This post contains possible spoilers for the (very) early game content of Gloomhaven.
Its review-time! We’ve played the first four scenarios of Gloomhaven and one side-scenario. I can’t say much about the middle and late game content of this huge legacy board game, but I think we saw enough of the early game to form an opinion.
Our adventuring party (mercenaries) is based in the city of Gloomhaven. From there we travel the surrounding area on our search for fame and treasures. While you can see the whole game world from the beginning, the locations are slowly revealed depending on your progress in the story. This is similar to an open world computer roleplaying game. Additionally some aspects in the game world are changing over time. The city of Gloomhaven for example is getting prosperity through the mercenaries actions, which again leads to the merchant selling more interesting and powerful equipment.
After the first few scenarios I have to say that I really love this part of the game. The city and the surrounding area feel alive and there are City Events and Road Events happening to our adventurers. There are just two tiny things that I criticize here:
- The material of the map is not the best. You have to take great care when folding and unfolding the map or you can easily damage it on the edges.
- Playing a scenario is taking up a lot of room on my (large) living room table, so we didn’t use the map on a few of our sessions. I say its criticism, but this is actually amazing at the same time.
At this point we didn’t unlock a lot of secrets in the game world, but the ones we came across were really promising. You will stumble upon new item designs, random encounters, character modifications, new character classes and sealed envelopes that may contain something completely different.
You can pray in the city temple to get more critical hits in your next scenario and your characters will finish their personal quests and then retire in the city. These are just some examples of what Gloomhaven has to offer. All this stuff makes this game unique and builds on the long-term motivation.
Score: 9/10 for the world.
Well, the rules… they are a double-edged sword in my opinion. On one side, they are working very good and they feel really balanced, deep and interesting in the long term. But the learning curve feels pretty steep at times. We are four players and we have lots of experience with other kinds of games, but we ran into situations, that kept us sitting around puzzled.
Actually it seems like everything is in the rulebook, but even after reading it and using it for some game sessions, I still don’t know where to look for the special rules for special situations. It feels like they could be hidden at the end of totally unrelated paragraph. But as I said: Once you get the rules you will have a lot of fun!
I was doubtful at first when I read about the automated movements and attacks of the monsters in the game. After a few scenarios, I have to say that the concept is working out pretty good. In some situations, the behavior still feels as random as it is. When a strong monster just needs to move one more square to attack an already weakened character, but instead keeps its position and does a more powerful attack on an empty adjacent square, the immersion suffers somewhat. I have to say however, that the monsters are designed pretty well, so this is not an “every game” situation.
All in all: If you want to open a box and start playing a few short rounds, this is not your game. If you are willing to take the effort of learning the rules and preparing each and every game, you picked the right box.
Score: 7/10 for the rules.
I already said a few words about the condition of the world map. I have to say, that the rest of the materials are manufactured much better. That said, there are still some things to consider.
It’s a good idea to put the cards you are using a lot into sleeves. They are not made of bad materials, but you will turn them around in your hand for most of the game session, so they will wear down quiet fast.
We only saw the miniatures of the four characters we started playing with and they look amazing! If you have the skills and the equipment, painting them seems to be worth the effort. I for my part still hesitate to get into another hobby (or is painting and gaming just two sides of the same coin?).
The dungeon tiles are done very well and fit together nicely. As they are used to generate tons of dungeons, you will sometimes get the feeling, that the imprinted lighting and room design doesn’t fit perfectly with the other rooms, but that’s to be expected and not a big issue. I know from different games, that the tiles wear off pretty fast, but so far I can’t find any damage on mine. The same could be said about the monster standees. They are made from strong cardboard, but putting them in and out of their plastic stands can damage the edges. So touch them tactfully.
Score: 8/10 for the materials.
This is an amazing game! As mentioned earlier it has a steep learning curve, but you get what you want: a profound legacy board game with tons of unlockable content and a world you can make your own.
Let’s have a look at the individual scores:
- World: 9/10
- Rules: 7/10
- Materials: 8/10
If you are fine with investing some extra time into the preparation and the rules, you should gather some friends and jump into the world of Gloomhaven right now (provided that you find a copy of the game for an affordable price).
What are you opinions of the game? Did you get the rules after one reading of the rulebook? Did you paint your miniatures? Let’s talk about it in the comments!