When it comes to Gloomhaven, I was a little late to the party. A friend of mine backed the original Kickstarter, but after playing a couple times, we were unable to find a time to get the group together to really dive into the campaign. I could see the brilliance behind the card play system, but I couldn’t see myself being able to set aside the time with a committed group to enjoy everything that Gloomhaven has to offer.
And then Covid happened…
For more reasons than I can possibly write in this short blog post, I wish we were weren’t facing down the worst epidemic in over 100 years. But, one silver lining to quarantine life has been a lot of time to play board games. Since March, my wife, our roommate, and I have logged 149 plays across the Gloomhaven base game, Forgotten Circles, and Jaws of the Lion. Nearly 200 hours of Gloomhaven. That’s insane!
Needless to say, I have some strong feelings about the game. More of which I plan to share in upcoming posts, but today is Wired Wednesday and we’re talking about the Gloomhaven video game that is available on Steam.
I downloaded it over the weekend and have only logged about 5 hours of play, but I’m hooked. If you love Gloomhaven, here are 5 reasons why you should pick up the video game.
- Same Lore, New Story
Anyone who has been following me for a while knows that I am an omnigamer to my core, I play and love everything*! I am a huge fan of narrative gameplay, so if the story is good, I’m in. But, when the base mechanics add depth and strategy to a great story, we’ve found a hall-of-famer. This is one of the main reasons that I love Gloomhaven. I think the base campaign is so good that if the video game implementation would have reimplemented the same story, I wouldn’t have even thought about it. In fact, I honestly assumed it was going to be the base story, but no, the “guild master” campaign provides a new story and a new approach to Gloomhaven.
You start the tutorial as the brute and you venture around the map unlocking the starting six characters through mini-games. Those who are familiar with the “daily challenges” that were incorporated into the Kickstarter campaigns will feel right at home. After unlocking the final base character, you jump into the storyline which is based around your guild of adventurers establishing trade routes to surrounding areas, all the while taking care of demonic threats and bandit gangs that are encroaching on your operations.
One more thing to note here, in solo mode you can play 2-4 characters at a time and you can switch out the entire squad in-between scenarios. This does mean that they gain experience at different rates, but it also allows you to build characters for specific roles and then switch them in as you find to be strategically necessary.
- Immersive Graphics and Sound
If you’ve played Jaws of the Lion, you know that having individual maps for each scenario makes a world of difference when it comes to the game experience. A unique map plus a fantasy playlist takes Gloomhaven from great to downright awesome. The Gloomhaven video game has done an incredible job bringing the tabletop experience to the next level.
The scenarios are beautiful. The graphics aren’t quite in line with some of the modern video games that are on the cutting edge right now. But for a video game implementation of a board game, they are top-notch and are unique depending on the setting of the scenario. Very Cool.
The emotes and action animations are pretty cool. They add a bit of flair to the game and I’ve been surprised by the variety across character and enemy actions.
The music is good. A bit repetitive and probably the weakest of the three parts that we’ve discussed here. Definitely not on par with the likes of a World of Warcraft soundtrack, but good enough that it draws you into the game.
One minor drawback is the lighting can be tricky at times. However, by pressing the “tab” key, every hex, obstacle, trap, and item gain a glowing highlight which clear helps you identify everything on the map.
- No Set-up Time
For every 1-1.5 hrs of gameplay, there are at least 15 minutes of set-up before and between scenarios, when you are playing at the table. For those of us who keep coming back regardless, it’s just one of the negative elements that we overlook so we can keep playing this amazing game. My game group calls it the Gloomhaven tax and it’s a price we are more than willing to pay.
I will never advocate for a digital experience over an in-person analog one. However, the set-up time for Gloomhaven is not for the faint of heart. If set-up has kept you from enjoying the game, playing digitally might be the best option for you.
Another group that is bound to greatly benefit from the digital experience is the avid solo gamers. Where my solo-gamers at? As solo-gamer myself, I understand the joy of unplugging from work at the end of the day and getting lost in a quiet, strategic, and tactile puzzle. However, Gloomhaven for one is a beast. So, I’ve decided to let this digital implementation shine and stick with some of my quicker to set-up titles for the ties I want to analog solo-game.
- Amazing Card Play + No Shuffling
How many times have you drawn the null modifier, shuffled your deck, and then been cursed by an enemy at the top of the next round? How many times have you drawn a “reshuffle” enemy card only to reshuffle and draw it again?!?!
Oh, the joys of Gloomhaven! I won’t belabor the upkeep any further, but I will point out that the video game takes all of the card shuffling out of the equation. For those who have played with the Gloomhaven Helper app or similar, you know the joys of offloading, at least some of the shuffling. But with the video game, shuffling is a thing of the past. All you have to focus on is one upper action and one lower action… and the initiative… and then the same things for your next character. But hey, that’s what we love about this game. We love the juicy and tactical, strategic hand management and the video game helps this element to shine.
Speaking of playing multi-handed, this is another plus in the solo or two-player column. Juggling multiple characters has never been easier. I’ve been playing four characters at a time and it takes the strategy to a whole new level.
- Co-op Online Play
For most people, regularly gathering to game has become impossible. So, for those who have turned to Tabletop Simulator to get your Gloomhaven fix, the Gloomhaven video game, across the board, is a straight upgrade. On top of the four reasons I’ve named above, the user interface for the Gloomahaven video game is just so much better. No more trying to precariously place your mini in the right hex on the all too tiny virtual game board only for it to fall over due to the coin that is in the space. No more manually changing health values or making sure that the element that you just infused was added to the display. The list goes on and on, but if your game group is mostly digital right now. This is the best way to be playing Gloomhaven remotely.
TL:DR – The Gloomhaven video game is an amazing implementation of an already amazing game. It’s still in early access and has a few flaws/bugs that they are working, but overall picking this game up is a no-brainer.
*Except for bad party games and themes that threaten, sow hate and fear, or exclude anyone from the hobby. Eg. Cards Against Humanity both a terrible game in design and content.
99 Days of Blogging Challenge
I’m trying to get my blogging legs under me, so I’ve taken up the challenge to blog every day until the end of 2020. Just one of the ways I’m keeping my sanity in the midst of the dumpster fire this year has been. If you liked this content and you are interested in following along, sign-up below to suggest topics and vote on content.
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- Mechanics Monday
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- Top-20 Thursday
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- What I’ve Been Playing Sunday