In order to lessen the impact of Mondays, I’ll be showcasing a game I’ve played and liked (or didn’t like enough to bash it a lot).  This week I thought I’d hit on probably my favorite card game to date: Steve Jackson Games: Munchkin.

Chainsaw!

Before I even touch on the gameplay I think I should make a note on how Munchkin has distinguished itself in the card game genre.  In a field of gaming thus far dominated by collector card games (CCGs) that sport starter decks and 8 to 20 card expansion packs designed to soak up as much money as possible by rarifying certain cards, Munchkin takes a bit of a different stride.   You buy decks that can be readily combined and little booster packs to add a small collection of cards to the aforementioned mega deck.  There is no such thing as card rarity as each individual deck is like others of it’s minting (every Munchkin Expansion #2 Deck will be like every other Munchkin Expansion #2 Deck).  There are three primary types of decks:  Theme decks, which are the first deck in a Munchkin theme (such as Munchkin Cthulhu or just Munchkin), Expansion decks which add on to the specific theme they expand upon, and booster decks which are small collections of cards that can be inserted in any deck you want, but don’t stand alone by themselves.

All the themes are equally combinable and the rules for each expansion and theme are designed to build upon the core rule set.  And this is where things start to get really crazy.  With the core deck having 7 expansions, and there being 9 alternate themes each with an expansion or two (or four) of their own, and the collection of smaller game-enhancing boosters, you can create a mega deck big enough to kill a modest sized Puma with.  To date the 9 branch off themes are: Star Munchkin, Munchkin Fu, Munchkin Bites, Super Munchkin, Munchkin Impossible, Munchkin Cthulhu, Good the bad and the Munchkin, Munchkin Booty, and Munchkin Zombies.  Each of these themed sets adds a fully playable set of cards by themselves but also sport compatible rules that allow them to be added to the core set.

And that’s the real charm of Munchkin: straight forward collectability and expandability without worrying about getting lucky for that 1 rare you’re looking for to finish your deck.  Plus, everyone uses the same deck of cards, so you only need to have one set to play; none of this “bring your own deck” nonsense.

To make matters even more fun (insane) each deck contains a few blank cards so that if you really want to mix things up you can make your own.

QUACK!

Of course the cards already in the deck are plenty to have a good time.

The game itself is fairly straight forward but hides  a subtle complexity of play that may take a game or two to start to grasp.  At it’s core, the game follows the basic principal of early pen and paper gaming.  You bust into a room, kill anything that’s there, loot the body, and go up a level.  However, since Munchkin is a multiplayer game with only one winner, things get a little more combative when you add the human factor.   Other players can be called upon to help you fight a tough monster, or if you’re doing too well, they may help that same monster in order to prevent you from getting the treasure and going up that important game-winning level.

All the while you’re collecting treasure and equipping items, adding classes and races to your character in order to make it more likely that you’ll defeat the next monster you stumble upon.  Of course your opponents will be doing the same thing, and trying to steal your items and use curses to strip away your race or class.

The game also features a boat load of tongue-in-cheek jokes that are geared towards both the hardcore gamer and the newly initiated.  And there are enough puns to keep you groaning the entire session.

While the box may say it’s for 3-6 players, once you’ve got more than a single deck you can really play with any number of people, though the time the game takes to complete will go up significantly as you add more players… but the mayhem will get more crazy, random, and ultimately fun with a bunch of people.  I consider Munchkin a party game at its core, and I would recommend playing it with 4 or more people always to get the best experience.  Indeed the best game of Munchkin I’ve played had 8 people at the table, and we kept wishing we had a few more.

Price wise Munchkin does weigh in on the hefty side.  Themed boxes (the first set of any theme game) are $25-$30, and expansions run about $20; though if you watch the sales you can snag theme boxes for under $20 and expansions for $12ish.  Also, with some shopping, you can snag a big set of themes and expansions for considerable savings; provided you’re willing to spend the money to buy them all at once (I bought the core Munchkin box plus the 7 expansions for $90 two years ago).

Munchkin, if nothing else, is worth a few plays to try out.  I think that if you give it a try, you will probably end up realizing that the price of the boxes are far eclipsed by the fun the game can bring.

Now go, find a friend who has Munchkin and make him/her treat you to a game.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of trying to create a Ninja/Pirate/Zombie Munchkin.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?
Taco

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