Designer: Johnny O’Neal and Chris O’Neal
Publisher: Brotherwise Games
Date Released: 2013
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 8 and up
Setup Time: Less than 5 minutes
Play Time: 15 minutes or less
Game Flow and Review:
You are the Boss Monster at the end of an 8-pixel video game dungeon. You compete with other Boss Monsters to gain the souls of dead adventurers, while avoiding these heroes’ attack.
I have to be honest. This game tugs at my heart strings. The 8-pixel art and inside video game jokes are priceless. A card by the name of Cheat Codes had arrows in the background with the old Konami game cheat—that’s up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start for younger video gamers—and as the Cheat Code card attests, Boss Monster respects classic video game tropes.
The gameplay is easy to pick up and fast to play. You balance constructing the best possible dungeon with attracting heroes to your dungeon. There are four basic card types: Boss, Room, Spell, and Hero. You pick your boss at the start of the game. Then, you’re dealt five room cards and two spell cards, discarding two cards of either type from your hand.
Each Boss has an XP value, which is important since it’s used for tie-breaker purposes, an effect text when they level up (you need to build five rooms to level up), and a treasure type which lures a certain kind of hero to your dungeon. Room cards have damage values in the lower left-hand corner, a treasure type (which also lures heroes to your dungeon), and effect text. Spell cards have icons showing when they can be played in the lower left-hand corner and have effect text. Then, you have heroes, who only have health and a hero type.
During a round, heroes enter play in town. The heroes chill in town until players build their rooms for the round. Players place their room cards facedown to the left of their Boss. This promotes strategy as you won’t know what kind of treasure the rooms your opponents’ are playing have, so you have to guess in order to attract the resident heroes. And of course you play these rooms to the left of your Boss because this is a side scrolling, dungeon after all. Players reveal their rooms at the same time. Then, you lure the heroes to who has the highest value of the hero’s favorite treasure. If you have a tie or no one has the hero’s treasure type, the hero kicks back another ale and stays in town.
Once all the heroes have made their moves, you start the adventure stage. When a hero enters your dungeon, they move from left to right, taking damage from your rooms. Hopefully, you’ll take them out before they reach your Boss, and you take their soul, but if they do survive your dungeon and reach your Boss, they deal damage to you. The first player to reach ten souls wins. But you lose the game after receiving your fifth wound.
The gameplay can be unforgiving. Some of the cards are overpowered and unbalanced. There’s a basic room card that deals three damage. You can’t upgrade this room, but why would you want to. And many of the spell cards turn the tide of the game in a blink of an eye. Fortunately, you have more room card draw than spell card draw, but you can generate spell card draw through Boss abilities, making these bosses more desirable.
And speaking of desirable, during the game’s opening stages; you’ll want to attract fewer heroes as your dungeon won’t be that strong. This makes a two player game brutal. Picking a monster that shares a treasure icon similar with the only heroes on the board will have you scrambling to improve your fledgling dungeon.
Boss Monster is a great—even though it’s unbalanced—8-pixel romp. While you can play this game with two players, it works best with three or four players; otherwise you end up with the same player attracting the most heroes every time. Again, this is a balancing issue with the core game play as well as the cards themselves.