Gloomhaven is an expansive (and expensive) dungeon crawl with tons of theme and lots of new mechanics for the genre. In this strategy tips I will focus on a couple of tips that help all characters get the most from their cards and then break down a few thoughts on the six starting classes in the game.
During the game:
Losing Cards: Losing cards, as mentioned in the review, is a core mechanic of the game. Over time you will cycle through the same cards discarding them on use. Each time you do you must lose one permanently. Your hand is shrinking each time, and this acts as a clock on you getting through the dungeon – accelerating at the end.
You also have a choice with some cards – take the basic action (Move 2 / Attack 2) – or use a powerful action which loses the card immediately. Late in the game losing a card may not even make a difference to the total number of turns you will have – on the last pair of cards you may as well lose them to do the most powerful attack you can! Early in the game though, that lost card is a lost card from every hand thereafter and that can accumulate to 5-6 lost turns or more. Therefore, no matter your character class watch out for losing cards unnecessarily in the first two cycles of the hand.
Different Rests: One of the many things I didn’t have time for in the already extended review was to talk about rests. When you cycle through the cards as per the above you have a choice between a long rest and a short rest. Long rest allows you to heal two and choose the card you lose, but you miss your next turn. Short rests – no heal, random card lost, but you get to keep fighting immediately. If you have a deck built on a strong theme, then you can short rest more often – cards are similar and interchangeable. Even if there is one card you cannot afford to lose, you can short rest and if that card is chosen you can lose a hit point to chose another at random.
Long rests are suited to a time when you have cleared the room and other players are catching you up, or to times when your health is low and you need the heal / can’t afford to lose the HP noted above.
Stun & Poison: These two powers are hugely important. Stun allows you to keep your enemy at bay and poison allows you to increase damage on each attack – key against bosses and high hit point monsters. Make sure someone in the team can do these and think about when to tie down monsters rather than killing them so you spare the damage from the team.
Avoiding Attacks: Some monsters can only move a limited amount and some decision cards will not include movement. Once all cards are revealed for initiative it’s worth thinking about whether you really want to end the turn next to an opponent who would not otherwise move, or in range of the opponent who is chasing you down. These little options to avoid attacks can be significant when your hit points are low and when it draws the enemy into the trap.
Experience Points: The ONLY way to gain experience in this game is to use your cards successfully. Cards offer you experience, and if you can get c. 10 points out of the cards each level then you are doing well.
Lose & Dodge: The last key note is that all players can lose a card from their hand (or two from their discard) to dodge an attack. This is useful for those times when 2x or +2 on the monster deck rolls rounds and you find yourself much shorter on health than you expected.
Character Classes: To help you select
Brute: The most typical of the types, the Brute will tend to focus on melee attacks and will deal high value damage. Brute’s tend to go early in the turn order and they tend to get shield or retaliate benefits that make them suitable to absorbing damage from enemies. Their not a traditional tank though as they will still need plenty of healing and at low levels they cannot be expected to kill high value monsters in one hit.
Cragheart: Closest to the mage of Dungeon’s & Dragon’s – a healer with ranged attacks, but the Craghear offers much more with the ability to go into hand to hand combat and/or the ability to manipulate his surroundings (creating and throwing obstacles towards his enemies).
Tinkerer: One of the most interesting – the tinkerer uses traps, area attacks and other low damage high projection type effects. Also a good healer for the group the tinkerer is rarely in the front line, but can clear up the weaker enemies or cause a good dent on groups.
Spellweaver: The closest to your traditional wizard, the Spellweaver offers the team a strong ranged combat with low health points. Watch out to not lose the card which allows you to recover all lost cards – use this late in the game and despite taking only 8 cards into the dungeon, you will find you are able to last longer than everyone else.
Scoundrel: You would expect this to be the rouge, but despite the ability to loot the map easily this character offers much more. Using poison, the ability to move other figures and a mix of ranged and melee attacks – this character is very versatile and useful in the party. Best in a party of three though, benefiting from others being on the front line with them.
Mindthief: Perhaps the trickiest of the starting classes, the Mindthief requires you to combo the cards effectively but offers the chance to gain lots of experience points from the cards and level up quickly. The mindthief can be a powerful archer or a rapid close combat specialist. The character also offers interesting and attacking summoned creatures as well as the ability to make the enemy attack each other!