Number of Players: 2 - 4
Length of Time: 30 min
Game Designer: Johnny O'Neal and Chris O'Neal
Publisher: Brotherwise Games
Boss Monster is actually one of the first games we purchased when we initially entered the hobby, and it is still easily one of our favorites. A fan of old school video games, we just love the art. Boss Monster is basically a reverse take on the traditional dungeon crawler-like video game. Typically, you are the quintessential hero slaying fiends, dodging traps, and uncovering mounds of treasure after defeating the end game boss. Well hold on to your hats ladies and gents, because Boss Monster flips the script and makes you the end game Boss! That’s right, in Boss Monster your objective is to lure Heroes to your dungeon with the promise of treasure, only to defeat the Heroes and take their souls! Mwahahaha!
With art reminiscent of old school pixel graphics, this card game pits you against your fellow players in a race to build the best Hero squashing dungeon. Each player is given a Boss card which is placed at the end of their dungeon. From there, players will build rooms (play room cards) to the left of their Boss, essentially building a horizontal dungeon with a maximum of five visible rooms. Each of these rooms can be upgraded or built over, and many of them have special effects that can be triggered to compound their effectiveness in defeating the Heroes that dare enter! Also, when your dungeon reaches a length of five visible rooms for the first time, your Boss will level up and you can utilize their special ability! In addition to rooms, there are also spell cards which can give you a leg up on defeating harder Epic Heroes or even sabotage your fellow competition.
At the start of every round, Heroes “appear in town” and are drawn from the Hero/Epic Hero deck depending on the number of active players. Then, following the build phase, Heroes are lured to one dungeon based on the treasure they desire (printed on their card). The dungeon containing the most of their desired treasure will subsequently lure the Hero to their entrance and they will travel through that player’s dungeon during the Adventure Phase. This means that it is possible for some Heroes to visit one player’s dungeon and other Heroes visit another player’s dungeon all in the same round because each Hero is after their own specific type of treasure. If there is a tie in treasure amounts amongst players’ dungeons, the Heroes stay in town and the next round starts. This means that Heroes can begin to pile up, so planning is key if you don’t want multiple Heroes flooding your dungeon. If you can defeat enough Heroes to acquire ten souls before your fellow players do, then you’ve won! However, every Hero that survives your dungeon will wound your Boss. Five total Wounds over the course of the game and you will lose.
That being said, Boss Monster is a 2-4 player competitive game. While it is definitely easy to learn and quick to setup, don’t let that fool you into thinking there’s no strategy. This game will make you think about what you play and the wrong move can spell disaster quickly. As mentioned above, each room you build has its own damage value and treasure type. Sometimes that means that keeping that awesome All-Seeing Eye trap room (which deals three damage and contains a mage treasure) may force the five Heroes in town to flock to your dungeon and subsequently deliver Wounds to your Boss; whereas, building over that room with a Succubus Spa (which deals one damage and contains a cleric treasure) might mean that your opponent’s dungeon now holds the most mage treasure and consequently forces the Heroes in town to run to them instead!
While play is usually balanced between actively trying to lure Heroes you can handle and sending Heroes you can’t toward your opponent, there are times when the meta game peeks through. Bad hands are a part of every card drawing game and this one is no different. Sometimes you pull multiples of the same room or simply draw a handful of low level rooms that are quickly outmatched against the continuous wave of Heroes whose health can reach upwards of eight. While that may not seem like a lot, try defeating a Hero with eight health on round one when the highest Ordinary Rooms in the game do two damage (and the lowest do zero damage). In a two player game, there are eight 8 health Heroes, eight 4 health Heroes, seven 6 health Heroes, and one 2 health Hero (not including the Epic Heroes). The combination of spells and even room card abilities (like the trap room Boulder Ramp which deals +5 damage to a Hero in its room when you destroy another room in your dungeon) does help curve ‘bad’ starts. Also, the more players you have will also help thin out the possibility of quick Wounds. So while the play is not always perfectly balanced, we still do not feel this is negative enough to warrant avoiding this game. In our opinion, it’s more of a minor bump that is easily overlooked with a few more turns.
All in all, this is a great little game that I think everyone will enjoy. The art is very well done and even lends itself to some humor without being hokey. The rules are easy to pick up and game play is very straightforward. Conversely, if you are looking for something long and intricate, than this is not the game for you. Otherwise, this is definitely worth picking up and I know that we personally plan to grab Boss Monster 2 in the future!
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