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Gloomhaven – BoardGameGeek’s #1 Game of All Time

Gloomhaven – BoardGameGeek’s #1 Game of All Time

How did I end up buying Gloomhaven on a whim? Well, in the past year, I’ve really jumped back into the new era of tabletop and board games with a few groups of friends. And it helps to have a good friend who owns a huge library of board games, because I seem prone to only buying abstract resource gathering Eurogames like Agricola. With our recent move back to Columbus, we’ve been able to play more games like Love Letter: The Hobbit, Munchkins,  and the tile-matching game Azul.

But last night we finally broke out the behemoth, 22 lb. box called Gloomhaven on our kitchen table with our friends.

What is Gloomhaven?

If you’re unfamiliar, you’re probably not alone.  Gloomhaven is the brainchild of master game-maker Isaac Childres. It began as a 2015 Kickstarter campaign that raised just under $400,000 from close to 5,000 backers. In 2017, after a two year wait,  the game was finally delivered to backers to play. It was so sensational that it spawned a second Kickstarter campaign. That campaign raised close to $4 MILLION dollars from 40,000 backers in under 6 months. Finally, in the final months of 2017 the game was released to market.

$140 buys you 150 hours of Dungeons and Dragons campaign-style play, over 15 classes (you have to unlock some) and 100 scenarios. And each scenario is complete with its own story, treasure, monsters, upgrades, and random events.  The game was rated #1 all time by Board Game Geek. That’s part of the reason it sold out almost instantly last winter both online and in game stores around the country. It was coincidentally restocked on Amazon only 18 hours priorto the writing of this post in JuneWho knows if it’s already sold out again.

Photo from Amazon

What is it like to play Gloomhaven?

Gloomhaven’s game play is like (sort of) simplified Dungeons and Dragons. A party of 2-4 players picks their classes (6  are available at the start. We played Warrior, Scoundrel, Spellweaver, and Tinkerer). Then, you begin to play through scenarios as part of an epic story. Between scenarios you play travel sequences on roads and make trips to the city to purchase new gear. (Though, in our opening round to continue on to the city by the time we finished. Slaying bandits for a mysterious patron took the better part of two hours.)

In the heat of battle players conduct actions simultaneously through card play. Each card gives you an order of action anywhere from 0-100, dictating whether you act quickly or slowly. So while there’s some possibility for combo attacks, there’s no real way to know who will go first in a turn.

A hand of Gloomhaven action cards
A hand of Gloomhaven action cards

The result is a lot of fun, with well-laid plans sometimes falling apart. Sometimes, one character acts first and charges through the door to the next room LeRoy Jenkins style. At other times, it lets you play off your party members, barrel rolling through the door that the scoundrel just opened and slashing at all the bandit archers. Each character possess different strengths. But using some uniquely powerful cards causes them to be “lost” rather than discarded. If you lose too many cards, you exhaust and your friends play on without you.


We can’t wait to keep exploring.

Finally, after recovering the treasure, we found a chest in the back of the hideout with a map in it. We drew a random map card (of which there are dozens) and unlocked a bonus scenario, revealing the “Isle of Chains”. After upgrading our gear, we’ll have to make a decision whether to proceed back to return the lost items to the bar patron or to take the boat to investigate the newly discovered territory.

It sounds nerdy, and it is –awesomely so. Even our fiances found themselves hooked after playing the first scenario. The scene in our kitchen looked like Mike’s basement in Stranger Things, minus the waffles. It was easy to see why Gloomhaven ranks #1, and we can’t wait to keep exploring.

Stranger Things D&D campaign
Photo from