A dungeon-crawling experience without all the hassle of creating a character and role-playing them through a complicated narrative. Munchkin Deluxe, by Steve Jackson Games, is a quirky, engaging and often hilarious game that puts a twist on popular role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. It does all this while retaining the core concept: Enter dungeons, fight monsters, steal treasure!
Munchkin Deluxe is a game for three to six players, with an average playing time of one to two hours. The game has been recommended for players aged 10+. Players begin setting up by choosing a coloured standee, either male or female, and begin as a Level One human character with no defined class. Each player also has a hand of eight cards; four from the Door deck and four from the Treasure deck. If at this point the player has any Race or Class cards in their hand, they can play one of each to start building their character.
Races and Classes give characters abilities during the game. For example, a Halfling may sell one item card each turn for double its stated price as an ability, and if an initial Run-Away roll fails they may discard a card to try again. A Warrior has the Berserking ability, which allows the player to discard up to three cards in combat; each giving a +1 bonus. Certain Weapons and Armour are only available to specific Races and Classes, whilst some Monsters have a particular weakness to, or strength against, a particular Race or Class, so this adds another level of strategy when making decisions during the game.
Players start play by rolling a dice to decide who goes first. The person who rolls the highest or lowest result starts the game and play proceeds in turns continuing with the player on the left. The goal is simple; progress through the rooms by kicking down doors and fighting monsters, the first player to reach Level 10 by killing a monster is the winner.
On a player's turn, they may play any card from their hand before commencing the first phase of their turn. This can include:
- Adding or removing a Race or Class (as many times as you like throughout the game).
- Equipping a Weapon or Armour piece to add to their combat score. Remember to keep in mind what your character is already using, they only have two hands!
- Using an effect card such as Go Up a Level or a Curse card.
Once they're happy with their build play commences with Phase One - Kick Open The Door. The player draws a card from the Door deck face-up for all players to see. If this card happens to be a monster then the player must fight it. Combat is simple in Munchkin Deluxe, with the player's Combat Score going directly against a Monster’s Combat Score. To determine your Combat Score:
- Take the number of the room you are in as your base score.
- Apply any additional advantages from Race, Class, Weapons and Armour, as well as any buffs from other cards you may be able to play.
- The resulting number is your Combat Score.
If your level is higher than the Monster's, you win the fight and reap the rewards; taking as many treasures as is stated on the card from the Treasure deck. If your level is not higher than the Monsters, this is where things get interesting...
Munchkin Deluxe is a game of co-operation. Therefore, if you can’t quite beat the Monster that you are fighting you can ask your fellow players for assistance. Of course, you do this for a price! Usually, your best bet will be to agree to divide the treasure you will win from the encounter between whoever is helping you. It is at this stage of the game that your bartering skills will come in useful. If someone agrees to help you, and you defeat the Monster, then you must meet the conditions of the agreement. The player whose turn it is moves up a level for beating the monster, progressing to the next room. However, those who assisted with the encounter do not move up a level. (Unless they have an ability that says otherwise!) This adds another level of strategic decision making for the players.
However, at its core, Munchkin Deluxe is also a highly competitive game. So, while it is possible to assist other players in defeating monsters it is also possible to make it a lot more difficult for your opponents to succeed. There are certain cards in the decks that can add to the Combat Score of the Monsters or decrease the Combat Score of fellow players to reduce their chances of success.
If a player does not encounter a Monster when they Kick Open The Door then they can either Look For Trouble. Here, they will fight a monster from their own hand if they have one, treating the encounter as though it were a normal encounter. Alternatively, they can Loot The Room, drawing a second card from the Door deck, face-down, which they add to their hand.
The final stage of a player’s turn is the Charity phase. If the player has more than five cards in their hands at the start of this phase, then they must give their excess cards to the lowest level player on the board until they have only five cards. This provides a good balance to the game and allows for the players at lower levels to gain some valuable assets that may be useful for bouncing back; everybody loves an underdog!
Not only do players have to deal with Monsters, they also have to contend with a variety of Curses. These curses can severely decrease their chances of succeeding encounters with Monsters. They can also hinder their strategies by making them lose valuable items, or even their Weapons or Armour, that could be the difference between succeeding and encounter or failing. If a player draws a Curse card when they Kick Open The Door, the curse in question affects them directly. However, if they are just adding the card to their hand then they can use it at their discretion at any point throughout the game on other players!
If all else fails and a player is unable to beat a Monster’s Combat Score, they can attempt to Run Away from an encounter by rolling the dice. Rolling a five or a six means the player gets away from the Monster without taking any damage. However, they don’t win any treasure, they don’t get Loot The Room. They also don’t progress any levels this turn (note that some classes and races change the number needed to successfully run away). If a player fails the roll to Run Away, then Bad Stuff happens to them (this is outlined on the Monster card).
Finally, if the player character dies due to the bad stuff that happens because of failing an encounter, then that player must discard all of their stuff, retaining only their Race, Class and Level. On their next turn, they will return to the game from the point they left off, drawing four cards from each deck to replace the cards they previously discarded. Play then continues as normal.
Munchkin Deluxe comes complete with a simple game board. It depicts rooms one through 10 as well as spaces for both decks of cards and their appropriate discard piles. The board is sturdy and just as durable as any other simple game board. In addition to the board, the game comes with:
- 12 player tokens. One male and one female character for each colour printed on cardboard.
- 12 stands to support the tokens.
- 95 door cards.
- 73 treasure cards.
- A custom six-sided die featuring the Munchkin logo in place of the one.
All components are of a high quality and the cards both feel and look very nice. The rules are also printed on high quality glossy paper.
Munchkin Deluxe has high replay value as every game can turn out differently depending on who is playing and what cards are drawn. Despite the very simple concept of gaining levels by defeating monster, no two games of Munchkin are ever the same. With so many potential combinations of Races and Classes the game is a lot of fun and offers something new every time you play.
With that said, some elements of the game can become somewhat predictable after multiple play-throughs. This includes becoming familiar with certain Monsters that you have fought against before. However, the level of unpredictability caused by other players having an impact on the outcome of certain encounters negates this familiarity somewhat as one meeting with a Monster can be very different to another; it all depends on the players around the table.
Interaction and Engagement
The social elements of Munchkin Deluxe make the game a very interactive experience between players. The ability to assist your friend in defeating a monster, only to stab them in the back on the very next turn to stop them from winning is what makes this such a fun and interactive game to play; every play through of the game can heed different results regardless of how much planning goes into your strategy.
The whacky nature and comedic elements of the game, coupled with the simplicity of its core mechanics, makes Munchkin Deluxe a very engaging experience for the player. It is easy to pick up quickly, and the relaxed explanations of the rules in the rulebook make it a lot less of a daunting task to new players. The simplistic art style is consistent and appealing to look at, giving the game a welcoming first impression to newcomers.
Final Thoughts on Munchkin Deluxe
Overall, Munchkin Deluxe is a fun, co-operative and competitive gaming experience that can provide plenty of enjoyment for players. It has a very simplistic art style that compliments the premise of the game. It takes inspiration from pop culture in its use of comedic illustrations and gameplay elements. For example, Monsters such as the Shrieking Geek and Items like the Boots of Butt-Kicking.
Personally, I’ve found it to be most enjoyable when played with a group of good friends who have no problem seeing the funny side to the game, and revelling in the competitive side of things. It’s definitely a great game for social gathering if you’re looking for something fun and relatively simple to enjoy.