Midnight Munchkin Madness

Hello Mr./Mrs. Reader,
Game OverviewToday I will be going into a review of the board game Munchkin

  • Card game for 3-6+ players (expansion packs allow for more players)
  • Role Playing Game
  • Play time: 1hr+
  • Set up time for new players: 10 – 20 min
    • Need a large table or surface to play
    • Need a pen and paper to record level and token count or any other method (iPhone Munchkin Application, phone note taking application etc.

Game Rules

Essentially Munchkin is a dungeon crawler.  There are two decks of cards, a treasure deck and a door deck.  You play the role of a level 1 human dungeon crawler.  The point of the game is to kick open doors (draw a card from the door deck) to find out what is in that room and to be the first to reach level 10.  You will encounter one of three things when you open a door: a monster, a curse or a buff.

If you encounter a monster you can fight it and if you beat it you get a level and you get to draw from the treasure deck.  If the monster’s level is too high then you can ask for help from one person and other players can play curses and buffs to aid or backstab you.  If you can’t beat the monster then you can flee, depending on the monster you may die, loose a level or have a negative penalty of some sort.

If you encounter a curse then the player has to submit to the effect of the curse.

If you encounter a buff you can keep it or play it immediately.  Buffs can be anything from a race (elf, dwarf and halfling) to a class (thief, warrior, wizard and cleric) and other bonuses (raise a monster’s attack by 5, loose two cards etc.).

A players turn begins with the door kick, then a combat phase if they fight a monster.  Followed by the looting phase where they get the monster’s defeated loot or they draw another card from the door deck if a monster was not encountered.  The player can also summon a monster to fight from their hand to fight if they did not normally encounter one.

Munchkin Items

Likes

  1. Very entertaining once the player is able to learn the rules.  All our group members were fully immersed in the game and had a great time playing it.
  2. The balance for the player levelling system is mostly fair.  There are plenty of ways to increase your level and decrease your competition’s level.  There were many times when two players were near to winning the game and everyone ganged up to backstab the player in the lead to keep the game going.
  3. The social aspect of the game was also very fun.  Since board games are meant to be fun social experiences, Munchkin did this through the use of their class and combat system (Thief’s can back stab other players to create obstacles in their battle).  You can form alliances and bribe your friends with items that are not in the game.  At one point I formed a secret alliance with another player and it was our goal to team up annihilate the other team mates because we were both clerics and the rest of the players were thieves.
  4. The game can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be.  If the players would like to play a simple game where they would just draw cards and play free-for-all, they can do that.  Whereas, if they wanted to players can form alliances and gang up on their friends while creating obstacles for others, they can also do that.
  5. The level of simplicity is probably one of its best points.  While the game may seem complicated at first the actual gameplay is fairly simple.  A player’s turn can be finished in 10 seconds e.g. open a door, fight a monster, collect treasure.  If others were to interject, then the turns would last longer going into alliance agreements and player’s asking for help and what not.  This makes the game flow nice and quick at times while the other players are not waiting a long time for their turn to come.
  6. The art style of the game is also very enjoyable making it both graphically and aesthetically pleasing.  The names of the cards and the pictures on them are along the lines of comic-mischief making it seem like you are playing a game with the characters on your Sunday morning comic paper
Chicken on your head

Dislikes

  1. The rules were a bit tough to pick up for very new players.  The rulebook is essentially a small pamphlet that could be turned into a more graphical and easier to read book.  The pamphlet is informative and it seems like it was meant for players that were ecstatic to be playing Munchkin and familiar with these types of games.  For new players it was a bit like drinking water out of a fire hose.
  2. The coin and monetary system was very useless and didn’t serve such a good purpose.  The description for it could have been better in the rule book.  If there was something to change in a future version, this could be it.  The game does not include tokens to use for money, it simply states use whatever you want (poker chips, tokens, real money).
  3. There should be more classes and more variety.  When our group was playing, we had 3 players playing as thieves that coordinated their backstabbing ability with other players to annoy them.  This was a bit demoralizing to those players and it felt like they were losing interest in the game because of trouble advancing.  However there are expansion packs available for this game that you would have to purchase elsewhere to solve this issue.  However given that the price of the game is about $30, there should be more content considering it only comes with about 170 cards and one die.  Not the best bang for you buck.
  4. More items!  It would be nice if there were more physical items, like figurines, visual aids and some other physical devices players can have to increase immersion.
  5. The levelling reward system for killing monsters was a unfair.  If you managed to kill a level 16 monster and you are level 5, the level boost should have been greater.  I don’t think players were rewarded enough for great efforts in killing higher level monsters.
  6. The classes and in-game combat could use a bit more depth.  It felt like sometimes it was over to quick.  Since this is a Role Playing Game, it would be nice if it came with a history book or something advanced players could read to pull off more moves in combat.  For example, if you were a cleric and you were fighting a vampire or an undead monster, the history book would show that if they defeat that monster they are allowed to take a specific item from a treasure pile.  Something along those lines to give the battle and classes more depth.

What to change

If I was able to design some parts of the game differently I would choose between changing how the monetary and coin system worked, to increasing the depth of the combat system.  The combat system currently is fine for new players.  However, if you were playing with more advanced users, it would be nice if there was a history book or extended rule book that had class, race and item profiles that gave a nice twist.  This way when a character is in a pickle fighting a high level monster they could pull off some expert move and get away safely without losing items or dying.

For the coin and monetary system, I would create a shop where it holds decent items and other things the character can buy.  Also after each monster kill you would be awarded treasure and coins.  This would give the player more cash flow.  Not enough to amass for a level increase every turn, but enough to get cheap items to use.  This would give a more RPG feel to the game and give players more cash flow.  Otherwise the old way to get money is to trade items in.  However items are very valuable and are worth more in your hand then gold is.

Questions

To get some feedback on this post here are some questions that I hope you take the time to answer in the reply box below:

Those who have not played Munchkin before:

  • Do you think that board games like Munchkin offer a better social experience then an online console game (Call of Duty, Gears of War, Starcraft, League of Legends etc.) or Facebook social game?
  • Would you rather pick up Munchkin for $30 bucks or spend that money on a video game? If you pick the Video game, write down which video game and why.
  • Do you still play board games? Which one if your favourite?

Those who have played Munchkin:

  • Do you agree that Munchkin is a fairly simple game, or do you think it is really complicated?
  • How do you feel about the level system? Do you think it is balanced? Should players be offered greater rewards for killing monsters?
  • Do you agree with my idea for a small in-game store that with a few items?  What would you do differently?
  • If Munchkin came with a history book, would you read it and plan out advanced strategies to use with your favoured class or race?

Also feel free to criticise and comment on whatever else you would like, the questions are just guidelines to help formulate an answer.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose

Game Autopsy: Dragons of Atlantis

Good Wednesday to you,

I am planning on creating a post-mortem analysis for some games I have recently played or enjoyed and felt that it was worth blogging about.

Overview:

To start of let me introduce you to Dragons of Atlantis (DOA) made by Kabam.  Kabam is a developer of “Hardcore Social Games” using a free-to-play business model.  They mainly release their games on Facebook, but also have a playable client on their website.  They mainly make strategy RPG games or Real Time Strategy MMO’s that can be played in a browser.

The main point of DOA is to build an empire while finding and raising dragons.

4 Playable races that govern the art style of your buidlings

The Hook:

The way I was introduced to this game was via the Google Chrome Application Store.  Since I rarely play video games (<10 hours month) due to classwork, I am always looking for quick games that I can play for 10-30min that offer a quick and entertaining gaming experience.  From the past I have been able to find these types of games on the Chrome App store, which is why I browse the game section every now and then.  I find the Chrome App store a good place to find some quality games without going to Kongregate or some other free online game site with thousands of flash games.

The first thing that attracted me was the dragons.  At this time I was stoked that Skyrim was coming out and developed a 6th sense that made anything with dragons and Skyrim terminology pop out.  Without reading the description I installed the application and got distracted and left it in my App collection.  After a few days when I took another procrastination break on the internet I remembered that I downloaded an app for this game and decided to give it a try.

A high level city

Game Mechanics:

Essentially the point of the game is to gather resources (lumber, metal, stone, food and gold) and build an army to conquer wildernesses (lake, hill, mountain, forest,  savannah and plains) and indigenous enemy camps. You use the resources to create and upgrade your buildings (level 1 – 11) and army (Conscripts to Minotaurs to Giants etc.).

Resources can be gained by creating fields (lumber mills, quarries, mines and farms) or by looting and pillaging camps and cities.

Buildings are what your city is comprised of.  The buildings like garrisons allow you to build your army and a science centre allows you to research new technologies.  There are many other buildings for different purposes like a house to increase your population and a theatre for increasing the overall happiness of your population.

The player is governed by a level and power.  Power is essentially what most other games use as experience.  Power is governed by the size of your army, level of all your buildings and a few other insignificant gameplay elements.  The only real benefit to having a high level and power is to join stronger alliances (guilds) to get higher in the leaderboard ranking.  Some gameplay elements like building an outpost and unlocking other dragons are locked if you do not meet the level requirement.

Researching also plays a huge part in the gameplay.  In order to get better troops and be able to train a greater dragon to fight in battles, the player has to sacrifice resources to research certain technologies.  For example, the player can increase his lumber production by researching Woodcraft.  If the player would like to train Longbowmen he would have to have Woodcraft lvl 5 in order to research Weapons Calibration to create the Longbowmen.

Each player starts of with a basic dragon keep at level 1. At level 1 the player starts of with a dragon egg.   The more they upgrade it the larger their greater dragon grows.  Dragons are very powerful and require lots of resources to advance in level.  Once the player manages to find 4 pieces of dragon armour by attacking enemy camps he is able to research Aerial Combat and have his dragon fight with him in battles.  The idea is to bring your dragon into battle so she can find other dragon eggs for you to expand your empire with.

The penultimate game mechanic are the troops. Essentially you can group all of them into 5 categories (5th is dragons):

  1. Pack mules – These are somewhat the “bitch” troops that only exist to carry your spoils of war (resources).  Once you defeat someone in battle you get to loot their place.  Normal troops cannot carry too much weight and make up for that in combat skill.
  2. Speed Troops – These are the faster troops (Swift Strike Dragons, Spies etc.) that are used for killing ranged enemies.  They are also good for farming for resources because they can reach areas fast, kill quickly in large numbers and return to your city with the spoils of war.  This would be faster then sending out an army with many pack mules.
  3. Ranged Troops – From what I have noticed these are the strongest troops able to demolish the enemy if deployed in large numbers.  They seem to be very effective against melee troops.
  4. Melee Troops – These are the cheap cannon fodder troops that are easy to build and effective when used in very large numbers.  However there are stronger melee focused troops  like giants and ogres.

Battling is pretty much the last part of the game.  In order to start a battle the player picks a target: wilderness, AI enemy camp  or another player city.  An attack is simply initiated by selecting a General (can use a Facebook friend to be your general) to lead your army and then selecting however many troops to send into battle.  If the player attacks a:

  • Wilderness –  They are able to place an outpost on that wilderness and get an hourly resource increase proportional to its level. For example, a level 2 hill would give a 10% increase to stone per hour to the player whereas a level 8 lake would give a 40% increase to food.  The reward for defeating a wilderness is a small number of resources of that wilderness type, the only reason to attack a wilderness is for the hourly bonus.
  • Anthropus Camp – The indigenous camp can be attacked for a substantial amount of food and a minimal supply of other resources.  The camps are a good place to find items and if the player attacks level 5+ camps he is able to find pieces of dragon armour.
  • Player City – These are the other players in the game.  Attacking them is the biggest risk of all.  Cities have the most amount of resources however they could have the strongest defences.  If a player makes the mistake of fighting someone much stronger, they can loose their army and entice a counter-attack.  Worst of all if the player attacks a city in an Alliance, he would have 5 or more other people teaming up to fight him because of his initial unprovoked attack while the victim’s guild fights for revenge.

Summary

Overall the point of the game is to expand your empire by finding other dragons to build cities around.  To find other dragons the player must train his main dragon to fight in battle.  In order to train the main dragon the player must procure resources.  In order to attain resources faster, the player must construct more buildings and train an army to loot and pillage camps and wildernesses.

Likes and Praises

I have been playing this game for about a week now and I believe it is a fun casual game.  Since I do not have the time to sit in front of my wonderful gaming set up (55″ Plasma and 5.1 surround with my Xbox 360) and play Skyrim/Dead Island/MGS HD Collection for hours, this game fills a bit of my gaming appetite.  It requires about 5-10 minutes of thought in deciding on what troops to build and what to upgrade then you wait for the command to execute while to get back to your previous task.  I found this helpful for time management since I would upgrade an item that would take an hour to complete and then send all my platoons for an attack.  After an hour or whenever I remembered I would come back and do it again.

What  DOA and most Facebook games do well is addicting you to the game.  You become compelled to create a gigantic city and gather all these dragons to reach a goal that you don’t know.  You end up adjusting your schedule to comprise for the wait times in the game so that you can create another task as to not waste time.  This is where the line of a “fun” game and a game “addiction” begin to cross.  When you are setting an alarm at 4:30am just to wake up because your Weapons Calibration Lvl 6 is done and you want to start researching Mercantilism lvl 3 so it will be done by the time you start class is when the game begins to take over your life.  Surely this might not have been the designers intention, but nonetheless it is a problem.

I think the best part about this game is the presentation.  There are many games that have pretty much the same content as DOA like Tribal Wars and TRAVIAN however DOA does a fairy good job in its aesthetics. While these browser games won’t bring anything special to the table in terms of graphics (Good technical rendering techniques) however DOA’s overall aesthetic is very good.  The game elements look every well put together with a nice colour palette and bright colours.  Also its not like some other browser games where you are loading web pages, it seems to be presented using flash which allows it to have animations playing.  I played Tribal Wars a few years ago and I remember how terrible the aesthetics were.  While graphics may make games looks pretty, aesthetics pretty much bring everything together in terms of sound, visuals and gameplay.  I think DOA has some pretty decent aesthetics and it would be nice to see more animation rather then just building and dragon animations.

Dislikes and Criticism

I really disliked some technical aspects of the game.  Whatever server they were using was way too slow and the update timer for wait times and resources was painfully slow at times.  The game would state that it only would take 5 min to complete a task but with the server lag it would take 8-10 min to update.  Also at times your entire army would be empty.  They would be lost in a state of virtual limbo in-between your city and the wilderness where you can only wonder if your troops are okay and if they will come home safe.

However it seems like the technical issues are being dealt with, and occur the most in high populated servers. Since the game is free-to-play and seems to be in some hybrid beta-release stage where they are adding and fixing content weekly these bugs are expected.

I think their resource system could use a bit of a revamp.  Food is a pain to get during the first day and after that point you begin hoarding millions of bushels of food not knowing what to do with it.  Stone on the other hand you rarely use, but when you do, the game requires thousands of tonnes of stone to continue upgrade items.  Lumber and metal are needed throughout the game as they are the main resource needed for upgrading dragons and training your army.  It would be nice if they incorporated more food in that equation to equal out the metal and lumber consumption.

Since this is meant to be a social game, there are very few social widgets available.  For now there is just a world and guild chat box, marketplace and a simple guild menu.  There should be more options to interact and friend other players to add to the “social” aspect of the game.  The marketplace could use more options, as of now you can only trade resources for money, it would be better to trade resource for resources and add a few more options (haggling, gifting etc.).  The chat box serves a decent purpose however the guild menu needs a revamp.  Aside from browsing other players to send messages, resources and reinforcing their troops, there really isn’t a lot to do.  There should be some way for the Guild Master to communicate with the members and ways to coordinate attacks and create treaties and other items like that.

Battle highlights that show resources gained and troops lost

Closing Remarks

From DOA I have learned how important the technical side is.  The server issues are almost game breaking and lack polish, nothing breaks immersion more then a “sorry can’t load page” or issues with resources and in game items.  I have also seen the importance of balance, DOA does a pretty decent job of balancing the resources and maybe the influx of food and massive stone upgrades are intentional to let the player focus his time on lumber and metal.

Overall, DOA and social games are good to study for game designers because the design of these games is completely different from any other game I have seen.  There are several new parameters to take in as opposed to making a puzzle game or a first person shooter.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose