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Teaching Someone to be Bad: Boss Monster

Although I’d played with friends at game shops before, getting my own copy of Boss Monster for review really let me delve into it. Especially, since now I had to be the one to teach someone how to play a game that is the opposite of what you usually do in a game. Especially a video game. You go through the level, get to the boss at the end and defeat them. Boss Monster, if you haven’t already tried it, is from the perspective of the boss. The object is to come up with a level that will kill the hero off before they can get to you for that epic battle.

Anyone familiar with original Nintendo era side-scrolling games and tabletop RPGs will find a lot of amusing references in Boss Monster. Even the bosses themselves recall popular video games such as Castlevania, Metroid or Super Mario Brothers while also giving a nod to RPGs in the form of a nod to Gary Gygax. My goal for my own copy was to teach my husband how to think in reverse from what he’s used to and try to actually kill the heroes.

I’ve always enjoyed playing Boss Monster the few times I’ve played, even if I tend to be the losing Boss most times. Learning the game turned out to be rather different from teaching it and I have a new appreciation of those that were patient with me. Bringing a new player into the fold takes time with a game like Boss Monster. Even I suddenly found myself questioning rules I had been playing with before and in doubt. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, Boss Monster is a game best learned through playing rather than the rule book.

Expansion box set

One of the available sets for adding cards to the game.

If you are teaching someone to play, be prepared to hold back and don’t play the first few games as if they are “real” games. It will usually take about three games for someone to start being a enough of a player and start employing strategies to make it fun for an experienced player. However, once the new player is up to speed, the game really shines. The third game is also still early enough that the new player will just be discovering and reacting to all the little jokes and references in the cards.

Sure, it might be weird to hear yourself advising someone on the best way to make sure a cleric is killed in your dungeon, but remember, they all have multiple lives, so don’t fret. Feel free to be as cruel as you need to be. And some of those heroes are just annoying anyway.

I’ve played Boss Monster with two people, but I’ve always found it to be a better game with 3-4. So it’s in your best interest to recruit and teach others. If you, yourself are new to the game, I envy you starting your Boss Monster journey. A few things I suggest:

The cards and card stock are very nice. However, even though they are well made, there is a lot of sliding across tables happening in the game. Clear game sleeves would be a good idea, to reduce wear and tear on the game. This is an especially good idea if you plan on getting any expansions, so you won’t have worn older cards mixed in with the newer ones.

Plenty of table room. You will run out of table room really fast with this game, if you play it on a typical round kitchen table. You’ll want a bigger table or to clear your table off completely for play.

Playing 8 or 16-bit era videogame music when the heroes start to descend on the dungeons really adds to the game. This isn’t a requirement, but it is really fun. The added silliness makes it more fun with kids who didn’t grow up with these games. (I realize not every family still has a Super Nintendo like we do.)

Now that we’ve successfully got three players, we are considering adding some of the extra cards. Not because we’re already bored with the base game, but because the cards are just so much fun.

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  1. Avatar
    John Enfield

    Thanks for adding the bit about how much table space the game takes. It’s good to know for people with small gaming spaces. I’ve bought games in the past that, though we enjoyed them, we kept running out of table space and had to resort to setting up those TV trays with the tall legs next to the table to expand our table space. Does using the expansion sets take up even more real estate on the table, or do the cards replace enough core game cards to not make that much difference in space needed?

    I’ve a soft spot for the old NES and SNES era games and am beginning to appreciate card games more, so I may have to give Boss Monster a try. I did enjoy playing Overlord back when I had a computer that was compatible with it. It has an idea like this where you play the main villain and set up your own dungeon while trying to keep heroes from stealing all your precious treasures and from killing off all your minions. I miss playing games like that. Not many of them out there that are good.

  2. Christopher Bishop
    Christopher Bishop

    I think the creators of this game did an awesome job capturing both the essence of 8 bit games, but also providing enough reason to come back again and again. I can definitely see how it was hard to teach folks to look for things as the big bad rather than the hero. Interesting sounding game, I think it will make an appearance at my table for sure!

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