“Kill the monsters, steal the treasure, stab your buddy,” proclaims the game box. Sounds good.
Like the “Catan” family of board games, this game tends to be somewhat popular among the mainstream game crowd as well as the underground game crowd. Maybe that’s because it’s easy to learn. Maybe it’s because it’s a fairly fast play, usually going no more than an hour, give or take. Or maybe it’s because it’s just pure, silly fun.
“Munchkin” is probably Steve Jackson Games’ biggest hit. Pretty affordable, usually about $20-25 for the base game, it is a very versatile game in regards to customization of deck and theme. There are tons of expansions, spanning themes like pirates, cowboys, space travel, and even the mythos of the Lovecraftian beast Cthulhu.
Essentially, “Munchkin” is a game that makes fun of role playing games. I mean, don’t deny it, when you think of someone who plays “Dungeons and Dragons,” you know you think of a chubby, pimply-faced kid who is always drinking Red Bull and eating Cheetos. This very notion is the premise of the game.
The base game takes place in a dank old dungeon, where a band of brave explorers are searching for adventure. However, instead of giant, epic dragons and cave trolls, they find themselves face to face with giant floating noses, insurance salesmen (shudder), undead horses, and the legendary, dreaded… potted plant. Instead of battle axes, the heroes find themselves fighting with items like the “Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment,” a “Limburger and Anchovy Sandwich,” and the “Boots of Butt-Kicking.” The goal is to be the first to get to Level 10, which is done through killing monsters, helping opponents for a price, and shameless cheating.
It’s silly, to say the least. In my experience playing “Munchkin,” the object of the game is not as much to make sure you win as to make sure everyone else loses, if that makes sense. It is very much a game of opponent sabotage, ganging up on the highest-level player, and being all around obnoxious. But it’s oodles of fun. The illustrations are awesome, even the rules are funny and enjoyable (and that’s saying something).
The only gripe I have with “Munchkin” is its components. The cards are nice, the die is fine, but the rules say you need to keep track of eachplayer’s level, and they recommend using poker chips, pennies, or something similar to identify this. WHY COULDN’T THEY HAVE JUST INCLUDED SOMETHING? Little cardboard tokens? A lot of other Steve Jackson games have them! It might have cost them ten more cents per copy, but it would make the game seem complete. It seems wrong to buy a game and not be able to play with the included components, but instead to have to go scrounge for pennies. However, this is a small problem at best.
On the whole, “Munchkin” isn’t bad. It’s a pretty fast play, relatively easy to learn, and very, VERY silly. The expansions can really add to the game too, giving it completely new challenges and strategies.
It’s the kind of thing you play once in a blue moon, when you and your friends really need a good laugh. Don’t play it too much, though, because once the game stops being silly, it’s no longer fun.
Overall rating: B.