Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Munchkin Review or I Told You Not to Pick Up a Duck in a Dungeon

  • Designed by Steve Jackson
  • Published by Steve Jackson Games
  • For 3-6 players (I prefer 3 or 4, maybe 5, but never 6.)
  • Playtime on the box is 90 minutes, but it can be shorter (rare) or more like 120-150 minutes.
Go into a dungeon with your friends, kill everything you meet, backstab so called friends, take their stuff, grab the loot and get out.

On your turn, you draw and reveal the top door card.  There are a lot of different cards but they go into 4 main groups. 1) Monsters, 2) Curses, 3)Races/Classes, 4) Other things to use later.  If you encounter a monster, you are immediately in combat.  Combat is relatively simple, you add your level plus any item bonuses and see if that total is higher than the monster's level.  If it is, you win and take treasure.  If it isn't, then you either have to try to get someone to help you by offering a split of the treasure, or try to run away.  Curses cause bad things to happen to you. Most curses involve loosing a piece of equipment or a level.  Play continues until one person defeats a monster causing them to go to level 10.  At that point they win and everyone rejoices that the game is finally over. (sorry, spoilers)

The interaction in Munchkin is certainly abundant.  Players are often angling to help in order to get a split of the loot, but are also levying "threats" along the lines of "take me or I'll add 5 to that monster."  The game depends on the interaction of players, and can fall completely flat if players aren't willing to work against each other to some degree.

The theme here is fairly strong.  The cards all evoke a sense of going through a dungeon.  They play on many of the D&D and GURPS character tropes in a fun way.  It isn't immersive, but it exists and allows players to get as much theme out of it as they want.  My problem with the game is that when I'm a Cleric, I don't really do anything in the game differently than when I'm a Warrior.  Also Dwarves don't feel that different from Elves or Halflings.  I know all these things have different abilities, but they don't really change how the game actually plays out.

My one complaint with the game is that it doesn't have a built in way to track levels.  Outside of that, the cards are all good quality, the artwork is well done, especially in a color set (which I don't own.)

Learning Curve
I can explain Munchkin in around 5 minutes, but it takes several rounds for players to really understand what's going on.

I've played Munchkin 14 times over the last several years.  You will rarely get through the entire deck in a single play, so there is variety to be had.  The distribution of cards, especially in the treasure deck, keeps things interesting in different games.  Changing the people you play with really helps keep the game fresh.  I played with the same group too many times and it ceased to be fun.

Why I like Munchkin
The game is random and offers a lot of player interaction.  It's not a terrible way to spend time with some roleplayers who might enjoy a card game, which could lead to other games.

Why I don't like Munchkin
The game has balance issues, pick on the leader issues, and worst of all, the potential to never end.  Players start off far too weak to be able to combat higher level monsters, and you can easily be out of the game within the first 20 minutes, yet have to sit there for another hour or more.

I still own Munchkin, but that is more due to not having much trade value or sell value, as opposed to actually liking the game.  I played Munchkin back in March with 4 players, all of whom were new, and we actually had a decent time of it.  I still feel like I have no control, and no real way to play better or worse.  I'll keep it on my shelf because it's fairly small, and there are good times in the box.

I've made some changes to the deck distribution, something I rarely do, but I've felt it was necessary.  I took out a few of the nastier monsters in the level 14-18 range.  I also play with a rule where everyone starts at level 5 and we play to 10 (for a short game) or 15 (for a normal length game).  This makes it easier to defeat monsters in the beginning, which really helps the game move along, and play in closer to 60 minutes.

Would it be a good game for Tabletop?
Yes, in fact they already made an episode of it.

Want to buy the game? Here's a link to Amazon, and you'll help support BoBG.  Here are a bunch of different themes on Munchkin, so you can pick whatever you think you'd like the best.

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