While the little people decorating these cards are by no means leprechauns (with the exception of one specific card), I couldn’t have picked a better card game to kick off March, the month of St. Patrick’s Day and other Irish stereotypes, such as singing merrily and raising your voice to others. Looking back at my first experience playing Munchkin with my friends, I can honestly say that I don’t remember so much laughter and ruckus to be had simply by playing a card game with my friends before—and that includes Cards Against Humanity!
The object of this card game is easily summed up by the tag line posted on the cover of the game box: Kill the Monsters —Steal the Treasure— Stab your Buddy.
The idea of backstabbing for personal gain was, of course, embraced by my group of friends, and after learning that everyone was eager to get on with playing. My friend who had brought over the game took out the rules and began explaining them to us, and unlike our experience with hearing the rules of Settlers of Catan, everything that he was telling us went in one ear and out the other. This game is easy to play once you’ve developed a grasp of the rules, but learning them through the instructions can be very difficult. The best way to learn this game is to start playing, and you don’t even need to start with a practice round before you begin playing “for real”—once everybody knows what they’re doing, you can keep on going without having to deal out new cards.
There is one rule in the game that my friends rejoiced upon learning when our friend reading the rules to us arrived at the end of the section about Conflicts Between Cards & Rules: “Any other disputes should be settled by loud arguments.” It’s a good thing I had the house to myself the night we decided to play this game, otherwise this could have ended very badly. This rule carried the stipulation of “the owner of the game having the last word.” Since our friend that had brought the game to my house was male, I half-expected my girlfriends would attempt to flirt with him in order to settle arguments in their favour. Unfortunately for him, it never came to that.
For a brief summary on the cards that can be found in this game, there are two types of cards: The Door deck and the Treasure deck. Cards in the treasure deck consist of various gear and bonuses to help you or your friends throughout the game by assisting with combat or by bringing you up to a higher level. The door deck contains various monsters you can fight in combat, by yourself or with the help of others. This deck also contains Race and Class cards you can apply to yourself, as well as various curses that you can use against other players, or even yourself if you’re in a self-deprecating mood.
This is the sort of game that you will want to play with a well-established group of friends; you’re going to have a lot more fun that way. There will be a lot of high-pitched whining and maniacal laughter to be had. When my friends and I played, we had one instance where one friend’s race was an Elf, and according to the Elf card she would gain a level every time she helped somebody kill a monster. Because she was always begging people to let her help them, it earned her the nickname Combat Prostitute. By the end of the game, it also earned her the title of MVP because she helped so many of us gain levels or defeat monsters.
While it might become much more jolly and rambunctious to play this while drinking, I recommend a collection of sober minds for this game the first time your group plays. Something that also surprised me about Munchkin is that there is no way to predict who the winner is going to be, whether you’re further into the game or have just started playing. All it takes is one well-timed curse and you’ll go from having a high combat level to having all your good gear stolen from you. Don’t try forming alliances either, because you never know when you’ll pick up that perfect card that will help you win by screwing over your fellow players.
In summation, I would say that you need to give this game a try. It might look complicated with each card having its own set of rules, but it’s seriously fun once you start playing.