Gloomhaven, a sprawling and immersive board game, has captured the hearts of gamers worldwide. With its deep strategy, intricate storylines, and cooperative gameplay, it's no wonder this game is a staple in the board game community. However, for beginners, Gloomhaven can seem daunting. This guide aims to demystify the complexities and offer strategies and tips to help new players dive in and enjoy their adventure.

Understanding the Basics

Before delving into strategies, it's essential to grasp the basics of Gloomhaven. The game is a cooperative, campaign-style board game where players take on the roles of mercenaries. Together, they explore dungeons, fight monsters, and complete quests. Each player controls a character with unique abilities, and the game progresses through a series of scenarios, each with specific objectives.


Gloomhaven comes with a plethora of components, including character boards, ability cards, map tiles, and miniatures. Familiarizing yourself with these components and how they interact is crucial for a smooth gameplay experience. Spend some time organizing the game and reading through the rulebook before your first session.


Choosing the right character is vital for your group's success. Each character has a distinct playstyle and set of abilities. For beginners, it’s advisable to select characters that are straightforward and versatile, such as the Brute or the Spellweaver. These characters offer a balance between offense and defense, making them easier to manage for new players.

Understanding a Turn in Gloomhaven

A turn in Gloomhaven consists of several phases where players and monsters act in a specific order. Understanding the flow of a turn and making informed decisions during each phase is crucial for success. Here's a breakdown of a typical turn:

1. Card Selection

At the beginning of each round, players select two cards from their hand. Each card has a top action and a bottom action, and players will use one action from each card during their turn. It's essential to choose cards that align with your strategy and the current scenario's objectives. Consider the following:

  • Initiative Order: Each card has an initiative number. The lower the number, the earlier you act in the round. Coordinating initiative with your teammates can be critical for planning effective moves and attacks.
  • Action Synergy: Ensure that the actions on the selected cards work well together and with your teammates‚Äô plans. For instance, if you plan to move and attack, select cards that allow both actions effectively.

2. Initiative Determination

Once all players have selected their cards, reveal the initiative numbers to determine the order of actions for both players and monsters. This phase sets the sequence of turns for the round, impacting how strategies are executed.

3. Character Turns

On a player's turn, they will execute one top action and one bottom action from their chosen cards. Important considerations during this phase include:

  • Positioning: Moving to advantageous positions can make a significant difference. Avoid clumping together where area attacks can harm multiple players and use terrain features to your advantage.
  • Action Timing: Determine the best order to perform your actions. For instance, if you have a move and an attack, moving to a position that maximizes your attack‚Äôs effectiveness is crucial.

4. Monster Turns

Monsters act according to their initiative and follow specific rules for movement and attack, dictated by monster ability cards drawn each round. Understanding monster behavior helps in planning your moves and anticipating their actions. Key points include:

  • Movement Patterns: Know how monsters move and target players to avoid unnecessary damage.
  • Attack Prioritization: Be aware of which player the monsters are likely to target, usually the closest one, and plan accordingly to protect more vulnerable team members.

5. End of Round

After all players and monsters have taken their turns, the round ends. Players check if scenario objectives are met, reshuffle any used decks if necessary, and prepare for the next round by drawing new ability cards and adjusting their strategy based on the current game state.

Strategic Tips for Beginners

Now that you have a grasp of the basics, let's dive into some strategic tips that will help you navigate the world of Gloomhaven more effectively.

1. Communicate with Your Team

Gloomhaven is a cooperative game, and communication is key. Discuss your plans and strategies with your teammates before each turn. This helps in coordinating actions and maximizing your collective effectiveness. Avoid revealing exact numbers or cards, but give enough information to align your tactics.

2. Manage Your Cards Wisely

Each character has a deck of ability cards, and managing these cards is crucial. Once a card is used for a major action, it’s lost for the rest of the scenario unless it’s recovered through a rest action. Plan your moves carefully to avoid running out of cards too quickly. Remember, losing all your cards means your character becomes exhausted and is out of the scenario.

3. Balance Short and Long Rests

Resting is essential for recovering lost cards. Short rests allow you to regain cards quickly but at the cost of losing one card permanently. Long rests, on the other hand, restore your health and give you more control over which card you lose. Balancing between short and long rests depending on the scenario and your current situation is a strategic decision that can impact your success.

4. Positioning and Movement

Where you position your character on the board can make a significant difference. Avoid standing in doorways or choke points where monsters can easily target you. Utilize obstacles and terrain to your advantage, blocking enemy movements and funneling them into advantageous positions for your team.

5. Focus on Scenario Objectives

While defeating monsters is an integral part of Gloomhaven, always keep your scenario objectives in mind. Sometimes, it's more strategic to avoid unnecessary fights and focus on completing objectives. This can save your resources and increase your chances of winning the scenario.

Advanced Strategies for Long-Term Success

As you become more comfortable with the game, you can start incorporating advanced strategies to improve your gameplay further.

1. Master Your Character's Abilities

Each character in Gloomhaven has a unique set of abilities. Spend time understanding how your character's abilities synergize with others in your party. Experiment with different card combinations and strategies to find the most effective ways to utilize your character's strengths.

2. Optimize Your Equipment

Throughout your campaign, you will collect various items and equipment. Equip your characters with items that complement their abilities and playstyle. Don't hesitate to swap out gear between scenarios to adapt to different challenges.

3. Plan for the Long Game

Gloomhaven is a campaign game, and your decisions will have lasting impacts. Think ahead about how your character will develop and what abilities you want to unlock. This long-term planning will help you build a more cohesive and powerful team.

Research and Observe

For further understanding and practice, try watching gameplay videos or playing the digital version of Gloomhaven. Observing experienced players navigate scenarios can provide valuable insights into strategies and mechanics. Additionally, spend time going over the cards and learning about the different abilities and items available. Familiarizing yourself with these elements before playing will give you a significant advantage and make the game more enjoyable.

Exploring Gloomhaven Expansions

For those looking to expand their Gloomhaven experience, there are several expansions available. The two best expansions for beginners are Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion and Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles.

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is an excellent starting point. It’s designed as a standalone game or an entry-level expansion that simplifies many of the original game's complexities. With a streamlined rule set, four new character classes, and 25 scenarios, it offers a more accessible entry point without sacrificing depth.

Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles adds new layers to the original game with a new character class, the Aesther Diviner, and 20 additional scenarios. This expansion introduces new mechanics and challenges, making it ideal for players who have gained some familiarity with the game and are ready to tackle more intricate scenarios.

Final Thoughts

Gloomhaven is a challenging but immensely rewarding game. By understanding the basics, communicating effectively, and employing strategic planning, new players can navigate its complexities and enjoy the rich gameplay experience it offers. Whether you’re embarking on your first scenario or diving deep into the campaign, these tips will help you make the most of your Gloomhaven adventures.

Stay connected and strategized with more insights from the thrilling world of board games at Land of Geek.

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Jun 21, 2024
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