Design Diary: Two Fandoms Walk Into a Bar – Adapting the Warhammer 40,000 "Meta" Into Munchkin
October 5, 2018
Munchkin and Warhammer 40,000, despite being very different games, have one important thing in common: Strong, loyal fanbases who care a lot about how their game is played. Hardcore fans will sometimes refer to a game’s “meta,” which is a catch-all term covering the overall look, feel, and style that distinguishes one game from its competition.
In adapting Warhammer 40,000 for Munchkin, therefore, I wanted to be sure to respect the Warhammer 40,000 meta even as I also poked gentle fun at it, hopefully staying on the right side of the “laughing with” vs. “laughing at” line. That’s been our goal with Munchkin since the very first game, back in 2001; we’re all in this together and we can afford a few laughs at our own expense.
Toward that end, I consulted several avid Warhammer players – thanks to Keith Blackard, John Kovalic, and Ben Williams for their input at several stages during development. They, and the great folks at Games Workshop, helped make sure that I wasn’t poking at any sore spots among the Warhammer 40,000 fanbase.
Enough blathering . . . let’s show off a few cards!
I had a lot of fun writing Curse cards for this set. Several of them refer to in-universe Warhammer 40,000 tropes, but I also had a good time knocking a couple of windows into the fourth wall, such as with Left Your Terrain at Home (John’s illustration is first-rate). And I managed to carry on a Munchkin running gag in this set, and make John very happy in the process, with Unmilitary Conduck.
The monster enhancers in this game probably come closest to shattering the fourth wall entirely. I don’t want to reveal all of them, but I will say that this set has a rare -10 enhancer with another brilliant illustration by Mr. Kovalic: Proxied.
Go Up a Level
The last place I want to talk about having fun with the Munchkin and Warhammer 40,000 meta was in the Go Up a Level cards. We often use these cards to “peer around the corner” – think about all the jokes in the original Munchkin game and its expansions that play off the munchkin players rather than their characters – and Munchkin Warhammer 40,000 is no different. A couple of examples here are Buy a New Shade of Black and Spend a Command Point (suggested by both Ben Williams and John Kovalic), and there are several more in the complete game.
Of course we had to make sure to include "dakka" in Munchkin Warhammer 40,000 . . . even new Warhammer players know what dakka is! The bookmark we used to announce the Munchkin game at Gen Con 2018 was the Bookmark of Extreme Dakka!, and you can definitely count on seeing more dakka (MORE DAKKA!) in the game itself.