Gloomhaven is a great game but it takes a lot of time to get all of the components sorted and setup each time, and actually get to playing. After playing many games of Gloomhaven, I found that the times listed online for how long it takes to play were pretty inaccurate so I decided to write this handy little guide with a nice table(by player count) to show how long it REALLY takes to play Gloomhaven.
|# of players||Setup||Scenario||Town||Take down||Total|
|15 minutes||124 minutes|
|2||15 minutes||70 |
|12 minutes||104 minutes|
|3||12 minutes||105 minutes||9 |
|10 minutes||136 minutes|
|4||10 minutes||140 minutes||12 minutes||8 |
There are various factors that can increase or decrease the above times but I’ll go into each in detail so that you can better plan your gaming sessions and make sure that you can finish in the time you have blocked out!
Setup in Gloomhaven can be a complicated affair and some of your mileage as to how long it takes may vary with what organization system you are using and how prepared you are. Here are a couple of handy organizing solutions. This one (See current price on Amazon) is low budget and will help organize the enemies. I actually use this myself. This one (See current price on Amazon) is much more involved but also more expensive. I myself am more of an experience gamer and so I chose a fairly basic setup, just enough to stay reasonably organized.
Within each scenario it will tell you which map tiles to use. The most common solution to keeping them organized is to use a portable file folder and slot them in, in order. This will allow you to quickly find them as they can be hard to read.
Having a large space to play Gloomhaven is going to make organizing all of your various pieces easier, so try to setup where you have a large amount of playable space. This will allow you to have separated spaces so that each person can effectively manage their characters and upkeep.
Next you will need to setup the map and place all of the tiles, monsters, etc. I won’t go into exact detail here as it is explained in detail in the handbook, but I would suggest involving your group in this part. That way you can assign specific tasks to each person so that you are using your time as effectively as possible. In my group we mostly stick to the same tasks so that we work as a well oiled machine. Full disclosure, we are not perfect and sometimes it is more chaotic!
Playing the Scenario
The scenario is definitely the longest, and funnest, part of Gloomhaven and there are a few factors that can influence how long your scenarios take.
The type of players you have in your game can make a huge difference. Some players like to take their time and analyze all of the possible moves their characters can take. If you have players that like to make sure they are making the best possible move, every single time, it can really slow the game down. Gloomhaven can be beat without optimal moves on normal difficulty so explaining that to some players may help.
Playing a board game is a lot different than a video game in that you have a far greater amount of manual upkeep work to do to make the enemies move, progress the story, etc. For slower players, give them less of the manual upkeep work so that they can sit back and pay more attention to their characters and their next moves. This will help speed up the game as they will be more prepared when it is their characters turn to act. And just to be clear the tactile part and the manual upkeep is a bonus and a part of board gaming that I absolutely love!
Gloomhaven is designed, according to Isaac Childres, to remove some issues of alpha-gaming but if you have slower players you can definitely run into someone trying to manage those slower players by telling them what moves to make. If this is happening in your game, and it is a problem, I would suggest talking about it and ensuring that everyone is aligned on what the group thinks is a good game flow.
Sticking to the rules and not sharing direct information, as per the rule book, helps with this as it is harder for alpha gamers to dictate when they have incomplete information. Another possible solution is to implement a timer; I find this is rarely necessary but may help if you cannot solve the issue another way.
Number of Enemies
The number of enemies in a given scenario can drastically alter how long a scenario takes. The more enemies in the scenario the more enemy cards you have to flip and the more moves and calculations you have to make.
As well some enemy types inflict more status effects and managing those can really bog down the scenario. Again make sure that when managing enemies that everyone has a role. This will help to ensure you are moving the game along quickly and that you haven’t made a mistake.
One of the things that slowed my main group down, in the beginning, was being disorganized, with people not having set roles. We would make a mistake and not realize it right away. Once we realized it, if it was within a reasonable amount of time, we would rewind and do it correctly. I don’t have to tell you that if you do this too much it will really slow you down.
Pro tip: if you see a scenario with Oozes you could be in for a really long game as they can multiply.
Each scenario has a specific goal that determines when the scenario ends. Also depending on the party composition a mission can always be easy or hard. For example, there is one class that can go invisible and has high mobility. For this character, looting a single treasure tile is extremely easy.
Of the most common scenario goals, here are a couple of the fastest and slowest.
- Loot a single treasure tile
- Kill a certain enemy
- Kill all enemies
- Destroying tiles(have to go and do damage to various obstacles while enemies are around)
- Protect NPC’s
Some party compositions are just better than others. In the interest of spoilers I won’t list them here but whenever you are choosing a new character closely look at how they will interact with the other characters currently in the party.
Back in Town
When you finish a scenario you come back to Gloomhaven and tally up your gold and experience.
This part can vary a lot in length as it really depends on how much gold you brought back and whether or not characters leveled up.
Leveling up involves choosing a card for your character and choosing a perk. Choosing a card can fundamentally change how you play your character and so often a player will be modifying their deck at this point to fine tune the build with the new card.
Take down is essentially the same as setting up but a bit quicker. Again assign every person a role and it will be much quicker than everyone trying to find their way. You may find certain people trying to sneak out at this point to go have a snack or a break but if you give them a role they generally won’t shirk their duties and you can get cleaned up quickly.
How Long For a Full Campaign?
Gloomhaven is a legacy board game and as such it has a story arc and persistent world changes. The campaign book has 95 scenarios, but to finish the game, while playing a decent amount of side quests, most groups end up playing approximately 65 scenarios. This means that to finish a standard length campaign of Gloomhaven it will take, on average, between 113 hours and 184 hours. For my own group, it took us about 180 hours. That’s a lot of value! Below is an actual picture of my campaign board.