Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion Game Review

Gloomhaven, a cooperative dungeon crawler, turned the game upside-down when it was published in 2017. It arrived in a small box that was the same size as a shipping container. With a price tag to match it, it offered a unique marriage of RPG-style character building and tactical combat. It is still a highly-rated board game that can be enjoyed by those who have the time, money and space to enjoy its many charms.Isaac Childres, a designer, has now created a simplified prequel for us all. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion attempts to cut away the bloat of the original, leaving the core experience intact. As the titular mercenary team, you will guide them through 25 adventures to investigate mysterious disappearances.

Jaws of the Lion is packaged in a smaller box than the original. However, it still weighs the same as a treasure chest and is filled with cardboard gold. The majority of the weight is made up of standees to protect the 16 types of monsters as well as tokens to track stats and scenery. The package includes clear instructions and a storage tray.Four plastic miniatures of the players are included, as well as matching boxes containing their character sheets and cards. There are four additional small boxes that contain hidden surprises you can find during the campaign. These are not “legacy” games that allow you to change parts during play. These stickers and maps are unnecessary, as they can be seen as eye candy and distract from the game.

The scenario book is the only disappointment. The original game required you to assemble the boards for each adventure using cardboard tiles. The maps are now printed in a flipbook, making it much easier. Most games that use similar books have sturdy, high-quality glossy leaves. Jaws of the Lion chooses to use ordinary weight paper, which is more likely to tear.

Gloomhaven can be a difficult game. Jaws of the Lion follows the same system with some clarifications and a small number of options removed. You can skip the previous version if you are familiar with it. You will need to learn a lot if you don’t know the original. However, many rules are intuitive. For example, an immobile model can’t move and a stunned model can’t do any thing.

This included playbook, regardless of its content, introduces the game’s complexity piecemeal over the first few situations. This is a great idea and makes it much easier to get into the game. It does require some effort to remove “basic” cards and replace them with the full versions as you learn new rules. Even with this wonderful aid, there will still be a lot to remember about the entire game.

It might seem odd that you would bother to make the effort. The answer is that the tactical combat engine behind the game is very, very brilliant.

Jaws of the Lion is proud that the game’s only real flaw is its reliance on its parent game. The story is the only thing that’s new here, and it’s not very appealing. This is fine. It merely repackages the original in an easier and more affordable way. The reduced content is a benefit for most groups that can’t manage the 100+ hours of play required to complete Gloomhaven. Anyone can now enjoy one of the most exciting and innovative games of recent times. Jaws of the Lion proves that bigger isn’t always better in board gaming.