Review : Munchkin Shakespeare by Steve Jackson Games

I’ve often daydreamed about using Kickstarter to create some sort of Shakespeare game. The primary thing stopping me is that while I’ve got some Shakespeare knowledge, I have no idea how to even start creating a game for mass production.

The whole package!

Luckily Steve Jackson Games does not have this problem.  Lucky for us, these professional game developers decided to drop a Shakespeare version of their huge hit Munchkin on us back in February.  I immediately hit the “Shut Up And Take My Money” button.  I even added the Kickstarter extras pack.

My game arrived this week!

If you’ve never played Munchkin, it’s a sort of comedy “dungeon crawler” game where you’re all players starting on level 1 of a 10 level dungeon.  On each turn, you fight monsters and look for treasure.  Meanwhile, every combat is a combination of what weapons you’ve found (to increase your score) and what curses you’ve uncovered (possibly decreasing your score).  Other players are encouraged to help you or gang up on you, depending on your friends.

So what I got was exactly this (not sure that I was expecting anything else), just with a Shakespeare theme.  It’s a complete game, coming with a board, full deck, standup pieces and dice.  There are many extension packs to the original game, this isn’t that. This can be your only copy and you still have a complete game.

Sample Shakespearean monster.

The artwork, monsters, treasures and curses are all Shakespeare themed. As shown, “The Head That Wears The Crown” is a level 14 undead monster. Its special power is that it steals any headgear you might be wearing and uses it itself. All the cards are like that. There’s a Rosencrantz card I saw whose power is that, if Guildenstern is in play, he can join him.

Whenever Shakespeare is mashed up with another thing you have to wonder, “How appealing is this to Shakespeare fans, and how appealing is it to fans of other thing?”  Look at the Shakespeare / Star Wars crossover books, they’re incredibly popular, but I can’t stand the things. Guess I’m not a big enough Star Wars fan.

Sample curse card, although in this case a good one!

I think you need to be a real fan of Munchkin to appreciate everything that comes in this kit. They actually did this incremental thing where the more support the project got, the more material they created. There’s a standard idea of “stretch goals” in Kickstarter, but that’s not what this is. This is,

“There’ll be at least 100 cards in the deck, plus 1 new card for every 5k shares we get on Twitter” (for example. That’s not the extra goal.) So I don’t know how many cards I ended up getting.

There’s things I’m a little disappointed in.  The characters (“standees”) are original artwork, but it’s just 6 different colored versions of the same picture over and over.  I thought that there’d be unique characters on each.  It wouldn’t have been hard for them to do that, so I’m not sure why they didn’t. Imagine Monopoly if all you got to fight over was whether you wanted to be the red top hat or the purple top hat?  Having your favorite piece is part of the fun of the game.  They did fix this a bit by offering a set of 3d pieces as part of the expansion pack, which is cool I suppose, but 4 pieces is really just 2

I think he’s my favorite, from the extras pack.

copies of the same thing (each piece has a male and female version), one black, one white.

 

I like the new card type of “dungeon cards” which I think will add to the game.  They provide a sort of theme over the whole game, including the opportunity to reset the dungeon card (voluntarily or otherwise). That addition feels like it actually changes the game, and isn’t just putting some new graphics and descriptions onto what is otherwise the same game you’ve always had.

We haven’t played yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Maybe once I start getting into the deck and actually having to deal with the repercussions of running into various Shakespeare quotes come to life, I’ll love it?

 

 

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