Schmabletop Reviews: Munchkin
I’m proud to introduce what I hope (mostly out of my selfish desire to have others review stuff so I don’t have to take risks with my money) will become a regular feature here on Gamers Schmamers: tabletop game reviews. My gaming habits have shifted over the past several years, and one of the main shifts is that a lot of the time I had previously allocated towards video games has been redirected to anything with cards or a cardboard map. There’s a couple of reasons for this, but before I get into that I’ll just say: some of you may find yourselves in the same boat as me, others might want me to cease with my blathering and get to the point. For those who would simply like to hear the review of the game in the title, feel free to jump over this long-winded intro to the subheading below!
The first and probably primary reasons I’ve begun to play less and less video games is budgetary. I’ve been lucky enough to now have two universities offer to pay my way through degrees, but one of the drawbacks of a school covering your tuition is that the salary they give you on top of that is about enough to scrape together a ramen budget every week. Because my “entertainment” fund is an afterthought, I’m mainly limited to buying AAA games that have a lot of reviews I can peruse first to make sure I’m most likely going to enjoy the game. I know I’m missing out on some fabulous, lesser known titles and games from independent developers but I don’t have time to research games and play them. $60 is also a lot to spend on a new game, so I generally buy everything used a year after its out, thus missing out on being able to discuss new games with friends. I’m the guy in the office that just finally watched The Departed and is trying to discuss it while everyone else is busy talking about Argo.
Second, and what prompted my move to a table and chairs, is that AAA titles have moved away from my favorite type of video game: local, cooperative (or competitive, but I prefer co-op) multiplayer games. There are many titles that offer fabulous online gameplay, but I’ve just never been as big a fan of online. My favorite part about playing games with other people is the interaction and banter, and there’s always a slight separation when that is translated via headset. I focus more on the game when I play online, when mainly what I’m looking for is goofing off with my friends.
So lately I’ve been getting into tabletop games. Many of them offer higher replay value than video games and you get to bring a group of 2-6 or sometimes more people together in the same place and just have fun. There are some barriers to getting into tabletop games, though. For one, you can’t try out a demo level to see if you like it, and the investment to most of them can still run up to about $40. If you don’t know someone with the game, your left trusting online reviews. So (brace yourself for this segue), here’s an online review! Hopefully we can provide some reviews detailed enough to let you know if you’d like to check out some of these games. I’ve only just now started to explore the world of tabletop, so I’ll be presenting some games that have become more mainstream, but for those of you already somewhat versed in tabletop gaming my compatriots will be able to offer some lesser known gems to you later. Today we’re going to be looking at a game called Munchkins to give you a tiny (sorry) glance into table top gaming.
Munchkin is a card based game that brings a lot of humor to the table ( … again, sorry). It’s affordable, easy and fun for even large groups of friends. Let’s look at some individual aspects of the game.
Essentially the game is a character building game, with the goal of being the first player to get to level 10. You start out with a small assortment of cards, and at the start of each turn you’re required to turn over a card at random that will either force you to fight a monster, hurt you with a trap or give you treasure. Each time you defeat a monster, you go up a level. Defeating a monster simply requires being a higher level than it, but since most monsters are above level 10 you must raise your “effective” level through beneficial cards.
There are many Munchkin decks, but each operates exactly the same: there are different character class cards, and then different powers or abilities that you can play depending on what class you choose. There are also equipment cards, some which come with restrictions based on class as well.
Each of the different decks have a lot of cards that are downright hilarious, some just on their own merit and others because they poke fun at the tropes of their respective subjects. In Super Munchkin you can end up with a female superhero who wears a “painted on costume” and has the power of “cleavage stun.”
There are also plenty of cards that let you sabotage other players, like traps that destroy equipment or one-shot items that will increase the effective level of a monster. One of the best parts of the game is seeing a level 9 player going for the win and having everyone else just pile on him.
Very easy setup, as the game includes only cards and a die. Just shuffle, pass out 5 cards from each included deck to every player and you’re ready to play.
One of the great things about Munchkins is the wide variety of decks you can play it with. I’ve played Munchkin Zombies and Super Munchkin and can vouch for both, but there’s a deck out there with any flavor you’d like from Conan the Barbarian, to Kung Fu, to Axe Cop. There’s also smaller, themed expansion decks of 15-20 cards from the likes of Penny Arcade and other contributors. The expansions really boost the replayability of the game; if you get sick of one set of cards you can simply buy another genre, and it’s easy to combine decks so if you wanted to experiment you could try a space super hero zombies game, or any other combo that sounds interesting.
Munchkin is a great value, much cheaper than any game with a board will cost you new and easy to get into. Most of the decks can be purchased in the $18-25. Some of the officially licensed expansion packs will cost $10 for only 15 cards, but these are only optional add-ons.
Very fun, affordable game. If you like this style of game then there are really no drawbacks to it. Its especially fun for people who enjoy role playing games as you can add in a little flavor once your character begins to develop. Three out of four table legs.
(Editor’s Note: Seriously, Axe Cop. It’s the best version. Go get it.)