Fantasy adventure Gloomhaven is one of the biggest board games of recent years in every respect - from its booming popularity and the dozens of hours required to see its epic campaign to completion, to the hefty box that contains its many cards, miniatures and components.
That makes it even more impressive that Gloomhaven fan and tabletop designer Joe Klipfel has managed to squeeze the game’s crunchy gameplay and dungeon-crawling scenarios into just 18 cards in a fan-made card game named Gloomholdin’.
Gloomholdin’ is a free print-and-play game that replaces Gloomhaven’s hex-based exploration and combat with a small deck of cards. Even more impressively, the entire game can be played in your hand without the need to place anything on a table. (Klipfel includes optional rules for laying the cards out on a table.)
Despite the small number of cards involved, Gloomholdin’ is not necessarily a simplified version of Gloomhaven. The cards cram on a lot of information and have multiple uses during scenarios, with cards overlapping to indicate specific details and having different effects during battles or non-combat rounds. Replacing Gloomhaven’s miniatures and boards is a card that tracks the distance between the player and monsters, affecting which abilities they can use.
Like Gloomhaven, the player character has abilities they must use to explore a scenario’s hex-grid map, picking up treasure, defeating monsters and completing its given victory conditions.
The card game features its own scenario booklet with a unique campaign separate to Gloomhaven, although some of the original game’s monsters and items make an appearance. (Klipfel assures players that the game is free of spoilers.) Like Gloomhaven’s legacy game elements, Gloomholdin’s campaign unlocks new content as players progress through its story.
Gloomholdin’ was initially released as a solo board game, with Klipfel later adding a co-operative two-player expansion that requires the card game to be played on a table.
While Gloomholdin’ is an unofficial creation, Gloomhaven creator Isaac Childres and publisher Cephalofair Games have seemingly given the fan-made project their blessing, allowing Klipfel to use art, characters and lore from the original game.
Gloomholdin’ is available to download and print-and-play for free, with its rulebook, scenario book, cards and two-player expansion hosted over on the game’s BoardGameGeek page.