Gloomhaven: Buttons & Bugs

Gloomhaven: Buttons & Bugs

RRP: £19.99
Now £16.79(SAVE 16%)
RRP £19.99
Expected Restock Date 04/10/2024
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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Quick to get to the table
  • Easy to transport, unlike the full throttle Gloomhaven
  • Fun to play

Might Not Like

  • Component quality needs a little work to make the game 'work'
  • It is easy to get killed by the baddies, but keep practising
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Gloomhaven: Buttons & Bugs is a solo play game, with an original campaign story written by Isaac Childres, that features a playstyle similar to Gloomhaven in a fraction of the size.

Gloomhaven: Buttons & Bugs is set after the events of Gloomhaven and Forgotten Circles. The Aesther recluse Hail has earned a reputation for being highly instrumental in saving the city from recurring disasters, and she absolutely hates it. Wannabe heroes are constantly barging in on her studies at the Crooked Bone, looking for help in becoming famous themselves — not to mention all the demons that come by looking for vengeance. She briefly considered moving, but as that would require effort, she instead just placed an enchantment on her front door: Anyone who attempts to open it becomes miniaturized and therefore is no longer a problem.

Your character is one such wannabe hero. In an ill-advised attempt at fame, they try to visit Hail, and poof. Now they're the size of a mouse and have entered an entirely different realm of lawlessness and self-preservation. They must find a new way into the Crooked Bone to convince Hail to return them to their previous size.

Each scenario is a single card, pitting one mercenary against a handful of enemies with simplified actions and AI. Each mercenary has a hand of just four double-sided cards, but they can be used twice — both the front and the back — before they are discarded. Attacks are resolved using a die in conjunction with a modifier table, and both the table and the mercenary ability cards can be improved as you level up throughout the campaign.

How do you transform one of the biggest games ever made, both size and sales wise, to one of the smallest? Moving from 10kg to under 1kg.

This is the feat that Gloomhaven Buttons and Bugs achieves. And I love it.

If you follow Zatu or BoardGameGeek or Senet Magazine, you’ll have heard of the Gloomhaven phenomenon.

Huge box, cooperative board games that take years for most casual players to complete. The series has Gloomhaven and Frosthaven as the ‘full fat experience’ with Jaws of the Lion as a cut down, but not diminished ‘semi skimmed’ option.

Jaws of the Lion was my first introduction to the world of co-op games and the Gloomhaven world, playing alongside my good friend, A.

So, when I saw that Buttons and Bugs was now in retail, it was a no-brainer to buy.

In this game you’re playing the role of a solo adventurer who has been shrunk and needs to get big again. The missions take 30 minutes and play on the back of scenario cards which describe what you have to do.

The quality of the components are good but not excellent. Even after one play they started to feel tarnished. But bear in mind you’re getting 90% of the experience of a £100+ game for under £20.

Other reviewers have mentioned that these scenario cards bend and make it hard to keep miniatures in place on it.

To combat this, I laminated the scenario and character cards (which you keep in your hand) to playing card size. I then used tiny blobs of blue tack to keep minis and opponents in place on the scenario card. Problem solved.

I love the whole Gloomhaven experience but as a dad and someone with lots of commitments, the setup time of Frosthaven is prohibitive to get to the table. We have spent hours in box management and sourcing new items to help manage the sheer number of components in the big main Frosthaven box.

For Buttons and Bugs all this goes away. And it means I can’t wait to play it more. Despite how much I love the full-bore experience of Frosthaven.

The real genius of the Gloomhaven team is how they have managed to compress so much of the experience into literally the tiniest game box you’ll ever see.

There are trade offs but they don’t feel deadly or detrimental. I don’t want to give away too much as this is a sequential, revealing campaign game but you get to choose a different character with different powers.

You have a starting hand of four cards, with A/B sides and so have 8 cards in total. Each turn you have to choose a top portion of one card and the bottom portion of a second card.

There’s fighting. Magic. Exploration. Escalating difficulty. A range of monsters to fight. It is mind blowing how much game is crammed into this game.

So who is this game for?

For anyone who is in to solo games, go for it. I have Lux Aeterna, Fungi, Trails and ‘Print and Plays’ like Tin Helm and Palm Island.

Buttons and Bugs is right up there and I love that I am not having to hammer the laser printer or spend hours guillotining or laminating. Although I could not resist a little bit!!

The game play in Buttons and Bugs is a blend of skill, planning, hand management and a modicum of luck. The impact of luck can be scaled up and down.

The second group who the game suits is people who are time pressed or have little space. You could not play this on a train, but a small kitchen or side table and you’d be away.

The third group is for people who love the Gloomhaven world. You’ll play characters you recognise and those you may not (bear in mind all characters are new to me as I have only played Frosthaven and Jaws of the Lion).

For each character you can change the difficulty of the cards in hand (as you go through the scenarios) and the damage modification system, this is a system that is well documented in other reviews, so I won’t recap.

If you are open to putting in a little time to deal with the slightly (and I mean marginally here) poorer quality components and use lamination and blue tack you end up with a game that has tonnes of replay ability.

I think this is a fantastic game. I recommend you get it. I have been so happy to begin yet another journey through the world of Gloomhaven especially as it doesn’t take a three hour per go table time.

If you like adventure and magic, cute components and strategy then this is a game you won’t regret buying.


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Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Quick to get to the table
  • Easy to transport, unlike the full throttle Gloomhaven
  • Fun to play

Might not like

  • Component quality needs a little work to make the game 'work'
  • It is easy to get killed by the baddies, but keep practising