I’ve been trying to crack this problem of getting Gloomhaven to a wider, more casual demographic for a while. Around this time last year I was working on a Gloomhaven card game. Something simple in a small box that would feel like Gloomhaven, even if the mechanics were totally different. I remember play testing it at a convention, and somebody told me that it felt a lot like Splendor, which was enough for me to pack it up and never look at it again.
What I eventually realized was that a watered-down card game with the same name was never going to capture people like Gloomhaven has done. The only thing that would capture people like Gloomhaven is Gloomhaven.
So most of my blog posts recently have been convention recaps, which is fine, right? I mean, if I wasn’t writing convention recaps, I probably wouldn’t be writing anything (probably), but also, conventions are like a whole bunch of board game activity condensed into a single weekend. I do play testing, I play new games, I play old games, I hang out with cool people. It’s all right there. The whole board game industry, intensified.
So it works. Writing about board game conventions, I’m able to spew out all sorts of information on any number of topics, which may be valuable, or it may not. I suppose that is up to you.
So I took What We Found There to a couple conventions recently – namely LeiriaCon and RobbCon – and was able to play the game a few times with knowledgeable people and get some good feedback. From this, I think it has been progressing nicely.
The main things I was struggling with were twofold. One was that, in an overarching sense, the basic loop of the game felt a little basic. Collect resources and turn them in for points. In terms of a Euro game, it’s about as basic as you can get, especially for a worker placement game.
So I’ve been working on this “big box” expansion to Gloomhaven for a long time. I remember writing a post in November 2016 about spending a National Novel Writing month working on the story for it. That was quite a while ago.
I’ve also pined year after year that I wasn’t getting enough time to work on it. Conventions, business-related things – something always seems to get in the way. I’m no longer toiling away in a vacuum. There are lots of external forces to contend with.
I think any game designer will tell you that the most useful thing you can do when you first start designing a game is to get it to the table and start playing it. You can stare at spreadsheets and brainstorm documents forever, but until you actually experience the game in action, it will be incredibly hard to figure out what works and doesn’t work about it.
So, with that in mind, I took my initial concepts for What We Found There and set about making a basic prototype, and the most intensive part of this was making all the cards.
Right, well, first I want to thank everyone who responded to last week’s post. I was pleasantly surprised by not only the support, but all the good ideas people had for the What We Found There project. It made me feel like I made the right choice, talking openly about my design project, so, in the spirit of that, let’s keep going!