Founders of Gloomhaven – Cephalofair Games – Review


Publisher: Cephalofair Games

Game Type: Auction, Bidding, Deck Building, Hand Management, Route Building, Tile Building, Variable Player Power, Worker Placement

Designer: Isaac Childres

Initial Year of Release: 2018

Artist: Josh T. McDowell

Artist: Alexandr Elichev

Theme and What is it?

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You are a politician of a tribe or race of people. Your group is the most important to you. You do not hate anyone else, but also do not care about their goals. You sir, are a founder of Gloomhaven.

In Founders of Gloomhaven, you are literally building the town of Gloomhaven, that will later become the board game, Gloomhaven, in a non-literal sense. Your race, has things they are good at, and things that they are not so good at, it will be up to your to prioritize these things, to build a world where your race comes out on top. End game points are based on the technology built, and ownership of that tech. Now, onto how it plays.

Gameplay Mechanics

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If you read what type of game this is, you have zeen something rare, wonderful and scary. This game attempts to be many things, as you may have heard a jack of all trades can be a master of none. In this case, this is not entirely true.

This game much like Gloomhaven before it is very much about the hand of cards you have. This hand allows actions, and allows you to change the way the game plays over time. This is Childres’ genius, the cards are the game. The other parts of the game, give the cards life.

The overall gist of the game is that you are actively building out a city, it even has “zoning”. Your discs are showing ownership or availability to use specific technologies. This tableau on the board grows to a staggering length, pretty quickly.

To really break down the rules more would be difficult, and to dumb the rules down for sake of a review, would not do the rules justice. This is why this game falters to an extent.

Initial Impressions

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The look of Founders, including the box art, beg to be played. It just looks cool. I wanted to get it opened and to play it quickly. Such a cool looking game, and the box is HEAVY!

Game Build Quality

Founders of Gloomhaven - Cephalofair Games - Review 4The game build, like Gloomhaven before it is fantastic. The box weighs nearly a metric ton. We had to use a forklift to carry it around.

It is weighty and requires thinking about the effort of the weight. Though I do not know exact weight, I can tell you that I would prefer to play it on my own table, than carry the box around. This is very similar to Gloomhaven, which I never carry. So, I guess Cephalofair games will just stay at home.

Artistic Direction

Founders of Gloomhaven - Cephalofair Games - Review 5Art nerd here. When a game has good art, I immediately take notice.

With Founders of Gloomhaven, I immediately took notice. It is beautiful, and feels like a city that you would expect to see in medieval Europe. When the discs get added to the board, it becomes colorful. When the board gets built, it feels like you have built a city.

I am a fan of the artistic direction. It feels great looking at the box, the board, and player boards.

Fun Factor

Founders of Gloomhaven - Cephalofair Games - Review 6I have played this with several different folks. The reaction has largely been the same. It feels too heavy for what it is trying to accomplish.

Each step is not super hard, in and of itself, but the combination makes it very unnatural. Once you get to the scoring mechanic, which is cool, but SUPER heavy, you will likely get lost, unless you have played many times and just love the game.

Age Range & Weight

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12+. I generally err on the side of games can normally be played by a much younger audience than what the publisher suggests. In this situation, I am on the other side of the coin.

If I were to play with a 12 year old, I would go mad. There is too much decision making that affects you way to far out. A 12 year old, in my estimation would not enjoy that experience. Even the race you get at the beginning of the game affects end game points.


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Each card does something different, like Gloomhaven. That is the beauty of Founders. It has a similar tone and feeling to Gloomhaven. This is where the similarity ended for me. I love Gloomhaven, though due to sheer mass, it does not get played as often as I would like.

Founders for me, has some really cool ideas, that could make a fantastic game. They just didn’t do it for me the way they came together. I would highly suggest to Cephalofair to design a scoring app. The scoring is just heavy, and could be resolved with the ladder of the scoring be done automagically for the player.

I think without the scoring hiccup, this game would be much more enjoyable. The type of player I would suggest checking it out are hardcore Gloomhaven fans, and people who feel heavy gaming means good gaming. I feel heavy can be good, but also enjoy lighter fair. I would not hesitate to try it out again, if I could focus on playing, and not focus on the scoring aspect. Many of the separate mechanics are pretty cool.

If your gaming group has a copy, you may want to check it out. Truly, because I love Gloomhaven so much, I hope people are not bogged down, as I was. It just felt so close to being an instant classic, but it wasn’t there for me.


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