Gloomhaven is an absolute physical monster of a game. It will demand a lot of table space, and a bit of patience getting started!
We’ve found a few very crucial tips and accessories and want to spread the word! Each of these can go a long way to providing a silky smooth starting experience and quicker flowing gameplay once you get up and running!
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Mother of God…
**SPOILER ALERT: PICTURES OF CARDS AND INSIDE OF GLOOMHAVEN BOX BELOW!
I love board games, you love board games. We’re all here for the same reasons. There’s a definite quality of excitement in those first moments of cracking open a box for a new game and getting to see all the goodies inside.
It’s serious business. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m all about hyperbole in many articles written here, but there is not a single ounce of it when I say that Gloomhaven is the biggest, baddest component bastard on the block and every other act of punching and card-opening you’ve done before will likely not prepare you for this:
18 sheets of cardboard. Well… okay, maybe that’s not so bad, I mean it’s not like there’s…
Yes there is. There’s 10 or so decks of cards to open, and a LOT of sorting that follows.
…and it’s friggin’ glorious.
Previously, I would have put Legendary Encounters: Alien Deckbuilder as my #1 most-difficult game to open up and play (in a reasonable amount of time)
With Gloomhaven, it seems like Isaac Childres has set out on a personal quest to take that #1 spot. Well done, sir! Well done. (Seriously, awesome work!!!)
This is a game where my very first recommendation is to set aside one to two hours just for opening everything up and starting the sorting process. The good news is that, unlike Legendary Encounters, none of the preparation process for Gloomhaven is frustrating at all. I found myself mostly mouth-open in awe of just what I was opening up, punching out, and seeing laid out on the table in front of me.
You know what goes really well with awe? Shock. Shock and awe is definitely the primary two feelings I had once I was finished just punching things out and opening up decks of cards wrapped in plastic
Now, hopefully I’ve been able to catch at least one or two of you before you get to this point. Not so much to warn you, but just to give you a few tips I’ve collected along the way and help you get to the glorious light at the end of the Gloomhaven unboxing tunnel.
The first person you’re going to want to thank (and maybe give some GamerGold to!) is all-star Matthew Van Howe (navmachine on BGG). He put together the most comprehensive Getting Started Guide for Gloomhaven that I’ve come across. Check it out here! He’s been kind enough to let me re-post his guide here, and I would very highly recommend reading this before even opening the box!!
1) Punch out all the cardboard. Put the monster punch outs in some type of organizing box. I used a jewelry making organizing box I bought from Joann Fabrics. Try to find the round marker (tiny yellow rectangle) and store it in the same bag as the elemental infusion table along with the wooden elemental circles.
2) Find the party pad and take a sheet. Fill in a Party name.
3) Select a character to play. Only choose one of the first six in the box. (The six that are closest to the center of the box) Take the corresponding miniature box with the character box (the tall skinny box roughly miniature shaped and sized) Open the character box. Open the ability card bag and remove just the cards marked with a “1” in the middle/top of the card. Leave the attack modifier cards in the character box!(The one’s with the sword back) (I made the mistake of using these as my attack modifier deck for the first round of the scenario and thought something might be wrong…) Punch out the character counters. Take a character sheet off of the pad. Fill out your name. Write 30 gold in the gold notes section.
4) Shuffle the personal quest cards (the one with the dark grey backs that look similar to a file folder) and draw two. Pick one to keep. Pick one that you think goes with the character you selected to make it easier. Showing the other players is up to you.
5) Take an attack modifier deck from the box. (The sword backed cards.) These are numbered for players 1 to 4 with a number in the lower left hand corner of each card. Mine were organized per player deck.
6) Find the city event deck. Take cards 1 to 30, shuffle, and put the rest back in the box.
7) Find the road event deck. Take cards 1 to 30, shuffle, and put the rest back in the box.
8) Find the items. Take item cards 1 to 14. Put the rest of them back in the box.
9) Put out all the items (1 to 14) on the table. You have 30 gold to purchase any items. There are recommended starting items for each class if you have no idea what to buy. You cannot trade money or items with other players. Track the amount of money you spent on your character sheet.
10) Optional-Have a city event. Draw the top card of the city event deck and make a decision and flip it over and see what happens.
11) You are now ready to go to your first scenario!! Woohoo! Open the scenario book to the first page. Read all the information up until it has a circle with a “1” in the center. Don’t read that until you open a specific door. Place the stickers on the map board as indicated in the scenario book. Then put the map board back in the box unless you have the biggest table to play on.
(Editor’s Note: Halfway there!!)
12) Draw a road event and resolve it.
13) Set up the board using the hex tiles as indicated in the scenario book including the door hexes (The hex tiles have a different label on each side). Place the obstacle hexes off to the side. As you open the doors to each room, you will populate that room with obstacles and monsters.
14) Put out the elemental infusion table and place all elemental discs in the inert column.
15) Take out the Monster attack modifier deck (It’s the same type and number as the player deck except it has an “M” in the lower left hand corner)
16) Find the monster ability cards (Maroon back with a skull) for each monster mentioned in the scenario. If you’ve found a monster deck with any part of the monster name in it, that’s the one you need.
17) Find the monster stat card for each monster in the scenario. Rotate it so it has a 1 in the level area of the card and place it in a monster sleeve.
18) Find the standees for each monster in the scenario.
19) Follow the rules on page 13 to place monsters depending on the number of players. Just place the monsters in the first room. Don’t forget to randomly select the standees when placing them (they are numbered and that number determines the order they will act in a round)
20) Place a blue wooden Experience counter (the blue wooden star) on 0 on your character mat.
21) Place a red wooden Heath counter on the number beneath the “1” (that’s the health you get for being level 1)
22) Draw two Battle Goal cards (grey brick back) and choose one to keep. Don’t show everyone else.
Awesome! Now we’re playing… and there’s Gloomhaven stuff everywhere!!
First off, congratulations on getting this far!! Give yourself a pat on the back, and stop reading for a while to go get your first game or two in! Gloomhaven kicks a pretty serious amount of ass – and may well kick your asses the first time through! Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it!
The next few items I’ve found to be extremely helpful in organizing Gloomhaven not just for use during gameplay, but also in the teardown and setup of individual scenarios. I’m sure there’s a few more excellent accessories I could add to make things more efficient, and if you have any suggestions, please let us know, so we can share with the community!
What about all of these Enemy Standees??
This guy takes up a pretty decent amount of space, (~23″ x 16″) but for a game like Gloomhaven it is also filled up largely with cards that you don’t need to have immediate access to during dungeon-crawling gameplay.
The majority of the cards shown here are all used for setting-up, tearing-down and town/traveling actions so you could very easily set this tray of cards up on another smaller table or a chair if space is becoming really desperate!
The next part of sorting Gloomhaven that will be an even-more-immediate need is figuring out just how to put the ton of monster standees in some sort of order:
For these standees, there are a couple of options that really help with the sorting and also can be stored in the Gloomhaven box. The first option is one that I went with: The Plano 23600-01 Stowaway with Adjustable Dividers
This one actually was bought as a set of 4, which gave me a few extra dividers to use. This allowed me to create the configuration above which has many small compartments and holds MOST of the monster standees, with some room for a few bigger ones and leaving a few of the very large ones separate.
Once it’s closed up, it takes up very little vertical room and you could very easily store two of them with all of the monster standees, and some of Gloomhaven’s other various tokens, right back in the box:
The advantages that these offer is twofold:
They show all of the tokens and standees face-up so it’s very easy to quickly identify which is which. It also takes up a good bit less vertical space than the Plano box, so it may work better with your own storage configuration!
All-In-One Enemy Standee, Card and Stat Card OrganizationThe Plano Boxes and GMT Trays both seem like great solutions for ease of sorting and storing all of the different enemy standees that come in Gloomhaven. What we found after 20 or so games is that it’s not just the standees that will need to be retrieved for a scenario – you’ll also need to grab the specific enemy set of cards AND their bigger stat card.
That’s alright, though, because we were able to come up with a really simple option for grouping the entire set of enemy specific items (standees, cards, stat card) into a compartmentalized solution that makes retrieval of everything SUPER simple: ENVELOPES, BABY!
You better bust out your tea and crumpets and have a fireside chat about the elegance of this organization option!
I’ve started switching over to this method to try it out and see if it actually worked out, and honestly am starting to prefer it over keeping all of the cards and stat cards in their own piles and pulling out the required enemies when setting up the map.
I generally place the stat card in first and then put the AI cards on one side and the standees on the other. This technique probably saved three or four minutes off of both setup and teardown, so it seems like a pretty significant time savings! Given that setup/teardown is the only bad part about Gloomhaven (and playing is lots of fun) – trying to minimize that is my primary objective!!
The only potential downside is that it does make the envelopes bulge a bit, and won’t look like the cleanest solution, but even that can be partially helped by just putting the stat cards and AI cards in the envelopes and combining this with the Plano container mentioned above for the standees! This takes a little more overall space but lets the envelopes maintain a much slimmer profile!
Gloomhaven Map Tile Storage
While the other storage solutions above focus on standee and monster component issues, the map tiles can be a much bigger mess and pain in the rear. Luckily, another office supply staple is here to save the day and make your Gloomhaven experience easier!
Ladies and Gentlemen: The File Folder:
This is a suggestion I read about and picked up a file folder and have been pleasantly surprised to find that it worked out incredibly well! Leaving the tiles out on the table took out a ton of space and looked horribly messy – it also took a bit of time to try and peer at the small lettering to see just which tiles I needed.
This file folder corrected all of those little small issues and also keeps everything very neat and tidy! Shown above is a picture with every Gloomhaven Map Tile stored, ready for whipping out for some monster stomping!
The only minor issue that I have with the file folder is the one I picked up had individual letters for a while, then started combining letters (DE, GHI, etc) – this is really a pretty trivial issue, however, as there are more than enough individual folders inside to store every letter of Gloomhaven Map Tiles.
As a bonus, the file folder that I picked up was actually an order of two file folders! This second one could be used for another game in your collection with a set of map tiles for organization. I’m using the second one for keeping track of all the Descent 2.0 tiles, for example!
The spirit of collaboration in the Tabletop Gaming community is one that has always stood out to me. For a game like Gloomhaven that has already made a noticeable impact on the community, it’s especially cool to see so many offering suggestions on ways to make things run more smoothly.
Please reach out and let us know what you think of these Accessories and the shared Getting Started Guide and if you have any other recommendations or suggestions, please pass them along!
Now go out there and conquer the war of Gloomhaven Components!!