Munchkin + Pente = Gaming Fun

I had a fun evening & morning playing games with my sister & nieces a couple of days ago. I discovered an awesome game that was entirely new to me (Munchkin) while rediscovering an old childhood favorite (Pente) and finding an adult respect for its more advanced rules.

Munchkin Deluxe CoverMy sister Shannon and nieces Kathryn & Emma were in town last Wednesday & Thursday (which happened to be my Friday & Saturday) staying at my Mom’s house. I went over after dinner and hung out with them, and figured Shannon & I would play some cribbage or something. As I left the house, just in case, I grabbed my Munchkin Deluxe card game that I had gotten well over a year ago but could never get anyone to play. I’m glad I did.

Munchkin game componentsThat evening, both Shannon & Emma were willing to give Munchkin a try. It took us a while to figure out how the game was played. I had never played Munchkin before, and while I had skimmed the rules a long time ago, and seen it played on Tabletop, I could not recall any of the details, and the instructions (while amusing) did not make jumping right into the action easy.

That said, we eventually got it figured out, and once we got going we really had a LOT of fun. The cards are so humorous and the game play so crazy, that while Shannon & Emma had never really played role-playing games which it parodies, they were still entertained by the fantasy spoof aspects of the game. And of course the continuous forming of alliances, followed by non-stop backstabbing that is part of the game led to a lot of hilarity. Shannon won the game that night, and Emma wanted to play to see who would take second. I was pretty tired at this point as I had gotten up very early in the morning… So I use that as my excuse that Emma beat me and I finished last that evening. 😉

I left the game there that night, as Kathryn & her boyfriend were going to cook lunch for us all there the following day. When I arrived late that morning, Shannon immediately wanted to play Munchkin again. And this time Kathryn & her beau wanted to get in on the action, as the laughter & noise we had been making the previous night while they were trying to watch a movie had piqued their interest. As Shannon & I now knew the game pretty well, it was very easy to get the two new-comers up to speed, and before long we were having even more fun than the night before. This is truly one of those games that encourages “The more, the merrier.” Though in the case of Munchkin, that may be: “The more, the backstabbier…”

PenteRecently I also re-acquired an old game from my childhood that I remember fairly fondly. My dad & step-mom are in the state, had gotten a new mobile home, and were trying to simplify and consolidate. While doing so they found the old strategy board game Pente which they were going to sell at a yard sale if I didn’t want it. I had always wanted to use it to learn Go (which I still haven’t done,) so I decided to rescue it. I’m glad I did. It had been so long since I played it that I forgot how simple, yet elegant and strangely addictive it is.

So, after lunch on Thursday, I quickly taught Emma how to play. As a testament to the simplicity of the game, (and Emma’s shrewdness,) she was quickly starting to present me with a very challenging opponent. So much so that we soon added some advanced elements that I had never tried before that added a whole new level to what is at heart a fairly simple game.

First we used an advanced rule the instructions mentioned that introduces a handicap to the player who moves first on that player’s second move. The handicap forces him to place his 2nd piece at least 3 spaces away from his 1st piece to counter-act his initial offensive advantage, which allows a more balanced chance for both players to build strong formations.

Considering how quickly the game plays, we also started to use some optional tournament rules, which once we started using them seemed like should be the regular way to play the game. Basically once we determined who the first player would be for the first game (by have one player draw a random game piece), we would then alternate who played first on each consecutive game. We decided to play a quick 10 games, and use a tournament scoring method the instructions recommended. Basically if a player won the game with a Pente (5 in a row), they received 5 points. At the end of the game each player would also receive 1 point for each pair they had captured, and 1 point for each Tessera (4 in a row) they had that was still on the board.

Despite just learning the game, once again Emma won our Pente tournament. While I consistently won with a larger score as Emma would often forget to avoid capture situations; she consistently won the game more often (6 games to my 4 games). By points we were so closely matched that she won by only 1 point (32 points to my 31 points if I recall correctly).

I still plan on trying to learn Go, but in the interim I have learned a new respect for an old simple game, and I now know I have a niece who can keep me on Pente toes.

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