Gloomhaven (PC, MacOS, Boardgame)

Several years ago, Glooomhaven burst onto the boardgame scene to wide acclaim.  Quickly selling out and then reprinted, this boardgame currently sits at number 1 on the Boardgame Geek list of all-time best boardgames.  It is a beast of a game, weighing in at about 20 pounds of cardboard, cards, and plastic miniatures.  While the heart of the game comes in tactical battle scenarios, playable in an hour or two, the overarching story includes role-playing aspects like character growth and branching storylines to provide gamers with upwards of 150 hours of game time. As a “legacy game” the game includes envelopes and boxes that are sealed at first and are opened up as the game is played.  While it has won the hearts of many gamers, a common complaint is simply how much time it takes to set up a new scenario.  Cue… a digital version.  Gloomhaven is now available in digital form on Steam and GoG. 

The digital edition is faithful to the boardgame.  It is a combination of squad-based combat and a choose your own adventure storyline. Players begin the game as one of several class characters and are given a personal, long term goal. The game plays out in scenario-based combat on a slowly revealed hex grid, but completion of a scenario leads onwards to new scenario options. Combat revolves around playing two cards from your hand and using one for movement and one for attack. Used cards are discarded and can typically be picked back up by taking a short rest. However, one card is removed from the scenario for each short rest so players’ available cards grow progressively smaller. If you’re reduced to less than two cards you are considered “lost” and are done for that scenario. 

As with the physical version, as players complete scenarios and make story decisions, new areas open up to explore (appearing on the game map), reputation is tracked, as is the power level of the city of Gloomhaven (opening up better gear and higher level characters.) The game box is full of “unlocks” that bring in new story elements, scenarios, monsters, and perhaps most importantly – new characters. While only a few characters are available at the start, when a character fulfills their personal, long term goal they MUST retire and a new type of character is unlocked (there are 17 of them.) You can start again with the same character class if you must, but it would be a different character (new magic items, skills, experience, etc..) 

The base storyline has around 50 scenarios, but many side quests and other options can almost double that.  I conservative estimate would be at least that many hours of gameplay is available in the game.  Beyond the campaign (where you can replay scenarios if you need), the digital game has a unique “Guildmasters adventure” with 160 different missions that can be played with a group of characters you can mix and match as they grow in power.


Like the boardgame, digital Gloomhaven can be played with one to four characters (more than one is really recommended) as a solo game or cooperative.  Online co-op play is also available for up to four players (each player gets one character.)  



Gloomhaven is a very deep, rich game but only for those willing to make the investment to get caught up in the campaign.  The core of the game revolves around tactical combat in each scenario.  While there is plenty to explore and unlock, one has to enjoy the combat portions or the game will grow quickly stale.  The game could best be compared to a tactical, turn based “American” style RPG featuring a party of adventurers that grow in power as you play.  There’s definitely a story here, but it takes a back seat to tactical combat.  On the other hand, the digital version is great for boardgamers who have grown weary of the extended setup process or have found it difficult to get their friends together at the same table.


Kid Factor:

This is a complex game that has a few more mature story elements that appear in the campaign.  Nothing especially egregious (you can usually be nice or mean with some bad consequences) but something to be aware of for younger gamers.  I am not aware of bad language or risque graphics, but it has its share of ugly/scary monsters.  It has around a 12+ rating which I think is fair, both for complexity and maturity.


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