It’s tough being the boss. The kobolds are on strike, the bottomless pit isn’t deep enough, and that bum King Croak just got a new princess in his dungeon… and you know those gallant knights can’t resist the ol’ princess in peril gag. Your stomach’s growling – how are you going to lure some tasty adventurers to your lair?
As a kid, I used to pump quarters into Ghosts’n Goblins. I slaughtered my way ever further into the dungeon, splattering minions in the quest to reach the next big boss. Boss Monster is a non-collectible card game that recaptures those eight-bit adventures… from the other side of the screen. As a boss monster, you need to build a dungeon that is dangerous enough to slay the most epic hero. But it won’t matter how deadly your dungeon is if you can’t lure heroes to your door… so you need to balance your firepower with the right combination of loot.
Boss Monster is a dungeon-building game. Every turn, a few heroes show up in town. You win the game by killing ten points worth of heroes; you lose if too many get through your defenses and wound you. Every hero can take a certain amount of damage and desires a certain type of loot; they will go to the dungeon of the player with the greatest amount of the loot they are looking for. So in the example above, the Thief wants gold (as shown in the upper right corner of the hero card); Gorgona’s dungeon has three bags of gold. She’s got a pair of holy relics for luring clerics. However, if fighters or wizards show up, she’s currently got nothing to offer. Meanwhile, her dungeon can inflict 5 points of damage… which means she doesn’t actually WANT that epic thief in the picture coming to visit, because she can’t kill it.
The basic action of the game is simple; each round, you have the opportunity to add a room to your dungeon. Heroes are drawn to the dungeon based on treasure, and then you see if those heroes can survive a dungeon and wound the boss or if they die in the process. The fun of the game comes in dungeon design. First there is the basic challenge of competing with your opponents to have a dungeon that can lure the heroes that are out there. But beyond that, there’s a lot of strategic options to room placement. Some rooms provide bonuses to adjacent rooms of a specific type; the Dizzygas Hallway bumps up the room that comes after it, if that room is a trap. Other rooms provide special benefits if a hero dies in that room. Setting up a effective dungeon the same fundamental thrill you get from putting together a killer combo in a deck-building game, but that combo is on the table and continues to evolve over time. In addition, spell cards and certain rooms (such as the Jackpot Stash in the image above) are one-shot resources that provide an instant effect, allowing additional strategic choices and twists in the action.
Boss Monster can be played by two to four players; it’s strongest with three or four, but works as a two player game. Once people know how to play, it’s reasonably fast; an average game takes about 20 minutes. The 8-bit art is entertaining and fits the theme. The wide range of options makes it very replayable, and it’s the sort of game where even when I lose, I just want to play again.
Boss Monster currently has a week left in its Kickstarter campaign. Backers at the $25 level get a host of extra cards and bonus goodies; at higher levels you can playtest future expansions and even get a copy of the playtest deck (which is what I’ve been using) right away. All I’ll say is that it’s quick, fun, and I’ve been playing it whenever I’ve been able to drum up opponents; I actually played a few rounds on Election Night, as we waited to see who would end up as our next boss monster. So check out the Kickstarter, and tell ’em Hellcow sent you!