a spiffy rules variant for munchkin

I'm making myself a little crazy trying to write a column about gaming, gamers, gaming conventions, and why they all add up to mean so much to me. It's not that I can't find the words but – well, maybe it is that I can't find the words. Or, more accurately, I can't find enough words, because I can sum it all up like this: "When I'm gaming, I feel like I am with my tribe."

Hurm. Maybe that's a good launching point, and I can get a little more in-depth from there. (Related: Damn you, Twitter, for making me able to say just about everything I want to say in just 140 characters.)

So speaking of gaming, when I was at RinCon last weekend, I played a couple of memorable games of Munchkin. One of them was an official event called Czar Munchkin that, as the name implies, featured a table of us gamers versus the official Munchkin Czar, who happens to be my friend (and editor of all my books) Andrew. Through some exceptionally munchkin-y behavior, I ended up winning the game, making my Munchkin Convention Play record a perfect 2-0. w00t. Go me.

That game was a lot of fun, and Andrew ran it as a Child's Play fundraiser (what a great idea, Andrew! Great minds think alike!) so we raised even more shiny gold rocks while we played.

The other game I played happened in the lobby of our hotel, where we tried out some variant rules that Andrew wanted to playtest with me and some of our other friends. I can't disclose all the different rules we tried, but one of the ones I really liked was announced in today's Daily Illuminator at SJ Games:

Rules Variant – Listening at the Door

We've been trying out this variant Munchkin rule and figured we'd throw it out for y'all to play around with.

At the start of your turn, draw a face-down Door card ("Listening at the Door"). You may now rearrange your items, do trades, or whatever. Then you Kick Down a Door (starting combat if there's a monster) and your turn proceeds normally . . . except that if you Loot The Room, you draw a face-down Treasure instead of a Door.

I had a great time playing with this variant, because it meant we burned through a lot of cards in a short amount of time (using the original classic set only, we shuffled each deck at least once, and I think we did treasures twice.) I have several expansions, and while it's fun to add new cards to the game, it's also a drag to end up with so many cards, you don't get to see them all. Playing with this rule means you get to see more cards, and it increases the chances of serious mayhem by some number you'd get if you rolled percentile dice.

If you're still reading, you probably play the game, so I think you'll appreciate this: Andrew was at level 9, and seemed poised to win the game, so the rest of us teamed up to defeat him. As it turned out, though, we were just delaying the inevitable.

Andrew was a Cleric, and went after me. On my turn, I looked for trouble, and fought (and defeated) the Floating Nose to get myself to level 9. Andrew resurrected the Floating Nose on his turn, and announced that he was fighting it for the win. We did the usual things with whatever cards we had left, and when it appeared that we were going to hold him off for at least another round, he played the Potion of Halitosis to beat the Floating Nose and win the game. It was delightfully silly and Munchkiny, too, because he could have just played the cards together, but he made us all go through our hands and gave us just a little bit of hope, before he dashed it all to hell.

Munchkin seems to be one of those games that really divides gamers into seriously polarized camps. I know it's not for everyone, but I just love it, because it's just so silly.

52 thoughts on “a spiffy rules variant for munchkin”

  1. Ooh… that’s an interesting idea. I’ll have to remember it for the next time I get my Munchkin deck out.
    It doesn’t get as much use as I’d like, but it goes down a storm with gamers, non-gamers and spectators at my annual summer party.

  2. I’ve never had a chance to play Munchkin, mostly because nobody that I know plays it, either. Sounds like a lot of fun by the way you describe it. Then again, I’m pretty sure that you could make a circumcision sound like a lot of fun. J/K, for the most part, anyway. lol But seriously, it really does sound like a cool game. Perhaps I’ll go out and get a set so I can play it with my nephews the next time I go to visit them. What would you recommend for a beginner?

  3. So speaking of gaming the DnD podcast has been up for a while. (I DL’d it when right when I got to work today) You gonna talk about that? *hint* *hint*
    All I can say without ruining the podcast is this podcast works hard to earn its ‘Explicit’ title in iTunes. Courtesy of one Mr. Whil Wheaton.

  4. My thought on Munchkin polarization. This assumes you know the definition of the classic PnP Munchkin.
    If you one of the many Munchkins that the game’s name was inspired by and must win or be the most powerful person at the table, I doubt you will like the game.
    If you play PnP games to have fun and enjoy adventuring with your friends, you just might like Muchkin for what it is. A silly little game about screwing the other guy as much as it is (or isn’t) about winning.
    I love it personally.

  5. I love me some Munchkin. My wife and I play two player every now and then. After the first few games after I introduced her to it she stopped taking it personally and has become quite a munchkin-y player.
    I have some friends who are no longer allowed to play because it’s one of those games that some people love and some people become raging assholes over.
    We’ll give the variant a try and see how it goes in two player. One thing we noticed with just two players is that it takes forever to get items out and you’re fighting at level 1 for half an hour. This should speed it up some!

  6. I love the Tribe comparison. I have been trying to grasp why I have felt such a compulsion to go seek out a D&D group and you have summed it up perfectly for me. I need to go and be with my tribe. Thanks Wil! You’ve made my day!

  7. I would love to play this! Sounds fun! Do you have a favorite card game? Would very much like to watch you play one day. Now only if I did not live in crappy Texas…it is so far away from everything……Have a great weekend Wil:)

  8. I’ve been playing Munchkin for years and love it! I even bought my own Munchkin dice to give myself an advantage. This new rule variant intrigues me. I shall have to bring it up at our next gaming session.
    Do you have a favorite theme? I adore the Munchkin Cthulhu, but it’s fun to mix and match.

  9. As a level 9 cleric I once used the Wand of Dowsing to resurrect the Divine Intervention card to win. Very munchkinly.
    “Listening to the door” sounds a lot like the…is it the Exotic from Super Munchkin?…where you draw two cards and keep the one you like, discarding the other and that’s your turn. Except that you keep playing…interesting. Will have to try it.

  10. Ia! I love Cthulhu Munchkin! That and Super Munchkin, although Super Munchkin gives you too much so you end up having this uber powerful character to the point where the monsters just don’t have a chance. But having four arms with claws and prehensile pigtails…well that’s just frigging awesome. My coworker calls it “Pippy Shiva Stockings”

  11. I really like this rule. Looting the room from the treasure pile gives you time to amass armor, etc so you can actually defeat monsters. Also, listening at the door gives you more curses/monsters in your hand. And it moves you through the cards which is good if you have all the expansions.
    Here’s the kicker about that game: I could have stopped Andrew. When he played halitosis I was a half second away from playing a card that would have dismissed the nose, leaving two treasure behind but no level for Andrew. When he played that my inner monologue sounded a lot like a popular captain from an equally popular sci-fi movie: “Munchkin Czaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrr!”
    It’s like he’s played this game before.

  12. I am quite certain that I will love Munchkin — it’s definitely my kind of game, like the old Dungeon boardgame except a bit more complicated and a LOT more wacky. I’ve bought many expansions but haven’t yet played any of them :-( I even bought the boardgame, because my family liked Talisman (even though it can be tedious at times), so I figure Munchkin will be that much better.
    Has anyone here tried the boardgame yet?
    I’m also a big fan of Fluxx and Looney Labs games in general

  13. Forcing all other players to get rid of their cards is a good tactic in Munchkin, anyway but doing this when you have the “I win, ner ner” card in your hand is just teasing. ;o)
    The new rule sounds interesting. Will try and report.

  14. I downloaded today’s update and look forward to it immensely. Although I always have to wonder what people think when I am driving and laughing my head off or they can hear the podcast through my closed windows at a stoplight.
    I hope Wil lets us know when/where the dice auction will be held.

  15. Munchkin is most excellent. I was introduced to it by a bunch of gaming friends, and found it utterly hilarious; I was glad to find more people where I work now who know and play it. You have to be playing with the right group of people, though, as sometimes someone gets a bit too argumentative, and the atmosphere suffers as a result – it’s all, in the end, a bit of fun.

  16. I believe that Andrew was the same Andrew that introduced my family to Munchkin at PAX07 (or 08?). For which we should thank him… and so should SJG, since we now have Space Munchkin, Munchkin Cthulhu, and Munchkin Quest.

  17. Danyiel : Depends on your preference for flavor – there are some 10 flavors out there now (with expansions for many – but not necessary to play the game) that include:
    straight up D&D Munchkin, Star Munchkin, Munchkin Fu, Munchkin Bites, Super Munchkin, Munchkin Impossible, Munchkin Cthulhu, The Good the Bad and the Munchkin, Munchkin Booty – and then there’s loads of expasions besides.
    What you pick to start with, kind of depends on what you like – Hong Kong Movies? Fu! Bond and Remington Steele? Impossible! Pirate? Booty! All play similarly, the flavor adds tricks to the game, but the game is all about having a blast – so pick the genre that excites you most!
    joepate: played the board game – LOVE it – but it’s LONG – expect to be at that board game for a good 2 or 3 hours (YMMV, depending on the munchkinly levels of your buddies)

  18. I just heard the lastest D&D podcast, and heard your death throes of Aeofel, and I wanted to let you know I was both chortling merrily at your discomfort (Okay, I never get this reaction as a DM, and I just found it amusing), and really feeling for you, as I know what it is like to lose a character you really loved. I hope this will not mean that you will not return back, as you seem to have loved playing with the folks, and hope you’re still having a blast running for people.
    In anycase, good gaming.

  19. East Texas(Texarkana to be precise). It is not too far off from Dallas Texas. Nothing ever happens here sadly. I think the only thing that we are known for is The Phantom Killer and Boggy Creek Monster.LOL:)

  20. I recently attended Dragon*Con as a noob to it but a long-time congoer. Finally figured out what it is that makes them so special there. As you say, I am among my tribe. And for me, it all boils down to being able to speak my native language, which I am not able to do in my everyday life.

  21. Austin is a pretty cool place! Have some friends out that way. I guess not all of Texas is crappy..Austin City Limits is what I’m talking about!!!

  22. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. Surprised even myself, I’m not usually that quick-witted! lol
    Shoulda seen what I did to a friend when I knocked him from a level 9 to a level 1 in one turn. I think he may have teared up a little.

  23. The other post was closed; sorry for jumping in here. Just wanted to say that I barely knew your work before I found your blog. I mean I knew Wesley, but I just wasn’t that big of a ST fan. What kept me reading, what made me follow you on Twitter, was your stories of being a stepdad and a little bit an appreciation of the geek thing and the way you embrace it. Whatever you do now, I’ll judge it on now. I haven’t been disappointed so far (really enjoying Fawkes).

  24. The three things one learns from going to conventions:
    1. You are not the weirdest person out there.
    2. You are not as weird as you think.
    3. You are not alone.

  25. How very munchkin-y! Isn’t it funny how Munchkin let’s you be so brutally evil to your friends? I actually think that you can’t be a true Munchkin in that situation unless you allow them all to think they can win. Then play that final card or combo-thereof with… “Resistance is Futile! All your munchkin are belong to me!”

  26. We just played last night, and I was at the magic level 9 position. They threw everything that they had at me, and were so hopeful, until I whipped out the doppelgänger card.
    I think I’ve come to realize that cleric is the best class in the (basic) game. Which may be the only game where cleric is the best thing to play.

  27. Many a game of Munchkin at my college nearly ended up as a fistfight over the blocking of a win. But we were laughing the entire time. I think it brings over a feeling of insanity.
    Wondering if you have ever tried the Munchkin Quest boardgame?

  28. I have MQ, but I still haven’t played it. I’m kind of addicted to Pandemic (I’ve never had so much fun losing a game over and over again), Dominion, and Revolution.

  29. Have you tried the Pandemic expansion yet? It just hit our club (www.buckeyeboardgamers.org), and is pretty hot right now. For that matter, have you played Dominion expanded? MQ has come out a couple times, but I wasn’t able to get in a game.

  30. While I do find Munchkin quite silly, I’ve never had a game last more than 10 minutes. I find Magic: The Gathering’s addtion of Planechase and Planeswalkers adds a lot of zaniness to a game of strategy (rather than luck). Fortunately for myself, everyone I know that plays Munchkin also knows how to play Magic, and games for us have lasted at least 5 hours. They feel epic, unless you lose early on.

  31. If you’re interested in a card game that plays very quickly (45-50 minutes per game) and you like the deck-building of CCGs, you should play Dominion. I think it’s one of the best games of the last several years.

  32. Oh, I’ll check it out, but my personal preference is to have the longer more cinematic-type battles. Case in point is that I built a deck for Magic that, unless I shuffled poorly, I could quite literally have a larger army than all of the orcs combined from all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films… Sadly, my friends have lost interest in the intricacies of deck building. Then again, I’m the type of gamer that will, at least once a year, drop $500 in a single outing on the game I am most engrossed in.

  33. Seriously Munchkinly indeed. Once upon a time, back when our Munchkin Set of Doom ™ only had about eight decks (instead of the current 13 or 14 — I can’t keep track) we took it to Louisiana where I was competing in GumboFest. We stayed with my brother the (then) Brother (now Father). Upon introducing the good gent to the game he promptly set about to soundly thrash us. Four of the five of us were at level 9 and playing hard fought to win. I was playing a Cleric and turned over Divine Intervention. My good Brother promptly thwacked me with something that snatched a level (out of the brand-shiny Clerical Errata set) and then proceeded to claim victory on the basis of *being* a Cleric, not just playing one. After some discussion we agreed that being a cleric does in fact trump playing one and granted him the house rule victory. He only gets the advantage when wearing his habit, however. :-)

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