Monday, September 12, 2011

Board game review: Munchkin Fu

What is it?

Taking its cue from any number of Hong Kong martial arts films, myths and folklore, Munchkin Fu is another game in the Munchkin series from Steve Jackson Games that promises a role-playing game without all that tedious role-playing stuff while at the same time delivering a high-kicking, high-concept trip down the lane of badly-dubbed foreign films, implausible stunts and ridiculous kung fu moves.

What's in the box?

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

How to play

Munchkin Fu follows every other Munchkin game and the turn sequence is as follows:
  • Turn over a door card.
  • If it's a monster, fight it, kill it, steal its treasure or die trying.
  • It it's a trap (the renamed curses), fall victim to the trip and swear loudly.
  • Either draw another door card or look for trouble by fighting a monster from your hand.
  • If you have over 5 cards in your hand, throw away the ones you don't want or better yet, play the bad ones on your 'buddies'.
Combat is resolved by adding up all your bonuses from your character level, weapons, armour and other such paraphernalia and comparing it to the monster who has invariably been modified by other players in the game.  The largest score wins.  Winning in combat means to add a level to your character (or even two) and steal its treasure which is the good bit.  Items you are using or wearing sit on the desk in front of you while all the sneaky cards are held in your hand, ready to be dished out at the most opportune moment.  The first to level ten wins the game.

What's new?

Munchkin Fu adds a few new elements to the already wonderful Munchkin mix.  Mooks are kind of hired thugs who help you out in combat and as you are their supreme master, they will carry stuff for you too.  Kung Fu styles are a major addition and these allow extra bonuses.  Anyone can have a style but in the case of Monks (not to be confused with Mooks, above), they can have two.  Certain power-up cards add modifiers to a style too.

New styles:
  • Toe Fu - Any number of footgear can be worn.
  • Monkey Fu - An extra hand is given to carry stuff with.
  • Phone Fu - Friends who help out in combat get extra treasure.
  • Bull Fu - Headgear receives a triple bonus.
  • Wire Fu - +6 in combat.
  • Fox Fu - Extra trap-dodging ability.
  • Feather Fu - Tickle monsters to death.  Well, a +6 bonus in combat anyway.
  • Clown Fu - Use the cream pie of doom for a +3 bonus.
  • Turtle Fu - Triple armour bonus.
In some ways, the new styles replace the race cards from the original game as there aren't any of those cards here.  By adding one or more style modifiers, you could find yourself a master at Drunken Dancing Wire Fu.  Nice.

These classes replace the more familiar ones from Munchkin:
  • Yakuza - Draw an extra door card after killing a monster.
  • Samurai - +2 for each sword in play.
  • Monk - Can have two styles
  • Ninja - Rolls an extra die in combat
Another addition are Hong Kong monsters.  Any monster with Hong Kong in its title can be joined by another monster with Hong Kong in its title.  This is particularly fun at the end of a game when someone thinks they have won only for every one else to throw in a boat-load of monsters.  How we laugh.  It's not so funny when it's done to you though.  Gaki's are similar.  A monster that is designated as a Gaki can have a +2 modifier with *any* card thrown in by *any* player.  Again, we have had games where someone has thrown in their entire hand just to stop someone else winning (but then it's nice to kill *them* on the next turn AND steal their treasure.  Ha ha.  Ha HA.  HA HA HA. *maniacal laughing optional*)

In Play

The Hong Kong setting is a real good laugh and this game pokes gentle fun at all those badly-dubbed seventies martial arts films.  Those Kung Fu styles really add an extra dimension to the game and while they are race cards by another name, it's enough to make it sufficiently different to the core structure.  The Hong Kong monsters can become terribly powerful once other players start throwing stuff in and you pray you don't get one to leap that final level-up hurdle. 

The only real problem, and this is something that can be leveled at other games in the series (but strangely, not the original Munchkin), is that one player can become all-powerful very early on, making it extremely difficult for other players to get a foot in the door, so to speak.  A Monk, for example, can find themselves with several styles at once and the game quickly becomes imbalanced.  For mere mortals, over several sessions, things would probably balance out but my mate Tim wins just about every game.  Maybe it's because he has long hair, looks like Jesus and there's an element of Divine Intervention?  I'm not bitter, even if he does look like a girl.


Munchkin Fu is as fun as any other Munchkin game and it gets a regular outing at our lunchtime board games club.  Most of the time, the games are really close, tightly balanced and always a good laugh.  Occasionally there's a game where an all-conquering player (probably Tim) wins easily and while that's fun for the person winning (Tim, as he laughs like a stupid person at our misfortune), it's not so good for the rest of us languishing with barely two throwing stars or nunchucks to rub together, being beaten by a mildly-annoyed rug.

With the usual high-standard of cartoon artwork this time by Greg Hyland combined with the winning Munchkin gameplay AND priced around at a very low £20, it's well worth checking out.  You'll laugh like a caramel shortcake bar.

This game can be combined with other Munchkin games, notably Star Munchkin and Original Munchkin for a super-duper mega-big game of Munchkin card game laughing loveliness.

There is a sequel, imaginatively titled Munchkin Fu 2 - Monkey Business.

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