Having just hit Early Access, Gloomhaven by Flaming Fowl Studios is the latest tabletop board game to see a transition from the physical realm to the digital one. For those not familiar with this one, Gloomhaven is a giant of a game that can be played with anywhere from one to four players and it doesn’t need a Dungeon or Game Master. With all progression based off of flipped cards, how far you make it is half chance and half tactical genius as Gloomhaven is not for the faint of heart or those looking for an easy time.
Having just launched, Gloomhaven has only one mode available, and technically speaking, it was a lot to take in as I haven’t had a chance to sit down to the actual tabletop yet. Coming later during development will be the Tutorial, the Campaign and Multiplayers options. In the meantime, there’s just adventure mode which sets you immediately off on an adventure after picking the characters that you want to use in which each set has the displayed difficulty adjustment for your adventure.
Starting off from a “central point” your party will have three choices in order to make their way to the goal of the adventure. There’s an Easy, Medium and Hard path available to follow and even the easy path at first will be hard while getting the hang of things. Moving from your central point to where you want to eventually want to land, you’ll have stop points in which different events can happen. Very first time out, I came across a corpse on the side of the road and while it was rotten and coming apart, I spotted that it had shiny boots that would still be used. Having a few different choices like leaving them behind or taking them, the choice that I picked in order to take them got my party poisoned which made my first battle encounter pretty rough.
Right now, you’re told from off the bat that this is going to be fairly battle heavy for the time being. So getting into the first “room” that got put down, my party of two was to face off against a multitude of enemies from human to undead, melee to ranged. This, right here, is where Gloomhaven freaking shines.
For every round, each character on the board gets a turn. For every turn that the characters get, they get to pick from two cards of their deck that can be played out on that turn. Each card that you can pick from has two actions, one on the top of the card and one on the bottom. When choosing an action, you pick the top action of one of the cards and then the bottom action of the other. This gives you a few choices depending on how things progress after the turn started and the initiatives have been decided.
While the above sounds easy as you pick your cards and play your turn, each time you play your cards they get discarded into a pile and cannot be used until you take a turn to reshuffle your deck. Even this would be easy enough however once you’ve used some cards there’s the possibility that they get burned and cannot be used again. If that happens, the amount of cards that you have left to shuffle back in gets smaller. Also everytime you shuffle, it costs one card that get burned, leaving you again with even less. A quick shuffle takes away one card at random. A full shuffle that takes the whole turn and restores health lets you pick the card to throw away.
So what happens when you run out of cards? You die. It’s actually a pretty drastic result which is what makes Gloomhaven very challenging. You can only move if a card allows you to move. You can only hit if a card tells you that you can hit. Melee, ranged, healing, they are all options but options that have to be so well calculated that you can honestly expect to wipe out for the first few times as you get a grasp on how things work. It’s tough, but it’s so damned rewarding when you make it through.
The style of gameplay is perfect for a digital version. You don’t need to worry about table space, you don’t need to worry about calculating all of the math yourself and you don’t need to worry about Catzilla knocking everything down once you’ve left the house for work. Adding in animations that can be viewed from up close or from very high up, and you can play it your way in a streamlined fashion. The only thing that I would really like to have added in would be an option to speed up the gameplay as things feel a bit slow for me at the moment. I’m more of a make units move fast turned based strategy type of person.