Steve Jackson’s dungeon crawler has been a staple in the tabletop gaming space for over a decade. At this point, you can buy Munchkin pretty much anywhere along with a countless number of expansions, spin-offs, booster packs and accessories. When I got into the designer board and card games a few years ago, this was one of the first games I played. Does Munchkin stand the test of time?
In this game, you’re all raiding a dungeon. Everyone starts out as a level 1 character, though you should be able to establish yourself with a race, class and some sweet gear to make the journey a bit easier. At the start of each player’s turn, they kick down a door, where they may get an item, a curse, or a monster. Each monster’s strength is indicated by their level number, which you must exceed by one point with your weapons in order to beat it. If you can beat a monster, you’ll go up a level and earn even more sweet loot. The first player to earn their way to level 10 wins.
Head-to-head combat is fairly straightforward, but your friends don’t have to just sit there and watch you complete your turn. If you run into a scenario where you’re too weak to kill a monster, another player can help you out in exchange for levels or treasure. Players can also jump in to aid the monster in hopes of impeding your progress. Sticking your nose in someone everyone else’s business is key to your success and in many times is the most hilarious part of the game. When the game is on full tilt, every player is involved in an epic battle against one another while constantly raising the stakes with every card they have at their disposal.
As heated as things can get, things are balanced off nicely by the humour that permeates through each card. The first time I played the game, I cracked up every time a new card was revealed because of the hilarious writing that tied directly into the effects of each card. Thematically, I think the game is quite strong. Even after the jokes wore off, the card effects still add interesting wrinkles to the gameplay.
While the element of confrontation is its biggest strength, it can also slow things down in a very frustrating manner. Once a player hits level 9, every battle that person faces tends to get very messy. Experienced players will horde specific cards to screw others over the moment they reach this point, which means that you’ll likely run into a brick wall. Getting to level 9 can take a matter of minutes, but we’ve played a number of games where getting from level 9 to 10 took well over an hour due to the many ways in which others can thwart your efforts.
Even after all of these years, Munchkin can still be awesome to play. I love the humour and how its asyncronous gameplay makes for an experience that everyone is involved in throughout. However, after a few rough games that drag on due to stall tactics, it can be hard to find the motivation to break this out with any sort of frequency. I recommend giving this a shot to see if it appeals to you, though you may want to try it out at a friend’s place first before buying.