The Cultist – <em> Boss Monster </em>

The Cultist – Boss Monster

Behold! A card game of villainy and 8-bit nostalgia!

Last week, we had a game made for the cult of horror movies in Betrayal, where no one knows at first who the villain may be. This week, the fans of good old retro video games get their boardgame champion! And the villains? Are all the players.

Don’t get me wrong, this game’s great for board/card game players and geeks of any flavor, but the many references, gags, and most notably the art style is rich with old-school gamer nostalgia.

Just a few random cards of reference

Boss Monster is a successful product of Kickstarter, and since its original release, has spawned a mini-expansion and a full-blooded sequel just recently. The game itself is marked at playable with 2-4 players, though I’ve played with five and didn’t have any problems. The risk of more players mostly increases the chance of “too much happening in a single turn” and perhaps running out of heroes before the game’s over, so I wouldn’t recommend going much beyond the five I mentioned.

The gameplay is pretty easy to learn as well, and perhaps even second-nature to those accustomed to such modern cardgames.

Each player starts by choosing their Boss Monster (or officially, randomizing, after you’ve all got a hang of the game—there are some that might simply be better than others). The Boss Monsters each have an innate treasure value (which I’ll get to in moment), an XP value (which just means the order in which players take turns), and a “Level Up” ability that occurs when you first build your fifth room. Players then draw a hand of five dungeon rooms and two spells, discard two of their choice, and then begin building their first room. The goal is making a dungeon of up to five rooms that can attract heroes better than other players, and still kill those heroes before they reach your boss. Each room has the damage that it does, some text giving it a special ability, and a treasure value. Every round, heroes equal to the amount of players are drawn from their deck to the center of the table. These heroes are clerics, fighters, thieves, and mages of various references (again, so many references), and each class wants a specific treasure type provided by various dungeon rooms (the symbols of course, shown on each hero card).

A half-decent complete dungeon! One that this fighter won’t be surviving anyway.

The game is essentially a matter of trying to figure out what the other players are doing and trying to counter them. Each turn, when a new room is played, it’s put face down where it’s going to be built (even replacing previous rooms by playing them on top), so you can see if someone’s replacing a treasure type, and perhaps take that opportunity to be the leading Boss Monster in fighter treasure which may lure more heroes to your dungeon. Or the reverse, by perhaps evading the advances of stronger heroes that your dungeon can’t deal with by having treasures they don’t want, and let another player take the heroic face-punches. Additionally, there are the spell cards, which throw out surprises to destroy plans or further ruin a hero’s day. Like, say you’ve lost the arms race in wizard treasures, and another player is getting three mage heroes visiting their dungeon which they can successfully deal with. Well, just freeze one of their essential rooms and now instead of three points, they’re taking three lightning bolts to the face. Basic villainous stuff.

The game tends to heat up in the end as there are two decks of heroes: the basic deck which you deal with first (ability-less and low health in the vanilla edition of the game), and then, after they’re all dealt with, the “Epic Heroes,” which are much higher health, sometimes have special abilities, are worth double points and deal double damage. Around this point is where the game can abruptly end in a surprise victory or a sudden death. Though I must say, in the original edition of the game, it’s fairly hard for a player to lose due to death from heroes.

Which is why I wholeheartedly recommend grabbing both the sequel and the mini-expansion; the sequel is stand-alone; you don’t need the first set to play it. The first set has its own unique cards, which are cool and offer bigger variety, but the sequel has more complex and interesting mechanics. The “Mini-Expansion” I keep mentioning is called “Tools of Hero-Kind,” and it’s not a stand-alone. It essentially makes the game more difficult and complex by adding the mechanic of “Hero Items.” It’s a deck of items that attach to heroes of certain classes and give them unique abilities, but give the Boss Monster who kills them a spell-version of the item if they die in that player’s dungeon. I highly recommend the mini-expansion, as the heroes just aren’t quite dangerous enough on their own. I’ve played at least 10 games before the expansion and no one’s died to wounds yet.

Though players have had to weaken their dungeons to avoid it.

Heroes with abilities and weapons! Finally a worthy foe to lure into a spikepit!

Were I to impart a protip from my experience, I’d highly recommend using rooms that destroy your other rooms. In the late game, the ability to destroy a room effectively utilizes the room beneath it to essentially give you an additional new room in a turn to switch-up your treasure bait, or even better: build a room just for its treasure bait, then destroy it for the deadlier room beneath when heroes show up. “The Crushinator” room especially seems overpowered in this regard, as I’ve won several games based entirely on its ability to destroy my other rooms instantly and give the other rooms a huge damage bonus (an overall boost of 10 if played right, and that’s if you don’t use it more than once!) Were this an online game, that card would totally need to be nerfed or banned, and I think that was noticed as the sequel set has two similar cards that are a bit more balanced and notably add the text “once per turn” to the ability.

All good in my opinion, but The Crushinator? Perhaps too incredible.

You can pick up this awesome game from the creator’s site at Amazon as well as its Sequel and Tools Of Herokind. In addition, they have a video game version playable on the app store and Google Play for tablets. Though last I looked, the AI was a bit dumb and the app could use a few adjustments. Totally playable though, and it overall looks and sounds good. They have a youtube walkthrough if you’d like a little taste of the video game, and a Watch It Played tutorial of the actual card game if you want to see the rules in more detail.

Woo! Next time, I’m still deciding between more games of table-kind, digital-kind, or good tasty cult movies. You folks have any opinion on the matter? Feel free to let me know in the comments, or in blood-drawn messages on my front door if you’re feeling especially passionate. In the meantime, like and follow us on our Facebook or our Twitter and I’ll catch ya next week.

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