Gloomhaven: The Spellweaver

I’ve talked about the basics of Gloomhaven, but I want to go a little more into my class and how to play the Spellweaver, or at least how I go about it.

As the name would suggest this character is a magic slinger – usually found behind the tank, sending out ranged and area-of-effect attacks while avoiding getting squished.

The real USP of the character is that they are the only class (so far anyway…) that can recover their cards once they’ve been Lost.

As these are the cards with the most fun effects and the most XP, this has made the Spellweaver very fun to play.

How to play the Spellweaver in Gloomhaven

If you are thinking of taking the character in your own game, here is my advice garnered from 20 or so games with her.

  • Manipulate the elements: Add elements to cards. Get a mana potion. Get your team mates to get one too – you don’t need to create an element to use it.
element system in gloomhaven

Certain effects create elements that cards then use up – they are vital to making the Spellweaver effective.

  • Think ahead: This class works best if you think several turns ahead to set yourself up with the right elements and buffs. Think about what the board might look like in a few rounds, and plan around it.
  • Pay attention to your team mates movements: The Spellweaver is VERY squishy. Make sure you know where your teammates plan on going so they get attacked, while you hide behind them.

The Spellweaver in her usual position – cowering behind the Brute.

  • Get something with pierce: The Spellweaver is mostly about low damage, but lots of it. This means that Shields – which discount the first few points of an attack – can be a massive pain in the arse. So I got a Piercing Bow that bypasses shields. It’s one use per game but it counts on ALL enemies targeted by an attack action. Time it right and you can take out three or four shielded nasties at once.
  • Invisibility is your friend: Grab the cloak of invisibility. That way you can jump right into the action, unleash hell, and then disappear to leave the enemy wondering why their liver is now char-grilled on the floor.
  • Running away is also your friend: The Spellweaver doesn’t have a lot of movement, so a pair of boots that help you run far and run fast is a must.
  • Use your Lost cards: The character can get them back so don’t be afraid of running down the clock by using them early. If you can make an epic attack on turn one, do it. It’ll make life easier. That said…
  • Don’t always use Lost cards: If you use two Lost cards every turn, the game isn’t going to last very long. I have a good mixture of reusable cards to play while setting up for a big attack.
  • Try to use Lost cards twice: Especially in your first few games. The faster you level, the faster you get to the fun high-level cards.
spellweaver solo mission

Each character has a solo mission. I attempted The Spellweavers one and died many, many times… she is not a character that does well on her own.

At first, the Spellweaver can play a bit boring as you have to stay out the way, only plinking off the odd hit point.

But now, I’m level 7. There’s nothing like the feeling that comes from setting up the perfect attack and taking out half a dozen enemies in a wave of burning/freezing/brilliant death.


Gloomhaven: The Basics

The box weighs 9.8kg. I make the others lift it.

I’m one of the lucky people who have managed to get their hands on a copy of one of the hottest boardgames of the moment: Gloomhaven.

As I’m around dozen games in I thought it was probably time I started talking about it here.

But before I get into my thoughts: What even is Gloomhaven?

Gloomhaven is essentially a miniatures wargame with legacy elements that comes in a literally massive box.

Every game you set up a scenario using a set of hex boards, then move around miniatures representing your characters as you explore and eliminate enemies.

From the end of our last session

Every round you play two cards, doing to top action of one (usually an attack) and the bottom action of the other (usually a movement).

Overtime, these cards become Lost which controls how long the game goes on for as well as forcing you to make a lot of complex strategic decisions.

You chose which cards you are going to play each round in secret, though you can talk about what sort of thing you are going to do.

(Some wise soul has made it a rule that you are not allowed to discuss specifics at this stage, which stops the game from completely seizing up with analysis paralysis.)

What cards you have depends on what character you are.

The unused cards and miniatures are currently still sealed away…

You start the game with six characters to choose from, but there are 17 in total and the rulebook assures me that over the course of the game the other 11 will become available.

Most missions you go on are part of an overarching story.

As you complete them new locations are revealed and you have to make choices about where you want to go and who you want to support.

Your characters gain XP over over time, which lets them level up to gain access to new cards (though how many you take on missions is always fixed), and you all have a private quest that you need to complete in order to let your character retire.

Each of these characters has a class and a race.

With the exception of humans all of the races and classes are unique to Gloomhaven, which is a nice touch, though some of them might look quite familiar to the veteran role player.

The initial six you have are the Brute, the Cragheart (both tanks), the Spellweaver (elemental magic), the Mindthief (status magic), the Scoundrel (rogue) and the Tinkerer (who I haven’t played a game with, so I’m not really sure what they’re like).

So, that’s the game in a nutshell.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the last 13 games, and I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of it so I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next!

Why do board game boxes suck?

Why do so many games have such shockingly bad box designs?

You can’t get away with having an ugly looking game anymore (unless you’re trying to look purposely cheap) but a box design that results in a bunch of game pieces in your lap every time you open it? That’s just dandy.

Even when a box has a plastic insert meant to keep all the pieces in check, these often fail the second that it’s turned on its side, which is a rather large failure in my opinion, seeing as most people store their games this way. I certainly do.

I have yet to open the Splendor game box without being assaulted by a rain of plastic discs!

Our copy of Steam Planet is, for some reason, over a meter long. Why?!

They appear to have remedied this in a recent reissue, but who ever thought that would be a good idea in the first place?

It doesn’t have to be this way, you know.

There are good games out there.

I played Century: Spice Road the other day, and the box for that is brilliant – it has a plastic insert that actually, shock horror, holds all the pieces in place.

I was always impressed by how well Dominion, a game with twenty seven million cards all stored in one box, manages to keep everything where it’s supposed to be even after I’ve put it sideways on a shelf.

Is it really that hard to make a box that does its job and keep everything in its place?

Speaking as someone who has never had to design anything in their life, I think I can say with the utmost authority that it isn’t.

BoardGameGeek and statistics

About a year ago, in an effort to guilt trip myself into reading more, I started logging and reviewing my books on Goodreads.

It really worked! And this was in no small part due to the fact I now had stats on books I was reading (I love me some stats).

Now, one of my friends, V, does the same thing for all of her board game plays on the BoardGameGeek app, and I realised I could do the same for my board games, which lead to one of my board gaming resolutions to be ‘logging my games on BoardGameGeek’.

BoardGameGeek WebpageOne of the things I really like so far is that it gives you an h-index of your games.
For those that don’t know, an h-index shows states that you have played h number of games h number of times.

Since logging, I have played one game three times and two games twice, giving me an h-index of 2.

Once I’ve played three games three times, it will go up to 3 and so on.

The h-index started life as a measure of how ‘good’ academics were based on their number of papers vs number of times they’ve been cited.

In academia, the h-index has been widely criticised as basically just being a gauge of how long a researcher has been publishing papers, rather than a real estimate of quality and it got me wondering how beneficial a boarding gaming h-index would be.

I am slightly worried that I will start playing my favourite games over and over to up my h-index, rather than trying out new things, hence the reason I added the resolution to play at least one new game a month.

My hope is that I will make me start playing those games I quite like, but don’t play as much as my core games, in an effort to get into the double digits.

board game collectionThe app also lets you log who you play with, giving you the corresponding h-index.
While I was again worried that this would end up with me playing with my core group of gamers, it does help solve an issue I have when playing with new people: getting people’s names.

I go to a weekly board gaming group which always has someone new, but I am terrible at asking for, and then remembering, names – there are people I have played games with half a dozen times, but I have no idea what their names are.

The app not only gives a reason to ask for a name, but the act of physically writing it helps me remember.

I’m going to keep logging, and try seeing if it does change my gaming habits as much as Goodreads changed my reading habits. I’ll report back here with my findings.

New games!

This weekend I had a bunch of people around who brought with them a whoooooole bunch of new games, several of which go up to six players! So here’s a short run-down of what I played, and what I thought of them.

Betrayal of Balder’s Gate:  Betrayal at House on the Hill, but with a D&D theme. There are a couple of rule changes — you can attack mid move, the haunt can’t come out before the third omen — that all help to keep the game moving. Being based on a role play game, the story telling elements were all on point and the inn jokes (I’m so punny) made me smile. Unfortunately, both times we played there was no individual betrayer, which kind of took out half the fun.

Subterra: Forbidden Island extreme. With monsters. My friend had the SuperDuperDelux edition which is very pretty, but I did find it rather hard to see the tiles as they were so dark (which might be half the point. You are supposed to be in a dark cave). We died the first time, then played with the Investigation expansion the second time which seemed much easier. It was fun, but it didn’t seem very different from similar games, so I kind of felt I’d played the game before.

Ticket to Ride, Old WestFinally! A proper six player Ticket map! This is the flip-side of the new France expansion. The new rules require you to put down Towns and you have to build out from those — so everything has to be connected. No more suddenly going on the other side of the board to grow your ever expanding train empire. Also, if you build a route to another person’s town they get the points, not you. Interesting take on the game and the rules really change things up. I just wish I’d realised how important putting down more Towns was. I did not do well…

First MartiansYou are astronauts on a Martian colony. You have to keep it running, complete missions and survive events which are thrown at you by an app. It’s a great mix of good mechanics and strong storytelling. Unfortunately, it has the WORST rule book I have read in a long time, and we were constantly FAQing everything. I was also a bit annoyed that you HAVE to have an app for the events when a deck of cards could also do the job for those without a smartphone (yes, those people do exist). Having got to grips with it however, I would love to keep playing especially as it has a campaign mode and I love me some of that!

Every game is better with a traitor mechanic

I have a friend who maintains that every game — EVERY game — would be improved with the addition of a traitor mechanic if only we could work out how to implement it.


Pandemic: You win if the others lose. Hands are played closed and no one is allowed to say what cards they have explicitly. Convincing your ‘team’ you can’t help and persuading them to make bad choices is how you win.

Flash Point Fire Rescue: You set the fire. You win if the others loose BUT all deaths, including yours, are permanent. If you are in the building when it collapses, you lose. If you get caught in a fire, you lose. The main team only need to find five civilians to win.

Ticket to Ride: There’s a chance that one of the initial tickets is a traitor card. Instead of getting points in the usual way, you get the points of all the tickets your opponents failed to complete.

7 Wonders: Less of a traitor mechanic, more of a being-an-arse mechanic (most of them are from this point to be honest). Your wonder is all about making other people lose points and there are extra black city cards in the deck to help you.

Terraforming Mars: You get your own special deck with all the attack cards in. You win if after a set number of generations (depending on the number of players) Mars has not been terraformed.

Settlers of Catan: You are the robber. You ALWAYS control where the robber moves and automatically roll a seven on your turn. Instead of building settlements and cities, you steal other people’s. It takes eight points to win.

If you can think of any games to traitor-ise, drop me a note in the comments below.

How to win at competitive boardgames

Be polite.

Play quietly.

Don’t openly discuss your plans.

Build up your base.

Let the other players get into a feud.

Ensure no resource track is being left behind.

Act as though you are not really paying attention.

Watch everything.

Subtly remind opponents of all the slights they have made against each other.

Remember to keep track of everyone’s points.

Watch as your foes enter into a war of mutual annihilation.

Capitalise on their weakness.

Crush them.

Surge to victory.


Bathe in their tears.

Why is Terraforming Mars so popular?

Terraforming Mars boxOccasionally, a game comes along that inspires nothing less than complete obsession.

Terraforming Mars appears to be one of those games.

Every year, me and 30 of my friends rent out a massive country house for a week to play board games and generally relax.

Last year, Terraforming Mars dominated the week. People played it several times over the week, often one game after another. One person even played it five times in one day!

I’ve just come back from this year’s holiday, where two people brought the game, complete with expansions and I saw both being played at once on more than one occasion.

It got me to wondering what it is about the game that inspires this kind of rampant enthusiasm.

For one, I think the card deck has a lot to do with it. There are over 200 cards, all of which are different, meaning no two games will run the same.

Then, there’s the fact that, mechanically speaking, it’s a pretty straight forward game. Even newbies to the board game world can understand and play it competently.

But the game itself is far from simple.

There are dozens of strategies, all equally balanced, and the random card draws means you constantly have to shift your ideas about which one to use (though does make any long-haul strategy almost impossible if that’s your style).

Terraforming Mars

One of many TM games played during our gamers’ holiday.

Yet, there is enough synergy within the deck that you can start down a given track and be pretty confident you’ll get enough cards to continue down that path.

The expansions came at just the right time for me. In many games, I’ve grown tired of the base game long before its expansions hit the shelves, and I was beginning to get that way with Terraforming Mars. But the new milestones and awards of the Elysium and Hellas boards completely altered the way I played, while the Venus Next expansion added in some totally new mechanic to get to grips with.

To top it all off, the theming is strong – if not always 100 per cent scientifically accurate – and I personally get a kick out of the artwork (though that might just be because I recognise half of it from the day job) and I love the visual gags on one or two of the cards.

The game does still have many flaws I’ve noticed after several plays – randomness can screw over your end game; it’s easy to knock your production track markers; and I repeatedly get into the situation where I have zero cards in hand and have no way of drawing any more (Seriously Fryxgames. How game breaking could a card buying Standard Project be?).

But as games go, Terraforming Mars is probably one of the most well balanced I’ve ever played, so I’m not surprised it’s so popular.

Now… wonder if I can get another game in this evening?

How to play Hanabi two player

I suggested Hanabi in a previous post as being a really great two player game to bring couples together.

It is not, however, necessarily great from a game play point of view.

Over the years my partner and I have adapted the game as we’ve played and here is my advice for playing two player Hanabi.

Variant 1: Five cards

five card hanabi two player

Both players start with a hand of five cards.

This doesn’t give a lot of leeway.

You can only see five cards, opposed to the eight you can see in three player, so you have a lot less information making deductions much harder.

Not only that, but it’s easy to end up in a situation where one player has a ‘locked up hand’ where nothing is playable or discardable – you end up having to throw away a card even though you know it will stop you getting a high score.

This is annoying, and makes the game a lot less fun.

Variant 2: Five cards plus one


Both players start with a hand of five cards and one additional card is placed face up on the table.

Either player can play or discard the card BUT discarding it doesn’t get you a clue back.

It’s amazing how helpful just one extra card is to working out what cards you have, as well as preventing a hand from locking up.

However, it’s still not perfect. There are times when you get a run on the shared card, constantly playing or discarding from the shared card for several turns in a row.

This feels like cheating.

While perfectly allowable in the modified rules, there’s no real finesse required. It undercuts the joy of puzzling out the situation with logic.

Variant 3: Six card hand

six card hanabi two playerEach player has a hand of six cards.

This, to me, is the best option we have tried so far.

There’s no runs, so no feeling of cheating, you have the extra information and even that one extra card means you rarely ever end up with a locked out hand.

There is, instead, a different problem: it ends too quickly.

All too often, we reach the end of a two player game only to find that the remaining playable cards are in one persons hand, but there are no more turns to play them.

With the clever use of clues, you can stall to play down as much as possible, but often in two player this is impossible to do to any meaningful degree.

There is nothing more frustrating in this game than getting to the end, knowing you can get a much better score but unable to play your cards.

Variant 4: Six card hand with an extra turn

Each player has a six cards and at the end of the game they get two turns to play down cards instead of the usual one.

This is a recent addition to our repertoire.

The small bit of extra freedom can lead to several more cards being laid down, and a much more satisfying end to the game.

However, some people I’ve played with say it feels like playing on after the clock has run down.


I suggest you try the options for yourself and see what works best.