Gaming Unplugged is a monthly musing of different table top games played, examined, and reminisced by Scott McCauliffe
Dungeons & Dragons is the granddaddy of table top games. It’s intricate, well designed, well balanced and a lot of fun to play. Sadly, we don’t always have four hours to sit down and play a decent game. Luckily, in 2003, Steve Jackson Games took everything we love about D&D, threw out all of the complicated stuff and added a great dose of humor. Munchkin is a semi-cooperative card game that should be a part of everyone’s table top game collection.
Munchkin sees each player start out as a level one classless adventurer. During the course of the game, players gain classes, races, gear, magic items all by fighting monsters and random luck. On each player’s turn that player kicks down a door (figuratively of course) and behind that door is a monster, a curse, or something else that could be good or bad. Monsters can be easily defeated, such as a level 1 Potted Plants (I did not make that up) or be much more difficult, such as a level 20 Abominable Snow Monster, who will pick his teeth with your ski poles. If the player happens to defeat his enemy he gets good stuff, treasure and levels. If he fails to defeat it then he gets bad stuff, which can range from nothing at all to being reduced to level one and losing everything.
Now where the proper fun comes in is when all of the players start to interfere with each other. You thought you were fighting a level 1 Maul Rat but suddenly another player makes it a level 11 Legendary Maul Rat, and now you’re in trouble. There is some joy to be had when you watch the light fade from another player’s eyes as they realize they’ve just been boned.
Another great aspect of Munchkin is all of the different game types you can play. You don’t like fantasy? That’s ok Munchkin also does Western, Science Fiction, Zombie, Vampire and Cthulhu, just to name a few. Each version is essentially the same game with different paint and some different rules, so if you know the rules to one type you can pick up a different style with almost no learning curve. If you really want to get crazy, you can actually combine the different types. This means you can be a level 5 Elf Vampire Space Marine. I say buy a few of your favorite genres and go a little nuts. There are also several expansions series for each style and a few sets built from license material, such as Penny Arcade.
For the traditional Munchkin set, they’ve also added dungeon cards. When a dungeon card is in play, it creates a set of rules that everyone must follow until that dungeon is removed. This can make for very interesting play. Just be careful, because in one particular game I was playing I did not properly read the card I played. Basically what happened was I made it so there was one dungeon in play per player, in this case that was eight players. So there were eight separate rule sets all happening at once.
Munchkin is a fantastically fun game for stepping into modern table top gaming. It’s simple, it’s a lot of fun and it is constantly expanding so it doesn’t get stale. Munchkin is also inexpensive to try out; it’s only $25 for any set you want. Depending how many people you have in your group you may want to get an expansion with a few more cards to mix in. Munchkin was the first game to move me past traditional board games, and though Monopoly and Clue will always be near and dear to me I’ll always love Munchkin for showing me that table top games can be more than rolling dice and moving around a board.