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”.
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.
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?”