|Illustrator(s)||Alexandr Elichev, Josh T. McDowell, Alvaro Nebot|
|Publisher(s)||Cephalofair Games (2017)|
|Playing time||90–115 minutes (per scenario)|
|Skill(s) required||Strategy, tactics, logic|
Gloomhaven is a cooperative board game for 1 to 4 players designed by Isaac Childres and published by Cephalofair Games in 2017. As a fantasy dungeon crawl game with a branching narrative campaign, Gloomhaven features an enormous amount of content, including 95 unique playable scenarios, 17 playable classes, and more than 1,500 cards in a box which weighs almost 22 pounds (10 kg).
Gloomhaven is a card and tile based game, where your hero's actions are represented by cards and where heroes and monsters move about on hex tiles representing dungeons and cellars. Each player simultaneously chooses two cards to play each turn, each of which has a top and a bottom half, and chooses the top half of one card and the bottom of the other to allow his or her character to make actions such as moving, healing and attacking monsters. Randomization, usually provided by dice, are also handled by a deck of cards. While it has drawn comparisons to role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and other dungeon-crawl board games, Gloomhaven uses game mechanics similar to modern eurogames.
The game was released via Kickstarter in two separate campaigns, raising about $4.4 million in total, and delivering to backers in 2017.
Gloomhaven has received extremely positive reviews, culminating in it reaching the No. 1 spot as the top rated board game on leading website BoardGameGeek in 2017 and keeping that spot for much of 2018. It also won six Golden Geek awards from the site, including for the best overall game of 2017.
Gloomhaven is a fantasy-themed, campaign based tactical skirmish game, in which players try to triumph in combat based scenarios which scale in difficulty depending on the number of players. The game is cooperative and campaign driven, with 1 to 4 players working their way through a branching story consisting of almost 100 scenarios. The campaign develops in a legacy format, with stickers that are placed on the board and cards and sealed envelopes that are opened when certain criteria are met.
Each of the game's character has a unique deck of cards, of which only some form their starting deck; the others can be gained as the character levels up or other events. Each card has three main elements: an initiative number, a top half that typically reflects an attack or offensive action, and a bottom half reflecting a move or defensive action. Entering a scenario, each player selects a specific number of their current deck to use as their hand in the scenario, and cannot use the other cards until the scenario is completed. Monsters themselves have unique decks representing their actions and moves.
Scenarios are played out in rounds. At the start of a scenario, the game's manual describes how to arrange game board pieces representing parts of a dungeon, and to populate them with enemies and other features based on the number of player characters involved, and where players may start their characters. Once a round starts, each player selects two cards from their available hand and plays them face down on two marked spots, with the first card to be used for their initiative. Once all players have played, the player cards are turned over as well as drawn cards for each monsters. The round then plays out following the initiative, from lowest to highest. For enemies, the players follow the instructions given on the flipped card, following certain rules such as which player character to target when there are multiple choices. For players, each may play one action from the top half of one card and the bottom action from the other card. Alternatively, the player may replace a top half action with a basic attack, and/or a bottom half action with a basic move.
Attacks by both players and enemies are modified by an attack modifier deck, which can add or reduce damage points, nullify any damage due to a miss, or even double the attack damage. Certain card actions are magic-driven in one of six classes, and when used, create a magical aura of that class that impact battle. This may affect how other actions can play out; some actions may not be possible if the room has a certain aura, while others may benefit from it. Furthermore, certain actions give the character experience points if they are completed successfully. Players have the ability to interact with dungeon features of each encounter, which frequently require opening a door to the next dungeon area to trigger subsequent parts of the scenario. Other interactions allow players to have their characters loot gold left behind from defeated enemies or treasure chests, and place traps for monsters.
Once the round is over, the players' played card go to their respective discard piles. In some case, actions will require the player to exhaust that card for the rest of the game, or to place it as an ongoing effect on a marked space on their board.
Players must watch their character's health as well as the number of cards they have. If a character's health drops to zero, they have died and are out of the scenario. Alternatively, on taking damage, the player can opt to exhaust cards in their hand proportional to the damage taken. If the player cannot play two cards on the round, their character is also assumed to have died. Players can recycle their discard pile by taking a short or a long rest. A short rest can be taken at the end of the round, but they must exhaust a random card from their discard pile before adding it to their hand. A long rest will consume a player's turn and they can take no actions during it, but will give them the option of which discard to exhaust, as well as restore health. The scenario ends when either all player characters have died (and thus require them to restart that scenario anew) or victory conditions have been achieved (usually, defeating all enemies of a scenario). Scenario instructions will advise the players on changes to make to the overall game, such as identifying new scenarios they can take, or new cards to add to other decks.
Release and reception
The game was originally sold via a 2015 Kickstarter campaign which raised $386,104 from 4,904 backers. and after strong early reviews, a second Kickstarter campaign was launched on April 4th and delivered in November which raised about $4 million from over 40,000 backers.
The game has received extremely positive reviews. Gaming website Geek & Sundry described Gloomhaven as "a masterful design" and suggested "it belongs in a museum". Matt Thrower called it one of the best fantasy board games available, while noting that "Gloomhaven was the critical hit of the year." Board Games Land has described the game as "truly a masterpiece"
The game has been rated the No. 1 board game of all time by BoardGameGeek, which also gave it six Golden Geek awards in 2017 for best game of the year, best strategy game, best cooperative game, most innovative game, best solo game, and best thematic game. The game has received over 20 awards and nominations, including:
- 2018 SXSW Gaming Awards Tabletop Game of the Year
- 2018 Scelto dai Goblin (goblin's choice) award for best game of the year
- 2018 Origins Awards Game of the Year
- 2017 International Gamers Award - General Strategy: Multi-player Nominee
- 2017 Cardboard Republic Striker Laurel Nominee
As of early August 2018, the game had sold about 120,000 copies.
Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles has been announced as an expansion to the game, introducing a new character class, the Diviner, and more than 20 new scenarios.
Asmodee along with Flaming Fowl Studios, has released a digital edition of Gloomhaven for Microsoft Windows. The initial release on July 17, 2019 was offered as an early access model, featuring a subset of the characters, and a single-player Adventure mode that uses procedural generation like a roguelike to create encounters. Ultimately, Asmodee and Flaming Fowl plan to add support for all seventeen characters and the full set of 95 missions from the core board game by the time of the game's final release, along with support for multiplayer.
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