Gloomhaven: Game Review

Gloomhaven: Game Review

Gloomhaven is one of the best tactical tabletop RPGs in recent years in the “We all came out of Dungeons & Dragons” category. And it certainly was in 2017 and 2018 when it first came out, raising nearly $4.4 million in two Kickstarter campaigns. Here interesting tactical rules converged, and a focus on co-op (up to four people can play – the more of them, the more difficult the passage), and the combination of the traditions of the best fantasy board games with their own finds, and the scale of the game itself – “Gloomy Harbor” has almost a hundred scenarios , 17 playable classes and more than 1,500 cards – all this joy weighs more than nine kilos in a box. And just recently, the first digital adaptation of Gloomhaven was released, which has already collected over 4 thousand positive reviews on Steam. For what?

Gloomhaven – Mode Rules

Computer Gloomhaven includes several modes. Moreover, the “tutorial” is also a full-fledged mode. I don’t remember a case at all when learning how to attack, use the abilities of heroes, and even how to avoid damage and move to the right distance in one turn, was such a difficult and at the same time interesting task, forcing you to actually solve tactical puzzles.

Having more or less figured it out, we enter the strategic world map, where two modes are available – Guildmaster and campaign. In the first, we take on the role of the leader of a mercenary guild tasked with clearing out the dangers on the roads and in the dungeons around the city of Demonsgate so that its inhabitants can live and trade in peace. The second mode is a story-driven adventure that begins with an order to catch thieves who have stolen important documents.

Gloomhaven world map
At least you don’t need to worry about food and time while moving around the world.

In both cases, we have a world map on which we move a detachment of recruited mercenaries of different classes – these are conditional warriors, “tanks”, arrows, magicians, thieves, elementalists, bards, and so on. And the more people (or nonhumans – the races here are very different), the more difficult the battles and the more enemies in the dungeons – that’s where we spend most of our time.

Gloomhaven mastering and using mercenaries
The difficulty in mastering and using mercenaries is also different.

Random events and meetings can take place on the global map when we ourselves decide whether to clear up the rubble or look for a workaround, help a starving thief by interrupting the guards who are dragging him to prison, or pass by, agree to find a cat for the boy or not, and so on. As a result, you will earn something or pick up a curse, injury or poisoning, which will reduce our health in battles. On the other hand, it can also bring a reputation, which here affects both the prices in stores and the outcome of some events.

Gloomhaven never know the consequences of your decisions
You never know the consequences of your decisions.

Also on the map they are allowed to visit a store and a temple, where for money they bless us for the next dangerous task. In the campaign mode, each member of the party has his global personal quest (which one – we choose ourselves at the start), after which he retires, and new characters become available to us. The quests are mostly primitive – kill so many such and such strong monsters – but they are not easy to complete.

And in the guild leader mode, there are more tasks and there is a separate menu that takes into account all the conditions and tests passed – reaching new levels opens up new personal quests for mercenaries, performing a certain number of certain actions in battles gives perk points (three of these turn into a new attack modifier) , and killing the required number of monsters replenishes our wallets. Other actions unlock new fighters and locations, all of which bring us closer to unlocking the next chapter.

Gloomhaven Mode Rules
There’s a lot more to close here.

Tactical puzzles of Gloomhaven

In both modes, it is better to play co-op with friends, and it is desirable that all of you are already familiar with the original desktop system. For such people, the computer adaptation of “Gloomy Harbor” is, of course, a joy and a gift, because now they do not have to carry and prepare all these nine kilograms of cards and scripts for several hours. And the rules are transferred to the “figure” quite accurately: you can save progress, and in general everything is implemented, on the one hand, meticulously and in detail, and on the other hand, conveniently.

But for the rest, as you already understood, the process of mastering Gloomhaven will be, to put it mildly, not easy – it’s not a fact that it will drag out in principle. The tactical system here, of course, is specific, with a number of intentional (and sometimes, in my opinion, far-fetched) burdens. Each character has his own deck of cards that are responsible for all actions: attacks, skills, “buffs”, movement, and even the ability to “loot” gold that has fallen from enemies. The number of cards is different for everyone, and as the levels increase, new ones appear that you are free to add, removing something in return.

Gloomhaven card deck
The deck can always be viewed.

So, the main feature is the requirement in your turn to choose two cards, where each has its own indicator of initiative. The smaller it is, the faster you will start walking. Therefore, the first you need to take the one where this parameter is lower. Also, each card is divided into two halves, in fact, into two actions, and only one of them is allowed to choose – it will correlate with the opposite half and the action on the second card. That is, conditionally, they chose +3 on the first melee attack, and on the second one then it will be possible to walk in order to move closer to the enemy. And here it is important to calculate everything in such a way that there is no situation when, for example, both actions are a melee attack or a long-range attack, but with a small radius, and there is no longer any possibility of movement.

Gloomhaven Tactical puzzles
In these catacombs, you can’t really walk around, but even here there is room for maneuver.

In this case, waste the cards that go to the discard pile. And this is the second key feature of the local mechanics – cards run out because they are discarded or completely burned. The latter happens if we want to avoid damage or when we activate a short or long rest – this returns the discarded cards to the hand, but burns one of them. One way or another, the deck can quickly become empty, and if this happens, the character will be out of combat, even if he still has full health.

Therefore, the most important thing here is to plan your actions so competently in order to inflict as much damage as possible on enemies in all rooms while there are cards, and correctly combine this with rest in order to restore them. Plus, you need to take into account the presence of traps and the need to interact with allies – some even know how to restore cards to their comrades.

Gloomhaven location
We know in advance what types of enemies will meet in a particular location.

As a result, all this, I repeat, turns into solving tactical puzzles. Another derivative in these equations is the ability to use the effects of equipment and potions on your turn (they are consumed), as well as add elemental damage to attacks by using elements of fire / water / darkness and others that are charged during battles.

Therefore, get ready for the fact that it will take a long time to master Gloomhaven. Fortunately, the game, even in case of defeat, saves progress in accumulating gold and experience (they are calculated separately for each character) and allows you to return to the quest again without any special penalties – ideal for learning mechanics and honing skills.

Gloomhaven battle
Attacks and spells of mass destruction are especially valuable.


The coolest and hardcore desktop game in computer adaptation today looks chic (including externally) – Gloomhaven managed to maintain its tactical depth and uniqueness, becoming more accessible and convenient. For beginners, of course, it will still be difficult to master it, but it’s faster and cheaper than fiddling with a nine-kilogram paper original (although not as atmospheric). By and large, there are only two problems – the lack of Russian localization (and given the severity and detail of the rules, this is serious) and imperfect optimization – the game takes a long time to load at the start. But all this, I hope, is solved by patches.

Pros: almost perfect transfer of one of the best desktop games to digital; exciting, challenging tactical gameplay; several modes, many events, mercenaries, maps and opportunities to customize your party; you can play with friends; quality audiovisual performance.

Cons: no Russian localization; there are problems with optimization; quests are by and large primitive and constantly repeated.