Jeff and Haley have been burning up Twitch with Slayaway Camp, Witcher, and several other horror inspired video games lately. I’ve actually found myself getting hooked in with them for Trivia Murder Party. But I’m still as bigger fan of setting up a table, having some people over, and throwing down a board game for an evening of fun and gruesomeness. But I’m not talking about Yahtzee or Go Fish. Thanks in no small part to the ongoing culture of hipsterism, board games and card games are coming back in a big way and there are plenty of great ones out there for horror fans.
Recently, I was introduced to Munchkin Cthulhu. Munchkin is a dedicated deck card game created by Steve Jackson and illustrated by John Kovalic in the late 90’s-early 2000’s and named for the hyperactively immature role players who play only to win by overpowering their characters in the most asinine and obnoxious ways possible. The cards themselves are parodies of more “serious” role play characters and tropes and the series itself has a seemingly endless number of expansions and offshoots including several horror themed packs like Munchkin Bite, Munchkin Zombies, and Munchkin Apocalypse. And, if you really want to destroy some friendships, Rick and Morty Munchkin.
So, Munchkin Cthulhu, like anything else with the elder god’s name scrolled upon it, is based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos but in the most ridiculously hilarious ways imaginable. The rules are simple enough to understand. You build you character, loot rooms for treasure, and battle as slew of familiar but somewhat less menacing cosmic horrors while trying to maintain your sanity. The first player to reach an experience level 10 is the winner. But there’s more than just straightforward cardplay in the deck.
Around the table, players are all competing to be the winner and the drama and stakes are as elevated and ridiculously hyped as your favorite reality TV shows. Alliances are formed and broken as players barter one another for cards and power ups while other players are doing their best to unload on the person in the leas -or maybe just the one they dislike- by playing powerups and dampening cards that help the monsters when they come around. There are different character classes that have both advantages and disadvantages and can be changed at will so long as you aren’t a cultist. Cultist classes are stuck until someone knocks some sense into them or the great old ones swallow them whole.
The cartoonish artwork is worthy of any Sunday funny pages strip and full of puns and, at times, some very immature and inappropriate humor that helps make the competitive gameplay a little more light hearted and fun. I mean, nothing beats the great Cowthulhu in my mind. Set up takes a couple of minutes while gameplay itself can last for a couple of hours. It’s an excellent party game that you can play from 2 to 10 people depending on the size of your deck.
So, is it worth your time? Let’s look at the three most important criteria for the horror gamer. Playability: is it easy to learn and fun to play? Design: do the boards, cards, pieces, etc… have a pleasing or artistic value? Horror: are the elements of the genre well used or do they feel forced and irrelevant to overall gameplay.
Munchkin Cthulhu is easy enough to learn and, after a few rounds, becomes fun, competitive, and entertaining. The cards are clever, entertaining, and humorous and remain true to the source horror material while satirizing cosmic horror in the best way possible. I’m calling it a 3 out of 3.
If you know of some good horror board or card games that you think I should play and review, share your suggestions on Twitter @52weeksofhorror
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.