Cardboard Children – Munchkin: Axe Cop

Hello youse.

In all my years of writing this column, I’ve never actually properly covered Munchkin. I think that’s something I should do, because the game is very very popular. I mean – it’s super popular. It’s so popular that you can buy about a million different flavours of Munchkin game. There’s a Conan one. And an Adventure Time one. And a Penny Arcade one. And a million expansions. And sweatshirts. And spin-off games. It’s a whole big corner of the board game industry on its own.

I decided I’d give it a proper chance, and bought one with a flavour I liked. So, today – Munchkin: Axe Cop.

MUNCHKIN: AXE COP

First of all, if you’ve never read Axe Cop, go and do that.

Second of all, if you’ve never played Munchkin, go and not do that.

ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT. I’ll be fair. A proper review. Here we go.

Munchkin is a game that features two decks of cards. There’s a DOOR deck and a TREASURE deck. Every player starts with four of each of these types of card in their hand. Everyone also starts with a Level 1 character and must level up to Level 10 to win this farce of a “game”.

SORRY!

So, in a turn, a player can first “play” cards out of their hand to create a character of sorts for themselves. You can put down a “class” which will give you certain abilities and bonuses. And you can play out any cards that are items, as long as you make sure not to equip any more than 1 of each type. So, one armour card, one helmet, whatever. Oh and weapons too, you can play out one for each hand, unless it’s a two-handed weapon. God knows. It’s a mess. So yeah, you play out all these cards.

Oh, and they have “jokes” on them. Now, the good thing about the Axe Cop edition is that at least the characters and jokes are funny. But they’re only funny because Axe Cop is funny. Munchkin ain’t bringing SHIT to this party.

Anyway. Yeah. Your turn. After you’ve laid all your stuff out, re-organised it, whatever, you can kick down a door. Sounds exciting, right? Actually what it means is that you take the first card from the top of the DOOR deck, to uncover an enemy. If it’s an enemy you need to either fight it or run away. Now, every enemy has a certain level, and probably has a special ability. It might be stronger against a certain class or weak against a certain attack, or whatever. It’s all there on the cards. To beat an enemy, you need to look at your own level, add any bonuses you have from weapons or items or class abilities or whatever, and try to beat the enemy’s combat total.

It’s very very rubbish.

If you can’t beat the enemy, you don’t have to run away instantly. You can try to get help from other players to win the combat. You can team up with other players! But you need to make deals to do that. You’d have to go –

“Look, I can’t beat this Level 10 monster on my own. But if you help me I will share the combat reward with you and we can both take one treasure from the treasure deck.”

“No, I don’t want to.”

“Okay, then I’ll give you all the treasure and also this card from my hand – a cool item.”

“No. I want you to lose the combat and face the penalty that is printed on the card.”

“Why would you want me to lose the combat? I will lose a level and then the game will go on for even longer.”

“Oh Jesus. Good point. I’ll help you to win.”

“Thank Christ for that.”

“God help us all.”

No, let’s be fair. It’s not that bad.

IT ACTUALLY IS THAT BAD

So if you beat a monster, you gain a level. Sometimes more than one level. If you can’t beat the monster you need to run away and roll a die to see if you escape successfully. If you don’t escape, you face the consequences printed on the monster card. All these penalties pretty much make the game longer for you.

If you don’t even find a monster when you kick down a door, you can play a monster of your choice from your hand. In this manner you can steer the game in a more leisurely manner towards your moment of ultimate victory, which in this game is whenever the game ends.

Sometimes you have a card that lets you roll a die to see if a thing happens. Horrible.

THE DELICIOUS FUN OF CHAOS

You might have a card that lets you gain a level. Or double the strength of a monster. Or make someone else lose a level. Or some other needless thing.

The game is pretty much all about trying to push yourself ahead in levels by making deals (despite having next to no bargaining power) or combining cards that you have received in a random manner. And while this is happening, other players are doing some dumb shit to you to slow you down. If they want to slow you down.

I LOVE AXE COP. I HATE MUNCHKIN.

If this game sounds terrible, it’s because it is. It’s just no fun. There’s really nothing to it other than a whole bunch of random shit and some cards with jokes printed on them. And in the case of something like Axe Cop, you’ve already seen the jokes.

My eight year old daughter quite enjoyed it. And I say quite enjoyed it. I mean, she enjoyed it a little bit. She hasn’t asked to play it again, put it that way.

GAME SNOBBERY

I hate game snobbery. You’ll find me defending many a game that a “serious gamer” (yes, those exist, believe it or not) would turn their nose up at. But Munchkin is just a bad game. It is wafer- thin on content. There’s a thousand games you’d be better off playing.

But it’s hugely successful. What the hell do I know?

The writer climbs into a bin.

“What do I know?”

116 Comments

  1. bee says:

    I thought it was impossible to dislike Munchkin. I have been proven wrong.

    • Xzi says:

      Some people also dislike bacon. And happiness. We call those people filthy terrorists. I’m reporting this review to homeland security as we speak. Only because I couldn’t get Obama on the line directly.

    • Carcer says:

      It’s fine to dislike Munchkin; as mechanically it’s not a good game, and suffers from a terrible endgame problem where everyone dicks over the person who is about to win until eventually someone is about to win and everyone else has already used up all their dickin’-over cards, by which point the game has definitely become a tedious circle of almost winning and there’s no skill involved. Rab doesn’t seem to have the context to appreciate the game’s thematic premise, though, so it does not surprise me that he does not like it. I mean, it’s a card game based on powergaming roleplayers, especially D&D… that he apparently finds it a confusing mess that you can put one item in each equipment slot and you have two hands to hold things with betrays a lack of familiarity with these kind of roleplaying games and those gamers are who Munchkin is aimed at to begin with.

      • Rymosrac says:

        I’m a serious as hell powergamer veteran of a half-dozen roleplaying systems, and I’ll shout from the rooftops that munchkin is a pile of steaming arsedrool. There’s no game. It’s just a collection of jokes. Jokes that wear thing very, very fast. Even in the case of the original box and it’s jokes about powergaming, they were old when the box was opened because WE WERE THE TARGET AUDIENCE, SO WE’D ALREADY MADE THE WHOLE GAMUT OF POWERGAMING JOKES AT EACH OTHERS EXPENCE WHILE ACTUALLY ROLEPLAYING.

        It’s not a game. It’s a joke disguised as a game, and a pretty shit joke at that.

        • Carcer says:

          I agree that Munchkin is a bad game and it does wear thin fast, I’m only making the argument that Rab doesn’t seem to even understand how the jokes are intended to be funny (if he does he certainly doesn’t betray any such notion in his writing). Really I’m just criticising Rab, not trying to defend Munchkin, because I’ve been grumpy at him ever since the the 5e “review”. This one is equally substance-less.

        • Baines says:

          It is a game. It is playable out of the box, with rules that function. I’ve played worse, games that really were just jokes disguised as games, some of which weren’t even functionally complete.

          That being said, Munchkin is a terrible game. It may be a functional game. It may not technically be broken. But it is just awful. Half the time, the winner is random, being (as said) the one person who happens to get their last necessary win because everyone else exhausted their opposing cards. The other half the time, the winner is still random, but now it is the person who lucked into becoming an unstoppable juggernaut while everyone else ended up with garbage. Never mind everyone dragging each other down in exhaustion, in these situations even if everyone else unites for half the game, they can’t stop the runaway winner from winning.

      • Lacero says:

        ” suffers from a terrible endgame problem where everyone dicks over the person who is about to win until eventually someone is about to win and everyone else has already used up all their dickin’-over cards, by which point the game has definitely become a tedious circle of almost winning and there’s no skill involved.”

        I have this opinion about cosmic encounter.
        which I know is heresy but I am willing to be burned to…ok no. I’m willing to look stupid for it.

        • Hitchslapped says:

          The difference being that cosmic encounter has way more protection cards. In Munchkin it’s all about beating on the leader until everyone has shot the bullets. In cosmic encounter you can save protective powers until you make your final move. That might mean losing a fight every now and then but you’ll be able to win the final fight.
          Another mistake many players make is to ask for help way to often especially as an attacker. If you’re able to win the fight on your own why give someone else rewards for it. You basically give a colony to another player just for risking up to 4 ships in this fight, which is pretty much nothing.

    • Pazguato says:

      In fact, it’s common to openly hate this game. Almost all boardgamegeek users really dislike it.

      • Hensler says:

        That’s not saying much. Most Boardgamegeek posters hate their own mothers for not being a pile of wooden cubes with a five step equation for adding up victory points.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Munchkin is best enjoyed with multiple themes mixed together, especially if each player contributes their own part of the deck that the other players don’t know about. This way, although you know the themes involved, you won’t know for sure which jokes will pop up. This works best if all cards are actually owned by one player, or if each player picks cards from non-overlapping sets.

      Also, a light alchohol buzz helps, but turning it into a proper “drinking game” is not advised.

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        Phasma Felis says:

        See, I was going to say that Munchkin is best if you don’t mix the themes, because your odds of finding an elfy weapon to go with your elf card, or a laser and a mazer to go with your banana-fana-fo-phaser, are dramatically reduced when you’ve got the fantasy and sci-fi and Cthulhu decks and so forth all mixed together, so the “amusing synergy” aspect is reduced and the game drags out longer.

        I find Munchkin to be an amusing diversion, at least. It’s not balanced or strategic, but it’s not trying to be; it’s more about blowing off steam than winning. My main beef is that they released a Munchkin app for iPhone and Android that keeps track of your levels and stuff and also officially allows you to cheat once per game, which would be quite in the spirit of things except that they charge $5 for the app.

    • jrodman says:

      Munchkin is a game that you bring the fun to. It’s mechanics are really not the selling point.

      It’s a bad pile of dumb mechanics that you enjoy by being slap-happy.

      The thing is there are whimsical clever games that you can enjoy by being slap-happy. Some good examples are Pit and Cloud Nine.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      I say Munchkin is a bad game, but I don’t dislike it.

      And it really is a bad game. There’s nothing there. It’s just a bunch of jokes. Added bonus is that jokes are at their funniest when encountered in the context of an ongoing game, which is awesome. However, that’s all that the game has. The act of playing isn’t even remotely interesting so, once you’re familiar with the jokes, there’s nothing to find there anymore. Which doesn’t mean I won’t be up for a game of Munchkin that I haven’t seen before. Munchkin Zombies was great fun, the two games that we played a couple weeks back. We laughed, the four of us. In a hotel lobby, over a glass of whatever. I still wouldn’t want to waste my designated game time on it, though and, even in a hotel lobby, I don’t think that particular Munchkin set would be a very enjoyable experience now that the jokes are done.

      Sometimes I run into people who actively play a lot of Munchkin. They mention strategies and so on. A local gaming store had a Munchkin tournament once or twice. It confuses the hell out of me.

    • Derppy says:

      I think he completely misses the purpose and target audience of the game.

      It’s a very lightweight game that is easy to understand even for people with little to no board game experience, but still has basic negotiation, bluffing and backstabbing, trading etc. With a little bit of imagination the kind of characters you end up with are also pretty entertaining and it allows people with no experience or interest real role-playing games to at least scrape the surface in a simplified and humorous way.

      P1: “Ok, so I’m going to kill this level 3 derpling”
      P2: “Do you want help? I’ll help for half the treasure”
      P1: “I’m level 5 and I have a chainsaw, I don’t need your help”
      P2: “Are you sure?” *holds up card*
      P1: “Fuck you, you don’t have anything”
      P2: “Behold, you are now facing a derpling of death. I’ll still help, but for all the treasure!”
      P1: “Fine, help me, dick.”
      P3: “What’s that sound? Oh no, a wild wandering wraith of herping appears. The floor is also sticky so you have -2 to run away. Have fun!”

      That’s the basic premise. It’s chaotic and gets very repetitive if you play often, but I don’t know any games that would offer same sort of palette in quick and easy package. Most beginner-friendly games prevent any direct player interaction or are pure co-op.

      There’s a ton of better games for conflicts between players, but they aren’t exactly something you bring over and teach to a bunch of mildly intoxicated people in fifteen minutes and start playing.

      • jonfitt says:

        But it never ends!
        There’s no incentive to help someone with their last enemy which will win them the game. There is no negotiating. So it is (n-1) players playing cards to dick other the other 1 player as they all shuttle between lvl 8 and lvl 9 FOREVER!
        Or until someone gets a random lucky break which can’t be stopped.
        .
        When that lucky break comes does anyone feel satisfied? The player who did it feels relief, and all the others feel resent that everyone managed to dick them over on their last turn.
        .
        I did have one good game of Munchkin, I was in Amsterdam, and I will leave this ellipsis right here …

  2. aliksy says:

    You could write a review of pretty much anything in this style and make it sound bad.
    “First you move a piece, and then they move a piece. Is it over yet? Oh gods, no, I have to remove all of their pieces from the board before we’re set free.” — a review of many board games.

    • Iain_1986 says:

      But thats the whole point.

      Sure, mechanically you can describe any other game in this style to make it appear bad, but you don’t. Why? Because other games disguise and meld their mechanics into something fun. You don’t feel like you are “just moving some pieces around” because those pieces *matter*. They mean so much more, and moving those pieces is an action. A distinct action. Something you want, need or feel pressured to do. These things build to an interesting and exciting experience.

      But munchkin?

      From the perspective of Rab, not so much. Its literally, flip a card, make your level beat the monster. His description of the core mechanics in this way is showing you that he felt *no* attachment to the theme. The “game” offered nothing for him to disguise the monotonousness (ha…that a word?) of what the game actually involved. The game was so thin on flavour it made you notice how drab it actually is.

      • Dawngreeter says:

        Words-wise, I’m partial to “monotonocity”.

        • Josh W says:

          It’s almost a shame that the game has it’s ups and downs of levels; if it was instead about stalling other players so that you can get enough of an advantage, and people’s level always increased, then that name would be even more fitting.

      • aliksy says:

        Monotony is the word you wanted.

        I think you don’t trash games like this often because it’s not very convincing. He says things are rubbish, but they didn’t sound like rubbish to me. It just comes off as arrogant and condescending. “Oh this thing you like? It’s shit.” Maybe if I hated munchkin (I’ve only played it a few times, and thought it was okay) I’d get off on agreeing with the trashing.

  3. ye-ole-PK says:

    Munchkin has always been my go to game to ease new gamers into the lifestyle.

    • klops says:

      That’s (Munchkin as a gateway game) something I’ve never understood. It’s so boring and neverending it’d scare me far away from games if they were new to me.

      And I’m not saying “I don’t understand” as “I disagree”, like I usually use it. No, I’ve just heard that before and listened in amazement how players have praised their game experience with Munchkin. I just don’t understand…

  4. Phantom_Renegade says:

    I’ve never quite understood why I actively disliked and avoided Munchkin. Thank you. For some weird reason my friends all like it. My roommate recently spent about 90 euro’s on munchkin stuff. I just cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would hate themselves enough to play this game.

  5. ribby says:

    Was reviewsogihp a one time gag or are you going to do another?

    Because it was hilarious and I keep checking back to see if there’s anything new.

  6. iviv says:

    It’s funny, at university it was the staple of our gaming club, we usually played it every week, we couldn’t get enough of it. Then I moved to London, joined the London on Board club and it’s as popular as monopoly is.

    I don’t know what exactly it is, but the times I have played it here, I just haven’t enjoyed it as much. Thinking back, perhaps the only reason is the group of people. In the London group I do notice the game dragging, you get the usual ‘player 1 is about to hit Lv10, everyone throw all your stuff at him to stop him’ ‘Great we stopped him, but now player 2 is going to win beause we used all our stuff’ sort of thing going on. At Uni I think I was such good friends with everyone I was playing with that it didn’t matter so much because we had a good time regardless, the game was just there as well.

    Or maybe I’m just more mature now?

    • ribby says:

      That situation you described happens every single game. It’s one of the worst problems with it.

    • Talkie Toaster says:

      Munchkin *so* depends on your social group to carry it- it doesn’t really bring anything itself. And as a bunch of undergrads you can have fun doing pretty much anything.

    • gunny1993 says:

      “Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything”

      I.e. bugger maturity

      • Premium User Badge

        Grizzly says:

        I always think that maturity is not “Not being silly”, it means recognizing where and when to be silly and to whom, and recognizing where you having fun can be harmfull to other people.

        So basically empathy, rather then seriousness.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, Munchkin uses Mario Kart victory rules, in that yeah, the person in front gets a billion blue shells and the person in third place wins. At least it isn’t quite as broken as Talisman.

    • jgf1123 says:

      When you say the London on Board club likes it as much as Monopoly, it speaks a lot about the kind of games that club likes. Let me guess what the club is like: a lot of mates who crack jokes and knock back beers while, incidentally, a game goes on? In short, it’s a social group where games are the excuse to get together and to provide fodder for conversation. Munchkin is a fine game for such a group because it doesn’t matter how long the game lasts and people don’t particularly care if the winner won because of skill or luck as long as everyone has a good time.

      To be honest, I prefer playing boardgames with friends. The idea of playing with strangers on BSW or at a con doesn’t interest me. But I also appreciate elegant game designs the way some people like an elegant piece of code or well-worded prose. For me, Munchkin takes a long time but doesn’t fill it with much “game”.

      • Nathan_G says:

        Given the context of the rest of iviv’s post, I think they’re saying that it is as ‘unpopular’ as Monopoly, which is to say very unpopular.

        • Dinoflaw says:

          As someone who has attended that group, I can verify your reading is correct!

  7. bduddy says:

    There are legitimate criticisms of Munchkin. This contains none of them. This is a non-review that consists of very little more than an attempt to stretch out the sentence “I don’t like this game for some reason” to cover fifteen paragraphs.

    • ElVaquero says:

      review covers everything i dislike about the game. review seems legit, it’s just a bad game with bad mechanics that’s weirdly popular due to accessibility and ‘wackiness’ *shrugs*

      • darkChozo says:

        What exactly did this cover? 90% of it is just going over the game rules occasionally shouting out a synonym for bad. Past that I can count three actual criticisms (four if you count “sometimes this bad game makes you play it longer”), and none of them are expounded upon. If I didn’t already know about Munchkin, the only thing that this would tell me that the rulebook wouldn’t is that there are people out there who don’t like the game.

    • Czrly says:

      The review also neglected the whole *point* of Munchkin – it was made by a very clever man who wanted to show up “rules lawyers”. With that in mind, the game actually is brilliantly designed, mixing decks is almost mandatory, cheating is encouraged and wearing the official, tournament t-shirt makes sense.

      I don’t particularly enjoy Munchkin but I know it can be a whole lot of fun with the right group of people – that is, people who are more likely to piss on you for driving a flying car with no hands than because you’re level nine and they want to drag you down.

  8. Morph says:

    The sheer amount of Munchkin stuff released makes me so sad about geeks in general. So many original and fun board games out there and people just want the same bad game over and over.

    • Archonsod says:

      That’s just it though, Munchkin isn’t a bad game as such, it’s just not particularly good. Bland would be the best way to describe it (and also explains why you can paste any theme on it, from Star Wars to Dracula). That’s probably why it’s so popular – it’s essentially comfort gaming. The rules are simple, there’s no complexity or strategy to it and it doesn’t require a whole lot of brain engagement to play. It’s background essentially – it fits into the times when you want to play something, but can’t muster even the small amount of effort to play the usual fillers.

  9. Pazguato says:

    Ditch Munchkin, and play Citadels, For Sale, No thanks, Category 5, Love Letter… so many better games out there! :)

    • maccy says:

      I think that WizWar is a great alternative to Munchkin. It’s still all about trying to crush whoever is in the lead, it still has that whole “Oh no you had the one card that could save you noooooo” aspect, but you play to 2 instead of 10, and the addition of a board means that you can’t always get to the person in the lead. That’s my real problem with Munchkin – there’s no barrier to attacking the person who is winning, so you can always just lay it on.

  10. Severian says:

    I 100% agree – Munchkin is a terrible game. You can get a few yucks from it, but it overstays its welcome and that “overstay” issue is mechanics-driven (game facilities tear-down-the-leader, etc.).

    My biggest beef with Munchkin is that people get suckered into playing THIS rather than so many other better, fast-paced, socially-engaging games. And if this is your first introduction to table-top gaming (in college, for instance), I can easily see why you’d walk away from the evening thinking board-gamers were obnoxious idiots who like to quote Monty Python. I want to draw people into the hobby, not drive them away.

    The “but it’s popular so it must be fun” argument that always ends these pieces on Munchkin isn’t convincing to me. Lots of things in culture that are popular suck. See Dave Matthews Band.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Why would you not quote Monty python?

      And I can name at least 10 people I know who got into board gaming because of munchkin, not because it’s a good game, but because its fun to play whilst drinking and having fun with friends. Its not like board games are a super serial thing you do in a suit with gold woven into the lapels. I’d rather play with an obnoxious idiot than a pretentious git who thinks his hobby is more serious than it is.

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        Phasma Felis says:

        Re: Monty Python, I assume we are speaking specifically and exclusively of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and we’re talking about entire groups of tabletop gamers who quote it 10 times a night each. I’ve been that guy. It gets old eventually.

        • brokeTM says:

          It’s a card in Munchkin… Quote Monthy Python and go up a level.

        • Czrly says:

          Life of Brian is also officially recognised, as is the dead-parrot skit.

  11. Doganpc says:

    Simple people like simple things. Cards against humanity, Munchkin, Fluxx, Apple products… They’re simple creatures, let them have their simple fun.

    • Mitthrawn says:

      Cards Against Humanity is a great game, and I will fight you, Sir.

    • Baines says:

      Fluxx is pretty good for mindless fun. You can even do some common sense things to make winning more likely. It is certainly a better designed game than Munchkin.

      Cards Against Humanity is just one of the many variations of the same design as Apples to Apples, which is a rather loved classic social game. You might not like the theme of Cards Against Humanity, but the game design itself is okay enough.

      • Synesthesia says:

        I’ve had more fun watching tv noise than playing fluxx.

      • Doganpc says:

        Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity are just not good games though. You draw a hand of cards and throw them one (sometimes 2 or 3) by one at someone to read, yeah everyone has a good laugh but that’s it? There is no chance, no strategy, no anything of substance. Sure it can be fun, but when you’ve gone through the box and nothing surprises you anymore is it still fun? I just realized what CAH is… its a communal random phrase generator. You can have just as much fun with link to whothef**kismydndcharacter.com and quite frankly Mad Libs is not a good game either.

        Fluxx = Mindless fun. Exactly why it is not a good game, it plays itself and just requires you as the player to follow along. Can you enjoy it, sure. Is it a good game though? Frankly Checkers is a better game than either of these. It pits two players on a board and they have to make choices that impact the outcome of the game. Does it get automatic at times, yep… is it a good game, probably not. Is it more of a game than CAH or Fluxx… infinitely.

        I’m gonna pressy the “Opinion, away!” button now.

        • aliksy says:

          “Fluxx plays itself”? You’re using some new definitions of words, aren’t you? Or maybe you’re just wrong and riding a high horse around.

          • Doganpc says:

            It is the very nature of a game where the rules for winning constantly and randomly change. A game of Fluxx ends when someone just happens to have the right combination of cards in front of them at the right time. Has nothing to do with how the players actually played the game, they just follow rules. Draw this, Play that, repeat until someone happens to win… great game. I suppose if you don’t mind being a robot and following instruction.

          • aliksy says:

            Then you’re not very good at the game. As a player you choose what cards to play and in what order. A bad player will waste cards like “take another turn” or “pull a card from the discard pile and play it.” A good player will pay attention to what’s out, hold good cards, and pull off a “take another turn, steal a keeper, play the take another turn card i just put in the discard pile, play a keeper from my hand and the goal i need to win” combo. Yes, there’s random factor. It’s a card game. But it has a notable amount of decision making.

          • wraithgr says:

            Aliksy, if you can’t understand that your defense of fluxx applies almost verbatim to munchkin as well, I don’t even want to try to explain it to you…

          • jingies says:

            When I was introduced to Flux it completely played itself.

            Each player was dealt cards, another player randomly selected which of them was used, and then all but one of the cards dealt were discarded. The only influence I had as a player was selecting which card I kept, so I had a 1/6th chance of selecting the next card to be played.

            Even after I gave up and was trying to help anyone else win the game wouldn’t end. I may have sulked, called it ‘worst. game. ever’ and left the table.

          • Notebooked says:

            “Has nothing to do with how the players actually played the game, they just follow rules.”
            Part of the game is players playing cards to change the rules, though. Your sentence doesn’t hold up. If “change the way the game is played to set up an advantageous situation” is possible, then some amount of strategy exists.
            I’d agree it’s too random, with some of the cards making for easy wins interrupting other unnecessarily tenuous win conditions midway through, but saying there’s nothing a player can do to impact the outcome of the game isn’t possible to argue against because it isn’t actually true. It has more decision-making than Candyland. It’s possible this is the faintest praise in the history of mankind, but Candyland is what you’re arguing against.
            Do you have any example in mind of what bothers you?

            Re: Cards Against Humanity, it might be a good idea to separate ‘a game’ from ‘a mate-distractor’. If a game that’s possible to play on your own isn’t fun, it’s probably doing something wrong, but if you go through all the combinations of CAH cards to yourself, then stack them up neatly on one end, clasp your hands and go ‘I have now extracted all the pleasure I would ever derive from this’, you are doing several things wrong.

          • Synesthesia says:

            Fluxx definitely plays itself. It’s so boring!
            You may like that, but players have very little control over what happens during that game. Big games do it too, arkham horror is arguably another random situation generator.

          • aliksy says:

            Aliksy, if you can’t understand that your defense of fluxx applies almost verbatim to munchkin as well, I don’t even want to try to explain it to you…

            The claim “it plays itself” is wrong for both games. Someone tried to make an arrogant, snobby claim and it happens to be factually incorrect. It’s more wrong for Fluxx because it’s more structured than munchkin, but it’s wrong for both.

          • neutralstate says:

            I’d like to say a word for Fluxx here.

            There is some limited tactical planning to the game – actual strategic planning would be difficult due to how random the game is in the long run.

            The game is a local optimization problem each turn – you can at most plan reliably for up to 1 – 2 turns ahead, so each time you start a turn, you basically try and play your hand in the order that would most likely get you the most cards (more cards means more options for extending your turn or playing more keepers) , while at the same time ending off limiting your opponents’ card drawing and playing options.

            So while it isn’t exactly a deep, strategic chess like game, there is some element of planning to statistically increase your chance of stringing together a “combo” of draws and plays.

          • neutralstate says:

            (sorry for double posting, forgot this point in my earlier comment and could not figure out how to edit it..)

            Other than card advantage (which i described in the comment above) there are other things you can do to statistically increase your chance of winning the game.

            For example, a better decision on which keepers or goals to play can be made if you are tracking the history of the game. What keepers have been discarded? What goals have been discarded? Have they been shuffled back into the draw deck?

      • Premium User Badge

        Phasma Felis says:

        No, see, that’s the problem.

        Apples to Apples goes like this: “One person plays a card with a phrase on it, then everybody else plays a card with a phrase on it, then the first person gives a point to the phrase they like best. Move to the next person and repeat until someone has X points.” It’s one step up from opening a dictionary to a random word, and then laughing at it.

        Cards Against Humanity is the same thing, but with dirty words. The fact that adding dirty words makes it noticeably more fun just goes to show how barrel-scrapingly anti-fun the idea was to begin with.

        It is baffling to me. I feel the same way about Apples to Apples that Rab feels about Munchkin.

        • Premium User Badge

          Phasma Felis says:

          (I do wonder how much John Kovalic got paid for drawing that apple, though)

        • Baines says:

          That’s why I tried to say that Apples to Apples was a social game, which isn’t a particularly good way to describe it. Maybe call it a social experience?

          It is kind of borderline to being a game. It is near the territory of diceless RPGs, LARPs, and storytelling games.

          Apples to Apples advantage over Munchkin is that it doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. Munchkin pretends to be a real game, with all sorts of rules and mechanics and special cards and interactions. Apples to Apples is two decks of cards with some words on them, some basic rules, and the understanding that the game depends on the people playing it.

          Because Apples to Apples doesn’t really work with random strangers. It isn’t that you need the “right” group in the manner of Munchkin, but rather that you need a group where people at least somewhat know each other. The better you know the other people in the group, the more you can try to pick the best card for the person judging. (Though like all games, playing with the “right” group can make the overall experience more enjoyable while playing with the “wrong” group can drain the life out of an otherwise entertaining experience.)

    • bhart100 says:

      LOL Cards against humanity and Apple Products in the same sentenced… seriously crying here

      • Iain_1986 says:

        I think he meant Apples to Apples….although this is RPS so the PC superiority hate could well mean he was making a completely unnecessary dig at iOS/Mac

        But i’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant the boardgame, in a boardgame thread….

        • Doganpc says:

          Nope, it was entirely an unnecessary dig at Mac/iOS :)
          As you pointed out this being a Computer gaming news centered website it is a reasonable assumption that the majority of the user base here is on a PC, since the Windows OS is the dominant platform for PC gaming. Thus in a humorous play to my audience I purposely worded it as such. To elaborate on it, people who adore their Mac’s don’t prioritize their PC Gaming experience and likely also enjoy Munchkin, Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity and many other casual so called “games” that I have stated my opinion to the contrary. :)

          I’ll bash Macs for being Macs and you Mac people can harass me when I’m doing my annual reinstall of windows.

  12. Xantonze says:

    Pretty weak game. I understand that with a few beers you can somehow enjoy it, and it has been a gateway for many people, but sadly even more people seem to stop at Munchkin, inflict it upon their peers, and never get to try and enjoy the billions of better games that lie around those days. Too bad.
    Even uber simple games such as Perudo, Love letter, Saboteur, Cash & Guns or so are about 10 times as entertaining as Munchkin. Also shorter.

  13. blackmyron says:

    Nah, this *is* game snobbery, pure and simple.

    I love super-complicated games. The more complicated the better. Yet I still enjoy Munchkin, for the main reasons that (a) it’s easy to set up and put away, (b) the rules aren’t complicated and (c) it’s fun.
    Not everyone wants to play Arkham Horror, or Supremacy. I mean, *I* do, but being an ass about it and saying “I shan’t play Munchkin, ’tis beneath me” is pointless.

    • brokeTM says:

      That’s exactly what I was about to comment.

      Quite frankly I can play more Munchkin, sure it won’t be as suprising anymore, but once and a while someone has an expantion I hadn’t played before. I exclusively play it as a warm-up game with beers and friends. I’ll tire of games like Arkham Horror far more quickly. In fact I don’t want to play it anymore for at least half a year. And if I would, more than half of my friends wouldn’t want to join me in playing it.

      Munchkin IS a great game, only because it has got a great many people around to table to enjoy a card-game about elves and wizards and geek-culture. Who’d pull their noses up if it wasn’t for it’s lighthearted, easy to learn nature.

      Face it, games like the forementioned Arkham Horror are niche, simpler games will always be more popular. Learn to live with it. Ranting about it smells like elitism.

    • phlebas says:

      No, it’s not game snobbery. Rab has recommended enough games in the past that satisfy (a) and (b). It’s (c) he’s questioning. I’ll quote the review: “It’s just no fun.”

  14. Jonnyuk77 says:

    I’ll minus five your review…. and… erm… I’ll try to steal, nice a five….. so I’ll have your nice shiny reflective hat…. and change your sex. That’s it, can’t do anything more… anyone else?

    • Rorschach617 says:

      +5 to Monster and there’s a chicken on his head now, he only escapes on a 6. And I’m cleaned out, anyone else?

      • SD says:

        Sure thing, I’ll drop a Wandering Monster onto his head… such as this Plutonium Dragon I happen to have. Can anyone make it Ancient?

        • Michael Anson says:

          I can do you one better! Toss on Baby, mitigate with Humongous, and follow up with Mommy and Mate!

  15. Scurra says:

    I’m in the “Munchkin is a terrible game but I used to play every expansion once because the jokes are usually good enough to survive one outing” brigade. But I haven’t even done that for a while now, maybe because the person who used to buy the expansions has stopped getting them for some reason…

    I would note that at least it has some jokes, which puts it one up on Kill Doctor Lucky – another game that relies upon everyone running out of cards so that someone can win. (Although at least that one has a tiny smidgeon of tactics and/or strategy.)

  16. malkav11 says:

    Munchkin is primarily a joke delivery vehicle, but if your sense of humor aligns with it (and if you get a kick out of randomly mashing up nerd references by combining sets, which I’m afraid I do), it’s kind of fun to pull out once in a while. And while it’s a pretty random and not terrifically good game design, it’s got -some- game to it, which makes it one of the few Steve Jackson Games joke delivery vehicles that does. And hey, its sales let SJG allocate money towards passion projects like Ogre Designer Edition, so I’m okay with it. I just wouldn’t ever buy it.

  17. Hensler says:

    I love Rab and this has become the only segment I come to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for – but writing “I hate game snobbery” after an entire article of game snobbery and then trying to justify that snobbery is pretty disingenuous.

    I often go back and re-read Cardboard Children when I’m looking to buy a new game – I’ve probably read each article at least 3 times now. When this column was new, someone in the comments complained that he never wrote negative reviews – and Mr. Florence replied and said that his intention was only to use the space to recommend games he liked. I guess that’s no longer the case, and that makes me sad.

    I don’t even like Munchkin, I agree with a lot of the stuff in this piece – but why not recommend a game that is better than Munchkin instead of just trashing it? A lot of people really like Munchkin, and this just comes across as mean. Like game snobbery.

    • Mitthrawn says:

      I agree. Munchkin is like popcorn, it has its place, and I come to this column for the same reason, to experience that positivity and joy which Rab so often shows. This and his piece on Cards Against Humanity both struck me as hugely discordant and rather unwelcome.

    • jgf1123 says:

      There should be room in game reviews to be negative without it being called game snobbery. There are many legitimate criticisms in this article: the game takes a long time, victory is fairly random, and jokes aren’t quite enough to make up for the fact that there isn’t enough game to fill the time he just spent. He played the game, he doesn’t like the game, he explains why in an article. That’s not game snobbery; that’s what a objective reviewer should do: report the good and bad about a game to give others the benefit of that experience. I bet there are some games that aren’t your cup of tea, but you wouldn’t call yourself a snob.

      • Unruly says:

        While being negative and not liking something isn’t always snobbery, this article presents itself in a way that is. You can basically sum up the entire thing as “I hate this game, it’s dumb, and everyone who has ever played it and liked it is stupid.” It even goes so far as to use nearly every other sentence to explicitly say as much. Right at the very opening, just past his explanation of Munchkin’s popularity, he tells people to never play it and says that it’s a farce not deserving of being called a game. Every comment about the game, from the rules themselves to the gameplay, is given with a simultaneous comment about how terrible or nonsensical it is. This one was one of my favorites – “Sometimes you have a card that lets you roll a die to see if a thing happens. Horrible.” He said that rolling a die, one of the oldest mechanics in games of all kinds, is a horrible thing(Guess he must hate dice rolling in X-Wing. And Monopoly. And Risk. And the list goes on…). That isn’t simple criticism, it’s snobbery.

        The fact that he had to preemptively defend himself from snobbery accusations pretty well proves it. It’s like he was saying “Now, I’m not racist/homophobic/sexist or anything, but . But hey, I’ve got black/gay/other-gendered friends, so I’m totally allowed to say that.”

        • Unruly says:

          Gah, that last paragraph had a sentence cut by my stupid use of improper formatting. It’s supposed to read –

          The fact that he had to preemptively defend himself from snobbery accusations pretty well proves it. It’s like he was saying “Now, I’m not racist/homophobic/sexist or anything, but (insert incredibly racist, homophobic, or sexist remark). But hey, I’ve got black/gay/other-gendered friends, so I’m totally allowed to say that.”

  18. JohnnyPanzer says:

    Munchkin really is a terrible game, never understood the love for it. You can get the exact same experience telling dad-jokes while playing snakes and ladders.

    I guess it would be more forgivable if the jokes were, like, supr clever. But it’s just puns and som crudely drawn pictures of cosplay gone wrong. Ha ha? And I’m far from a snob, I enjoy the simple games, often more than the complicated ones, but there needs to something more rewarding than lazy puns at the end of the tunnel. X-wing is super simplistic, but it’s fast-paced and action packed. Talisman is utterly random and requires zero strategy, but it’s great at telling a story. Relic is, well… it’s Talisman but with a much more awesome setting. But Munchkin is just… it’s… honestly, I can’t come up with a better description than snakes and ladders with a couple of dad-jokes thrown in for good measure.

    • Baines says:

      Heck, Munchkin would have been a better game if instead of a deck of pre-made cards, it had simple rules for players creating their own cards. At least then players would have their own jokes, instead of the stale Munchkin ones.

      Of course Steve Jackson Games wouldn’t have been able to sell such a game at its typical exorbitant prices. Okay, that’s not true. I could easily see Steve Jackson Games selling decks of blank cards for $25. Well, they wouldn’t have been able to sell the 50,000 spin-offs, expansions, and licensed variations that they’ve sold.

  19. EhexT says:

    Of all the things to complain about Munchkin, the bargaining is not it. It’s exactly as thin and meaningless as bargaining in geek loved games such as Sheriff of Notingham, Catan, Resistance, Coup or most games that have bargaining. It completely relies entirely on how willing both parties are to trade, like almost all games that have bargaining as a core mechanic.

    • Czrly says:

      I have yet to play a game that included bargaining in which bargaining was a dominant strategy, apart from the obvious case of “player 1 bargains with player 2 to ensure that player 3, currently the leader, will lose”

  20. LuNatic says:

    To enjoy Munchkin you have to accept it for what it is, and what it is is chaotic backstabbing hilarity.It is about being over-tired, consuming vast amounts of junk food and screwing over your mate just he thinks he is about to win. If you play for these things, you will love it.

    What it is not is a competitive game. If you’re all about being better than everyone else, and proving your card-wrangling supremacy, this game is not for you.

    Me, I love it. But I don’t take my gaming time very seriously.

    • SavageTech says:

      “If you’re all about being better than everyone else, and proving your card-wrangling supremacy, this game is not for you.”

      You hit the nail on the portion of the nail that is expressly intended for hitting. This is almost certainly why the game is unpopular with board game enthusiasts, as they enjoy games which allow them to use their knowledge of the game to subjugate other players. Munchkin requires very little game-specific knowledge, but does reward knowledge of social interaction and especially knowledge of the dynamics of the group you are playing with.

      I’ve played Munchkin damn near a hundred times, and I’ve lost maybe five of those games. While this could be a statistical anomaly, I’m inclined to believe that it’s not. It seems to me that the game is less about winning mechanically than it is about winning the various social interactions that determine whether or not you’ll get screwed over at a particular time. This makes it harder for asshole powergamers to win because people don’t want to help them out and see their infuriatingly smug winning grin again. It’s like a twisted version of Mario Kart where every player has tons of blue shells that they can shoot at any player they choose; if everyone playing is a powergamer then the winner will be random because they’ll all save their shells for whoever is in first. If the group is more balanced, then the politics and bargaining will actually allow for some strategy.

      Basically competitive gamers hate it because their opponents can finally get back at them for being an unrelenting dickhead in every other game. Well adjusted groups of gamers enjoy it because they realize the fun comes from interacting with each other and trying to come out on top of the chaos.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        The game’s premise is that the players should act like selfish jerks, but as an act, parodying the fact that “heroic” roleplaying often devolves into selfish backstabbing. But acting like a genuine jerk to the other players will make it harder to win. So it is competitive, but it requires the opposite kind of thinking to most political strategy games. It just doesn’t appeal to certain players the same way Mom likes Puzzle Quest but can’t get into Skyrim.

        • MadTinkerer says:

          I was going to say “and vice versa” but I like Puzzle Quest too. I couldn’t think of a good counter-example.

      • Scurra says:

        But if that were true (that Munchkin is unpopular with board game enthusiasts, as they enjoy games which allow them to use their knowledge of the game to subjugate other players. Munchkin requires very little game-specific knowledge, but does reward knowledge of social interaction and especially knowledge of the dynamics of the group you are playing with) then why are games like Coup, The Resistance and Werewolf clearly popular with board game enthusiasts in a way that Munchkin is generally not? You may say that it’s because they require knowledge of the game to succeed, but those games have even less of a knowledge requirement than Munchkin does (since Munchkin requires at least some card valuation.)
        As it happens, I agree that Munchkin is very much a political/social dynamics game, which is definitely one of the reasons why I hate it, much as I hate the other games I have cited (because I am one of “those” people.) But I am not sure that being a political game is the reason that it has such a Marmite reputation (love or hate with very little middle ground.)

    • Synesthesia says:

      There are plenty of games that scratch that itch without being shit, seriously. King of tokyo is a blast. Going Going Gone works very well, and is as stupid as it gets.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Relating to computer games, it’s like how you can play shitty games with friends and have a good time, but wouldn’t you all really prefer to play something great?

        • Kitsunin says:

          And Munchkin isn’t a great game which only appeals to people who want something light. I think it compares well the Mario Party series. They’re all light enough to be picked up with ease by people of any age and background, and you’ll have a blast with your friends playing any of them, yet the more recent ones really just don’t scratch that itch as well.

        • Synesthesia says:

          Yeah, exactly. It’s like some one telling me they fucking love Bay films.

          They are obviously allowed too, but somewhere deep inside you just want to show him some actually good stuff, and I am definitely going to look at him weirdly.

  21. Jackablade says:

    Much like Cards against a humanity, it’s a game that exists so that you have something to do with your hands until you’re drunk enough to start putting them on each other.

  22. Dayfather says:

    I’ve played several flavors of Munchkin including Axe Cop and it’s by far the “thinest” of those I’ve payed. Give Munchkin Cthulhu a try (preferably with expansions), it’s much more fun.

    • shimeril says:

      My wife prefers the vampires version and my daughter prefers the armageddon version. Sure it turns into a “stop whoever from winning” match but at least it gets them playing games. And it has lead them to playing King of Tokyo, and Smash Up. And my daughter frequently grabs the Star Realms cards or Ticket to Ride to play now instead of Munchkin. I know I got sick of my wife’s choice of Settlers of Catan over and over.

  23. jrodman says:

    For once, I totally, unreservedly agree with Rab about a game.

  24. wraithgr says:

    I have to say I disliked this article. I haven’t played munchkin in ages, but that’s also part of why I disliked this article: this game has been around for ages!

    So fess up, Rab: what were you actually doing that made you dig this out of your “filler articles: use only if completely desperate” folder? Should we expect a brutal bashing of the baleful borefest that is Solitaire next?

  25. bengtssonmathias says:

    Wow, you criticized a card game with a closed deck for being random. This only applies to every card game, ever.

    • jrodman says:

      This analysis is even more shallow than the game or the article.

  26. aircool says:

    It’s a fun game. Very simple, but needs to be played with friends who have a good sense of humour, and who are able to ‘take it’, as well as ‘dish it out’.

    I don’t know anyone who dislikes it amongst my war gaming/board gaming friends.

  27. meepmeep says:

    The main problem with Munchkin is that the mechanics are part of the joke.

  28. drewski says:

    Munchkin is sort of out lowest possible acceptable choice game, for when we’re introducing someone else to gaming, or with people are who strongly opposed to anything strategic, or just when we want to kick back and chill and hang out. It’s not substantial, but it’s not designed to be. It’s also good for sidegame situations after being eliminated from something more complicated.

    So I’d rather play pretty much anything else, but I’ll still play Munchkin to play something.

  29. unacom says:

    Thanks for recommending Axe Cop.
    Looks good.

  30. Zwebbie says:

    I don’t know why Munchkin gets characterised in this comments thread as a light but mindless game — I’ve only played it once, but I found it to be drowning in rules that serve very little purpose at all. Races come with extra rules, there are rules for being multiple races, classes have their own rules, equipment comes with its own rules, some equipment changes rules (such as two-handed weapons) every enemy has its own rules, and so on. We had to pause our game every two minutes to check with each other that the effect was indeed such-and-such. Every time a card gets played it needs to be explained to everyone. The core “fun” of the game, I think, is the bargaining mechanic. But very few of its rules add to that fun. They’re distractions at best. Munchkin is no hardcore game, but it is the least elegant game I’ve ever played; that is, it has the least amount of possibilities to every rule given. There are plenty of games that are much, much easier to learn yet much deeper.

  31. Doganpc says:

    This could be a sex thing. Men don’t get it because they don’t see the point. Women get it because the game isn’t the point. Hrmm.

  32. ephesus64 says:

    I have to say, there seems to be a small rift in perception of reality between board game reviewers/hardcore game aficionados who post comments and the greater community of people who buy and play games. If a huge number of people like something and you hate it, what might be going on beyond just taste? I have a duffel bag with Dominion, Smash Up, King of Tokyo, Hive, and Munchkin which goes everywhere with me in my car, and that mix has worked great with nearly every group I come up against. Over 95% of the people who I convince to try Dominion get into it within two turns and play through the entire game, and many go on to request or buy it later. For people who find the silliness of Munchkin appealing, I have similar results with them. Smash Up is another perennial favorite. I even put Uno in there because it’s small and generally enjoyable in its own way. I should note that I work with a lot of kids, but the results mostly follow with adults too.
    Again, the question is this: if many people enjoy it and your in-group doesn’t, is it possible you’re missing something? The appeal to mass opinion isn’t always a fallacy which serves Michael Bay films.

    • Josh W says:

      One of the reasons munchkin is great is that it allows people to be vindictive to each other in a silly way, but the game is so constructed that people can’t really create much of an advantage from it. The game doesn’t matter, it’s just something there that happens while you say “aha, I do this to you!!”. By the end of the game, everyone has had their turn being hit by everyone else.

      The real reason I object to munchkin is that everyone ends up with a hand of monsters they don’t want to fight, and can’t make anyone else fight either. Why on earth the game doesn’t have some kind of half-assed elemental system is beyond me; imagine if you had a duck in play that someone was fighting, and you could play monsters from your hand to assist it because it was “smaller than a man”, “feathery” or “round”.

  33. derbefrier says:

    I enjoy the game. Its a silly fun game, for gamers who like to have silly fun instead of being all competitive and serious all the time. My gaming group routinely breaks it out while waiting on people to show up for DnD.

  34. amateurviking says:

    I agree, but it got my girlfriend to associate boardgaming with social funtimes with friends so I have to give it some credit.

  35. kbilly says:

    So… 7 out of 10?

  36. SquireBev says:

    My friends and I do most of our board- and card-gaming in the pub, and actively encourage new people to join in.

    Games like Munchkin and Fluxx are perfect for this, as they can fit in your pocket, take no time at all to set up, and are very forgiving to new players. If you want anything more depth out of them, then you’ve come to the wrong door.