Star Munchkin 3 – Diplomatic Impunity Designer's Notes
by Andrew Hackard
September 27, 2015
Far too often, when a sequel is long delayed from the previous installment, the result is . . . unfortunate. (Looking at you, Indiana Jones.) When we decided to start working on Star Munchkin 3, this problem was at the forefront of our minds. The Star Munchkin game and expansions are consistently listed among our fans' favorite sets, so we knew we had a job in front of us.
The Ship of Things to Come
The first task was to define the set: how big was it, what new mechanics (if any) it would introduce, and so on.
We went back and forth for a while between 56 and 112 cards, with strong feelings on both sides of the discussion. In the end, we made the final decision to go big after we had decided how much to add to this set. Director of Sales Ross Jepson confirmed that distributors were very excited by a full 112-card expansion, so that sealed that.
One mechanic I definitely did want to include is Ships, first introduced in Munchkin Booty and brought into Star Munchkin with the Space Ships booster in 2010. Fans had said they liked adding Ships to their Star Munchkin games and asked us for another booster with Ships. We decided a booster wouldn't cut it.
A less obvious decision was to leave out the Room mechanic introduced in Star Munchkin 2 – The Clown Wars. Mainly, that was because Ships filled the "new kind of card" niche that Rooms filled in Star 2. Additionally, though, Rooms were a sort of early attempt at the role now filled by Dungeons in Munchkin 6 – Demented Dungeons and other expansions; we're not as happy with Rooms now that we have a better way of doing those cards. Maybe someday, we'll go back and revise Star 2 to use Dungeons instead.
Oh, and of course there are more Lasers. Pew pew!
Putting the "Pun" in "Immunity"
The new Class for Star Munchkin 3 was an early decision. Given the role played by ambassadors and diplomats in many science fiction shows (Princess Leia in Star Wars, several characters over the various Star Trek series, and half the cast in Babylon 5, just to name a few examples), I thought it would be fun to bring them into the Star Munchkin game to cause trouble. In a nod toward the original Star Trek, where Captain Kirk kept coming into conflict with ambassadors who tried to tell him how to run the Enterprise, I knew I wanted them to interact with Ships somehow, but not in the way other characters were able to.
I briefly toyed with introducing a second Class, the Pilot, to give Ambassadors someone to boss around (and someone who could kick butt with Ships), but in the end that seemed like too much of a kludge. Instead, we ended up with Ambassadors who can't use their own Ships but can use the Ships of players on either side of them . . . a fun nod to Star Trek and an ability that turns out to cause some interesting player decisions: "Do I want to play this Class, knowing that I'll have to quit using my Ship, because the Ships next to me are so awesome?" and "Do I want to play this new Ship if it will help the opponent next to me?"
The Ambassador's other Class ability was a last-minute decision that also gave us the name of the set: being able to evade Traps gives them a sort of "diplomatic impunity." Yes, that's awful. No, I'm not in the least bit sorry.
Taking Our Leaves
Coming up with a new Race was tougher. A couple of people encouraged me to create a Wookie analog, but I think "big strong guy" is well-trodden ground. (Plus, they didn't like it when one of the Race limitations was "May only speak in grunts and growls.") After some thought back to the great sci-fi films and books of the 1950s, I decided on a plant creature, nodding in the direction of The Day of the Triffids, Swamp Thing, and Little Shop of Horrors (the original Corman movie holds up surprisingly well, and of course there's the more recent adaptation for those of you who like campy horror musicals), among many others. The name of the Race started off as "Plant Person," but that's boring. One day, I suggested "Veggie" as a joke; I should have known better.
The Veggie only has one ability, and it's a rare case where we've built a drawback into a Race's power. However, given that the power is SO good (unlimited Hands plus always having two Hands free – useful when your Veggie gets Fire Arms!), the drawback (not being able to use Armor, Headgear, or Footgear) is really a matter of balance . . . most sets have more Hand cards than the other three types put together, so the Veggie is more powerful than it might first appear. Plus, once I came up with the title "With Fronds Like These," there was no stopping me.
Science Fiction Triple Feature
I've been a fan of science fiction since I first saw Star Wars (before it was A New Hope, back when Han shot first), so Star Munchkin has always been one of my favorite sets. Writing Space Ships five years ago barely dented my desire to revisit that game and see what horrible new things I could do to it.
Star Munchkin 2 came out in March of 2004. We had not yet endured the Revenge of the Sith. (Revenge for what, exactly?) We were still in the early days of the revived Battlestar Galactica. Firefly had come and gone and Serenity was still a year in the future. Stargate was just about to launch their second series and Star Trek was just about to kill off their fifth.
There's been a lot of good (and bad) science fiction since then, and Star Munchkin 3 allowed me to revisit some of each as I created new monsters, new Traps, and new Treasures. I had a fantastic time writing these new cards, and I hope y'all have a fantastic time playing with them.
Here's a mostly complete list of sources that I parodied in the course of creating Star 3. Numbers following a set tell you how many cards pull from that source; if there's no number, it's just on one card. I didn't count cards with repeated art, such as monster enhancers, unless the card itself was a separate inspiration from the art it adapted. (I also didn't count the many inspirations for the Ambassador and Veggie, not limited to the ones listed earlier in the article, or I would still be compiling the list.) And some cards did double duty . . . if I can make one joke hit two targets, I'm going to do it!
It's possible I miscounted or forgot a specific bit of inspiration, months after writing the cards. If you want to challenge my tally, or if you're stumped on a particular reference, feel free to visit the forums and ask!
The List: Aliens, Avatar, Back to the Future Part II, Battlestar Galactica (2), The Core, Doctor Who (3), Dune, E.T., Ender's Game, Firefly/Serenity (5), The Gripping Hand, Guardians of the Galaxy (4), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (this one is a "blink and you miss it" nod!), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Independence Day, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (probably the most obvious reference in this list), The LEGO Movie, The Matrix, Portal, Predator, Prometheus(3), Sliders, Star Trek (8), Star Wars (10), Stargate: SG1, The Terminator, Wall*E, Wing Commander, and X-Men.
And . . . Shwarma!
John Kovalic wrote a card that became the 113th card in the first printing of Star Munchkin 3. Why? Because we could, because it's a really funny card, and because sometimes we like to give our early adopters a little something extra. So, if you see John at a convention, thank him for the Time Lard; it's his fault, not mine.