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    dkirschner's Gloomhaven (PC)

    [October 12, 2022 09:34:12 AM]
    Serious procrastination at work this morning. So let's watch YouTube and think about Gloomhaven before I have to go grade annotated bibliographies. I've "retired" Gloomhaven as of last night. It's too slow. I appreciate that the digital version automates much of the tabletop game, but I suppose therein lies a challenge with digitizing tabletop. It's still going to be slow (and when playing alone, instead of with friends, it matters). I was surprised to see that I put almost 20 hours into the game. It didn't feel like that long because gameplay is quite engaging, but the scenarios take a long time, especially if you create a party of four. Last night, I played one scenario and it took two hours. The campaign has 95 scenarios. I did the math and uninstalled.

    The game is really cool though, and I would like to find some people to play tabletop with at some point. It's set in a dingy fantasy town (Gloomhaven) and surrounding areas. There are shady characters, sinister plots, cults, bandits, and the like. You'll fight ghosts, skeletons, oozes, ratmen, thieves, archers, and so on--basic fantasy fare. The story seems interesting, but I didn't get enough of it for it to really stand out.

    I haven't played a ruleset quite like Gloomhaven's; it seems innovative in many ways. One feature is the card-based action system. You'll have a party of 2-4 mercenaries, each one being a specific class. Each class has a set of cards. These aren't normal cards that do one thing; rather, each card has a top half and a bottom half. You can select which cards to bring in a scenario (varies by class, but around 10 cards). Each round, you select two cards for each of your mercenaries. On their turns, you play the top half of one card and the bottom half of the other (or vice versa). You can't play 2 tops or 2 bottoms, and you can't play the top and bottom of the same card. So you basically get 4 options (2 tops and 2 bottoms) on each mercenary's turn and choose a top/bottom combination. This will let you "prepare" for a variety of situations that your mercenaries may find themselves in on their turns, depending on how they move and attack and how enemies move and attack.

    Enemies also have cards, though they work a little differently. Enemies of a particular type share cards, and they draw one card per round that dictates their actions. For example, the skeletons might draw a card that says they move 1 space, attack for 2, and have 2 targets. All skeletons in that round will do the same thing. The living corpses might draw move 2, attack for 4, and take 1 damage. This gives you some predictability in choosing what to do. You select cards for all your mercenaries first, and then the game shows you the enemies' draws.

    Each card has an initiative value, 1-100. The character with the lowest initiative moves first, and they go in turns by initiative after that. So, if you choose cards with low initiatives, you'll have the advantage of acting first. Or, you may purposefully choose cards with higher initiatives to let the enemies go first (like if they're far away, letting them move first and get closer to you is smart). The tricky part is that you don't know the enemies' initiatives (because you don't know their cards) until after you make your selections for a round. You might select cards with low initiatives, planning to go first and get the jump on them, and then be dismayed when the enemies use a card with an even lower initiative and go first, complicating your plans!

    There is a real focus on adapting to the situation in Gloomhaven. This is clearly illustrated by how card selection and initiative work, but even more so by the damage roll modifiers. Each mercenary has a number of modifiers, generally ranging from -2 to +2 (and including a x0, a x2, and some others you can get later). When a modifier is used, it is removed from the scenario, and you can always see your modifier list. So, even if you think you've come up with the perfect plan for a round, it will be derailed because you'll roll a -2 and not do the damage you need (or roll a cursed x0 and do nothing!). You'll need to be able to adapt to the situation not going like you thought it would. Enemies have the same modifiers and can either pleasantly surprise you when they draw a -2 or make you cry when they draw their one x2 modifier and one-shot your low-HP character.

    As your mercenaries meet certain challenges in scenarios (which you get to choose beforehand, e.g., "Loot 5 piles of gold" or "Open a door to the next room on your turn"), they are awarded perk points. Once a mercenary earns 3 perk points, then you can unlock a new perk, which changes their deck of modifiers. For example, you can remove two -1 modifiers, or add a x3 modifier, or choose a perk that adds 3 +1 pushback modifiers. There are a lot of options, and it allows you to tilt the odds in your favor. The first thing I did with each mercenary was to get rid of as many negative modifiers as possible so that I could plan my rounds using base attacks, knowing that they would always do at least that much damage.

    Even though Gloomhaven thrives on adaptability, certainty is also nice because you can't just take your time in scenarios! No! Your characters become exhausted if you take too long. Every time you use a card, it goes into the mercenary's discard pile. Say you have 10 cards. You'll use a pair each round. So, after 5 rounds, well, you're out of cards! At that point, you can rest to get all but one of them back. If you choose a "short rest," one card is randomly "burned" and unusable for the rest of the scenario, but you can act in that round. If you choose a "long rest," you get to choose the card to be burned, but you can't act in that round (and you recover 2 HP). Once all your cards are burned, you're screwed. More specifically, once you don't have two cards to play in a round, your mercenary becomes exhausted. Some more powerful card halves also have burn conditions, whereby they are burned when you use them (e.g., card halves that do a ton of damage or something).

    There many other neat aspects of this game (the unique looting mechanic, the way items work, ways to sacrifice cards for health, the numerous classes, Gloomhaven's reputation counter, leveling up and retiring characters, elemental synergies, etc., etc.). It's a lot to learn. Beating the game would take forever though, and I'm glad to have spent time getting the basics down. I've lately gone through a lot of card games (and have more coming up). This was definitely a unique game with cards, worth a whirl if you've got no imminent prospects of Gloomhaven tabletop.

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    dkirschner's Gloomhaven (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got Bored

    GameLog started on: Monday 26 September, 2022

    GameLog closed on: Wednesday 12 October, 2022

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Slow so far, but neat ruleset to learn. ------------ Super interesting mechanics, but yeah, takes forever. Very slow.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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