Monday, April 4, 2011

First Post! And it's a Munchkin Zombies review!

Skip to the the fourth paragraph after this one if you just want to read about the Munchkin Zombies action. 

Hey all.  This isn't my first blog, but it very well might be my last.  Just like my Twitter account, I'll be using this blog for the EXPRESS purposes of bullshit.  Videogame bullshit, board game bullshit, basketball game bullshit, basically as a dumping ground for my excess thoughts.  This blog exists so my friends on Facebook (and possibly also the ones in real-life) won't have to hear my pontifications about various media and sports unless they actually want to.  So if you're reading this, my family, friends, and I all thank you.  You're taking one for the team. 

Last night I was out with two members of my Trio of Awesome.  That is, my three friends that I'm closest to and hang out with; the ones that put up with all my shit.  One of that trio is up in New York putting passport application data into a spreadsheet, so I have two people making up 90% of my social life.  Heavy Jon isn't as heavy as he used to be, but the name stuck.  He's a U.S. Army officer candidate and way too smart to be working his side job of office bitch.  Dianimal is still pretty much an animal, but she also has a Masters degree in English Literature (concentration in science fiction) and is putting it to use by teaching science to young children in an after-school program and working nights as a ballroom dance instructor.  I'm not kidding, but I think she wishes I was. 

So why was I with Jon and Diane last night?  Well, there was Munchkin to be played.  The three of us are notorious sluts for nutty card games like Munchkin, Fluxx, and the B-Movie Card Game.  When Jon, Diane, and I hang out, it usually involves either Settlers of Catan or one of those three, plus a movie going on in the background.  Anyhow, I had very recently acquired a copy of Munchkin Zombies, the latest stand-alone version of Steve Jackson Games' Munchkin franchise, and the three of us were all eager to get up offa that thing

I'd say that the game was a fresh take on zombie mythology, but that's impossible since everything and its mother has a zombified version nowadays.  The game has you begin as a level 1 Zombie with no mojo (har har) and you have to eat brains, gear up, and get your mojo workin' to get to level 10.  The zombies concept is amusing to begin with, but the humor in this particular Munchkin is particularly hilarious - the cartoony humor reminded me of Popcap's Plants vs. Zombies.  In one game last night, Diane had a +2 bonus from wearing a bowling trophy on her head while wielding a bowling ball in her hand.  Jon had three hands (one was actually his own entrails), with a pet monkey and a fire hydrant occupying them.  I had a mailbox on my head, which allows me to automatically defeat The Mailman. 

But why would I have to defeat a mailman in the first place, you ask?  Well, you're a zombie, so your targets aren't traditional monsters (like zombies) but traditional zombie prey, like mailmen.  Monsters range from level 1 babysitters and Hawaiian shirt guys to level 18 biker gangs.  There are a few rogue undead in the mix as well; undead monsters have the "pile on" ability shared by bats in Munchkin Bites or sharks in Munchkin Booty.  Overall, both the game's gear and monster selection are hysterical.  Probably one of the funniest Munchkin sets yet, especially if you enjoy zombie memorabilia. 

The game's other chief system in play is the mojo/power system.  Classes are called Mojos in this version, and there are just three available: Atomic Zombie (gives your weapons a +1 fire/flame bonus), Plague Zombie (lets you discard cards for a +2/each bonus to combat score), and Voodoo Zombie (you draw a treasure each time you curse an opponent).  The Mojos seem... a little underwhelming in Munchkin Zombies.  It's probably for balance's sake to avoid things like the Wizard or Space Ranger classes, but overall the abilities are less effective than class abilities in other Munchkin sets.  Atomic Zombie is probably the weakest of the bunch, since fire/flame attacks are only situationally useful and the bonus it gives you is small.  We found two high-level monsters with immunity to fire/flames. 

Powers in Munchkin Zombies aren't as game-breakingly powerful as powers in Super Munchkin or as weirdly specific as powers in Munchkin Bites.  There are only six powers in Zombies, and they're powers that only the best zombies have: Strong, Fast, Smart, and Stealthy are four of them.  There are multiple copies of all the powers this time (unlike the other powered Munchkin games) and they grant basic, consistently useful abilities that would likely be class skills in other sets.  Perhaps the most useful aspects of mojos and powers in Munchkin Zombies is the access they grant you to mojo- and power-specific gear.  A ton of good gear in MZ is restricted to mojo or power, which can be frustrating but is probably a sensible design choice. 

Other quirks about Munchkin Zombies: if mojos and powers seem underwhelming, the monsters won't.  Monsters have relatively normal balance in this game, with oddly strong low-level monsters, oddly weak high-level monsters, and some downright terrors lurking here and there.  The real rub is the large number of throwaway combat cards in the game.  There are four Monster+10 cards and a bunch of reversal-of-fortune cards in the deck, encouraging players to avoid stockpiling combat cards and get the dirty moves going early and often.  Fuck-you combat cards are a key staple of Munchkinnery, and Munchkin Zombies embraces them. 

Overall, Munchkin Zombies is solid.  Good class and power balance, lots of potential for shenanigans, and some of the funniest art and flavor text in the Munchkin series.  It's probably not my favorite set, but it is definitely going to be part of our rotation.  If you like mixing it up, it probably fits in best with sets with Undead monsters (making them more challenging with the pile-on rule) or Super Munchkin, with all of its crazy power-related cards.  I'm already looking forward to an expansion or two. 

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