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Founders of Gloomhaven: Not Everyone’s Thing

I would like to begin this review by stating unequivocally that I am not a City-Building-Game-Person. I know that there are many of you out there, but I, unfortunately, cannot count myself among you; it’s not particularly my thing.

But if you happen to be a City-Building-Game-Person, you should check out Isaac Childres’ Founders of Gloomhaven! The artwork of the different races, the game tiles, and the aesthetic of how the city takes form is really neat, and the lore that players experience through playing the different races gives a deep, otherworldly feel to the game, which I am ALL ABOUT.

There are even special cards that players can win by achieving certain goals that carry over to the Gloomhaven game! And while I’m not a city-builder by nature, I greatly appreciate this game for shaking up my outlook and attitude toward playing board games.

Founders of Gloomhaven: Not Everyone’s Thing

This particular game was a total shock to my gaming system, in that it is not a game in which I can attempt to exact my wrath upon my husband; in fact, we first mistakenly attempted to play it that way (I stress the word “attempted”). But we can talk about that later!

This is a game in which it behooves each player to cooperate with their fellow players. Because of the stacking, collaborative point-earning structure in this game, players can contribute their resources together in the construction of different structures within the city of Gloomhaven and all reap the rewards!

Each player selects a different race to represent, and the races control the different resources. Players work together to build roads to deliver their resources throughout the city, place them, upgrade them, and eventually construct the different prestige buildings that the players elect to build. Once six of these buildings are completed, the end of game is triggered, points are tallied, and the person with the most is victorious.

Founders of Gloomhaven: The Gameplay!

The breakdown of gameplay is relatively simple, at least on the surface; players will have five action cards in their hand to choose from; each action card details what the player may do on their turn, as well as the possible follow actions for the other players. Once the active player completely resolves the actions of their turn, all other players may complete this follow action, either by completing one of the played card’s specific follow actions, or a standard follow action, in which players can choose to do one of the following:

  • Gain $1
  • Gain 1 fleeting influence
  • Build 1 road connected to something the player owns
  • Perform a racial action
  • Perform a prestige building action

Each player in the group will complete one of these, the active player token moves to the next person, and we do it all over again!

Now, let’s take a closer look at the action cards. Players can do one of the following on their turn:

  • Recruit: With this card, the player selects an adviser card from those displayed and adds it to his or her hand; the player also collects one fleeting influence—this will come into play in the “Call to Vote” action! Collecting advisers unlock different actions that can be made during the active player phase, and even earn you points!
  • Trade: The trade action allows the player to do one of three things: place a resource on the map, purchase access to another player’s resource, or purchase access to a neutral resource. Buying access to other resources will allow you to expand your city and create advanced resources that rely on the connection to players’ basic resources.
  • Upgrade: Use this action to build these advanced resources! Once a player has access to the necessary basic resources, he or she can move forward to build the resource, paying either $4 for a second tier resource building or $6 for a third tier resource building.
  • Construct: This action allows players to place personal buildings on the map, such as houses and bridges. These must be placed adjacent to something the player already owns.
  • Call to Vote: Players must select the next prestige building to be constructed! This card comes with three separate steps:
  1. Reset: The player who calls the vote will collect their workers and return their played cards into their hand. For each card in the hand that was NOT previously played, the player may collect $1, 1 fleeting influence, or build 1 road. 
  2. Income: All other players at the table will collect an amount of money equal to the number on their income track. The income track is reflective of the number of resources that each player owns on the board.
  3. Vote: Players will secretly decide which building they would like to construct and cast their votes, using their voting tokens and any influence they have collected; players are not required to use their influence, but remember! Lasting influence will carry over after the vote. Fleeting influence will not. They player who contributed the most influence to the winning building decides where to place it on the map.

And simply repeat, until six of the prestige buildings are complete on the board!

Founders of Gloomhaven: My Tips!

So, this box is huge. It’s heavy. It’s full of STUFF. And you’ll know, upon opening it, that it will take some time and effort to identify and remember what each item is used for.

Before you play, set apart some time to just unpack and look at everything. Get organized (if you can!); you’ll regret it if you don’t.

This game is kind of a toughie. We unpacked everything and went over our rule book together, then dove right in. Remember that unfortunate attempt at playing that I mentioned earlier? Adam and I played for about twenty minutes and then gave up, because it just wasn’t working. There’s an interesting note at the bottom of the front of the rule book that will direct you to a video explaining the rules. Watch it! There are also many super helpful fan-made videos out there to choose from. The gameplay may be simple enough, but there is still quite a bit to juggle in this game.

Be especially diligent about keeping up with your claim and delivery tokens! Having to go back and add everything back up mid-game because you may have been forgetful is both Not Fun and Very Annoying (sorry, Adam).

If you like to finish your games in one sitting, you may want to block out some time for this one. It is described as a 90-120 minute game, but it definitely took us quite a bit longer the first time. However, adding to the difficulty of learning the game, we were running the game with only two players. Founders accommodates 1-4 people, 4 being the preferred number. Grab your gaming friends!

Remember that EVERYTHING YOU DO IN THIS GAME MATTERS. Seriously. One wrong move can really throw a wrench in the works. It will take practice to conquer this game. It’s large and in charge, and your first few games will be fumbling, probably slow, and just may make you feel like dumping the table. But, eventually, you just might sprout the few extra arms and spare brain you’ll need to really master this beast.

Founders of Gloomhaven retails for around $60 but some steep discounts are available. You can get it here from Amazon or, better yet, ask for it at your FLGS.

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