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Subject: Gloomhaven a good fit? rss

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Nick Wirtz
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Okay, so, I've read a number of reviews and have a decent sense of GH, which mostly seems like a game I'd like, but I'm interested in the big factor of taste. So, I'm bringing up my feelings on a number of other co-ops:

-Kingdom Death: my current go-to. I love the metagame, gear, monster mechanics, and characters once they get off the ground; think that the dice mechanics are all a little shallow, but will take it because it supports a broad setting. Not a fan of the occasional extreme swings, "gotcha!" moments, or incoherent stories.

-Dark Souls: I've played through it a bit; it's pretty fun and I mostly like the health-stamina system and don't have a problem that many do with gear acquisition, but my biggest complaint is that the environments and "levels" are super-bland.

-Silver Tower: Way too easy, but once my group house ruled a couple things to add difficulty, it became a semi-regular part of our rotation. A pretty enjoyable romp that just needed the difficulty turned up to actually experience the enemies. After that rebalance, my only complaint is how uneven the heroes are (esp. with expansions).

-Pandemic: Pretty fun, but diminishing replay value to the point that my group slowly stopped playing, and hasn't been inspired to try out Legacy.

-Ghost Stories: Felt like punching a brick wall until you or the wall broke. Disliked the concept of difficulty largely based on terrible odds, not difficult strategies.

-Betrayal at the House on the Hill: Pretty enjoyable. If it were twice as long, I'd hate it for the randomness; instead, it's short enough that I'm fine with the swings.

-Journey - Wrath of Demons: Mechanically solid, but the mechanics were so slow and cumbersome that it got boring quickly.

-Myth: I don't have enough enraged rants to properly describe this game. To keep it short, I found the terribly unclear, vague, and pretentious writing to be a serious barrier, then found the underlying mechanics (extremely gamable baddies; player cards where it felt like you could never do what you wanted to, including basic actions) underwhelming.




...So, armed with that knowledge, any fans out there who think GH is a good addition to the library or not?
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Chris Ferejohn
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Sure sounds like it. Biggest downside of gloomhaven is the fairly involved setup and tear down, but if you are ok with KD:M I expect that won’t be too much of a problem for you.
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Matthew Schoell
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I think you'd really like it. If you are very into KD:M, my only caution is that both games represent huge time sinks. Gloomhaven ships with 95 scenarios in 1st ed, the second ed includes the solo scenarios. Let's say you play a full campaign with 70 scenarios, at 2 hrs per for a round #, that's 140 hours of just gameplay.

Totally worth it - unless you have another game with an equal amount of hours and you end up choosing between them.

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Aaron K
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I find it to be a less elegant game than Kingdom Death: Monster. In Gloomhaven, there are some things that are more fiddly than they could be. It is a good game, but careful to watch out for overhype that ignores the flaws. That being said, I would think you would enjoy it based on your other comments.
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Ben Kyo
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Talae wrote:
I find it to be a less elegant game than Kingdom Death: Monster.
...

Wow, I think that's the first time I've ever heard the sprawling monstrosity of KD:M called elegant, and in direct comparison to Gloomhaven too!

Things that might turn you off Gloomhaven, which you probably know already:

Lack of tension because your character cannot die.
Lack of tension because scenario failure means you simply reset the scenario (or play a different one) while keeping some of the gains you made in the failed scenario.
A general feeling of an optimisation puzzle, which might get in the way of the theme, especially if you don't like games that make you think in the first place. It is not at all similar to any of the games you mentioned (with the caveat that I know nothing about Journey)

There are other criticisms to be made, and plenty of positives too, but nothing else that strikes me as particularly relevant given your stated preferences.

I bought it, but chose to definitely not buy any of the games you mentioned (although I have played most of them, and at points I came close to purchasing KD:M and Ghost Stories).
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G C

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I would definitely say yes, for your sheer description of KD:M alone. Having played both, I much prefer Gloomhaven, specifically because I hate the swingyness of KD:M, and how you can get screwed by dice rolls and other things completely beyond your control.

The Gloomhaven combats, instead of your choices being limited to move, attack, survival point options, or 'rare ability you've managed to scrounge up without dying', you have a character-specific hand of cards that changes over the course of the campaign, and eventually is completely replaced when you start up new characters. This makes every choice much more interesting and varied, and combined with the hand-management aspect of the game, provides plenty of meaningful choices.

The drawback is that the monster AI is much simpler than KD:M, and while you can give monsters status ailments, there are no hit locations. That said, the variety of monsters -- and the fact that you'll almost always be fighting more than one at a time -- combines with the more complex rooms to make every scenario and battle unique. And while you do repeat scenarios if you fail them, this doesn't happen nearly as often as KD:M, where you're asked to grind the same monster time after time.

While GH's city/road events do a fairly good approximation of the KD:M 'hunt' phase, you may miss the additional depth in KD:M's settlement phase, and crafting your own gear. And if you like the crapsack setting of KD:M, obviously Gloomhaven plays much differently. While you can play with permadeath, most people don't, so it's not as tense.

But if KD:M is your go-to game, and your main problem with it is the random luck-based nature of die rolls, then you probably fit in the same mold that I do.

As for your other games, the ones I've played (KD:M, Dark Souls, Pandemic, Ghost Stories, Betrayal), I have almost identical opinions to yours, with the exception that I did try out Pandemic Legacy and enjoyed it. So we seem to be on the same brain-wavelength there too.

So my advice is to get it, because 95% of our opinions match up, and it's my favorite game.
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Robert Marney
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It appears we have pretty similar tastes, and I'm really enjoying Gloomhaven. Same subgenre as Dark Souls and KDM, but instead of trying to avoid death and mitigate the randomness of die rolls, you're doing a euro-style optimization puzzle with your cards. There's definitely less of a city-building feel - that part is basically just a time lock on leveling up your characters too fast - but in exchange you have a lot more flexibility within each fight about how to use your various abilities, instead of building character X to do actions A,B,C every fight.
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Kip Kwiatkowski
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Benkyo wrote:

Lack of tension because your character cannot die.
Lack of tension because scenario failure means you simply reset the scenario (or play a different one) while keeping some of the gains you made in the failed scenario.


The first issue is addressed with the Perma-Death option.

The second is an easy fix with a house rule eliminating gains.
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Nick Wirtz
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Thanks, everyone!

Re: KD and elegant, heh, yeah, I'd agree that it isn't really: while I love the game, I'd call it unwieldy much of the time, and the sheer number of rules it introduces to do everything kinda prevents it from being "elegant."


Re: simpler AI, how predictable is it, and how easy does that make it?
 
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KD:M AI decks are pretty bloated, in my opinion. Gloomhaven's are slimmer but at no real loss to monster 'agency'. What GH lacks is the HL deck, but unless you're willing to take the KD:M route of disposal survivors, I don't feel like it's a real tactical loss.

Based on your preferences (and your comments I've read in the KD:M forums) I'd recommend a hybrid approach: Permadeath and +1 difficulty to up the tension, but let the surviving characters sell the corpse's items as seed funds for the replacement if something does go wrong.

I'll echo what others said: road/city events are a decent, less harsh equivalent of the hunt phase. But the "back to town" between GH missions is no match for the settlement phase. If you're not digging the combat, there's nothing for you.
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George Aristides
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My suggestion is to try to play a game or two of Gloomhaven before buying the game.

I was really close to buying it, but was a bit turned off by reading some of the designer's articles where he is criticising other games and coming across really arrogant and elitist in his approach to game design.

I am now playing in a regular group, and I am enjoying it, but it's more of a "that was kinda fun" feeling rather that the "OMG did that just happen!" feeling that I get with KDM. I am happy to play it but I it's beginning to feel samey and am glad I didn't buy it.

The mechanics of Gloomhaven are actually quite good, and I like the combat part of the game.

The random city/road events are very minor in scope. Basically, 1-2 times between scenarios you are given a scenario and asked to make a choice (usually between two options) and depending on your choice and your party mix, something good/bad happens to give you a small advantage/disadvantage at the start of the next scenario (such as a bit of extra gold, or losing a few more hp). It would be a decent approximation to the KDM hunt track, if the KDM hunt track had only 1-2 hunt events before each hunt, and they all gave you a +1/-1 token, +1/-1 survival or something else relatively minor.

Overall, I understand why people love this game, but try before you buy (or at least watch a few videos on youtube)
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Nick Wirtz
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Re: KD's decks, yeah, I certainly feel like those could have been far slimmer. I often think about how one might clean those decks up in such a way that the deck fixing elements are less prominent, but I'm not sure how much shallower the experience would be without that control, even if I could house rule something balanced.

On the campaign, I definitely don't need high stakes, but do like balance that pushes towards needing to make the right move. Is it that characters who don't die just get too strong, or are you talking about a general preference/difficulty thing? Are there designed difficulty levels built in?
 
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Aaron K
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spiralingcadaver wrote:
Thanks, everyone!

Re: KD and elegant, heh, yeah, I'd agree that it isn't really: while I love the game, I'd call it unwieldy much of the time, and the sheer number of rules it introduces to do everything kinda prevents it from being "elegant."


Re: simpler AI, how predictable is it, and how easy does that make it?
Elegant might be the wrong word here. I didn't mean to imply KD:M was without flaws either.
 
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patrick mullen
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spiralingcadaver wrote:
Re: KD's decks, yeah, I certainly feel like those could have been far slimmer. I often think about how one might clean those decks up in such a way that the deck fixing elements are less prominent, but I'm not sure how much shallower the experience would be without that control, even if I could house rule something balanced.

On the campaign, I definitely don't need high stakes, but do like balance that pushes towards needing to make the right move. Is it that characters who don't die just get too strong, or are you talking about a general preference/difficulty thing? Are there designed difficulty levels built in?


Yeah there is a difficulty scale that you can pick before each scenario, with a recommended scale to use based on what levels your characters are. So if you need it to be harder, you can set it higher than the recommended amount.

Ai is fairly predictable - which is kind of the game. How do you use your cards most efficiently when you know what the monsters are likely to do? And how do you coordinate these moves with your teammates so you aren't jumping on each others toes? (Like when one guy runs in and takes out the 3 monsters that you were going to try to take out, and now there is nothing for you to aim at). Until you learn the ropes, you'll lose more because of these kinds of mistakes than from monsters acting unexpectedly.
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Paul S
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Just feeling the need to say: Ghost Stories is not what the OP suggests, though it's commonly regarded as such. It is consistently winnable once you know what you're doing (and certainly so at lower difficulty levels). But it might take a dozen or so total hammerings to get to that point

Don't mean to derail. Maybe there is a GH/GS correlation - the first couple GH scenarios are tough; GS too; with more plays, life gets easier.
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Nick Wirtz
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Aaron, sure. I think it's a great game, but I was a bit disappointed it wasn't improved more in 1.5. I guess that level of change might be more appropriate for a 2.0 release (shrug)

Patrick, re: scenario difficulty, is it the sort of thing where you can try again and push harder at another difficulty? Is there a risk (or difficulty)/reward system?

Re: Ghost stories, first, I said how it felt, and read a lot of reviews that agreed with my sentiment after the fact, and I have enough sense of game mechanics to recognize systems, comparing basic odds of success vs. opportunities for success. If the game was intended to have a starting mode that was winnable with decent strategy, maybe they should have led with the basic difficulty instead of alienating people so thoroughly when introducing it. I'm sure there are better strategies than I got in my few sessions, but the sheer reliance on swingy randomizers for success meant my repeated experience of the game was "be confronted by a scenario; try to find the most efficient outcome; oops, you got bad luck, you're another step towards being overwhelmed." What resulted was a game I didn't like enough to want to stick around.
 
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Paul S
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Nick: you are probably right about GS. It nearly alienated me too. I guess I have a minor mission to tell people it's worth persevering with! But your point is fair.
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patrick mullen
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spiralingcadaver wrote:

Patrick, re: scenario difficulty, is it the sort of thing where you can try again and push harder at another difficulty? Is there a risk (or difficulty)/reward system?


Yep, higher difficulty levels give you better rewards. So you can go higher in order to earn more stuff if you think you can handle it. There is no real penalty for failing, so if it's too hard, just drop the difficulty and continue on. Compared to kingdom death it's definitely more in the consumption mentality of getting through all of the missions and completing the story as written than seeing something evolve in weird and surprising ways. So replaying a scenario isn't the kind of thing you want to have to do too often, as there isn't that much that will change on the second go.
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Benkyo wrote:
Talae wrote:
I find it to be a less elegant game than Kingdom Death: Monster.
...

Wow, I think that's the first time I've ever heard the sprawling monstrosity of KD:M called elegant, and in direct comparison to Gloomhaven too!

Things that might turn you off Gloomhaven, which you probably know already:

Lack of tension because your character cannot die.
Lack of tension because scenario failure means you simply reset the scenario (or play a different one) while keeping some of the gains you made in the failed scenario.
A general feeling of an optimisation puzzle, which might get in the way of the theme, especially if you don't like games that make you think in the first place. It is not at all similar to any of the games you mentioned (with the caveat that I know nothing about Journey)

There are other criticisms to be made, and plenty of positives too, but nothing else that strikes me as particularly relevant given your stated preferences.

I bought it, but chose to definitely not buy any of the games you mentioned (although I have played most of them, and at points I came close to purchasing KD:M and Ghost Stories).


Lack of tension? I mean, do you really want to play a 3 hour session only to be defeated and have to start it all over again?

I had a 2p session the other night literally come down to a final 2 pulls from the attack modifier deck...had I pulled negative cards we would've lost a 3.5 hour scenario...
 
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Nick Wirtz
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Beloch wrote:
Nick: you are probably right about GS. It nearly alienated me too. I guess I have a minor mission to tell people it's worth persevering with! But your point is fair.
That's fair. Mine is Sedition Wars, which similarly had a flawed introduction that alienated people: 1st edition was messy; they rushed 1.5 (or whatever), and patched 1.5 was a very solid game, but IMHO it was too late for most people to give it a look.

patrick, that sounds great. Thanks for clarifying.

So, it sounds a lot like a video game RPG, where completing it is basically an inevitability if you play enough, rather than something like KD where you're on an effective timer and can lose the overall campaign?
 
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Ben Kyo
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spiralingcadaver wrote:
So, it sounds a lot like a video game RPG, where completing it is basically an inevitability if you play enough, rather than something like KD where you're on an effective timer and can lose the overall campaign?

That is correct, and also part of the reason I have no interest in playing it solo. I think it works in the context of a tabletop cooperative game though (especially one in which every player has selfish motivations that prevent a pushy "leader"/quarterback emerging). In contrast, I see KD:M as being best suited to solo play (which is part of the reason I passed on it).
 
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Nick Wirtz
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Sooo... Turns out that I was talking enough about the game and you guys' responses that my better half decided to surprise me with a copy coming in with the groceries!

Well, pretty excited to try it out (and, damn, is that a lot of components).
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