When I first heard that the Munchkin CCG was in development I was excited for a few different reasons. The most straightforward ones are that I am an avid trading card game player and love the Munchkin franchise. Most importantly, though, Munchkin has been the one game that I’ve been able to enjoy with my wife and her family, and I hoped the release of the Munchkin CCG could mean I’d be able to share my love for trading card games with my wife, too.
Well, my hopes have come to fruition. Although it’s only been out for a week, my wife and I have played a number of games with all of the different heroes, and she’s already exploiting mechanics that I’m still trying to figure out!
The fact that my wife, who has never played a TCG, CCG, or LCG in her life, was able to go through the phases of the game and activate the appropriate abilities is indicative of the accessibility of the Munchkin CCG. That doesn’t mean the game is by any means simple, however; in fact, there are innovative mechanics that add layers of complexity to the game that require a great amount of thoughtfulness.
Don’t let the names of these mechanics fool you (e.g., zap, squish, cheat) – some are familiar mechanics of other games and others may take some time for veteran trading card game players to get used to. To zap something is the same thing as “tapping” or “exhausting” in other games; essentially, you rotate the card ninety degrees to show that it is being used for some effect or another. To squish something simply means to send it to the discard pile from the play area. Where the game really shines is in the unfamiliar mechanics. When playing a monster, you show that you’re paying “a” cost for it, and you place it face down. The trick is that your opponent doesn’t know if it’s actually a monster! You could have “cheated,” playing a card that is not usable as a monster or underpaying for the monster you did put down. This makes your opponent have to play strategically, since they only have a certain number of cards to block damage in a given turn. If you “commit” all of your resources to “bluffed” or “cheated” cards, then your opponent may have the opportunity to really put something onto the field that you should be worried about. There’s also the “Run Away!” token you can use for free once each turn, and can “Limp Away” at the cost of two damage as many times as you wish thereafter.
Another interesting concept is instead of leaving monsters in play once you commit them to fight, you move them to your “stash” after the fight is over, and put them back into your hand at the start of your next turn unless your opponent does something to remove them from you stash beforehand. This makes things even more interesting because you know some of the cards that your opponent has in their hand when they pick up their stash at the beginning of the turn, so when they play a card face down with the amount of gold necessary for one of the cards you’ve already seen you then have to figure out whether the face down card is one of those cards, a different monster, or something else entirely!
The one thing that may be difficult for new players is the many steps you take in the beginning and end phases (there are three phases all together). When you start your turn, you “unzap” your cards, flip your Run Away! token back over, activate any abilities that activate in the “Reckoning” step (similar to upkeep for you Magic: The Gathering players), pick up (or “unstash”) your stashed cards, then draw a card. In the “Cooldown” phase, you increase your level and take the appropriate amount of gold relative to your level. These are just things to remember, though, and do not seem to have an impact on the game’s learning curve.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with the game. The artwork is great, the card titles are funny, and although it maintains the allure of the Munchkin franchise with its lightheartedness, it’s a game that serious trading card game players can still take, well, seriously.
*Note on the Game Review ratings: There isn’t any story, but there are characters in the Munchkin universe. I don’t think I can really rate that just yet, so I’m giving it a “Fair.” Overall, I’m giving it a 90/100, keeping in mind there is only one set out so far.