What a Marvel it is: An Unboxing and Review of Munchkin Marvel
I don’t particularly have anything against DC Comics, but I’ve always just enjoyed Marvel more. That’s extended from the comics I read in the 90s through the products I see coming out that have the Marvel license. And with the recent upswing in Marvel movies (well, comic book movies in general, to be fair), there’s been a lot more things coming out that mix my love of tabletop gaming with my love of Marvel. And so here, today, we have the Marvel set for Munchkin.
The fine folks at USAOpoly sent me a copy (and some extras, which we’ll get to) to check out and let you know about.
So grab your vibranium shield and web spinners, it’s time for a combined TGN Unboxing and Review. This time around it’s Munchkin Marvel by Steve Jackson Games and USAOpoloy.
For those that saw my review of the Nightmare Before Christmas Munchkin set, this will follow much the same format. I’ll let you see what’s in the box, followed by a quick overview of the Munchkin rules, and then a bit about what makes this particular set special and unique from the others.
The box is the same size as your standard Munchkin box. Shaking it, you can hear various things rattling around inside. So let’s take a look.
Moving the Rules Pamphlet off to the side, we see inside the box. It’s divided up into three sections to help keep your different decks neatly separated. That was, honestly, my biggest complaint with the original Munchkin set that I got. The box was just there. So the various decks got all mixed up. Cards were all over everywhere. Occasionally something might get bent. The different compartments help keep that from happening.
So let’s get a bit of a look at what we’ve got going on here. Up top we’ve got the Agent cards, the Level Tracker Tokens, and a customized die.
The Agent cards are all double-sided. There’s 6 total. The Male version of the character is on one side, while the Female is on the other (yes, your gender matters in the game, as other cards will reference it). Each Agent has a different special ability. For example, the Espionage Agent gets a +2 bonus when in combat alone, while the Tactical Agent gets a +2 bonus when fighting a monster found by Kicking Down the Door (more on what that all means down in the second half of the article). At the bottom of the Agent card is a level tracker. Simply put your little token on the card showing what level you are. Spoilers for the game overview: First one to 10 wins.
The Tracker Tokens are basically Tiddly Winks. Nice. Nothing too special, but considering all the Munchkin sets that don’t inherently have a level-tracker in them, their addition is actually a pretty awesome thing, if you ask me. No need to fish out some 10-sided dice or a pad of paper. You’ve got it all right there.
As for the die, it’s got the S.H.I.E.L.D. symbol on the 1. It’s actually etched into the die, so no worry about it being a sticker that’ll rub off or anything like that.
Then we have the two sets of cards in the lower half of the box. They’re the Door and Monster decks. The cards are slightly mixed together in order to even out the packs. I don’t mind that, since it’s easy to sort the two back out, since they have different backs, and it’s as simple as finding the one set that’s got the other back and taking them out. The box’s compartments keep the two sets nicely sequestered within them. As I mentioned above, no chance for the cards to mix together or somehow get bent.
The folks at USAOpoly were kind enough to actually send me the sort of “deluxe package” for the set. It came with a carrying bag, several promo cards, and official Munchkin bookmarks.
The carrying bag is… big. You can see how big it is compared to the game box. I guess you could carry around the game, as well as a bunch of other Munchkin sets in it. Or you could carry your mythical hammer or something. It’s the same material that those reusable grocery bags are made out of. Fairly sturdy, though I’ve not tried to put a whole bunch of weight in it to see how much it can hold before it tears. But if you’re carrying around some gaming stuff, it’s pretty good.
There were also two sets of promo cards. The only issue I had with them was that the bag has little pockets on the sides where the cards were. The Deadpool cards were fine, but the Spider-Man and Infinity Gauntlet cards got bent during shipping. Thankfully, they’re not actually creased. So hopefully having them on the bottom of the stacks of cards for a while will flatten them back out.
As for the bookmarks, those that might not have looked into Munchkin much might not know about the long history of Munchkin bookmarks. Basically, they’re bookmarks… but on the back they also have special rules you can bring into a game of Munchkin. You can just have them around and when their trigger happens in the game, you use them. I won’t give away what, exactly, they do, since that can spoil a bit of the fun. But suffice to say, they’re pretty cool.
So that’s what you get in the box, but what about the game, itself?
Gettin’ Down to Munchkin Level
Setup for the game is very quick. Separate out the Door deck and the Treasure deck and shuffle them. Deal out four of each kind of card to the players. Players also get one Agent card (you can either do this randomly or people can pick). Players can start with either the Male or Female side of their card face-up. Players can then play a Rank 1 Power Card (if they have any), Equipment Cards, or an Affiliation Card in their hand. This is what’s called “Character Creation.” Decide who is going to be the first player and you’re ready to go.
To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn
A player’s Turn consists of 3 Phases: Kick Open the Door, Look for Trouble/Loot the Room, and Charity.
In the Kick Open the Door phase, the player draws the top card of the Door deck and flips it face-up so everyone can see it. If it’s a Monster, they fight it (more on that in a moment). If it’s a Trap, it goes off immediately and the player suffers the consequences. If it’s anything else, the card is drawn into the player’s hand.
The Look for Trouble/Loot the Room phase only happens if you didn’t fight a monster in the Kick Open the Door phase. Here, the player has a choice. If they Look for Trouble, they can take a Monster from their hand and play it in front of them. They will now fight against it, just as if they’d found it when kicking open the door. If the player doesn’t want to fight a monster (or doesn’t have one in their hand to fight), then they will Loot the Room. The player draws the top card of the Door deck, face-down, and adds it to their hand.
The final phase is the Charity phase. A player can have a maximum hand size of 5. So if they have more, they choose cards to get rid of. Those cards are given to the player who has the lowest Level. If other players are tied for the lowest Level, the player giving Charity distributes them as evenly as possible between them, deciding which player gets which card. If the player giving Charity is the lowest-Level player, the cards are simply discarded.
The player’s turn is now over and then next player’s begins.
Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting
Combat in Munchkin is pretty straightforward. It’s simply your Level + Bonuses vs the Level of the Monster + Bonuses. Highest number wins (with ties going to the Monsters). There’s potentially a lot of things that can give you a bonus. In fact, the majority of the cards in the game will give you (or the Monster) a bonus of some kind. The various equipment you carry, an Ally you might be hanging around with, and various Powers can all increase your Combat total. But beware, many Powers can be played by your opponents onto the Monster, increasing their Combat total as well.
Got a Monster that’s going to be too tough to beat? In Munchkin, you can ask for help from other players. You’re free to wheel-and-deal as you choose, offering to trade equipment or offer from the treasure that the Monster will give when defeated to the other player(s) that help out. When another player joins in, simply add your Level + Bonuses and their Level + Bonuses to get your final Combat score. If yours is higher, the Monster is defeated. You go up 1 Level and draw cards from the Treasure deck equal to the Treasure number on the Monster. Good job!
Alas, perhaps nobody wants to help, or other players still buff up the Monster to the point where you can’t defeat it. Well, then you’re just going to have to try and Run Away. To do this, roll the die. On a 5-6, you get away (note: there’s various cards that can alter your chances of running away, or sometimes make it so you can automatically run away). If you Run Away successfully, you get off free and easy. If not, Bad Stuff happens. What sort of Bad Stuff? Well, that depends on the Monster in question. Each one tells you what happens if you don’t successfully run away. That could be stuff like losing gear or Levels, all the way up to Death! Don’t worry, though. You’re not actually out of the game. S.H.I.E.L.D. has many operatives in the field. You just take over the role of one of them, instead. You keep your Affiliation, Powers, and Level, but everything else is gone. Not only that, your other players will loot your body! Set your hand out, along with the Gear and Ally cards you had. Starting with the player with the Highest Level and going down in rank, players get to pick one of your cards and add it to their hand. So it’s a bit of a setback, but it could be worse.
The game ends when a player gets to Level 10. Note: While it is possible to gain levels from certain cards, or by selling off Equipment, you can only get to Level 10 by defeating a Monster. Obviously, as you get closer to 10, the other players are going to be conspiring against you. So beware!
All New All Different
So that’s Munchkin, but what makes Munchkin Marvel unique? Well, obviously, all the Equipment, Allies, Powers, and Monsters are based on things in the Marvel universe. It’s pretty cool to be carrying around Cap’s Shield while wearing Iron Man’s armor and using your Spidey Sense to dodge traps. Meanwhile, you’re taking out the likes of Baron Zemo, Rhino, and Maximus. I particularly like how each of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent cards give you a bonus in certain situations. In other variations of Munchkin, each player starting out is exactly the same. So having something, right from the beginning (besides just whatever starting cards you end up with) that makes you different from the other players is pretty cool.
I also like some of the limiting factors in the game. You can only have one Ally around at a time. So you’ll want to choose carefully. Many of them give the same number in terms of a bonus to your Combat score, but will have different special abilities on them. So it’s not a matter of just picking the one with the biggest bonus. The various Powers also have limits put on them. You can only have a total number of Ranks of Powers less than or equal to your Level. For example, if you’re Level 3, you can have one Rank 2 Power and one Rank 1 power, but you could not have two Rank 2 powers. Like with Allies, you might not just want the one that gives you the highest Bonus because they, too, have special abilities they bring to the party.
Thoughts And Wrap-Up
If you’re a fan of Marvel, or of Munchkin, I think this is a good set to get. The game plays quickly. It’s not exactly a “5-minute game” that other “gaming backpack games” are. So while it might play a bit long to get in a full game between rounds of a tourney, it’s not going to be a game that takes a whole night to play a single game of, either. You’ll be able to get in several games in an evening of gaming just fine.
The addition of the level trackers on the Agent cards is also really nice. I know I mentioned it before, and it’s a relatively minor thing, but it really does help out a lot, and it makes the game more self-contained than other Munchkin sets that don’t have that.
If I had one complaint about the game, it’s that the cards do feel a bit thin. I mentioned how a couple of the promos I got were bent during shipping. I’d be concerned that, with repeated use, they could bend more. Also, they’re not standard “playing card” size and shape. They’re thinner and taller. I know that companies make sleeves for cards shaped like this, but you can’t just walk up to the shelf-rack at your LGS and grab any you want. But that’s how Munchkin cards have been shaped forever. And since the different sets are compatible, they can’t really start changing the card shape now (unless they wanted to go back and change EVERY set that’s come out, and considering how many that is, it’s just not gonna happen).
In the box, they advertise two more Munchkin Marvel sets that they will be coming out with: Mystic Mayhem and Chosmic Chaos. I look forward to what those sets will bring to the party.
Excelsior, true believer!