In the Munchkin series of games, the players are ostensibly the heroes, out to reach level 10 by killing monsters, stealing stuff, and screwing over the other players. If you thought that quest to victory should include eating human brains, Munchkin Zombies will leave you very satisfied, as you're not so much fighting the zombies as being one of them.

In terms of play, the rules for Munchkin Zombies are pretty much the same as for the other Munchkin games. Everyone starts at level 1 and equips themselves with items (you can use one set of headgear, two hands' worth of items, one set of armor, and one set of footgear; you can carry one Big item and any items you can't currently use; and you can sell 1,000 gold pieces' worth of items to go up a level), gives themselves Powers (if they have the levels for them) or Mojo (replacing classes or races in other Munchkin s), and kicks down a Door. If it's a Monster and they player's level plus bonuses are higher, the player goes up a level (or two, for the tougher monsters) and gets treasure. If a player can't beat the Monster (possibly due to interference from other players), the player can get help from one other player (and together they can try to beat it -- risking more interference, of course) or run away (and possibly face Bad stuff). If a player faces a curse, it affects them (if possible) and is discarded. Any other sort of card goes in the player's hand. If a player didn't encounter a monster, they can Look for Trouble (play a Monster from their hand to fight) or Loot the Room (draw a face-down Door card). Then it's the next player's turn, and the first player to reach level 10 (by combat only for that all-important final level) wins!

So what's new in Munchkin Zombies? First and foremost, the tone. I've always thought that the characters in Munchkin self-delusionally saw themselves as heroes, brave and noble fighters who just happened to screw over the other players and slaughter and steal everything in sight to win. Eating brains should... temper that heroic belief. The "monsters" you're fighting are regular people: the Cute Little Kid, the Soccer Mom, the Action Hero, a Nun, etc. In other Munchkin games, you battle the undead. Now you are the undead -- and the "shambling, out for brains" type, not the teen angst type.
As for what zombies have and do, Munchkin Zombies gets the feel perfect. There are three Mojos for you zombies (Voodoo, Plague, and Atomic), and their potential powers are appropriately simple: Fast, Strong, Smart, etc. The items you find to use are the sort of garbage or refuse a zombie might stumble across. The Shiny Porcelain Armor is a toilet, the Hand Grenade is a hand, and the Wishing Ring may well be a plastic ring from a six-pack of cans. As for zombie abilities, it makes sense that you would be protected by Decaying Flab, or that you could use Your Own Pancreas and/or Spleen as a weapon. And what zombie wouldn't want to use Another Zombie as a weapon?

And so, Munchkin Zombies becomes borderline macabre (in a series of games that revolves around killing and stealing). It's also pretty funny (especially as the players moan the Curses that rhyme with "braaaaaains") and very competitive. There's not much new in terms of the rules or card play, but Munchkin Zombies is twisted fun for anyone who enjoys either goofy horror or competing with other players. Just don't use it as an introduction to Munchkin for the squeamish...

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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