Which is the Best Version of Munchkin?
We live in a world of sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Films, TV, video games – all are open to endless sequels and spin-offs. Marvel, Disney, Star Wars, Transformers, Halo, Call of Duty – the list goes on and on. As board gamers, our world is no different. We have seen different versions of Pandemic take the world by storm, recently Betrayal at House of the Hill got moved to the D&D universe, and Fluxx has a good handful of different versions associated with it. To date, there are over 30 different iterations Munchkin – and this is where this article comes in.
Munchkin has, and always will, hold a special place in my heart as my gateway game. It was the game that got me into tabletop gaming and, for that, I will always be thankful. I have a few sets; however, I ended my collecting of the game for much the same reason some gamers who enjoy it never buy their own copies. There are so many iterations now that it is impossible to know, after the original game, which versions of Munchkin to get.
Which is the best version of Munchkin?
So, let’s embark on a little bit of an experiment using ratings. Throughout this article, we are going to look at 24 versions of Munchkin in some detail. These are split into six genres – Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary, Horror, History, and Franchise (using another property or crossover) – and, although not fully analysing every version of Munchkin, we will look at a few in some detail. These range from the Original Munchkin to Munchkin Rick and Morty, and most things in between.
In fact, I believe the breakdown of Munchkins we will be looking at is the following (although, let me caveat by saying that I had to manually classify these into genres so they could be open to some interpretation) –
So, this is interesting in its own right. As you can see, the majority of Munchkin games are parodies of genres; however, the single largest single category of Munchkin is to use an already existing property. Over 1/3 of Munchkins are based on something else, whether that is Conan the Barbarian, Pathfinder, The Nightmare Before Christmas, or Adventure Time.
The next largest category is history – in which I included Munchkin Booty, Munchkin Legends, Munchkin Fu, and those kinds of games. They don’t need to be hugely historical but rather inspired a historical setting or mythology, whatever that may be.
Next, Sci-Fi (Super Munchkin, Munchkin Apocalypse, and Star Munchkin) and Fantasy (Munchkin, Munchkin Quest etc.) followed by Horror (Munchkin Zombies and Munchkin Bites etc.) and Contemporary (Munchkin Impossible etc.)
So, with that in mind, let’s break these down to truly discover which is the best version of Munchkin in accordance with the ratings.
This is going to be slightly different to review formats I have done before as for this we are not going to look at cost, but rather focus on complexity and reviews. Reviews, this time around, also include Amazon (dot com, not dot co dot UK due to them covering the whole Munchkin range) ratings. These I have aggregated using a very simple formula at the end.
Now, before we begin there are a couple of things to point out. There is a fallacy in the Munchkin analysis, which is that every version of Munchkin has a different number of reviews. This is where BGG makes some headway by taking that into account for formulating the overall ranking. Generally speaking, if a game has a few high reviews and nothing else then it will be ranked lower in the long run than a game that has been rated thousands of times with lots of positive reviews, but some negatives as well.
Secondly, I have not played every version of Munchkin and so will be using data sources for this article. The three versions I own are Munchkin, Munchkin Legends and Munchkin Apocalypse.
Complexity Rating – How Difficult is Munchkin?
It may not surprise you, but most iterations of Munchkin are around the same difficulty. Most, on BoardGameGeek (the aggregator of such facts), score between a complexity of 1.5/5 and 2/5. There are a few exceptions to this however.
On the more complex side of things, we see Munchkin Apocalypse, which introduces Seals into the game. These are additional rules that can mess things up mid-game for a few (or all) of the players. We also see Munchkin Quest, which is the board game version of Munchkin, rather than a card game, and Smash Up: Munchkin, which combines the games (wait for it) Smash Up and Munchkin.
Particularly simple versions of the game include Munchkin Oz and Munchkin Rick and Morty. I don’t know how these differ from the base game, but they are considered easier versions of the game to learn/play.
Board Game Geek Aggregated User Reviews
Okay, so now let’s have a look at the aggregated user reviews on Board Game Geek, the biggest Board Game database in the world. This is considered the best source of information, but we’ll look at Amazon (dot com) later for a comparison. This is the average score for the game.
Looking at the scores we can see that the scale of scores goes from 5.9/10 to 7.2/10. We could break this down into Mode and Median as well, but this demonstrates the point well enough.
So, particularly lowly rated versions of the game are Munchkin (original), Munchkin Fu and Munchkin Quest. This goes against what I would have thought, especially with Munchkin (original) as, in my opinion, it is the version most people would recommend getting. It is important to note that the numbers of people who voted on each Munchkin varies quite a lot. One of the reasons this article does not cover other versions (like Munchkin Spell Skool) is because there have not been enough votes on BGG for it to be given a fair official ranking.
Particularly good versions of Munchkin include a few of the franchised versions. Munchkin X-Men, Munchkin Marvel and Munchkin Rick and Morty all score well. This could be because fans of the franchises are likely to rate a franchised game higher, but that is just speculation. It would be an interesting study to do in the future.
Board Game Geek Mode of User Review
In other words, what was the most popular rating for users to rate the game, and thus removing the chance of a lot of 1s and 10s coming out as a 5/10.
We are about to learn the futility of using the Mode with gaming franchises such as Munchkin. Most are rated roughly the same. Most people rate Munchkin 6/10 with only the amount of votes and proportions across the other scores balancing it out.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. With five versions of Munchkin scoring a mode of 7/10. These are Munchkin Conan, Munchkin Marvel, Munchkin X-Men, Munchkin Rick and Morty, and Smash Up: Munchkin (presumably because it is liked by people who like Smash Up).
Strangely, Munchkin Steampunk is the game that is scored the highest the most consistently, getting a mode of 8/10.
BGG Overall Ranking
The final BGG category to look at is overall ranking. As mentioned in the introduction to this article, number of votes is worth keeping in mind. So far, Munchkin Rick and Morty has been doing well in the rankings; however, this final set of data shows that it is ranked the lowest in the BGG rankings at the moment (the lower the point on the graph, the higher it is up the rankings). This is probably because it is extremely new and doesn’t have too many ratings.
That being said, this is not a point against Munchkin Rick and Morty but instead suggests that before comparing like-for-like it is worth letting it gather a few more ratings.
The versions that actually rank the best are Smash Up: Munchkin and Munchkin Cthulhu, with Munchkin Fu and Munchkin Axe Cop being the lowest for the number of reviews they have.
Amazon (Dot Com) Ratings
In my last comparison article, I just used BGG as a source of data, and a regular reader pointed out that this may not be the best move. As such, this time I have gone to Amazon as well, using the US version of Amazon, to get ratings from buyers. This will give us another source of data, and is probably the second best Board Game rating system after BGG. It’s not perfect, as this will become clear, but it does offer a second perspective. All Munchkin versions scored between 3.5 and 4.7 on Amazon (scored out of 5), so to make this a little clearer the graph below starts at 3/5.
This generally offers vastly different results to BGG. Munchkin Axe Cop and Super Munchkin are both the lowest of the pile. Rick and Morty, Adventure Time, and Nightmare Before Christmas all rank highly as franchise games, with Munchkin Apocalypse being ranked the highest of the original style parody Munchkin games. Marvel, X-Men, Pathfinder and Star Munchkin also do quite well.
Amazon Mode of User Ratings
Well…this doesn’t really tell us anything or help us discover which is the best version of Munchkin…
Without exception, the mode of review on Amazon is 5/5 and I think this is due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, Amazon has half the numbers to choose from that BGG has so we would expect the modes to be closer together. Secondly, I think there is a buzz that happens just after you buy a new game where, for a while, you think it is amazing. You wouldn’t necessarily buy a game if you think it will be terrible. Alternatively, if you like one Munchkin you are more likely to buy and highly rate another.
This could be the realisation of the old adage – “it is easier to keep an old customer happy then it is to find a new customer”. Alternatively, it could be a fluke. Who knows?
Aggregated Total Reviews
So, how do we take what we have explored in this article to find a total score for which Munchkin is regarded as the best Munchkin of them all?
There is automatically a problem that arises here, which is that Amazon scored everything out of 5 and BGG scores out of 10. Amazon also has far fewer reviews per item than Board Game Geek. With all this in mind, I have used this formula to try and get an average:
It’s not perfect, but in the simple equation above A is the Amazon score and B is the BGG score. It gives an idea as to which game is the best; however, it doesn’t take the number of reviews into account. This final score is a bit of an arbitrary measurement, but the higher the number (as abstract as that number may be) the better the game is. That’s the theory at least. That being said, please feel free to pull this apart in the comments below.
So, with that in mind, we can theoretically generate a list of the top Munchkin games according to reviews. These are:
- Munchkin X-Men
- Munchkin Marvel, Munchkin Rick and Morty
- Munchkin Adventure Time, Munchkin Apocalypse, Munchkin Nightmare Before Christmas
- Munchkin Oz, Munchkin Pathfinder
- Munchkin Steampunk, Smash Up: Munchkin
Out of those top versions of Munchkin, there are 10 games listed there, eight are franchised games, and I think there is an important note. These franchised games are popular because Munchkin is a friendly game and the franchises are popular. If you don’t like X-Men then the odds are you won’t like Munchkin X-Men and yet, you may like Munchkin. Only Munchkin Apocalypse and Munchkin Steampunk aren’t using well-known franchises as their base, and that is really interesting.
Conclusion: Which is the best version of Munchkin?
So, there you have it. A few options. Once again, this isn’t a perfect analysis, but once you take into account potential bias from rating sources, this gives some form of idea. The only other thing to do is weigh in for myself.
I’ve played a few versions of Munchkin, and own three myself, and I have to admit the graphs aren’t far wrong. Although I haven’t played X-Men or Marvel, I can vouch for Munchkin Apocalypse as it is probably my favourite version of Munchkin.
That being said, I don’t think the original can really be overlooked that easily. Yes, it is not hugely rated on BGG, but what it does do is open a door. It is a beautiful introduction to the game, with a theme that feels seamless because it was what the game was invented for.
It’s that simple really.
What’s your favourite version of Munchkin? Do you like the game, or do you consider it a franchise to avoid? What do you think of this analysis? Let me know in the comments below.