Our final send-off for the buddy headed to Zambia was Saturday. We played a couple games of Gloomhaven.

I think we’re five or six games in now. The first day of play we had two deaths (didn’t understand an essential death-avoidance rule), so this particular party has only been together for four games? I think? With one character absence jammed in there somewhere. I gotta say, at least for the four committed players, the game is marvelously flexible in accommodating everyone else. I’m even thinking about playing some solitaire so I can get some traction on my personal quest (I need to go through four Gloomhaven missions, we’ve only unlocked two of them).

My favorite bit of the game is also the part I hate the most: tuning my action deck for the adventure. I’m level 3 now so I have two additional action cards to choose from. So for my Mindthief, I think that’s a total of 17 cards that need to get winnowed down to a 12 card deck? I suspect I’m overthinking it, and can probably get away with a preferred build that stays the same from mission to mission.

The good part of the action deck building thing is that there are so many considerations. There are card synergies, of course. But every card also has an initiative number, and going all-late or all-early or even all-middling seems like a bad idea. And of course there are synergies across the party: can anyone use this darkness or wind or ice I’m generating? If I’m not going to summon a rat swarm is there anyone else who could use an out-of-initiative-order move?

And that’s why it’s also my most hated part, although “hate” is too strong: I’m never satisfied with my build. Never.

We have one character who’s very close to finishing out their personal quest: someone needs to kill uh… 15 or 20, can’t remember, “elite” units (they have yellow bases) and they’re one away as of Saturday. That’ll unlock our first box and allow for the first retirement, which in turn unlocks the Town Records book, which I think unlocks even more stuff. I’ve gotta say, coming off the big swingy exciting unlocks of Seafall, the legacy unlocking stuff in Gloomhaven feels slooooow. We’ve removed far more things than we’ve added, in terms of city and road event cards that are removed.

The game itself still feels slow too, but I think that’s because we’re being SUPER finesse-y about completing our missions, maximizing our loot, and hitting our battle goals for checks. Takes some fancy math, sometimes, to hit all three of those. It’s fine, no big. I guess I’d just say that any given day of Gloomhaven is much less dramatic than I was expecting. Like any dungeon-party game, it comes down to grinding.

17 thoughts on “Gloomhaven”

  1. Don’t forget that your deck modifications are permanent – you don’t (using rules as written) get to change your mind after you select a higher-level skill. You can freely swap out the X cards, but not (say) level 2 cards with each other.

  2. Stephan Beal I know! That’s why it’s just 17 cards: the 12 level 1, the 3 level X, a Level 2 that I’ve committed to, and a Level 3 that I’ve committed to. Believe me, I wish I could shop the whole level. It feels like I’m never ever gonna want to go back and pick up the other one that I left behind. Leveling is tooooo slow.

    My instinct is to always include the 2 and 3 but this dumb mission (a huge evil ooze; the ooze deck regularly makes it double in size so you don’t ever really kill it), I kind of wish I’d left out the 2 for one of the Xes.

  3. Adam D one big unlock would be nice though. Something that really shakes up the world or at least provides new context.

    So far our contextual stuff is purely in the fiction, which is great but also hard to remember. Like, there’s already a fairly clear good guy/bad guy split (which is fine) BUT we have trouble remembering which adventure leads on our map head deeper into bad guy territory and vice versa. We toyed with #teamevil for a bit but I think we’re committed to being good. Or at least ethical (fair trade, shade-grown etc.).

  4. “Oh, is that a Melf’s Acid Arrow you just cast?”

    “Yeah, why?”

    “Well, I’m sure you didn’t know this when you learned the spell, but Melf is deeply-invested in exploitative practices. Some of the goblins in the Melf holdings overseas are little better than slaves! They also have their magical fingers in all sorts of MMO research — that’s ‘magically-modified organisms.’ Have you heard of the owlbear? That’s why I only use magic missiles. Force damage is all-natural.”

  5. Paul Beakley you’re a Mindthief? I smell a rat.

    Also, what was the essential death-avoidance rule? We haven’t played yet, but the box has been opened a lot.

  6. Death avoidance! You can destroy a card in hand or two cards in the discard pile and just ignore all damage from a hit. Utterly vital for some adventures.

    I didn’t expect to enjoy the Mindthief as much as I do! I started as the wizard and looooved her but she died and I was sad.

  7. Paul Beakley Good to know. I’m utterly shite at combat and melee, so keeping that rule in mind will help.

    I much prefer these combat rules (just flip your damn card and see what it is) rather than dice rolls. That’s one thing that frustrates me about Super Dungeon Explore and Mice and Mystics – it’s so easy to miss your target and totally waste your turn. What is your opinion on the fight mechanics?

  8. I think they’re terrific for a couple reasons.

    One, the combat deck is the second half of advancement via perks. You pull out cards, add new cards, etc etc. Combat deck tuning changes the feel of your character as much as adding new action cards.

    Two, you can evaluate what’s been drawn and get a feel of what kinds of draws might yet happen. There’s no removing the fumble card, so until you’ve drawn it there’s a growing chance that you will draw it. But the same thing applies to your 2x card. Meanwhile, if you’ve blown through all your -1s or 0s or whatever, you might decide to take some big gambles in the hopes of pulling some bonuses or, better still later in your advancement, a string of “effect plus draw again” cards.

    EDIT: it also makes advantage and disadvantage a very powerful effect, ever moreso the deeper into your deck you draw. Very clever.

  9. In drifting past the photo in this post, my mind immediately tagged the two items in the foreground as 2.5” SATA drives, before looking more closely.

    Tell me I’m not the only one.

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