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Artaterxes
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Hey everyone. I have never played Gloomhaven but have heard a lot about it. I’m just wondering if you could answer a couple of questions.

First, can you separate the engine from the campaign? By that, I mean how would you rate the actual dungeoneering experience? Would you still play Gloomhaven as single scenarios, unlinked by a campaign or story system? (Ignoring whether the rules allow for this - theoretically, could you pull this out as a one-off dungeon crawl and have fun?)

Secondly is the solo experience. Co-op is one thing, since the social aspect can’t be found elsewhere, but solo gaming is different. Personally I have not enjoyed solo board games of the fantasy adventure genre. It’s mainly due to their inefficiency compared to video games. In the amount of time it takes me to set up a board game scenario, I can complete a section of a video game. Plus, video games are more complex, with smarter AI, deeper character development, more required reflexes (eg action RPGs), or greater tactical and strategic demands (eg tactical RPGs). It’s just the nature of the medium. Plus the story can be replayed, rather than permanently marked.

So my second question is this. Apart from the change in setting from a TV screen to a tabletop, does Gloomhaven have an advantage as a solo game compared to video games? It seems as expensive and time consuming as at least two video games, so I’m fairly sure this is an appropriate question.

Thank you so much for your answers.
 
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Alex
Germany
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I would say:

1: Yes, the dungeoneering is very good, even without the campaign. Very engaging gameplay going on, good balance, very exciting, 5/7 perfect score, would play even without. There are also some random scenarios for non-campaign play.

2: Gloomhaven has no advantage as a solo-game compared to a video-game rpg. But that's ok. If you feel like playing a board game alone then Gloomhaven is great fun. But not compared to let's say the Witcher or Original Sin.
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Ken Brenner
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1. Separate from the campaign, I find the battle system and game mechanics to be fascinating and highly replayable. Since you mention video games, it's like Fire Emblem meets Final Fantasy Tactics as a board game: it takes the need to be cautious with your movement and turn limit that FE has and combines it with the unique job/class system and multiple abilities per character that FFT has. Even if you play the same scenario with the same enemies and the same characters twice in a row, the ability card modifier deck that can randomly strengthen and weaken your attacks and the monster ability deck that changes up the monster AI each turn will make the replay just a little different.

2. To echo what was already said, no board game can compete with a video's games setup time, but I'd say that while I agree with the smarter AI, deeper character development, and action reflexes being superior in video games, I find the game to be just as tactically demanding in a way say FFT is not. That unique mechanic of your ability cards actually being your "fatigue" so to speak means each battle is a highly strategic puzzle, and the option to go all out every turn with your best characters that can be abused in almost every video game is NOT present here. If you unleash the kitchen sink in the first room of the dungeon, your party is not even making it to the final room without being exhausted and defeated.

I'd highly recommend Gloomhaven as a solo game, but make sure you try the co-op/campaign experience as it does really shine more there, and I'd also free your mind of comparing it to your favorite video game RPG - it's a different, but for me no less fun, experience.
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Josh
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1) The actual gungeon experience is very rewarding and the real 'meat' of the game. Overall legacy style changes are so slow that people playing for the 'open a box!' Thrill will be dissapointed.

This video: was invaluable to me in deciding to buy, it shows how it all works with no spoilers.

2)What does it have over a videogame? It has more overhead to be sure, however each new videogame has a balance of it's overhead vs gamay as well. Tales of Maj'Eyal: Age of Ascendancy is insanely granular and opaque but has a lot of Gloomhavenesque elements, yet is cumbersome even in videogame format. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance is a smashy stompy romp with no overhead but also not a lot of depth. Each videogame has to balance these factors. I've started plenty that I did not feel compelled to finish because the balance didn't suit.

Gloomhaven seems to strike a very good balance for lots of people. Setup and overhead can be large, but can be mitigated (app, storage, etc) the actual problem/puzzle/engagement is very high when you play without requiring the brainspace something like Tales does. It also seems to lrovide challenge and originality across it's entire length rather than the easy/harder/fetchquest/standard that can litter many videogames.

Can you find something to engage you solo as much as Gloomhaven? Probably. Is it a good bet you'll hit duds on the road to that game? Likely. And you can't generally co-op most vrpgs.
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Dee Wongsa
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As a solo-only player, I would say that Gloomhaven is comparable to a turn-based RPG video game in terms of fun, depth, and dungeoneering experience.

I would rather play Gloomhaven than Divinity: Original Sin, X-COM, or a similar turn-based RPG because:

1. I work with computer screens all day. After work, I want to not have to look at them for a while.

2. It's easier to drop in and out of a game. I have Gloomhaven permanently set up on a table. If I only have 15 - 30 minutes to play, I can play a round or two, get up and leave, and come back to it later. If you don't have the space for this, it's much less convenient to play Gloomhaven.

3. There's less grinding. Most scenarios are designed to be played 1-2 times. There's also multiple difficulty settings to tailor the experience to what's fun for you. In a video game, I might end up fighting a generic bandit enemy dozens (or even hundreds) of times, with most of those fights consisting of Attack + Dodge Enemy Attack.

In a video game, attacking is as easy as hitting a button so you end up doing that a lot. In a board game, the player has to select a card and resolve the attack, so board games are designed with more varied and interesting decisions from the beginning of the game, to keep a player's interest. What card I pick for attacking also affects future turns, because it might be a while before I can play that card again. Enemies are not entirely predictable either--maybe I don't want to attack this generic enemy because it'll retaliate this turn, maybe I want to save this powerful attack card for later.

4. You control the experience. If you don't care about the campaign at all, just open up all the characters and try them out. You don't have to wait to "unlock" anything if you don't want to. There's a ton of scenarios in the scenario book--try whichever one sounds interesting. There's also randomly-generated dungeons, but these tend to be less balanced.

I also wouldn't say that video game enemies have smarter AI. Video game enemy AI is made intentionally dumb, because it if were too smart, it wouldn't be fun to play. Players want enemies that are predictable and telegraph their attacks. If they wanted good enemy AI, they'd play PVP games, rather than single-player RPGs. The Gloomhaven monster AI doesn't really make any dumb moves (barring shenanigans involving invisibility and blocking doorways). And even if it did, you could easily house-rule changes to make the enemies smarter, without breaking the game.

That being said, there are things that video games do better than Gloomhaven:

1. Cheaper
2. Less space required
3. You don't have to go through set up and fiddle with all of the bits and rules because the game does that for you
4. Gloomhaven is not going to replace the fun of action RPGs that require reflexes and timing.
5. More content for the price (although depending on the game, a lot of this content might be repetitive grinding)
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Jay Johnson
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dejadee wrote:
The Gloomhaven monster AI doesn't really make any dumb moves (barring shenanigans involving invisibility and blocking doorways).

The don't make dumb moves in that situation either.
If they have a ranged attack capable of reaching someone through the invisi-blocked door, then they would move and do that (which is what they would do if the invisible character wasn't there).

Otherwise, they don't move at all. Which may be a dumb non-move, but not a dumb move.
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Corey Fry
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1. I think Gloomhaven's core mechanics are excellent and would be worthy as a standalone game, but I also wouldn't play it nearly as much without the campaign. Gloomhaven's mechanics have a risk/reward element to them: do I make a suboptimal move to get a few extra experience or pick up that loot? Without a campaign, this part of the game is gone and I do think it plays an important part. I want to emphasize that Gloomhaven isn't coasting on the campaign mechanic -- it is a solid experience all around -- but the campaign is where the game shines.

2. Board games feel more 'puzzle'-like than most video games to me. If there was a video game equivalent to Gloomhaven, then yeah, I'd point you toward that for a solo experience for all the reasons you mentioned. That said, I can't think of a game that scratches the gameplay itch that Gloomhaven scratches for me.
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Artaterxes
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Great replies everyone. Thank you.
 
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George Aristides
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Just thought I'd chip in with a moderately different opinion.
I'm a hardcore co-op/solo gamer, and love both boardgames and video games.

I like Gloomhaven quite a bit, though I still think legacy games are a bit overhyped at BGG rankings at the moment.

I find Gloomhaven really good if you have a relatively stable gamegroup and you can play regularly. It gives a pseudo-RPG dungeon crawl experience, where you coordinate with the other players to kick the door, kill the baddies and take their stuff. In that regard, I can definitely see the influences from DnD 4th edition (say what you want about 4e, it did epic tactical combat encounters really, really well). Similar to an RPG game, character power progression is slow and steady (you will usually level up every 3-4 scenarios, which might be two play sessions. Leveling up gives you a non-spectacular boost in power, upgrading one card, getting a perk which upgrades your modifier deck a bit, and a couple of extra hit points).

I tend to play a lot of co-op games solo in-between co-op play sessions, but I wouldn't play Gloomhaven solo. In itself, the play experience of a given session is long, slow and a bit dry. On the other hand when playing with a group the player interaction makes it very fun.

In contrast with something like Mage Knight, where:
- over the course of the several hours of a standard Solo City Conquest game your character massively grows in power
- player interaction is not a massive thing in co-op and introduces a lot of downtime, so playing solo works great
- there is a lot of replayability, each game session feeling a lot different

The relatively deterministic nature of Gloomhaven is good for that "puzzle solving element" if you are not a fan of rolling dice, but to an extend hurts replayability (e.g. if you fail a scenario and want to play it again, you will face the exact same foes, in exactly the same place, and should be able to figure out the exact strategy to beat them).

Also, I wouldn't rate Gloomhaven very highly as a one-off dungeon crawl. Your character wouldn't get any more powerful as you go through the session, so you don't get that feeling of progression you might feel if for example you play a game of Mage Knight, Eldritch Horror, or Too Many Bones, or Robinson Crusoe, or Spirit Island.
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Philipp Schuster
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Innsbruck
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Quote:
First, can you separate the engine from the campaign? By that, I mean how would you rate the actual dungeoneering experience? Would you still play Gloomhaven as single scenarios, unlinked by a campaign or story system? (Ignoring whether the rules allow for this - theoretically, could you pull this out as a one-off dungeon crawl and have fun?)


You definitely can. I would not care if there was no campaign or story system. It definitely is a nice add-on and the story is really ok, so why miss out on it, but honestly, I don't play the game for the story.

I would definitely miss the character advancement system. As with any good computer dungeon crawl/RPG, a lot of fun comes from the fact that your character gets better over time, and you want to try the new goodies you just unlocked. In Gloomhaven you loot gold (save to buy better equipment or upgrade your skills), gain EXP (save to level up and unlock new cards = abilities) and gain checkmarks for perks (mainly modifying the damage the character inflicts). And there is the character goal, which will unlock a new character class once fulfilled.

Quote:
So my second question is this. Apart from the change in setting from a TV screen to a tabletop, does Gloomhaven have an advantage as a solo game compared to video games? It seems as expensive and time consuming as at least two video games, so I’m fairly sure this is an appropriate question.


That really depends on your preferences. The card-based gameplay of Gloomhaven is different enough from video/computer games to justify buying it, I would say. And from my experience the game is not that time consuming as you might fear, reading all the comments about setup, etc. (Managed to play my first solo scenario using four characters in about two and a half hours, which was my third game overall). It is quite demanding, however, as keeping track of all those monsters AND the player characters at once uses a lot of mental capacity. You have to keep track of initiative (=playing order), HP, status effects, monster and player specials (like shield and retaliate), elemental infusions, etc. so it is really easy to miss things or mess things up.

In short, at least for me, playing solo is a mental challenge which makes me tired. Playing in a group (where you can split up the work of tracking everything, and, of course, only have to make decisions for one character) is a relaxing and very rewarding experience.

That said, it should not be a problem if you don't have a dedicated group that meets regularly. Switching characters in and out and just playing with whomever is available at the moment works really well.

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Artaterxes
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Edit: forgot to open with a thank you to the responders.

Gameplay: The puzzle-like, card-based combat looks quite good. I like the modifier deck. It's different from Mage Knight, but similar enough that I might like both equally. I think one downside to Gloomhaven is that (it seems) you can't advance your character in a single scenario. Mage Knight, and also non-card games like Runebound and certain versions of Descent, don't require a campaign to advance. It's personal taste, but I'd rather a campaign mode be optional and the standard mode have character advancement also. I think if those other games, especially Mage Knight didn't exist, I would be more interested.

Campaign Size and Scope: If our group did want to play a campaign, Gloomhaven's size and scope seems impressive. In fact, I can only think of one game that rivals it: Descent: The Road to Legend (the original from 2008). Descent requires 5 players, one of whom is the bad guy, whereas Gloomhaven can accommodate a variable party and is fully co-op. I can see why Gloomhaven is popular.

Solo Play: This also seems like the grandest solo game available. I give it props for that, but I still would rather play a video game which I think would exceed a board game in terms of set-up efficiency, complexity, and scope. I would play a solo board game for its puzzle-like qualities, but not as a campaign.

Legacy: I don't think I'm sold on legacy games. By definition, all choices made in a campaign style game are permanent. I played Road to Legend for a year by marking all choices with counters placed on the map, and removed cards put in a "graveyard box." Unless placing stickers results in a massively more efficient setup time, I don't understand why permanent alterations are necessary when reversible methods convey the same information.

I think Gloomhaven certainly is the game of choice for people who want a fully co-op, flexible party, puzzle-solving, campaign system. It seems like a true masterpiece for that group. I'm just probably one of the rare individuals who doesn't want a campaign (necessarily), doesn't solo campaigns, and already owns a campaign of similar scope. Thank you for all of your responses, and I hope you enjoy your product!
 
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