• James Hewlett

Jaws of the Lion

I’ve been taking it fairly easy today as I’ve got the typical change of the season cold trying it’s hardest to get a hold on me. I’m a bit gross and snotty but other than that I’m fine. I feel like a lot of people are suffering with it at the moment, as is normal for this time of year, but because of everything else going on people are more worried than they normally would be.

I’ve had a pretty good excuse to stay in and not do much today though in the form of Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion.

You’ve probably read my praise and love for the board game Gloomhaven before, the massive sprawling dungeon crawl game that is so absurdly packed with content and mechanics that it has no right being as intuitive and fun to play as it is. I adore the game but as it’s so big and takes a good few hours of commitment at least when you a punt for set up and tear down time that I only ever play it when Ed comes to visit for a couple of days.

That’s why I was super excited last year when creator Issac Childres announced a ‘smaller box’ version; Jaws of the Lion which just released over here at the end of last week after being a Target exclusive in the US for a couple of months.

Jaws, as I’m going to abbreviate it to and wanted to clarify that I’m not talking about the movie, features almost all the same mechanics and gameplay as the original but features just four playable classes instead of sixteen, has a wide but not ludicrous amount of enemy variations and instead of modular map tiles and overlays is played entirely on the printed maps in the scenario book.

All of this drastically cuts down the amount of components in the box without cutting out any of the gameplay aspects that make Gloomhaven literally the number one board game in the world.

This version of the game is also meant to be far less intimidating to pick up and learn for new players. The original game actually plays relatively simply once you understand the basic mechanics, but there is so much to digest up front that it can be daunting. When Ed and I first learnt to play it took us, and I’m not exaggerating, three hours or reading the rule book and watching a ‘how to play’ video a few times before we even started trying for ourselves.

Jaws of the Lion knocks that barrier of entry down with a wrecking ball. The game comes with a learn to play guide book that essentially holds your hand through the first couple of scenarios and teaches you the game as you’re playing it, introducing new mechanics as they come up instead of front loading all the information and hoping you remember it all or keep the rule book close at hand.

For new players this is great, but for people who know the game well already it doesn’t feel like a cheapened experience. I had a ton of fun playing the first couple of scenarios as I was able to learn the quirks of the two characters I had chosen to play as and even brushed up on specifics of some rules I’d been doing slightly wrong in the campaign with Ed.

The most miraculous thing for me though was being able to play entirely on my coffee table while sat on my sofa and set up, play and pack everything away again inside an hour and a half. For regular Gloomhaven that’s at least three hours, the full breadth of my dining table and a couple of chairs. Don’t get me wrong, I love the experience of delving into the entire world that big box presents but every aspect of Jaws of the Lion just feels tighter, more refined and polished. It’s an absolute masterpiece and I found myself eager to play more every time I finished a scenario today.

Enough gushing about that though, I’m going to get an early night, big day tomorrow! Buenas noches.


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