Boss Monster—A Double-Take Review

bossmonstercoverYes, no, maybe... I don't know. Can you repeat the question?You're not the boss of me now, and you're not so big!

- They Might Be Giants

Last year saw the onset of one of the biggest crazes to hit board games: card games that look like video games from 25 years ago.

Today we're taking a look at one of the most successfully crowd-funded games in this genre—Boss Monster: The Dungeon-Building Game.

Do you have what it takes to build the best, baddest, and most enticing dungeon, in order to destroy the hapless heroes that may wander in looking to loot your treasure? Let's take a look!

The Overview

You are a Boss Monster, and you're building your dungeon room by room. You know those jerky heroes from the town will come for the loot, so you have to build a dungeon that can take them down—or they'll take you down.

The Components

Cards...lots and lots of cards. There are several different types:

  • Boss Cards—These indicate which character you will be for the game.
  • Hero Cards—There are two types of Hero Cards, the regular type and the epic type (which sport a gold back). These are your enemies, and killing them off is ultimately how you score points to win the game.
  • Room Cards—This is the most plentiful type of card, and there are a few different types of Rooms, including trap Rooms, and monster Rooms. And there are basic and advanced Rooms in each type.
  • Spell Cards—Spells are a little hard to get into your hand, but they act as a one-time event or interrupt card that can be played during either the Build Phase, or the Adventure Phase, but now we're getting ahead of ourselves.

photo 2The Setup

Setup the Hero Deck by including the proper heroes depending on the number of players (each hero has a number of icons denoting the minimum amount of players in the game for that card to be used in). Each player is then randomly dealt a Boss Card, which will give them an identity, as well as an XP value that will help when determining who goes first. It will also give them a one-time level-up ability. Each player then draws five Room Cards and two Spell Cards, and chooses two among all of those to discard. They then build their first Room by placing a Room of their choice to the left of their Boss Card. Then you're ready to go!

The Gameplay

The game plays in a series of rounds rather than player turns. Here is a brief summary of how this looks:

Beginning Phase—Heroes are revealed from the Hero Deck (one for each player in the game). These Heroes will have a heart symbol with a number in it, indicating how many hit points they can withstand, and a treasure icon, which is the type of treasure they've come looking for.

Build Phase—Each player can build one Room in his or her dungeon (building right to left from their Boss Card). Advanced Rooms can only be built onto an existing standard Room with the same treasure icon.

Bait Phase—Each dungeon will be inspected for the number and type of treasure types and compared with the Heroes in town, and whoever has the most of one type will lure each Hero of the matching type to the entrance of their dungeon. If there is a tie, then no one will lure the Hero, and likewise, if there is no treasure in any of the dungeons, then the Hero stays in town.

Adventure Phase—The Heroes who are brave enough to venture into the dungeon seeking plunder go through each Room from left to right until they are either killed or reach the Boss. Room cards have a black heart icon with a number that indicates the amount of damage it inflicts on the hero. If the hero is killed, it's turned over revealing either one or two gold coins, depending on the level of the Hero (these are the VP's, referred to as souls; Epic Heroes apparently have two souls). If the Hero makes it through without dying, it's placed under the Boss Card leaving the one or two blood spots exposed, which represent a wound to your Boss.

End of Turn—Check to see if someone won. If a player receives 5 wounds, that player is out of the game; if a player at any time gains 10 souls/points, he or she is declared the winner. If not, go to Beginning Phase.

photo 3The Verdict

Jeremiah—The thing I keep coming back to on this game is that it's very unique. And I mean that as a compliment. Boss Monster is exactly what it says it is: it's a game about building a dungeon, and being the best bad guy at the table. The components are simple: It's cards. But the graphic design is genius; it strikes that sentimental/nostalgic/novelty button just right.

Firestone—I agree. The theme is unique and fun and completely integrated. There are a couple of other games that are similar (Dungeon Lords, for instance), but this is of filler weight and length, so doesn't feel at all like it's ripping off. I really do like the pixelly, retro art. It's nostalgic, but man, there are a LOT of games out now that are putting all of their gameplay eggs into the nostalgic, 8-bit basket.

Jeremiah—Yeah, it's a "thing" right now. Just like after Dominion was a huge success we saw a ton of deck-builders, now that a few Kickstarters have gone bonkers with the retro look, many others are following suit.

Back to my statement about this game being unique: Unlike so many games that are hitting the market, it's really hard to slot this into any genre, in terms of gameplay mechanics. It's not deck-building, or set-collection, or resource-management. It's dungeon-building and killing heroes with some hand management; it's also fun.

Firestone—I completely disagree on the fun. But then...I hate fun, right? ;) This is the sort of game that's truly "dripping with theme," but unfortunately they spent all of their effort on theme, and little on the gameplay. I found it boring and repetitive, and I never felt that I had much control or meaningful decisions to make.

I built my dungeon, but whether it was enticing to a Hero was entirely dependent on which Heroes came out from that random deck of cards. If you built a Magic-heavy dungeon and a Magic Hero came out, good for you! If a Thief came out...tough noogies. Sure you could spread out the type of treasure, but that just meant that anyone who specialized even a little would beat you. And since you can only have five rooms in your dungeon, you have to commit and then hope for the best. Blech.

photo 4Jeremiah—Well if I'm recalling properly, I'm pretty sure there is an even number of the different types of Heroes in the deck—with the exception of the fool and a couple other specials—which means as you go through the deck if you are specializing, each dungeon is going to have a shot at enticing the same amount if Heroes into it. Sure you're going to have to decide whether to compete with your opponents or try to diversify and snag one or two of each type. And sometimes you just have to play the cards you're dealt... That's why it's a card game. ;)

Firestone—Look, I know 8-bit games, and practically every boss monster I ever fought...FOUGHT BACK! But if a Hero gets to my Boss Monster he just rolls over and takes a hit? Wha?! Most of this game is thematically rich, but that just detracts from the theme. Why even have different Boss Monsters if all they really are is a card to track hits? Oh, level-up powers. Zzzz... And don't get me started on the different XP for the Bosses. "Wait...XP breaks ties, and we're randomly dealt these Boss Cards?"

Jeremiah—Well, yeah, the Boss takes ONE hit, and then devours or beats to a bloody pulp or whatevers the Hero; it takes 5 heroes to take down the boss; I'm totally okay with that.

It's a short game and the level-ups being a once-a-game bonus is sometimes just enough to get you back in the thick of it! XP breaks ties, and higher XP means a little weaker power for your level-up ability; it seems to balance out pretty well to me. If you get a higher XP Boss then you get an initial advantage, but it evens out when you level up. I was totally fine with that.

Firestone—I understand that the enjoyment of these sort of games is highly dependent on the group. But most of the people I game with don't like "experience" games, or theme-only games (which is why I LIKE gaming with them), and this game went over like a lead balloon.

My oldest liked the theme, and thought the gameplay was kinda fun. But after the second game even he was acting visibly bored.

I know the guys at Brotherwise made a TON of money on this Kickstarter campaign, so good for them. Honestly. But for me, this is just thematically rich, and gameplay poor.

Jeremiah—The only reason I would hesitate to play this with anyone and everyone is that there are a few cards that are just a shade past family friendly because of their title/concept, such as the Succubus Spa, and the Vampire Bordello. There's nothing gratuitous on them, unless extremely pixelated babes are your thing... Thematically they make sense, but I would suggest pulling those cards out before playing with the kiddos.

Firestone—I don't begrudge them adding these cards, since they fit thematically. But yeah...I certainly pulled them out when I was playing with my 9-year-old...

Jeremiah Final Thoughts—I have yet to play this game just once—it plays fast, and it leaves you wanting another go 'round. Boss Monster is fun, thematic, and unique; I recommend you put this one on the table!

Firestone Final Thoughts—It works for kids. It might work as an occasional filler. And there are certain gaming groups that will eat this up. But as for me and my game group, we'll be keeping this one off the table.

Theology Of Games would like to thank Brotherwise Games for providing review copies of Boss Monster. This in no way affected our opinion of the game.

Thanks for reading! Have you played Boss Monster? Which one of us do you agree with? Let us know in the comments!

Who's The Boss? Contest #3 Winner!

bossmonstercoverWell, our third giveaway is over. Once again, I went to, plugged the blog's email followers in, and BOOM! So who's the boss? No, it's not Tony Danza, it's...


Thanks go out to Brotherwise Games for donating a game to the cause. And thanks so much to all of you for making this 1-year blogiversary so fun and special. We're gearing up for some podcasting and video reviews, so stay tuned!

Podcast Poll #2, and Contest #3

podcast-microphoneWe wanted to take a moment and let you know that you can still contribute to the poll we're conducting as we prepare to launch our very own podcast in mere weeks! And you can sound off in our second podcast poll as well! If you have friends who are gamers, and enjoy a good podcast, please share this with them as we've found the feedback here extremely valuable! If you have any other advice, requests, comments, opinions etc, please use the comments section below to sound off! Truly, we appreciate your feedback and your input, and will definitely put it to good use as we make this dream of ours a reality!

[polldaddy poll=7234366]

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And don't forget to enter to win our third contest as we celebrate our Blogiversary! This week we're giving away a free copy of Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building game! Simply subscribe to the blog and you're entered to win!! (Again this contest is only open to those living in the US and Canada—sorry.)

Thanks, as always, for reading, and thanks for all the feedback! Don't forget to look for us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

Who's the Boss Monster? An interview with Brotherwise Games

Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Johnny and Chris, the masterminds behind Brotherwise Games, and the ridiculously successful Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming game, Boss Monster the Dungeon Building card game.

Hey guys, thanks for taking a few minutes to answer some questions for us! For our readers who may not know who you are, could you introduce yourselves and tell us one random fact about yourselves?

Johnny: We are Johnny and Chris O’Neal, two brothers who share a lifelong love of all things geeky. Comics, novels, movies, video games... but especially tabletop games. A random fact about me is that I used to write for a video game review Web site called Nintendorks.

Chris: As the elder brother I like to take the credit for the nerdification of my younger sibling (although I can’t take all the credit). For years after I went to college we lived in separate states, but a common move to Southern California in 2009 put us within an hour of each other, and reinvigorated our common love of gaming.

How did you first get into gaming? What game was your first love?

Johnny: Growing up, of course I assumed that everything my big brother did was cool, which included playing D&D with his friends or video games on our family’s TI-994A. But it was our family’s acquisition of a NES and the original Super Mario Bros that really got me hooked.

Chris: Being almost a decade older, I was already playing a lot of tabletop games (Morrow Project, anyone?) when the first home video game systems came out. Video games derailed my investment in tabletop games for a while, but after college I got back into them pretty heavily. First love game? Probably D&D. I was one of those kids who would sit around and make character after character that would never see the daylight of an actual adventure. I loved it.

Is Boss Monster your first attempt at releasing a game through Kickstarter? If so how shocked are you at the number of backers the game has received?

Chris: Boss Monster is our first Kickstarter. Despite feeling like we had a solid game, a good look and theme, and a decent understanding of how to appeal to our gamer compatriots, I think it’s safe to say that we were pretty overwhelmed by Boss Monster’s success. I think it’s natural to keep your hopes and dreams a bit in check when you do this sort of thing. On launch day I called Johnny at six in the morning and said calmly, “don’t freak out if we don’t hit $1000 this week. We’ve got a month to raise $12,000. Chances are good we can pull this off.” Two hours later I was gibbering into the phone like an overexcited idiot as we passed through $3000. Even once it was clear that the campaign would be successful, we were still underestimating the final amount by a huge amount. Kickstarter is a strange and wondrous beast. Despite what could only be called a huge success, we made a truck-full of mistakes, and learned a number of lessons that we’ll take into our next campaign.

So if you would, take us through the creation and design process of the game. It seems to cross multiple genres; how did you put all of that together?

Johnny: It was a highly iterative process. In the very beginning, weirdly enough, it was a game about acquiring friends in high school instead of acquiring dead adventurers in a dungeon. When we stopped worrying about what game would be “marketable” and “mainstream,” and focused on making a game that we’d love to play, that’s when it came together.

Looks like Pixel Lincoln is making an appearance in Boss Monster; did you approach Jason Tagmire about putting that together, or did he come to you?

Johnny: As our Kickstarter campaign went live, we sent preview copies of the game to a number of Web sites. To our surprise, one of these copies was actually passed on to Jason. I’ll admit we were anxious to hear his opinion of the game, and thrilled when we heard he liked it. The crossover cards were his idea, but we embraced the idea wholeheartedly. Pixel Lincoln appears as a promo card for Kickstarter supporters, and it’s a card that can really shake up the game.

So what is it like designing games with a sibling? Who usually wins the arguments?

Chris: Every game that Brotherwise has in the pipeline has one of the brothers designated as a Lead Designer. The Lead Designer, in theory, wins every argument for that particular game, and we think it’s important to have one person who is ultimately in charge and on the hook for a game’s success. In reality, we’re very good at listening to one another, and relatively unabashed about criticizing work in progress. In almost every situation where we had a disagreement about a key decision, the resulting discussion led us to a good outcome.

Johnny: I have to say that Chris is awesome at keeping things positive and never letting discussions turn into arguments. My natural instinct in a game design debate is to stick to my guns and rarely concede a point right away, but often I’ll sleep on a decision and realize that Chris was right. From pointing out that we should use pixel art to removing dice-rolling as a core mechanic of the game, he managed to change my mind in some very important ways.

What are some of your favorite board/card games?

Chris: I am first and foremost a Heroclix player. I gravitate to complex games and they don’t get much more complex than that one. I’m also a wargamer, with World in Flames as my hands-down favorite. I’ve been playing a lot of Small World recently, and I just marvel at it. It’s my standard for what a quickie game should be: balanced, simple, thematically compelling, and a lot of variation in a small package.

Johnny: My favorite recent game is Ascension. I know some of the team at Gary Games and they’re a bunch of geniuses -- I can’t wait to play SolForge. I also love the classics: Magic, D&D, and Settlers of Catan.

Are there any other games on the horizon you can talk about?

Chris: The success of Boss Monster: Master of the Dungeon allowed us to move forward our production time table for expansions considerably.  Summer 2013 will see our first Boss Monster mini-expansion, Tools of Hero-Kind, and in Fall we will launch a Kickstarter for our first full expansion, Crash Landing. Tools of Hero-Kind will add a whole layer of complexity to the game, turning our heroes from mere resources into honest threats. Crash Landing will riff on some famous fantasy/sci-fi crossovers and introduce sci-fi themed dungeons to the game. Crash Landing will work as a standalone game or as an expansion of the base game. If you missed out on some of our customize-your-card pledges this time around, we’ll repeat those sorts of pledges for the Crash Landing Kickstarter campaign.

2014 will see the release of our first non-Boss Monster title. We can’t say much about it now except that it’s a totally different genre and will introduce a novel card-play mechanic that comes right out of its theme.

One Word Response Time:

Favorite NES game?

Johnny: River City Ransom

Chris: The Legend of Zelda

Best villain of ALL TIME?

Johnny: When you put it that way, Darth Vader

Chris: Kaiser Söze

Megatron or Starscream?

Chris: Megatron (Starscream is soooo whiny)

Johnny: As a younger brother, I relate to Starscream’s constant efforts to overthrow his superior.

He-Man or Thundercats?

Chris: Thundercats HOOOOOO!

Johnny: He-Man. But I’m biased because I had the chance to work on He-Man toys when I was at Mattel.

Legolas or Gimli?

Chris: Gimli, son of Gloin, son of that other dwarf.

Johnny: Legolas and his flowing mane of golden locks.

Thanks, guys, for talking to us!

Make sure you check out Boss Monster, at, pre-order your copy at and follow Boss Monster on Twitter @BossMonsterGame ! And thank you for reading!

Like a "Boss Monster" - Kickstarter Weekly

Hey gang, we're rolling in super late in the game on this one, but it's definitely worth checking out! Brotherwise Games is totally crushing their Kickstarter campaign for Boss Monster: the Dungeon-Building Card Game. I mean their over funded by like $145,000, they've got 3 days left on the campaign and if the get $3,000 more in backing, they will have hit every stretch goal they have planned. Here's the cool thing about the campaign, it's super cheap to get in on. To get yourself a copy of the game you'll only have to buy in for $20! Ok, enough about the campaign, let's talk about the game for a minute or two. From what I can tell Boss Monster, is like the Grand Theft Auto of 8-bit side scrolling card games, in a fantasy realm setting... Instead of playing the hero or the adventurer, players take on the role of the main bad dude, and try to create a dungeon to lure as many adventurers in and then slay them. The theme sounds like a geeky good time and most of the cards look pretty silly (in a good way). There's even a surprise visit from our favorite pixelated president Pixel Lincoln!

So you've got a few days left, head on over and check it out, and maybe help them hit that last stretch goal! You can find the campaign right here!