ardBoss Monster is a 2-4 player card game where you play as the boss monsters lurking in the final room of retro 8-bit video game dungeons, luring heroes into your trap-filled and monster-infested dungeon to kill them and claim their souls (first to 10 souls wins). Heroes can be dangerous, but your real competition is the other boss monsters!
I love retro games and tabletop roleplaying games like D&D, so this theme (and the retro videogamey art) was a big draw for me. Even the box looks like an old Nintendo game box.
You start with your boss monster card on the right, and build the dungeon to the left. Once you get to five rooms your boss monster activates a powerful and unique once-off ability, so there’s a bit of variety depending on which one you are.
Each trap or monster room has one or more treasure types: coins for thieves, magic weapons for fighters, spell books for mages, and religious items for clerics. Heroes go to the dungeon with the most treasure of the type they are interested in.
So, a sort of bidding war occurs. You want to attract the heroes to your dungeon keep their souls away from your opponents. But you also have to have a dungeon strong enough to handle them or you won’t get their souls, you’ll get wounded.
You can also use spell cards to make your dungeon tougher (like making your monsters more damaging, or teleporting a hero back to the start to move through all your rooms again). Or you could use spells to make things nasty for your opponents (like freezing one of their rooms that they needed to kill the tough hero they just attracted).
You can only build 5 rooms wide, but advanced rooms can be built on top of a room with a matching treasure type, and usually hit harder. You can destroy rooms, too, or build a normal room over any other normal room to mix things up. If you destroy it later, the original room is still below!
Rooms have powers, too, which can be very useful, doing things like letting you draw spells instead of room cards each turn, healing you, making neighbouring rooms more powerful, or even messing with your opponent.
Suz and I encountered a few fun-reducing issues. One was having a hand of cards you can’t do much with (you can only redraw once during setup). If you’ve only put down thief and fighter rooms and your hand is full of advanced rooms that don’t match those, you can’t use them. Unless we missed it, there’s no general rule letting you discard cards to draw more. Some of the cards have powers that let you do that, and this is how Suz eventually got better cards later in the game.
Something else we should probably do is focus more on spells. You can’t draw them regularly – again, it’s card powers that let you do this – but the abilities they have are pretty cool and give you more interaction between the two players and dungeons, which is a good thing. I don’t think we cast a single spell this game.
Boss Monster isn’t one of my favourite games ever, but I do like it. I’ve played it a few times and enjoyed it. I do wish there were more ways to cycle cards more often, but I think I’ll need to play some more games of it to work out if this problem is a common one. And I’m certainly looking forward to doing that 🙂
Interestingly, the developers have recently made Boss Monster 2, which is on it’s way to me from America. It’s a standalone expansion, meaning it can be used with Boss Monster or by itself. I hear it’s more interactive and it sounds like an overall improvement, but I can’t speak from first hand experience… yet.
Finally, if you want a better idea of the gameplay check out the designer’s How To Play: