Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday! Munchkin

Welcome back to another Tabletop Tuesday!!! This summer, my Tabletop Tuesday posts were really heavy on the tabletop RPG - D&D and Fantasy Flight's Star Wars RPG, specifically. So, to ease out of the RPGs and back into board games, today's post is about... Munchkin!

Munchkin is a card game that "brings you the essence of the dungeon-crawling experience... without all the messy roleplaying!" (source: rule book) It is made by Steve Jackson Games.

Basically, Munchkin is a card game inspired by tabletop RPGs like D&D... but without the roleplaying, backstory, DM, excessive dice rolling, or time commitment. Hit the jump to read more!

Munchkin is a card game for three to six players, and is recommended for players age 10 and up. This post is specifically about the basic version of the game, but there are a variety of themed expansions and booster decks available, including Zombies, Vampires, Dragons, Cthulhu, The Guild, and the new Steampunk version of Munchkin! The basic game retails for about $25 and can be found at Target or your local gaming or hobby shop. It can also be bought on Amazon for around $16.

This basic game includes 168 cards divided between two decks, one d6, and the rules. So long as you have some way to keep track of your character levels, that is all you need to play Munchkin!

How to Play:
Much like a traditional fantasy-based tabletop RPG, Munchkin begins with the players in a dungeon. It is their task to kick down the closed doors, fight the Monsters they find, and collect the treasure while racing to Level 10. The first player to reach Level 10 by killing a Monster* wins the game!

* There are some exceptions, see the section on Free Levels below

There are two decks of cards in the Munchkin game: Door Cards and Treasure Cards.

Door Cards: The Door deck includes Monsters, player Class and Race cards, Monster buffs, Curses that remove items, levels, and attack power from players, and special cards that grant levels or circumvent the rules.

Treasure Cards: The Treasure deck includes items that can be used to aid a player's escape from a monster, boost their attack level through armor or a temporary buff. Items can be traded to other players, or used as bribes.

Each player begins with 8 cards: 4 Treasure Cards and 4 Door Cards. If a player has a Race and/or Class card in their hand, they can apply it to their character by placing in play, on the table in front of the player. Everyone starts at Level 1 and defaults to a Human unless they can play a Race or Class card. Special cards in the Door deck can allow a player to multiclass as a Super Munchkin, letting them play two classes and receive the benefits from both. Another card present in the Door deck is the Half-Breed card, which does the same for character Races. Class and Race cards can be discarded at any time, even in combat - so if you're up against a Monster that especially hates Dwarves, well, maybe you're not a Dwarf anymore...

Character Races

Character Classes

Players can also apply the Armor, Weapons, or other Items from their initial hand, placing those cards on the table in front of them, in play. Armor and Weapons can increase the player's attack level, making them more powerful against the Monsters they find. Some items can only be used by specific Classes or Races, or Genders.

If either deck runs out of cards, the discard pile is reshuffled and the game continues.

Player Turn:
Munchkin is a turn-based game, with every player taking a turn each round. The player turn consists of five possible phases: Card Maintenance, Kicking Open the Door, Looking for Trouble (optional), Looting the Room (optional), and Charity.

Card Maintenance: if the player wants to play items from their hand, they must do this at the start of their turn. Items can be carried (in reserve) or in-use (worn). Cards for Items that are being carried should be turned sideways to show they are not being applied to the character... yet. Players may only have one Big Item at a time (in-use or carried), unless your Race, Class, or another card (like a Hireling) lets you carry more. Once they have finished this phase, the player moves on to...

Kicking Down the Door: During this phase, the player draws one Door Card and places it face up. If it is a Monster, the player must then fight. Some Monsters have special text on their card, letting low level players flee without consequence or giving certain Races or Classes an advantage... or disadvantage. If the player defeats the Monster, they advance one level (or more, if the Monster card specifies) and draw the number of Treasure Cards listed for that Monster.


If the card is a Curse, it goes into effect immediately and is discarded. If the card is neither a Monster or Curse, the player may play it or place it in their hand.

Looking for Trouble: If the player did not find a Monster when they Kicked Down the Door, they can go Looking for Trouble and fight a Monster from their own hand. I like to hang on to a few low level Monsters for these occasions, because beating them = easy levels... so long as the other players don't beef them up too much! Combat proceeds as normal here, just as if the Monster was found in the room, and other players can help if needed. If the player does not have a Monster card in their hand that they want to fight, they can choose to...

Well, I would have been fine if they hadn't added the Wandering Monster...

Loot the Room: The player may Loot the Room if they did not fight a Monster this turn, either by Kicking Down the Door or Looking for Trouble. To Loot the Room the player draws another Door Card, keeping it face down, and places it in their hand to play later.

Once all combat and looting is finished, the player finishes their turn by performing a little hand maintenance. This phase is referred to in the rules as...

Charity: A player's hand cannot exceed 5 cards at the end of their turn, and all extra cards must be played or given to the lowest level player(s). If it is the lowest level player's turn, they discard the cards instead.

Leveling Your Character
There are three primary ways to gain levels in Munchkin. By killing Monsters in Combat, buying Levels with Items, or gaining free Levels by using cards from the Treasure deck.

If your character finds a Monster, they must either fight or flee. To fight a Monster, compare the combat strength/attack level of the Monster with your character. This is done by adding your player Level to the modifiers from your gear - Weapons, Armor, Potions. If your attack strength is higher, you Kill the Monster, gain a Level (or more, if the Monster card specifies), and get to draw the number of Treasure Cards listed. But if the Monster's strength is equal to yours or greater, they win and your character must flee!

If a player has to Run Away from the Monster, they do not gain Treasure or Levels, and Bad Stuff might happen. As they Run Away, the player rolls the d6 included with the game. On a 5 or better, the player escapes intact. On a 1-4, the Bad Stuff listed on the Monster Card happens. If there is more than one Monster in Combat, a separate roll must be made for each, and a lot of Bad Stuff might happen.

If your character is overwhelmed by a Monster, you can solicit (bribe) the rest of the party to aid your character in combat. Only one other player can help you by adding their combat strength to yours. The other players can beef your team up with boosts to give additional assistance... or they can grant the Monster extra strength (or friends!) to mess with you both. Curses and boost cards from your hand can be played on anyone's turn, whether or not they are receiving assistance in combat.

Monster Boosts

Escape Boosts


If you ask another player for help, they may want something in return. This could be all or part of the Treasure reward for defeating the Monster, or even an item your character already has. This should be decided upon prior to the Combat. If your team is successful in their Combat, you go up a Level but your partner does not (unless he's an Elf).

Buying Levels:
A player can sell extra Items in exchange for a Level. Each Level costs 1000 gold. To buy a Level, the player must discard Items equal to the cost of the Level, using the Gold value listed on the Item card.

Sorry, we don't make change. All sales final.

Free Levels:
There are also special Treasure Cards that grant free Levels to the players. These can be played immediately when they are drawn, or saved in a players hand for a later turn. The winning 10th level cannot be granted with one of these cards, unless the card text specifically says so.

Love the tabletop RPG jokes!

Tracking Player Levels:
So long as you can count to ten, any method of tracking levels is valid. The rules suggest using tokens, like coins or poker chips. The Boyfriend and I prefer to break out our d10s from our gaming dice and use those to track levels. Once, when we were teaching my young cousins how to play, we used a pad of paper to track levels, rather than depend on everyone to remember their own.

There is also a deluxe version of this game called... Munchkin Deluxe! This is exactly the same as the regular basic Munchkin game, except it comes with a board and character pieces to track your character's level. Each player gets a character piece and the corresponding card (to keep track of who is using each piece). The character pieces then climb the board, progressing from level to level. This version of the game retails for $30. It would also be easy to make a board and use miniatures to represent the players. Seriously, anything goes.

Gear gives players boosts to their Attack Strength

Playing With 2 Adventurers:
Munchkin is recommended for 3-6 players... but The Boyfriend and I didn't always have friends around to game with, so we modified things for a 2 player game. All we really did was remove the ability to trade items to another player. We still assist each other - though the terms get pretty ruthless - and we use the Curses and Monster Boosts much more liberally since there's no one else to help gang up on the other player. Unfortunately, two player games can feel very one-sided if one player gets ahead early in the game because they drew a better hand or lower Level Monsters.

Because of this, Munchkin is loads more fun with a larger group of players. Aiding other players, then turning around and boosting the Monsters to mess with them on their next turn is a lot of fun, and makes the race to Level 10 more interesting as alliances are made and broken, and Levels are gained then lost.

Munchkin is one of my favorite games. The variety of expansions let players customize their gaming experience, and it is easily modified to exceed the recommended 3-6 players by making larger decks or playing to higher Levels. This is an easy game to learn, the rules included in the box are thorough and easy to read. I also enjoy the artwork and jokes included on the card art, moreso now that I play tabletop RPGs regularly!

The cost of this game seems very fair to me, because it is so customizable and can be found for an even lower price online. Munchkin's high replay value and excellent reputation make it a must-have for tabletop gamers. Munchkin is often on the list of games available to play at conventions, and some conventions and comic stores host tournaments.

While Munchkin is recommended for players over the age of 10, the humor is cheeky rather than overtly sexual or grossly offensive - if your kids can handle the violence inherent in the game (killing Monsters) and the backstabbing by other players, they will probably enjoy playing Munchkin.

If you enjoy playing Munchkin, or think you will, you can find it on Amazon via my associate link!

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! Until next week, GAME ON!

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