Saturday, August 25, 2007

Munchkin Review

Munchkin is fun.

Yes, that seems like an awful short review. Munchkin, for those who don’t know, is a card game that parodies Dungeons & Dragons. You start out with blank characters that you only fill out by getting stuff (including races and classes). You take turns drawing dungeon room cards that mostly have monsters or curses on them. When you beat monsters, you get to draw treasure cards and collect more stuff for your character. Also when you beat monsters, you go up a level each time. The goal is to be the first to reach 10th level. It usually takes an hour for one in a group of three players to get there. Tammie [my ex- ]and I have played it three times with Tyler [our son] so far. Sometimes it’s a little rough for Tyler. Maybe we should remove the more confusing cards from the deck before play, as we always have to check his cards and explain to them what they can do. Fighting the monsters sometimes scares him a little too, but he insists that he likes monsters and asks us to play it with him. So far, with help, Tyler’s won twice. Last night’s game was close, with Tammie at 9th level and me at 7th level. I was sitting on a giant, ancient shrieking geek that would have been 26th level that I wanted to lay against Tammie, but couldn’t draw a wandering monster card I needed to use it against her. Tyler won mainly thanks to the Swiss army polearm that adds four to your level. I was just unlucky and drew the least number of monster cards from the dungeon deck.

What makes Munchkin so easy for Tyler is the basic mechanic of combat – if your modified level is higher than the monster’s level, you kill it and get to loot its treasure. The only time a random die roll is needed in the game is if you need to run away from a powerful monster, but that happens infrequently and usually only towards the start of the game when your characters are weaker. The most interactive mechanic of the game, which nicely encourages cooperative play, is that you can team up to beat really powerful monsters. With weaker characters, you may have to convince everyone at the table to join forces with you, usually by offering to split the treasure cards. If you only need the help of one of them, you can sit back and watch them bid to help you and pick the one who asks for the least of your stuff.

Dungeons & Dragons is a violent, bloody game and Greyhawk is a violent, bloody campaign setting. As most of you know, I’ve long dreamed about running a violence-lite campaign, and worked on and off on the “Happy Valley” campaign setting. I even have some rules I’ve been working on for nonviolent conflict resolving game mechanics, which I have posted already to Superland and may repost here. If actual violent conflict came up in such a campaign, I would probably use Munchkin’s system to keep the violence short and minimal rather than drawing it out round after round. We won’t be abandoning AD&D for Munchkin anytime soon, but I would like us to try it sometime.

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