Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Munchkin Impossible -- The Door Deck

Continuing my ruminations on Munchkin Impossible.

In Munchkin-series games treasure cards are important, but it's Door cards that you interact with very turn. The very first thing a character does is open a door and, if no monster is present and none brought out of the hand to fight, a second door card is drawn while "looting the room."

Monsters -- 37 cards with nominal levels ranging from 1 to 20 broken down as follows: Five each Level 1 & 2; Four each Level 4,6 & 8; three each Level 10, 12, 14 & 16; Two Level 18 and one Level 20. I say "nominal" because 50 of them have bonuses and/or penalties depending upon the class, gender, loyalty or other characteristics of the player character fighting them.
Discussion -- In keeping with the general lack of inspiration in this particular set, I didn't find any of the "monster" names (and monster seems an odd name for them anyway) especially funny. I mean "Dr. Maybe" is a pretty lame and obvious joke. There's nothing half as funny as the "Space Goats" of Star Munchkin for example. Four of the monsters are "(monster) in black" which allows them to be reinforced in a fight by other "in black" monsters which provides some limited scope for thwarting a player's bid for victory is he's incautious enough to try to beat an "in black" creature for his 10th level. The "in black" thing is odd, though, because that's more of a Sci Fi thing than a Spy genre thing. Two monsters are "undead" which has no effect in MI but may in a blended game.

Loyalty -- 12 cards. Three each of American, British, Chinese and Russian. Loyalty is a new attribute in the Munchkin series, but operates much like a class, providing certain benefits. For example American Loyalty allows you to use one extra hand's worth of items and get a 300 gold piece bonus when selling items for levels. A player can have just one loyalty unless allowed by another card (such as Double Agent) to have more.
Discussion -- American, British and Russian loyalties all have good and obvious advantages, but the Chinese loyalty's edge seems kind of underpowered. You can take a Level 1 or 2 monster off the top of the discard pile at the beginning of your turn, if it happens to be there and there's no limit to to the number of minions you can have in play -- but there are only four minions in the game, so this isn't a big help either.

Trap! -- 11 cards. Nine of them may cause you to lose cards from your hand or on the table, two cost a level.
Discussion -- If encountered while opening doors, these can be annoying, but usually aren't too debilitating. With 11 in the deck they'll come up pretty often and only the Playboy class has any anti-trap ability. But if collected while looting the room these may be one of your few tools to stop an opponent's bid for victory. The two Lose a Level traps (Snake Pit and Shark Tank) are especially worth holding onto if you have it in the late game.

Class -- 9 cards. Three each of Assassin, Playboy and Tourist. Every Munchkin game includes class cards, if for no other reason than the opportunity to use the line "Everyone starts as a Level 1 character with no loyalty and no class. (heh heh)." Each class provides a couple of bonuses. A player can belong to only one class unless having a card that allows otherwise such as Super Munchkin.
Discussion -- With only three classes available the class attribute plays a smaller role in MI than the typical Munchkin game. All three classes have useful and obvious advantages, so there's little to choose from between them. Note that the British loyalty automatically provides them with the benefits of Playboy as long as they don't have another class, so Playboys will be the most common type in play.

Training -- 8 cards. These generally provide level bonuses either directly to the character (like Karate Training +4) or indirectly (Knife Training gives +3 per knife) although a couple provide other benefits. A character can have one training unless another card, such as Extra Training, allows more.
Discussion -- Training is another new attribute in the Munchkin series, providing a similar benefit as Style in Munchkin Fu.

Munchkins --8 cards. While not a formal category under the rules, these all operate in much the same way, allowing the player to "break" the rules by allowing additional classes (Super Munchkin) , loyalties (Double Agent and Triple Agent), items (Cheat) or training (Extra Training).
Discussion -- One of the core concepts underlying the design of the series, Munchkin-style cards are pretty common in this set and player characters with multiple loyalties, classes and extra training will be common.

Miscellaneous -- 7 cards. These provide a hodge-podge of benefits. All but one is one-use only.
Discussion -- Using these cards is situational, but most provide an unsubtle benefit like Scripted Escape which allows an automatic escape from combat if you fail your roll to run away. Gender changing is pretty far outside the spy genre, so MI only includes one sex-changing card, Discard Clever Disguise, which changes the player character's sex without penalty ("because you were really that sex all along"). Because of this, the usefulness of the two Seduce Enemy Agent cards will depend an awful lot on the composition of your gaming group, but if it's a bunch of guys then these may be nearly useless outside of a blended Munchkin game.

Monster enhancers -- 6 cards. Two are +10 to the monster's level, three are +5 and one is a -5 penalty.
Discussion --There are just a half dozen of these, so their rarity makes them valuable. The dramatic end-of-game-bid-for-victory that other players beat back is less common in MI than the other Munchkin games. It's hard to really juice up a monster to an unexpected degree.

Wandering Monster -- 2 cards. These allow a player to add another monster to a combat.
Discussion -- Most useful when trying to stop another player's bid for victory, it's also useful for jacking up the potential treasure haul by adding a second weak monster to a monster you can easily defeat. Still, given the shortage of means to thwart other players, it's probably best reserved for later use if you're in the middle or late stages of the game.


Munchkin Impossible is the runt of the litter in the Munchkin Line. Thematically strained and humor-starved, Munchkin Impossible doesn't quite work and evidently has not been a sales success, attested to by its singular status as the one Munchkin game that didn't have an immediate expansion.

Still, the game is not without merit for certain groups. I think that it may, oddly enough, be a good gateway game in groups that have limited exposure to RPGs or highly competitive gaming in general. The spy genre does have the advantage of being widely recognizable outside gaming circles. While your Monopoly or Scrabble partner may not be familiar with Dwarves and Elves they have almost certainly seen at least one James Bond movie. Munchkin Impossible is more straightforward than other games in the line, and the lack of a lot of end-of-game interaction (which can get pretty hard to follow in a good Munchkin game) may be considered a feature, rather than a bug.

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