Boss Battle: Formative Review

This week #XPLAPcamp was focused on formative assessments. This simple idea, that an assessment is not the final (or summative) demonstration of a student’s work but rather a first version that can be improved upon, is powerful arrow in a teacher’s quiver. Not only does this allow a teacher to collect data (formal or informal) that can direct instruction but formative assessment also shows the students that education and understanding do not stop once a test is given. While “growth mindset” has become a buzzword, formative assessment and its connection to “Free 2 Fail” (or as I have argued Free to Succeed) idea really does change the break down a fixed get it and move on mentality to one based on growth.

During the #XPLAPcamp discussion “Boss Fights” came up, specifically Scott Hebert’s (@MrHebertPE) Battle Board concept. I have always thought of my unit ending tests as “Boss Fights”. In the gaming world these are the final battles at the end of a level or world. In a well designed game, this ultimate encounter tests the skills that the player has learned over the course of the level; just like in a well designed content unit. One problem with this is, of course, that end of unit test are summative. In my district we have required district wide common assessment exams as well as a state level End of Course Exam. I wanted to use this Formative Assessment Boss Fight Concept though so I have decided to experiment it with as a review activity that would allow me to assess where the students were and fix any common misunderstandings prior to the exam.

So… I developed a Standard 3 Civil War and Reconstruction Boss Fight. The students would be fighting a Civil War inspired Zombie Apocalypse led by the combined forces of Generals William Tecumseh SherMONSTER and Robert E zombLee. (I couldn’t help the pun) In the past I had played games that fostered direct competition between groups. They were successful but I had since heard of games like Pandemic in which the teams needed to work together in order to win the game. This was a mechanic I had been meaning to play with. My first principle in designing this Boss Fight was this:

Either ALL of the teams win, or NONE of the teams win.

If any of the teams “died” then the game was over. I also made a simple “Healing” mechanic  and a “Shield” effect. Another mechanic I had been trying to incorporate better were dice roll. The students roll dice to “attack” the Boss and the Boss has a chance to roll too. At first, I played the roll of Zombie but after a few test runs I had a student that is more of a “Rogue” play the Zombie roll which seemed very popular.

Here are my game rules.

Boss Fight Rules

4 groups. Each Group has 2,000 HP (4 Groups)


After every question the Boss gets to attack a group

  • Boss rolls 4 sided die to select which group to attack
  • Boss immediately takes 100HP away from that group

Miss a Question

  • Boss rolls 4 sided die to select which group to attack
  • Then rolls 10 sided die. Multiply the # by 10.

Zombie Bite

  • With every boss attack roll, boss also rolls a 20 sided die.
  • If the die lands on exactly 20 the targeted team (4 sided die) loses ½ their HP and that amount is added to the Boss HP

Rage Attack

  • After every 3rd missed question the Zombie Boss gets a Special Attack
  • Rolls the 4 sided die. Multiply by 100. If the “ZOMBIE” player gets the next question correct each team loses that number of HP. Boss gains a number equal to the total (rolls a 1, gets 400HP)


Boss has 20,000HP!

  • Answer question correctly and roll the 10 sided die. Multiply by 10 = Attack HP


    • Skip Question & Roll 3 dice
      • 4 sided die = who gets the healing effect
      • 10 sided die (x100) = the amount healed
      • Boss Gets 100HP Attack
    • Declare Bandaid before Question is SHOWN.
      • Get Question Correct
      • Select a specific team
      • Roll 6 sided die. Multiple by 100. Team gets that number HP Boost
      • Get question wrong and lose 100HP. Then Boss gets the Missed Question Attack roll (multiple of 10)
    • LOAD THE CROSSBOW – Skip turn
      • Get next question correct and roll 20 sided die (x200) = HP attack
    • Every team gets one Sacrifice
    • They can, on any Boss Attack, choose to absorb 1 full attack meant for another team

Cross Talk Rule

  • If a group gives away an answer to another group, this alerts the Boss to the groups location
  • The Boss gets to immediately attack with a 10 sided die roll

I played this with 4 classes and had the students give me feedback. The rules you see here are version 4.0. I would love to have more feedback on the game. I believe I need to give each team a particular specialty. Team 1 can heal, team 2 can shoot crossbows, etc…

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