Friday, August 26, 2011

Munchkin: Board Game Style

Munchkin Quest is Steve Jackson Game's board game version of their awesome Munchkin card game series. We picked this up a while ago for my husband. However, right after purchasing the game, we moved, and did not find the box we packed it in until our move the end of last month. I'm glad we found it; I'd honestly thought we'd lost it permanently.

On that note, I thought it'd be worth posting a review of some kind on the game. The game features a lot of the same kind of humor and play style that you can find in the card games. Beyond the basic concepts behind Munchkin, art design, and some of the classic items and monsters, not much remains from the original card game.

The first thing you'll notice upon opening this box is that this game has *a lot* of pieces. This is also the first significant deviation from the card game which contained two decks of cards and a dice. This game has dungeon tiles, door tiles, monster tiles, level counters, 10 dice, colored stands, monster tiles, and three decks of cards--I might be missing something there, but you get the idea.

Of course, with all these new pieces, the game got more complicated. The basic goal of the game is very similar to the original card game. Be the first to get to level 10. This version adds the additional condition of "escaping" the dungeon--this involves getting back to the entrance and fighting a boss monster. Not too bad so far, but once you get into the actual game play, you'll see where things can get a little more convoluted. First each player has movement tiles--you start with three. With those movements you can explore a new room, search the room you are in, or activate the special "deal" associated with the room you are in. Also, you have to keep in mind that there are door tiles for each side of the room which can include open hallways, regular doors, locked doors, and hidden doors, and to move through the latter two, you have to spend three movement. Ok, still not that bad. Let's keep going.

Let's go into a little more detail. When you explore, you open up a new dungeon tile. Each tile has something special about it. Some allow for "deals" where you can trade items, money, or cards in your hand for various things. Many rooms also have symbols on them that correspond with the races and classes of the game--we'll get back to this point later. So, you place the new dungeon tile on the board. What's next? First, you draw a card from the Deus ex Machina deck--this deck contains a mix of old treasure cards and door cards from the old deck. Basically it's any card that doesn't count as an item or a monster, so this would include "Go Up a Level" cards and cards that enhance monsters. Next you draw a monster card from the Monster Deck; yes, in this game, monsters get their own deck and you will never have monsters in your hand--another big deviation from the card game. (They still have wandering monster cards and other such cards, but those involve moving monsters on the board or simply drawing a new monster instead of playing monsters from your hand.)

Here's where things get a little crazy: you've got your monster for your room. Now you find the monster tile, and then you role a 6-sided dice with colors on each side: purple, orange, red, green, blue and yellow. If the color matches a player color, that player draws a Deus ex Machina card. If it doesn't, you get to pick the color, but you can't draw a card if you choose your own color. Get a stand of the appropriate color and stick the monster tile on it. Next you compare levels and play any items or effects you or other players want. Now in the card game, that was the end of combat. Not so here. Next you and whatever player "owns" (matches the color for) the monster role one d6 (or more in some cases). Add the role to your level and the monster's level respectively. Resolve combat. If you win, yah; draw treasure, gain a level, and if the monster had the same color stand as your player color, you draw a Deus ex Machina card. If you lose, take a hit and then try and run away; failing to run away still results in bad stuff. The "take a hit" part is another new addition to the board game. All players start with three health tiles. When you "take a hit" you flip a health tile from red to black. When all your health tiles are black, you die. There are slight differences with death that I won't go in to here. I did learn this evening that you can commit suicide if it is to your benefit to do so. XD

So that should give you a brief idea of how much more complicated the board game is than the card game. That was just a basic combat. I haven't gone into searching, which can lead to more combat, the drawing of treasure cards, or gold tiles (yes, the board game gives you money). So, each player can explore, search, move, or deal on their turn until they run out of movement tiles. After that, the colored d6 is rolled again, and the monsters move based on the color rolled and colored arrows on the dungeon tiles (and don't forget that monster movement can be influenced by symbols that appear on certain monsters). 

When all is said and done, the game is still fairly fun. It has a really high learning curve, but if you can get a good group together that has a handle on the game play, it's really not too bad. Learning to play, or playing with people unfamiliar with all the rules and nuances of the game, is tedious at best. Turns can take up to 30 minutes, and that's for just one player. There are enough new rules and new mechanics to the game that even with a seasoned group, it's easy to get bogged down. My opinion on the game: I won't say it's spectacular, but it's still a pretty good game; just make sure you have a lot of time if you sit down to play this one.

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