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Where Should You Start: Gloomhaven, Frosthaven, Or Gloomhaven: Jaws Of The Lion?

Where Should You Start: Gloomhaven, Frosthaven, Or Gloomhaven: Jaws Of The Lion?

Looking to jump into the deepest of board games but don't know where to start? Find out which Haven title is the best one to start with.

Your gaming group thirsts for adventure, and you've heard about the world of Gloomhaven. After all, the award-winning offerings by designer Isaac Childres only get mentioned as some of the most immersive games in the known universe. But hang on, there are three games set in the Gloomhaven world.


Which one should you start with?

In all, you have: 

  • Gloomhaven (2017) – The original behemoth in a box.
  • Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (2020) – The prequel game to the original Gloomhaven
  • Frosthaven (2022) – A proper sequel that’s set in a land adjacent to the original setting


Do you stick to the original Gloomhaven order as released, or do you start with the smaller Jaws of the Lion? Of course, Frosthaven might be the first to pick up, as the sequel will have most of the original's gameplay flaws ironed out? 

Don't worry. We here at Fair Game can help you find your entry point.

What's The Same Between Gloomhaven, Frosthaven, And Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Whatever version of Gloomhaven you choose, you'll experience the same basic gameplay. Each player selects a character, forming a merry band of mercenaries. As you gain XP, you'll level up your character to unlock more powerful cards and items. Eventually, your mercenary will achieve their life's goal and retire. That allows you to choose another merc and continue on the quest.

The game itself can be divided into two stages. In the town portion, you explore around while buying items, potions, and armor. Select a quest, resolve a quick encounter on the road, and get your mercenaries ready to fight. 

Gloomhaven board

The missions play out like an XCOM turn-based strategy game, except all characters use cards for movement and actions. The actual combat is far too intricate to explain here, but it's truly unique. Your group must balance curiosity with efficiency as your deck and combat options constantly shrink. This complex system would be a trainwreck if every single character wasn't so well thought out.

What Are The Differences Between The Gloomhaven Games?

Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion

The discrepancy between Gloomhaven, Frosthaven, and Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is complexity. With the original game, you have 17 different character types, 100s of scenarios, hours of world-building, and a massive amount of cardboard to sort through. It's a challenging system to learn, as every character and enemy has a unique card deck with its own intricacies.

Frosthaven takes the complexity up a notch, as you have more to do in town while dealing with the elements. You also have 16 new characters, 3 new races, and 100 more scenarios. And more cardboard!

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion has taken the opposite tactic and nerfs the original game. Here, you only have 4 characters, 25 missions, fewer options for combat, and scenes are actually played in the scenario book (no cardboard required). 

Which Gloomhaven Should You Start With?

If you never played Gloomhaven before, we recommend you grab a copy of the prequel game first. Its streamlined rules and ease of set-up give you a good taste of the world without overwhelming you. There's still a lot of meat in Jaws of the Lion, so you won't get bored. If you like the card combat and world-building, pony up the cash for the larger Gloomhaven or Frosthaven.

Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion Box

You need to understand that Gloomhaven isn't just a game; it's an investment.

One oversized box can take a year or two to get through. Suppose your gaming group slogs through a few missions and decides they would rather play something like A Ticket To Ride.

In that case, you're stuck with a cumbersome box of miniatures. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion will let you wade into the Gloomhaven pool before you doggie-paddle out the deep end.

Looking For Gloomhaven, Frosthaven, or Gloomhaven: Laws Of The Lion?

Whether you want to start with Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion or dive right into a more formidable challenge, Fair Game has you covered. Come by the shop at any of our three locations or check out our massive online selection. We can even give you tips on what to do with all that cardboard!


  1. Josh Josh

    I started with Frost Haven, but the other players in my group had played Gloom Haven previously. The consensus in our group seems to be that Frost Haven is generally better than Gloom Haven, and the part of the game where you're building up your town is less complicated than combat. I wouldn't say it really adds much complexity to the game at all. If you want to start with a simplified version by all means play the jaws of the lion. If you have a group of experienced board gamers willing to commit the substantial time it will take to play through it, I would go with Frost Haven. (My group has been meeting every other week for almost a year and is probably half way through)

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