Friday, August 15, 2014

A True Boss Monster Knows to Enjoy the Simple Pleasures

There are a number of candidates for my 3rd critique of the worker placement genre. None of them were Boss Monster. You aren't getting another worker placement game…you get this!

I finally played Boss Monster yesterday, and now this funny Nintendo game shaped experience have left a tremendous, 8-bit, mark on my game-playing soul.

Two full dungeon line-ups square off in fierce competition

I had VERY few expectations. Sometimes you hear "buzz" about a game and when you finally play you get disappointed. One thing Boss Monster had going for it were my expectations. Before we started playing Boss Monster…I had only negative expectations.

The game comes to our reality by way a small company called Brotherwise Games. So small, I think Boss Monster might be their only product. As a company creating its very first product, lacking in traditional board game creating experience, you don't often see a polished, well-crafted product.

The only thing I had heard was in regards to their rulebook which is legendarily bad. I won't go into it too much, but without the Internet, I would be playing a far different game, and I would be liking it far less.

So let's just skip over that speed bump (thanks to our brave new interconnected world) and go right to the beverages!

The Lemonade Stand

Imagine a lemonade stand. You are trying to attract people to your business. So you can kill them and make a trophy out of their bones. But not everyone likes lemonade so you are going to have to stock more beverages like root beer, fruit punch and bloody mary mix.

The central conflict of the game is simple. You adding different flavors of beverage, or improving on the quality of your beverages, while your opponents are trying to do the same thing at their lemonade stands.

Whoever can lure the most customers in wins.

But you're forgetting something. You also have to satisfy your customers. So while you are juggling the quality of your lemonade, you also have to be adding enough poison sugar so they die enjoy themselves before leaving your establishment. When you first start, you might not even WANT customers because they will just eventually leave unhappy. And unhappy, still-living customers will eventually pile up and lose you the game.

Here are the phases:

1) Build your dungeon

You build one room of your dungeon. This adds either 1) more flavor, 2) more killing power or 3) hopefully a little of both.

The Golem Factory has one sword, which Fighters like (maybe its root beer). And it has 2 killing power to help finish them off. And it even has a little bonus if someone dies in it.

2) Bait the adventurers

This is a judging round! I love judging rounds. All players compare their dungeons and the people randomly drawn into the village automatically go to the most attractive establishment. Only takes about 10 seconds.

The Dragon Hatchery has all the kinds of treasure a hero might want, but absolutely no killing power.

3) Kill the adventurers

The customers go through the line, sampling each room and taking the damage printed on the room. If they come out dead you get gems, if they come out alive you get wounds.

4) Did you win the game?

A player wins when he or she has 10 gems, or loses when he or she has 5 wounds.

The speed of the game

The rooms are all easy to understand. You can easily see what your opponent's rooms do at a glance from across the table. And there aren't many kinds so you quickly become familiar.

Most of the actions in the game can be done simultaneously.

I've logged about 50 games of the DC Deckbuilding Game. And until I played Boss Monster I hadn't realized how annoying it was to sit and WAIT while your opponent went through a long drawn out combo.

In Boss Monster, the turns are INCREDIBLY short. Maybe a minute or two per turn. It is awesome.

Winning the game

Here's another thing, and I feel this is getting rarer all the time. There are TWO end game conditions, and you can meet either of them.

For whatever reason, game designers have slowly moved to a environment where most games end after a set number of turns. You can see how many turns you have left, and you can plan everything out. I'm looking at you, worker placement games!

Boss Monster harkens back to an age when gameplay itself also has to move the players towards a resolution.

This, combined with the overall speed of the game, means you are never sitting in round 3, waiting for final round 8, knowing you have already lost. In Boss Monster if you get blown away in the first couple turns, the game is probably over. I love that!

If you see your opponent is only a few gems away from victory, but also only a wound away from defeat, you can play a spell card and turn one of his potential customers into a powerful assassin to remove him from contention. No need to count up those victory points!

My Big Surprise

Boss Monster looks like a boring, casual, "play a card, see what happens" game. But there are so many little beautiful things you find as you play. There is real strategy here. Some serious out-of-the-box thinking went into it, and I have to applaud the brains who put this game together. I hope there is a Boss Monster 2 coming out there, because I am picking it up.

Contemplating his next move.


I don't know if I have ever mentioned Kickstarter in a positive light. But today I do so, because I also see Brotherwise is attempting to raise funds to make a digital (iOS AND Android both!) version of Boss Monster. I have never been tempted before, but I think I might have to back this game. It's also a perfect way to grab the game if you don't have it already.

Rarely do I pitch anything, but there you go.

No comments:

Post a Comment