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Tabletop Game / Gloomhaven

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The Dark Souls of board games.

"Welcome to Gloomhaven!"

Gloomhaven is an enormous tabletop game developed by Cephalofair Games. Up to four players pick from the six starting classes to play cooperatively as mercenaries working in town to complete jobs, get treasure, and pursue personal quests assigned at character creation. As players progress they will upgrade the town of Gloomhaven, while unlocking new scenarios, items, class abilities, and classes. The game features a branching narratives, a persistent, changing world, and many secrets to unlock as the game's content is explored.

The primary gameplay is experience during monster fighting adventures (referred to as Scenarios). Players enter the dungeon with a hand of cards they get to choose from their classes unique pool, with each card split into a top and bottom half. Each round a player will use two cards and perform the top action of one card and the bottom action of the other, with the goal being to complete the Scenario's objective before everyone is killed or runs out of cards. The monsters they face are controlled automatically by a combination of AI-guided rules explained in the rule book and a monster-specific deck of actions and abilities that they draw from each round. Encounters have variable setups based on the number of players present and encounter level scales with the party's level.


An expansion titled "Forgotten Circles" was released in 2019, adding a new class, enemies, and around 20 scenarios to the game world. Another expansion titled "Jaws of the Lion" was announced in 2019 and is set for a 2020 release. It is described as a scaled-down version designed to bring new players into Gloomhaven, but is just as playable to series veterans. A second large expansion, entitled Frosthaven, was announced in December of 2020 and is set for a Kickstarter release in March 2020.


Gloomhaven contains examples of:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: The most expensive item of the starting options caps out at 30 gold, but items unlocked later in the game are considerably more expensive. Similarly, enhancing any card above level 1 will cost the player a flat extra fee based on the cards level. Of course higher level cards and items unlocked later are generally more powerful (often times direct upgrades for earlier items/cards), and the players will generally be earning more gold at higher levels.

  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: The party cannot consist of more than four characters. From a real world perspective this makes sense as adding more players slows the game down and there's a limit to how many many monsters can be added to increase difficulty. In universe there's no reason the party couldn't bring a 5th Mercenary, however.
    • The designer's unofficial 5 player solution is to increase the Scenario level by two to account for the extra player, although the players will have to work something out for the lack of a 5th attack modifier deck.
    • Solo Scenario for each class were released online. In some cases it's a personal quest or the character is thrown into the scenario without a chance to prepare, but in other cases there's no reason for them to be leaving the team behind.

  • Arbitrary Minimum Range: Ranged attacks against adjacent enemies are made with Disadvantage note . In some cases, like shooting a bow for example, this makes sense, but some attacks don't have any real reason to be affected this way.

  • Alliance Meter: The party has a Reputation meter which will vary over the campaign. Notably reputation can be positive or negative and a new class is unlocked at +10 or -10 reputation. Positive reputation will make items cheaper while negative will make them more expensive, and some events have differing outcomes depending on party reputation.

  • Armor-Piercing Attack:
    • The "Pierce" attack modifier is this, negating an equal amount of Shield.
    • The Piercing Bow item allows the player to make one ranged attack completely ignore any Shield the enemy might have, no matter how high.

  • Awesome, but Impractical: Actions which make you Lose (rather than Discard) the card they're on. All but one Discarded card is brought back when you rest while Lost cards are gone for the entire Scenario, with only very rare circumstances bringing those back. Loss actions are more powerful, but going all out using them early on will mean running out of cards very quickly.

  • Bad-Guy Bar: The Brown Door, a seedy place known to attract ruffians, pirates, and other vagabonds. Although, the live entertainment there is second to none.

  • Blocking Stops All Damage: Zig-Zagged. Shields mitigate an amount of damage equal to their value (so Shield 2 can block up to two damage). Since most shield values are fairly low values, they tend to be highly effective against lots of weak attacks, but powerful attacks will deal damage through a weaker block. However, some characters do have abilities which can totally negate all incoming damage from some number of future attacks.

  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The top of any card can be played as an Attack 2, while the bottom can be played as a Move 2. The written abilities are more powerful and can have a much wider range of effects, but using cards this way can be very important, especially for classes with limited movement or attacking options. Even more effective some higher prosperity items increase the value of these default actions to be 3 or 4, making them both fairly powerful and very consistent.
    • Stamina potions which allow you to pick up two cards from your discard. Less exciting than a lot of other items, but pulling back specific cards at a critical times and slowing the rate at which you run out of cards is remarkably powerful. They're generally considered one of the most overpowered items in the game.

  • Charged Attack: Many characters have setup cards which can empower their future actions in a variety of ways. The Scoundrel in particular can deal enormous damage if all their setup and positioning is just right.

  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Bosses generally have immunity to certain statuses for somewhat obvious reasons. In Scenario 2, the Bandit Commander cannot be stunned, immobilized, or cursed.

  • The Corruption: The Void. An area within Gloomhaven that erodes and destroys nearly everything it touches. People caught in it suffer greatly. It's the location of the final boss.

  • Class Change Level Reset: Whenever a character retires a new one is is created. They have the option of starting out at a level equal to or lower than the town's Prosperity level, meaning that they will generally be a lower level than the previous character, but not bumped all the way down to level one either.

  • Critical Failure: Both the player and monster attack modifier decks have a "Null" card which causes the attack to deal no damage when drawn. The Curse status adds additional null cards which are removed after they are drawn. Notably any additional effects of the attack (such as gaining experience or inflicting status effects) still occur when the attack does not deal damage.

  • Critical Hit: Like above, attack modifier decks have a "2X" card in them which causes the attack to deal double damage. Additionally the "Bless" effect allows players (or monsters) to add additional single use critical hit cards to their deck.

  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The nature of having a wide number of scenarios and classes unlocked in a semi-random order means that many scenarios can end up being comically easy or incredibly difficult depending on the parties composition.
    • Some classes designs make them more prone to playing out this way. The Two-Mini's card which allows you to swap the position of any two figures on the map or the Eclipse classes ability to stay invisible for an extended periods of time or instantly execute elite enemies in particular can make certain scenarios trivially easy. Meanwhile the Circles class can have this effect in either direction, as their summons tend to have a hard time keeping up on scenarios requiring lots of moment, but can be extremely powerful on shorter scenarios where the party just has to hold a position.
    • Certain Scenarios are somewhat infamous for turning out this way against the players as well. Scenario 28 can feel nearly impossible depending on what the monsters do on the first turn or two, in particular if the cultists summon the first two turns, the heroes are looking at having to deal with nearly 20 monsters in a fairly small first room. Scenario 72 is also just known as one of, if the not the, hardest scenarios in the game. Many more experience players recommend new players drop the difficulty down when attempting it.

  • Disc-One Nuke: Depending on the order of unlocks many classes can end up feeling like this. The Eclipse class or Three Spears class Nightshroud and Quartermaster, respectively in particular are somewhat infamous for this. Fortunately the retirement system means that they will eventually move on rather than sticking around forever.

  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu??: The world of Gloomhaven has it's fair share of eldritch monstrosities. By the end of a campaign the heroes will most likely have killed at least a couple of them.

  • Dungeon Crawling: Each scenario has a couple of paragraphs of set up and conclusion and city/road events happen around each scenarios, but the bulk of the game is strictly fighting monsters, collecting loot and upgrading your characters. Many of the scenarios don't take place in an actual dungeon, however.

  • Early-Bird Boss: The Bandit Commander is fought very early, in Scenario 2, so it will usually be encountered by level 1 players with no perks and only starting items. It's health scales with the number of players, meaning it may have two or three times more health than any other monster in the first two scenarios, and depending on it's actions you may find yourself getting overwhelmed by swarms of undead very quickly.

  • Enemies List: Several of the personal quests require killing specific lists of enemies, either a large number of different enemy types, a bunch of one type of enemy, or a few of each type of enemy on the list.

  • Elemental Powers: The game has an Elemental Infusion tracker, which certain actions will charge and other actions can expend them within the next two rounds. The Spellweaver in particular counts, as it is able to generate and consume a wide range of different elements, and most of her abilities have an elemental flavor to them. The unlock-able class the Elementalist obviously counts as well, producing and consuming a wider range of elements than any other class.

  • Enemy Mine: During a late-game quest, the players can actually strike an alliance with some Sun Demons, glowing humanoid shapes of sunlight, in order to unlock a scenario. The demons actually propose the quest, on the grounds that humans cannot live without the sun. Several other scenarios also involve monsters acting as allies for that scenario.

  • Evolving Attack: Most cards can be enhanced once the required achievement is completed, improving their values, adding status effects or other various benefits. These are permanent effects in the form of stickers that are placed on the cards which not only effect the current character, but any future characters of the same class.

  • Fetch Quest: The first quest the players are given is to acquire some scrolls, a large number of future quests include being hired to go get find something from a dangerous location.

  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The starter classes include the Brute (fighter), Spellweaver (mage) and Scoundrel (thief). Of course there are also 3 other classes that don't fit the mold.

  • Gadgeteer Genius: The Tinkerer. Their ability deck is alchemy and engineering themed, and they utilized many wacky gadgets and mechanical servants to defeat enemies and aid allies.

  • Good-Guy Bar: The Sleeping Lion, the player's home base, is an inn and tavern. And they don't appreciate it when people start fights or cause damage.

  • Hub City: Gloomhaven. After each scenario (unless it is directly linked with another one) the party is required to return there. Shopping, leveling up, city events and retirement can only take place there, and numerous scenarios are set around the city as well.

  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Treasure chests contain a range of things, from gold, items, item designs, and side scenarios. It makes sense that intelligent enemies would have treasure, although the fact that they're storing blueprints for items or treasure maps can be a bit odd. Why animals and unintelligent monsters have treasure chests in the first place doesn't really make any sense though.

  • Jackof All Trades: The Cragheart is this of the starting options. Ranged attacks, Melee attacks, Area-of-Effect damage, damage through shields, healing, status effects and obstacle creation/manipulation are all available to the class early on. It generally avoids Master of None status by acting primarily as a ranged damage dealer early on until they gain access to more cards and items to enable different play styles.

  • Level Scaling: Scenarios scale to the parties level by a formula of half their average level, rounded up. This both allows scenarios to be completed in different orders and means that characters with significant level differences can play together.

  • Low-Level Advantage: Many monsters don't gain their stronger abilities until higher levels. For example Flame Demons gain ranged retaliation at higher levels, and high level Oozes will poison on every attack. Sometimes this can mislead players into thinking a monster they encountered at lower levels will be similarly easy, when the higher level version of it is actually far more dangerous.

  • Mass Monster Slaughter Sidequest: A number of quests have the goal of killing some number of monsters to end the scenario, although it isn't always a side quest.

  • Mechanically Unusual Class: Most of the classes have some unique elements that make them stand out although the unlock-able two-mini class, called the Beast Tyrant is perhaps the most unusual. As the spoiler-free name suggests, this class has two miniatures to represent it rather than one. The figures represent the Tyrant and it's Bear companion that is automatically summoned at the start of each scenario. The Bear acts as a normal summon would (moving and attacking each turn, controlled by the AI), and the Tyrant has a number of Command cards that allow them to directly control the bear in addition to it's automatic moves, meaning the player must choose between controlling the Tyrant and the Bear each turn.

  • The Medic:
    • The Tinkerer is the healing class of the starter options. It also comes with numerous other supporting abilities and status effect inflicting attacks to support the party.
    • The Sawbones unlock-able class is a medic as well. Unlike the Tinkerer, the Sawbones is flavored as a medic to boot, including the ability to pass out medical packs that allies can use to heal themselves. Plus, of course, the option to stab enemies with syringes and slash them with a bone-saw.

  • No Experience Points for Medic: Mostly averted. Experience is mostly gained in combat, but not by killing monsters. Some is gain by completing a scenario, but the source players can actually influence is from card effects. Healing, attacking or even moving can grant experience depending on the card in question. Classes can have significant differences in experience gain, however, so it's still entirely possible to have a specific character who ends up lower level over time, it just won't necessarily be the medic. In fact, probably the class with the best experience gaining in the game, the Music Note/Soothsinger, is a support class.

  • No Hero Discount: Averted. The player characters are mercenaries, so while everyone charges them full price by default, a positive reputation will cut the cost of any goods the players buy, while a bad reputation will cause vendors to jack up their prices. Certain events will have better outcomes with positive reputation (although the opposite is also true).

  • No Points for Neutrality: The game heavily encourages the party to go fully good or bad. + or - 10 reputation unlocks a class and 20 will unlock new events, and several road or city events will also give the party and extra reward if they have high or low enough reputation, with no real rewards for staying in the middle.

  • Not the Intended Use: A quirk in combining the resting and damage mitigation rules allows players to rapidly exhaust themselves. You play two cards on your turn as normal, then at the end of the round you short rest, losing one card at random and getting the other back. However you choose to take 1 damage to randomly lose a different card, and then lose an additional card from your hand to negate this one damage, losing 2 cards from your hand a turn. Generally this is pretty useless since exhausting is bad, but since certain personal quests and battle goals require running low on cards or exhausting, it can be handy in some situations.

  • Now, Where Was I Going Again?: Scenarios are unlocked in an intertwining web, often times including multiple plot threads running at once. Sometimes an unlocked scenario is still unavailable to the party as it has another requirement they haven't completed, making tracking exactly what you can or can't do quite difficult. Even if a group is making progress reasonably quickly it can easily be weeks or months real time between unlocking a plot line and actually resolving it.

  • One Size Fits All: Any class can buy and equip any item, although some items may not give much or any benefit to a particular class or character. In particular several of the Solo Scenario rewards only work with the specific mechanics of the class that unlocks them, but anyone can buy and equip them still.

  • Only Shop in Town: All items are simply bought from the pool of available items with no mention of specific shops selling them. Enhancement which becomes available after the party befriends Hail the Enchantress in Scenario 14 is all specifically preformed by that character.

  • Our Demons Are Different:
    • There are several different kinds of demons, one for each of the elements. They're more along the lines of Elemental Embodiment than traditional demons in terms of concept and appearance. They are often summoned like traditional demons though.
    • The Valrath are closer to traditional demons in appearance (Red skin, horns, tails), but they're actually a regular civilized race, known to prefer solving problems through diplomacy rather than violence. As a result they often become merchants or politicians.

  • The Paladin: One of the unlock-able classes: Sunkeeper is very much like a Paladin with holy attacks and righteous fervor. Of course, depending on Personal Quests, this person can be anything but devout. One of the Personal Quests is "Light-Bringer" which is similar to a Paladin, in which the player must use an undead-smashing axe to kill different undead with it.

  • Party of Representatives: The six starting classes include: Human, Orchid note , Savvas note , Vermling note , Inox note , and Quatryl note . Later races featured in unlock-able classes include Valrathnote , Harrowernote  and Aesthernote .

  • Rock Monster: The Cragheart is a Savvas, a type of sentient rock person. Gameplay-wise it acts as something of a Jack-of-All-Trades class with a wide range of options including stomping around the battlefield with area-of-effect damage, throwing rocks at enemies, healing allies, and creating, destroying, and moving obstacles. The players can also meet, fight, and unlock other Savvas as well.

  • Saintly Church: The Sanctuary of The Great Oak, which in addition to being a temple, are also healers. The player can donate money to the church and will gain two Bless cards in their deck if they do note .

  • Sidequest: The game contains a few random scenarios which are periodically unlocked as loot in no particular order, plus a number of other scenarios unlocked via city/road events and personal quests. These don't directly connect to any of the main story lines, but do give out gold, exp, items, or personal quest progression that help the players.

  • Standard Status Effects: Some statuses (stun, immobilize, disarm) work exactly as expected, while others make sense once you read how they work, but aren't as immediately obvious (muddle, curse). However poison and wound work the exact opposite way players usually expect, as poison increases damage from future attacks while wound deals damage each turn.

  • Timed Mission:
    • Every mission is automatically turn limited by game mechanics. Each turn every player must play 2 cards or take a rest to recover their discarded cards, losing one discarded card for the remainder of the scenario as a result. The players will have their hands slowly shrinking over time and must complete their objective before losing them all.
    • Several scenarios also give the party explicit timers, such as scenarios that end in success in a certain number of turns, or an npc who automatically advances forward, forcing the party to keep up with them.

  • Turn-Based Strategy: Turns are taken with order being decided by the Initiative on the cards played by the players and the cards drawn from the monster's decks.

  • Walking Spoiler: Every group will be unlocking and completing the game in different orders and possibly missing out on some content entirely. Any discussions of content beyond starting classes, items and the first scenario is absolutely covered in spoiler tags. Fortunately the majority of the community is highly diligent in avoiding spoilers as a result, but it can make discussions with anyone who hasn't finished the game pretty difficult.

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