So, here we are then with our first board game overview, and not in a video format.
Honestly, it’s the exact same but with words instead of ugly faces to distract you. Probably better choice of words too and less “um and ah”.
So, Gloomhaven has honestly taken over 2018 as pretty much the only game on the table week after week. Of course, we’ve had gaps playing other stuff but it honestly felt like we’ve just been taking a short stay away from Gloomhaven just to be called back the next week and solve its next no so deep mystery.
Gloomhaven has a very smart appeal to it. It disguises itself as a roleplaying dungeon crawler but that is just surface level deep. It is in fact a puzzle grind with a soft focus on story and RPG elements.
What do you get?
Gloomhaven has a hefty price tag on it. You are looking at over £100 to get the core game and the massive box it comes with. Inside it are so 20 odd plastic characters to unlock, a whole lot of character packs, rule books, stickers, envelopes, map pieces and cards… Jesus wept the cards. I’ll admit its an intimidating game to open up as you are first tasked with organising this monstrosity of a game into sections. No joke but my gaming cupboard was pretty much full of boxes of Gloomhaven for ease of access for each game.
I’d honestly say one of its biggest critisms is to do with its storage and odd shapes. That’s not to say that the quality of the actual pieces is bad, far from it. The artwork is pretty adequate and the cardboard badguys all function effectively in game, but that’s just it. It feels at times like you are still playing the prototype. The rulebook suffers in equal measures. Lacking some easy key examples and over explaining some parts, its not an easy rulebook for a beginner to pick up and learn. It’s a far cry from Kingdom Death Monster which literally had a clearer vision as to what the finished version should look like.
How does it work?
The Mechanics of Gloomhaven are not like anything else out there honestly. No dice rolling at first had me puzzled as to how effective a modifier deck could work, but after 25+ games now, I can really say it works. Its extraordinary drawing cards with slight attack modifiers on them and the difference they can make.
Key to Gloomhaven is the enemy AI deck as well as the player’s secret initiative. This is the core balance to the game. Tyically a turn looks at a short discussion on team tactics, who is doing what and then indicating how quickly you intend to resolve your turn. This is honestly great fun as key turns has players interacting in strange tones such as “I’m going really fast… well, fast for my character but not yours!”
It’s these nonsense sentences that have everyone argue over what that really means. Revealing your hand at times can be stressful just to realise a critical moment has been beaten through bad judgment on timing, comrades underestimating their own speed or most likely, the enemy doing something they shouldn’t be!
Is it any good?
Gloomhaven is currently the #1 on Board Game Geek and with good reason. This game is made to be played cooperatively. People that state that the solo version is just as good are really missing the point of the initiative calls you make. Those moments of playing in character, the events where you do the wrong thing because your character would, these are reasons to celebrate Gloomhaven. A good mission in Gloomhaven is honestly one of the most intense rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. It can be unrelenting at times too. Some missions it feels as if the enemy is cheating (or I didn’t shuffle their deck right) and some missions you have the satisfaction of just nailing it first time.
Gloomhaven is really really good but make sure you have dedicated friends because its not a short journey to the end.
Gloomhaven isn’t the most eye catching game going but its not terrible either. All that content for £100+ is easily worth it for the time you will put back into playing the game.
The story is a little disjointed and the writing is a little too generic to be interesting but ticking off missions, levelling up and doing big stuff within the game world is really satisfying.
Gloomhaven is worth every penny if not more. If it was double the price it would still be worth it from the amount o sheer joy it has brought me and my gaming group.
I’d strongly suggest diving in sooner than later.