Munchkin (card game)
|Setup time||5 minutes|
|Playing time||>1 hour|
Munchkin is a dedicated deck card game by Steve Jackson Games, written by Steve Jackson and illustrated by John Kovalic, that has a humorous take on role-playing games, based on the concept of munchkins (immature role-players, playing "to win"). Munchkin won the 2001 Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game, and is itself a spin-off from The Munchkin's Guide to Powergaming, a gaming humor book that also won an Origins Award in 2000.
After the success of the original Munchkin game several expansion packs and sequels were published. Now available in 15 different languages, Munchkin accounted for more than 70% of the 2007 sales for Steve Jackson Games.
The goal of Munchkin is to reach level 10 (or level 20 in an "Epic" Level game). Every player starts as a "level 1 human with no class (Heh, heh)" and has to earn levels by killing monsters or other means. Other means include selling a thousand gold pieces worth of items, or playing "go up a level" cards. A typical game runs for around an hour.
Each person's turn begins with the player "going into a room" by Opening a Door (often referred to as kicking down the door) by drawing a Door card face-up. If there is a monster in the room, the player fights the monster. If the player's level plus bonuses from the player's equipment (such as Really Impressive Title) is higher than the monster's level plus any bonuses the monster might have (such as Enraged, Humongous, or Buffed), then the player wins the fight and moves up one level (though some monsters grant two levels), and takes the monster's stuff. If the drawn card is a curse card, it takes effect immediately. If the player did not find a monster in the room, then the player can choose to either draw another Door card face down (looting the room) or fight a monster from his hand (looking for trouble). To prevent opponents from achieving the winning level (9, 10, 11, 20, or 22 depending on pre-game selections and card play), players can give enhancing cards (such as the Big Honkin' Sword of Character Whupping) to whatever monsters are fighting the other player so that the monsters will win and cause the player to have to try to Run Away from the monsters and maybe have to suffer "Bad Stuff" from the monsters, or throw curses on each other (or have them happen randomly), such as New Edition Rules (causing all players to lose a level). Players can also use items against each other such as Itching Powder (making the player throw away any clothing or armor). Every card played resolves instantly, with few exceptions (which include the use of the card Wishing Ring to cancel curses).
Players can help each other defeat monsters, adding together their level and bonuses to beat the monsters. The player who helps the other player can negotiate a deal to receive some of the Treasure cards earned by defeating the monster, or some other advantageous trade, but the helper never gets a Level for helping without playing a card or using an ability that allows it (e.g., the Elf Race, mentioned below). Players can gain extra abilities or advantages by getting "Class" or "Race" cards; as an example, players using the Warrior class win a battle in the event of a tie between their and the monster's level and pluses, while a player using the Elf race gains a Level per monster whenever they assist another player in killing a monster. Certain monsters, such as Squidzilla, gain an advantage against certain races or classes.
Players can Sell one or more of their items to gain a level. Each item card has a value saying how much gold the item is worth. If the combined value is greater than or equal to 1000 gold pieces, then the items can be sold to gain a level. Since the game has no other way to represent money, players cannot get "change." However, a player can buy more than one level, at a cost of 1000 gold pieces per level. Players cannot achieve the winning level by selling items, however, nor can they sell Items and not take a level if the next level is one that has to be earned by killing a monster (usually the winning level).
Winning the game requires getting to Level 10 (or 20). Players can get levels by killing Monsters, selling Items (as described above) or playing cards that let a player go up a level (such as Bribe the DM or Switch Character Sheets). With few exceptions, the only way to get the winning level is to kill a Monster. Exceptions to that rule usually come in the form of cards which specifically state they break the rule (e.g., Divine Intervention).
Munchkin is not a very serious game; the rules make this clear with phrases like: "Decide who goes first by rolling the dice and arguing about the results and the meaning of this sentence and whether the fact that a word seems to be missing any effect." and "Any disputes in the rules should be settled by loud arguments with the owner of the game having the last word." There are many cards which interact with or are affected by a single other card, despite the rarity of the two cards entering play together (such as the interaction between Fowl Fiend and Chicken on Your Head or Sword of Slaying Everything Except Squid and Squidzilla).
Card types 
Munchkin has 2 basic card types, doors and treasures:
- Door: These are the basic cards turned over every turn and include:
- Monster: Monsters in Munchkin range in level from 1 (e.g. Potted Plant, Lame Goblin or Goldfish) to 20 (e.g. Plutonium Dragon, Kali or Great Cthulhu) and when a player defeats them they go up one or more levels and draw a certain amount of treasures, both depending on the particular monster and bonus effects.
- Curse/Trap: Curse cards take effect immediately if drawn when a player kicks down the Door, or can be used to curse other players if drawn at other times. Their effects range from Squidgilator 's "Lose one level." to Dwarven Ale 's "-4 to your next combat due to uncontrollable drunken singing."
- Monster Enhancer: These are cards which affect combat by either enhancing or subtracting from the combat skills of a monster.
- Class: Each player may have one class card in play at a time, unless using the Super Munchkin or Ultra Munchkin card, where he may have two, the Ultra Munchkin from Munchkin Blender that allows three or the Super Duper Munchkin which allows an unlimited number of classes. Each class gives the player special abilities. If a player draws a class card face up, he/she may become that class. If they already have one in play, he/she may choose to replace their current class and discard it, or choose to place the new class in their hand for later.
- Race: Each player may also have one race card in play at a time, again increased to two with Half-Breed and three with 1/3-Breed from Blender, or unlimited with Chimera. Each race gives the player special abilities.
- Helpers: There are various types of helpers like the Hirelings in base Munchkin, Sidekicks found in Star Munchkin and Munchkin Cthulhu, Minions in Munchkin Bites and Mooks in Munchkin Fu. These Helpers allow players who have them to sacrifice them to escape from any combat.
- Portals: Portals are cards that allow the player to enter and exit dungeons. Some portals will help the player enter dungeons, others will harm others.
- Other: There are also a multitude of other cards, some of which affect combat, some of which give players in-game bonuses, and a bunch which just have weird effects.
- Treasure: These are drawn when a player defeats a monster or by certain door and treasure cards (like Arms Locker) and include:
- Item: Item cards typically give permanent benefits to the player who equips them. They can give abilities or bonuses. Many items go to a specific "slot" (Hand, Armor, Footgear and Headgear) indicated on the card, while some do not. Items also come in two sizes, Big and Small. Each player can carry (i.e., have in play) any number of Small items, even if they cannot use them, but only one Big Item. "One shot" items also exist; these can be played from a player's hand or from the table, and have various effects, including giving a combat bonus to the player or the monsters in a combat, canceling or removing a curse, removing a monster from combat, or modifying a die roll.
- GUAL: GUAL (or Go Up A Level) cards allow the player to place them in the Treasure discard pile in order to gain a level (they cannot be used to gain the winning level). Most of these cards can be used at any time (such as Bribe the GM or Shiny Dice... Spinning... Spinning...) but some have special requirements and/or effects.
- Other: There are many Treasure cards which have a huge range of effects that do not fit into any other category.
- Dungeon: Dungeon cards are double sized cards introduced in the sixth Munchkin deck, Demented Dungeons. These cards affect game play both positively and negatively. Certain dungeons can increase treasure, make the player an epic munchkin, make it harder to run away, or add death to the "Bad Stuff" of monsters.
- Spell: Introduced and only found in the Munchkinomicon mini-expansion, Spell cards function and have effects similar to most regular curse or door cards. By equipping the Munchkinomicon as an item, the player is allowed to draw one card, face down, from a separate card deck labelled "spells".
- Fairy Dust: Introduced in Munchkin Fairy Dust, these cards can only be acquired by helping someone in combat, curing a curse on someone else, or killing the Sparkly Good Fairy. These cards are always beneficial and can often be used more than once.
A number of expansions and sequels to the original Munchkin game have been made. They're listed here, by theme:
- Munchkin, (containing 94 door cards and 74 treasure cards).
- Munchkin 2: Unnatural Axe, the first expansion (containing 64 door cards, 44 treasure cards, 2 blank door cards & 2 blank treasure cards), won the 2002 Origins Award for Best Card Game Expansion or Supplement. The Orc Race is introduced in this expansion.
- Munchkin 3: Clerical Errors, the second Munchkin expansion (containing 66 door cards and 46 treasure cards), brought the total number of cards for Munchkin up to 392. This expansion introduces the Gnome Race and the Bard Class.
- Clerical Errata is a misprint of Clerical Errors, containing cards printed with the wrong card back (e.g. dungeon rather than treasure). By popular demand, a limited public release was made, with rules for using the misprints in a regular game. Enough units were sold to make back the printing costs.
- The Need for Steed, the fourth expansion to Munchkin (containing 78 door cards and 34 treasure cards) was released in 2006. This included a new type of card, Steeds, such as a dragon, an eagle and a turtle. Furthermore, many new kinds of Hirelings were added. Rules for these new cards are also included in this expansion.
- De-Ranged, the fifth expansion (containing 60 door cards and 52 treasure cards), adds the Ranger Class as well as some of the monsters from the European version of the game.
- Demented Dungeons, the sixth expansion, added 20 double-sized Dungeon cards and 16 Portal cards for movement between them.
- More Good Cards, the seventh expansion (containing 30 door cards and 26 treasure cards), consists of reprints from Munchkin Blender with new art and a number of extra cards chosen by polling Munchkin fans. The set contains no new monsters, races, classes or rules.
- Cheat With Both Hands, a new seventh expansion (containing 112 cards) that replaces "More Good Cards" and "Munchkin Blender". This is meant to be used between two or more games, because of the variety of cards (Ultra Munchkin, 1/3-Breed, Cheat With Both Hands, etc.).
- Munchkin 8 – Half Horse, Will Travel is the eighth 112-card expansion (containing 77 door cards and 35 treasure cards) with two new Races (Centaur and Lizard Guy) and three new Race and Class Enhancers (Elite, Legendary, and Elder). Released in March 2012.
- Munchkin Fairy Dust, the first in a series of mini-expansions, featuring 15 cards that benefit players who help each other. The cards are full color (unlike the other base Munchkin cards) with pink & silver glitter ("Fairy Dust") worked into the printing. Munchkin Fairy Dust was recalled because of an issue with the pink foil on the back causing the cards to bend. The publisher released a new version in 2010.
- Munchkin Waiting For Santa, the second 15-card mini-expansion, with a Christmas theme. Cards are in full color, like Fairy Dust above, but with red & green "shiny ornament" enhancements. Features Santa Claus and various "Santa" monsters (a new monster type for the game), as well as new Christmas-themed treasures (such as Missile Toe, Fruitcake, and a Santa Hat that gives the player an extra hand). Munchkin Santa was recalled because of an issue with the green foil on the back causing the cards to bend. The publisher released a new version in 2010.
- Munchkin Marked For Death, a 19-card mini-expansion with 17 all-new and 2 corrected cards. Released in June 2010.
- Santa's Revenge is a 15-card mini expansion it adds Santa monsters like Harold Angel (as in, HARK!) and the Anti-Clause. It goes especially well with Waiting for Santa, but you do not need WFS to enjoy Santa's Revenge. Released in late 2010.
- Munchkinomicon is a 15-card mini expansion. It's the ultimate book of spells . . . the Munchkinomicon. But beware! If you are not munchkinly enough, the Munchkinomicon will slip away and find a more suitable host. This set includes the Munchkinomicon and 14 of its deviously cheesy spells, like United I Stand, Eldritch Cleaver, and Unnatural Compulsion. The Munchkinomicon will trade owners to someone who dies, discards three cards, successfully curses someone or sacrifices a level.
- Munchkin Reloaded! All your favorite cards have returned: the Race modifiers Dark and High, the class modifier Master, and of course the Reloaded Die (and we threw in an extra one, too!). This set also features the classic card Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, from the virtual pages of Randy Milholland's hit webcomic Something*Positive.
- Munchkin Monster Enhancers. This expansion gives you 15 new monster enhancer cards. With 13 favorites from More Good Cards, now in full color, plus two brand new cards, Hollywood and Ultimate, this set is a monster's dream and a player's nightmare.
- Munchkin: Reindeer Games. This is a new Christmas themed expansion being released in November 2011.
- Munchkin: Naughty and Nice. Yet another Christmas themed expansion, released November 2012.
- Munchkin Boxes of Holding. Cardboard boxes to store cards in, but came with one unique Door and one unique Treasure card.
- Munchkin Conan the Barbarian is a 15-card mini expansion (containing 6 door cards and 9 treasure cards) based on the new Conan the Barbarian (2011 film) movie. Released in September 2011.
- Munchkin The Guild is a 15-card mini expansion (containing 8 door cards and 7 treasure cards) based on The Guild, a web series about a group of online gamers. Released in May 2012.
- Munchkin Easter Eggs is a 15-card mini expansion with an Easter theme. Released in March 2013.
- Star Munchkin was released in 2002. It is a standalone version of Munchkin, and is not intended to be mixed with other Munchkin decks unless the player is "crazy enough to try". It parodies science-fiction in general, with an emphasis on the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises. It won the 2002 Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game. Sidekicks are introduced in this game.
- The Clown Wars is an expansion for Star Munchkin. It introduces Rooms and the Bug Race and the Space Ranger Class. 20th level Epic Munchkin rules are also provided.
- Space Ships is a mini-expansion for Star Munchkin. It introduced Ships (similar to Steeds) to the world of Star Munchkin. Contains 15 cards.
- Munchkin Fu, another standalone version, was released in 2003 and parodies Asian martial arts movies. It introduces a new concept, Styles, which represent different fighting styles the player can use. Munchkin Fu won the 2003 Gamers' Choice Card Game Award. Munchkin Fu was illustrated by Greg Hyland, (creator of Lethargic Lad) in a style inspired by John Kovalic, not by John Kovalic himself.
- Monky Business, an expansion to Munchkin Fu, was released early in 2005. It was also illustrated by Greg Hyland in the same Kovalic-inspred style.
- Munchkin Bites (containing 106 door cards and 52 treasure cards) is the fourth standalone version, released in 2004. It parodies horror role-playing games, such as the games set in the World of Darkness universe, and horror fiction and movies in general.
- Pants Macabre is an expansion for Munchkin Bites, and was released in late 2005. This set added the Mummy Race.
- Super Munchkin (containing 106 door cards and 52 treasure cards) is the fifth standalone version, released in the summer of 2005 and is a parody on Superhero comics.
- The Narrow S Cape is an expansion for Super Munchkin, released in the summer of 2006. The Brain Class was added.
- Munchkin Impossible, the sixth standalone version, was released in late 2006 and parodies secret agent stories such as those of Mission: Impossible and James Bond. Besides the usual Classes, each character can have one or more Loyalties during the game.
- Munchkin Cthulhu, the seventh standalone version, released in March 2007, lampoons Lovecraft's Mythos and the horror gaming that surrounds it, summoning classic monsters from outside reality.
- Call of Cowthulhu is an expansion for Munchkin Cthulhu. Released in September 2007, this 56-card set introduces Madness cards (a variation on Curses).
- The Unspeakable Vault is the second 56 card expansion for Munchkin Cthulhu, released in January 2008.
- Crazed Caverns is the third expansion for Munchkin Cthulhu, bringing 20 double-sized dungeon cards that act the same as in Demented Dungeons and 16 standard-sized portal cards.
- The Good, The Bad, And The Munchkin is the eighth standalone version, was released in November 2007, and is meant to make fun of Western and cowboy-themed movies such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
- Beating a Dead Horse is a 56-card expansion for The Good, The Bad, and The Munchkin.
- Munchkin Booty, the ninth standalone game, focuses on pirates and was released in September 2008.
- Munchkin Zombies is the tenth standalone set, and is played as the munchkin being a zombie, the monsters as regular people, and a few rogue zombies thrown in. In place of Races or Classes, Munchkin Zombies have Mojos (Atomic, Plague or Voodoo Zombie) and Powers (Smart, Strong, Fast, etc.). Powers are similar to those used in "Super Munchkin".
- Armed & Dangerous is an expansion for Munchkin Zombies and was released in mid-2011. It adds a new Patchwork Zombie Mojo to the game.
- Hideous Hideouts includes Portals and Dungeon cards similar to those in "Munchkin 6: Demented Dungeons" and "Munchkin Cthulhu: Crazed Caverns".
- Munchkin Axe Cop, the eleventh standalone set, was released in October 2011. Unlike the other genre expansions, it is a licenced spin-off of the Axe Cop webcomic.
- Munchkin Conan, the twelfth standalone set. It is a licenced spin-off of the Conan the Barbarian franchise. The 101 door cards and 67 treasure cards in this 168-card set have the same door and treasure card backs as the original fantasy-themed Munchkin set. It introduces the new Birthright card type (Barbarian and Noble) and four new Races (Cimmerian, Stygian, Kushite, and Zamoran). Released in June 2012.
- Munchkin Blender was a special set released in response to players combining the different versions of Munchkin. It was an expansion sized set of cards designed to enhance this type of game, in which a player could be an elven/mutant bounty hunter/ninja or a dwarven samurai. Also provided are rules for playing to the 20th level, also known as Epic Munchkin. The Blender pack of cards was not required in order to mix two or more different standalone versions together. It has since been replaced by "Cheat With Both Hands".
- Munchkin Go Up A Level Includes updated cards for almost all sets, after rules were clarified to make play easier, and to go along with the 19th printing rules.
- Munchkin Dice is a supplement which contains six oversized 10-sided dice. The dice are designed for use as level counters. Also included are 14 cards for the original Munchkin (Race/Class modifiers, most notably) and rules for rolling a Munchkin die for random game benefits. The cards have been remade for "Reloaded!"
- Epic Munchkin is a set of rules for playing up to level 20 for all the Munchkin games. Players that reach the higher levels [10-19] gain 'Epic Powers' for each race and class (these powers are lost if the player is reduced to level 9 or lower). It is free, and can be downloaded from the Munchkin website.
- Exclusive Warehouse 23 Munchkin Booster is, as its name proclaims, an exclusive set of 10 cards (9 new and a color reprint of the promo 'Pegasus Steed') covering most of the Munchkin versions; available only from SJGames' "Warehouse 23" online store. The original pack was released in 2010 with two more packs being released in 2011 (17 cards) and 2012 (19 cards).
- Munchkin Apocalypse was released in November 2012. This version is a send-up of apocalyptic scenarios, especially the 2012 phenomenon.
One supplemental expansion set and one completely new version are currently set for future release:
- Munchkin Apocalypse: Mars Attacks!, a licensed spin-off from the film, is a 15-card mini expansion set for Munchkin Apocalypse set for release in summer 2013.
- Munchkin Pathfinder is set for release in 2013. This is a licensed spin-off of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
Many accessories have been released over the years by Steve Jackson Games to be used in conjunction with the card games, each with special rules included with the item as well as being listed on their website. These include:
- T-shirts, polo shirts, sweat shirts and other apparel
- Water bottles
- Special promotional cards and bookmarks given away at gaming conventions and with orders from the "Warehouse 23" Online Store
- "Silver Coins" with special rules listed on the webpage which change from month to month
- Dice in various colors, some oversized with special artwork by John Kovalic.
- Plastic pawns in the form of male and female munchkins of various colors. (These have special rules for use in other games beside Munchkin and Munchkin Quest.)
Munchkin has also spawned a couple of games outside the card game universe.
- There are two role-playing games, both of which use the d20 System based on the Munchkin and Star Munchkin card games.
- The Munchkin RPG is an extended parody of Dungeons & Dragons: the latter has "cantrip" spells, the former has, among others, "can trip" (foils pursuers with preserved foodstuffs), "can't rip" (reinforces fabrics) and "Kant trip" (induces hallucinatory deontology). It consists of the Munchkin Player's Handbook, the Munchkin Master's Guide, the Munchkin Monster Manual, and the Munchkin Monster Manual 2.5 (a joke on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5).
- The Star Munchkin Role Playing Game is one book, and includes rules for spaceship design and a new class not seen in the card game, the Farce K'nigit.
- Munchkin Quest is a board game/RPG based on the original Munchkin card game which contains several different items, monsters, and references to it. It was released in November 2008.
In Popular Culture 
The game Munchkin is referenced and seen in the 2008 movie The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. It was also referenced in season 5 episode 1 of The Guild, when Zaboo expresses his delight over the potential for "midnight Munchkin madness."
- "Origins Award Winners (2001)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-02-02. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- "Origins Award Winners (2000)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- "Munchkin home page". Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2007-12-23.
- "2008 Report to the Stakeholders". Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- Appelcline, Shannon (January 2002). "Munchkin (Capsule Review)". RPGnet. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- "Origins Award Winners (2002)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- The corrected cards are "Curse! Lead Paint!" and "Curse! Warranty Expires!" which were released in the More Good Cards expansion with Treasure backs instead of Door backs.
- Newquist, Ken. "Star Munchkin (Review)". SciFi.com. Archived from the original on 2007-08-27. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- "Origins Award Winners (2003)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- "Munchkin Fu". Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
- "Munchkin Fu - Monky Business". Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
- "Steve Jackson Games Daily Illuminator - May 25, 2008". Steve Jackson Games. 2008-05-25. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- "Steve Jackson Games Daily Illuminator - March 19, 2009". Steve Jackson Games. 2009-03-19. Retrieved 2009-09-27.
- [The Patchwork Zombie Mojo is referred to in the latest (V2.5) version of EPIC MUNCHKIN, with its Epic qualities.]
- Official Site for MUNCHKIN AXE COP
- Official site for Munchkin Conan
- Official site for Munchkin Apocalypse
- Official site for Munchkin Pathfinder
- "Steve Jackson Games Daily Illuminator - November 20, 2008". Steve Jackson Games. 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2009-02-19.
- The World of Munchkin (official website)
- Steve Jackson Games
- Munchkin and the many Munchkin game variations at BoardGameGeek
- 2010 Audio Interview with Andrew Hackard of Steve Jackson Games (interview starts at the 38:45 mark)
- Steve Jackson et al playing a game of Munchkin.