Difficulty (Low = Easy)
Duration (Low = Short)
Despite the significant advances video games have made in my lifetime, I often find myself drawn to the classic 8-bit design of my childhood. So, when I came across a card game built upon this premise, I was immediately intrigued. Boss Monster actually launched as a Kickstarter campaign back in 2012, and after a very successful run, found its way to the shelves of game stores across the country by early 2014.
The premise is diabolical, but simple: you play the role of a boss designed in the classic 8-bit style. Your job is to design a dungeon that is both alluring to heroes, and thoroughly deadly at the same time. If you are able to successfully bring heroes into your dungeon and defeat them before they reach you, you harvest their soul. If they reach you first, they deal “wounds” to your boss until he/she is ultimately defeated. The game is over when a boss successfully harvests 10 souls, or when all bosses are defeated by the valiant heroes.
Each turn is broken up into three phases: building, luring and adventuring. During the building phase,
each player can place one room in their dungeon; rooms are classified as either monster rooms or trap rooms. These rooms deal a certain amount of damage, and also have what are called “treasure icons”, which are important for the second phase: luring. During the luring phase, heroes that have been revealed are drawn to dungeons that have the most treasure icons that interest them. For example, fighter-type heroes are drawn to rooms with the sword treasure icon, while clerics would be drawn to the holy symbol icon.
Once heroes have been lured to their respective dungeons, the adventuring phase begins. The heroes travel through whatever rooms have already been built by the player, and if they make it to the boss with any remaining health, they immediately deal a “wound” to that boss and are set aside. If they perish during their adventure, the boss claims their soul and awaits their next victim. Once the adventuring phase is complete, new heroes are drawn and revealed, and the phases begin again.
I have to say that Boss Monster was a game that went completely under my radar for quite some time. I only just picked it up earlier this year, and it has already seen a lot of play among my circle of friends. The pick-up-and-play design and relatively simple play makes it one of our go-to games if we don’t have a lot of time, or are looking for something light between our more intense gaming sessions.
I’m a huge fan of the design, not only of the card art, which definitely channels the spirit of the 8-bit gaming era, but also the packaging and even the instruction booklets. The edges of the boxes have a faux-tattered design which makes it look like a worn out NES box, and the instruction booklet is also reminiscent of the guides you would find in older games.
Play-time can vary, but is usually between 40-90 minutes depending on the number of players and experience. Striking a good balance in duration can be difficult for some games, but I feel like Boss Monster is able to hit a sweet spot in this regard.
The humor is also well done, as I’m sure many nerds who give this game a try will notice many heroes look and sound very familiar, and the flavor text often leaves little room for doubt.
My main complaint about this game is the spell-card mechanic. Aside from the bosses, heroes and rooms, there is a spell deck which you can draw from based on certain room mechanics. Everyone gets a very limited amount at the start of the game, but there is no spell-card drawing in the regular phases of the game. This was frustrating at times, as an entire sub-section of the game seemed to be under-utilized, which at times seemed more like an oversight than a conscious decision.
Overall, however, Boss Monster is a fun, well-designed game that is sure to provide many hours of fun for you and your friends. Make sure to check it out!