Monday, September 12, 2011

Board game review: Star Munchkin

What is it?

Star Munchkin is part of the Munchkin series of games published by Steve Jackson Games.  They are described as role playing card games without all the stupid role playing and are extremely humorous, irreverent and very social multi-player card games.  All the games in the series follow a similar pattern with slight modifications to the rules to make each game that little bit different.

Star Munchkin is what happens when you get bored of dungeons and decide to take the exploring and adventuring to another galaxy.  Gasp in horror at the Fanged Fuzzball, shake your Nova Grenade at the bleating Space Goats and if a Little Green Man appears before you, don't ask to be taken to his leader, kill him then steal his treasure.

What's in the box?

168 full colour cards
Rulesheet (4 sides of glossy A4 paper)
1 dice

How to play

Star Munchkin follows the same rules as every other Munchkin game and the turn sequence is thus:
  • Open a door card
  • If it's a monster, fight it, kill it, steal its treasure.
  • It it's a trap (the renamed curses), swear loudly then apologise to the kids for swearing and apply the trap.
  • Either draw another door or look for trouble by fighting a monster from your hand.
  • If you have over 5 cards in your hand, discard down to 5.
That's it.

Items that are worn or used such as armour and weapons are placed in front of you on the table.  Cards in your hand are your little secret from the other players and could contain one-shot items such as the afore-mentioned Nova Grenunade or other stuff such as traps, wandering monsters, monster modifiers and all manner of things that will make you guffaw loudly when you play them on your bestest buddy moments before stealing THEIR treasure as well.

Combat is resolved by adding together all your bonuses and character level together and simply comparing it to the monster and any modifiers or one-shot items played with (or against) it.  Defeating a monster usually results in a level adding to your character and an amount of booty.  Being defeated by a monster means you have to suffer the 'Bad Stuff' which ranges from a mild telling off to the severe humiliation of a painful and excruciating death.

The first to level 10 can bathe in all that reflective glory and daggering glances from your work colleagues / immediate family.

What's new?

Players can now take control of a sidekick who will aid them in combat and even sacrifice themselves for the greater good.  Some monsters are so scary however that sidekicks will simply run away then slink back with their (usually mechanized) tail between their legs once the monster has gone, the cowards.  Red Shirts are so nervous, you have to roll a dice after each combat to stop them from simply sacrificing themselves anyway.

Laser weapons can be combined with other laser weapons and there is no limit as to how many can be strapped together.  It's not uncommon for a player to be in possession of a laser-daser-maser-bobaser and get the +8 bonus all those combined weapon scores give. 

The race and class cards from the original Munchkin game have been changed to reflect the new games interstellar nature. 

New race cards:
  • Cyborgs - Start at level 2.
  • Felines - Their natural curiosity allows them to open another door card if the first is not a monster.
  • Mutants - Due to the extra limbage of an ordinary space mutant, they can carry extra stuff (more hands) or use extra headgear and footgear (more heads and feet).
New class cards:
  • Psychic - Can look at other peoples cards or see the future.
  • Trader - Can have two sidekicks and take from the discard pile
  • Bounty Hunter - Take an extra card for helping someone else defeat a monster
  • Gadgeteer - Can carry as many complex gadgets as possible.  Can disarm traps.
Complex items have replaced Big Items from the original game and players can still carry or use only one at a time, unless you're a Gadgeteer of course.  There's nothing really to distinguish them from big items except when combining (see below) games together where they are treated as two separate items.

In play

The new bits in Star Munchkin were picked up very easily but then, we have played the original Munchkin a lot.  It's still as funny as ever and we laughed like loons as someone screamed, 'Die Space Vampire, I attack thee with my daser-faser-maser and Foof Gun' before being obliterated by a slew of wandering monsters.  There seems to be a lot more items in this version of the game and as weapons can be attached together such as the lasers, we have had a fair few games where one player streaked into an unassailable lead due to some massive weapons and a good run of item cards.

Sidekicks, if sacrificed, give a +12 bonus to combat and this influences battles greatly as we found players to be more reluctant to throw in powerful items only for them to be rendered useless by the needless martyrdom of a faithful, loyal assistant.

As with any Munchkin game, a lot of the fun is from the massive variety of cards and here is no different.  It's a great system with a basic, bare-bones rule-set augmented by the myriad rule possibilities on the cards themselves.  Some of the cards are extremely powerful, such as the Time Warp that can reverse a game-changing decision.  It's best to hold onto that until the end.


SJ Games also give a paragraph in the rules about combining Star Munchkin with the original game as well as some others in the series.  You can put your Half-Elf, Half-Halfing Wizard into space where he could also be a third-half Feline Bounty Hunter.  Confused?  You will be.

Not only that, on their website, there are free rules for Epic Munchkin which is a way of taking the game beyond Level 10.  Steal more stuff, kill more monsters, stab more buddies, all the way up to level 20.  It's all good fun, honest.

In Conclusion

Apart from the propensity for one player to dominate proceedings (something which never seems to happen with the original game), Star Munchkin is a worthy entry to the SJ Games stable.   Sure, it's more of the same but when games are as funny, sociable and enjoyable to play as this, that's no bad thing. 

At around £20.00, it comes highly recommended.

Playing time is around an hour.

My eleven year old daughter loves playing this game and 10+ would seem an appropriate age guide.  It contains elements of arithmetic, reading and downright nastiness when stabbing buddies before stealing their treasure.  Brilliant.

As this is a stand-alone game, the original is NOT needed.  There are currently (April 2011) two expansion sets specifically for Star Munchkin: Clown Wars and Ships in Spaaaace.

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