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Subject: Comparative review with Gloom Haven rss

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Emad Aziz
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Can someone who’s actually played both Dragonfire and GloomHaven please provide a comparative review? Thanks!
 
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toeknee n
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Compare in what way? The two games don't really share much in common other than being both very fun for my play group and I. If you provide more details about what you're looking for, then we could provide better answers. For instance, are you wondering about play time, cooperative aspect, campaign, component quality, mechanics, etc.?
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Tom Eklund
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They're both cooperative fantasy games. That's where all similarities end.
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Lon

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FAIR WARNING: I never once say below that Gloomhaven is better than Dragonfire. That’s because I think they are different games that can’t be compared on a better/worse scale—though the implementation, prevalence, and execution of certain features can be compared. I also never say Dragonfire is a bad game. That’s because I believe it is a very very good game that does what it set out to do very well. That said, Dragonfire’s “very very goodness” is slightly haunted by the things it could have been better at, and that would have made this a bigger hit right out the gate with a broader audience. WHAT FOLLOWS ARE OPINIONS based on my experiences and my preferences.

I've played both. We're like 3 scenarios from the end of Gloomhaven, after 39 sessions or so since last May. Relatively newish in Dragonfire, with 25+ solo 2 PC games played since December and 2 sessions playing at a table of 6 since the new year.

They are very different games and really shouldn't be compared. Any more than Risk and Stratego should be compared. Yes, both Risk and Stratego have fighty doods in funny plume hats on the box... but still. Thus also Gloomhaven and Dragonfire.

Even so... Let's give it a whirl.

They both have cards, a fantasy theme, require some degree of cooperation, and some degree of "legacy" effects.

Both use cards along with character sheets tracking other key character data. The cards are used in “deckbuilder” mode to represent player’s ability to change the game environment. Gloomhaven has a modular game board and minis and also sees slower deck change over many sessions but has a wider variety of strategic decisions to make each turn. Dragonfire sees much more “in the moment” deckbuilding, but there is not as much variety in the kinds of things you can do or represent doing. Specifically, your cards in Dragonfire don’t so much represent what your character does... they more represent what’s happening for the party during your turn. (Hence you have wizard players throwing down tower shield, rangers with magic missile, etc.) Dragonfire does get the edge in terms of players having something to do even when it isn’t their turn: assists during other PC turn are a fun and engaging part of Dragonfire that Gloomhaven doesn’t have.

Gloomhaven is designed for 2-4. At all player counts, difficulty can be adjusted. Dragonfire is designed for 2-6 and has a fairly challenging native difficulty even at its easiest. At player counts less than 4, difficulty scales very unevenly and skews to make each already challenging scenario much more difficult to win in Dragonfire than Gloomhaven.

Both have a learning curve that can be steep. The ruleset of Gloomhaven is more complex, but the designer did a better job overall of explaining concepts clearly in the manual, in particular with the consistent application of a dedicated vocabulary. Dragonfire has just as much nuance and detail in the ruleset, and the rules don’t need to be so hard to parse... the efforts of a gifted technical writer would have given Dragonfire a much smoother launch into the world.

Setup and teardown of Gloomhaven can take 30-40 minutes on either end, depending on your organization, experience with setup, and the scenario itself. Dragonfire rarely takes more than 10-15 minutes for both setup and tear down. Scenario lengths, I’ve found, are about 2-3 hours for either game, and can be much shorter if you have a certain class in play for Gloomhaven for some scenarios. Dragonfire can be daunting to play that long and then frequently lose and have to set back up again. The lack of a baked in difficulty adjustment is one of the biggest complaints (for some) and draws (for others).

Both have Campaign Storylines interspersed with the mechanical aspects of playing the game. Gloomhaven relies on it; it’s a Campaign game. Whereas Dragonfire takes advantage of it: it’s a Game with a Campaign.
Legacy stuff within the storyline is highly detailed and provides granular, variable outcomes in Gloomhaven. In Dragonfire Legacy within the story is more limited: a choice or two in the story.

Both have some degree of between game decision making and character growth. Gloomhaven has much more of both, while Dragonfire makes the most of its simpler structure here. That said, legacy aspects of character building are more satisfying for their simplicity in Dragonfire, I think. Apart from getting some magical items to lug around, you get to apply mostly permanent booms to your character as he/she advances. The boon is there, it’s your choice, and it can often be upgraded. Gloomhaven, near the end, can suffer with too many options for character development... leading to option paralysis. Pick one of 2 or more cards per level to add to your repertoire of tricks to bring on a given adventure. Pick to sell/keep/buy gear. Pick to spend gold enhancing a card or two... that means later characters of same class get as well. Weighty character development ... that works in Gloomhaven because that’s the game it’s trying to be. Personally, I prefer the range and type of character leveling up choices Dragonfire gives, though it wouldn’t be appropriate to consider such limited options in Gloomhaven style game.

Both are a ton of fun to get on a table with friends. Both create shared tension and relief and engagement. I’m glad I’m in a situation where I get to experience both of these amazing games for what they are, and not have one clouded by its lack of being the other.
I think the timing of the launch and the giant D&D logo may have created some unfounded expectations, which have led to many trying to compare the two and figure out which they want to own. Darn Marketing!
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Christopher Taylor
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They both come in very nice boxes.
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Sheri P.
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I have both, I've played both and like both. Differences...umm... Gloomhaven has a larger box, more stuff, takes longer to setup and put away and has minis.
 
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Manuel Vazquez
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Azikin wrote:
They're both cooperative fantasy games. That's where all similarities end.


And legacy
 
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N R
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In my experiences:

Story
I haven't played either long enough to offer an opinion on which has the better story. I have played more Gloomhaven, though, and I greatly enjoy the writing.

Artwork
I enjoy both games equally.

Rule book
It's a laughable comparison. Gloomhaven blows Dragonfire away.

Gameplay
I greatly enjoy Gloomhaven's tactical skirmishes and really enjoy the card play. You have to think very carefully about what cards are going to yield what results depending on your position. Plus it's great that every card has 4 uses (top, bottom, 2 attack, 2 move). The sense of progression is great too. You can obtain perks and unlock cards as you play, making your character feel quite distinct and powerful. Every new level allows you pick a new card to add to your hand pool. While you do indeed grow powerful, you never feel overpowered, which is nice. Items are and feel quite useful, often making a critical difference.

I do not enjoy Dragonfire that much for multiple reasons, including character progression, encounters, Dragonfire Cards, and magic items.

In Dragonfire, you start every match with a weak hand of generic cards. The hope is you defeat an encounter fast enough on your turn, in order to get exp, to hopefully buy a decent card from the market. Once you beat a scenario, you reset to the basic cards. You can unlock traits with player progression points but it takes a LONG time to unlock really cool abilities. The backgrounds and tier 1 abilities are pretty mediocre and you will have to grind through a lot of games to unlock anything decent.
You get one player progression point when you start a scene and if you win a scenario, will get an extra 2, for a total of 5 PP. Since you will lose a lot of the time, you're stuck maybe with 1 or 2 points of progression at the end of most scenarios. It appears you don't really unlock anything really cool until at least 20 points in or so. That's a lot of grinding. What is even more irritating is that you will ALWAYS start every scenario with the same set of basic cards. It really harms the immersion that you are growing stronger.

Encounters: This is where the game falls apart for me. I understand that monsters and locations have to be challenging in cooperative game. I do not understand why EVERY weak monster needs to have tokens to drag everything out. What annoys me the most is how monsters will heal up damage of levels you cannot clear. I understand why that would be the case but when coupled with a Dragonfire card that lets monsters heal up a level when they damage a player (which happens if they are still living), it is a horrible design. One of the worst monsters I have encountered is a stone golem. If you have fail to save against one of his two skill checks, you draw one fewer card at the end of his turn. Fail on both his saves, you do not draw ANY cards. I failed and could not draw up any cards at the end of my turn. Unsurprisingly, we lost.

The Dragonfire cards are horrible. I understand why they are implemented thematically but they are often downright unfair. Starting a mission off fighting extra enemies, taking random damage, or seeing monsters regenerate levels of damage upon hitting a player is demoralizing. I drew the card that let monsters regenerate damage when I was stuck facing a monster that had 5 on one level. Even if I could clear it, I was going to be hit the next turn regardless and he was going to heal up. I just took the card out. Who thought that would be fun?

Oh, I'll touch briefly on magic items. If you finish a scenario, you are granted a magic item, ranging from common, uncommon, rare, and very rare. You will pull a common item most of the time, which is always a consumable, 1-shot item. That's it. I got a healing potion to heal 1 damage that I can use once during a scenario. That's really going to make a gigantic difference after 3 scenes and dealing with the Dragonfire cards.

The more I type about Dragonfire, the more I dislike it. I don't even want to play it anymore. It's too punishing for too little pay off. It simply isn't fun and I cannot recommend it.
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Emad Aziz
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Lonfiction wrote:
FAIR WARNING: I never once say below that Gloomhaven is better than Dragonfire. That’s because I think they are different games that can’t be compared on a better/worse scale—though the implementation, prevalence, and execution of certain features can be compared. I also never say Dragonfire is a bad game. That’s because I believe it is a very very good game that does what it set out to do very well. That said, Dragonfire’s “very very goodness” is slightly haunted by the things it could have been better at, and that would have made this a bigger hit right out the gate with a broader audience. WHAT FOLLOWS ARE OPINIONS based on my experiences and my preferences.

I've played both. We're like 3 scenarios from the end of Gloomhaven, after 39 sessions or so since last May. Relatively newish in Dragonfire, with 25+ solo 2 PC games played since December and 2 sessions playing at a table of 6 since the new year.

They are very different games and really shouldn't be compared. Any more than Risk and Stratego should be compared. Yes, both Risk and Stratego have fighty doods in funny plume hats on the box... but still. Thus also Gloomhaven and Dragonfire.

Even so... Let's give it a whirl.

They both have cards, a fantasy theme, require some degree of cooperation, and some degree of "legacy" effects.

Both use cards along with character sheets tracking other key character data. The cards are used in “deckbuilder” mode to represent player’s ability to change the game environment. Gloomhaven has a modular game board and minis and also sees slower deck change over many sessions but has a wider variety of strategic decisions to make each turn. Dragonfire sees much more “in the moment” deckbuilding, but there is not as much variety in the kinds of things you can do or represent doing. Specifically, your cards in Dragonfire don’t so much represent what your character does... they more represent what’s happening for the party during your turn. (Hence you have wizard players throwing down tower shield, rangers with magic missile, etc.) Dragonfire does get the edge in terms of players having something to do even when it isn’t their turn: assists during other PC turn are a fun and engaging part of Dragonfire that Gloomhaven doesn’t have.

Gloomhaven is designed for 2-4. At all player counts, difficulty can be adjusted. Dragonfire is designed for 2-6 and has a fairly challenging native difficulty even at its easiest. At player counts less than 4, difficulty scales very unevenly and skews to make each already challenging scenario much more difficult to win in Dragonfire than Gloomhaven.

Both have a learning curve that can be steep. The ruleset of Gloomhaven is more complex, but the designer did a better job overall of explaining concepts clearly in the manual, in particular with the consistent application of a dedicated vocabulary. Dragonfire has just as much nuance and detail in the ruleset, and the rules don’t need to be so hard to parse... the efforts of a gifted technical writer would have given Dragonfire a much smoother launch into the world.

Setup and teardown of Gloomhaven can take 30-40 minutes on either end, depending on your organization, experience with setup, and the scenario itself. Dragonfire rarely takes more than 10-15 minutes for both setup and tear down. Scenario lengths, I’ve found, are about 2-3 hours for either game, and can be much shorter if you have a certain class in play for Gloomhaven for some scenarios. Dragonfire can be daunting to play that long and then frequently lose and have to set back up again. The lack of a baked in difficulty adjustment is one of the biggest complaints (for some) and draws (for others).

Both have Campaign Storylines interspersed with the mechanical aspects of playing the game. Gloomhaven relies on it; it’s a Campaign game. Whereas Dragonfire takes advantage of it: it’s a Game with a Campaign.
Legacy stuff within the storyline is highly detailed and provides granular, variable outcomes in Gloomhaven. In Dragonfire Legacy within the story is more limited: a choice or two in the story.

Both have some degree of between game decision making and character growth. Gloomhaven has much more of both, while Dragonfire makes the most of its simpler structure here. That said, legacy aspects of character building are more satisfying for their simplicity in Dragonfire, I think. Apart from getting some magical items to lug around, you get to apply mostly permanent booms to your character as he/she advances. The boon is there, it’s your choice, and it can often be upgraded. Gloomhaven, near the end, can suffer with too many options for character development... leading to option paralysis. Pick one of 2 or more cards per level to add to your repertoire of tricks to bring on a given adventure. Pick to sell/keep/buy gear. Pick to spend gold enhancing a card or two... that means later characters of same class get as well. Weighty character development ... that works in Gloomhaven because that’s the game it’s trying to be. Personally, I prefer the range and type of character leveling up choices Dragonfire gives, though it wouldn’t be appropriate to consider such limited options in Gloomhaven style game.

Both are a ton of fun to get on a table with friends. Both create shared tension and relief and engagement. I’m glad I’m in a situation where I get to experience both of these amazing games for what they are, and not have one clouded by its lack of being the other.
I think the timing of the launch and the giant D&D logo may have created some unfounded expectations, which have led to many trying to compare the two and figure out which they want to own. Darn Marketing!


Thanks! This is what I was looking for!
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Steve Beeman
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A lot of Lon's points, timeline, etc are personal opinion/anecdote and not exactly 100% representative for Dragonfire. A single scenario has never taken me more than an hour after the intro game for new players, for example.

This whole thread is a ridiculous idea though. They're not even in the same genre of games, and their pricepoints are ridiculously uneven. There's not beneficial comparison for either you can do.
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Rob Davis
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SteoanK wrote:
A lot of Lon's points, timeline, etc are personal opinion/anecdote and not exactly 100% representative for Dragonfire. A single scenario has never taken me more than an hour after the intro game for new players, for example.

This whole thread is a ridiculous idea though. They're not even in the same genre of games, and their pricepoints are ridiculously uneven. There's not beneficial comparison for either you can do.

Agreed.

OP, if the point of your post is "which one should I buy?" then that is totally subjective b/c they are 2 completely different types of games. All anyone can do is explain how each game plays and you make a decision for what sounds most enjoyable to you.
 
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Richard Gel
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In the morning should I a put my right pant leg on followed by the left.. I am confused because I can also jump into both legs at he same time.
 
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Lon

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Quote:
I understand why they are implemented thematically but they are often downright unfair


Yep. I have described the game as Arkham Dragon (as a person who likes Arkham Horror though not as much as Arkham Horror LCG) more than once. The overwhelmingly negative skew and randomness of DF cards are in my opinion the biggest reasons for that painful difficulty at lower player counts and levels(Along with the frequency of the words Summon and Token on ENC).

One of the missed not fully capitalized upon opportunities IMHO is for a few more simply helpful, maybe level-based or Class-based Dragonfire cards... similar to another spoilerthing that results in keeping a DF in your deck for future games. Or even some scalable rules for building the DF deck Dragonfire Deck based on Level, player count, and Adventure. (Makes notes for a new project to fiddle around with...) There’s a lot that could be done (and who knows, maybe will be done in future expansions) to make the DF deck the scalable difficulty option many would welcome.
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Lon

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Steve is right on the money, in case I didn’t say it clearly enough: my wall of text is just my experience and opinion.

Quote:
A single scenario has never taken me more than an hour after the intro game for new players, for example.


Going to make a new thread for this. It would be interesting to hear others’ experiences!
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