Celebrating Munchkin as It Turns 20
An Interview with Munchkin Czar Andrew Hackard
1. What keeps Munchkin interesting to work on?
We’re looking at 20 years of Munchkin this year, which sounds impossible because it seems like we just celebrated the TEN-year anniversary! We keep finding new challenges.
2. What have been your favorite fan-created Munchkin moments?
Two come to mind, and both had kids in the game who calmly threw an adult under the bus . .
One of my favorites was one of my first development sessions back in 2009. There were four players: a dad and his daughter, me, and an adult who was VERY interested in winning the game. At one point, the daughter was fighting against a monster (worth two levels and five Treasures) and her opponent added a Mate of the monster just to be SURE she wouldn’t succeed. At that point, I explained that if she used one of her cards to discard the Mate and used her Wizard ability to discard the other one, she would win 10 Treasures by herself and not even have to try to beat monsters. It was a lovely moment for three of the four of us.
A couple of years later, I took a new Munchkin game for a playtest at a convention, and we were struggling a lot more than we had expected to – and therefore having much less fun. An hour in, one player decided to have a tirade about how we clearly didn’t know how to play and this was neither fun nor anything that should have been written for Munchkin, etc., ad nauseam. When he finally stopped for a moment, the teenager next to him said something like, “I was still having fun, but if you can’t play it, please go play something else.” I haven’t seen a grown man stricken speechless like that in a long time!
Kids, man. They know things.
3. Did you enjoy the Munchkin comic from BOOM! Comics? Was it strange seeing these characters acting in story form rather than card text?
The Munchkin comic ran for 25 issues (plus a Christmas special), and I wish we’d been able to do a hundred! I loved getting to see the Munchkin characters going out and doing things beyond the game and into their “real worlds.” I also got to author some of the stories myself, which was new for me. I still like to go back sometimes and re-read some of the issues with my own friends (both my friends writing the comics – or the actual characters inside the stories!).
4. How do you create ideas for cards? Are there focused brainstorming sessions, and/or do they come as you work on other things?
Sometimes I can just run with a set, and other times I have to push hard to make it through the finish line. (And then there are times that those happen on the same day!) I still think the best experience for me was sitting and searching for ideas for Munchkin Pathfinder cards for literally weeks, just going through the Pathfinder books to find anything at all that looked like good card ideas, and then having a light switch just flick on. And then I wrote not just the first 168-card game, but a 15-card expansion almost overnight. That was a good feeling when I was finished . . . and a method I wouldn’t like to repeat for a long time if I could avoid it!
5. How often does Steve have to rein you in on a joke or an idea? How often do you have to rein Steve in?
6. Talk about the creative team that works on Munchkin. Do you all share the same general sense of humor? Do you meet physically (under normal circumstances), or is it much of the work done virtually?
Even when we were in the office, much of it was done electronically. We would write card text, and then art specs to help each other visualize what the joke was or how the card might look. Suggestions were made, tweaks were tweaked, and sometimes a card idea would be outright nixed.
That’s not to say there weren’t meetings or late-night dinners in which awful puns were thrown around! Also, see question #5 . . .
The first time I played Munchkin, I honestly didn’t think it was going to be a hit. That shows that Steve is a far better game designer (and critic) than I was in 2000 – and he still is in 2021. Munchkin, in its first playtest sessions, was not the game that we ended up publishing a year later – it became more streamlined, a lot easier (although not perfect, then OR now), and something that I considered even a year later to be a distant second to the game I was telling everyone about – that year’s hot new game, Frag – a game that I still love.
But I was wrong, Steve was right, and that’s why we have dozens of versions of Munchkin!
8. Twenty years on, Munchkin has become one of the most popular casual hobby card games. Talk about the legacy the game has in the industry, and where you hope the game will be in the future.
Twenty years of Munchkin sounds, frankly, insane to me. Many of my Munchkin players learned the games from their parents – YOUNG parents. Now those parents bring their kids to conventions to play Munchkin with me, whether they’re playing the newest sets or opting for a classic original Munchkin game with the cards they’ve come to know and love.
We’ve published more than 100 Munchkin titles. That doesn’t even include licensed properties, or the ones published by The Op or IDW – that adds a lot more to the list. And Munchkin has been translated into 20 languages!
We have new games already in the works for 2021 and beyond, as well as expansions for those new games and for some that are already in print. Video versions are being experimented with. Dized has just come out with a Munchkin tutorial, making it even easier to just open the box and start playing.
Looking ahead, Munchkin is only getting stronger.