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Munchkin Review: The Original Munchkin

Updated on January 17, 2015

Brief Synopsis

The fantasy themed deck itself is the most well-rounded. After all, shouldn't be? It's the very first of its kind, made before expansions might have even been thought of. As time has past, small changes and re-balancing of the game has helped cement its strength. Really, this is the staple of the series and should likely be the first to be played.

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The Monsters and Curses

It’s not unforgiving, as most monsters level 16-20 will not pursue low level players, meaning if you draw a monster on your first turn that would absolutely slaughter you, you can opt not to fight it and essentially end your turn.

However, two monsters, the Wight Brothers and King Tut are hardly forgiving. Both are level 16 but force the player running away from them to lose 2 levels even if they manage to get away (normally rolling at least a 5 or 6 on a 6 sided die). However, if they catch you, one forced you to go to Level 1 (possibly the worst Bad Stuff I’ve seen in Munchkin) and the other causes you to lose all items and cards in your hand, imitating Death in the game but not allowing you to respawn (which allows you to re-draw cards to compensate for your loss).

Yet, there are worse things to actually try to fight. Level 8 Ghoulfiends, while not a threat at first glance, have an effect where your items don’t work, meaning you either have to have a friend help you kill them, or you must be Level 9. However, Level 9 is one level short of winning, so every other player is going to do their best to screw you over, possibly with the obnoxiously powerful Mate card, which just copies one Monster card in play which would create 2 Ghoulfiends. However, if another player plays a Wandering Monster card (allowing them to play another monster on a player’s combat) and plays the Level 14 Insurance Salesman, you can’t win. The Insurance Salesman negates your Level for combat, meaning the two of them together doesn’t allow the player to have a combat level to fight with, forcing them to try to Run Away immediately.

Not all monsters are bad though; the Potted Plant grants an extra Treasure card for Elves who beat it. Level 6 Pukachu and Level 2 Large Angry Chicken also grant 2 levels with the right setup, allowing a player at Level 8 a chance to win while fighting a low level Monster. Plus, if you use the Mate card, you can get double the bonuses (but be careful, it’ll be easier for other players to screw you over)!

Curses aren’t terrible, except for one that mimics the Ghoulfiends’ effect and another Curse that drops you 2 levels easily. Another Curse puts a Chicken on Your Head, subtracting 1 from every die roll, forcing you to roll a 6 in order to get away and making a Thief’s life difficult (to steal you have to roll a 4, 5, or 6 or you’ll lose a level instead).

Character Modifiers

When you start the game, you’re a Human with no Class, but with Class and Race cards, you can change that. Playing as a Halfling is good if you’re looking to sell stuff to go up levels and are helping in running away while a Dwarf can have 6 cards in their hand instead of the normal 5. However, an Elf is both the most powerful Race as well as the worst one. You get a +1 to Run Away (meaning you need to roll a 4 or higher) but you also get an extra level for every monster to help another player kill, meaning you can actually win the game with this ability. That’s great, right? Not if everyone else hates an Elf. You’re very likely to be ostracized and disliked by everyone else if you’re an Elf for that reason.

For classes, there are Warriors, Clerics, Thieves, and Wizards. A Warrior is really good for early play, granting easy bonuses when you’re losing against a monster by a little. A Thief is meant for a good griefing player, stealing other people’s stuff and stabbing them in the back. A Wizard is the best Class if you’re looking to get away easily and by giving up your entire hand, you can discard the monster, forfeit the levels, but you gain all of its Treasures! Fighting a Level 20 too tough? Discard your hand of 3 cards and draw 5 new Treasures! Also, the Wizard is able to use the Staff of Napalm, a +5 1 Hand item, which by numbers alone is the strongest equipment card in the deck. The Cleric can be really powerful against Undead Monsters (such as King Tut) but its real usefulness is taking cards back from the discard pile with its Resurrection ability.

Munchkin Original Deck

Treasure Cards

A very versatile Treasure is the Transferral Potion. If you’re in a bind, you want to stop someone from winning, or a monster just popped up that you want someone else to fight, this card cures your need. The Tuba of Charm has the same gameplay as the Wizard class, giving you a whopping +3 to Run Away (normally, only if you roll a 1 do you fail to Run Away) and it gives you a Treasure card for getting away successfully. However, the most overpowered Treasure card in this deck are the Kneepads of Allure, which the Cleric cannot use. This card basically allows you to force another player to help you in combat, adding their strength to you. They can’t ask for a reward, you don’t have to give one, and they’re stuck trying to escape on their own if you both fail. Aside from the limitations (the person has to have a Level higher than you, and you can’t use this ability to win), this card is unrivaled in ability in this deck, and very few Curses or Bad Stuff effects can force a player to remove it. A Thief can steal it though.

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More Munchkin

And that’s about all I have for the central deck of the fantasy themed Munchkin deck. Next time, I’ll cover Munchkin 2: Unnatural Axe, an expansion that gives a handful of new cards, including a powerful Race, the Orc.

I've got plenty more Munchkin Custom Card Ideas! You can see a list of them here.

Also, as I've spent far too money on numerous Munchkin decks and expansions, I can tell you which ones are worth it, which aren't, and why. The directory is found here.

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