THE MUNCHKIN BOOK edited by James Lowder

Back in 2000, Steve Jackson Games released a non-collectible card game called Munchkin that parodied both power gamers and the sword & sorcery/D&D genre.  Designed by Steve Jackson and illustrated by John Kovalic, this game exploded in popularity, resulting in numerous new core sets and expansions, merchandising ranging from t-shirts and toys to a plush Duck of Doom (which I have) -- and becoming SJ Games' best selling line of games.  This year the anniversary of Munchkin continues with several core sets getting Guest Artist Editions -- and the publication of The Munchkin Book.  Edited by James Lowder, this book is a celebration of essays about Munchkin from a variety of perspectives.  And while there are no promo cards, each chapter is preceded by a new optional rule.

The essays in The Munchkin Book focus almost exclusively on the original Munchkin game.  As one might expect, several folks involved with Munchkin weigh in.  Steve Jackson shares numerous, er, numbers involved with Munchkin.  John Kovalic shares his favorite illustrations from the core sets he drew.  SJ Games CEO Phil Reed is interviewed by Matt Forbeck.  And Andrew Hackard discussed developing a Munchkin game with the hypothetical Munchkin Baroque.
Other essays here vary greatly, from mathematical game theory ("To Backstab or Not to Backstab") to straight-up comedy (discussing the comedy in "Screw You, Pretty Balloons" or arguing from the dungeon-dwelling monsters' perspective in "Monster Grievances"), playing with little kids ("From Candy Land to Munchkin"), Munchkin charity and conventions ("The Charity Rule") and even mixing romance with Munchkin. ("Flirting 101")

The Munchkin Book is an enjoyable celebration of this wonderful game.  While not all of the essays work well (applying mathematical theories to a lighter game like this feels bathetic, and mixing romance with this cutthroat game seems quite doomed), most of them have a zeal and fun feel that exude the joy of being a gamer, playing this game.  If you like Munchkin, it behooves you to check out The Munchkin Book.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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