I spent more hours then I care to admit of my childhood immersed in digital pixels. Like most children of my generation, I grew up with Nintendo and Sega. Mario, Sonic, Samus and Link were my addiction in all of their pixelated glory. So it’s no wonder that when I stumbled across the card game Boss Monster, I had to try it. In Boss Monster, players take on the role of a, you guessed it, boss monster who must build out a dungeon to collect the souls of those annoying adventurers. Is Boss Monster’s 16-bit retro charm enough to keep your attention in an HD world? Read on to find out!
Boss Monster is a hand management and card placement game for 2-4 player that plays in about 20 minutes. Boss Monster plays best with any number of players.
Boss Monster in all of it’s pixelated sexyness is a game about maximizing the cards you play. You are a monstrous boss of a dungeon (randomly dealt) and must construct a lair of up to 5 rooms. Each round you can play a new dungeon room to try and entice one of four different types of adventurers into your lair. If you manage to kill them after they arrive, you’ll collect their soul. Obtain ten of those gem cased souls and you win.
Boss Monster is a card game so naturally it comes with decks of cards. I know, shocking right? While not normally exciting in itself, Boss Monster did a fabulous job with its design and artwork. From the game box that looks like an old school Nintendo cartridge box to the layout of the cards, Boss Monster is just a labor of love. You can tell that the artists really enjoyed their work.
The artwork on the cards themselves are nothing short of stunning. Being drawn in the retro 16-bit style, your nostalgia meter will be working overtime. I love, love, love the artwork in this games. It takes me back to my childhood where I spent many countless hours engaged in similar looking games. I find myself just flipping through the cards between games enjoying the drawings.
The take-me-back factor aside, the cards are well designed and laid out so all the information you need is right at your fingertips. The symbols are easy to understand and remember so there will be minimal need to reference the rulebook during game play. Top markings for the components in Boss Monster.
How to Play:
Boss Monster is not a complicated game by any stretch. Each player starts the game by being dealt out a random boss monster to play. After that, each player draws 5 room cards and 2 spell cards. They then choose 2 of those to discard and the game begins.
The game is played over a series of rounds which are broken up into 3 phases:
1. Reveal heroes in town (one per player). This allows players to plan for who’s coming to bug them in their lair this turn.
2. All players draw 1 room card
3. All players select one room card to play.
4. All players reveal their chosen room and add it to their lair. There are 3 types of rooms: Monster, Trap and Upgrade. Rooms must be played to the left of any previously played rooms or on top of an existing one (thus replacing it). Upgrades must be placed onto of a room that shares a bait symbol. Players are limited to a max of 5 rooms.
Speaking of Bait, in this phase the players find out which adventurers are coming to attack them. Each of the 4 adventurers (Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Rogue) has a specific type of treasure they are after (Fighters want swords, Rogues want sacks of money, etc…). Each room will have 1 or more bait symbols on it. Each player counts up the symbols in their lair and the player with the most of each symbols attracts all heroes of that type in town (if there are any). If there is a tie, the hero stays in town for that round.
At this point, each hero that was lured to a dungeon makes his way through it, one room at a time. Most rooms have a damage value (and some have special abilities). As a hero progresses through the dungeon, they takes damage. Do enough damage before he gets to your boss monster and he’ll die with you collecting his soul. If you fail to kill him, he’ll deal you a point of damage. If you ever have 5 damage, you automatically lose. The first player to collect 10 souls wins!
If you are an old school NES gamer like me than you will understand my instant attraction to Boss Monster. The fantastic looking artwork will suck you in and keep your attention. These cards just begged to be enjoyed.
OK, enough gushing on the artwork, lets get down to the game play. Boss Monster isn’t a complex game. It will probably take you longer to shuffle the various decks than to explain how to play. That’s a great thing when you are looking to just jump into a game and have some fun.
And fun Boss Monster is. It brings its retro charm home with some solid game play. Planning your dungeon isn’t as easy as it sounds, at least strategically. There are a lot of different rooms and you have to be careful you can kill the adventures you lure. This is not a race to see who can build their dungeon the fastest, but more about who can build it the most efficiently. Many of your cards will affect other cards you have, so optimal placement can be essential to your soul collection endeavors.
And that’s one of the things I love about Boss Monster, the strategy involved. In general, Boss Monster is going to be a filler game. It’s too short and not complex enough to be the main course of your gaming night. But this filler game has a surprising amount of strategy. From where to play each room card to when to use your very limited spell cards, Boss Monster will have you pondering every decision you need to make.
One of the nice things about Boss Monster is that it comes with a lot of different cards. I’ve played it a number of times and I don’t feel like I’m seeing the same rooms and spells over and over. This does help to add to the replay value of the game. I do wish the hero cards were a bit more unique though. Perhaps some special abilities to go with them. Even the Epic Heroes feel a bit generic, just tougher versions of the normal heroes. So some more variety there would have been nice.
My only other gripe with the game is that luck can really make or break you in this game. As you are only drawing 1 room card each round, it’s possible that you might only draw rooms that you already have or with low damage output. That can be frustrating when you see your opponents drawing fantastic rooms that work perfectly with their dungeon.
The other thing to know is the only way to get more spell cards if via some specific rooms (or sometimes when your boss monster levels up). I’ve seen games where a player has never drawn a spell providing room and is stuck with 1-2 spell cards for the whole game. This causes players to be a lot more frugal with their spell cards and, thereby, reduces the player interaction.
Mind you I’m not completely opposed to limiting the amount of spells a player has because I’d hate to see Boss Monster turned into a “take that” game like Munchkin. I abhor those types of games and I’m glad Boss Monster doesn’t fall into that trap. I’m OK with a limited amount of bothering other players in these types of games. But when it becomes a “gang up on the leader” style of game, I quickly get rid of it. Still, the spells in Boss Monster are a lot of fun to use, I just wish players had a bit more access to them.
So while not perfect, Boss Monster does make for an excellent filler game. The game’s artwork and quick play will help it get to your gaming table often. I do worry that once the nostalgia factor wears off Boss Monster will lose a little of its luster though. I think this is a game that begs for expansions. Both to keep the game fresh and also add a little bit of complexity. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Brotherwise Games has in store for Boss Monster. I think with the right expansions, they could really push Boss Monster over the top into something special.
Regardless, as a beautiful piece of eye candy that’s fun to play, easy to learn and very accessible, Boss Monster makes for a great addition to your gaming library. Check this one out today, its affordable price and great theme make it worth a look.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $25.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – Amazing artwork and quick playing time make this a great filler game.
• High luck factor
• Needs more variety in the heroes