To kick down the door, or not to kick down the door

To kick down the door, or not to kick it down; that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to slay the monster
And take it's outrageous treasure,
Or to take arms against your friends,
And by stabbing them in the back, win the game.

So I got a big box in the mail the other day.  The label said it was from Steve Jackson Games, the small Texas based game maker - often referred to as the "gaming company that Munchkin built". Yes, they were around before Munchkin and have other games, but this is the one everyone knows about.

My first Steve Jackson game was the old black box pocket version of Illuminati back in college.  We were up in Colorado Springs at a debate meet, and went to dinner afterward downtown (I remember it was a tiny italian restaurant just barely wide enough to have a single row of tables, and the walls were  covered with wrapped wine bottles).  After dinner we stopped in this small game / comic shop, and I found the game (and maybe the first expansion or two?  I eventually got them all).

I remember picking up Munchkin when it first came out and playing it with the kids.  I had the first edition (with the original (broken) "Kneepads of Alure") and the kids and I played it quite a bit.  I do remember them dropping a card and the dog eating it.  No big deal - except it was "The Floating Nose" - which turned out to be a key for several other cards in the set.  (I have to admit that it took me several years before I realized it was a beholder pun).  For a while I attempted to keep up with all the munchkin releases (including the RPG books), but (sadly) I just am not able to keep up with all the releases any more.

Then I saw the kickstarter for Munchkin Shakespeare, and figured I'd jump on this one.  Why did they go with kickstarter when they had 'traditionally published' all the other munchkin versions and expansions?  Andrew Hackard (Munchkin Czar) said it himself in this blog post:  "The most important reason is that this set started as a crowdsourced project".

And mine arrived (you will have to excuse the reflections on some of the pictures - it was just too nice of a day to sit in the basement - so I took everything outside on the new deck!

big box full of goodies
First is the new deluxe base game

The deluxe versions of the munchkin games now come with a game board.  It has places for the cards, as well as spaces to put your pawns to indicate your level (so no more keeping pennies in front of you).

Of course they need pawns - so the game comes with 6 colors of pawns, both male and female.

And your obligatory plastic stands

A die for running away

And the cards themselves.  These are the real core of the game, and where all the great jokes and puns are!

I got the "I want it all" pledge, so I got all the extras.  First was a pair of (the same) bookmarks.  I love the Munchkin bookmarks - I always try to pick some up at conventions.  I even have a few of the very original (long and skinny) ones signed by Steve Jackson AND John Kovalic!

It also includes the demo kit.  This is a set of cards you can use to demo the game. They go in a specific order so you know exactly what will happen and can show how to play the game in just a few minutes.

Munchkin uses a single die in the game - unless, of course, you buy more.  And like ALL Munchkin products, there are cards and rules to go with them.  These cards use the six dice instead of the single one - because what gamer doesn't love rolling dice?

If you have played Munchkin (any of the 27 different core sets) then you may have found a time when you have to do a lot of math to figure out your combat value.  This two sided pair of dials help with that as you can dial each bonus (or penalty) up (or down) to get your total.  Of course if you have this complex of a battle with multiple cards on either side, you might want a second one for the monster(s) . ;. .

The original and first version of Munchkin featured a 'hero' on the cover, who has since been named Spyke.
They gave Spyke the Shakespeare treatment, and made pawns that can be used in the deluxe version of the game (instead of the cardboard standees).  These come in 6 colors

With the first expansion - they had a female munchkin holding the "unnatural axe" - and eventually she became named Flower.

So of course there are a set of flower pawns as well.

I like the idea of having two pawns - one on the board to mark your level, and one in front of you so you can remember which color you are.  Also, since it is possible to change sex in the game, the pawn on the board represents the sex you currently are.

Nice, high quality board game pieces, and are suitable for any game using a pawn.

The next item is one that just makes no sense to me, but I guess it is a thing.  Adult coloring books just seem - well juvenile is an appropriate word I guess. I would say stupid, but apparently they make money because there are people that buy them.  Anyway, it included one.  I won't throw it away or anything (hey, it is John Kovalic art after all), but I have no use for it.

There are also a set of blank cards for making your own versions.  Someday I'll get John to draw something on one of these at Origins or Gencon (when I can actually manage to have a break at the same time as he is signing) - otherwise I'm not one to make my own cards.

Lastly was the full expansion for the game.  Most of the expansions are small tuck boxes, but this was the size of the normal (i.e. non-deluxe) base games.

Inside - two more bookmarks.  Awesome!!!  I need to see if there is any type of organized trading group to try to get some of the bookmarks I don't have (if only there were some type of magic box that I could ask about things like this).

In addition, there was a second (see - didn't I say you would need one) Kill-o-meter, two more pairs of pawns (black and glow in the dark), a munchkin coin, and cards for the game itself.  This set includes the oversize dungeon cards - these add new rules to the game that effect everyone - because of course when you are kicking down the door, killing monsters and stabbing your buddy in the back, you have to be doing it somewhere!

The jokes and puns are, of course, all Shakespeare themed for the game, and are very typical for any of their sets (I have actually only played 11 of the base sets (I think I own 9). The game is very fun to play, however the end game can drag on.  It is very common for the first person to attempt to win to get the snot beat out of him, and then the second actually does it.  However if the players manage their cards well, they can end up preventing anybody from winning and the game keeps going for WAAAAY to long as someone tries to win.  It takes one to two hours to play (for three to six players) - but it feels like half that time is spent with most (if not all) the players at level 9 trying to kill the last monster - and everyone throwing in cards to prevent it.  If the end game were quicker this would be much more fun.

As it is, I love Munchkin as much for the puns and fantastic John Kovalic art (a year ago he hit 5,000 munchkin cards he has drawn - the man is a machine (and a great guy)).  I have all his Dork Tower compilations (and am eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the various story lines that have been up in the air for so many years now).  So while I can't get everything, if he draws it I do want it.

And of course I love the puns

Because it is all fun and games . . .