Star Munchkin

Game design: Steve Jackson
Illustrated by: John Kovalic
For 3 to 6 players

Reviewer: Stuart Crawford

Roleplaying games? Aren’t they all mucking about with enormous reference tomes and increasingly illegible character sheets as stats get erased and re-written over again? Well...yes. But they don’t have to be. Munchkin, by first-rate gamesmith Steve Jackson, distilled the essential aspects of roleplay – loot, monsters, getting stabbed in the back by your mates – into a fast-paced card game that requires no more accessories than a die and players with the ability to count to ten. Dungeons are looted, monsters slain, backs stabbed, all with a minimum of faffing about. Star Munchkin allows you to do exactly the same thing, only in space.

Players take turns to loot dungeons – sorry, space stations – by drawing a card which represents their kicking a door in. ‘Breaching an airlock’, if you prefer. Here they may find monsters, sidekicks, or nuisance cards to annoy other players with. Combat is resolved by comparing the level of the monster involved with that of the player fighting it, plus any weapon bonuses that player may have. Other players may intervene on the side of the player, for a share of the loot, or on the side of the monster, for fun. If the monster is defeated, the offending player goes up one level (occasionally more) and is awarded loot. Loot takes the form of weapons to assist in monster slaying, and, well, nuisance cards to annoy other players. Victory is secured by the first player to reach Level Ten.

What makes Star Munchkin great is the sense of humour behind the whole thing. It gently, almost fondly rips the piss out of roleplaying at every turn. Players may decide at any point that they don’t want to be a Psychic Android any more, and would rather be a Mutant Cat-Person. Death is not the setback it used to be, and generally only results in a loss of items. Whining at the GM has already been anticipated – his/her eventual capitulation built into the rules – thus disposing with the need for a GM in the first place.

Star Munchkin is brilliant. Buy it, or I’ll eat your family.