Gloomhaven is a legacy, campaign style, dungeon crawler board game where players take on roles of wondering fantasy characters and develop them throughout their careers.
The game comes with 95 campaigns in a box that will easily take over 100 hours to complete. This is probably one of the very few board games to unlikely require an expansion anytime soon.
Teamwork is at the heart of the Gloomgaven. It encourages players to stand together against evils of menacing dungeons and forgotten ruins.
As the game advances, players improve their abilities and skills with experience and loot. They explore new locations and carve their unique way through the amazing storytelling by making decisions that determine their path and adventure going forward.
One of the main objectives of the game, besides completing scenarios and campaigns, are personal hero quests. Each hero can take on small personal ventures in parallel with the main storyline. Completing personal quests allow additional characters to enter play and provide variety and more strategic options.
There are two main game areas, the city of Gloomhaven and the scenario itself. In the city of Gloomhaven, players are able to manage their party, level-up characters, buy or sell items, select new action cards, donate money to obtain blessing or complete city events.
The scenario area represents dungeons where players fight monsters, complete quests, and achieve scenario objectives. This active phase is where the main action and storytelling takes place. At the same time, this is also where the game plays against you and forces you to exhaust your characters that become too weak to advance. Keeping your characters in a good shape is paramount as once they all become exhausted – you lose the scenario.
The other highlight of the game is its unparalleled sense of exploration. Discovering new parts of the world brings new hidden items, envelopes, character packets, and fascinating cities. All of which allows you to level your character, improve its skills and ultimately determine the path the storyline takes.
- Descent: journeys in the dark
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) is the reimplementation of the original classic that was released in 2005.
The game is both cooperative and competitive as one player takes on the role of a deceitful overlord (or dungeon master), whereas up to four other players take on roles of brave heroes.
Each turn heroes embark on thematic adventures to complete quests and gain loot. Each quests contributes towards the game objective of stopping the overlord from executing his evil plot.
Quests in the game are well thought out and typically require heroes to visit ancient ruins, caves, dark dungeons, and cursed forests where they face monsters and find special items and powers.
The great thing about quests in Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) is that they are fun, creative, and engaging. Each quest delivers a unique experience that is in line with the overall scenario narrative. Moreover, you can also complete campaign quests, which add an additional level of storytelling and depth.
There are two ways to play Descent and both work really well. You can pick one of the scenarios and play it casually enjoying a one-off standalone encounter. Alternatively, you can pick a campaign mode which is lengthier but a lot more immersive. Campaigns represent multiple scenarios strung together to deliver a story-driven dungeon crawler experience.
Campaigns are designed to be dynamic and feature evolving storylines. Scenarios in campaigns change depending on whether the overlord or heroes end up winning it. This mechanism does a great job at balancing the gameplay as the next scenario suggested by the game typically favors the losing side.
Each scenario is unpredictable in a fun and engaging way. At times it may feel insurmountable for heroes to beat the overlord, other times your heroes feel unstoppable. Overall, the game reaches its peak of intensity, fun, and engagement when both sides are equally competitive sharing victories between different scenarios.
In terms of game components, Miniatures are full of anima, cards have an amazing artwork and the dice are pleasing. The box feels loaded with miniatures, cards and double-sided modular board pieces. It is sure to leave you with a feeling that you got your money’s worth
- Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords
This game is one of the most successful deck-building strategy card games that has managed to incorporate elements of RPG in its design.
The game supports one to four players and comes in a large box with five dice and around a whopping 500 cards.
It feels balanced and works well with any player count, including a solo play.
Players get to take on the roles of heroes fighting evil in the ancient land of Varisia. As a group, you are tasked to cleanse the land from dark and deadly magic, plague, and corrupted monsters.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is played in scenarios, which together make up an adventure. Related adventures can be strapped together to create an adventure path which is a great way to add an additional depth to the storytelling.
The game features multiple characters to chose from such as wizards, ninjas, rogues, slayers, arcanist, magus and many more. Each character has its unique skills, abilities, and proficiencies. In addition, each character has different levels of strength, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, and charisma.
Once the character is selected, he gets a character card and a starting deck of 15 cards. The deck rapidly grows throughout the games as the players get to acquire weapons, armor, allies, spells, blessings and various supporting items and tools.
The best thing about Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords is that it encourages teamwork in a very special way. Players can exchange items, give each other blessings, add combat rolls and boost checks.
Typically, in the final stages of the scenario, players jointly pick one of the characters for the last battle. The character then gets buffs and perks from other players to increase the chances of defeating the villain and winning the game. It may sound somewhat plain on paper, but in reality, it feels truly epic.
- Star Wars: Imperial Assault
This game is a strategy board game that offers two game modes, a story-driven campaign, and a one-on-one skirmish tactical battle.
The game concept and mechanics are inherited from the highly acclaimed Descent: Journeys in the Dark with some rules and gameplay being streamlined.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault immerses you into the civil war between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire after the destruction of the Death Star over Yavin 4.
Playing the game in the skirmish mode invites two players to gather strike teams for a head-to-head combat over conflicting objectives.
Conversely, in campaign mode, one of the players takes on a role of the leader of the Galactic Empire whereas up to four other players take on roles of Rebel operatives trying to stop the Empire from taking over the galaxy.
As the game campaigns unfold, both Imperial and Rebel players acquire new skills and experience, which allows the characters to level and evolve throughout the storyline. The winning side gets additional rewards, yet the losing side gets some nevertheless.
Winning or losing determines the mission you play next or the special rules applicable to the mission. There are also handy side-quests available for you to acquire special items and additional cash.
- Mechs vs. Minions
This game is a cooperative tabletop campaign board game designed for 2-4 players.
The game is set in the fictional world of Runeterra, the same world where the famous League of Legends comes from.
Each player takes on the role of one of four Yordles who must work together piloting their mechs to achieve the mission and campaign objectives.
As a mech pilot, you get to create modular boards, command lines, and program your mech to be efficient on the battlefield to confront a host of foes.
The game relies solidly on cooperation between the players to put each character unique abilities to the best use possible.
During their turns, players get to issue commands to their mechs by drafting cards which allow mechs to move, turn and attack. Over time, the cards and the sequence they are played in ultimately creates the programming line of commands for mechs to execute.
Getting the commands and their order right requires an ability to think a couple of turns ahead. In addition, to run any chance of winning the mission, you would need to coordinate those future turns with other players.
The pressure is part of Mechs vs. Minions’s DNA as the game is driven by a strict time limit controlled by a sand timer. Each player gets around 40 seconds at the beginning of their turns to pick the right cards that will help them and the team to face the upcoming challenges and battles. Over time, the decision complexity rises which causes more mistakes and suboptimal decisions to be taken. As a result, surprisingly, but the game becomes more dynamic, tight and ultimately more fun!
- Mage knight
This game is a fantasy role-playing game where players get to pick one of four mage knights and experience the rich history of Mage Knight universe.
When the game came out in 2011 it had all the hype you can think of, and later has become an RPG classic unrivaled in some areas to date.
Although the game can be played with up to four players, the extensive downtime between player turns kills the gameplay and makes it frustrating.
On the other hand, playing the game solo creates a completely different, best in class RPG experience the game is so well known for. In fact, Mage Knight is one of the main games that have heavily influenced and shaped the development of the solo play in modern board games. The game also works well with two players, but anything more than two would be a stretch.
Mage Knight features character leveling and a campaign mode creating a long-lasting RGP experience in a beautifully crafted fantasy world setting. It captures the rich history of the Mage Knight universe in a very special, addictive and immersive way.
You will find the game to incorporate a number of board game mechanics such as deck-building, card drafting, tile placement, role play, and others. Surprisingly, it manages to integrate them extremely well delivering an all rounded and smooth board gaming experience.
- Arcadia quest: inferno
This game is a standalone expansion, based on the original Arcadia Quest board game released in 2014.
In the game, you and other players get to create a guild of three heroes tasked with descending into the depths of Inferno to put an end to an army of angry demons and the Underlord himself.
The game delivers a unique combination of dungeon crawling and PvP action which adds a unique twist to the overall gaming experience.
Like most RPG board games, heroes get to complete quests in the underworld by cooperating with each other fighting monsters and then sharing the loot.
What makes Arcadia Quest: Inferno different is that it also allows players to get greedy and make it personal. The game allows players to initiate life or death arguments where only one would walk away with the loot.
Combat in the underworld follows a classic dungeon crawler tradition of being simple and fast. Whether you are fighting an enemy or another hero, it involves a lot of dice rolling. The enemies are typically semi-aggressive and only attack if provoked.
- Darkest Night
This game is a revamped and expanded version of the original game made possible through the Kickstarter funding.
The new version has received a complete overhaul which ultimately feels, looks and plays like a brand new game. It now features a gorgeous art, better quality and bigger components, and five amazing expansions. Overall, it feels more complete and definitely more premium.
The game sets the scene in a kingdom broken under a Necromancer’s shadow where up to four players take on the roles of heroes with unique special abilities in their attempt to salvage the realm taken over by the evil Necromancer.
If you ever felt short on options when picking characters to play, you will be pleased with Darkest Night. The game lets you choose from 29 different hero classes, and manages to still provide a unique experience for each.
- Shadow of brimstone: city of the ancients
This game is a fast-paced, fully cooperative board game featuring campaign mode and character progression. The game sets the scene in the Old West-themed underworld filled with horror.
In the game, players get to take on roles of brave adventurers who travel deep into the mine in search of an elusive dark stone. What they find instead are demons, monsters and foul creatures from beyond space.
At times, players may even find themselves pulled into other worlds by using portals where even more adventures and surprises await.
The scenario objective is unique for each mission and can range from finding a Darkstone deposit to entering other worlds and rescuing lost civilians. Darkstone is a scarce resource scattered around the underworld and has the ability to corrupt characters that hold it.
Completing scenario objectives awards players experience points which are used to level up the character. Additionally, the players may get exposed to less fortunate effects such as permanent injuries, disfiguring mutation or madness. Those effects can get carried across the scenarios.
Between the adventures, the players can visit local frontier towns to rest, gamble, undergo a surgery, buy gear, artifacts or other special items. It allows players to prepare for the next scenario and to develop the character throughout the campaign. The character progression is driven by a class-specific upgrade tree that unlocks special skills and abilities to allow custom character development.
- Sword and sorcery
This game is an epic scale story-driven dungeon crawler that packs loads of thematic action.
The game is fully cooperative, where up to 5 players can team up against the forces of evil and darkness.
Although there are multiple board games that feature the underworld setting, Sword & Sorcery makes it a lot more pronounced than others.
The game feels, plays, looks, and even screams ‘underworld’, much more than any other board game in my review.
Even the heroes you get to control have thematically risen from the dead to venture on some violent missions against nasty and evil monsters. In terms of characters, there are five classic RPG classes to chose from – a knight, a ranger, a rogue, a wizard or a cleric.
The game is made up of multiple missions, which are broken into scenarios that are well incorporated into the storyline delivering a great thematic immersion.
The unique feature of Sword & Sorcery is that you get to choose your soul nature at the beginning of the game. You can pick between Law, Neutral, and Chaos and have it carved in your Soul Gem which ultimately defines your character.
Getting that choice right is important as it determines your style of play and how encounters, checks, and monster fights are resolved. Additionally, defining your soul nature also drives the initial skill set and drives interaction with other players in the party. It is advised to have all players to be on one side, at least for the first game. It helps to streamline the team decision-making process as teams driven by either light or dark forces have better chances to succeed.