Gloomhaven: The Role Playing Game uses card combat to "minimize randomness"

Gloomhaven: The Role Playing Game class and character art
(Image credit: Cephalofair Games)

Gloomhaven: The Role Playing Game is on its way in 2023, and it includes unusual battle mechanics that should set it apart from the best tabletop RPGs

Due to hit crowdfunding platform Backerit in April, Gloomhaven: The Role Playing Game uses skill cards instead of dice to simulate combat. As per developer Cephalofair Games, this is to "minimize randomness and reward player savvy" by emphasizing skill rather than chance.

While the system appears to have been lifted straight from the original Gloomhaven (which revolved around timing your limited attacks for maximum effect), it seems to have been tweaked slightly in the process. More specifically, the Gloomhaven RPG has "added a third skill check action to these cards, which lets you perform great feats out of combat, but also opens up a new dimension in combat, letting you swing from chandeliers, kick through walls, or even convince the bad guys to stop fighting." This sounds similar to the ability rolls in games like D&D, but the Gloomhaven franchise's emphasis on strategy over luck would suggest a more active role for players.

Either way, Gloomhaven: The Roleplaying Game will be cross-compatible with the current series of board games. As noted by Cephalofair COO Price Johnson, the team wants players "to feel like each big-box campaign board game they’ve invested in, is able to function as a sort of Gloom Master tool kit, to be able to craft your own adventures using map tiles, enemy standees/miniatures, tokens, overlay tiles, and more. You can also just pick up the core Gloomhaven: RPG sourcebook and its accompanying card set and play without having owned a single one of our past titles. Mercenaries of all experiences and playstyles are welcome in Gloomhaven: The RPG!"

The mention of miniatures is apt, because previously-announced Gloomhaven figures are also due to launch in April 2023. These will be directly compatible with the TTRPG, meaning you don't need to make do with stand-in Wizkids miniatures or something made by the best 3D printers if you prefer to fight physically on the tabletop.

In terms of other news from Cephalofair, the anticipated sequel Frosthaven is getting a second printing for those who missed the initial Kickstarter campaign.

For more tabletop shenanigans, be sure to check out these highly recommended board games for adults, the best cooperative board games, and the ultimate Star Wars board games.

Benjamin Abbott
Tabletop & Merch Editor

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to Lego buying guides. I have been writing about games in one form or another since 2012 and can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.