Game Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Kill the monsters. Steal the treasure. Stab your buddy.
In role-playing circles, the term “munchkin” is used to describe an individual who does his utmost to boost his character as much as possible, not infrequently going as far as illegally modifying the character sheet. They are unpleasant people to play with, particularly as the role-playing part of RPG is usually totally ignored.
The card game was conceived as a parody of the “open the door – kill the monster behind it – take its treasure” system often found in badly designed dungeons (where munchkins are in their element). There is a 6-sided die involved, but it has only two real functions: choosing who plays first, and deciding whether or not an attempt to Run Away from a monster was successful.
The rules are simple, logical, and even include that great unofficial Law of Final Arbitrage which states: “The owner of the game has the final decision in any dispute over interpretation of the rules”. We’ve never needed it.
The cards are all illustrated cartoon-style, mostly by John Kovalic, although there are also guest drawings by such celebrities as Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary) and Phil Foglio (Girl Genius). The jokes are on the whole accessible to non-RPG-players (except perhaps the Dread Gazebo, but there’s always your favourite Internet search engine for that). You should, however, be aware that the puns are excruciating.
The objective is to be the first to reach level 10, by hook or by crook. It’s a good idea to use counters of some sort to follow levels. Some people use a d10, SJG sell a level counter. You can also use peanuts, pistachio nuts, M&Ms or similar comestibles; these have the advantage that you can eat them when you lose a level. If you use pistachio nuts you can also flick the shell at the treacherous boop who made you lose the level.
There are currently seven themes, all following the basic system. Only the names and jokes change, so it’s possible to combine packs, although I recommend not overdoing this as you can easily end up with marathon games and tottering, unmanageable piles of cards. Unless, of course, you enjoy that sort of thing, in which case go merrily ahead. Perv.
Parodies Dungeons & Dragons ®. Face and defeat the Dread Gazebo with your Boots of Butt-Kicking!
- Star Munchkin
Han Solo shot first.
- Munchkin Fu
Practise the art of Toe Fu, wield the Folding Chair of Retribution and cause Won Ton Destruction.
- Munchkin Bites!
Ah, the heady days of Pinewood Studio and their ilk. Imitate Bela Lugosi. Go up a Level.
- Super Munchkin
Super heroes. May contain capes.
- Munchkin Impossible
Espionage, with rocket backpacks and cigarette dart guns.
- Munchkin Cthulhu
Lovecraft parody. No SAN required.
A game can occupy 3-6 players (although the upper limit is a bit hazy and you can certainly go beyond this if you’re playing with one or more extensions) for a good couple of hours, depending on how determined everyone is to stop the others winning. If you genuinely want a quick game, you should probably agree on special rules beforehand, such as “No disintegrations”.
Munchkin card game @ Steve Jackson Games