Saturday!

Mario Tennis Plumbers Are Sore Losers (2000) N64 30 US TV Commercial

The Munchkin Mishap began, as Munchkin mishaps tend to do, years and years and years ago.

If you are not familiar with Munchkin, here’s a small breakdown: It’s a card game making fun of how a sub-group of players tends to enjoy D&D. I’m sure you’ve seen the type: those who engage in min-maxing every little thing rather than roleplay. Well, in the card game, everybody starts at level 1, kicks in dungeon doors, fights monsters, gets loot, the loot improves the stats of the player, the player goes on to fight bigger monsters, repeat until someone hits level 10. There are a bunch of cards that can help you. Cards that make you go up a level. Cards that give you better weapons or armor. Cards that give you better skills. What makes it interesting is that it’s possible to have cards that improve (or degrade) the chances of your (or a co-player’s) ability to fight monsters. You can throw a potion on yourself and get a +5 bonus… or you can throw it on the monster and make the monster get a +5 bonus… so, at the end of the game when many are level 8 or 9, someone who tries to reach level 10 will find themselves fighting a monster and then everyone starts throwing their buffs on the monster so that the game doesn’t end.

“But, Jaybird… if you have cards that make you go up a level, why not just hit level 9 and play one of those cards?”

“That’s a good question. It’s because you *CAN’T* hit level 10 that way. You can hit level 9 that way, but the game is set up so that the only way you can hit level 10 is by killing a monster.”

One last thing: on top of the gobs of expansions, there are also different *FLAVORS* of the game. Zombie Munchkin, Cthulhu Munchkin, Marvel Superheroes Munchkin, Steampunk Munchkin but our story begins with Conan Munchkin.

Conan Munchkin includes a card that says “Conan Helps Out“. This card says the following:

Play during any combat. The monster(s) are discarded. The player goes up a single level, but gets no treasure (Conan took it). Usable once only.

Now here comes the fight: can you use this card to win the game?

Some argued that the mechanics of the game are set up in such a way that they are trying to avoid the “play unblockable card/win game” mechanic. Some argued “READ THE CARD IT SAYS GOES UP A SINGLE LEVEL”. This argument continued for weeks after the game ended. Finally, the argument went, as arguments do, to the internet.

This post is on the Official Steve Jackson forums and it is written by an Official Steve Jackson guy.

This had the effect of ending the argument without really resolving the argument. In its purest form, one can appreciate the “you can’t just play a card and win the game without giving your co-players an opportunity to prevent you from winning!” dynamic. It’s about the purity of the game.

And when an Official Game Guy who doesn’t even appreciate the purity of the game comes in to mess everything up, he’s *NOT* helping.

Especially when the guy who played this dang card had, to this point, won *EVERY* freaking game of Munchkin and, finally, he was going to *NOT* win one but he played this game-breaking card.

So this argument festered.

And, well, at the gaming night, this boil under the surface of the skin finally popped when the guy who, to this point, won *EVERY* freaking game of Munchkin was playing with a group of people who, effectively, took his side on this argument and ended up winning the evening’s game of Steampunk Munchkin when, seriously, if it wasn’t for this argument things would have played out completely differently.

So… we’ve agreed to never play Munchkin again.

So… what are you playing?

(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))


Staff Writer
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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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11 thoughts on “Saturday!

  1. Full disclosure: not a gamer. Further full disclosure: native English speaker. If you’re at level 9, and you play a card that says move to the next level, which is the winning level, then you’ve won. I don’t understand the dispute.

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    • I agree. Game over. “Play during any combat,” it says. And it must be understood that Steve Jackson programmed disputes into the game in order to encourage arguments like this…well, maybe not arguments like THIS, exactly…but the point is he sabotaged his own game in order to make arguing over the rules and what the cards mean (especially when they contradict each other) part of the game.

      But the guy who played the “Conan Helps Out” card? He was right.

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    • If you’re at level 9, and you play a card that says move to the next level, which is the winning level, then you’ve won.

      No, you haven’t, because there is a specific rule, overriding the card, that, *unless the card that gives you a level says so*, you cannot gain the winning level in any manner besides killing a monster.

      The confusion is that there is a difference between ‘defeating’ a monster and ‘killing’ a monster. There are a bunch of weird situational ways you can ‘defeat’ a monster and get its treasure, (Like you can charm it to be friendly, or you can turn it into something else that ignores you, or lots of things) but you don’t generally get any levels from that…and if you have some card in play that would seem to give you a level *anyway* (Like one that gives you a level every time you face a monster and don’t run away.), you *cannot* use that to get the winning level if you didn’t kill the monster.

      You can only get the winning level if you *kill* the monster in battle, which requires you using your combat and buffs…*or any card or special ability that states the monster was killed*. (Of course, technically, this card says the monster is ‘discarded’, not killed…but the game uses those sort of weird terms all the time, causing infinite confusion, mostly on purpose. The monster is clearly killed here, the card makes it clear.)

      So I think what Jaybird is trying to hinge the argument on is that Conan killed him, not the player. But that’s not how combat works. There’s all sorts of cards that imply some independent entity was involve in the killing, you can have hirelings and all sorts of things, you can summon things, you can even get other players to help, etc…and killing something always, for the purpose of the rules, counts as you doing it. (And the other players, if they get involved.) Having Conan help is no different from summoning a demon to help or something.

      Of course, this card, being an extremely overpowered insta-kill, and almost completely unrestricted, only lets you take *one* level and no treasures, instead of what the monster is *supposed* to give…but it is still you doing it.

      Also, the FAQ specifically states that any ‘automatic defeat’ of a monster from a card counts as killing them for the purpose of getting the winning level, unless *that* is explicitly stated otherwise.

      Or possibly he’s just objecting to the fact the card was used as an instant win, under the belief there’s not supposed to be such a thing in Munchkin. Which is…uh…weirdly wrong. Like super-wrong. Like a quarter of the games I’ve ever played have players cleverly doing something that forcibly ends combat with their victory, because that’s the combat you *save* your insta-combat-victory cards for. (Because everyone is trying a last ditch attempt to sabotage you.)

      So that’s not any sort of principle of the game. Hell, there’s a card that called Divine Intervention that gives all Clerics a level, and *explicitly* says that level can be the winning level, and has to be played *immediately* upon drawing it…which means someone can insta-win, with no one having the ability to counter at all, because *someone else* merely *drew a card from the deck*.

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  2. I’m playing this.

    Or, more specifically, Beholder. Which is a hell of a drug (I’ve played, and been thoroughly unimpressed by, a few minutes of Windward and Route Zero). It’s relatively fast paced, single screen, difficult, and has a story I like (small cog in an evil government machine).

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  3. you can’t just play a card and win the game without giving your co-players an opportunity to prevent you from winning!

    As someone who plays Munchin, I do not understand where you get this as a premise of the game.

    There are quite a few cards that can be used to win a game when played. Most of them are not *obvious*, but the situations exist all the time.

    In fact, I once *lost* a game because I had a card that would have caused me to (forcibly) steal their 10th level combat turn, with me get the 10th level instead, and thus win,which I intended to do *after* they they had fought off everyone else and were the point of victory…and someone *else* jumped into the combat, which caused them to (due to some other card) instantly gain a level, which was explicitly stated that it could be the winning level, and win regardless of the outcome of the combat. The card was played, they got the level, and the game was over at that moment, mid-combat. Boom.

    In fact, there are actually quite a few ‘go up a level’ situations like that where they explicitly say you *don’t* have to follow the normal rule of only getting a tenth level by defeating a monster, which means you actually *can* just win with playing those cards. (Which usually only can work in certain obscure situations.)

    In *this* situation, the interpretation depends on whether or not the monster is killed, or just ‘defeated’. As the card explicitly says that that no treasure is received, and you can only go up one level regardless, and those statements only makes sense as clarification if you *did* kill the monster. It wouldn’t need to explain you didn’t get any treasure, or that you *only* get one level, if you *didn’t* kill anything!

    Here’s the FAQ: Note also that ANY level gained as a result of killing a monster counts as the winning level. (If a card says a monster is automatically defeated, this counts as a kill unless the card says otherwise.)

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