Gloomhaven Dominates Golden Geek Awards

Gloomhaven Dominates Golden Geek Awards

It’s feels like the wrong time of year to announce another game of the year but BoardGameGeek likes to let their users play the games before voting on them for the Golden Geek awards.

To the complete surprise of nobody, the top-ranked game on BoardGameGeek, Gloomhaven, has dominated the awards.

BoardGameGeek is a trove of information that helps keep the online board gaming world intact. Useful for tracking stats and finding out about board games, it’s also used by board game designers and publishers to post FAQs and other resources players want. It’s a bit like IMDb except people value the information on BoardGameGeek.

Tucked behind all of that is a thriving forum.

Those forum users occupy a very niche spot of the internet but they’re a dedicated and informed lot. Now these users have cast their vote on the best board games of the year in the 12th annual Golden Geek awards.

Why You Should Buy Gloomhaven, But Not From Amazon

<em>Gloomhaven</em> clings hard to its D&D roots, featuring a unique cast of character that adventure through dungeons fighting monsters, levelling up and getting more unique. Although the mechanics are quite different and unique, for one thing there aren't any dice.

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Gloomhaven crushed the competition, picking up Board Game of the Year and wins in five other categories. In fact the only category that Gloomhaven was eligible for that it didn’t win was ‘Artwork and Presentation’.

Here’s the full list of winners:

  • Board Game of the YearGloomhaven
  • 2-Player GameCodenames Duet
  • Artwork & PresentationPhotosynthesis
  • Card GameCentury: Spice Road
  • Cooperative GameGloomhaven
  • ExpansionScythe: The Wind Gambit
  • Family GameAzul
  • InnovativeGloomhaven
  • Party GameWerewords
  • Print & PlayMy Little Scythe
  • Solo GameGloomhaven
  • Strategy GameGloomhaven
  • Thematic GameGloomhaven
  • Wargame878: Vikings – Invasions of England
  • Best PodcastRahdo Talks Through
  • Best Board Game AppThrough the Ages

Gloomhaven is an absolute behemoth of a game where players go out on adventures, improving their characters through the game’s legacy mechanics that makes permanent alterations as you play. There’s a lot of game to be had. Not just content wise but physically too. The box weighs almost 10kg.

As much Gloomhaven as designer Isaac Childres could fit on a convention table. Image: BoardGameGeek

Copies are incredibly hard to find right now as the game is between print runs and the vast majority of copies were only made available to Kickstarter backers. Yet despite its rarity, Gloomhaven has captured the attention of the board gaming world and won’t let it go.

The only game to topple Gloomhaven in the many categories it was nominated in was Photosynthesis, a gorgeous brain-burner about growing trees that won the ‘Artwork and Presentation’ category.

One Of Gen Con's Biggest Hits Was A Board Game About Photosynthesis

It's rare that a board game's mechanics perfectly reflect its theme; often, it seems that designers could have costumed their gameplay idea in any sort of outfit, and it would lose nothing except perhaps marketability. <em>Photosynthesis</em> is not like that.

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Photosynthesis doesn’t coast on it’s pretty looks. It’s a game that requires a lot of forward-planning as you try to plant your trees in the right places to harvest the most light – the game’s currency used to plant and grow trees – while blocking your opponent’s light. Finding a way to sequence your turns optimally as the sun rotates around the board is surprisingly difficult. Surprising and satisfying.


A fun little surprise to come out of the Golden Geek awards is My Little Scythe. The winner of Best Print and Play, My Little Scythe is a family-friendly remake of the immensely popular Scythe. How did they make a game about moving mechs about a war-torn landscape family friendly? With My Little Pony, obviously.

It’s such a novel combination that I’m willing to put aside my general dislike of Scythe to give it a shot.


  • I backed Gloomhaven in the Kickstarter mid-last year. Received my copy in December. Oh my, that is a seriously big box. Between Christmas and new years eve chaos, 3 jobs, uni and any number of other distractions, all I’ve been able to do is press the pieces out of the cardboard. I’m so glad I have an unplayed award winning game in my cupboard!

    Hopefully I’ll get some time to play it soon.

    • I’ve been playing with 4 players – all of us working fulltime and with kids. Thankfully after the first session, each scenario takes us about 2.5 hours which is doable once a fortnight. I hope you get going soon!

  • Good luck actually finding a copy of Gloomhaven though, at least one that doesn’t cost two to three times as much as it should.

    • There’s a few online and there are some Canberra retailers with copies. Not sure where you are. My friend just got his from a small retailer for $180.

      • I’m in the US. The second printing sold out already and it goes for upward of $250 now. A third printing is apparently in production though so maybe it’ll stabilize in 6 months or so.

  • The rules for My Little Scythe are very much simplified from
    the original – the BGG community recommends it for ages 6 and up.

  • Not baiting, genuine:
    Could someone explain the appeal of gloomhaven to me? When I read about it, it just seemed like DnD in boardgame form and I think it doesn’t need a DM. Is that an accurate nutshell summary? If so, what makes it so special? The lack of DM?

    • Good question. Coming from a background of AD&D in my high-school days, it definitely taps into similar feelings. The role-playing is very light-on, but the battles are pretty great. The 3 other guys I play with are coming from either board gaming or video gaming (Witcher 3 etc) and I think if there was more heavy role-playing they wouldn’t be into it as much maybe.

      It doesn’t need a DM which is good. It has a semi-persistent world which is kinda cool but I think the thing that we are finding really fun is the depth of strategy with the card-stamina system in scenarios. It feels innovative and always stressful. We’ve played 5 times now and still don’t feel that we’ve sorted out the optimum strategy and combos for our characters. But we’re getting better at it, which is really fun.

      Finally, what works so well for us is we have fulltime jobs and kids and not much time. I don’t feel in a true RPG you can get all that much done in a 2-3 hour play session, but we can set up, start, finish, and pack down a scenario in an evening of 3 hours, which works well for us.

      Is Gloomhaven worth the hype? I dunno. Probably not. But it’s the most persistent fun I’ve had in a board game thus far. I think I’ll get my money’s worth at least!

      • Thanks for the info samsam. I guess I understand the appeal especially with the time to play. Our P&P RPG group fell apart around the time of our first child because we were the ones that actually bothered to herd the cats together. After that yeah… could no longer commit an entire night away.

        So is the semi-persistence across your own play through or all playthroughs as if it had legacy elements?

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