Gloomhaven, both in its original board game form and in PC game form, has a dedicated and loyal fanbase. I am not one of them. For me, this game is proof that a conversion from tabletop to video game can be a little too faithful.
While ostensibly appearing to be a game based around recruiting mercenaries to go dungeon-crawling, Gloomhaven is actually a brutally unforgiving resource management puzzle game in disguise, and for a lot of folks, that’s their jam. Me? Not so much. I will state up front that I found my time with Gloomhaven to be… frustrating, but that’s by the by as we’re not here to discuss the base game.
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We’re here to take a look at its newly released DLC, again based on an expansion for the board game – Jaws of the Lion (currently available on Steam for a very reasonable £13.99). On release, Gloomhaven offered 17 mercenaries for you to play with, with six starting classes and two campaigns that could easily take you over a hundred+ hours to complete, so it was hardly lacking in content.
With Jaws of the Lion you get four new mercenaries, ten new enemy types, 25 new scenarios, new random encounters and new items so you’re easily looking at another 30+ hours of content here, with each Gloomhaven scenario easily taking 40+ minutes to complete depending on how experienced you are with the game mechanics and strategies.
It’s fair to say it’s a decently meaty expansion, compared to some of the bare-bones Triple-A offerings we’re used to seeing. Unlike many other expansions, this is not a standalone experience. The new features of the DLC are mixed in with main game from the get-go, with the new expansion missions showing up pretty early on in the campaign, and the new mercenaries available to be recruited right at the start of any new campaign.
So is it any good? If you want more Gloomhaven, then yes! It’s more Gloomhaven, and adding in the new mercenaries right from the start means you can play through the original campaign in all new ways. Does Jaws of the Lion add anything new in terms of presentation? No, but that’s not a bad thing. As a digital translation of a board game, Gloomhaven looks just fine.
Does Jaws of the Lion do anything to make Gloomhaven any more accessible to new players? Unfortunately, no, and that’s a shame. Gloomhaven‘s tutorials are… not great. When there are literally dozens of Reddit threads and Youtube videos dedicated to explaining how to beat your game’s tutorial levels, then in my opinion you’ve failed at making a good tutorial.
The DLC release would have been a good opportunity to make these more new-player-friendly but sadly that’s a missed opportunity. The tutorial levels also don’t include the new mercenaries, so this leaves new players unfamiliar with the board game facing a steep learning curve. My recommendation for anyone thinking about buying this would be to hold off till you’ve completed the base game, or at the very least don’t enable the DLC till you’re really comfortable with Gloomhaven‘s mechanics.
All in all, Jaws of the Lion is a solid expansion to a game that already offers potentially hundreds of hours of play. Developer Flaming Fowl and publisher Asmodee Digital have shown that DLC doesn’t need to be a dirty word, that you don’t need to rely on predatory micro-transactions to monetise your game, and that an expansion can offer real value to your fanbase without taking advantage of them, and that should always be welcomed and supported.
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is out now on Steam.