If you are reading this, you have probably had a bit of experience with board games. That being a given, there is also a strong chance that you have had some experience with role-playing games before. Going even further, there is a definite chance you have seen at least one or two geeky fantasy based movies like Monty Python & The Holy Grail or Conan The Barbarian. The reason I'm going through all of this, is because if you hold any of those things close to your heart, stop reading now.
Munchkin is a game that makes fun of the cliches. That's its whole purpose for existing, but Munchkin gives you a fun and conversational card game on top of that. The basic premise in the core set of Munchkin (more on the expansions in a bit) is that you're all adventurers in a dungeon. You aren't there to figure out the mysteries of the universe, solve the Sphinx's riddle, or save the king's daughter from some evil rapscallion. You are there to kick butt and win treasure. The whole goal of the game is to get to Level 10, and the easiest way to do that is to have the coolest gear, the neatest helmet, and the most abilities.
Munchkin aspires to praise what most role-playing games try and weed out, the power gamer.
How to Play Munchkin - Instructions & Rules
Everybody starts with nothing but a hand of cards. Amongst those are helmets, swords, shoes, armor, monsters, and weird items that have odd effects. Before the game starts, everybody lays out all of their items, which will mostly have a bonus on them. '+1 Spear Of Pointiness' for example. The total sum of all of their worn equipment, plus their current level (everyone starts at 1) is their fighting level.
The first player flips open a door card, which is referred to as 'Looking For Trouble'. If it's a an object or special power, they keep it. If it's a curse, it happens to them immediately. If it's a monster, they face it. Each monster has a level, and if your fighting level is higher than the monster's, you win. That's the whole combat in a nutshell. If the monster is way out of your league, then you can ask for help amongst the party, and then the bartering happens.
This is where the game either shines or fails, depending on the people you are playing with. When someone needs help, you might immediately think, 'Sure, I'll help them.'. Remember, every monster they kill raises them up a level. If they get to Level 10 before you, they win and you don't. So helping tends to come with strings attached.
- "I'll help you if you give me a treasure, my choice."
- "I'll only help you if you never help Roy again."
- "After I help you, you have to give me your helmet."
These are just examples of some of the deals that occur when vying for winning combat. It can get much more deliriously complex as the game progresses, and as players start to dislike each other more and more. If you are playing with a group of fun people that don't mind a little back-biting, then Munchkin is going to let you bring out your inner pain in the butt. If someone amongst your group takes their games a little too seriously, then this might be the game to avoid, as winning tends to happen because everybody has run out of cards to screw with each other.
Back to the game. Just because you didn't find a monster when you opened the door, doesn't mean you don't get a chance to fight one. If you have one in your hand, then you are more than welcome to play it, fight it, and presumably kill it. Many games have been won by holding onto a little monster that could easily be defeated until the very end of the game.
Munchkin Strategy Tips
When every character can have a class, a race, a helmet, shoes, two weapons, and any other additional modifiers - things can get very hard to maintain. There are even cards that allow you to have two races (Half-Elf, Half-Dwarf or even weirder!) and two classes, which compounds the amount you need to remember. The only rule on this is, if someone calls you out on it, you lose a life. So keep track of your own stuffs and everyone else's.
The Munchkin rules insinuate that you can cheat. And in a busy and hectic game, it's easy to start cheating. Grab a card. Grab their card. Hide cards. There are tons of ways that can make the game either fun or horrible. Before you get going, discuss your stance on those rules so that everybody has a good time.
The most important rule of all with the game of Munchkin is to enjoy it. It's not a game that is really meant to define friendships and take hours of processing and strategizing. It is a silly game with Dungeons & Dragons jokes on the cards, and it should be treated as such. For a game about making fun of gamers, it would surely be obnoxious to act like one of the gamers it is making fun of.
The great thing about Munchkin is just how universal it is. The creators have gone out of their way to create a simple premise that can be lent to any genre of fandom. Ninjas, Cthulhu, cowboys, superheroes, and spies are just a few games that have expansions and then additional sequels to the expansions.
This might sound like they just keep republishing the same game with different sub-headers, but they don't. Every game has a new rule or two, and a new set of cards with a new Race & Class system that are all interchangeable. Want to play the original game with the superhero expansion? Now you can have a Dwarven Cleric Mutant with Laser Beam Eyes and an Axe Of Hugeness. Care to mix the Cthulhu mythos with spies? Now you are a private investigator with allegiance to Russia who acts as a Tourist. Blend them all together for a game that will honestly stop making sense about two turns in.
Munchkin is a game for gamers and our stupid little worlds. Get a few friends together and get ready to laugh. Your first time through, go slowly and share the art and jokes on the cards. There will be time enough to mess with your friends after you have had a good snort.