that kind of sidelines the winner. Perhaps making the winner have some sort of limited DM powers might be neat to keep them in the game while others play.

    Overall, still a great game for all the D&D jokes, but as far as gameplay goes it can get a bit stale with experienced gamers. Plus, it comes in a lot of other flavors (space, goth, kung fu, etc.) so you can get silly.

  3. Squid June 27, 2010 / 5:31 pm

    A new friend has joined the little group of nerds I hang out with, and he really likes the Munchkin series. I’ve tried, but I just can’t get into it. I think it is because it is basically a math game. It doesn’t matter what the actual item/emeny/etc., it all boils down to “Is my number/level high enough?” Funny in-jokes about nerd stuff is merely a shallow film of paint coating a stat game that I don’t find exciting. I would enjoy it if creativity (Non-math variables) were involved, and stuff other than your statistical value actually mattered (But that gets closer and closer to D&D territory), but to me Munchkin feels like what I imagine adapting Super Mario Bros. (The NES game) into a math game would be like. Boring, time consuming and much more fun on a TV.

  4. boatorious June 28, 2010 / 7:46 am

    Oh, that hideous, hideous end-game! I guess it’s good to know that board game developers are just as bad at ending games as video game developers.

  5. Thac0 June 28, 2010 / 8:30 am

    I tried to play this game with my Fiancé but we both got very confuse with all the rules. I think one must have an experienced Munchkin player to help you start off.

  6. Bryan June 28, 2010 / 10:29 am

    Wondering if I could get my wife to play something this nerdy…

  7. Jomu June 28, 2010 / 3:02 pm

    munchkins IS a great game 🙂
    have you tried Killer Bunnies? kind of the same idea.. winning has more to do with luck than skill

  8. We Fly Spitfires June 29, 2010 / 5:41 am

    I really like this sort of card games. I used to have one about Italian politics which involved bribing and blackmailing the other players in an attempt to gain power. It was surprising how accurately it reflected real life 🙂

  9. Fuzzy June 29, 2010 / 8:57 am

    Nice marriage pro-tip, but it may not work if one of you does not take losing so well, especially at the hands of your significant other =)

    My friend is ruthless at this game. She’s the kind of person who will throw the rulebook at you and not acknowledge a win until she’s looked through it twice to make sure she doesn’t have a way out.

    Case in point – her boyfriend was at level 9 and only needed to fight some low-level monster to win. She begged him to let her “help out” for the fun of it. Seeing no harm in doing so, he watched in horror as she magicked the monster away (she was a wizard), depriving him of his experience. Her turn then came up and she threw down a Potted Plant or something similar to win the game.

    He didn’t take it too well.

    @spinks: Hooray for Fluxx! I found out about this game through a UIL convention, while a bunch of us were waiting in the cafeteria for hours until our events came up. It’s a lot more fun when it’s fast-paced, though. When people sit there reading and re-reading all of their cards trying to figure out what to do, it gets a bit dull.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s