|Multiplayer:||Yes, pass n play or private Internet server; no async options|
|AI:||Yes, 1 level|
|Purchase for iPhone:||None available. Buy an iPad now!|
|Purchase for iPad:||
GD Star RatingBoss Monster,
Sometimes, you just want to be bad. Boss Monster (and c’mon guys, no giggling about the abbreviation) casts you unequivocally as the bad guy, competing with the other bad guys to slay the most heroes the fastest. Ready to rumble?
Though sporting the increasingly popular 8-bit visual style (okay, 16 if you want to get technical) BM is not based on any particular video game – but if you grew up playing NES, you’ll probably recognize a lot of the riffs and references.
The first thing you’ll do is randomly get assigned one of eight possible boss monsters. Each one has a certain XP value (which serves no purpose but determining starting player) along with one base treasure and one Level Up power. You’re then dealt a hand of 5 Room cards and 2 Spell cards; you’ll keep your 5 favorite cards (total) from this selection.
Each turn you can add one room to your dungeon. Each room will have a type – Monster or Trap, Advanced or not – and one or two treasure icons. There are 4 treasures in total, each corresponding to one of four types of heroes. The room will also list the amount of damage it deals to any adventurer unlucky enough to enter.
On the second turn, adventurers begin to enter your lair. Each one will be drawn to the dungeon that has the most treasure icons of it’s corresponding type – your count of each is helpfully summarized to the right, as are the counts of your opponent(s), though strangely the overall strength of your dungeon is not. Each room of the dungeon deals damage to the hero. If the hero is killed, you consume it as a soul for victory points; if it survives, it’ll apply a wound to you, the boss monster. Five such wounds will eliminate you from the game.
Each boss monster has a unique Power Up ability. This is activated automatically upon building your fifth room; this doesn’t necessarily equate to the fifth turn, because you can replace rooms in your dungeon by building over them, improving or replacing the room and slowing your overall progress. Certain game effects can also destroy rooms – sometimes voluntarily to gain an effect, other times because one player attacks another, sabotaging the strength of that player’s dungeon.
In addition to playing Room cards, you can play Spell cards, sometimes on yourself, sometimes on your opponents. Heroes are pretty puny, generally speaking, so sabotaging your opponents is a key strategy to successful gameplay, and Spells are the most direct way to do that. When playing a spell, you must first select the target player. If the spell has a more specific target, such as a specific room, you must then select the target of the spell. Hit the OK button when you’re done to wreak havoc upon the forces of evil.
While the game isn’t exactly played in real time, there is definitely a timing element. Some room effects can only be played on an adventure in that room, and some Spells are most effective when timed against the movement of the hero. As such, each Adventure Phase consists of an adventure moving into a room, along with a Halt! button appearing. Press the Halt! button to pull up a few more sub options – specifically, playing a card, or choosing to pass all further card plays to advance the game. (The Go! button also appears, essentially as a cancel to the Halt! button.) Importantly, this button shows up whether the adventurer in question is in your dungeon or that of an opponent – not all cards are hazardous to heroes, after all.
Toward the end of the game, the epic heroes begin to appear. These stand out by their gold background, and their higher health counts. If you can kill one of these buffed up slayers of evil, you’ll earn double the points – but if they make it through to you, you’ll take double the damage.
When one player collects 10 souls, whoever gets the highest soul score that turn wins – this means it’s possible to trigger the win condition and not actually win the game, though it isn’t likely. It’s also possible to win simply through the attrition of being the last boss monster standing after all other players have been eliminated.
We’ve seen a series of board game ports over the past year and a half or so that were funded by Kickstarters. Almost across the board, these games have not been the most favorably reviewed – by us or by others – and unfortunately BM continues that trend.
Documentation, for example, is lacking. The app features a slide show tutorial designed to quickly get a new player up to speed with the games’ core concepts. It does this admirably enough for a non-interactive tutorial, but even admits that it’s only teaching you the basics. There’s rather a lot of territory that isn’t covered, which is fine for a tutorial as long as the complete rules are available elsewhere. In the case of BM, no documentation exists in the app other than the tutorial – not even a link to download an external PDF. As such, anyone who is not already familiar with the card game is at a serious disadvantage playing against folks who already know, for instance, what the icons on a Spell card indicate. Also absent from the documentation is the vital factoid that an Advanced Room must not only match the general type (Monster or Trap) of the room it’s improving, but must also share at least one treasure icon in common. Little things like this may well confuse anyone who isn’t already familiar with the game.
Online multiplay theoretically exists via a third party server – we say theoretically because we’ve never seen any actual opponents, so we weren’t able to test this mode. Pass n play works acceptably well, though all players need to have access to the iPad during the Adventure phase in case a player wants to play a Spell on an adventurer in another player’s dungeon. If you have the ability to physically secure your iPad to the table, it’s probably wise…note also that you CANNOT save a game in progress, so if you need to leave the app to check your email or put it down for a few hours because a friend came over, expect to lose whatever progress you’ve made.
The game is a free download, but the free mode only allows you to play head-to-head against the AI. If you wish to use expansions – only one of which is actually available, which must be unlocked via 40 (!) wins, with no purchase option being available – or play against more players or human players, you’ll need to purchase the full game via a $7 unlock.
We almost want to write a “what not to do” guide for Kickstarter software development. BM is a light and very random game, but it’s fun enough for what it is and manages to exercise a bit of strategy without overstaying it’s welcome. The app, however, is too rough around the edges to command the premium price it asks. The interface for playing Spell cards and room abilities is clunky, making it all too easy to blow an opportunity. Full documentation appears nowhere in the app. Asynchronous Internet play is not an option, which given the interactive nature of turns is forgivable, but the inability to pause an active game and return to it later is not – the nature of mobile gaming really demands this feature, and it constantly amazes us to find an app lacking in that ability. As an insult to all these injuries, the only way to unlock the expansion is to win – not simply play – 40 games in this sub-par app. There’s nothing wrong here that an update or two couldn’t fix, but leave your gold in your hoard until that update arrives.