Pick of the Week – July 27-August 2, 2015

I am continuing the series of board and card game Picks that I began a couple of weeks ago.  Again, I discovered all of these thanks to Tabletop, the web series hosted by Wil Wheaton in which he and his guests each episode play a different game (or games in some cases).  As viewers, we get to learn the rules, see gameplay, and enjoy the banter.

For this week’s Pick, I’m shifting from board games to a card game.  Munchkin is a competitive card game with some cooperative elements in which players try to be the first to advance from Level One to Level Ten Munchkins.  It is, in many ways, a parody of Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy role-playing games; although, Munchkin has many MANY varieties.

Each player in Munchkin starts out at Level One.  The players are exploring a dungeon and must defeat monsters in order to advance a level (For the most part.  There are exceptions.).  Players have a hand of cards divided between Door and Treasure cards.  Door cards may contain character modifiers, monsters, curses, or a variety of other types.  Treasure cards are generally items or cards that have other special effects in the game.  At the start of their turn, players kick down the door of the next room of the dungeon, which means they draw a Door card.  If they draw a monster, they can fight it.  Each monster has a level.  If the player’s level, including all items and other bonuses, is higher than the monster’s, she wins and goes up a level as well as gaining the number of treasures indicated on the monster’s card.  If she can’t defeat the monster on her own, she can ask another player for help (This is the cooperative part).  They negotiate terms (usually a share of the treasure) and their combined levels are then used to defeat the monster.

Players can also advance levels through “Go Up A Level” cards, which usually say things like “Bribe the GM” or “Whine at the GM.”  This is a role-playing game parody after all.  But Level 10 can only be obtained through defeating the monster, and you may find that the other players have something to say about it.  They may have cards to help the monster or harm you.  At this point, things can get a bit intense, and players who haven’t been all that nice through the rest of the game (*cough*my son*cough*) can wind up thwarted by players who do not want to see them win.

The game is fun all on its own, but the cards are also quite entertaining.  You could end up battling a Wannabe Vampire, a Male Chauvinist Pig, 3872 Orcs, or even a Gazebo.  You could be in possession of Boots of Butt-Kicking, the Rapier of Unfairness, or the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment.  Also, watch out or you may be cursed by the Duck of Doom.

HERE is the Tabletop episode dedicated to Munchkin, which I can tell you is a lot less cutthroat than the games that are played in my house.  Did I mention that my son is vicious?

I stated earlier that there are many varieties of Munchkin.  Aside core fantasy-themed game and its numerous expansion packs, there are also Munchkin games set in space (Star Munchkin), the Old West (The Good, The Bad, and The Munchkin), and during the zombie apocalypse (Munchkin Zombies) as well as Munchkin Conan, Munchkin Adventure Time (Yes, based on the TV show), and Super Munchkin among many others.  Each of these is a complete game.  Additionally, there are smaller expansion packs of cards based on everything from Felicia Day’s webseries, The Guild, to the Penny Arcade web comic, to various holidays.  All of these can also be combined into a single game.  Go nuts.

-Alan Decker

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