Design Diary: Controlled Chaos - Turning Warhammer 40000 Creatures into Munchkin Monsters
by Andrew Hackard
September 7, 2018
"Do they have any monsters?" was the question I asked Ben Williams, our in-house Warhammer 40,000 expert.
The look he gave me was expressive and told me the what I needed to know without any pesky words to get in the way. It turns out that, yes, there are monsters. Plenty of them. An entire universe full of them.
Some of those monsters are human.
As with many Munchkin games, what makes something a "monster" is whether the players are able to kill it. However, in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, everyone is pretty much trying to kill everyone else. This means that everyone is a potential monster – fun and useful for Munchkin players, but not so much when you're the designer trying to narrow down choices.
However, as I read through the background material, I became convinced that despite the "free for all" nature of many Warhammer 40,000 battles in your local game store, the real conflict underpinning the setting was Chaos vs. Everyone Else. Once I started looking at the "monsters" in that light, I was able to make quick progress. An early decision was to include Chaos as a monster type, like Undead in many Munchkin games (including this one!). This adds both a new threat (Chaos is expanding!) and a new mechanic to play around with.
But Chaos can't be the entirety of the monsters. Among other good reasons, the Death Guard is one of the Armies in this set, and they are Chaos-tainted soldiers; they need some non-Chaos folks to kill. The world of Warhammer 40,000 is one of shifting allegiances, and today's ally may be tomorrow's archenemy. The in-game history of Warhammer 40,000 has plenty of evil-doers on all sides.
Tell Us More!
Getting into the Warhammer 40,000 books and looking at the models gave us a lot of cool ideas for monsters. Thanks to the Games Workshop team for providing those books and for steering us toward certain specific things to include – between their help and Ben's, I was well advised indeed! I confess that I was tempted to fill the entire game with varieties of Orks – I mean, Painboyz is an awesome name! – but that wouldn't be fair to all the other great monsters in the setting.
The fiction in the books gave me some good ideas for monsters, some of which made it into the set. The Catachan Devil features in an anecdote from a grizzled sergeant who describes how he made a pair of boots from the hide of one of them. (And we got the boots into the game, too – Footgear is often challenging, so this quote gave us two for one!) The Tyranids gave us The Parasite of Mortrex, as part of an especially unpleasant bit of their history, and the Borer Beetle, one of their nastiest little bioweapons.
I was especially taken with a trio of monsters, the Horrors of Tzeentch, and thought about how to "Munchkin-ize" them for a while. They're already Chaos monsters, so my initial thought of "let them pile on each other" was redundant. Eventually, I hit on the solution of giving each of them a bonus if there is another in the combat . . . which means that any pair of them is suddenly a threat, and facing all three can be daunting indeed!
As I said above, some of the biggest monsters in the game are humans – not because they're necessarily horrible people, but because in Warhammer 40,000, everyone can be a foe depending on which Army you choose. A couple of high-Level enemies in this game are important figures from Imperial history: Celestine the Living Saint and Roboute Guilliman. They're formidable opponents indeed!
Monsters, Monsters Everywhere
In Munchkin Warhammer 40,000, there are plenty of monsters to fight – as many as we've ever put into a single Munchkin game! – and that's nowhere near everything we have to talk about. Come back in a couple of weeks for another sneak peek at the design process of Munchkin Warhammer 40,000!