Gloomhaven is really just a run of the mill dungeon crawler RPG in board game form. What makes it stand out for me is the mechanics of the card skills and the choices that players have to make per turn. Each class gets its allotment of level 1(level x is considered level 1), gets a maximum hand size and then gets access to acquiring a higher level card from levels 2 through 9 with 2 new choices at each level.
The anatomy of a card is pretty straight forward. A top action, a bottom action and an initiative number for turn order. Each round, players select two cards and perform a top action on one card and a bottom action on the other. It's a very simple system but it allows players to make different decisions based on monsters or board layout.
The game isn't hard though which is good and bad. The play is linear in general. Kill, crowd control or heal. Rinse and repeat. Most interactions between players revolve around deciding how many things to CC or which things the team thinks it can kill before the monster goes smash smash. Optimal play is relatively easy to figure out and if you can't, there are guides out there that exposes most of the stuff that turns the game into easy mode. But, if you think of every room as a puzzle to solve, it really helps you to understand why some things are loss cards (because they solve problems) and how items work to "fix" situations.
Unlike many of the guides I've read through, I actually enjoy picking the "weaker" classes and the less obviously powerful cards(most often the most flexible ones) for cards that are more situational. Why? Because the difficulty is adjustable and having to make hard decisions (and occasionally gambles) is how I have fun.
Now.. what would I change to tailor the experience to my tastes?
- The numbered initiative system is great, but I think I'd prefer it to be 1-10 so it matters what second card you play to break ties.
- Enemy cards would be updated to reflect having two numbers.
- Monsters now gain the ability to stop a lot of "guaranteed" fast/slow combinations from players and certain items are now really, really useful.
- Or limit CC to restricting melee or restricting ranged or something like that
- Think missile barriers etc
- maybe an event card deck that grants bonuses for doing something with your team
- any time you end movement in a square adjacent to a non-summoned ally heal 1
- or.. if your movement passes by an ally gain +1 attack
- that kinda stuff
- maybe random bonuses if the players operate in a certain turn order... brute => mindthief => spellweaver grants bonus move to everyone or something.