in which munchkin is played

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.

40 thoughts on “in which munchkin is played”

  1. I love hearing Munchkin stories. It is the one game that everyone in our gaming group can agree on playing. It sounds like that was an amazingly fun night.
    What is your favorite Munchkin version?

  2. Sounds like a pretty typical game of Munchkin in my own household – in which the phrase “It’s just good business” is bandied about an awful, awful lot.
    It’s good to have a family that loves you even when you’re throwing Wandering Monsters at them.

  3. I only tried Munchkin a year ago and have only played a few times but I LOVE it! It is so much fun and so funny!! I am so glad you had a good time playing!

  4. Sounds like y’all had one of the best games of Munchkin ever! I love that game. I try to make everyone I know play that game whenever I can. I’ve played in some truly horrible games of Munchkin so it makes reading stories like these just that much better. Awesome!
    Cheers!

  5. I’m currently playing my first ever Munchkin game. I say currently because we were interrupted.
    Also, we’re kinda not getting the full experience seeing as how we’re only 2 players. Still… it’s freakin awesome.
    I’m soooo happy I picked it up and can’t wait to pull it out for more holiday fun!!

  6. I’ve played Munchkin for years, and have played with many different types of players. Much better when they have fun and don’t take it seriously.
    @Wil, if you haven’t given it a try yet, I’d suggest picking up the Munchkin Dice and using their rules. I once got to level 9, spent all my levels on dice rolls, got back up to level 9, spent all my levels AGAIN, and still managed to win the game. (Don’t ask me how)

  7. I love that game!
    I still remember the first time I played Munchkin Cthulhu. I got hit with the Deep One, himself on my FIRST move and died. But then, at a key moment in the game, I got to draw any card from the discard pile and play it… so I pulled that one out and everyone else died. Bwahahaha-er, gosh it’s such a fun game!

  8. Dude, I have never played Munchkin, nor any other RPG that didn’t involve a tv and a controller, but that recap was fantastic and makes me want to play. You should should write books or something. Seriously, great snapshot.

  9. My wife and our friends and I play munchkin at least once per month.. we find it gets hilariously competitive.. BTW: we play with the full original deck, or sometimes blender with a random grouping of versions. Great to hear you;re a fan too!

  10. I first got to play Munchkin with members of my extended family on Thanksgiving. I saw the label “Steve Jackson Games” on the box and knew it would be good…but, more than that, it was a RIOT. I so totally need to get a copy of my own one of these days.

  11. LOVE this story, we’ve had many a Munchkin battle at my house, just my son and I…I think we have about every expansion pack there is. Very cool write up, thanks!

  12. I love the way that you talk about your kids. My kids have the most awesome stepfather in the world, and he and one of my daughters might as well be twins separated at birth. While taking nothing away from my kids’ “real” father, DNA is definitely not everything.

  13. I’ve had a couple of good experiences playing Munchkin. The first was when I was first introduced to the game. The group were all so Munchkinly that it was a riot. Well, that and the fact that we had the +1 Elixir of Goodness (read: Guinness) at our elbows didn’t hurt either. It was at this table that I was schooled in Munchin play and was forever wearing Duck of Doom.
    The second experience was when I taught my wife and a hand-full of friends how to play. In a room full of newbies I was the master – (not really – but let’s keep the fantasy going, ok?) It was there that timid play opened up in to much Munchkinnery. Friends who are so well reserved in their daily lives became the most Munchkinly of all.
    Munchkins is, as you rightly said Wil, a game designed for fun. Winning isn’t everything…messing with your friends and family…priceless.

  14. It looks like there are a lot of Munchkin players out there. I was going to ask Wil, but will open it to all….Is there a good starting point to buy for Munchkin or just start with main game? I suppose either way I need that part. It sounds like a lot of fun to play and I have friends, nieces and nephews that deserve to be backstabbed, um, er, it sounds like a wholesome family oriented game. ;-)

  15. Love Munchkin… but don’t get to play it nearly as often as I like.
    If you have never played Chez-Geek.. it is WELL worth the time, even if you have to make the time. The same group that plays Munchkin also plays Chez-Geek around our place, among other cool card games. We also get a huge kick out of Fluxx (saw the tweet so I know you know this one)… and Guillotine (Richard Garfield did this one). One good thing here is that there are plenty of choices for a good evening of uncomplicated gaming with friends.
    thanks for the stories.. as always.

  16. Have you tried Munchkin Cthulhu? Imho it’s even better than the original.
    A fantastic game, though. Fun and funny enough that it’s hard to take seriously enough for anyone’s feelings to get hurt. Which means it’s a great way to introduce new people to gaming. :)

  17. I enjoy munchkin. We have a house rule when we play that cheating is ok if you can get away with it. i.e. try to use three hands worth of weapons. If no one notices, it’s our own fault. Likewise, if you can sneak in an extra level after killing a monster, kudos to you.

  18. @Gil – start with which version of Munchkin most represents your type of geekness. :) I started with Star Munchkin, myself.
    A couple years ago our annual gaming group Halloween shindig was Munchkin theme. I was a new mama, so went as SuperMom! With prehensile pigtails, Pants macabre, Freudian slippers, the Ghoul Lash, and poisonous chopsticks (in my hair as hairpins). My hubby was my Generic sidekick – I found an online place that makes barcodes, so his code actually said his gender, age, and country of origin. My daughter – 10 months at the time – was a Slobbering Alien.
    The guy who won form ‘Most Munchkiny Costume’ was a Gnome Illustionist. I forget the gear he wore, chainmail likely as he makes it, but he used the Illusion ability to have the Fungus help him, which then became Humugous, found a Mate, and produced at Brood. For a total of +243! And yep, he brought the appropriate bag of mushrooms. :)

  19. That was an awesome post, Wil. We absolutely love playing Munchkin and I have to admit my favorite is the original although we have Cthulhu and Star Muchkin too. We played over the Thanksgiving holiday and my 5 year old is constantly asking to watch us play. And you are utterly right – it simply cannot be taken seriously. It’s not about winning it’s about making sure no one else does! At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I would also like to add that it is NOT fair that you can just call up your friend to get ruling clarification! Oh what I would give to have that power – would save on the fist fights. Happy holidays to you and yours.

  20. The people I typically play Munchkin with all enjoy the game, but are nowhere near as vicious as the game allows for. Unfortunately this makes them pretty easy to stomp on.
    In order to keep everyone interested and having fun, I have my own meta game for Munchkin. At the beginning of the game, I decide who I want to win and do my best to make it so that person wins without anyone figuring out what I’m doing.

  21. I haven’t played rpgs in years, although I spent my college years as a sylvan elf in Middle Earth with a tough dm that devised things like Mobius strip mazes with added Balrogs…I found your blog as a round-about result of looking for a “that’s how I roll” t-shirt featuring a 20 sided die that I saw one of my students wearing today. Getting back to my roots, y’know.
    Anyway, good job. This is fun to read.

  22. Munchkin is hilarious. My friends and I grab cards from all of the decks (between all of us we own all but the newest deck) to make supercrazyuber Munchkin.
    Also, your kiddos are going to remember playing Munchkin with you with such fondness.

  23. Munchkin Cthulhu was the gateway drug for my family. We now have learned Fluxx, Chez-Geek, and a number of other fun games. My children are 17, 16, and 9. Gaming can bring us all together for a night of laughter and opens the door to communication.

  24. Oh that game is going to be my brother’s birthday present for sure now. He’ll love it and I can see his friends gaining up on him now…

  25. Hi. Your entry touched me. I hope my kids will enjoy playing games with me as well. I tend be very competitive, but I don’t take it too badly when I lose. At worst, I sit there and ponder why I lost for a long time. I do enjoy games that can’t be taken seriously from time to time though. Sounds like a good time. Merry Christmas!

  26. Thank you so much for this post, I read this and the next day went out and bought Munchkin and expansions 2 and 3, my 12 year old (who is an avid WoW player) find this game hilarious. We’ve been trying to devote time while he is on winter break to sit down and have a decent session on this, Thanks again Wil

  27. Wow…Squidzilla. Now there’a a name I haven’t heard in a long time.
    I created version 1.0 of Squidzilla for Tooniversal Tour Guide way back in the mid 90’s. Later, Steve transferred him to Munchkin, which tickled me no end. Still later, I moved him back to TOON when I wrote TOON Munchkin.
    Wow, that’s a lot of giant killer squids:)
    I’m glad he was so much fun to deal with in your Munchkin game.

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