Gloomhaven Board Game Review | Everything you need to know
Gloomhaven is an amazing game where you and your party are looking to make a living in the city of Gloomhaven. As you are enjoying the little you have at the local tavern a job opportunity presents itself.
This is the world of Gloomhaven where you will need to decide on your path and your fate. You’ll fight monsters and find treasure galore. How you play this game will be up to you.
In this Gloomhaven Board Game Review will delve into this epic game. Let’s take a look at this wonderful tactical skirmish campaign game.
Table of Contents
- What is Gloomhaven About?
- How Well is Gloomhaven Made?
- Can I Play Gloomhaven Solo?
- Is Gloomhaven a Hard Game?
- How Long is a Gloomhaven Campaign?
- Does Gloomhaven Have a Story?
- Is Gloomhaven Like D&D?
- How long does Gloomhaven take to set up?
What is Gloomhaven About?
Gloomhaven is a campaign based game released in 2017 by Cephalofair Games. It is a cooperative game that you can play solo or with up to 3 friends as you arrive in the town of Gloomhaven seeking your fortune.
The campaign will be played over many scenarios that will slowly unfold a story before you. The decisions that you make will affect the story and also the path through the scenarios that you take.
As any fine adventurer looking for action and game you start in the Gloomhaven tavern. You are approached by a mysterious figure and offered a task. Your quest begins and you start your first scenario.
This game is huge and as you play through it you will discover new characters and build up in strength and reputation to fight bigger and meaner monsters. There is also lots of treasure to loot.
Gloomhaven is a city on the far flung edges of the world. As with all great cities the action happens in and around the tavern. This is where you will start.
You can travel to Gloomhaven from any scenario once you have either completed or failed. Once in Gloomhaven you can do a myriad of things like buy or sell items, donate to the sanctuary, or enhance your ability cards.
In Gloomhaven is where you create new characters, level up existing ones, or retire them. There is also the Gloomhaven prosperity that is important and it will increase as you progress through the campaign’s particular scenarios and events.
In Gloomhaven you can buy gear and level up. As with the roads you may have city events to complete too. Depending on if you complete city and road events you will get something in return.
There is a board map of Gloomhaven and its surrounding land to record your travels. This represents the campaign and will change as you play. You also have personal and party record sheets.
The personal sheet records all the usual stuff like the name of your character, current level and experience. There are also places for various notes along with perks that your character has.
The party sheet is updated with party achievements, reputation and location. So is usually updated in between scenarios or when the location changes.
As Gloomhavens prosperity increases you will benefit from new items becoming available to purchase. Also, existing and new characters can level up according to the Gloomhaven prosperity.
There are also city events so take a look at the events section below for more details.
Gloomhaven is meant to be played in campaign mode and this is how you can progress, discover secrets and unlock further scenarios.
The game has a leveling up mechanic along with items and secrets being unlocked that will make your characters more powerful. The storyline is impeccable and you will be totally engrossed in the world of Gloomhaven.
When you open the box you will find plenty of smaller boxes and envelopes with contents unknown. You will be instructed to open these and find out what is inside as you play through the campaign.
The game itself is challenging and it will take you a few scenarios to get to grips with the flow and what you need to do to get to the end of the scenario. Stick with it and expect to fail a few times.
The idea is that a campaign can only be played through once. Once you have completed a scenario in campaign mode it should not be played again. You can play it again in standalone though.
With that being said, you can buy replayable sticker sets to use during the campaign and reset packs. These will enable you to play another campaign should you wish.
As you unlock scenarios and they are revealed, you are able to play them in casual mode. In standalone you still gain experience, gather gold and loot chests. You cannot read the flavor texts and unlock any further levels though.
It is recommended that you don’t play a scenario until you have played it in campaign mode as there will be spoilers in that you will see what is in the rooms.
However, I think playing the first scenario in campaign mode and then a few times through in casual mode will really help.
The scenario will start with some flavor text to give you the story and what you need to achieve. As you set up for the scenario each player will also get a battle goal to achieve before the end. If you complete this goal then it will help you progress.
Each Scenario also comes with its own objectives and win conditions for you to complete. Achieving these will mean you have been successful. Once completed successfully new locations will be unlocked.
A scenario is one location that you will need to explore. There may be more than one room in these locations. As with all good dungeon crawlers, you won’t find out what is in other rooms until you open the door and take a peek.
You will start in one of the rooms and set up any obstacles and monsters that are in the room. Along with any loot or chests if there are any.
The game proceeds in rounds during which each player and each monster will take turns. If you complete the scenario any loot or chests not looted will not be collected. So you will need to collect it as you go. You won’t be able to go back.
When finished you can return back to Gloomhaven or go on to another scenario. Depending on the time a scenario can take 20 minutes to set up and 60-120 to play. So, typically one gaming session will be one scenario.
Traveling in between different scenarios and back and forth to Gloomhaven you will use roads. This will mean you may come across random road events.
Some scenarios will provide a direct route between locations. In which case you will not need to travel down the road. For example there is a direct route between Gloomhaven and the first scenario.
There are city event and road event card decks. When either is triggered you draw the event card from the top of that deck.
These cards provide the party with some event text and then a choice to make. Once the party has decided which choice to make they will flip the card over and resolve the choice that they have made.
The outcomes are a block of text resolving the choice along with consequences.
I’ve attempted to give you a flavor of this enormous game and all that is in it, without providing any spoilers. I have not touched on the side scenarios, sealed boxes and envelopes, town records, or achievements.
If you like dungeon crawlers then this is a game you will love. The variability is enormous and every decision you make on every turn makes a difference. The storyline is good and you will begin to feel invested in your goals and objectives as you play through.
How Well is Gloomhaven Made?
Gloomhaven is not a cheap game to buy. There is a good reason for this as the game is of great quality. With 2585 individual items in the box there is also a lot of it.
There are 18 amazing character figures along with 40 various monsters.
Here is the contents:
- 1 x Rulebook, 1 x Scenario Book, 1 x Town Records
- 1 Map Board
- 18 Character Miniatures
- 47 Monster Stat Sheets
- 24 Battle Goal Cards
- 50 Money Tokens
- 17 Characters Boards
- 6 Monster Stat Sleeves
- 24 Personal Quest Cards
- 46 Damage Tokens
- 504 CHaracter Ability Cards
- 150 Event Cards
- 40 Random Dungeon Cards
- 9 Random Scenario Cards
- 10 Scenario Aid Tokens
- 4 HP/XP Dials
- 457 Attack Modifier Cards
- 253 Item Cards
- 4 Player Reference Cards
- 12 Objective Tokens
- 17 Character Pads
- 1 Party Pad
- 30 2-Sided Map Tiles
- 232 Monster Ability Cards
- 6 Wood Element Discs
- 32 Summons Tokens
- 155 2-Sided Overlay Tiles
- 35 Character Tuck Boxes
- 1 Element Infusion Board
- 60 Status Tokens
- 3 Sealed Envelopes
- 24 Plastic Stands
- 1 Round Tracker
- 85 Character Tokens
- 4 Sticker Sheets
The artwork is exceptional too. With the epic story and build quality of this game it is very good value for money.
So that is what Gloomhaven is about and how well it is made. Now let’s take a look at some common questions that people have about Gloomhaven.
Can I Play Gloomhaven Solo?
Gloomhaven is a great game to play solo. When playing solo you can play multiple characters at once. Because you will know what each character is going to move it does make the game easier. In which case you should increase the monster level and the trap damage by 1 when playing solo.
Gloomhaven is one of the best games to play with 1 player and comes in at number 4 in my article 20 Best Solo Board Games 2022.
Is Gloomhaven a Hard Game?
Yes, it is hard to learn and beat. This is not the hardest game to play but it is up there. The game is quite complex as there are things to understand about how your turn works and how the enemy acts. On top of that there are things that happen and different rules depending on where you are.
Trust me that this is worth the time it will take for you to learn. This is a great game that will provide hundreds of hours of fun as you play through the campaign.
Some people also find it really difficult to beat the scenarios too. Often this can be down to not completely understanding the rules and missing key elements.
Here are some quick tips:
- Try not to discard cards to your lost pile unless absolutely necessary e.g. don’t use a card’s powers that will discard it to the lost pile.
- Remember that you can discard a card in your hand to the discard pile to repel any kind of attack.
- Consider gearing up with Minor Stamina (10g), Boots of Striding (20g), Eagle-Eye Goggles (30g), or Cloak of Invisibility (20g). In that order they are all good options to get as soon as possible.
Despite it being hard to learn and to play it is rewarding to press on and learn. Once you understand all the rules and have played a few scenarios you will not look back and be glad you persevered.
How Long is a Gloomhaven Campaign?
This is actually a variable answer as it will all depend on your game, the decisions you make, and how you play it. There are 75 scenarios that can possibly be played.
Depending on the number of people playing each scenario can take 60-120. This does not include setup and any time spent leveling up and activities in Gloomhaven itself.
So a game of Gloomhaven can take upwards of 150 hours if you are playing with 4 players. Most of the groups I know of are expecting the game to last years. There are not many games that I know of that will provide that kind of entertainment and longevity for the money.
Does Gloomhaven Have a Story?
Yes, Gloomhaven has a story. The premise is that you are a group of adventurers seeking fame and fortune. The story is there but it is not the strongest part of the game.
The story has to be quite loose in order for you to be able to play through scenarios according to the decisions you make. This means that you may take some routes and then revisit scenarios at a later time.
The result is that sometimes it becomes a little disjointed and you will need to re-read some of the previous scenarios. In order to remind yourself of the what’s and why’s to the scenario.
Is Gloomhaven Like D&D?
No, Gloomhaven is different enough to not be like Dungeons & Dragons. There are some similarities in that both games have various different kinds of characters with varying abilities.
Both on adventures to gain fame and fortune whilst defeating horrific monsters. However, the games have a lot of things that are not the same and this makes them hugely different.
How long does Gloomhaven take to set up?
When you first start playing Gloomhaven there is quite a bit to do to set up each scenario. As you are learning this could take 30-40 minutes.
As you get used to what needs to be done and all the rules this will get quicker. It will likely take around 20 minutes to set up each scenario.
Gloomhaven has been at the top of the Board Game Geek charts for quite a while and for good reason. It is an epic adventure that will take you an epic amount of time to complete.
You will have hours of fun with this game. As you fight through the scenarios and discover the secrets that Gloomhaven has to hold.
If you like dungeon crawlers then this game will keep you and your friends playing it for years to come.