Designed by Isaac Childres, this is a card-playing, tile-laying Euro game in which you will slowly populate the board with various resources. Then you'll be using those resources to build famous locations from Gloomhaven such as The Golden Lion and The Temple of the Great Oak. When six buildings are built, the game is over and whoever contributed most to the construction (in the form of victory points) will be the winner.
Cards, Cards and More Cards
In keeping with the spirit of Gloomhaven, Founders’ main action mechanic revolves around managing your hand of cards. Each player starts the game with the same 5 cards, 6 in a 2-player game. On your turn, you’ll be playing one of them for its main action.
Trade - This is the most important action in the game as it allows you to place your resources onto the board or, crucially, buy access to other peoples’ resources (for which you pay them directly). You’ll need these resources to be able to…
Upgrade - Upgrading lets you place more advanced resources on the board. These are all built from prerequisite resources (eg. Knowledge + Metal = Machinery) and you will need access to both before Upgrading. In a neat twist, the points for placing a new resource are divided amongst whoever owns the required resources, so you’ll probably be helping someone else out every time you Upgrade!
Recruit - This allows you to buy more cards, giving you stronger actions for future turns. The only caveat is that you have to have access to certain resources to hire certain people.
Build - This allows you to build one of your personal buildings - Houses free up workers that allow you to do powerful actions and Bridges/Gates allow you to cross rivers and walls (and no one else can use them!)
Call to Vote - The final action has three steps - firstly, you return all your cards to your hand. Secondly, every other player receives income based on how many resources they have access to. Finally, you all vote on which famous Gloomhaven building should enter the map. These buildings all require between 4 and 6 resources to build and anyone can supply these resources, so people will be desperate to pick a building that suits them. When six of these buildings are complete, the game ends.
The bottom of each action card also has what’s called a ‘follow’ action, which is a slightly less powerful version of the main action. Follow actions can be performed by every other player, so every card played will affect everyone and you will always be interested in other players’ turns.
Roads and Races
The glue that holds all of these mechanics together is building roads. Resource buildings can not be built adjacent to each other but everything needs to be connected before it can be combined, so everyone will be desperate to expand the network. This adds yet another layer to the puzzle, as you’ll be helping everyone else out with each road placed and they might then use them to scupper your plans!
The game comes with 9 playable races, each with their own unique colour, meeples, buildings and special powers. Your race determines your starting resources. You’ll be making big decisions even before the game starts. Although the asymmetry is slight, there’s a definite feel of ownership to each race, which can really help guide new players as they figure out what to focus on.
Though not as complicated as something like Brass Birmingham, Founders Of Gloomhaven can still be quite tricky to teach. Each action is specific and intricate, and it can be tough to get across how best to plan ahead. Each player also needs to fully understand the resource tech tree before they can truly make effective decisions.
Add to this the fact that every action can be followed, not to mention variable player powers and buying new cards, and you’ll probably be teaching for 20-30 minutes before everything starts to make sense.
Components & Art
Gloomhaven might best be described as generous with its content and this game definitely follows suit. Each of the game’s 9 races comes with:
- A player board, complete with backstory about that race
- 40 wooden cubes/discs in its own colour
- 3 unique, screen-printed meeples
- 6 building tiles (Houses/Bridges/Gates) with unique art
On top of that, in the box you’ll find:
- A double-sided game board
- 64 resource tiles
- 21 unique tiles showing buildings from Gloomhaven
- 18 cards for the recruit action (each with unique art) and a board to display them
- A board to display the tech tree and resource ownership
- Various tokens to represent money completed buildings and voting influence
- An entirely optional deck of cards for the ‘achievements’ variant of the game
Suffice to say, this is an amazing production. The art by Alexander Elichev does a great job of bringing out the character in each race. The graphic design by Josh McDowell means the board stays easily readable, even as it fills up with tiles.
The only real problem is storage, in that you will need a lot of plastic bags for the components. However, like Gloomhaven, there are some great inserts available that make the whole thing much easier to set up and pack away.
The Founders of Gloomhaven is a fantastic game. Though it takes a little while to teach and understand, everything quickly falls into place once you start playing.
It’s incredibly interactive for a Euro game, both in terms of the cards’ follow actions and the shared network on the board. The fact that you’re collectively building a city almost lends it a cooperative feel, with every road or resource placed having a huge impact on the board state and other people’s plans.
The production is as wonderfully over the top as you might expect from the creator of Gloomhaven. Watching the city grow before your eyes is a joy! It's only improved by the ridiculous amount of unique art and player pieces.
And it’s also immensely replayable, with 9 races to choose from, 18 resources, 21 possible Gloomhaven landmarks to build and an alternate board. All in all, I would highly recommend Founders of Gloomhaven.