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Gloomhaven: Top Tips for New Players


Picture the scene. You’ve been trying to figure out what game you’d like to play with your friends. You’ve been on Zatu games, BGG Goldengeek etc and seen the fabled “Gloomhaven” board game topping lists of best board games. You’ve opened that huge box, felt slightly intimidated by the components and purchased some storage solutions to keep things in order.

Now you want to immerse yourself in the game and would like some top tips, no spoilers, just ideas for how to get the most of the Gloomhaven experience. Well look no further, because here are my top tips for New Players of Gloomhaven based on nearly two years’ worth of regular play.

Embrace retirement:

As a long-time role-player, the idea of retiring your beloved character can be a tough one. In Gloomhaven, however, retirement is a core mechanic. A retirement will often unlock a new class to try out. These generally introduce a corresponding new play style, and some new events to add to the deck. Also, for every character you retire you get a bonus perk for your new one; making them that little bit more potent than they would otherwise be. Also, the higher your team prosperity, the higher your starting level and the more money you can use for equipment. I know that for my first retirement condition, I chose one that I had no control over. This was something my friends did not do. As a result, I retired long before they did; getting a new class to try out whilst they got bored of using the same one and became keen to engineer their retirement conditions.

Follow the story arcs:

If I was to choose the one thing that my group did wrong on their playthrough of Gloomhaven, it would be playing through the missions in numerical order rather than following the story. The result was starting different story lines but not completing them and then coming back around to them after following a different chain of missions for a while has meant that, apart from me in my role as nominated narrator, most players have lost sight of the story all together. So follow the story and get lost in the tale, this will enhance your enjoyment of the game by giving purpose to your hard work.

Buy Stamina Potions ASAP

These cheap potions are brilliant because they give you the capacity to get cards back into your hand from the discard pile. When it comes to powering up your turns nothing could be more useful. Taking more time until you need to rest and the capacity to re-use your best cards without resting make these innocent looking potions a must-have of versatility and usability. A quick glance over almost any Gloomhaven discussion page online will see near universal agreement that the humble stamina potion is the most useful item in the game. Don’t believe me, try one out; they’re one of the cheapest items, you have nothing to lose (okay, you technically can lose out on a bit of gold in doing this but trust me you won’t regret it).

Never Presume to know Enemy Actions

It can be easy to get used to enemy types generally going later than your characters in the turn. Meaning the heroes all take their turns, wasting as many baddies as possible, and then wait as they do their worst in return before you set to them again. However, the whole idea of Gloomhaven is that you do not know what the enemy will do; their actions being determined by cards. One of my first mistakes was leaving a rather un-tanky character right in harms way due to the assumption that going quickly would allow me the chance to get out of harm’s way. How wrong I was as the enemies took a turn far faster than we had become used to, unleashing a terrible vengeance upon me and leaving my character on the brink of exhaustion, therefore, my teammates had to clean up the wreckage. Never assume that a monster will act as you are used to and always prepare for the worst!


The rules of Gloomhaven suggest that you should only discuss actions vaguely, not with specific details. However, this seems to have led to a weird dynamic in the games that I have played. Whilst two of us hold vague discussions as per the rules, the third in our team keeps very quiet about their actions. This might be because they are always secretly planning to keep themselves safe and steal all the treasure but I do think that there is an element of taking the “don’t discuss your actions” rule too far. You will need to strategize to beat the game. Discuss your moves in a open but vague way, as you might be able to in combat e.g. “I’m going to go as fast as I can and attack this monster, hopefully before it can do anything” or it could be “I’m down to two slow cards so am going to hold on and then see what happens then decide in the moment”. Don’t, and I can’t stress how annoying it is when a player in our group does this, announce that you are unleashing a power combo that will nuke every bad guy after everyone else has spent time deciding their actions and started taking turns.

Have Fun

Remember it is a game and you should have fun. Whether it is laughing at your own misfortune, bragging over an awesome kill or just ridiculing the last few turns of a mission where you have already secured the victory but are prolonging the end of the game to hoover up the last of the un-looted gold I hope that you enjoy your time playing Gloomhaven as much as I do. After what started out as a monthly get-together for myself and two friends, we all decided that it was always a highlight of our month and worth doing more. Keep fun at the centre of your games!

I trust that this guide has been useful, I have tried to give some advice on playing and on getting the most from this wonderful game