FTW Staff Picks - Boss Monster

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new. 

Boss Monster

Genre: Hand Management

Designer: Johnny O'Neal, Chris O'Neal

Player Size: 2 to 4 Players

Game Length: 30 minutes

For fans of: Munchkin, Monopoly Deal, Smash Up

Some games can capture the attention of onlookers, simply with the design of its package. Any fans of retro gaming, or just anyone who grew in the 80's will be immediately allured by the reminiscent NES-style box of Boss Monster. Tugging on the heartstrings of nostalgia, Boss Monster is chock-full of pop culture references both old and new. The theme puts players in the role of the Boss Monster at the end of a video game, challenged by daring adventurers who step foot inside their dungeon.


In Boss Monster, players compete to be the first Boss Monster to claim the souls of 10 Adventurers. Each player is given a unique Boss, with its own unique ability. They are dealt Room and Spell cards. Each turn follows 3 phases: Build Phase, Bait Phase, and Adventure Phase. In the Build Phase, players will simultaneously decide on a Room they wish to add to their Dungeon. Each Dungeon may contain 5 Rooms maximum, and players may choose to build over existing Rooms. During the Bait Phase, the Adventurers that await in the Inn will travel to the player's dungeon, which contains the most matching symbols as the Adventurer's card (ties result in them staying at the Inn for the round). And finally in the Adventure Phase, the Adventurers will progress through their dungeons. If they lose all their health before reaching the Boss of that dungeon, that player will receive their Soul. If they make it to the Boss, that player takes a Wound. The game ends when either all but one player's boss has been defeated or one player collects 10 Souls. That player is declared the winner of the game!

I've always found the structure of Boss Monster intriguing. Instead of playing as a prototypical protagonist, players get to be the big bad Boss. The Bait aspect of the game acts as an interesting push-and-pull auction. In some cases, you don't want Adventurers and in some cases you do. Burning resources early on because you were forced to defeat Adventurers can hurt long-term planning. The whole thing is definitely the most interesting part of the game. Strategy-wise, it's a bit random and it can feel like you don't have much control. The Spells are there to give you emergency outs, but they're mostly quick bandaids. Overall, you'd probably have a better time if you are here for the whimsical world, than if you're here for strategy. 

When it comes to feel, Boss Monster does a wonderful job of creating that old feeling of sitting in front of a CRT TV and draining hours of time in front of a NES or Genesis. The 16-bit art is really well done and it may look simple, but it's really a difficult art to master. Boss Monster sits right around meeting expectations and slightly exceeding them for me. It's a great warmup and filler game, that I can see many people enjoying.

Earl OliverosComment