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Board Game Review: Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game

2014 April 3
by Michael Schroeder

If you are my age and played NES as a child, you will get more than excited when you see the box alone, for Boss Monster!

Boss Monster by Brotherwise Games

Boss Monster by Brotherwise Games

Designer: Johnny O’Neal and Chris O’Neal

Number of players: 4

Age: 13+

Time: 20 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

Inspired by a love of classic video games, Boss Monster is a “dungeon-building” card game that pits 2-4 players in a competition to build the ultimate side-scrolling dungeon. Players compete to lure and destroy hapless adventurers, racing to outbid one another to see who can build the most enticing, treasure-filled dungeon.

The goal of Boss Monster is to be the first Boss to amass ten Souls, which are gained when a Hero is lured and defeated. But a player can also lose if his Boss takes five Wounds from Heroes who survive his dungeon.

Playing Boss Monster requires you to juggle two competing priorities: the need to lure Heroes at a faster rate than your opponents, and the need to kill those Heroes before they reach your Boss. Players can build one room per turn, each with its own damage and treasure value. More attractive rooms tend to deal less damage, so a Boss who is too greedy can become inundated with deadly Heroes.

Players interact with each other by building rooms and playing Spells. Because different Heroes seek different treasure types, and rooms are built simultaneously (played face down, then revealed). This means that every “build phase” is a bidding war. Spells are instant-speed effects that can give players advantages or disrupt opponents.

As a standalone card game with 150 cards, Boss Monster contains everything that 2-4 players need to play.

Basic idea in my own words…

Boss Monster (for short) is a blatant nod to the platformer games of old. In Boss Monster, you represent a boss at the end of a level. It’s your job  to build 5 rooms in your level to kill heroes that will come romping through your level. Each killed hero gives you souls. The first player to receive 10 souls, wins! But that’s not all. There is player elimination. If you fail to kill a hero and they reach you (the boss), you will take damage. Each villain has 5 damage points. Each hero has damage points in blood, on their card. So if you get damaged, you take that amount of hits.

If are my age and had a NES as a kid, you’ll get a kick out of the game’s art alone. Not only that, but the theme works very well for a loose attempt at simulating old platformer games.

Basic setup:

For game setup, deal each player a random boss card as well as 5 room cards and 2 spell cards. Now, each player chooses 2 cards to discard. It is recommended to start with some normal rooms. Each player simultaneously reveals their first room and places it immediately to the left of their boss card. This represents the first room of the dungeon or level. In order of highest XP on the boss card and going to lowest, each player resolves any effects. The game will begin.

Room and boss cards in Boss Monster

Room and boss cards in Boss Monster

How do you play?

A turn sequence is as follows…

1.) Beginning of turn – reveal the top card of the hero deck and place into a tableau form in the center of the table. Each player then draws 1 room from the room deck.

2.) Build Phase – Each player may build a room in their dungeon. There is a room limit of 5. All rooms are built from right to left, moving away from the boss. You may only place regular type rooms, but there is another type of room called an advanced room. Advanced rooms may only be placed on top of regular rooms and that have at least 1 common symbol on the cards. Some cards, after being built, explicitlly tell you to do something in the text at the bottom of the card. All rooms are built in order from paler with the highest XP. At this time, if you have any spell cards that have the build symbol on them, you may play them.

3.) Bait Phase – During the bait phase, each hero in the village, goes to the entrance of the dungeon with the highest matching symbols. The symbols are at the bottom of the room cards and on the top of the hero cards. If two or more players have a tie in each respective symbol, the hero stays in the village. This is a huge part of the strategy of the game. You want to plan what rooms you put out that give you the best and most heroes, yet making sure they won’t hurt you.

4.) Adventure Phase – During the adventure phase, heroes go through the dungeons and are either killed or cause damage to you. Spell cards with the adventure phase symbol may be played and special text effects on the room cards may take place here.

5.) End of turn – Check to see if any players have received 10 souls, if so, the game ends! If not, restart the game sequence and continue until someone does, or everyone but one player gets eliminated.

Boss Monster

Boss Monster

My thoughts

I enjoy Boss Monster. I love the art and the theme especially. The mechanics and game play is clever. It’s by no means a brain buster, this is what I’d consider a “filler.” Due to the time length to play. When I first played the game I got really annoyed because I was eliminated but a good point was raised that Boss Monster is a half hour game, generally, at tops. I played a 4 player game and a 2 player game. The 4 player game was much more fun than with 2. When I played with 2, it was my wife, and she didn’t care for the game too much. I can see that, and she wasn’t a video gamer like I was. But I even felt were were both just quickly going through the motions. Playing with 4 players though, who are all gamers, was much more fun. Spell cards against the other players were played, which lent greatly to that sense of screwing over other players. In closing though, I do enjoy Boss Monster and it’s a welcome filler game in my collection.


Components: 3/5

he firs thing I noticed is how thick the box is. And how much it looks like  a NES game box! How cool is that? The art is absolutely top notch. You can sit there for quite a while and just revel at the great job they did on the art.

Theme: 5/5

While I’ve grown to like more historical and economic board game themes, I can’t hide my childhood. Boss Monster’s theme is just perfect!

Luck Factor: 4/5

There’s an immense amount of luck in this game – your drawing cards. You may be stuck for turns with rooms and spells you don’t want. There’s also the aspect of luck of the draw on the heroes. That’s what killed me the first game.

Strategy: 2/5

There’s an OK amount of strategy in this game. Mostly from doing your best to try and lay down the best cards to attract heroes that you can easily kill. And of course, balancing out playing spell cards and playing your rooms in an effective and most efficient order, to kill those heroes.

Overall Feelings: 2/5

I enjoy Boss Monster. The theme is real fun, the game doesn’t take long to play so there’s not too many hard feelings when an opponent plays a nasty spell card on you. The production quality is great and the rules are simple enough to play. I do recommend it with more players though and I’m afraid people that aren’t in their late 20’s to late 30’s will respect it enough.

Review copy kindly provided by Brotherwise Games.

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