CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Last week I released my first impressions of Gloomhaven, an epic RPG/Dungeon Crawling board game, designed by Isaac Childres. I’m not going to recap that all here, but I wanted to give a quick second impression now that I have managed to get to know my character a lot better – now that the game is not quite so alien as it was. If you want to read the original post then you can read it here, and I will link to it a few times throughout this article.
The first time we played Gloomhaven as a group we played through three of the basic starting scenarios and, in each one, we suffered. There was something not clicking, something not quite right, and we struggled to get into the flow of what was really going on with the game. Where we were having a blast, we failed to have quite the impact we wanted and didn’t really find our mojo.
Well, this time around we found it and, I have to admit, it was glorious. Just as a warning, this article may contain slight spoilers; however I will do my best to keep it neutral.
The Glory of Gloomhaven
It turns out the way to find your mojo in Gloomhaven is to find your synergy. The key to this synergy is within the cards the players hold.
Built into every Gloomhaven character there seems to be a series of cards that work incredibly well together to create awesome combos. Within each player’s deck, there are pairings, upgrades, and abilities that can turn the tide in a game. Once you find those, once you get to know your character to the point where you are not spending twenty minutes every turn trying to pick your cards, you can start creating actions that both work well together and are devastating to the opposition. Once you level up, these become even deadlier, as more cards enter the pool for you to choose from.
This was evident in all of our characters – the Tinkerer, the Brute, the Scoundrel, and the Mindthief – as we progressed throughout the game. The Tinkerer learned his abilities were more than just healing and that his offensive capability was formidable from a distance. The Brute learned a defensive combo that not only passively reduced damage done to him but also dealt damage back to the opponent. The Scoundrel learned that, with the right combo, he could actually deal 34 damage in a single turn (a turn average is around 4-7 at the moment) and devastate anything in his path.
And the Mindthief. Well, I’ll be writing about the Mindthief separately at some point, but I learned that the strength of the Mindthief comes from two things. The first is the ability to augment himself (getting an extra +2 added to all melee attacks made him a bit of a glass cannon), but his second ability comes from augmenting the enemy. I was constantly dealing out stun, immobilise, muddle, and disarm, which gave us all a chance to combat swarms of enemies without getting overrun. It also helps that, if the Mindthief has 20 abilities (10 cards, two abilities per card) I had 13 actions that gave me experience. This means that where others were getting an average of around 8-10 experience per game (pre-victory condition experience), I was managing to get 15-18 base. Across the course of three scenarios, I levelled up twice.
So for those who read my first article (you can read it here again), you will remember that I said I was not a huge fan of the goal system they have. There are three types of goals within the game – scenario goals, for each mission, which are kind of the point of the game, are absolutely fine. They are great. The other two types I am not a fan of.
The other types of goal – profession goals and battle goals I was not a huge fan of. This is because they don’t always seem possible and can taint how you want to play the game, sometimes contrary to the actual mission themselves. I wasn’t a fan of how you only get two to choose from, and this was my major gripe with the game, how some just seem impossible.
Well, to some extent, that opinion has now changed and it has changed because I have since levelled up. Battle goals earn you perk points, which can be spent to augment your deck. As you get better at the game they do become easier, and as you grow more seasoned they also become easier to choose. Also, I found out, if you focus on levelling up, then you get perks when you level up as well. This makes the whole thing a bit easier, as a few perks can make a massive difference to the game. My augment deck (used in combat to change the damage score) now has only three -1 cards and a null so far as negative cards are concerned. Previously it has five -1, one -2, and a null, so I’ve reduced the negative potential of that deck by almost half, and I’ve only received three perks. Off the back of that, I’ve also added in some positive effects which can now be pulled to muddle or disarm enemies, so small perks make a huge difference.
This means I am more than happy to go with the flow with Battle goals.
Professional goals are the goals of each character throughout the course of the campaign, and when those are completed the character will retire, for a new one to come out. Out of our group, one guy is 1/3 through the course of his professional goal, one has started towards it, and two of us haven’t even been near the conditions. At this rate, I worked out it will be over 40 scenarios before mine is complete, where I also worked out I will reach level 9 (the maximum level) in 29 scenarios’ time. We’ll have to see how that goes.
Meanwhile, the guy who is 1/3 of the way through (the Tinkerer) is concerned he is progressing too fast. Typical, ey?
Overall Feel: Second Time Around
I mentioned this to the guys I was playing with, but I enjoyed the second set of missions a lot more than the first, and I think this comes down to relaxing a bit and understanding my character a lot more.
Previously, I think I felt the pressure and competition of having to keep up with a character who wasn’t hugely contributing; however, this time I found out that the Mindthief is a heavy hitter in his own way.
We also learned how to work as more of a team this time around. We learned not to run into rooms blindfolded, and to always present more than one target. Between our group, we also have three summons (Rats, a Skeleton, and a Decoy), and all proved useful in creating targets that weren’t us. We learned how to unify for the sake of a goal, whilst also giving enough leeway to be able to complete our own goals at the same time.
So yes, a thoroughly enjoyable game experience. Like I said before, the original article is here, if you want to give it a read. Otherwise, what have your experiences with Gloomhaven been? Did you take a while to warm or did you manage to get into it straight away? Let me know in the comments below.