A Visit to Gloomhaven

In this guest post bargain ninja Derek Arsenault guides us around one of the most popular travel destinations of recent years: Gloomhaven.

DISCLAIMER: I will try to avoid spoilers in this post. I personally love surprises, and therefore will do my best to not say anything that may take that fun away from anyone interested in playing Gloomhaven.

This was my first post that actually took some thought. Why? Gloomhaven is BIG! So naturally there’s plenty to talk about. This post will provide little snippets to explain how I feel about this beast of a game that sits atop BGG’s top 100 list… still. It is not a “review” to explain the game in great detail (the 50pg rulebook does that pretty well on it’s own).

In May of 2020, I came across the biggest gaming bargain yet on our local marketplace;

Gloomhaven, practically brand new, for only $50 (CDN)!!

I scooped up that deal as quickly as I could, drove the 45-50min away to pick it up and brought the new MONSTER home! When I say “monster”, I mean big… I mean physically heavy… I mean deep in strategy. Gloomhaven is simply a monster by all measures!

Prior to Gloomhaven, Scythe and Caverna were my two biggest boxes in my collection. As you can see, they are puny compared to the mother of all dungeon crawlers.

Let’s talk components

When you first pick up the 20lbs Gloomhaven box (seriously, it’s 20 lbs!), you immediately know there is more than a rulebook and a few cardboard components! From map tiles, to environment tokens, to multiple character minis (only 6 are “unlocked” in the beginning of the 18 total), 240 monster standees, literally 1000+ cards of all kinds… The list goes on and on. It’s incredible, to be honest.

The game was played once and somewhat disorganized. To give you an idea of components, it took me two hours (at a relaxed speed, mind you) to re-organize all components in this box to my liking.

Replayability (or the hours and hours of playing to complete it once)

In fact, Gloomhaven caught my attention very quickly as I dove into the tabletop gaming hobby, due to its theme. However it also went off my wishlist a couple times because I was concerned about replayability (which is very important to me). However, I learned two things that put it back onto my wishlist:

  1. There’s hundreds of hours involved to even finish a campaign (so for me it may be like many video games where I simply enjoy them for a long, long time and never make it through).

  2. You can purchase reusable stickers for the map board, so you can reset your campaign whenever you like (which I did). I believe I’ve seen that you can also download apps to track your campaign progress, unlocked locations etc. to eliminate even doing the stickers on the map board.

I’ve read the odd forum post that says it’s “not worth” replaying once you’ve gone through the game. Without a doubt there will be less surprises, but to me if you enjoy playing an RPG on your table as you develop your characters and kill monsters; you just may decide to keep going back. The game is so big I don’t know if I’ll ever get through it unless I really put all other games aside and make it my mission. All in all, replayability may be a very distant concern for me personally. I still say to each their own in this regard.

The town of Gloomhaven

Here’s the general idea. For those reading who grew up playing RPG video games, this is an absolutely fantastic port of those onto the table. I wasn’t into RPG’s until only a few years ago, despite growing up with video games. Now I find them not only relaxing, but fun and entertaining. With at least a few years of playing RPG’s under my belt, the various aspects of Gloomhaven felt familiar to me and all in all, just make sense.

The town of Gloomhaven is where you start, where you can visit between scenarios to upgrade your characters, purchase items, etc. Throughout the game you essentially choose how often you come and go (unless you have to head there for scenarios). There are also city cards and road cards that may help or hinder you along your journey as you visit and travel to/from Gloomhaven. It really gives you an RPG feel as you purchase items and develop your characters throughout your adventures.

Who doesn’t love minis?