Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Warlock's Review: "Munchkin Quest" by Steve Jackson Games

When Munchkin Quest was announced formally, just about a year or so ago, I had already known about it--there were whisperings of it at Origins 2007, and there was a little bit of available for demo, on the final day of said convention.

This didn't stop me, mind you, but there was a little bit of a niggling doubt in the back of my head as I began work on Dungeon Slam!, asking me "Why are you going to start on a tile-based, backstabbing, dungeon-crawler boardgame when Steve Jackson--a man much more important than you--is about to do the same thing?"

My mental response was, of course, "huh?"

In this case, ignorance was the correct answer. While Munchkin Quest does a good job of putting forward the base Munchkin card game as a board game, it leaves much to be desired as a real dungeon-crawl.

Munchkin Quest begins just as the card game begins, with the characters at level 1, and they're quickly trying to blast their way through a series of monsters on their way to hitting level 10. While I only played the 2 player version of the game, I felt like the quintessential "backstabbing" of Munchkin was almost completely absent. Lionel and I spend most of our time on opposite ends of the dungeon, only staying together long enough to help each other through the lower levels.

While the Munchkin Quest game was a fun little diversion, it loses much of the simplicity of its card game predecessor. In addition to the expandable board--quite colorfully and boldly done in laminated cardboard, the sheer number of pieces and cards becomes almost mind-boggling. Lionel owns a 6 person dining room suite, and we very nearly took up the whole of it with the various pieces, cards and room tiles. That's a feat that Arkham Horror has a hard time doing, even with the 4 expansions it has!

Coupled with the sheer volume comes the complexity of the game itself. There are something along the lines of 5-7 major phases to each person's turn--again, longer than even an Arkham Horror. One of the more needless phases to me seemed to the monster movement--set to a colored die, the movement of each monster is determined by what color entrances and exits are lableled on the room tile that it is on, as well as whether the hallway pieces are "doors", "locked doors" or "secret doors". And this has to be done for each monster! This was a little much for me...

Similarly, each individual turn seems to last an inordinate amount of time. Despite only having 3 movement points, I (as a 3rd-4th level character) fought 5 monsters in one turn, looted 3 different rooms and bought and sold items. This is to say nothing of the massive amount of "Treasure" and "Deus Ex Munchkin" cards that I had gained through this, and consequently had to read and wrangle.

The raw simplicity of Munchkin was just...gone. Sylish, yes, and definitely capturing the feel of the original game, but there's just too much here. Speaking as someone who loves piece-heavy board games--again, AH is one of my favorites--the sheer volume of items, pieces, and tiles here make Munchkin Quest more tedious than anything else.

If you're a fan of the game, you'll definitely enjoy it. I was, once upon a time, and would have reveled in this game, had it come out 4 years ago. But's a bloated, overly complex inflation of Jackson's storied franchise.

...At least I don't have to worry about Dungeon Slam! being too similar!

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