Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 14 June 2016

Emerald weapon has nothing on me:- Boss monster

Game: Boss Monster

PublisherRepos Productions

Designer: Johnny & Chris O'Neal


People say I'm evil, the dark lord of terror, but the truth is I'm no more evil than you. Oh sure, I consume heroic souls to sustain myself, but really, is that any more evil than you eating a chicken. I understand that you might think so, but try and see it from the chickens perspective! To them you are the giant demon come to eat them whole!The traps and monsters I fill my home with are to keep you out, much like you build walls and moats. You see we aren't so different you and I... except that you are food.

Boss Monster is a 2-4 player card game in which you play as the boss of an RPG dungeon attempting to lure, and then slay, the heroes who come to plunder your domain. But you have to be careful, if you lure heroes that can survive your traps then they will try to kill you, which is rather a rude thing to do. These people call themselves “heroes” when they break into your house, steal all your stuff, and try to murder you, I can’t help but feel that they are somewhat missing the point.

I have to start this review talking about the art. The game box looks like a NES game, the cards all have pixel art that looks like a SNES/Megadrive game and most of the heroes/rooms/spells reference some kind of video game/high fantasy trope or character. For a video game geek like me the game has an awesome retro feel, which perhaps makes the average gameplay seem even more disappointing. 

A game underway, each boss has claimed a victim, but also been hurt, now they have a new group of heroes to lure and try to kill.
The game has 2 rounds, the building round where you will all place an extra room on your dungeon, then reveal your expansion, followed by the hero round where you will lure the heroes to your dungeon and try to off them. Heroes are drawn by the kind of treasure provided by your rooms, clerics like holy relics, thieves like gold etc. So there is a kind of bidding war over luring the heroes to your domain and many rooms which are good for treasure are pretty useless for actually killing enemies. Once you lure a hero to your dungeon they blindly stumble through each room activating each room in turn. The rooms usually have an amount of damage that the trap/monster does, and then often have special abilities which may come into effect. If you aren’t going to succeed in killing a hero you might want to throw down a spell to boost your damage/send the hero back to the start, but spells are somewhat rare and you’ll need to decide if you can afford to use them or if you need to save them for the later rounds when the heroes get stronger.

The game does attempt to have some pacing by putting a wave of weak heroes followed by a stronger wave. There are also room upgrades that are far more powerful than the base rooms that you build them on, and once you finish your 5-room dungeon you get a level up that gives you a new ability depending on the boss you are. This pacing often means there are 2-3 rounds in the game when your dungeon is woefully under-equipped in killing potential compared to the hero health, at which point you might actually be fighting over trying not to attract the heroes!
References! I don't get all of them, but I see references to Castlevania, the Matrix, Metroid, ever RPG ever, Harry Potter and the Hobbit. and that's just a handful of cards.
Boss Monster is all theme and not enough substance, it’s not bad, but winning just seems to be a matter of getting the right cards. There is fun to be had, and it is a quick game so perhaps I’m expecting a bit much. You do have to carefully balance your ability to lure heroes with your ability to kill, and cards often only really achieve one or the other. But dungeons often become so focussed on 1-2 treasure types that you might as well say “Jim get’s the fighters, Suzie get’s the mages, David get’s the thieves and I get the clerics. Okay?” I love the theme, but I just want a bit more substance, perhaps the expansions provide that, but then you have to ask if you want to invest more money into a game that is only average at best?


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