You walk into a room. You can’t quite see what’s going on, but you can hear low snorting. Suddenly, a level 10 Floating Nose pierces the darkness and hovers before you, ready for a fight. What will you do? Will you stand and fight? Will you run and hope for a clean escape? Or will you swallow your pride and ask for help from another player? This situation is one that you find yourself facing frequently in Munchkin, as you race to get your character to level 10 before everyone else.
If you are unfamiliar with Munchkin, it’s a simple game about getting your character from a lowly level 1, no class, no race being, to an all-powerful level 10 being of superiority. The game is predominantly a card game, with the Deluxe edition providing the luxury of a board and some Munchkin figurines. I’ve only played with the board, so that’s how I will be referring to the game.
At first glance, Munchkin seems like an overly simple and easy game – fight some monsters, get some loot, and level up – but once you’ve played a few games, you start to grasp where the game comes into its own. At any point during a player’s encounter with a monster, another player can play a Treasure card that buffs the monster. For example, you can be fighting a level 6 monster and think you have it in the bag, when all of a sudden another player plays “Wandering Monster” (which allows them to add another monster to the fight). In no time you can be scrambling to use all the buffs you have, or you can be forced to call upon another player to help.
Asking another player for help isn’t always a guarantee of success. You could be several levels in front of everyone else so no one wants to help, or the player you are asking might demand all of your treasures, which may not be worth pursuing. This mechanic of playing people against each other is one of the reasons I really enjoy playing Munchkin, because if I can’t win, I can at least stop someone else from winning.
You always have the option to run away from a fight if things are looking too bad. This means you roll a dice and you have to get a 5 or a 6 to escape successfully (which is a bit of a gamble). One of the other great things about Munchkin is that the punishment for not defeating or outrunning an enemy depends on which enemy you’re fighting. You could lose some equipment, lose a level, or in the case of some of the high level cards, you could lose everything – that is, go back a level and lose all your equipment and all the cards in your hand. It’s this constant assessing of your situation that I love in Munchkin. Trying to decide if I can take the hit of the “Bad Stuff” written on the monster card, or if I have to fight tooth and nail to try and survive, coupled with the unknown element of other people and their ability to play with or against you at any stage makes this a great game.
The Munchkin deck is split into two categories of cards: Door cards and Treasure cards. At the commencement of the game you are dealt 4 Door cards and 4 Treasure cards. Order of play is decided by the roll of a dice and general gameplay is broken up into three Phases.
Phase 1: Kick down the door
The player draws one card from the Door deck and places it face up. If it’s a monster, they must fight it. If it’s a curse, it affects them. If it’s another card (like a class or race), it goes into their hand.
Phase 2: Loot the room/Pick a fight
If a monster was drawn in phase 1, then you skip this step. If not, you can choose to either fight a monster from your hand, or draw another card from the Door deck and place it directly into your hand.
Phase 3: Charity
If you have more than 5 cards in your hand, you must chose which excess cards to get rid of. These are given to the lowest level player/s. If there’s an uneven split, it’s at your discretion who gets the larger amount. If you are tied for last place, then the cards just get discarded in the appropriate decks discard pile.
Combat is pretty simple in Munchkin. Every monster has a level. All you have to do to beat a monster is beat it’s level by 1. Your total attack power is determined by your level and any equipment you’re using. For example if you are level 3 and have chest armour of +3 and a sword of +1 then your total attack power is 7, so you can beat any monster level 6 and below. For each monster you kill, you go up 1 level (unless the monster card states otherwise) and you gain the treasure amount outlined on the monster card.
For me, one of the things I enjoy the most about Munchkin is the fact that one minute you can be negotiating a deal with one player as to what you will get for helping them, and the next minute you’re doing all you can to stop them from progressing. There have been several occasions in each game that I’ve played when I thought victory was assured, only to have every other player in the game pool together to destroy me. It’s best to play this game with people that won’t take your sabotaging personally, as this could cause some unwanted fractures in friendships.
You’ll want to set aside a good couple of hours to let a game run its full course. Naturally, the game goes quicker if everyone knows the rules. If you want to see a full outline of the rules, we will have a “Learn to play” video in the game hub soon.
Overall, Munchkin is a great game to play with some good friends. It’s best to play with people you know and even better if they’ve played the game before. If the standard cards aren’t what you’re after, there’s a whole range of expansions based off several pop culture icons, like Adventure Time and Cthulhu. I’ve only played the Adventure Time expansion and I can say it does a great job of adapting the Adventure Time world into the Munchkin framework. Munchkin is a fantastic game fit for anyone’s collection.