Gloomhaven is one of the big beasts of modern board gaming, an epic experience that takes your characters on a campaign in which they grow, change and even retire.
It represents a significant commitment of time and money and the general perception is that you can only play through it once.
However, can you get more value for money out of the box even after you have completed the campaign with your characters?
Or are there other ways to increase its shelf life?
This article will describe various ways in which your own version of Gloomhaven can continue to provide new and exciting adventures even when you think you have seen it all.
Gloomhaven does provide possibilities for replaying an entire campaign. Unused characters may be used and different story arcs explored. Note that reusable stickers will be needed to restore components to their original state. The rules contain instructions for randomly generated dungeons, which can be explored separately from the main campaign and used to develop characters further.
Even when you have finished the story of Gloomhaven there is more to explore, but if you are new to the game or need a quick reminder then this video by Roll For Crit will bring you up to speed on the rules in only ten minutes.
The rule book itself is available to read and flip through by clicking this link and it’s worth looking through even if you think you know the game, as there are many small elements that can be missed.
In terms of playing the game through from the start there is a really simple way to mix it up and play another Gloomhaven campaign, and that is to start again with a new character class.
There are seventeen character classes in the box, and an average campaign will see each player unlock around three or four of them.
So if you have run through a four-player campaign then it’s quite likely that you will have encountered all of the classes in the game.
However, in a solo or two-player campaign you will really only have scratched the surface of what there is to discover, so beginning anew with an unused starting character will provide a fresh experience second time through.
Best of all, each character class in Gloomhaven feels quite different from all the others – a really major achievement – so it’s not as if your new hero will feel slightly different.
They are going to fundamentally change the way that you approach the game, but you’ll already know this if you’ve played all the way through a campaign.
With seventeen different characters in the box you can easily have an entirely different adventure second time through, or even run a second campaign alongside your first!
One of the most clever things about Gloomhaven even if it’s not mentioned that often is that the difficulty scales according to your characters’ abilities and how many of them there are.
It also means that you can try the game on a trickier difficulty level, maybe even beginning right from the start but with a greater level of challenge.
This can actually radically alter the feel of the game, like moving up to Expert level on a computer game.
Combine it with a new set of characters and you’ll have something that feels totally different from your first campaign.
You will be taking innumerable choices in a game of Gloomhaven, and some of those will be happening as your party of heroes travels from one location to another.
These are Road Events, and they normally have you picking between a couple of options which end up giving you a little boost or perhaps a small disadvantage.
If you’ve been cautious when deciding how to resolve these in one campaign, how about being a little more daring next time through?
Or if you’ve always rolled the dice when the road events have come around, why not take the safer option?
This way you’ll be exploring more of the events in Gloomhaven as you play through it a second time as well as finding new challenges…and rewards!
Casual Mode allows you to replay any revealed scenario from your Gloomhaven campaign and it even allows you to switch back and forth between this and the slightly more strict Campaign Mode.
The rules advise that a new scenario is first attempted in Campaign Mode, but otherwise you are free to dip back into any revealed dungeon as you see fit and can even use it to develop your characters.
Just remember that the narrative events of the campaign do not trigger in Casual Mode, but it’s still a great way to go back and relive a scenario that you really enjoyed, or one where you just know that you could do better if you had another chance.
Another feature of Gloomhaven that is only infrequently mentioned is the random dungeon generator.
Most of the talk you will find online about the game is about the campaign, and rightly so, but Gloomhaven also comes with a set of instructions to create random individual dungeon scenarios.
Each of these dungeons consists of three rooms filled with monsters and the aim is to clear the entire area, but you will only know about the first room when you begin the scenario.
Flip over one card for the room and one for the monsters and away you go, and you can dip into this variant of the game any time you like.
It’s worth remembering that you can play this way even in the middle of a campaign, just for a change of scene, but you can also use the random dungeons to gain experience, money and checkmarks, and even to make progress on a character’s personal quest.
In other words, even if you take the campaign away you still have a game that can provide you with challenge after challenge.
It also prolongs its life after you have finished the campaign more than once, and that’s a massive bonus.
PlayingBoardGames run through one of these random scenarios in this video so you can get a feel for just how much value is in this option alone.
If you want to revisit a totally new Gloomhaven for a second campaign then you will need to invest in a reusable sticker set.
As you progress through Gloomhaven you will be adding stickers to the game board as you unlock and explore locations as well as upgrading cards and abilities.
You could always track explored locations with pencil and paper and sleeve cards in order to put stickers on them, but if you prefer you can instead use one of these sets in order to start afresh second time through.
Don’t forget that even if you only run through the campaign once you are still going to get around two hundred hours of entertainment out of the game.
That will be spread across more or less one hundred plays, so you can get extraordinary value for money out of Gloomhaven before you even need to begin to consider whether you can replay it.
In other words, if you like the feel of the game then you are going to be kept busy for a massively long time in board gaming terms, especially when you compare it to other campaign games like Pandemic Legacy, which only gives around a quarter of Gloomhaven’s number of plays at best.
Playing through a campaign twice is probably going to take at least a couple of years of gaming, so even being able to replay Gloomhaven once is going to give you more plays than most other boxes on your shelves.
So if you have come here wondering if Gloomhaven is replayable then the short answer is yes.
The question really comes down to how you want to replay it.
If you want more play within a single campaign:
- You can dip in and out of Casual Mode and have another go at a particular scenario
- The random scenario generator allows you to advance your characters in one-off dungeons
- Both Casual Mode and the random scenario generator can be used to beef up your characters in a campaign
As for a second campaign:
- You would need a reusable sticker set (if you are going to use the stickers)
- You should start a new campaign with a fresh set of characters
- You could approach the campaign in a different way from before, so that the road events and other branching decisions open up in a new style.
- You can increase the difficulty level as well for a proper challenge second time through.
For non-campaign play:
- The random scenario generator is a stand-alone dungeon hack-and-slash game
So get out there and find out what Gloomhaven really has to offer – you’ll be surprised at just how much there is to discover.