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Mini Gloomhaven board game creator had never played the original

Joe Klipfel may have designed a more compact version of the Gloomhaven board game, but he’d never played the tabletop title at the time.

Gloomhaven Buttons and Bugs character art from Cephalofair

Gloomhaven: Buttons & Bugs, the newly announced Gloomhaven solo board game, is based heavily on Joe Klipfel’s other compact adaptation of the dungeon-crawler, Gloomholdin’. Klipfel has a clear knack for capturing and condensing the magic of Gloomhaven, but Cephalofair COO Price Johnson tells Wargamer that Klipfel created Gloomholdin’ without playing a single game of the title it was based on.

Johnson says Cephalofair first got in touch with Klipfel after Gloomholdin’ released in 2021, as its team were very impressed by the adaptation. “What was even more impressive than Joe’s work reducing Gloomhaven down to an 18-card version of the game was the fact that he had done so very intentionally after not owning or playing the original game”, Johnson tells Wargamer.

According to Johnson, Klipfel had limited space at home and was expecting a child at the time of designing Gloomholdin’. All good reasons not to invest in the mammoth-sized Gloomhaven – but Cephalofair didn’t want Klipfel to miss out.

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“We immediately sent him a copy of the game, and a dedicated folding gaming table, and told him we’d be in touch very soon with a signing proposal”, Johnson says. “We’re very glad he said yes!” And thus, Buttons & Bugs was born.

Gloomhaven and Frosthaven creator Isaac Childres says Buttons & Bugs is designed for people like Klipfel who might not have space in their lives for the full game. “We’re hoping it will resonate with Gloomhaven fans who are looking for a shorter, more compact experience”, he says, “say, if they want to get in a game of Gloomhaven on their lunch break or on a plane”. “We’re also hoping that this can provide a simpler introduction to the system for those curious about the Gloomhaven system, especially if they are a solo gamer.”

Childres also explains some of the tweaks Klipfel and Nikki Valens have made to the Gloomholdin’ system. “For a while during development, we were trying to adhere as closely as possible to the mechanics and compactness of Gloomholdin’”, Childres tells Wargamer. “We eventually decided the game and the player would be better served if we let out our belt a little.” Buttons & Bugs apparently has “more cards but a much simpler ruleset than Gloomholdin”, and it aims to be more approachable for casual gamers.

Gloomhaven Buttons and Bugs box next to Gloomhaven box

Gloomhaven: Buttons & Bugs will see a retail release eventually. For now, though, it’s available as an add-on to Cephalofair’s current Backerkit campaign. This is crowdfunding for Gloomhaven 2e, the Gloomhaven RPG, new Gloomhaven miniatures, and a fresh print run of Frosthaven.

Thinking of checking out the Gloomhaven universe? We’ve got a Gloomhaven review and a Frosthaven review that’ll let you know what to expect. Gloomhaven is widely considered one of the best board games ever made, so we’re keen to see how these spin-offs live up to their impressive parentage.