Tag Archives: Munchkin

Gloom is a macabre morsel of merriment

Gloom Hand

Gloom asks you to laugh in the face of others’ displeasure, perfect for an evening of beer, pretzels, and friends, so long as everyone is in the mood to make much mayhem. Also, alliteration. It’s not a great fit for more serious gamers, thirsty for strategy, but I’ve found the game of inauspicious incidents and grave consequences a strong palette cleanser after energy-draining, often soul-crushingly long sessions of Lords of Waterdeep or Kingmaker.

In Keith Baker’s Gloom card game, which came out in 2005, you assume control over the fate of an eccentric family of misfits and misanthropes. There are four families in the base set, each containing five members: Blackwater Watch, Dark’s Den of Deformity, Hemlock Hall, and Castle Slogar. The goal is easy enough: make your family suffer the greatest tragedies possible, and then kill them off one by one. Modifiers like “Was galled by gangrene” and “Was swindled by salesmen” add negative points to your people by lowering their self-worth, and the player with the lowest total family value after an entire line has been wiped out wins.

Gloom‘s gameplay is rather simplistic, but still requires some planning. Each turn, you get two actions to play modifiers on your family or an opponent’s, event cards, and untimely death cards. Please note you can only kill someone on your first action every turn, preventing you from loading Lord Wellington-Smythe up with a lot of self-worth and then forcing him to kick the bucket. The event cards can really shake things up, but other than them, it’s perfunctory card action, with a few rule changes to pay attention to, all of which are stated directly on the cards themselves.

The real magic behind Gloom is in the stories it births. When you take control of a family, you play the narrator of their lives, coming up with reasons why they went here or there and did this or that. It’s better to play a modifier with passion and reason than simply to give a character negative 15 self-worth. Sure, it takes imagination and effort, but it is worth the storytelling, especially when you begin to link your families with others, like the time I decided that Butterfield, the butler for Hemlock Hall, was actually married to Grogar, Professor Slogar’s work-in-progress teddy bear, after receiving the “Was wondrously well wed” modifier card from another player. Keep the stories alive, and the game, even when it slows down due to card shortages or roadblocks, remains bursting with flavor.

It’s hard to know what I love most about Gloom: the art or design of the cards. Both work hand in hand. All of the cards are transparent, which makes it so easy to see how the modifiers stack on top of a family member. Plus, they’ll survive an accidental soda spilling before all them Munchkin cards. The macabre and gloomy artwork, done by Scott Reeves, Lee Moyer, and Todd Remick, as well as heavy use of alliteration, will make many think of Edward Gorey instantly, but there’s also room for some influence from The Addams Family comics and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Regardless, fans of ominous Victorian horror will delight at the family member depictions, though the majority of the other cards lack personality.

I brought Gloom home-home during the holidays to play with my sisters, but we never got the chance due to all the to-and-for hubbub, charades, and Scrabble bouts. Hopefully we can make up for this over the summer so long as no one is stalked by snakes or sleepy from the sun.

Vying for political control in Lords of Waterdeep

lords of waterdeep play board games

Currently, I have a new favorite board game. For the longest time, it’s been Munchkin, and that’s not to say that Munchkin has lost any of its spontaneous, kooky fun, but Steve Jackson Games continues to churn out Munchkin-related product one after the other with no sign of slowing down in the future, and well…I just can’t keep up. Though I did get two new sets for Christmas–Munchkin Pathfinder and Munchkin Apocalypse–both of which are a lot of fun, but more or less the same ol’ backstabbin’, treasure-hoarding experience with a small twist or two, like Seals. There is strategy involved in every game of Munchkin, but also a lot of luck, like getting decent treasure early on to keep your character in the fight.

However, I’m always looking for more strategy elements over luck-based things–one big reason why I don’t play cards at the casino–and so we move on to Lords of Waterdeep from Wizards of the Coast, a fantastically unpredictable hour and change of planning, plotting, and plundering resources. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds.

Here’s how the publisher describes it: a strategy board game for 2-5 players, you take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder – or help – the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans. During the course of play, you acquire victory points or resources through completing quests, constructing buildings, playing intrigue cards, or having other players utilize the buildings you have constructed. At the end of eight rounds of play, the player who has accrued the most victory points wins the game.

That might not sound like a whole lot, but there’s actually a whole lot there to work with, seeing that you are limited in the number of choices you make. You have to start planning things out from your very first turn, as every turn taken should be to your advantage, whether it is playing a card against an opponent or visiting a specific building to get the right colored cubes you need to complete that secret quest in your hand. I find going to the harbor to play Intrigue spells very beneficial as, after everyone else has moved all their units, you get to move off the harbor to any free spaces left, basically giving you an extra turn. See? Strategy. You can also play Mandatory Quests on opponents to slow them down on their journey to the top, but other than that, it’s quite a civil game, much more than say Munchkin or Shadows Over Camelot.

Ironically, my favorite part of Lords of Waterdeep is when it ends. This is the moment when you get to reveal what lord you specifically are and how it affected your decisions, as well as add up how many units you have in your tavern, how much gold you have left, and so on. All of that basically turns into more victory points come the endgame, seeing everyone inch up further (or down further if corruption from the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion is a factor), and the best part is that, more often than not, it’s still anyone‘s game here at this point. Only once all the points are added up can you really see who is in the lead, the truest lord of the city.

Evidently, there’s an IOS version of Lords of Waterdeep, which is both awesome and not. Naturally, my Windows 8 phone swings and misses yet again. Oh well. Actually, no,  it’s okay. I’d much rather play a round of this game with my friends and food and the ability to watch their every move than tapping a phone’s screen on end until I win or lose. And just so it’s clear, I think I’ve only won once out of the handful of games my group has played since discovering the City of Splendors.

Munchkin Apocalypse to cause frenzied fun with new card types

Last week, I got to go to Barnes & Noble. Now, this used to be no big thing, as I went to the bookstore a highly frequent amount when living in Clifton, NJ, nearly every other day, especially with the given that I had two brick-and-mortar locations within five minutes of my apartment–in either direction. A beautiful thing. I’m not bragging, really; I’m saddened on reflecting this, as there are no bookstores near us in the Pennsylvanian woods. There used to be a Borders about 20 minutes down the road, but that place went under and is being replaced with a Michael’s, not a BAM. ::insert the sound of a toddler crying::

Right. All of that was to say that I was in B&N recently, and so I got to check out their stock of geeky board and card games. My eyes bulged and brightened at all of these desirable gaming experiences, such as Game of Thrones: The Card Game and Game of Thrones: The Board Game–love the originality there. Sadly, no copies of Gloom, a quirky social card game Tara and I are interested in after seeing Wil Weaton and friends play it on a recent episode of TableTop. However, I did get to see what was new and kewl with Munchkin these days, because really, it seems a new product or expansion is launched each month, and if you blink too much you’ll miss it all. I saw a copy of Munchkin Conan, which looked tempting and is so not easily confused with the 15-card booster pack called Munchkin Conan the Barbarian, but I passed for the time being. Right now, I have one Munchkin core set in mind, and one only. It comes out this fall, it’s based on the end of the world, and it’s called Munchkin Apocalypse. Let’s take a look at a few preview cards…

Here are some sample doors:

Oh man. Doesn’t everyone know that bloggers have no class? ::zing::

And some sample treasures, with a first look at the new Seal card type:

Don’t know much yet how these Seals work–I have to imagine like Portals and Dungeons from vanilla Munchkin and Munchkin Cthulhu–but I have read a rule online that says if seven Seals are currently open, the game is over. Kind of like when everybody becomes a Cultist rule. Hmm…

You can’t see them all, but these are the cards you get if you buy some Radioactive Dice for your next round of Munchkin Apocalypse:

Not satisfied yet? Want more? Wow, y’all are a demanding bunch. Okay, okay…I’ll scour the Interwebz for more previews. Just give me a sec.

And I’m back! Only found one decent image. Here, here:

So, yeah. This is looking good. I hope there’s references to the following items: A Boy and His Dog, Fallout 3, and The Walking Dead. Guess I’ll find out in a few months, and I hope I can squeeze a group game in before the Earth cracks open and we all kiss each other goodbye.

Munchkin 8 card previews take over the Internet

Yesterday, March 8, was deemed Munchkin 8: Half Horse, Will Travel preview day, which should be in or heading to stores right around now. I’ll let you figure out the clever connection between the two. But either way, this meant previews of the newest expansion to original Munchkin, and while I am growing tired and running out of room for more fantasy-based Munchkin antics, I am always excited to see new cards and gameplay mechanics. But before one could feast, one must find, and the preview cards went up all over the Internet: Twitpic, Facebook, Dork Tower, Wired GeekDad, and so on. It was like a little treasure hunt, and if you’re a true Munchkin then you know how fun getting treasure is.

I think I found them all and have collected them together nicely in this preview post for y’all to devour. We’ve already seen what Lizard Guy and Centaur look like, but check out some of the new cards below cut, because all the cards are super large…

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Lizard Guy and Centaur knocking down doors in Munchkin 8

Another year, another mass of uncountable Munchkin releases. I think that should be printed on a banner and hung in the atrium that leads to the Steve Jackson Games sweatshop. The group just got done having a jam-packed 2011 with Munchkin Axe Cop and Munchkin Zombies. Just off the top of my head, for 2012, we have the following pieces coming out: Munchkin The Guild booster pack, Munchkin Skullkickers thingy, Munchkin Conan the Barbarian core set, the most anticipated number of them all Munchkin Apocalypse, and lastly Munchkin 8: Half Horse, Will Travel.

I’m sure there’s more, but speaking of that last one, I just saw the first spoilers of the new expansion set and they have magically got me excited for original Munchkin, a core set that keeps growing to numbers that are basically unplayable, making me like it less and less as time goes on. In case you don’t know, I dislike having to shuffle 1,000 cards.

Ya ready? Feast your eyes on these new Races then:

I apologize for the teeny tiny images, but that’s all that’s out there currently. Here are the cards in raw text format:

CENTAUR
Two Left Feet: You may use two footgear.
Leader of the Herd: You may have any number of steeds in play.

LIZARD GUY
Cold-Blooded: “Usable once only” Items that you play to help the monsters count double.
Drop Your Tail: You get +1 to Run Away from Level 10-15 monsters and +2 to Run Away from Level 16 and higher monsters.

In short, Centaur is surprisingly boring, but LIZARD GUY IS FREAKING SPECTACULAR. Like, if this was Magic the Gathering, I’d totally construct a deck just around him. Both his abilities are stellar, and both seem to have the potential to be game-changers, whether it is truly screwing over a fellow Munchkin-er with a +20 enhancer or getting the heck out of Dodge when Cowthulhu shows up. I don’t yet have all the expansions for vanilla Munchkin–I really do need to make a checklist at this point–but this latest one might have join in on all the fun. I totally want to be a High Lizard Guy Thief with the Dagger of Treachery and maybe the Kneepads of Allure. Mmm, yes. That’s exactly what I want to be.

Steve Jackson Games unsheathes Munchkin Conan the Barbarian

Strangely and surprisingly, over the Memorial Day weekend, Steve Jackson Games announced yet another new Munchkin title, this time going almost back to their fantasy origin roots with Munchkin Conan the Barbarian. This is a 15-card supplement for original Munchkin–y’know, the core set that already has 74 supplements as is–and while I will always be excited for new Munchkin art, cards, and game mechanics, I am growing a little weary of how bulky original Munchkin is getting. I think I only have like three big expansions (Munchkin 4 – The Need for Speed, Munchkin 5 – De-ranged, Munchkin 7 – Cheat With Both Hands) and one little one (Munchkin Waiting for Santa), and it’s already way too many cards to deal with. When my wife and sisters and I play, we have to actually create two Door piles and two Treasure piles because stacking them all at once would suddenly turn a round of Munchkin into a round of Jenga.

But yeah, Conan the Cimmerian…I mean, Barbarian. He’s definitely a great character, surviving in a world with inventive monsters and barrels full of fun–yet deadly–weapons. There’s actually so much to Conan’s rich history to pluck from that I’m sad to see this as just a supplement and not its very own set. Again, give me more big sets before little additions.

Munchkin Conan the Barbarian comes out this fall. Naturally, a better title would’ve been Conan the Muncharian. I’m dying to see what the Barbarian Booties do. No sample cards available yet, but you can check out a few pieces of early art over at the set’s homepage.

Chop their heads off with Munchkin Axe Cop

Don’t worry, I just double-checked, too: it’s March 11, not April 1.

Anyways, big announcement time from Steve Jackson Games as they have just thrown into the limelight their very first licensed Munchkin game. It’s Munchkin Axe Cop, based on that hilarious webcomic series that exploded on the Internet last year. Written by Malachai Nicolle (age 5) and drawn by his older brother Ethan Nicolle (age 29), Axe Cop has all the workings for a Munchkin game: it’s random, it’s erratic, it’s funny, it’s beyond belief, and it’s all about fighting enemies with whatever one can. I’m still a littled bewildered over this, but also curious to see it pan out. Munchkin Axe Cop will be a third quarter release.

This gives me hope that maybe one day, my very own webcomic (Supertown–please go read it!) could be turned into a Munchkin core set. I just need to fill it in more with crazy adorable characters…