What is Gloomhaven?

If you don’t know anything about Gloomhaven, I recommend watching this video.

If you don’t want to watch that video, then I’ll try to briefly explain what Gloomhaven is.  It’s a cooperative boardgame where players are adventurers with unique abilities exploring a fantasy world, raiding dungeons, killing monsters, gathering treasure, and role-playing.

So hype!  Much excite!

What makes Gloomhaven special is the clever combative card play, non-standard fantasy races, 22 pounds of cardboard that comes in the box, and over 90 scenarios to work through while you explore this fantasy world, making permanent decisions that affect how the story plays out in a sort of choose your own adventure.  Some have described it as Dungeons & Dragons without a dungeon master, and with card-based strategy instead of dice luck; D&D in a box; a ridiculous value for the price you pay; an outstanding achievement in boardgame design; ambitious; et al.

The hype surrounding this game has been tremendous and exceedingly longstanding (or maybe I’ve just been following it too closely?) Reviews have been consistently stellar and it has skyrocketed to the coveted #1 spot on Boardgame Geek’s rankings.

I.  Want.  This.  Game.

So what’s the problem?

Me.  I’m the problem.  (Go figure!)

On the one hand, I’m very cognizant of the atmosphere of hype, and it tends to be something I avoid.  I’m the type of person who might choose to not rush right out to see the latest super popular movie and will instead pursue other interests until I get around to it.  If that never happens, then so be it.  A prime example of this behavior is my inability to become interested in the hit TV show Breaking Bad despite the entire internet and several close friends raving about it for so many years in a row.

In direct opposition of this behavior quirk, my wife and I recently decided to give LOST a chance, because so many people still won’t shut up about it.  I think we made it through most of the first season before I bailed out, bored and annoyed at the cliffhanger format and soap opera drama where a bunch of people don’t get along in a confined space.  I’m having the same problem with Deadwood at the moment.  It all feels so samey.  She kept watching and is now one of the converted, telling me that she wishes I would watch it because “it’s good now.”  Gloomhaven aside for a moment, how much effort should one be expected to put into a TV show before it “gets good”?  Isn’t it the job of the TV show to be good in its entirety?  My free time is precious.  I don’t want to waste it on crappy episodes.  Sorry, getting off topic.

I’ve been burned by hype a couple times.  I’ve even written about it on this site.  It’s kind of depressing when you buy a game and really give it a shot only to find out that it’s not for you, and that the hype tricked you!

So when something like Gloomhaven comes along, and the hype is this intense, my first reaction is to think up all sorts of reasons not to jump on the hype train.

  • I have plenty of games already, and I want to play them more than I have been.
  • I don’t need more games right now.
  • I have 2 games I haven’t even played yet.
  • It’s expensive!
  • (But I have enough fun money to buy it, and Collin already said he’d go halfsies on it with me!)
  • But Collin doesn’t have a ton of free time either, so how often is it going to hit the table?
  • No! This is a difficult year for gaming in general. I’m building an entire house.  I’m going to have even less time for boardgames this year than usual.
  • And I’ve got two sons I should be playing with before they grow up and stop wanting to do things with their Dad.
  • (But… it hits all the right notes for me!  And!  It’d be a great game to play with my sons!)
  • That’s dumb.  My sons are 2 and 5.  Gloomhaven is a bit over their head for at least a few more years.
  • (What if I just buy it and hold onto it for next year when I’ll have more time to play it with Collin?)
  • No, that’s dumb, too.  Why not just buy it next year?
  • I’m not infected with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  They’ll keep printing a game that is ranked this highly.
  • And if I wait, the price should drop below $100.  See?  That’s prudent thinking.
  • (OMG it’s on sale already!  Never been a better time to buy!)
    • [Aside: In the weeks I’ve been thinking about writing this post, I’ve had my cursor hovering over a checkout button at least three times.]
  • No.  I’ll wait.  It’ll be great, later.  We have plenty of games to play right now.  I’ll wait.
  • (But if it drops below $100 should I grab a copy just in case?)
  • That’s still stupid, but if you feel this strongly about it, then I guess do whatever it takes so you can finally shut up about it.
  • (Wait, who said that?  I thought it was just me in here talking to myself.)
  • Shhh…  don’t worry about it.

So yeah.  I feel a real pull toward this game, more than I think I’ve felt about any previous ones.  But rather than just buy it, I’m actively trying to slow myself down and figure out why. It hits all the right notes for what I want in this kind of game, fits a niche in my collection for a type of game I don’t have, and is a game my group would really enjoy.   But I’ve never played it.  All I have to base an opinion on is what I’ve seen from the designer, and what all the reviewers have said about it.

I’ve known about this game from its first Kickstarter campaign, and watched the designer earn $386,000 in less than a month, and demand for the first printing of the game far outpaced the supply.  He literally ran out of money, unable to print more copies of the game.  So he ran a second kickstarter and in 1 day he earned $1,275,000!  Ending that campaign just shy of $4,000,000Dayum!

I think part of the pull I’m feeling is because, in some way I’ve felt participant in this rise.  “I knew about Gloomhaven before it was cool!”  😛

But I never actually signed up.  I’m just an outsider looking in on all the people having a great time.  Maybe it’s not so much the “Fear of Missing Out”, but the pain of actively missing out?  Hah!  #firstworldproblems

So, what happens now?

As of the time of this writing, I’m going to wait. (Fine!) I may even try the first scenario on Tabletop Simulator just to rule out the off chance that it’s a dud. (That’s actually a pretty good idea).

For some more insight into this kind of hype and its affects on boardgaming culture, check out The Thoughtful Gamer‘s post entitled “Cult of the New” And Design Incentives.

And for an example of the kind of in-depth praise this game has been getting, check out Cardboard Quest‘s Gloomhaven Review.

Gloomhaven is probably in my future, but I’m going to exercise some restraint and hold off for now.  It’ll be cheaper later.  I’ll have more free time later.  And I have plenty of neglected games already, thankyouverymuch.  Done!  (But wait! It’s on sale again!)

[sticks fingers in ears] LALALALALA