Hello everyone, welcome. Today I am going to be talking about Marvel Munchkin. Yep, you heard that right. The Long running card game by Steve Jackson, that routinely makes fun of roleplay and other geekdoms has gotten a variant based on Marvel Super Heroes.
I have played Munchkin since I was a teenager (That was going on for 20 years ago). I was attending a Games Club in Glasgow, and in between our Shadowrun sessions we would play various board and cardgames, and Munchkin was one of them. If you are unfamiliar with the game, Munchkin is a game that kinda mimics Dungeons and Dragons by having players search through a Dungeon (represented by a Deck of Door Cards and Treasure cards), fighting monsters (encountered in the Door Cards), looting treasures, gaining levels, classes and races. It was all very cleverly done, and done with an eye towards parody. So, for instance you could play a “Go up 1 Level Card – Bribe GM with food”, which parodies the age old tradition of bribing the GM. A tradition, I should point out, that none of my players uphold despite my merciful nature. The monsters were also parodies, such as the Wannabe Vampire, or the dreaded Gazebo. It was all good fun. The object of the game is to reach level 10. The problem was, despite many variants coming out (Such as Cthulhu Munchkin) with their own little jokes, the fact of the matter is it is a simple game and the jokes get a tad repetitive 20 years down the line. And to be honest, the jokes break immersion. You don’t play Munchkin to take it seriously, you play it to be amused. Which is hard when you have played it for 20 years.
Earlier this year, a mate got me the Marvel version of Munchkin, the newest Variant and I got to play it with a group of friends when we went away for the weekend. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
The game, as you might expect, is functionally identical to Standard Munchkin. You start as a Level 1 SHIELD Agent, and you have to proceed through a villainous situation, progressing to Level 10 by kicking down doors, fighting super villains, gaining allies and picking up gear and powers along the way. It is a straight reskin. However, this does not detract from the experience at all, as there are a number of tweaks that improve the game. Let’s have a look at some of the features.
The Game does not have Standard Munchkin Humour
This game is mechanically the same, but does not have the humour of standard MUnchkin. Instead, its Unique Selling Point is the fact that you are playing in the Marvel Universe, and the allies, powers and upgrades are all things that heroes from the Marvel Universe would have. This has its good and bad points. If you are an established Marvel Fan, this will add to the appeal and immersion of the game. If you are not a Marvel Fan, you may still enjoy it but that depends on your attitude towards the Munchkin Humour. If you are playing Munchkin primarily because it is funny, the lack of humour probably detracts from your experience. If you, for whatever reason, are bored with Munchkin Humour (or it simply isn’t that important to you) then the straight laced approach may suit your needs more.
The Game has Equipment and Powers straight out of the Comics
Part of the joy of any roleplay game, or rpg Munchkin parody is the joy of levelling your character up, gaining new equipment and new cool powers. Class abilities is fairly standard in class driven RPG, and in actual fact has been something lacking in the versions of Munchkin I have previously played. Unless you include the abilities on class cards, of course. Which, now that I think on it, I should. However in the Marvel version of Munchkin, you not only get starting powers depending on what kind of SHIELD Agent you are,
you can gain powers of varying levels throughout the game. These range from Enhanced Agility, to Elemental Manipulation or even being a Super Spy.
You also gain items and armour, as you would in regular Munckin. However, instead of equipping a Sneaky Bastard Sword, or a Giant Rock, you will be equipping Thor’s Hammer, one of Iron Man’s armours, or even Spider-Man’s Web Shooters.
Hirelings replaced with Allies
This is a major thing as without it, this version of the game would struggle to call itself Marvel. In other versions of Munchkin, you can generally have a Hireling. Sometimes they carry stuff for you, maybe they give you a combat bonus but they never felt like a huge part of the game for me. In Marvel, you don’t get hirelings. You get Allies. Such as Iron Man, Thor or even Captain Marvel each of whom give a powerful bonus.
Affiliations replace Race
Obviously, you don’t have elves and dwarves in this game. I suppose you could, via Asgard, but as it stands you do not have races that you can play. Instead, your SHIELD Agent can be affiliated with a Super Team. In the core set, the teams you can affiliate with are the Avengers, the Spider Friends and the Inhumans. There are expansions for this game, so I daresay things like X Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and Defenders also are represented in those boxes. Team Affiliations give bonuses, whilst also allowing access to affiliated gear that would otherwise not be legal on your character.
This is an enjoyable addition to the MUnchkinverse. If you are a veteran player, there really is no learning curve to worry about. If you are a Marvel Fan, I think you will get drawn into the game as the upgrade items and powers are cool, and the art on all – particularly the ally cards – is really awesome (I recognise some as comic art). If you are looking for “Stab another player, go up a level” type humour, you won’t find it. If you aren’t, then this is a good wee game to kill an hour. Or two. Or four. It is, after all, still Munchkin. Where every betrayal is expected, and probably adds another 30 minutes to gameplay…