I play dnd 5e with a group of friends. Obviously, we each have our own character sheets, dice, etc.

I have never played gloomhaven, but am thinking of purchasing it to play at home with my family. It is, I believe, an rpg adventuring board game - pretty unusual, but sounds interesting, and it is after all the highest rated game on Boardgamegeek...

I was wondering how similar Gloomhaven is to DnD and how compatible they are. Is it possible to use DnD dice and characters for Gloomhaven? Will the level advancement and difficulty level make sense? This would allow for some personalizing, and would allow us to get into and understand the game before reading the full directions on how to play (for some of my more lazy family members).

Also, please note that I have pretty much no idea how gloomhaven works, so start with the basics when comparing them.

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    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:37
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    – mxyzplk
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:39

1 Answer 1


Mechanically, they are very different games.

  • D&D 5th edition uses dice. Gloomhaven uses a deck of twenty cards which modify damage. You do not roll to hit; you automatically hit (except on a critical miss), and draw to see whether you deal more or less damage than average.
  • D&D encourages players to work as a team. Gloomhaven encourages players to grab the treasure for themselves where possible - a faux pas in D&D - and forbids players from sharing treasure with characters who got less loot.
  • D&D encourages players to develop their character and role-play (act in-character). This confers no benefit to Gloomhaven, which is purely a tactical miniatures game.
  • Gloomhaven characters who "die" are merely exhausted, and come back to life at the end of a dungeon.
  • D&D has a Dungeon Master who adjudicates rules and judges circumstances on the fly. Gloomhaven has no such role; all monster actions and events are decided by fixed rules.
  • Gloomhaven's characters, adventures and world are fixed. D&D allows DMs to invent their own adventures, and allows players to go on adventures the DM didn't prepare, or invent new characters.
  • Gloomhaven focuses primarily on tactical miniatures combat. It is, in a way, the tactical miniatures board game that D&D 4e's critics feared. D&D 4e also held this focus, but D&D 5e make miniatures purely optional, and allows players to focus on other aspects of the game.

Thematically, however, it's quite similar to D&D, specifically 4th edition. There is an elemental plane with mixtures of all elements, as the Elemental Chaos; there are demons who hail from this elemental realm. There are short and long rests. It implements D&D 5e's advantage system. The primary difference is that the player character races are largely original, making it difficult for D&D players to get a sense of each character's role before playing them.

To address some of your particular concerns:

  • Knowing D&D won't help you select a Gloomhaven character. Gloomhaven's character races and classes are totally different to D&D, meaning you can't pick a familiar archetype before you play. Even an experienced D&D player is going in blind when they pick a Gloomhaven character.
  • There is no character customization in Gloomhaven, beyond selecting your character's name, selecting from a small number of optional power cards, and changing cards at level-up.
  • You cannot muddle through without knowing the rules correctly like in D&D. There is a lack of a GM to smooth things over.

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