Munchkin: Kill, Steal, Stab!

March 10, 2012
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Alex, level 6 Elf Warrior, wielding his trusty "Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment" walks down the eerie, deserted halls of some dungeon, his "Boots of Butt-Kicking" echoing faintly in the windy passage. Suddenly, an ominous shadow looms in front of Alex, and the horrid outline of a "Floating Nose" is seen. Battle begins, and whatever the chances, only one winner will emerge...
Munchkin is a fast-paced, unique role-playing board game with downright hilarious gameplay and promotes a high-spirited backstabbing and hidden alliances. Munchkin is a card-based game created by Steve Jackson and has been improved over a total of 22 printings. The objective of the game is to reach level 10 by killing monsters, looting treasures, and avoid being betrayed by your opponents. All in all, Munchkin is a friendly, adrenaline pumping game designed to push players to paranoia while still experiencing every single part of a classic role-playing game.
When I first saw Munchkin, the 24.99 price tag sort of shied me away. However, I finally decided to break down and shell in the bucks for the game. I was not disappointed. Upon opening the game, I am greeted with a 6 page, fully colored set of rules, and 2 decks of cards. As I hurriedly tore open the mysterious contents, I could see that every. Single. Card. was extremely beautiful and you could tell, just by merely glancing, that the artists had put in their full efforts into creating this game. After I was done examining the cards, I took a look at the rules sheet. The first thing I noticed was that the material was a durable plastic paper, not some cheap scraps of thin white paper (I've known a few board games that came with black and white sheets of paper as rules). The rules were not at all complex, and it didn't take long before I read them all (less reading, more playing, no?) Finally, came the part I looked forward to the most: getting into the game. After I play tested a few games with my brother, I invited my friends to dungeon crawl with me. It took a few minutes to explain the basic mechanics of the game, and less to set up. The beginning of the game started off slow, but began to pick up pace as we understood, first-hand, the game. There wasn't a lot downtime before someone finally pulled a dirty trick, backstabbing another player. (In Munchkins, there are a variety of ways to hurt each others' progress, ranging from increasing monsters' strengths, stealing treasures, and lowering each other's level.) Despite not being able to finish the game due to time reasons, my friends and I agreed that Munchkins was definitely a game worthy of investment, and we agreed to play again tomorrow (while secretly scheming of ways to usurp each other!)
Furthermore, although this game is a load of fun, there are still a few areas (in my opinion) that can be improved, may I present to you, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
First and foremost, Munchkin has a lot to be proud of: finely drawn card pictures, organized system of play, and a budget role-playing game. However, what I believe to be the star attraction is the fact that Munchkin brings players all the joy and amusement by only using cards. Although unwritten, the rest of the game comes from players themselves. If everyone is a good sport and devious in their minds, then the game tops charts. Consequently, if the players really feel like they could be doing something else worth their time, Munchkin might find itself on the back of shelves. So, it's really up to players how the game is orchestrated. You decide.
Consequently, Munchkin also has some blind spots that should be improved to give players a more spectacular experience. Most important is the fact that Munchkin has a lot of cards, and managing each card (knowing what each of your opponents have equipped and managing your own equipment can be quite a task if you're playing in a noisy background and fast-paced opponents) has its downs. Another key problem is that even though players are allowed to sidetrack and talk with each other, they sometime miss vital information (such as monster kills, played spells, and player announcements.) Yet, all these factors could be explained by the fact that Munchkin is a complex game (which coincidentally contradicts what I said earlier).
Last but not least, Munchkin does has some plain, unavoidable aspects. Yes, I think this may look like the bad paragraph. First of all, although this game has a whole lot of humor, it's quickly wrung dry and the pictures, drawn comically, only make you chuckle at best. So, if you're looking for a game that alone makes you laugh, you're out of luck. This game's humor is entirely based on the reactions of the individual players. Personally, the group of guys I usually game with are a good natured and I don't really have problems making the game fun and interesting.
In conclusion, I leave you with one last piece of thought. Munchkin is a diverse game with ups and downs, but I can say truthfully that I'm quite glad I bought it. I can't say for certain that you'll enjoy the game as much as I do, so it's your call. (But if you ask me, I recommend you buy it!) Munchkin has a lot of twists and turns, creative artwork, fast-paced role playing dungeon experience, and should definitely be given a try. See you on the battlefield! (Or rather, behind you on the battlefield.)

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