Gloomhaven has been on my board-game wishlist for a while, but damn… The game’s just so expensive. On top of that, it’s a huge time commitment – not just in playing the game itself, but in set-up and having enough friends to justify it.
So the digital adaptation has definitely been on my radar for a while. It comes in obviously a fair bit cheaper than the physical version, and has the added benefit of not requiring friends. Now I can be antisocial, all thanks to the magic of computers. If you’re unfamiliar with Gloomhaven it’s basically a tactical RPG that sees you recruit a band of mercenaries and fight your way through a bunch of horrible monsters.
Tactical combat is really the meat of the game, and it will take a bit of getting used to – depending on your experience level with these games. It’s kind of card based – the different characters have cards they can draw on their turn to perform actions. Cards have two actions each, but performing one will lock you into the opposing side of the remaining card. Once a card has been used, it’s condemned to the discard pile, and you can recover them by resting between turns.
You’ll have to ‘burn’ cards at certain points, making them permanently unplayable for the rest of the scenario. Resting burns cards while restoring others, and you can mitigate incoming damage with burns too. Essentially you’re forced to make full use of a character’s skillset, because you won’t just be able to spam their most powerful moves. You’ve really got to think about how your characters work together – even on the easier difficulty settings, enemies will hit hard. You can get a rough idea of how they’ll behave on any given turn, but only after you’ve already selected your actions.
As a result you can’t just go in guns blazing with Gloomhaven. Not like me when I usually play D&D, at least – charging in and hoping the dice land in my favour. There is an element of luck – everyone will essentially roll modifiers when they attack or defend, which can change the outcome of turns rather drastically.
Is this easier to play than the board game version?
Well, yes and no. This is not an RPG adaptation of Gloomhaven. It’s a straight digital adaptation of the board game, and as such it can feel incredibly dense and complex at times. The difficulty can still feel punishing for new players, and it’s got all the same rules as its tabletop counterpart.
But Gloomhaven is an incredibly lengthy game to set up/clean up, and obviously this digital version completely eliminates that. So it’s technically a bit easier to play, yes.
So what does Jaws of the Lion add to Gloomhaven?
It’s pretty beefy – Jaws of the Lion adds four new mercenaries, 25 new scenarios, 10 new items and an increase in road events/battle goals to add even more diversity to your game. This isn’t an expansion in the typical sense, it’s very much a board game expansion – so it integrates tightly with the existing Gloomhaven core digital experience and becomes available in your game once you’ve cleared the first two scenarios.
25 new Gloomhaven scenarios is no small number – especially given the game’s difficulty, even on lower levels. It’s pretty reasonably priced at £13.99. If what you want is just more of the core game, Jaws of the Lion delivers that at a low price. If they keep delivering the DLC packs at that price, we could easily be looking at one of the biggest, most in-depth digital board games of all time – all for under the price of the core boardgame itself.
This was my first time playing Gloomhaven in general, and I will admit that the game trounced me thoroughly. While it certainly helps to have the rules explained in an interactive setting, it still might take you a while to properly grasp it. This is a big, deep game that only gets bigger and deeper with the addition of Jaws of the Lion. So don’t buy this expecting instant gratification. It takes work to get the most out of it, but it’s satisfying when you finally do.
If you already love Gloomhaven, I don’t need to sell this to you. If you don’t enjoy Gloomhaven, this extra helping of brutal dark fantasy goodness isn’t going to change your mind.