Every once and a while it's good to sit down with a game that requires limited thought, and is instead completely focused on fun, and more importantly camaraderie with those sitting around the gaming table.
Now if you are one of those people that has an interest in fantasy, and especially if you have ever played a role playing game such as Dungeons & Dragons, the answer for a light, but hilarious evening is the card game Munchkin.
Designed by Steve Jackson, an iconic name in the gaming industry, Munchkin first hit the streets back in 2001, and it has become something of a game phenomenon ever since.
The premise of the game is rather simple, with one explanation I've seen stating, “kill the monsters - steal the treasure - stab your buddy. That pretty much sums it up.
It's a game where you have character cards with certain powers, powers that can be enhanced through the collection of other 'magic' cards.
The characters then face various monsters, humourously re-created creatures from the world of RPGs. Defeat the monster, and you collect more treasure.
You must collect enough points along the way to meet the win condition, before anyone else at the table does, the game is for three to six players.
If the cards aren't rolling well in terms of you beating up the monsters, you can always work at thwarting the efforts of everyone else at the table. You can play cards to strengthen monsters, steal treasures and simply infuriate other players, all in good natured back stabbing of course.
The game play is smooth, fast, and the rule set easy enough to pick up in just a game or two, even for those unfamiliar with the RPG background to the game. The thing about being a role player though is that you will get more of the wacky humour that Munchkin has in terms of card text and creatures, since they are often twisted interpretations of classic RPG storylines.
As mentioned, Munchkin has been a huge success in terms of the game industry. While the original is a solid stand alone game in its own right, Munchkin has had at least six expansion decks released. The expansions play as stand alone games, or you can mix them all together to create a huge and varied deck from which to play.
The game has also inspired a number of novelty items for the really avid player, from life counter dice, to an actual pewter miniature of the Munchkin mascot which is also used as a life counter.
While the original Munchkin, and its expansions focus on a basic medieval era, fantasy theme, there have also been a number of sequel editions produced.
Among the varied sequels are; Star Munchkin takes you to the world of outer space, Munchkin Bites!, has vampires and such, while Munchkin Fu takes on the world of kung fu movies.
Remember these are all very much tongue-in-cheek efforts, with bad puns and crazy ideas, yet that's what makes the game so endearing.
It's not a game for play every night, but when the mood strikes, when a night arrives you just want some silliness and laughs, Munchkin fits the bill.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 10, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada