Quick Look: Overboss: A Boss Monster Adventure
Designers: Aaron Mesburne, Kevin Russ
Artist: Darren Calvert
Publisher: Brotherwise Games
Year Published: 2021
No. of Players: 1-5 Players
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
From the Publisher:
I will have to admit that while I had been wanting to play Boss Monster for years, it wasn’t until I saw the Kickstarter for Overboss that I decided to finally satisfy my curiosity and find a way to try these games out. As you may have gathered from my review of Boss Monster (Will be released at a later date, will be linked here once it’s available), I initially had some (unfounded) concerns and doubts about what the gameplay would be like for that particular game, but when I saw the previews, rules, and imagery for Overboss, I had the total opposite reaction—this game looked very promising!
For the unacquainted, Overboss is a competitive game for 2-5 players (it also has a solo mode) that takes place in the same world as Boss Monster. In Boss Monster, your job was to take the role of one of several powerful video game villains and lure powerful heroes into your devilishly-crafted dungeon so that you may prove who the toughest Boss of them all is in what I like to call a sort of “competitive tower defense” card game.
Overboss mixes things up a bit, giving a completely new type of game set in the same world.
Overboss Level Up! — The Components
First of all, before we talk about gameplay, we need to discuss what are perhaps the most positive features of Overboss : The quality of art and components.
I will admit that part of the draw of the Kickstarter for Overboss was the presentation—it looked great, but I was absolutely NOT expecting the high level of quality that greeted me when I first opened the box and proceeded to punch the tiles and tokens from their boards.
The presentation of this game is stunning on all levels. The art style is still a cute 8 or 16-bit pixelated style for all you video game buffs, but it now leans more towards a colorful flavor than Boss Monster now, much akin to the classic overhead views of old-school Zelda games.
More than 10 distinct terrain tile types are gorgeously detailed and thick, and each of these comes with an accompanying set of smaller monster tiles that visually pair very well in a feast for your oculars.
Player boards are also gloriously colorful and thick.
10 Boss cards that give you special powers over your competitors look great. Although I do wish the more pixelated depictions of King Croak and the returning cast from previous Boss Monster Games were retained, the newer style of art looks noticeably cleaner and still cuts through professionally.
Card stock for the games’ randomizer and command cards looks to be more than sufficient, while a thick pile of double-sided score sheets means you have plenty of games to play before needing to print your own sheets to track your scores across games. A black drawstring bag is there to help draw random monster tokens when needed.
I cannot overstate just how well of a job Brotherwise Games did from a production standpoint for Overboss, but perhaps the most critical aspect of this fantastic design would be the storage for the game itself. Because, let’s face it, even the best games would suffer under my eye if they did not have a good way to store and organize them (I am looking at you, Gloomhaven, for those of you who checked out that recent review).
And the Gametrayz inserts for Overboss simply do NOT disappoint.
Which seems like it should always be the case for anything with a Gametrayz insert, but for whatever reason, the past few games that I have tried that had Gametrayz inserts did not do an adequate job of storing all of the components satisfactorily, in my opinion. So it brings me the utmost pleasure to inform you that the bundled storage for Overboss is among the very best I have seen.
Take for example that you literally have hundreds of tiles and tokens that you need to have easy access to in this game, and you can see that Overboss could easily become a jumbled mess if jostled, shaken, or left with too much inefficient use of space.
Thankfully, they put so much consideration into the design that it shows as the most prominent feature of the game in my eye.
The bottom tray for the game is divided neatly with 12 square partitions for each tile set.
I have seen many developers that would have thought it enough if each specific terrain tile had its own niche (as they all do), and just leave it at that, making it so the end-user needed to bag up the remaining mini-monster tiles to keep them separated, but the crew of Brotherwise took things to the next level by having each designated terrain space have a little nook that proudly fits ALL of its matching monster tiles directly underneath them! Talk about cool and efficient!
Simply exemplary. Every other developer and manufacturer should take note of this design. It is simply fantastic.
Now…Ahem….The Gameplay, which is what we are all supposedly here for….
Let’s Take This Outside!
I am going to break my tradition of saving my thoughts on gameplay until the very end and cut straight to the chase : The gameplay of Overboss matches the quality of its production.
Now let’s find out why.
The card playing mechanic of Boss Monster is eschewed in favor of a new, colorful tile-drafting/placing mechanic as 10 Overbosses now try to create the most fearsome video game world of all time.
When setting up the game, players chose 5 terrain tile types and their “Matching Monster” tiles that will be used in the game. This can also be done via randomizer cards as well.
The larger Terrain tiles are shuffled and placed in a singular stack where they are easily accessible by all players in a central area. The Matching Monster tiles are placed in the black drawstring bag that comes with the came, along with special mini tiles that include:
Players will then take their player boards and decide whether to play a smaller world overlay (3×4 grid) or a larger 4×4 tile grid.
Choosing a Boss Monster card is next, each player is given two random Boss cards and chooses one secretly, to be revealed to other players later. Each Boss Monster has 2 special abilities that can be used during the course of the game. The first ability triggers at any time during your turn when you decide to reveal your Boss. The second happens during the end game point calculations, granting players special situational bonus points based on the Boss they chose.
Interestingly, choosing use for an Overboss is ironically an optional variant game mode, but for gamers who want this extra power, these would normally be chosen now as well. But I can understand why choosing Bosses is left out of the more basic instruction set, as it makes the game easier to learn the first time around.
For every subsequent play, though, I personally cannot imagine NOT using a boss, as they do not make things dramatically more difficult, and they make scoring more fun.
Players can also elect whether or not to use Command Cards for their game, which adds more variability for seasoned players. Again, more on these later.
Four Terrain Tiles are drawn from the top of the pile and placed face up in a central area. Next, Four random mini tokens are drawn from the bag, and each placed on top of one of the Terrain tiles, where they are now considered to be an inseparable pair ; if you take one, you take them both. These tiles are now your drafting pool.
Once players determine who goes first, the active player takes one Terrain tile and the token on it from the drafting area and places them on a square on their player board. The exception to this is if the Terrain tile contains Portal Tokens or crystals, which are instead placed into the player’s designated Lair area on their board to be used later.
Otherwise, the token on top of each Terrain Tile will be either a Monster or Mini-Boss token.
Then, a new Terrain tile and Mini Token is drawn to replace the ones that were just utilized, and the next player continues, and so it goes until every player has completely filled their Overworld Map Board.
As you can see, taking your turn is about as easy as it gets.
The fun part is picking your path to victory, which lies in the types of terrain tiles available for you to chose, where you place them, and the type of token that is on top of each terrain tile.
Here is a quick summary of each Terrain type. Most Terrains tiles have a base value of 1 point with a unique bonus that can be triggered in a variety of ways.
Forests : No base value on its own, rather you get points depending on the how many forests you have at the end of the game. More is better, for a maximum value of 15 points awarded for having 5 forests.
Graveyards : Base Value of 1 point. Whoever has the most Graveyard at the end of the game gets 5 bonus points, whoever has the second most gets 2 bonus points.
Swamps : Base value of 1 Point. Worth 1 extra point if adjacent to water or another swamp for a maximum value of 3 points.
Caves : Base value of 1 Point. 2 Bonus points of placed adjacent to a Mountain.
Camps : Base value of 1 point. Each camp tile has a flag color. You get more bonus points based on having different colored flags in camp tiles.
Castles : Base value of 2 Points. Two bonus points if you have a Vampire token on it.
Deserts : Large bonus points awarded for having a long series of Desert tiles placed adjacent to each other.
Summoning Circles : Base point value of 1. Every time you draft a Summoning Circle, you may rearrange two monster tokens on your board to better position your minions for optimal scoring during endgame.
Cloud Islands : Base Value of 7 Points for each Cloud Island, but this value decreases by 1 for each non-Cloud Island tile on your map.
Dungeons : Base point value of 1. Get 1 bonus point for each distinct terrain tile that is adjacent to your dungeon. No tokens may be placed here, any drafted tokens that were on your dungeon must go into your lair where they can be used or placed later.
Volcanoes : Base value of 4 points. Upon placement, any monsters on adjacent Terrain tiles are destroyed.
You can also score points by ensuring that you match as many of the mini Monster Tokens as possible to their respective tile type. For example, the Lizard Men live in forests, as can be seen with the matching tree icon in the photo. Each Terrain tile that is matched with its appropriate monster nets you one bonus point.
In addition, each time you make a straight vertical or horizontal line of identical monsters, you get bonus points for having these monsters in a band. A band size of 2 will grant you 2 points, a a band of 3 nets you 5 points and a band size of 4 adds 7 points to your total for each respective band of that size that you have.
Mini Boss tokens are worth 2 base points instead of the usual 1 for regular monster mini tokens, but their drawback is that they cannot be in bands to give you bonus points.
If you happened to acquire a crystal during your drafting phase, these will give you a bonus to your score at the end of the game. Each type of crystal has a matching Terrain icon—for example if you get the Forest Crystal, you will get one bonus point for each Forest tile you have on your map at the end of the game.
To help you manage and maximize your points, you may also make use of special Portal tokens if you are fortunate enough to acquire them during drafting. Once you obtain these, you may activate them for a one-time ability to reorganize any two mini tokens on your map to help you match and band mini-tokens together for further bonus point acquisition.
If you opted to play with the Command Cards variant, a series of these cards are laid out at the beginning of the game. Each Command Card depicts a simple Terrain card pattern or layout. If you manage to arrange any of your identical Terrain tiles into the pattern depicted in the card, you can activate the special ability on that Command Card, which can allow you to do everything from rearranging your tiles, to disrupting your enemies’s tile placement or even outright destroying some of their Overworld!
Lastly, each Overboss has a special end-game ability that gives them a unique way to score bonus points. For example, King Croak gets a bonus of 2 points for each Dungeon Tile on their board, whereas Belladonna may give you a bonus based on how many mini tokens are in your Lair at the end of the game.
After each player’s board is full, players tally their scores and determine a winner!
Overall Thoughts :
Before readers go on scratching their head wondering why I might seemingly rate Overboss higher than other high-ranking games out there (Like Gloomhaven), please keep in mind two factors.
1) I do take everything into holistic consideration. Things like horrific setup times and components can affect my experience.
2)I try to rate games on how well they are for the type of game they are, what they are trying to be, and whether they do a good job of treating and reaching their target audience. If two different styles of games have identical quality of components and setup times, just because I give one game a 9 and the other a 7 does not necessarily mean that the game that is rated a 9 is significantly better in a head-on contest since we are potentially comparing apples to oranges. Rather, it means this is what the game would score in competition with games of their respective type. I cannot treat a kids game that gets a 9 the same way I would as an adult-oriented action/rpg game of the same score. Each type of game has their objective (and subjective) ways to measure them that are unique to their genre.
With that being said, Overboss is one of the best games I have ever played that serves a broad range of ages, and should appeal to many types of gamers. It plays relatively swiftly (30-45 minutes) yet can be mechanically simple and deep at the same time.
Functionally, it is straight-forward enough for my five-year-old to grasp, even if they need help calculating scores and strategies (which of course, will eventually come more naturally as children develop), but it is complex enough in all the varied possibilities for scoring that even micro-managers can have a blast figuring out the best way to optimize the tiles that are on the table.
If you liked Sagrada (My review of this will be posted here once it’s online), you will probably like Overboss, as it feels similar in many respects (However, we liked Overboss significantly more).
Whereas I felt that Boss Monster had a certain level of prerequisite knowledge of video game history to get the most out of it for its humor, Overboss is something that all types of players can enjoy since there really is no story or flavor text that is alluding to some 30-year old video game that not everyone knows. Just jump into the game and start playing!
And as for my only negatives…
Well, I mean someday, I will need to print more score sheets…not a deal-breaker for me by any means. To counter this, I do plan on making my own custom sheet to laminate so I can use dry erase markers, much as I did with score sheets for the Downforce board game.
And the other negative? Well, I must reiterate that the internal storage for the game is so perfect that I am almost afraid if Brotherwise makes expansions for Overboss—because this really is really the perfect, self-contained little gaming experience as it is.
This game has my highest recommendation.
Great job, Brotherwise!
Theme / Art : 9
Story : N/A
Component Quality : 9
Setup : 9
Fun : 9
Gameplay : 9
Overall : 9
Jazz Paladin- Reviewer
Jazz Paladin is an eccentric at heart — When he is not learning to make exotic new foods at home, such as Queso Fresco cheese and Oaxacan molé, he is busy collecting vintage saxophones, harps, and other music-related paraphernalia. An avid music enthusiast, when he is not pining over the latest board games that are yet-to-be-released, his is probably hard at work making jazzy renditions of classic/retro video game music tunes as Jazz Paladin on Spotify and other digital music services.
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