Jan 28, 2015

[Games] Munchkin Panic

Munchkin, as a gaming franchise, is pretty widespread by now. Given the seemingly endless versions of their core game, they've had a few tie-in products such as special cards associated with The Guild and even a version of of the game that features webcomic hero Axe Cop.

But last year we started to see the Munchkin brand cross-over into other games with products like Loot Letter, a Munchkin-themed version of Love Letter called Loot Letter. And here we have another case with the Munchkin brand reaching out beyond its core card game with Munchkin Panic, a Munchkin-themed version of Castle Panic.

I had gotten a little interested in Castle Panic after watching the Tabletop episode featuring the game, since I do enjoy a good tower defense game. But I waited around longer since it didn't seem quite as compelling at the time. I guess throwing in the crazy monsters from the Munchkin universe were all that the game needed.

Munchkin Panic is largely a Munchkin-reskin of the game Castle Panic developed by Anne-Marie De Witt. Munchkin was created by Steve Jackson while Castle Panic was created by Justin De Witt, The game supports 1-6 players.

The core game mechanic naturally follows the Castle Panic system. You and your fellow players are trying to defend the castle at the center of the board - as represented by 6 towers and 6 castle walls surrounding them. Monsters enter from the Forest ring and move one ring closer per player turn. In the Archer, Knight and Swordsman rings, you can try to attack the monsters provided you have the matching Archer, Knight, and Swordsman cards that match the color of the ring section that the monster is in. The map is divided into three main color areas - Red, Blue and Green. And each ring is divided into two, thus creating 6 pie wedges that start in the Forest and end at the castle tower at the center.

During each turn, the player can first discard one card they don't want and draw up to the current limit - this is either 5 or 6 cards depending on total number of players. If you have more then 3 Treasure cards (and what is a Munchkin game without Treasure, right), then you give excess cards to the player with the lowest points, which is known as Giving Charity. Then you attack monsters by playing as many cards as you can and maybe trying to ask for help from one another player to defeat the monsters on the table. Monsters you defeat go in front of you and become scored for you. Then you get treasure equal to the number of gold dots on the Monster tile. Finally, you add another 3 Monster tiles to the board by randomly drawing them from the bag - just be careful of curses!

Monster tiles have three sides and each point of the tile has the health of the monster - the current health is what is pointing towards the center of the board. Every time you damage a monster with a Hit Card, you turn the monster to the next lowest health level. Now some monsters have more than three hit-points - to defeat that third segment of life, you'll need enough Hit Cards to finish up the monster. Thus a monster with 4 life starts at 4, goes down to 4 and then finally has 2 health. So to finish the monster, you need to do 2 points of damage at once and not 1 point this turn and 1 point the next. It gets a little tricky for really big monsters.

The game ends when all the monsters have been defeated and you have at least 1 castle tower standing. If that happens, the players win and the player with the most points from killed monsters becomes the Master Munchkin. But if the monsters manage to destroy all towers, then the players lose.

This edition of the game includes additional expansion tiles for an More Munchkin Mini-Expansion of the game that introduces Munchkin-style character classes for the players and additional Castle and Treasure cards. Each class also has a nemesis monster and special rules apply when they face that particular monster on the board. The rules also include optional tweaks to make it Less Munchkin, More Panic and of course a solitaire mode.

The game is decently fun and the Munchkin flavor to things does make the game a lot more humorous. The fact that one of the monsters in the game is the dreaded gazebo says a lot about the tone of the game. The Panic element of the game can get pretty overwhelming - especially given what few options are left to you once a monster gets into the Castle ring and starts taking down tower after tower. But what can you do, right? That's just how the game goes.

Munchkin Panic is a great game and rather fun upgrade of the original Castle Panic that may make it harder for you to go back to the original game. It's not a perfect game and a bad shuffle of the Castle deck can often spell disaster for the players pretty quickly. Still, it's fun to play and it supports a good number of players and so it deserves a good 4 comical monsters out of a possible 5.

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