Gloomhaven, the wildly popular dungeon crawling board game from Cephalofair Games, will soon get a proper tabletop role-playing game, as well as a set of more than 600 new miniatures. Polygon has learned that, in addition to those headline products, the Backerkit campaign will also include an opportunity to pre-order Gloomhaven: Second Edition, a newly revised version of the original award-winning board game that has been in production for some time.
Polygon sat down with creator Isaac Childres to learn more about the ambitious, multi-product crowdfunding campaign, and to learn why it’s so important for him to make changes to his breakout hit. But first, some details on what fans should expect inside the new box.
According to Childres, the revision of the original game goes incredibly deep thanks to the help of project leads Drew Penn and Dennis Vögele. Starting with the modular map tiles themselves, longtime fans will see clarified, revised, and otherwise enhanced art and graphic design throughout. Mechanically speaking, the game’s many character classes have also been modified and, in several cases, completely rebalanced.
“There’s obviously been a lot of community feedback over the years,” Childres said. “We’ve kind of brought everything in line to make [classes] all feel about the same, but also still feel fun to play — even more fun to play in some cases.”
Childres called out “Eclipse,” long considered an overpowered unlockable character class, as just one example of the changes in store for die-hard players.
“It’s fun to be invisible and kill everything super easily,” Childres said, “but it gets old after a while, so we’ve made the [“Eclipse”] fun and easy to play, rather than cheesy.”
But perhaps the most substantive changes to the game come in its storyline and its deeper lore, which in the past have played second fiddle to the franchise’s unique card-based combat mechanics.
“We’ve basically rewritten everything,” Childres said. “We’ve brought this conflict [...] between the merchants and the military to the forefront of the story.”
In the revised version of the game, players will feel more empowered to throw their lot in with one of three different factions, including the military, the merchants, and the demons. Then, through their actions, players will be able to bring their preferred faction to power in the city of Gloomhaven. When that happens, Childres said, the in-game benefits and the opportunity for unique quests and missions will be more substantive than before.
“We’ve tried to integrate [factions] better into the story and into the mechanics [of the game],” Childres said. “When you achieve that ultimate goal with a faction, you get to open an envelope, and there’s a bunch of new stuff in there that you get to play with.”
Along with that full rewrite, Childres has also taken the opportunity to go back to the game’s many fantastical ancestries and make amends for what he considers to be oversights and slights against real-world groups that inspired them.
“In addition to all the balancing issues with Gloomhaven,” Childres said, “[these have] been a big, personal thorn in my side as well — the kind of tropey nature of a lot of the writing in the original Gloomhaven and the characterization of some of the the ancestries there, where there were clear parallels to real-world ethnicities that didn’t sit well with a lot of people.”
As announced for Gloomhaven’s sequel, Frosthaven, Childres has worked closely with cultural consultants to bring this revised edition in line with the kind of values that he wants to express in his work. For example, the Inox have been altered dramatically so that they no longer diminish, even casually, Native American and First Nation peoples.
“At this point, it’s kind of embarrassing to me that it’s still out there in the public,” Childres said. “It also goes hand-in-hand with the development of the RPG as well. All the lore that is being written from the RPG is also super important, and we can pull from that as well.”
Gloomhaven: Second Edition will also include newly designed miniatures — multi-part sculpts with even more detail and dynamic poses — just like the miniatures planned for the RPG line. Childres said that updated minis for the original Gloomhaven will be available to purchase by themselves. But, unlike other hugely successful crowdfunded campaign-style games such as Kingdom Death: Monster, there will not be a stand-alone conversion box that owners of the original game can buy to bring their set up to current. The changes, Childres said, simply run too deep.
Cephalofair will launch its next crowdfunding campaign, including Gloomhaven: Second Edition, on Backerkit starting June 20. Fans can sign up to be notified — already more than 55,800 have, making this the most subscribed-to launch of a crowdfunding campaign on any platform to date.
“It’s crazy to think about,” Childres said of the popularity of his campaign. “I try not to think about it too much. There’s just so many people clamoring to jump in on this, and we’re just working to make it the best crowdfunding experience we can and then have a good time with it.”