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Lord of the Munchkins: The Lunch Money Revolution


It turns out a local comic store (King of Cards) holds a monthly mini-games day. Not a GW-style games day, but one where people can bring along their card and board games and share them with the gaming community. During the five or so hours I was there I managed to try four different games, three of which were new to me, and one that I hadn’t played in almost a decade.

I thought I’d share my thoughts on these games. Sure, I only played each game once, but the experience was similar to what you get at a convention where the aim is to sell games to players. Let’s see how they did.

First up was the game that got me to come along: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games. Unlike Decipher’s movie tie-in, this game uses all new art to differentiate it from the existing franchise. On top of this, FFG have not limited the game to characters featured in the movie trilogy. The game takes place in the time period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, setting the game quests in and around Mirkwood. They’ve blurred canon a little, allowing disparate characters to team up in combinations unseen in the books.

TLotR:TCG sends the heroes on quests of varying difficulty, in a manner similar to FFG’s Death Angel. On the way they must pass through a series of locations and defeat the varied minions of Sauron, all while avoiding the glare of the Dark Lord himself. It seems a little complex at first, but once you’ve got the basics down it flows fairly well.

As this was a demo of the game, we opted for one of the easier quests: a simple walk through Mirkwood killing spiders and orcs from Dol Guldur. With a little luck (and occasional help from Gandalf), we easily won but still had a good time in the process. I’ve since looked over some of the more difficult quests and they seem considerably more difficult in comparison. Not that difficult is a bad thing, it just means having to practice more with ones deck. It’s a bit like raiding in an MMO, but without the DKP, lag spikes, and malicious teabagging.

I’ve since ordered a copy of the game and one of the expansion mini-packs for myself and can’t wait to put together a party of mighty heroes. Or maybe just a ragtag bunch of Hobbits looking for adventure and a good meal.

The next game we played was on I haven’t seen, let alone played, in almost ten years, Lunch Money. As the name suggests, the game centres around a group of children beating the snot out of each other in a no holds barred battle royale. On the surface it is a simple enough concept, but there’s one thing about the game that annoys me: the rules.

The basic rules are simple enough, players take turns to attack one of the other players, equip items, or (usually later in the game) apply some first aid. Certain cards allow attacks to be avoided, but here’s were things get a little complex. Each defensive card is only effective against certain types of attacks, and some attacks come with additional special rules. All of the extra rules come on a fold-out sheet included with the cards, not on the cards themselves.

It would be simple enough to print the rules on the cards, perhaps with a series of icons to keep things simple, though I can see why they chose not to. Each card features photographic artwork that is as atmospheric as it is creepy. The game’s creators decided to only use photographs of young girls. You would expect boys to appear in a game filled with kicking, punching, and the occasional bottling, but the girls make it even creepier.

One’s tongue should be embedded firmly in cheek while playing this game, especially when playing cards that get you to describe your combat action. It’s a quick game, great for filling time between rounds in a wargaming tournament or while waiting for a flight, especially if everyone knows the rules. Having to constantly refer to the sheet every time someone tries to do something clever gets a little old after a while.

After a quick break to take advantage of an opening day deal at the McD’s across the road, we switched from card games to board games and tried out a couple from Steve Jackson Games.

Our first game was Revolution, where the four players vied to influence different parts of a fictional medieval city. Force, blackmail, and bribery are the options players to gain influence; each player using these to secretly bid on one or more of the different buildings and personalities found in the town. Winning a bid grants influence in a certain area as well as more opportunities to force or blackmail the next round.

It is a pretty simple game in the beginning, but as different areas start gaining influence it can turn into a fierce bidding war, with players having to decide if they want to compete for influence, or stick to areas that are less popular. The downside with this is that players with greater pools of violence and blackmail will have an easier time getting more. Players who are only able to bribe have a much harder time, unless they get lucky.

The game was fairly quick to play, and it didn’t take long to get used to the rules. The game is a little advanced for younger players, and the small influence tokens could present a choking hazard, but other than that it’s a good family game. There is also an expansion that adds a new building to the board, but we didn’t try that.

Finally, I got to try a game that I’d been wanting to play for a while: Munchkin Quest. SGJ’s Munchkin is one of the most successful non collectible card games of all time, featuring a dozen expansions for the base game, as well as a number of spin-off sets focusing on different genres. It’s a lot of fun, especially when the players get really competitive. Quest is the next logical step in the game’s evolution, giving the game a board and allowing the monsters to stick around if not defeated by the players.

As fun as it sounds, the added elements make the game a lot longer to play. Almost every element of the game is randomised, either based on a die roll or by drawing a random map piece from a pile. The number of pieces rivals most Fantasy Flight games, and it almost feels excessively fiddly at times. The random monster draw can also be a real pain if the first few drawn are too high in level. You can’t normally sneak past higher level monsters, so they end up blocking passages unless they move. Speaking of which, movement can lead to multiple creatures ganging up on a single tile, each fighting players moving onto their space.

I paint a pretty bleak picture of the game, but it isn’t completely horrible. With decent gear cards and some low to mid level monsters, the game can get off to a good start, allowing more powerful monsters to then show up without scaring the pants off the players. You can also literally loot another player’s corpse if they’re killed, which is actually pretty fun if you can pull it off.

The game did end up taking some time, so we stopped playing long before someone was able to reach 10th level, return to the first square, and defeat a super-powerful monster to win the game. With more experienced players I’m sure the game would play a lot faster. Maybe I’ll try that one day.

So, the verdict. After playing all four games I had mixed thoughts:

  • TLotR:TCG was a LOT of fun. I’ve played it a few times since and have ordered some cards for myself. I think that speaks for itself.
  • Lunch Money was fun, but the fiddly rules annoyed me. If there were some new cards with the rules printed on them, I’d be all over this.
  • Revolution was also fun, and the rules were a lot more straightforward. If I played board games on a regular basis, I would certainly add this one to the rotation.
  • Munchkin Quest was a real disappointment. The new rules felt a little too random, and I would have been much happier just playing the card game instead. That said, if friends want to play the game at some future date I won’t say no.
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