You Utter Munchkin!
Tim Maidment lives in Sunbury with his fiancé, a mountain of books and games, and occasionally his daughter when she wanders over for a visit.
Having escaped the Dark Side that was local government IT Project Management, he is now a writer and househusband working on his first novel in between rediscovering a love of cooking. He's almost perfected the art of appearing to be a reasonably sane member of modern society and hardly ever causes more than small ripples in the space-time continuum these days. His concubine in chief dared him to write something funny about her here.
My hands barely tremble as I lift the surprisingly heavy box from the shelf. How long has it been since I last played this? Must be years - last time was in that room above the pub with Bubba and... yeah... this'll work...
My daughter is eleven and has begun to be interested in all the arcane hardback books lining the walls in my flat. My fiancé is at an age where one does not disclose her age, and loves reading Robin Hobbs books. My daughter has grown up on Terry Pratchett novels - A hardback copy of "I Shall Wear Midnight" is beside her on the sofa; my fiancé has never played an RPG in her life and frequently rage quits while playing Halo online. This'll be fun.
Right, where are the rules? Can't see them, that's okay - here's the laptop, download the latest PDF - daughter approves of this, wants custody of the rules - sure, no problem.
A quick shuffle and lay out the small mountains of cards - can't believe there's so many - and okay, daughter goes first and gets... a potted plant. Nice, good to step through for the first encounter with an easy one - and the inevitable question about class... yes, yes that's right, I have none... right, time to mention the three second rule and now on to my partner.
No monster; a Dead Broke card instead...interesting, time for her to loot the room... she turns a card and goes pale as she turns over a card marked as a "Truly Obnoxious Curse!". She reads it and her lip purses. She looks at her hand and begins reading the descriptions - she's fuming, I recognise the signs. Tempting as it is to let her throw away her best card, now's the time to explain that curses drawn as loot in this phase don't actually affect you but go in her hand so that they can be played on other people. The look of understanding as it dawns on my fiancé's face is kind of cute really. Right, it's my turn now.
Let's see - Ghoulfiends - the card showing a small group of women - the traditional enemy of the lone teenage gamer... make the appropriate joke to laughter while I do the math... hmmm, will need help, so time to batter eyelids at my daughter, she'll appreciate the joke.
She has a grin on her face and mentions an ex-girlfriend that everyone hated while I was with her - how the illustration looks like her. Ouch. I put on an expression that is only partly mock horror - and she relents, agreeing to bring her leather-clad warrior with her singing and dancing sword with her to the fight. I throw in my oil of burning card for another bonus and reach to flip the card - but wait: my beloved is tapping text on the card. We all peer closer. The card says I can't use anything but my level! We still don't have enough between us - I argue that the text only applies to me and not to my helper and after a moment's thought the point is conceded so that gets us closer - we hurriedly consult our cards. A sudden shuffle and grin and my daughter pulls a card triumphantly from her hand - flinging it down. Its title reads: Typographical Error - and contains the magical words: "One monster has a typo in its description; as a result, it is treated for all purposes as being Level 1." Result! My fiancé watches closely - was that a twitch of her fingers? No, just nervously checking what she has, I expect.
We grab the loot and counters to go up our levels and then it's back to my daughter. This round goes quicker now we've run through once. She runs from the Plutonium Dragon and it doesn't chase after her. My fiancé enlists her help to slay the Snails on Speed and they share out more treasures.
Cards are getting flipped and shuffled in and out of use as we go round and round. We battle Lame Goblins and Plague Rats, Redneck Trees and Rapier Twits. My daughter seems to be stockpiling Super Munchkin and Half Breed cards to make a Gnome/Elf Warrior Thief - oh and now swapping out the Thief to become a Cleric instead. My fiancé seems to have settled with an Elven Thief and seems to be growing a small collection of armour add-ons: not content with A Horny Helmet, I blink and it seems to now be Air-Cooled too. Her Armour is not only Blessed but Mithril - and wait a minute, my daughter discarded that Thief card so...
I point out that she can't use her Cloak of Obscurity any more - it's a Thief-only item - only to get a cheeky grin: "Oh I was hoping you wouldn't notice!" she says, putting the card back into her hand. I let it go.
My fiancé squawks - there's no other way to describe it - and taps the Chainmail Bikini I've equipped my (still) no-classed character with. "Women only!" she chuckles. I'm ready for this - I point at the Freudian Slippers that allow my character to choose gender as needed. She laughs and my daughter looks confused, the reference clearly going straight over her head.
Its my go - I keep smiling at my fiancé and play the "Invoke Obscure Rules" card to gain a level. It's the first of these cards to surface in the game and yeah, that face is a classic. I'm starting to pull ahead - I've played this before, it's all coming back - time to show what all these years gaming can do when I choose to be sneaky and underhanded in a game that demands it.
I look up from trashing a Pukachu to see them quietly conferring - have to admit to a few uncharitable thoughts here as they break from whatever they've been discussing and glance across at me. What are they talking about? That's a perky smile there on my daughter's face, what's she doing? A Deus Ex Machinegun card? I didn't need any help! I didn't ask for any help! She laughs - the monster is dead but I get no treasure or levels. I look at the card, scanning for anything I can use to wriggle out - and my fiancé says what? Three Seconds!
Oh alright - that's how it's going to be is it?
My daughter draws a Leperchaun - should be easy for her but I can make her sweat. I play the Mommy card - adding level fourteen version of the monster to the encounter. I wait and yeah, thought so - she asks my beloved to help. Right, a curse card: B.O. puts a stop to that. She throws out a Very Depressed card to reduce the target, almost halving the threat but its still close - too close - she has to run.
Oh I recognise the set of that jaw and angry glint, and I can't help it - I grin as she fails on her die roll and reach for the card to read the Bad Stuff - but another card from her pack! Feline Intervention - oh alright, gives her a re-roll and... right, fine - guess the scare will do - laughter all round the table mixed with relief.
Another few rounds and its starting to get tense again - we're all getting close to being able to make that leap for the end - I'm constantly getting picked up on anything that looks dodgy in my equipped character - from both of them now - just as well I managed to get the Cheat With Both Hands card out there, covers a multitude of sins... My fiancé keeps getting confused and placing Curse cards against her own character as if equipping them so we keep telling her to pick them back up - I'm sure its entirely accidental that this takes her over her card hand limit a few times, forcing some discards as we go round.
In the meantime my daughter is starting to build a lead - and gets the Male Chauvinist Pig to fight. I really don't like that laugh from either of them. Deftly defeated, and yeah, that challenging grin is not one I like seeing on my youngster's face. Not impressed...
Equally quickly disposed of are my fiance's Dead Sea Trolls - even with the bonus against Elves, the girls lock me out and, yeah - okay - high fives over the treasure. I look down at my cards - going to take the game I think, so laugh it up
A comically rotted Marilyn Monroe caricature displays and the Seven Year Lich card is staring me in the face - oh great, a level seventeen monster - well okay then... some feverish calculations - surely they won't turn down a chance at a four treasure monster? My daughter giggles, my fiancé smirks. I play the Convenient Addition Error to gain a level and my daughter plays Mine Goes To Eleven - snatching victory away before I can begin to gloat. Unbelievable - how long has she been holding on to that? As the card suggests, we're now playing to reach level eleven instead of level ten. I'd still need to defeat the Lich to win but even if I didn't it would have been that cushion... okay then - I play a Liquid Wench card to boost me further and my fiancé chucks in Monster Chow negating the bonus and then some - I'm even worse off now and the only cards I've got are geared now towards messing up other people - looks like I have to run - grab the die, roll it...and yes... made it - I wipe a suddenly sweaty brow and start as another card lands on the table - Reloaded Die! My daughter turns my die roll to be a failure. My jaw drops as she takes one of my level counters from me and puts it back in the pool. Just to rub it in, the cards on the table are swiftly disappearing as my fiancé clears them away.
That's it. I'm not taking this quietly. My hands are shaking with adrenaline now. I'm not going to be beaten by this pair of...girls! I'm suddenly twelve again inside my head - younger maybe. She draws a fungus - a lowly level five monster and quickly I throw in a Humungous modifier - normally it only adds ten to the level of the creature, but with a fungus it adds twenty. I think I cackle. I might even be rubbing my hands She stands to lose four levels if she fails. She runs, rolls and uses a loaded die to replace the result - two can play at that game, my reloaded die is down almost before she's taken her hand off the die. With that sweet pretend-innocent smile, my daughter plays The Other Ring in response - giving her an automatic escape. Her eyes glitter and my fiancé can't stop laughing. I'm feeling hot and flustered, words failing me as she clears the desk and kicks down the door for her card.
She looks at it and shows it to my beloved. They look at me and laugh. Through a red mist rising I read the card: "Divine Intervention. All Cleric characters go up a level. If this makes them win the game, they can gloat."
The words escape me before I can stop them: "You! You!" I stutter "You! Utter! Munchkin!"
I may be sleeping on the sofa this evening...
Copyright © 2011 Tim Maidment