This time, we will discuss the comparison between Gloomhaven vs Massive Darkness. They are two roleplaying board games that are actually quite different from each other, but not different enough to stand as different types of games. Both are co-op dungeon crawlers with various scenarios and characters. Depending on your preference, you will enjoy one game more than the other.
Continue reading below to find out more about:
• The basic rules of playing each game
• Which game that is generally easier to learn
• Which game that can be played with different groups of people
• Which game that is more tactical in nature with less dice chucking
• The replay value of Gloomhaven vs Massive Darkness
• Which game that is generally better and more recommended
Gloomhaven is cooperative board game designed by Isaac Childres, released by Cephalofair Games in 2017. It is a fantasy dungeon-crawler game with a huge amount of content. It has a branching narrative campaign, and while it has been compared to the likes of Dungeons & Dragons, it has its own gameplay experience that is quite unique. See also: Fluxx 5.0 vs Fluxx Special Edition.
Seriously, Gloomhaven is a huge game. The box weighs more than 20 pounds and contains more than 1,500 cards. There are more than 95 different scenarios and at least 17 playable classes. However, you can only access six classes at the start of the game; the others are unknown before they are unlocked in the playthrough.
If we compare the overall feel of Gloomhaven vs Massive Darkness, one notable feature of Gloomhaven is that it is more story-driven. The campaign revolves heavily around the scenarios. However, it also requires a lot of reading. Your hero’s actions are represented by cards, and each card has a top half and a bottom half with different effects. Overall, the game is actually not too complex, but there is still some learning curve.
Massive Darkness was designed by CMON, also released in 2017. It is a fantasy, cooperative, campaign-based dungeon-crawler game. It has a decent amount of content, though not quite as huge as Gloomhaven. Still, it has plenty to offer. The gameplay is more similar to the typical dungeon crawler games.
The box is not ridiculously heavy, but you will still get surprised by the number of items in it. There are 6 hero and 69 enemy highly-detailed miniatures. There are also plastic dashboards and bases, pegs, dices, double-sided game tiles, sheet pads, and hundreds of tokens and cards. There are several different classes and a total of 10 unique quests. The company has released several expansions that will allow you to add new classes, enemies, and quests.
Compared to Gloomhaven, Massive Darkness is less story-driven. The campaign is still based on the quests, but there is less storytelling. Also, it does not involve as much reading. Most information comes in small bits that are easy to remember. Massive Darkness also has fewer components and mechanics, so it is relatively less intimidating. New players won’t take much time to understand the basic rules.
How to Play
At the start of the game, each player will take the role of a wandering mercenary with a specific skill set and a particular personal quest. This personal quest will act as the primary reason and driving force of the hero’s actions and decisions. Players then must work together in order to clear dungeons and complete scenarios.
In the playthrough, players will gain experience, customize their skills, plunder and find loots, and discover new locations. Gloomhaven uses a legacy format, which means player actions and decisions will permanently alter the conditions of the game. After every scenario, players decide what to do, hence determining how the story continues. This persistent gameplay is designed to progress over multiple game sessions.
There are some mechanics that you need to understand in order to play the game comfortably. A player must play two cards in every turn. Each card possesses a number in the center, and the number of the first card determines the initiative order of the player. Each card also has top and bottom halves with different effects. When it is the player’s turn in the initiative order, they can choose to play either the top power of one card and the bottom power of the other card, or vice versa.
However, players must be careful because they will eventually lose cards from their hands, permanently. Also, if you take too long to clear a dungeon, your hero may experience exhaustion and then get forced to retreat. So, playing cooperatively in order to clear dungeons as soon as possible is important.
When a hero has reached their personal quest, they must retire. Their items will be put in the City Supply. You can perform city activities before retiring the hero, but you can’t go for another scenario. Then, you can pick a new hero with a new class to continue the campaign.
There are several notable differences in Gloomhaven vs Massive Darkness in terms of gameplay. There are fewer components and mechanics, so Massive Darkness is relatively easier to learn. Also, there is a lot of dice rolling in this game. In Massive Darkness, you can choose to play a one-off quest or a full campaign.
First of all, choose your hero and grab the suitable class sheet and hero board. The heroes are standard fantasy roles, such as barbarian, paladin, berserker, wizard, ranger, and rogue. Then, equip you hero’s starting weapon and armor. Track down the markers and tokens, and prepare the cards. The game guide is very detailed and will tell you what markers, tokens, and cards that you need. Don’t forget to prepare the needed enemy figures, too.
The game has several phases. It consists of the heroes’ phase, enemies’ phase, experience phase, event phase, and end phase.
In your hero’s turn, you can choose to move, open a door, pick things up, trade with other heroes, exchange treasure cards, or attack. You will notice that some tiles are lit and visible, whereas some others are shadowed. Later, you will encounter mobs. Every mob consists of one mob boss and a number of minions based on the number of heroes in play. You will get a treasure card after defeating the boss.
During a combat, you will use colored dices to determine your attack damages. At the end of every hero activation, the attacked enemies get to counter attack. The mechanics are similar, based on dice rolls. Enemies will usually go for the hero who attacked them, but if the hero has moved to a shadowed tile, they won’t be able to counter attack.
You continue with the enemies’ phase and the rest. In the end phase, if there is a hero who died in a previous phase, you can revive them by taking one token off from the Lifebringer card. However, if there is no token left on the Lifebringer card and your hero is dead, it is game over. Afterwards, you repeat the phases until the objectives are met.
Recommended Number of Players
Gloomhaven is recommended to be played with 1 – 4 players in total. You can play it solo. There is no need for a game master, as the enemies have their own characteristics and attack patterns. Note that you can play a different hero and class when your current character has retired, so the game can have a lot of variety.
However, Gloomhaven is best played exclusively with one group of people. This is because of the persistent nature of the game. It will be very difficult to save the current campaign, restart the game in order to play with different people, and load back the previous campaign. The game is designed to be played with the same group and progress over multiple sessions.
Massive Darkness can be played by 1 – 6 players in total. Similarly, you can play it solo, and you don’t need a game master. The enemies will act on specific rules and patterns. This game can be played exclusively with the same group or with different people in different occasions.
It is relatively easy to save the current campaign, so that you can go through a separate one-off quest or even start another campaign in order to play with different people. When you want to load back a previous campaign, you just need to place back the pieces. Still, a full campaign will progress over multiple sessions.
A full campaign will take more than 100 hours to complete. The game has 95 different scenarios and a random dungeon system. So, it will be a very long journey. This game can be a great staple for your game nights.
Most of the time, you will only play one scenario per game session. If we compare the game length of Gloomhaven vs Massive Darkness, this one is quite longer. One scenario in Gloomhaven usually takes 1 – 2 hours to complete. It is possible to spend even more time for a scenario if you failed your first attempt and were forced to retreat.
One full campaign of Massive Darkness with the standard set can take 15 – 20 hours to complete. This is by considering that the game has ten different quests, and each quest takes about 90 minutes to complete on average. However, if you make a bad move which leads to a premature end for your party, you will need to invest even more time into the game.
As mentioned above, each quest usually takes one hour and a half to complete. So, you can take one or even two quests per session. Later, you can buy expansion sets if you want to extend the campaign and explore new locations. Just keep in mind that, while buying expansions can make Massive Darkness rival the content of Gloomhaven, it will also cost more money.
Tactical vs Luck
When choosing between Gloomhaven vs Massive Darkness, you should consider whether you prefer a game with deep tactical elements or a game that relies on dice rolls. If you love tactical and strategic plays, or if you hate to rely on lucky rolls, you probably will enjoy Gloomhaven very much.
Gloomhaven is quite different from traditional roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. It has game mechanics that are more similar to modern euro-style games. It emphasizes strategy and cooperation, while at the same time downplaying luck and player conflict.
So, in Gloomhaven, you need to think ahead before performing an action. Though, there is still some randomness and dice rolling. After performing an action, there is a modifier deck that can alter the result of the action. This game also has some deck-building elements, as you need to customize your ability deck and modifier deck through the campaign.
Massive Darkness still has some tactical and strategic values, but it has a lot more dice rolling. This is very prominent in the combats. You use dices to determine the results of your actions. If you like the randomness of dice rolls, which can sometimes lead to funny or bizarre results, this is a great game for you.
That said, Massive Darkness still requires cooperation and some thinking. For example, you need to decide whether your berserker will provide cover for the wizard or go ahead to try to execute a minion. It won’t be as complex as Gloomhaven but still fun and interesting.
The replay value is pretty good. After finishing a full campaign of Gloomhaven, you can restart the game and go for a new campaign (there is even a pack of replacement seals and stickers sold separately). The game may progress a bit differently as the players take different decisions.
However, the overall story is still quite similar, which is why some people become less interested after finishing a full campaign. That said, with more than 100 hours of gameplay, Gloomhaven is still totally worth the money.
The replay value is relatively better, though not by much. The main advantage of Massive Darkness in terms of replayability is the fact that it can be played easily with different groups of people. If your regular group is not available and there are some new friends around, you can pull out one quest to hook them into the game.
In addition, the available expansions also help to enhance the replayability, though this also means that you need to spend more money. After finishing a full campaign with the standard set, you can get an expansion so that your party can go for another adventure.
Gloomhaven vs Massive Darkness
|Key features||- For 1-4 players - 60-120 minute playing time - A game of euro-inspired tactical combat in a persistent world of shifting motives||- For 1-6 players - 90 minute playing time - The story mode comes with 10 unique guests in the campaignpreposterous alternate rules.|
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In general, Gloomhaven is more recommended. It has a lot more content, and it can easily offer more than 100 hours of gameplay in the full campaign. The gameplay is also quite unique, different from the typical dungeon crawlers. It has more tactical and strategic elements. Gloomhaven offers more variety, as you will be able to switch to a new hero and a new class once your current character has reached their personal quest.