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I only recently learned that you're not allowed to go above level 9, unless it's from combat (or some special cards).

I had played for years allowing higher levels, except you didn't win until you killed a monster.

Is this a common house rule? Or something similar?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

It probably is a common mistake, although it seems pretty clear to me from the rules, page 1 under Starting and Finishing the Game

The first player to reach 10th level wins ... but you must reach 10th level by killing a monster, unless a card specifically allows you to win another way.

Some amount of people must make the same mistake since it is the first rule included in their FAQ.

Important Note #1: Reaching Level 10

The general rule is that you may not reach Level 10 except by killing a monster. If you are at Level 9 and something else happens that would normally let you go up a level . . . you don't. You stay at Level 9. If you have a card or an ability that lets you mess with another player and get a level in return, you cannot play that card or use that ability.

This is all under the assumption that you aren't playing Epic Munchkin, where the rule wouldn't apply. (But, a similar 19th & 20th level rule would apply instead)

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Basically, if you want to play further, that's completely up to you. You can play to any level, just make sure to respect the "Winning Level" rule.

So if you're playing to level 25 or 30, you can keep going, however, you cannot go from 24 to 25 or 29 to 30 by

  1. purchasing a level
  2. helping another player kill a monster as an elf.
  3. Go up a Level cards

This does not apply to cards that specifically allow you to gain the winning level.

For example : (I forget the name, but I think it's Divine Intervention) The card that allows all clerics to go up a level, even the winning level.

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Not true in point 2. Consult this thread: – Nebril Oct 3 '13 at 9:42

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