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Gloomhaven» Forums » General

Subject: Gloomhaven... Lean Version? rss

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Masta De Gumbo
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After a few sessions of Gloomhaven I'm left with the feeling that, yes, it's an excellent game system. Totally solid strategic choices, weighty combat, and all-around fun. Worthy of its place on the Geek List. But...

As someone who doesn't have time to play through an entire campaign, or get a buzz off the trappings of a legacy system, I really just want to get into the core of what makes Gloomhaven great - the combat card play.

Because once you get past 20 pounds of girth that this game comes with, what you're left with is a really tight card/hand management game, that integrates deliciously with the tactical board. The campaign invests you in the overall desire to 'level up' and swap certain cards for ones with higher numbers, but at the end of the day, it's still all about tag-team clever card play with friends.

I'd love to see the designer or the community at large take the system and distill it down to a smaller, leaner package that can be purchased comfortably below the(currently) $175 on Amazon. While I do think the current package deserves to command a premium price, I don't think the actual core gameplay should be kept behind that upfront pay/ask exclusively. What do you think could be 'made lean' so that all that remains is the core gameplay? Or do you think Gloomhaven simply can not be the game it is without all of its varied parts?
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Michael Lee
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There can definitely be a lean version. Fewer scenarios, characters, items, map tiles, and events are possible. But I think the game would suffer. The core dungeon crawl game play would still be there but you would lose the sheer variety of scenarios and characters available. A big part of the experience is about exploring the city and people of Gloomhaven, not about grinding a character to the highest level and "winning".

A lot of other games release lean versions and charge a lot for expansions. Games like Descent, for example, sell you a cheaper box but then it's not long before you're replaying content you've already done. I guess it's a way to try the game before shelling out the big bucks.

Understandably, some players get bored after playing a game 20 or 30 times, and maybe this isn't the game for them. For me, I've played about 20 scenarios and I'm still having a blast. So Gloomhaven works for me so far.

And the price is $140. Wait for new shipments to arrive to avoid the price gouging that's happening.
 
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Josh Kanehen
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Short answer is yes, you could trim it down. Get rid of the event decks and the Personal Quest deck. Remove about half the modifier cards, classes (minis), map boards, monsters, bosses, terrain/tokens. This might get it down to 60% of MSRP ($140) for a total of ~$85. Not sure this would be small enough to be worth it. You might need to cut more like 75% of the variability components above to get it down to ~40% of cost, or approx $55 to make it sale-able. <- This, I think, is why Isaac didn't go this route and went for the whole kit and kaboodle.

If it were just for one-off though, you'd probably only have one pool of cards per class (no leveling up) and a set of resources to allocate for items, perks, etc. Each player would kit up their character (perhaps via drafting or something to make it part of the game rather than pure admin) then you'd all play a scenario for it's own sake or maybe a short "story" arc.

Pros:
- Faster setup since you have fewer components.
- Cheaper.

Neutral:
- Individual classes are all still unique, just fewer of them.
- Unique scenario rules/objectives are still doable.
- Lesser variability in all things, but if you're not playing this game often, that's probably ok for you.

Negatives:
- You lose any of the "semi"-cooperative tension w/o Personal Quests (even with Battle Goals, because again, what do they mean in a one-off?).
- The looting and experience abilities aren't worth anything (score perhaps...??), so those abilities would need to be stripped out and/or abilities rebalanced. The bigger impact of this is a much simpler decision space to work in, so the hand management game that is the core of this gets lighter.

That last point is where this would be decided. If it ratcheted down the tension/conflict in that decision space too much, you lose the core of what makes the game so good. I'd be interested to try it if someone comes up with a ruleset for it, but I'm skeptical that it would be as good of a single (or multiple) game experience without those other elements.

 
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I think if you did that, you'd end up with a game that's just ok, nothing special. There would be some people that would like it, but quite few that would LOVE it. It also wouldn't be easy to make it work, certainly not as simple as just taking away the map and character progression and calling it done.

The first challenge of minifying it is that part of the depth of the hand management comes from the long-term goals. Looting, going for battle goals and personal quests, whether to go for treasure chests, and XP - those all only make sense in the context of a campaign, when you're slowly accumulating enough progress to unlock/buy/enhance. And part of what makes scenarios interesting is the permanent tension between immediate goals and making progress towards long-term goals. You always are wondering whether you can get away with playing a slightly suboptimal card to get some xp, or whether you can afford to spend an action to loot, or whatever. That stuff isn't just there to "invest" you in playing - it's to make sure that scenarios always have many side objectives competing with the main one.

The second challenge is keeping the game's variety and complexity in balance without the unlock process. It goes both ways! With the slow unlocking (of characters, items, etc), you can't really min-max the out-of-scenario stuff very easily. Most groups don't play with "optimal" character combos or even think about what optimal character combos are, lots of times the items you have include random stuff that you get from chests, as prosperity goes up you slowly get more items to work with and new characters to try, etc. With everything available immediately, there will be less variety of what people actually play with because people will gravitate to ones that they think are better. But conversely, it would also ratchet up the complexity of decision-making - if everything's available at once, that leads to analysis paralysis. It will probably be less balanced (because if everything's available, you can instantly go to the powerful combos) and harder on new players.

I guess one way to decrease the price is to kill the theme. Get rid of all the different monster standees and character minis - have four pawns of different color for the characters, a few dozen colored markers of multiple colors for the monsters, and a deck of monster and hero cards that just say what their abilities/stats are. Get rid of the world map and the stickers. Get rid of 90% of the different hexes - after all, all you need is 'obstacle', 'hazardous terrain', 'difficult terrain', no need to differentiate a bookshelf from a boulder, definitely no need to have 3 types of door! You just need maps of different shapes. Man, why did they even pay artists to design the map tiles? I mean technically, that preserves literally all core mechanics of the game. But it would make it more boring and harder to get into (since theme's other effect is to make the game more intuitive - good luck consistently remembering that monster #1 is a living bones and #2 is a living corpse when they're just numbered or colored chits.)

I'm sure a good game designer could do it if they wanted. Make the aim something that preserves gloomhaven's card-management combat, while minimizing the price. I don't see why it would be impossible, just some work.

But at the end of the day, there's about 100,000 games on BGG, and more coming out every day. I've played so many games at game nights, with friends, in different places, at meetups. Games that aren't bad! So many that I played once, thought "hey this is pretty neat, it has some strategic depth and good decisions to make" and then went home and never played them again and never missed them. To make a game this good, a game that gets to #1 in the rankings and has people keep playing it 50-100 times, really takes something special. And it takes a designer spending all their time thinking "how can I make this game even better, even better, EVEN BETTER, price and weight be damned." If you try to cut corners on quality, the game's gonna slip into mediocrity in a snap.
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Marcel Cwertetschka
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So he is basically asking for Tiny Epic Gloomhaven?
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Des T.
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gumbomasta wrote:

As someone who doesn't have time to play through an entire campaign, or get a buzz off the trappings of a legacy system, I really just want to get into the core of what makes Gloomhaven great - the combat card play.


Don't consider Gloomhaven a campaign game you have to binge on, but a game set in a persistent world.

The vast majority of the game consists of the tactical dungeon romping you enjoy so much. There's nothing stopping you from unpacking all the "gated" material right away and playing it, either.

That being said, Gloomhaven wouldn't get much "leaner" by removing the "dressing": The campaign is roughly 200 cards, a map, and ~50% of the page count in the scenario book. Everything else would stay the same, except that it isn't gated, and the odds of overwhelming a new player are just that much higher.
 
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Zachary Homrighaus
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I've played maybe 30-35 scenarios in the early parts of the campaign (3 different campaigns) and I'm not bored. Part of the reason for that is the wide variety of options. I have played 3 different starting characters and we're following different paths through the campaign, so I'm mostly seeing new and different scenarios. Also, I'm very keen for reveals. In one campaign we got to open an envelope and a new character class... in the others we are not quite there, but getting close. If each scenario was just a game we played for 2-3 hrs, I think I would be bored by now... the fact that it's building through the campaign narrative and there are all those delicious boxes and envelopes to explore keeps me coming back.

I'm sure they could trim a little bit of the fluff away, but I don't think a 20 game campaign with 1/3 of the characters and monsters would be nearly as good. I could certainly do without the board (it could just be 2 pages in the scenario book), but otherwise, I wouldn't want to lose anything else.

If you are just looking for strategic card play / hand management, there are tons of card battle games that give you that. Maybe they aren't dungeon crawls, but you get the same feel from the card play.
 
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Casey Nordell

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I sometimes want a little Gloomhaven (just to scratch the itch), rather than a lot. I like the game the way it is, but sometimes I just want to engage the core mechanic (e.g. weeknights) and other times I want the epic feel of the whole campaign (e.g. weekends).
As a comparison, chess is a game that takes a long time, but sometimes you just want to look at "chess puzzles" (like they used to print in the newspaper or books). They would be something like "here is the board position, white to mate in two moves" and you have to figure out what to do next.

I wish there was something like Gloomhaven Puzzles that you could play in a few minutes: here is a map layout, here are the cards available in your hand, what is the best move for your character given the following considerations (e.g. best chance of killing at least one enemy, or best chance of not taking damage, etc.)
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Josh Kanehen
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PoshFrosh wrote:
I sometimes want a little Gloomhaven (just to scratch the itch), rather than a lot. I like the game the way it is, but sometimes I just want to engage the core mechanic (e.g. weeknights) and other times I want the epic feel of the whole campaign (e.g. weekends).
As a comparison, chess is a game that takes a long time, but sometimes you just want to look at "chess puzzles" (like they used to print in the newspaper or books). They would be something like "here is the board position, white to mate in two moves" and you have to figure out what to do next.

I wish there was something like Gloomhaven Puzzles that you could play in a few minutes: here is a map layout, here are the cards available in your hand, what is the best move for your character given the following considerations (e.g. best chance of killing at least one enemy, or best chance of not taking damage, etc.)

+100 I would love this if someone can come up with some of these in a way that works. I've mused on it a bit, but haven't been able to come up with something similar.

Riot Games did this with Mechs vs Minions and I loved those.
e.g.: https://lolstatic-a.akamaihd.net/frontpage/apps/prod/rg-mech...
 
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Jeremy Loehr
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Well, there are rules for casual play and a random scenario generator. Which seems to me like what you are asking for.
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