When I dislike something that I don't have to do for work or medical reasons, I am usually able to avoid it. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with Steve Jackson's Munchkin.
Munchkin in its original form is a game meant to poke fun at traditional pen-and-paper RPGs. It is also supposed to provide a gaming experience that allows players to battle monsters and loot their lifeless corpses for treasure without having to do any of that character building and role playing stuff. Since its publication in 2001, Munchkin has appeared in several different forms, and you can now play zombie, Cthulu, Marvel, and several other versions of the game.
The object of Munchkin is to be the first player to reach level 10. Players may trade items, help each other out, or actively hinder each other in the race to the top. Typically what this means is that the game will drag when players begin to reach higher levels, because whoever is in the lead will be brought down by everybody else. This process is repeated until no one has any good cards left. Finally, someone will slip across the finish line unopposed, and the game is over.
The first time I played Munchkin, it was relatively amusing—I was hanging out with friends, and the jokes on the cards were pretty funny. By the third time I played Munchkin, the jokes had gotten old, and the game had become excruciating. Even when I tried the Marvel version of Munchkin, I was quickly bored by the "new" cards and spent a lot of time waiting for someone to get to level 10 already so we could play something else.
Despite my personal feelings, Munchkin is a game that will probably haunt me forever. This is because new gamers, especially my students, love it. LOVE IT. For teenage boys, the Leather Armor and Pukachu cards never seem to get old. And for people who are playing a non-traditional board game for the first time, Munchkin is accessible and undemanding. The jokes keep the game light, and the lack of deep strategy gives everyone a reasonable shot at victory. Because it is possible to team up with other players, a newbie who has drawn a bad hand can still receive help and useful items to make the experience more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, when you are becoming acclimatized to tabletop gaming, it's also common to want to play safe and familiar games repeatedly before you are ready to move onto something else. This is where Munchkin becomes the bane of my existence. The occasional round of it is tolerable when it's been a while and when I'm with new players who will experience the jokes for the first time. It is decidedly intolerable when I get stuck playing it at game club for the third week in a row.
All the same, I will continue to grit my teeth and be a good sport whenever Munchkin comes to the table. Gaming with a group means playing what the larger group wants to play, and I'm not going to rain on someone else's parade. I worry that hating on Munchkin and pushing other games too aggressively will drive enthusiastic neophytes away from the hobby. New players need to go at their own pace, and will move on if and when they are ready. Besides, if Munchkin is what eventually leads my friends and students down that slippery slope that ends in a multi-hour game of Eldritch Horror, I will consider my investment worthwhile.
Until then, I am happy to game by myself!
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My name is Liz Davidson, and I play solo board games. A lot of solo board games...