One of the most frequent questions I see people ask is how they can add a 5th player to their weekly game. Playing with 5 players can be challenging but it can definitely be done and with a fairly minimal time and financial investment.
For those of you lucky enough to have 4+ friends that you can get out to a game I’ve laid out step by step(with links to resources) on how you can play Gloomhaven with 5 players! There are also a lot of interesting nuances when you play with 5 players so I’ve done my best to cover the major areas that you will need to pay attention to so that a 5 player game will be fun.
Step 1. Print or buy another modifier deck
Here is the print and play One caveat, for this you will need a Board Game Geek account so you can login. It’s 100% free and they are the most recognized board game site, so no big deal. They won’t spam you with emails.
Step 1B. Buy Gloomhaven Helper App. An alternative to printing or buying the cards is to get the app and then use the monster modifier deck for the 5th player.
Step 2. Sleeve the modifier deck
Higher Cost sleeving option. You do get a lot more sleeves here so if you are sleeving your Gloomhaven game and not just the modifier decks then this may be your best bet.
You should sleeve the modifier deck, especially if you are printing it. This will make it last longer and you will of course have a harder time spotting minor imperfections.
Step 3. Increase the difficulty by 2 levels
To compensate for the increased player count you should increase the difficulty by 2 levels. However that is only going to be for the monster levels and the trap damage. Leave experience and gold the same so that it doesn’t unbalance the game.
This is the official recommendation from Isaac Childres, the creator of Gloomhaven if you want to play with 5 players.
Step 4. Coordinate your group
Once you have everything ready the last major hurdle to cross while playing with 5 players is the extra time it will take. To mitigate this, I suggest quickly meeting and discussing a few key items to make sure your game still flows at a decent rate.
Imperfect information means everyone makes their decisions without discussing their cards in detail. Do not min max and try to plan perfect turns. Paralysis by analysis is a real thing in Gloomhaven so encourage people to act without trying to synergize some big move. Gloomhaven is supposed to be a group of mercenaries so encourage people to act like that.
Be careful with items as one player may not get access to basic items due to supply. I would suggest having a priority system or at least a discussion so that distribution is fair and it doesn’t cause issues between people.
- Because you have more players and the maps are more crowded extra movement and abilities like jump are going to have greater impact.
- I would avoid characters that use summons or at least try to keep summons to a minimum. With extra people and summons the game is going to severely drag. Also summons are going to severely clog an already overcrowded map.
- Even though a lot of this article is geared around optimizing with 5 players understand that it will take more time so be prepared and plan accordingly.
- Boss HP and sometimes ATK is usually based on the number of characters so watch out for AOE attacks that are super strong because of the level increase and the extra character. 20% higher on AOE can make a big difference. Also because there are more players AOE can be a problem.
- Balance your classes as best you can so that you don’t have a bunch of melee classes together. Due to the limited space it’s best to have some ranged damage dealers and some support. Early on you won’t have a lot of options since there are only 6 starting characters but it won’t be long until this is an important consideration.
- Make sure you can deal with shielded enemies. Because you are pushing the difficulty up 2 levels it can be difficult to deal with high shield enemies. Make sure you have some pierce or high damage cards.
You will increase prosperity at a faster rate due to more retirements. I think this can be cool as you get more items in a shorter time span but I wouldn’t push it any farther than 5 players as unlocking too quickly isn’t very fun.
You don’t have to exclude one of your friends… Mr/Mrs popular! Pretty cool that there is a solution to add a player that won’t completely break the game. The more people that play Gloomhaven the better.
Because you have more characters it may make road and city events easier. Road and city events often have symbols which correspond to certain character(s). Often having one of these characters makes for a favorable outcome so having 5 gives you an advantage. Up to you whether or not you want that. One potential solution is that you can designate a player as the “extra” each time. Rotate that person so it is fair and their class doesn’t count for that particular set of road and city events.
Alternate Solution – Have One Player be the DM
Alternately, if you have 5 people and don’t want to play a 5 player variant you can have one person act as a DM/GM. This will allow you to have 5 players involved but not have to worry about any of the challenges that come with having 5 characters playing a scenario.
This article I wrote has some handy tips and tricks for if you want to be the DM and not run a character. This is not for everyone, but if it is something you want to do your friends had better appreciate what a selfless, amazing person you are!
Can you play Gloomhaven with 6 players?
It is not recommended to run Gloomhaven with 6 players but it can be done. You will need 2 extra modifier decks and I would recommend playing 2 scenarios side by side so that the maps do not become overly cluttered. You will need a very big table to make this work.
With 6 characters, on anything but the largest of maps, it will be too crowded and probably not very fun. Even if you do play 6 players I wouldn’t play all the time with 6 as you will change the legacy part of the game. 6 players means 50% more retirements, less items to go around, etc.
I hope that you found the information in this guide helpful and if you did go ahead and check out these other posts!