My Gateway Game: Munchkin (A Personal Memoir)
Every gamer can name their gateway game – the game that got them addicted to gaming.
When we talk about gateway games, there are often the same entry-level names that tend to come up and that gateway game often paves the way for that gamer’s collection for years to come. Regular names that come up are Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, and Agricola. For me, it was Munchkin.
My Introduction to Munchkin
The year was 2014 when I first got introduced to Munchkin. My partner and I had just moved back to my hometown after university when we ran into one of my old school friends in a Chinese takeaway. He suggested we hung out, and when we did he introduced us to Munchkin: The Adventure Time Edition.
As someone who was new to both Munchkin and Adventure Time, I was instantly hooked (to both, weirdly). The game was competitive, addictive, and helped break down the barriers between people who hadn’t seen each other in 5 years.
For those who don’t know, Munchkin is a semi-cooperative card game that takes the concept of Dungeons and Dragons without the DM. Each turn the players take it in turns to “Kick Down the Door”. This means you, as the player, either fight monsters or get monsters (or other cards) to your hand. You gather items, loot, and levels (the winner is the first to ten), making it easier to fight bigger monsters. If you can’t fight a monster you can barter with other players for help.
The game doesn’t end there, however, if another player is winning you can team up with other players to try and stop them. It was this duality that stood out for me.
The Rubbish History of Board Games
Like so many people, I had been duped into an old-school myth. Board gaming was synonymous with Monopoly, Cluedo, and games designed to keep kids quiet on a Sunday afternoon. It revolved around the festive season when families were kind of forced to spend time with one another. These were two-dimensional games, comprising of very little player interaction, and relying on the same few mechanics that were overplayed (no pun intended) to an extreme degree. There are only so many times children, yet alone adults, can play a roll and resolve mechanic before getting bored.
Adults, on the other hand, played cards. They played Poker, Blackjack, and unless a game required gambling it wasn’t worthwhile. As someone who doesn’t like the concept of leaving things to chance, and who likes spending money rather than losing it, I have never liked gambling, so board games became video games as I grew older. This is a transition I know a lot of gamers to have taken.
Munchkin, as a game, proved those concepts wrong. Games didn’t need to be for kids, but adults could enjoy them as well. There were different mechanics out there, making for different games. Games could have humour without being immature (okay, Munchkin is immature), they could encourage interaction, and they could offer more choices than just “do you want to buy a property, yes or no?”.
Instead, Munchkin mixes elements of luck with tactical, cooperative, and competitive gameplay and that really appealed. We had such an amazing time playing the game I instantly went out and purchased the original game.
This spurred on a love for card games which, in turn, evolved into a love of board games in general. Now we own an entire bookshelf’s worth of games ranging from big four hour games to small 10 minute ones. They vary from worker placement to miniature to set collecting to LCG, and more.
As well as that, I am now part of a gaming group, as Munchkin introduced me to a far more complex world where other like-minded adults were. We are the forgotten gamer generation now making a comeback along with this incredible renaissance wave of board games we are all riding.
What Munchkin did was open a door. By “kicking one down”, you might say. It blasted that door open, and for that I am grateful to Steve Jackson Games for introducing me to the world of gaming I am now a part of.
The great thing about gateway games is that everyone has a different one. Everyone has their own water-cooler games, their own way they found this hobby. I would love to hear yours so please let me know in the comments below.