How To Cheat At Munchkin

By Alec Meer on December 2nd, 2010 at 6:25 pm.

You there! Have you ever played Munchkin? It’s a multiplayer card game about dungeoneering, created by Fighting Fantasy co-creator the other Steve Jackson. It’s enormously entertaining, primarily because it’s designed almost entirely around screwing people over. It’s shallow as all hell and has arguably been flogged into semi-embarrasing status by the endless slew of expansions and modifications, but it’s also a great night in. Or even out, if you live near a pub that isn’t full of large, angry skinheads who like to punch boardgame players in the face.

There isn’t a videgame version, and I’m not entirely convinced there should be (this is, after all, a game about getting really, really cross with the people you’re sat next to) – but there is now a ‘rigged demo‘ intended to explain the cartwheeling, sadistic rules of play.

An older version has been around for a while, via the complicated magics of downloadable and printable PDFs, but it’s now all spanglied up, 100% online and in-browser thanks to Flash. Thanks, Flash. Thlash.

It doles out the rules remarkably well and with an entertaingly sardonic tone, I’d say. Go see.

Steve Jackson Games also offer similar tutor-o-demos for Revolution, Zombie Dice and Cthulu Dice. Hmm. The only thing Cthulu dices with is the very fabric of existence, surely?

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77 Comments »

  1. DrGonzo says:

    Oh how I love Munchkin. I love that the rules are vague enough that most games end up with you all having an argument over them. That’s why I think it would actually be impossible to make a computer game out of it.

  2. Nathan says:

    Munchkin is published by Steve Jackson Games in Austin, Tx. The Steve Jackson of Fighting Fantasy fame co-founded Games Workshop. These are different Steve Jacksons…

    • user@example.com says:

      And of course, Steve Jackson eventually wrote a Fighting Fantasy book or two with the name Steve Jackson on the cover, so you couldn’t tell that they were written by Steve Jackson rather than Steve Jackson.

      I hate Munchkin. Some people like it, and I’m glad for them.

    • Nick says:

      Ok, but is there only one Ian Livingstone in the Fighting Fantasy world or have I been duped twice?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Surely being duped twice would mean you’re quadruped?

    • Saul says:

      Wow, I’m ashamed to say I never knew this. You’ve opened my eyes!

  3. Morph says:

    Ok I’ll be that moaning guy for this article. Munchkin goes on far too long and the joke wears thin after a couple of plays.

    • DrGonzo says:

      It goes on about 10-20 minutes. And I don’t think it was inteded to be played any more than once or twice on a drunken night. If we played more than 2 rounds we would be hitting each other probably. But I find it really entertaining while it lasts.
      Argh prematurely clicked reply then. I was going to add that I think it is technically a terrible game. But that is why it works so well.

    • HeavyStorm says:

      You shouldn’t play more than one match in a row. And only with a good number of people, otherwise, the game never ends.

      It goes for 2 to 4 hours. Which makes it lose fun before the end sometimes, truly.

    • RagingLion says:

      10-20 minutes?! It always goes on to at least 1am – this is what was established amongst my group of friends.

    • Fishdinner says:

      If your game of munchkin lasts more than 1/2 hour you’re playing it wrong…

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah they should be played out very quickly. Sounds like something is going wrong in your games.

    • TheMoo says:

      @DrGonzo
      Something is obviously going very wrong in your games, from experience a game of Munchkin lasts from about 1 and a half hours to the time someone decides he’s had just about enough.
      The game usually freezes at the point where people are lvl 8-9 and it’s just a slog of arguments, screams, and pure distilled hatred to whoever is playing right now.
      It gets old after a while.

    • Stompywitch says:

      The fun in those games really depends on the group, absolute cut-throat-bastard games are great fun with the right friends.

      Munchkin Quest is all right, but it does run long; we started a game about 8pm; I lost the will to play about 10pm, and around midnight had to tell one of the other players to stop screwing everyone over else we’d never get home and we all had work the next day. Technically I won, but it was a meaningless victory by that point.

    • Robin says:

      I find it so bizarre that anyone can play Munchkin in 10 minutes…like how are we playing the same game here? For me it’s up there with Monopoly and Risk on the list of games that are fun for an hour but unfortunately take like 2-3 hours to play.

      For us the thing with Munchkin has always been that the last phase of the game is just:

      Everyone is at level 9, everyone has some decent cards accrued, whenever someone tries to hit level 10 they use a bunch of decent cards to do it and then everyone else uses their decent cards to stop them. Each time this happens a LOT of tedious adding and subtracting of numbers has to happen. This goes round with every player trying to hit level 10 every time they get a turn, until eventually someone manages it not by skill or tactics, but just because everyone finally ran out of cards trying to stop the previous guy (or they ran out of patience and are just letting the person win).

      I’ve always viewed Munchkin as a really fun idea not executed that well. I’d love to hear how your way of playing things changes things up so much that it takes like 2 hours less time to play…might salvage the game for me.

  4. HeavyStorm says:

    And, Steve Jackson of GURPS fame, probably, anyway…

  5. DrazharLn says:

    I’ve played Munchkin Cthulu, that’s a lot of fun.

    Footsicles!

    • dadioflex says:

      Note. CthulHu.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Or, Tulu, Clulu, Clooloo, Cthulu, Cthullu, C’thulhu, Cighulu, Cathulu, C’thlu, Kathulu, Kutulu, Kthulhu, Q’thulu, K’tulu, Kthulhut, Kulhu, Kutunluu, Ktulu, Cuitiliú, Thu Thu

  6. Bil says:

    Don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet but it’s the Steve Jackson of Car Wars, Ogre, Illuminatii, secret service raid, etc.

    • Matzerath says:

      OK, thank you. I’m having a lot of trouble separating one Steve Jackson from another. My favorite Steve Jackson is definitely the one that made Car Wars.

  7. Tei says:

    What I love from munchkin is to win a game having 2 arms and a helper, a blade with 2 hands in one hand, so every hand can have another weapon, and a 2hand weapon on the other hand, for a total of 6 arms in my 4 arms (sorry, I got lost).. Munchkin is IS. And there’s nothing else to say. Everyone should play it. All the time.

  8. Furbomb says:

    …Humongous Fungus. *groan* Also, remember a shitload of pointless arguments over the rules. , no I’ll rather play Cthulhu 500.

  9. TentSalesman says:

    Munchkin is vicious, nasty, and one of the best card games I’ve ever played – superb fun.

  10. Mym says:

    Munchkin is a Steve Jackson Game. As in all Steve Jackson Games, the way to cheat in Munchkin is (stated explicitly) not to get caught.

    • Ian Moriarty says:

      Indeed, cheating is the *only* way to play Munchkin. Our games last somewhere in the 20-30 minute range, and several house rules add a level of bluffing and rules twisting similar to the other house favorite “Bullshit”.

      ~i

  11. RichRuzz says:

    I really love playing Munchkin but none of my friends ever want to try it, and those that do can’t see it’s all in good fun and get frustrated and argue lol.

  12. JB says:

    Is it Saturday already or something?

    Come back Mr Florence, all is forgiven!

  13. Phinor says:

    Really great card game. I just lost interest after they started releasing expansions left and right (and after they decided we are not allowed to have our cards on the table in a local buffet restaurant) but that doesn’t take anything away from the cards I already have. Last I checked you could mix&match with any amount of expansions.

  14. jeremypeel says:

    Thanks to KG, the term ‘dungeoneer’ means something entirely different to me now :(

  15. utharda says:

    I hate Munchin, but then my wife cheats outrageously, and a very poor loser.
    on the other hand she’s bought 9 flavors of the game.

  16. bookiegnu says:

    Arrrgh! SITTING next to, not SAT next to. Unless the person who’s organised the game has also organised the seating arrangements and therefore has actually sat (seated, preferably) you next to them

    That aside, I’d never heard of Munchkin. The last card game I really enjoyed was Nuclear War. Would a love of that translate to enjoying this?

  17. Waltorious says:

    So, from the rigged demo this looks like a lot of fun. But, there are ten million versions. Recommendations on which ones a new player should buy?

    • DrGonzo says:

      We’ve had a lot of fun with vanilla Munchkin. That’s what I would recommend getting first. But then we got Space Munchkin, once you have one the other versions they can just be added to the deck to make the game even more unfair and funny.

  18. Starky says:

    Just to repeat – Munchkin Steve Jackson is NOT the British co-creator of fighting fantasy/games workshop/Lionhead studios.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jackson_%28UK_game_designer%29

    He’s the American creator of GURPS, and wrote 3 fighting fantasy books.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jackson_%28US_game_designer%29

    • Torgen says:

      Reminds me of the letter I sold once from Winston Churchill.

      The American Winston Churchill, who was so famous in the last years of the 19th Century through WWI that the British Winston Churchill started writing his name and publishing his books as Winston S Churchill to avoid confusion. Now no one even knows the American Winston ever existed.

  19. Severian says:

    Odd. I’m a pretty serious boardgame geek and I’ve always heard mostly negative things about Munchkin from fellow grognards… but I played through the rigged demo and I was kind of impressed. It seems like a tight design in some aspects – a race to level 10, with lots of player interaction. Obviously silly, but more importantly, fun. For those who hate, what am I missing?

    • Delusibeta says:

      I don’t know the exact reasons for Munchkin’s hatedom, but I would wager that the ten or so expansions and the other ten or so expandalones (each with at least one expansion of their own) for the game may be a factor.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      This is because grognards take pointless shit way too seriously. Munchkin is awesome fun with friends and not to be taken seriously at all. Best way to experience it is to buy 2 completely mismatched sets (like say, Star Munchkin and The Good The Bad and The Munchkin) and then use the Munchkin Blender to add a bunch of great prefix and suffix cards to make things even more ridiculous.

    • RQH says:

      Because Munchkin is basically designed to both foil and mock grognards and pen and paper RPG power-leveling rule-nerds. See also, TotalBiscuit’s comment.

    • Morph says:

      Grognards usually aren’t impressed by theme and actually want a good game underneath. Try Dominion, Innovation, 7 Wonders if you want a good card game. If you want something less serious try Apples to Apples, Before I Kill You Mr Bond, Gloom or Fluxx. All are great.

    • malkav11 says:

      Munchkin, like an awful lot of Steve Jackson releases, is a game that emphasizes silly card names and similar humor over mechanics. Which means that if you don’t think the jokes are funny or get tired of them, you’re probably not going to enjoy the game very much. It is, however, one of a few of them that has enough mechanical depth to provide some actual gaming enjoyment even once you’ve seen all the cards. (And of course, they keep releasing more.) So, personally I rather like it, and Ninja Burger. Most of the other similarly silly SJG releases palled for me roughly one or two games in. Those two I’ll play from time to time. I’ve yet to try Munchkin Quest.

      This is not to say that the company churns out purely joke-oriented gaming. Illuminati is a bit silly in mood but is quite neat, as is Hacker. GURPS quality varies from book to book but is a good idea and many of the books make decent reference material even if you don’t want to use the system.

    • Rocket Seance says:

      Munchkin is what is called, amongst card game/board game geeks, a “kingmaker.” The game doesn’t end when one player outplays the others, it ends when some of the players give up and let one of the other players win.

    • drewski says:

      The thing that bothered me about it when I played it was that it was too capricious. If you just want to be amused, you can just read through the cards…if you want to play a card game, it’s not a very good one.

      A game like M:TG has large elements of skill in play – how you set up your deck, what order you play your cards in, when you choose to play particular effects. Munchkin’s completely random, and then some asshole fucks you when you’re already last. And you kinda go…what was the point?

      Not that I’ve played Magic for about a decade, but still.

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s not -completely- random. There is a certain, albeit small, level of strategy and a great deal of diplomacy.

  20. Cronstintein says:

    Never heard of it until now but the demo piqued my interest.

  21. jon_hill987 says:

    I think I will stick with MTG…

    • Jake says:

      It does sound a bit like MTG, I’m curious as to how it compares to multiplayer MTG, which is basically just screwing people over but with nicer art.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      It’s nothing like MT:G, it’s not even a CCG.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      You may not trade the cards, but the demo does seem to play not unlike MTG. Granted it is about getting to level 10 first rather than removing 20 points from the other player, but seems really quite similar.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      It’s absolutely like M:tG. There are cards involved and people play a game with them.

      Also, I won’t be playing Super Meat Boy, I’ll stick with CODBLOPS. My game costs more than yours.

  22. shinygerbil says:

    I am absolutely flabbergasted by the fact that there are two Steve Jacksons.

    My whole childhood was a lie.

  23. Lucas says:

    Munchkin is fun for a couple plays, but its not the kind of thing that brings me back. RFTG on the other hand is outstanding.

    My recommendation for anyone with a Wii or PS2 would be Dokapon Kingdom, aka “the friendship destroying game.” Think Munchkin meets Dragon Quest crossed with Monopoly. The first time I played it I literally didn’t move my ass for 10 hours straight. Criminally underrated.

  24. Down Rodeo says:

    I bought some Munchkin recently, now I am told that there will be expansions bought for Christmas. It’s hilarious fun (though sometimes the screwing over went on too far, and no-one got anywhere, of course the next game was over quickly because everyone went the other way). It’s still brilliant. Star Munchkin is also very funny and very fun.

  25. gulag says:

    My god, it’s full of expansions!

    DUNK!

  26. gulag says:

    In other news, John Kovalic, who does the art, is lovely. I’ve met him, (so has half of Cork) so I should know.

    DUNK!

  27. Anti Gravity Game Network says:

    Ooh you are a sneaky devil. :P I really need to get Munchkin and introduce my new friends to the game, and now with this! *evil cackle*

    I will rule the world!

  28. Nimloth says:

    I’d kill for a way to play this online.

    Kill.

    - Nim

  29. NPC says:

    I just recently tried Munchkin Quest and really enjoyed it with friends – is there something similar (with a board and adventuring) that is kid-safe, do you know?

  30. Dawngreeter says:

    Combining Munchin sets is interesting. I once fought 3189 Orcs (don’t recall the exact number, it’s a single monster card) which happened to get modifiers “last of its kind” and “I am your father”.

    I don’t recall if it’s a Munchkin Monster Manual-only or if there’s a card for it in the card game as well, but I like the idea of Monster Whose Name Is So Long There Is No Room For An Illustration.

    Still, after a dozen or so games, the humor wears off. And what you’re left with is a not very fun game. Most people at that point have five or sex expansions and quietly start bemoaning the fact that they could’ve bought, say, Starcraft boardgame which would still be fun. Or shoes. Good ones, too.

    • adonf says:

      It would be so awesome if your comment was actually spam for christian lauboutin or whatever his name is…

    • Dawngreeter says:

      I really should look into writing spam comment layouts for shoe stores. That’d be really awesome.

  31. Sinomatic says:

    Looks like it might be a laugh, but it just makes me want to go and play Talisman.

  32. oceanclub says:

    Oh, I love Munchkin. In my last workplace, we pretty much played this every lunchtime. It’s the balance between helping each other and backstabbing that never got old, I found. A great introductory game for new gamers too.

    P.

  33. Niffum says:

    First time commenter here…but I couldn’t stop without thanking mister Meer for the unexpected and most welcome news about Munchkin. I never played card games (except for some Pokemon years ago) but Munchkin got me hooked from the start. Awesome game for noobs and even cooler in large groups, the more couples at the table the merrier.

  34. Gaytard Fondue says:

    A bit late to the party…

    Great game. Too bad my brother-in-law won’t play with me anymore after I screwed him over. (tbh, I think he now genuinely hates me)

  35. salty-horse says:

    +1 for Look Around You reference.

  36. Steve Jackson says:

    There will only ever be one Steve Jackson

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  38. Munch says:

    Why do they make you turn the shrieking geek into a baby instead of having you get rid of your warrior class? You can choose to lose your class at any time, that seems to be a much better move than wasting your baby card, which is more versatile. You get more treasure that way too, and it weakens the geek even more.