Name: Boss Monster
Type: Card Game
Publisher: Brotherwise Games
Size: 20.8cm x 12.7cm x 3.8cm
No of Players: 2-4
(5.0 / 5)
Boss Monster is a none collectable card game produced by Brotherwise Games and released in December 2013. It was originally Kickstarted and was funded to the tune of $215,000 dollars in November 2012.
The game is built on a foundation old school gaming, both 8-bit style NES games and old D&D and the premise is that you are the big, bad Boss Monster at the end of a side scrolling dungeon. Your job (or, more likely, hobby) is to draw adventurers to you dungeon in order to kill them in a variety of inventive monster and trapped themed rooms so that you can harvest their souls.
The game comes packaged in an NES game style box that fits the whole theme of the game perfectly, even the writing and logos are all designed to look like they belong on the box of Super Mario. The box is made of thick card and the box art has been applied via a sticker, rather than printed directly onto the box. The downside of the sticker is that it can easily scratch and peel away a little at the edges but this still all adds to the retro feel of the game.
Mine is the 2nd printing of the Boss Monster game. You can tell the difference between the first and second printings by the the inclusion of the quick start rules. In the box you get-
- X x Boss Cards
- X x Room Cards
- X x Spell Cards
- X x Hero Cards
- X x Epic Hero Cards
- Quick Start Rules Sheet
The components all fit nicely into the box with the cards sitting in two piles inside an inner tray and the quick start rules and rulebook sitting on top. As with the box, the rules are designed to be reminiscent of an 80’s Nintendo game right down to being printed in a landscape format and using a font type and layout that feels like a game manual.
The game comes with basic types of cards, Boss, Room, Spell and Hero/Epic Hero. All are standard dimensions for a card game and would fit any generic sleeve on the market. All of the cards feature 8-Bit artwork that resembles any side scrolling dungeon crawl from the 80’s and beyond. It’s in this artwork that you can see the love that has gone into the game, not just a love of 80’s computer games, not just a love of the NES but a love of D&D. Let me explain a little more-
I initially thought that this card was a great little touch, an 8-Bit image of the classic 1st edition AD&D Players handbook featuring a statue of Orcus. It’s a great nod to D&D and the kind of things fans of the RPG (myself included) like to see. Still, it’s an well known known image and one commonly used to reference D&D. Then, when I was sorting through the cards I noticed this-
Firstly the name, Xyzax is a clear play on Gygax, one of the creators of D&D. It’s also a play on Xagyg, which is Gygax backwards and a character from the original Greyhawk campaign, the Progenitor part of the name is a little nod towards the great man himself. Again though, while this is a clever little nod, it’s still something reasonably well known about D&D and about Gygax. It was only when I was looking for cards to photograph for this article that I noticed this-
This one is a little more subtle, in fact I wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t been one of my favourite prices of art from my favourite campaign setting this-
It’s a famous piece of art, but only if you really know your D&D and, specifically your Dragonlance. Now, granted, a Google search could probably have come up with it but I’m not sure that it would have seemed all that significant then, after all, unless you know what it is, why would you bother including it? Its for this reason that i’m pretty sure that the creators of Boss Monster don’t just love 80’s NES games, but they love D&D too.
So, the game. It’s pretty simple to both learn and play. Each player gets dealt a Boss card and places it, face up, on the right hand side of their play area. They then 5 rooms and 2 spells and discard 2 cards from that hand, of their choice. Prior to the first turn each player plays a room, face down, on the left of their Boss to start building their dungeon. Once all players have placed that room they are revealed, in order of highest XP to lowest.
At the start of each turn Heroes are drawn from the Town deck (made up of Heroes and Epic Heroes, in that order) equal to the number of players. Players can then play another room, again face down, on the left of the previous room or on top of it (so building over previous rooms). Once everyone has built a room the Heroes are allocated to the dungeons according to which dungeon has the most treasure symbols (heroes like treasure) that correspond to their type (so mages like books, for instance). Heroes scroll through dungeons, left to right as is proper, taking damage from each room and, if they die, their soul is collected by the Boss. If they reach the end they deal a point of damage to the Boss. Spells can be played either during building or adventuring, according to the spell.
The winner is the first to reach 10 souls and any player whose boss takes 5 points of damage is eliminated from the game. Thats all there is too it.
I’ve played this game a couple of times now, first of all my normal solo game to get a grip on the rules and i’ll admit, it was a bit weird to play solo and didn’t make much sense, but i’m used to that on the first run through. My second game was with my wife, who tends to be a bit hit and miss with board/card games. She beat me inside of 20 mins, grasping the rules with uncanny precision and building a dungeon to rival the dreaded Tomb of Horrors.
I then took the game to my regular weekly games night. I’ve been wanting to for a couple of weeks but we tend to regularly get 5+ players and Boss Monster only supports up to 4. We finally managed to break it out for a couple of games and, as expected, it was quick to teach and fun to play. My group loved the art style immediately and found great pleasure in building their dungeons and chuckling at cards like the Goblin Armoury-
All in all Boss Monster is a great game. I missed the first Kickstarter and the Next Level Kickstarter but i’ll definitely be checking out any further Kickstarters that Brotherwise set up. The game is fun, it’s well supported by Brotherwise who regularly put up new cards for play test and it looks just fantastic. This is a game for hardcore gamers and families alike and the art and nostalgic feel to the design is even enough to pull in those weird friends who don’t generally like to play games (we all have them).
At the time of writing Boss Monster has 2 expansions, one of which can be played as a stand alone game.