Ryan and Nolan don’t carry my DNA, but they are my sons in every way that matters. Every day, it seems, I see more and more of myself in them, and it’s been the greatest reward in the world to see them reflect my values at the most unexpected moments. Last night, their friend Michael came over, and we stayed up until almost 2 playing Munchkin. As I told Twitter, This is the most munchkiny (and silly and fun) game of Munchkin I’ve ever played. I had to call @RedPenOf Doom for a ruling.
For those who are unfamiliar: RedPenOfDoom is my friend and editor Andrew, who worked on Munchkin. This wasn’t the first time he’s gotten a late-night call from me, looking for a ruling on one thing or another.
The term “Munchkin” refers to those annoying players who min-max their characters, argue about the rules, and generally make RPGs a whole lot of not fun. The game Munchkin parodies all of those things with hilarious results. I’ve joked that it’s essentially powergaming without all the pesky roleplaying.
I’m going to speak in geek to people who have played Munchkin: Neither of the kids would help me, and I kept getting the Truly Obnoxious Curse, so I was having a hard time gaining levels. As a result, I was stuck at level 3 forever while they were sitting around level 7. I decided that my goal in the game would be to mess with them as much as possible, and forget trying to gain levels on my own.
Nolan was to my right. He kicked in a door and didn’t find a monster, so he looked for trouble, playing a level 3 something from his hand. “Does anyone want to mess with me?” He asked, avoiding looking in my direction.
“It’s funny you should ask,” I said. “That’s an illusion. You’re actually fighting a level 18 Squidzilla.” I played the appropriate cards.
“Oh, okay.” Nolan pulled a card from his hand. “It’s now enraged, so it gets an additional treasure.” He pulled another card from his hand. “And with this Polymorph Potion, it turns into a parrot and flies away.” He paused dramatically. “And I take five treasures.”
“OHHH!” Ryan and Michael said.
“Man, that’s a really great move,” I said. “Too bad I’m playing Annihilation on it.”
He was forced to discard the potion, and face the Enraged Squidzilla on his own.
“OHHH!” Ryan and Michael said.”
“Okay, then.” Nolan said. “I guess I’m running away.”
We all laughed. Nolan rolled a one. He stopped laughing. We looted his body. There was much rejoicing. (Well, there was 3/4 rejoicing.)
Now, if you’re feeling bad for Nolan, I refer you to the 3872 Intelligent, Humongous Orcs incident of 2006, and remind you that this is precisely the way the game is intended to be played.
Ryan played the most Munchkinly game he could, at one point even arguing that running away and escaping were two different things, and that he could escape from a wandering monster, but go back to fight the original monster. This is why I had to call Andrew, by the way. He ruled in my favor (“that’s a load, Ryan,” I believe was my argument) but Ryan still won both games we played, gaining his final level by fighting level 2 monsters that Nolan, Michael, and I couldn’t pump up.
We played for a couple of hours, and more than once I was afraid we’d wake up Anne and get The Wrath. I think we all laughed hardest when I played a curse on Ryan that forced him to discard his Spiked Codpiece, and pointed out that it was a small item.
I’ve never been a hypercompetitive dick, whether I’m gaming with my friends or gaming with my family. Trying to enjoy sports with my kids when they were little was really hard, because we were forced to deal with various hypercompetitive dicks who totally ruined the entire experience for all of us, and I’ve always felt like the kids and I missed out on what should have been a fun experience. It makes me so, so, so, so happy that instead of embracing the notion that winning is the only thing that matters, they grew up with my values, and see any game as an excuse to get together with people they like (or, in this case, love) to spend some time enjoying each other’s company.
Munchkin is a game that can not be taken seriously. If the players do take it seriously, it won’t be any fun. The whole point of the game is to see how badly you can mess with each other, and occasionally you end up ganging up on one player for several rounds. It’s not a game for kids who are overly-sensitive or hypercompetitive, and it makes me so proud that my boys are able to enjoy it with me.