Hello everyone. This week in advanced game design, we have been tasked with analyzing a board game that we got to choose ourselves in each group. Our group chose the card game Munchkin: Pathfinder.
The game is made for playing with up to six people, where the goal is to gather loot, kill monsters and race to level 10 to win. In the game, there is no kind of game board to place units, characters etc. There are only the different cards that are given out at the start of the game, and those that you get to pick up at the start of every round. The different cards that exists are the treasure and door cards. The door cards can have everything from monsters, loot, faction, classes or curses on them, while the treasures can contain enhancements or level up bonuses and more, more on the cards later in the analysis. there are a total of 167 + 15 cards and a six sided dice in the version we were playing. These cards are what the game revolves around, and socializing of course, but picking cards serve as a tool for the player to move forward in the game.
Most interesting system
I think that the class/faction system is the most interesting one in this game, since it opens so many ways to change tactics and play it your own way. It is a good way to spice things up and makes for some interesting combinations and plays.
This game is not complicated, easy to learn and does not need a lot of space to be played. The greatest thing about the game is how it can make bring out the wackiest and mean sides to people when they play it. One second they all help each other trying to survive, the other they will all skillfully plot how to prevent the leading player to get to level 10 and win. This is not seen in a lot of games, and is very refreshing not needing to have strict rules and complicated systems.
The fact that the humongous imbalance in this game becomes the balance in itself since no one really has an advantage over the other. Creates a really fun and varied game session each time you play.
The game has quite some flaws when it comes to rules. While this is one of the aspects that make the game, it can sometimes become a hindrance, for instance when 5 different players decide to stop the leading player from winning and pooling all their cards into the play field. There is only chaos when this happens and often becomes very tedious and annoying to keep track of every card that gets thrown into play, how much damage one thing has, and how much damage that takes away etc. This also creates a lot of chances for cheating, while allowed if no one actually sees you doing it. It is still not as fun when resorting to cheating.
For a first timer, the game can be a little overwhelming with all the different cards that make sense for only the initiated players. This causes the game when having new players very slow and painstakingly boring at times, because one is needed to explain every card there is and how they work in what situation. Because of this, it is always good to have someone that played and know munchkin well enough to give them a crash course on how it works.
There are a a lot of different cards in the game, which can give the player buffs, debuffs, etc. These are the different card types:
The door card is the core card along with the treasure card, while not doing anything specific in itself. It is the card that every player has to pick on their turn, this is called “Kicking in the door” These cards contain monsters and other pleasant, or less so, items.
Whenever a player manages to slay a monster, they will get to grab all the loot that the monster had in their room. This is simulated by taking the x amounts of treasure cards equivalent of how many treasures the monster left behind.
These cards increase the players damage and will be their main source of damage, weapon damage is put on top of the player level.
The monsters are the only hazards in the game that can actually kill the player. These beasts have different levels and will try to kill or just give the player “bad stuff” which is what happens when a player loses to a monster, and death is one of these bad things that may happen.
These cards do exactly what it says on the tin, it gives the player a level and then disappears.
These cards will put different debuffs on the player that stumbles upon these cards, curses can only be cured by specific items or by filling certain conditions of the curse.
Faction/Class cards give the player a permanent boost or skill, for instance a pathfinder. They can sneak a peek on the two top lying door cards before kicking in the door, and then pick whichever he/she wants to open.
There are general buff or debuff cards, these all range from tossing a monster to another player, forcing someone to change class or just making the dice land in whatever position you want and so on.
A general playthrough
A normal game of munchkin can take up to 40 minutes or even 20 if things go fast.
A round always starts with every participating player taking four treasure and door cards to their hands. From here, people start to kick in doors to hopefully get good door cards or maybe even fight a monster to get treasure. At this point of the game, everyone will most likely offer their help to anyone fighting a powerful monster, hoping to get a slice of the loot for themselves. This usually goes on until one or more player has managed to acquire good enough gear to fight most monsters, this way the player can get levels easier than before. This is when players start to plot against each other, since making it to level 10 first is the goal of the game. Curses will be thrown and they will try to buff the monsters that the winning player is facing, Throwing in everything they have been saving the whole game. Most of the times the player will be forced to retreat, not getting any levels or loot. This gives a new player an opening to win the game, since the one in the lead now has to wait for his/her turn again. This is how it goes around and around, most likely until everyone has run out of curses and monster buffs to throw at the opposition. It is madness at its best in my opinion.
Munchkin being a very humorous and social game, I think that the target audience for this game are the people that like to play boardgames in general, and like to socialize and have a good time. And even though the box recommends this for kids age 10 and above, I would say that it would be more fitting for a bit older kids. I say this because one can get the full experience of munchkin if you get all the hidden references and weird humour, which just adds to the whole experience. While still playable by 10 year olds no doubt, I still don’t think they would get all the jokes, which in my opinion, is one of the best parts of the game.
To summarize this, munchkin is a great casual card game, fit for people that are not too used to the genre and to those who are. It might even serve as a good stepping stone to get into role playing games, since it has the social elements of one. As mentioned, the game is very dependent on its social aspects, where the player make the game. The cards and dice, are just tools for you to make your own wacky adventure through dungeons with your munchkins, and without these social aspects, the game would be pretty bland. The rules of this game are very blurry, and sometimes nonexistent, where once again the social aspect kicks in, where the players get to talk and get to some kind of mutual agreement on how it works. This can get really tedious at times, where players have to stop their game flow, to sometimes discuss really small things, that almost do not matter. Thanks to the social aspect once again, the game will keep being interesting, even after playing it several times. This is thanks to the wide variety of cards including armors, weapons and even monsters, this will make sure you never get the same things all the time, and makes up for interesting combinations, tactics and even some depth. And considering how simple the game is in itself, that is pretty impressive design in my opinion.
The balance of this game is not good at all, there are right out broken things in the game, but this is just another aspect of the game, since the major imbalance of everything kind of balances itself out, because if everyone has access to the same thing, everyone will be just as broken as everyone else.
Munchkin is a very unique game that i recommend to everyone if they have not already played it. It is a total blast and fun to play. So gather up some friends, play the game, and betray all of them! All for the sake of loot and victory.
Until next time!