Gloomhaven Starting Classes Guide 2021

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Gloomhaven has been a hit since it took over the roleplaying genre of games after its release in 2017. It’s arguably the best RPG board game ever made. Part of that success can be attributed to the range and depth that each class has. This guide will give an overview of each starting class in Gloomhaven, starting cards, and perks. 

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6 Gloomhaven Starter Classes

Some of the fun in Gloomhaven is discovering things on your own, so I should mention this guide will contain spoilers for the classes including information on the level 1 cards and perks.

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General Starting Class Information

Each class includes:

  • A miniature
  • Character mat
  • Deck of Ability Cards
  • Attack modifier adjustment cards

You will also choose one personal quest. Since there is so much variation in the possible builds in your group, building an effective character will be different based on the situation.  Be sure to take your circumstances into account when going over the character classes.

2 Player Games

Putting a little extra thought into class choice in a 2 player game is worth it. In a 2 player game, each player must pull their weight, whereas in a 4-5 player game someone lagging behind can be carried. On top of that, when you play solo it’s good to choose a couple of characters that work well together.

With that in mind, I’m going to list off some class combinations that work well together and some that are a little harder to play with 2 players.

Class Power Combos

  • Spellweaver + Cragheart
  • Scoundrel + Brute
  • Brute + Mindthief
  • Spellweaver + Brute

Dysfunctional Teams

  • Tinkerer + Scoundrel
  • Scoundrel + Spellweaver
  • Cragheart + Scoundrel

In general, the Tinkerer will be handicapped since healing isn’t exceptional in 2 player parties. Any combination I didn’t list will be somewhere in between.

Gloomhaven Starting Class Guides

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Brute

Strengths

  • High health
  • Damage mitigation
  • Levels quickly

Weaknesses

  • Low Stamina

Between the 6 Gloomhaven starter classes, the Brute is your classic tank starting class. However, he can be played as a damage dealer if you prefer to focus less on damage mitigation.

Tanking abilities in smaller group play are less worthwhile so in groups less than 4 it’s best to just throw out a ton of damage instead of tanking. This is an easier class to play for someone less savvy to building characters. Check out the full Brute guide here.

Brute Starting Card Summary

CardValueComments
Balanced MeasureGoodCombining a move 4 with boots gives you 6 attack with 1 xp. Bottom is situational
TrampleGoodBring if you have shielded enemies
Leaping CleaveGoodConsisten AoE with movement and air on the bottom which combines with skewer.
Provoking RoarGoodDoes especially well when fighting small groups
Grab and GoGoodStraightfoward loot card
Warding StrengthGoodAttack with heal and xp options
Spare DaggerGoodAdd to the deck for a ranged option
SkewerOkayAoE is hard to land but worst case gives 3 attack
Shield BashOkayYou have better non-loss xp cards
Sweeping BlowOkayCan be used to soften enemies
Eye for an EyeBad18 initiative is the best thing going for it
Overwhelming AssaultBad6 attack isn't worth a loss
Wall of DoomBadRelies on enemies attacking you and requires AoE for bottom effect to be viable.

Brute Perks Summary

These class perks are pretty widely considered to be some of the worst in the game. There are very few damage increases in the selection. The perk options that are there are mostly just inconsistent. Despite the overall bad perk selection, this doesn’t take away from how good the class is as a whole.

Tinkerer

Strengths

  • High Stamina
  • Lots of Healing

Weaknesses

  • Low Damage

Tinkerer is the support healer of the Gloomhaven starting classes. A good size hand of 12 cards gives her a ton of stamina and the ability to take lots of card losses.

Mostly she will be played ranged but due to her stamina and healing can take some melee hits if needed. Focus on a damage-dealing build if your group is less than 4. Going full healer on a group of 4 can be really good. Check out the full Tinkerer guide here.

Tinkerer Starting Card Summary

CardValueComments
Harmless ContraptionGoodDamage mitigation on top action, Bottom action heal is useful for poison removal.
Reviving ShockGoodTop action of 4 attack is good at level 1. Bottom actions big heal for a card loss is situational.
Toxic BoltGoodGreat attack with high initiative.
Ink BombGoodHeavy attack with movement which is a plus.
Restorative MistGoodStaple healing card with high initiative.
Net ShooterGoodAttack damage with damage mitigation and high initiative.
Stun ShotGoodHigh initiative support attack. Also movement on bottom is useful.
FlamethrowerOkayHigh melee damage potential but both top and bottom effects are situational.
Hook GunOkayUse for the loot 2. Using to pull into melee range isn't great on Tinkerer.
Proximity MineOkayForget the top action and use for the bottom action movement.
Potent PotablesOkayCan be good with some planning on the heal. Move 3 on bottom action is useful.
Reinvigorating ElixirOkayHeal 3 damage 3 top action is okay for level 12 card. Benefits other classes in group with small hand sizes.
Volatile ConcoctionBadBetter cards in the deck for damage. The bottom action trades an action and card for a teammates card.
Energizing TonicBadThere's lots of loss to this card with no huge upside.

Tinkerer Perks Summary

The Tinkerers perks focus on adding extra cards to the deck which is good for this class. Grab some cards that have the replace or remove effects to control your deck.

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Spellweaver

Strengths

  • High AoE Damage
  • Decent Support Ability

Weaknesses

  • Low Health
  • Low Stamina

The Spellweaver is a mage style class that does a good amount of AoE ranged damage. She is kind of a glass cannon with her low health and easy exhaustion.

Positioning correctly before throwing out damage is key. There is a little room to play support but it isn’t a core element of the class. The small hand size of 8 can lead to low stamina but Reviving Ether fixes this.

Spellweaver Starting Card Summary

CardValueComments
Reviving EtherGoodFixes spellweavers small hand size and card losses.
Mana BoltGoodVery high initiative attack with healing on bottom.
Fire OrbsGoodThis is a nice card to have with a good loss action on top and move on bottom.
Aid from the EtherGoodHeal in between rooms. Summon on bottom action.
Flame StrikeOkayDecent damage without losing cards on top cation and provides flexibility with attack on bottom action.
Ride the WindOkayLoot on top is good but has low initiative and with a situational bottom there are better alternatives.
Crackling AirOkayCan be good if there is a consistent source of air. Bottom action is essentially just a move 3.
Impaling EruptionOkayTop action isn't consistent but move 4 on bottom action is a good backup
Hardened SpikesBadRetaliate doesn't fit spellweaver and isn't reliable. There are also better alternatives to the bottom move action.
Frost ArmorBadSame top action as Mana Bolt with worse initiative and the bottom relies on proactive damage mitigation while losing a card.
Freezing NovaBadTop action is focused on melee with doesn't fit Spellweaver. Heal 4 on bottom action takes a back seat to damage actions while losing a card.

Spellweaver Perks Summary

Spellweavers perks specialize in element generation and adding cards. Again, grab perks for this class that remove or replace cards to control deck size. The element generation perks can be great if you can grab some that work well with your team. Check out the full Spellweaver guide here.

Scoundrel

Strengths

  • Looting
  • Single Target Damage
  • Good Initiative

Weaknesses

  • Easily Exhausted

The Scoundrel is a rogue type character with a focus on single target attacks. It is a great character combo for melee teams since it has a fair amount of adjacency bonuses.

Stamina is a problem with a hand size of 9 cards and no way to get them back. So you’ll want to minimize card losses.

Scoundrel Starting Card Summary

CardValueComments
BackstabGoodBring for the high initiative move 6 bottom action and burn it middle/late round for an attack 7.
Thief's KnackGoodDisarm with 2 xp is situational. Attack 3 bottom action is very useful.
Venom ShivOkayAttack 3 with xp is useful but poison isn’t always helpful. Move 5 is nice but low initiative is a negative.
Throwing KnivesOkayBring when facing a large group of low HP enemies. The bottom gives you a fair amount of looting power.
Swift BowOkayGeneric attack on top with good looting on bottom when combined with boots of striding.
Single OutOkayTop action is good in small rooms. Bottom action is less useful due to losing a card.
Flanking StrikeOkayTop action is good in small rooms. Move 5 on bottom is nice but there are better alternatives.
Smoke BombOkayBetter later in the campaign with invisibility tricks. Bottom action is good for adjeceny bonuses which are easier to get around level 5.
Sinister OpportunityOkayProducing darkness with Smoke Bomb makes the top action useful. The bottom action can single out enemies and the high initiative can cause you to go last if needed.
Quick HandsBadAttack 2 is pretty low for Scoundrel and move 2 often doesn't add enough positive. Loot 1 falls short of good bottoms for this class and the card has a high initiative.
Special MixtureBadHealing isn't a focus for the Scoundrel. Move with poison on bottom is pretty useful.
Trickster's ReversalBadTop action is useful for high shield enemies. Bottom has an alternative to movement and the card has low initiative. Overall, a situational card.

Scoundrel Perks Summary

This class has the best starting perks. Damage dealing perks are plentiful which is great for the Scoundrel class. She can also manage to remove all the negative attack modifiers with perks which is only 2 other characters in the game can do.

Cragheart

Strengths

  • High health
  • Flexibility with Builds
  • Levels Quickly
  • Ranged Damage

Weaknesses

  • Low Stamina
  • Collateral Damage
  • Slow Looting

The Cragheart excels at versatility. This class’s combination of health, support cards, and ranged attacks give it options to be played in many different ways. It also has a hand of 11 which is pretty good for stamina. However, it doesn’t excel at tanking or support as the Brute and Tinkerer do. It also is the only starting class to put out collateral damage which makes it dangerous around the low hp scoundrel or Mindthief. 

It can put out a lot of ranged damage, excels against high shielded enemies, and does best in 3-4 player groups. Check out the full Cragheart guide here.

Cragheart Starting Card Summary

CardValueComments
Forceful StormGoodAttack 3 on 3 targets with disarm is fantastic. Bottom action isn’t great since Cragheart doesn’t typically focus on melee.
Massive BoulderGoodAttack top action is okay but generates earth and splash damage. Move 4 on bottom is the most move in the deck.
Crushing GraspGoodTop action is solid attack with immobilize. Loot on bottom is the only one we get but becomes less needed later on.
Backup AmmunitionGood4 xp with adding a target is awesome. Move 3 on bottom is good for this class too.
Rumbling AdvanceGoodCreates earth on both actions, deals AoE damage on bottom action, and has a pretty good 4 heal on top.
Heaving SwingOkayTop is average for a level 1 card. The bottom is good value if you combine with AoE attacks.
Opposing StrikeOkayUnlikely to hit the second target but attack 3 with xp is nice. Bottom action is focused on tanking and has a card loss which makes it pretty bad.
Unstable UpheavalOkayA situational card since it has collateral damage on both halves. Upside is it is the best initiative card for Cragheart.
Nature's LiftOkayHealing is okay if you're building for that. Bottom action relies on wind which is hard to create for this class.
Rock TunnelOkayDestroying an obstacle with 1 xp isn't great. Bottom action is worth it for a lot of movement.
CraterOkayA situational card. Consuming isn’t a huge deal because of hand size and moving plus true damage is nice.
Dirt TornadoOkayNeed to use earth to get value out of the top half. Adding curse to this later on makes it good. Move 3 bottom action is good for Cragheart.
Earthen ClodOkayImmobilize on heavy melee enemy is good. Bottom heal is nice and initiative is pretty good for this deck.
AvalancheBadEven with earth the top half is just okay. Bottom action doesn’t mesh with Craghearts deck well.

Cragheart Perks Summary

This perk selection is about average. Lots of chances to add cards but few to remove them means your modifier deck will probably get a little bloated. You also have an option to generate earth and wind which can be helpful.

Also, take everything before the “Add one -2 card and two +2 cards”. This will actually reduce the effectiveness of your deck later.

Mindthief

Strengths

  • Melee Damage
  • Fast Leveling
  • Versatility

Weaknesses

  • Low Health

The Mindthief is a mostly melee damage dealer, although there is a lot of versatility to the way she can be played.

She has a hand of 10 which is in the middle of the starter classes but she has low hp which can make it difficult to get up close and personal with the enemies. Check out the full Mindthief guide here.

Mindthief Starting Card Summary

CardValueComments
Frigid ApparitionGoodAttack for 5 with Mind's Weakness active and consuming ice makes it great. Bottom loss won't be used as often but adds extra stun to the deck.
Feedback LoopGoodThis card will help you go late when you are invisible. The augment and shield are just okay. The bottom jump move 4 is great.
The Mind's WeaknessGoodTop action is great for damage. Bottom is just okay. One of the best Mindthief cards.
ScurryGoodTop action has move which pairs with bottom actions well. Bottom action on this one is good for looting at the end of a scenerio.
Perverse EdgeGoodYou get to go first and the top action is a good finisher move. The bottom action is versatile with stun and ice generation.
Empathetic AssaultGoodLow initiative. Top has disarm. Bottom has heal which is good for longevity of this character.
Submissive AfflictionOkayAttack 2 is just okay for this class and the extra damage is inconsistent. The bottom action pulls attack modifiers which isn't great.
Into the NightOkayInitiative is good but it is pretty situational with better alternatives at your disposal.
Fearsome BladeOkayPushing into traps is easy with this one and burning the card for the bottom action later in the scenerio on can be helpful.
Withering ClawOkayPoison and muddle take a back seat to damage dealing cards. The bottom action is situational.
Parasitic InfluenceOkayHigh initiative card that focuses on healing and the bottom action is only useful if the enemy is next to a trap.
Gnawing HordeBadTop action is okay for healing. Bottom action is good to bring for movement. Overall, there are better options.
PossessionBadMediocre initiative. Attack 6 with loss isn't as good as attack 4 without loss which can be had.Teammate movement on bottom can be good.

Mindthief Perks Summary

Behind the Scoundrel, the Mindthief is right up there for the best starting character perks. You can build a damage-dealing deck with disables.

As with all of the other classes, be sure to grab those remove/replace perks to keep the deck light.

Hopefully, all this information will help you along in your first adventure in Gloomhaven. Be sure to check out the in-depth guides for each class if you want some more detail on how to build an effective character and what options there are with each.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best class?

All of the classes in Gloomhaven are good but the easiest class to play for beginners would be either the Brute or Scoundrel.

Can players trade items?

Players cannot trade money or items.

Are personal quests secret?

Personal quests can be kept secret but do not have to be secret. Battle goals have to be secret.

Can Gloomhaven be played solo?

Yes, Gloomhaven is actually a great solo game. However, it’s highly recommended to use two characters and control them both. Playing the game with one character can be very difficult.

Can you replay Gloomhaven scenarios?

Yes, you can replay a scenario. However, you don’t get scenario rewards listed in the scenario book. Look at page 34 of the rulebook for more information.

How many characters are in Gloomhaven?

There are 6 starting classes and 11 unlockable classes for a total of 17 playable characters.

Do characters block line of sight?

No, only walls and doors block line of sight.

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