Shortening up a game of Munchkin?
September 8, 2013 4:59 PM   Subscribe

We've (my wife, her niece and I) recently started getting really into Munchkin. We have a lot of fun, but it's exhausting because a single game tends to run about 2-2.5 hours. How can we get to a point where we can get in a second game when we play?

We went out, bought the expansions 2-8, and we've played with anywhere from 3-5 people with various combinations of expansions. Generally speaking, our gameplay involves everyone progressing towards level 9. Not much collaboration - occasionally one of us will need help defeating a monster, but we very seldom add on to the monster. Once someone gets to 9, everyone gangs up on them to prevent them from winning. Generally, this results in everyone making it to level 9 and then it becomes a war of attrition - eventually, we run out of cards to defeat the players, someone draws a level 1 Potted Plant and the game ends.

Any thoughts on how we can tighten things up? I assume that being a bit more cutthroat in the beginning will help. Are there combinations of expansions that people have found work well together?
posted by neilbert to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Munchkin can become a very long, tedious game if you let it. As an individual, the way you can speed it up is to suicide occasionally to move the game along. In our games everything slowed down around levels 7-9, as everybody started getting really suspicious of each other and started hoarding cards to keep people from making it up to level 10. Then nobody wants to be the first or second person to try for a level up since they know they're going to get shot down. When it looks like the game is getting to that point you can fall on the sword and make a play, let everyone spend their cards on defeating you, and then the game wraps up quicker. You're sacrificing your chance to win, but better to never win the game and still enjoy it than win lots and eventually get so bored you abandon it.

As a group, you can all change your culture to be more aggressive in general. Apply those added-on bonuses to monsters to make them harder to beat so people have to spend more cards to get through every encounter. When we play we fail to beat monsters about as often as we beat them. This also adds more collaboration and politicking between players, too, which in my opinion is the best part of Munchkin. I don't know how old your niece is, but if you don't want to go all super-aggressive on her then you and your wife can model it between each other while you build the expectation that this is how you have a fun game. She'll catch on eventually.

For awhile we had nearly every expansion for Munchkin, and there's definitely a point where they get so overwhelming that it slows the game to a crawl. The one with different dungeon conditions, for example, just makes things way slower since it's harder to predict what'll happen and incentivizes you to hold on to your cards instead of spending them (for us, at least). The one with the steeds... or followers, maybe?... also slowed our game down a lot because there were a whole lot of extra rules to remember and consult whenever somebody wanted to make a move. Honestly, we preferred Munchkin most when we played with just the base game and maybe one or two expansions added on. Why don't you try playing a game with just one expansion, and rotate that expansion out for another as you tire of it?
posted by lilac girl at 5:19 PM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

A quick search of turned up two threads about speeding up Munchkin. There may be more. I think another question you might ask is what good 3-player family games offer a similar amount of theming and combat while (often) being faster to play, e.g. King of Tokyo or Sentinels of the Multiverse.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:22 PM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: Lilac girl's strategy can help you both ways! When everyone's hoarding, try to learn to feel out when is a good time to make your move force everyone to use up their reserves, but still have enough time to recover for another play after everyone else has tried and been shot down. Speed up play and crush your loved ones!
posted by cmoj at 5:36 PM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: Oh, man. This is a classic Steve Jackson Games phenomenon - you never have a 'winner' so much as a last player standing. Once upon a time my friends and I would play Illuminati New World Order, and it was absurd fun, but it was also trench warfare crossed with a growing body of case law, as we would hash out how to apply the rules when so many different cards with various exceptions and special abilities were brought to bear on a given conflict. Being more aggressive early on may help, but it could also just start the bleak war of attrition sooner. We found Munchkin to be much quicker than INWO, but very similar in terms of the end game dynamics.

I agree strongly with limiting the number of expansions used in a single game. You can also apply a strict time limit for players to make up their minds about everything. One more thing that may help: since the 'winner' does not necessarily indicate anything about superior game play, that can free players up to make it more about maximizing the absurdity. Pitch in cards when the result will be hilarious, regardless of whether or not it advances your own position. Even if only a few players do this, it makes things more fun, and tends to speed things along.
posted by fikri at 6:52 PM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: I've learned munchkin is a lot more fun if you don't hoard cards. Be aggressive in playing both bad and good things on other players. Don't freak out about winning or dying and it suddenly livens up the experience.
posted by HMSSM at 9:15 PM on September 8, 2013

Generally, this results in everyone making it to level 9 and then it becomes a war of attrition - eventually, we run out of cards to defeat the players, someone draws a level 1 Potted Plant and the game ends.

This is essentially why most seasoned board/card-gamers dislike Munchkin. If you let us know the things about Munchkin that you do like, we could recommend some alternatives?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:39 AM on September 9, 2013

Best answer: A few things - play with fewer expansions, or specifically pull out more monsters from other expansions and include them (without the rest of the other cards). We've always found the biggest problem with too many expansions is that monsters come further and further between.

Start with four cards of doors and treasures, instead of two.

Definitely encourage a culture of piling on those modifiers.

Considering playing to level 7.
posted by canine epigram at 6:07 AM on September 9, 2013

Response by poster: Niece is in her 20s, she can handle more cutthroat play.

What we like about it - I'd say the sense of humor (my wife got a self-cleaning modifier for the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment, which we all laughed about) is high up there. The fact that you're not just sitting around waiting for your turn when someone else is playing. The fact that the little kids in the family can't play - we played a LOT of Uno before finding this.

We're not really looking for other games - we have a few others we've found that are good for us (Gloom jumps to mind) but Munchkin seems to satisfy a lot of things for us.

This has definitely given us a few avenues to try. Thanks!
posted by neilbert at 12:48 PM on September 9, 2013

My son tells me you can play with a Phase 0, Listen at the Door. At the start of your turn, draw a face down door card, which you may play or not. Then arrange cards and kick down the door normally. If you loot the room, take a face down treasure not a door.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:26 PM on September 9, 2013

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