GTM #271 - Munchkin Batman
by Steve Jackson Games


Hijacks Gotham City

I’ve been a Batman fan since forever, so when I was asked “Would I like to design a Munchkin game around Batman?” the answer, of course, was “That’s a hard affirmative, Commissioner Gordon!”

In other words . . . YES!!

I have to start by thanking our friends at Cryptozoic Entertainment for this opportunity. We don’t have a Warner Brothers license, but they do! And they were just as stoked about the Batman/Munchkin combination as I was. So we worked together and brought you a game. A Munchkin game. About Batman. These two flavors go great together.

The first challenge was to meld the Batman universe with the Munchkin mechanics. They weren’t an obvious pairing. Batman occasionally kicks down a door, but he doesn’t kill anything except, possibly, mosquitoes. And while, in the comics, Batman has given other “defenders” his blessing to use variations on his costume, there is only one Batman. Period. So a game about multiple competing Batmen was right out.

 Batman and Robin Card

 The answer was to flip the sides. The players are not Batman; the players are Batman’s super-foes, and Batman is part of the environment in which they compete to be the #1 criminal in Gotham City. Cards for Batman (or Batman and Robin, or Commissioner Gordon and Gotham City’s Finest) are the ones that you throw down to keep your rival from success. Pow!

So each player gets a character card, and may end up taking the part of Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Riddler, or Poison Ivy. (I really wanted to include King Tut as a player character – he’s one of my own favorite foes, and he doesn’t see nearly enough action. But unfortunately he’s part of a continuity not covered by the license. Life is cruel sometimes! John Kovalic had a great cartoon design for Tut . . .)

Catwoman character card

 Even without Tut, there are more super-foes in Gotham City than you can shake a Bat-stick at. We couldn’t make every classic Batman baddie a player character. (That would make an entire deck in itself!) Never fear – they are still part of the mayhem. In this game, they show up to help the PC villains, plague Batman for a while, and then vanish to be replaced by others. As it should be!

But Batman’s opponents don’t kick down doors and slay monsters, either. No, they commit crimes – sometimes very complex and dastardly ones. So, fine. Instead of monsters, the Door deck in this game has crimes! They range from low-level (Take Candy From a Baby) to utterly fiendish (Expose the Bat-Cave)! A successful crime earns you levels. A failed crime makes you Run Away, and if you fail, Bad Stuff happens, with the worst being an involuntary trip to Arkham Asylum. 

Steak Candy from a Baby card

 We spent a lot of time on this game, first to get the balance right and then to meet the stringent requirements of the approvals process. Warner Brothers knows the Batman canon is important, and they scrutinize everything they’re sent. Except for the original whoopsie with King Tut, we didn’t make any major goofs, but there were plenty of little things we had to fix to conform with the studio’s modern vision of Batman. So we went back and forth, and it took a while, but the effort has been well worth it. 

Coast of Arms card

Oh . . . as I mentioned, the art is by John Kovalic. He was overjoyed at the chance to draw some of his favorite characters doing very silly things. You will enjoy his square-jawed, unflappable Batman, his manic Joker, his purring Catwoman, and his over-the-top Harley Quinn. And over and above the character designs, you’ll love his depictions of the crimes they get up to.

This is a game to give to your favorite Bat-Fan, whether they’re a gamer or not. After they read the cards, maybe they’ll become a gamer. Aha, my evil plan is revealed . . .

Guide to Personnel Management

Steve Jackson has been designing games for over 40 years and has no plans to stop. His creations include Munchkin, Illuminati, the GURPS and Fantasy Trip roleplaying systems, Ogre, Car Wars, and Zombie Dice. He is a citizen of the Internet until Texas cleans up its act.