Game Review: Munchkin

Munchkinby Chris Tompkins


If you are like me (and unless you have a third nipple and a prehensile tail, you aren’t) you understand that collectible card games are an over-marketed, indomitable money-sink for the rich and the stupid. Yet, there is the allure of a quick, fun, multi-player card game over soda and pizza. What is the common gamer-on-a-budget to do? In this issue I will review two non-collectible card games from the genius that is Steve Jackson Games.

First up is a cute little number called Munchkin. The game boasts to capture the essence of the dungeon experience, without all of that tedious role-playing. The boast is well deserved, as it is easy to play with a smattering of rules that are meant to be open-ended and easily misinterpreted.

The fun begins with the players starting out as no-class, level one humans. The first player to become a level ten character wins. After dealing two dungeon cards and two treasure cards to each player (starting equipment), play proceeds with MunchinDuckCardthe first player “kicking in the door.” He flips the top card of the dungeon deck; if it is a monster, like the dreaded Mall Rat or the Ghoulfriends, the player must then fight it. If the player holds cards for any magic items, like the Horny Helmet or the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment, his combat level increases. Winners are determined by comparing the player’s combat levels to the monster’s—highest value wins. If the player wins the fight, he gets treasure; if he loses, he “dies” and reverts to first level. At any time he can ask other players for help. Why would others want to help? Usually, bribing them with a share of the treasure works. As you can tell, there is a great deal of table talk, negotiation, and smack talking.

The genius and humor of the game come out in the cards, illustrated by John Kovalic (creator of the online comic, Dork Tower). RPGers will understand a good deal of the jokes and non-RPGers will like the game for the social aspects and fast play time. Each game lasts from twenty minutes to an hour and is for 2-6 players. Like most Steve Jackson games, the more people, the better!