Much ink has been spilled over the difficulty of finding time to game as an adult. The problem might just be a little exaggerated, though, because there’s one really simple tip you can put to work to make things easier: just stop sleeping. Never sleep. Turn your eyes from the realm of dreams and remain in this cold, grey reality we’ve built for ourselves. It’s fun!
By not sleeping, you’ll have plenty of time to check out long-form, brain-busting tactical RPGs like Gloomhaven, the digital version of Cephalofair Games’ popular tabletop adventure that’s lept from PC to consoles. Just ignore the hallucinations and you’ll be fine.
As a team of mercenaries, you’re going to investigate the city of Gloomhaven and its surroundings, getting jobs done so you can get paid. Your missions range from monster extermination to search-and-rescue to fetching items for clients, but the one thing they’ve all got in common is that they’re not going to be easy. Mercs don’t get paid for nothing, after all. Each mission’s going to be a struggle against the baddies, the environment and even time itself. Maybe you should look into a retail job instead.
Gloomhaven has much in common with something like Final Fantasy Tactics – or, if you prefer, Dungeons & Dragons with more miniature battles and a lot less roleplaying. You’ll control a character – two in solo mode – as you progress through scenarios and beat up monsters along the way. Each class of character has a variety of cards that can be used for different purposes, but they generally fall into themes like damage, support, tanking and so on. Cards are consumed as you use them, and over time you’ll eventually run out, leading to a loss, so it’s important to keep moving and getting things done lest you die of attrition.
It would be difficult to get into all the little quirks that go into completing a scenario and cooperating with allies in the span of a review, but suffice to say that the system is highly enjoyable, particularly when you’ve got a group working together.
There’s a lot more going on beyond completing scenarios, though. The city itself can grow and evolve if your mercenary squad’s efforts help the city, for instance, and random events can take place to introduce new plot threads or spice up scenarios. Perhaps most exciting are the personal quests that unlock new playable classes over time. This game, more than many similar ones, feels like a long-term campaign that gives back what you’re willing to put into it.
As a tabletop game, Gloomhaven is…well, it’s a lot. Not only are you looking at dropping a couple Benjamins or so for a copy of the game, but the actual process of setup and play is extensive, to say the least. Maps need to be assembled, minis need to be painted, decks have to be doled out, shuffled, and dealt with, initiative needs to be tracked, there’s so much going on that the game can feel overwhelming. Mobile apps and component organizers are available to help keep things under control. You’d better believe you’ll need them.
So while playing the tabletop version is a great time, there’s a lot to be said for this digital version of the game. The ability to quickly set up and enjoy scenarios does a lot for the next-gen consoles, as it did in the game’s digital rendition on PC. Sure, Tabletop Simulator was always an option, but that’s both in a legal grey area and a little tough to sell people on from a usability perspective. This digital version is just about as straightforward as the game’s going to be.
It’s also a nice-looking and easy-to-play title. While it’s been available in digital form on PC for quite some time, even spending a stint in early access, and it’s nice to see the game make its way to consoles. It’s easy to control your mercs, including using their abilities and items, and it’s equally easy to set up and enjoy multiplayer games online. Visually, the game looks much nicer on PS5/Xbox X/S than the otherwise-similar Switch version.
I might be a little biased, having turned Gloomhaven into a weekly ritual during 2020’s spiciest months, but I can confidently recommend this game to pretty much anyone. It’s a masterpiece of tactics and adventure that’s bound to appeal to players who are looking for a reason to get together and who might not necessarily want to run a full tabletop RPG campaign. The digital version makes the experience inexpensive and accessible, so it’s an easy recommendation. So grab some friends and kiss your sleep goodbye.