50 Games in 50 Weeks: Munchkin

Apr 09 2012

The Munchkin card game models dungeon crawlers who are only interested in killing things and taking their stuff. The game has two decks; the Door Deck contains monsters to fight, while the Treasure Deck contains stuff: a race (elf, dwarf, etc.), a class (cleric, fighter, wizard, etc.), a weapon, or an event.

You start the game with a few Treasure cards. On your turn, you draw a Door card. If you draw a monster you can defeat, you kill it and gain a level, then draw a Treasure card.

Those are the basics. Various cards give you bonuses, or let you hold back the progress of other players. The first player to reach level 10 wins.

Munchkin is clearly a beer-and-pretzels game. The mechanics seem to favor building your own character instead of screwing others, so games needn’t turn too competitive. It’s pretty swingy, too; you’re likely to lose levels at least a few times.

Discworld-style zaniness infuses the game. The art and item descriptions keep the mood light, from the Big Honkin’ Sword of Character Whupping to the Boots of Running Really Fast.

After hearing only good things about Munchkin, my first attempt at the game ended poorly. We had trouble grasping the game’s metaphors, and we drew poor cards, rendering us unable to move forward in the game. But a second attempt worked much better.

Overall, it’s a fun, light game that takes a little time to get used to, but has enough variations to stay fresh for quite a while.

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