Last Updated on Samuel Franklinby
Gloomhaven Berserker Guide – Cards, Builds, Perks, Enhancements & Items
This guide to the Berserker will allow you to unlock the potential of this reckless melee fighter within Gloomhaven with an optimal build setup to balance your damage output and self inflicting damage cards. Detailing your starting card selections and the individual card choices as you level up players will have the template of cards, perks, enhancements and items along with a deep dive section that explores the mechanics behind the Berserker playstyle and small tweaks you can make for your personal experience.
The Berserker (Lightning Bolts) is an Inox unlockable character in Gloomhaven who brings a primitive and barbaric design to your mercenary party. Like the Inox that make a regular appearance throughout the campaign your background is one of nomadic tribal life in the wilderness where you were tasked with defence of the tribe at all costs. This self sacrifice mindset has allowed the female Berserkers to reach a level of unnatural strength that seems to only grow as they come closer to defeat with a fervour that is both fearsome and deadly. With this design the Berserker is a character that can trade their own health to empower their attacks while having many actions that change based on your current health pool with an increasing level of power the lower health that you have. This design creates a tough balance for players to achieve that can make the Berserker difficult to play effectively without the right team composition and a solid foundational understanding of Gloomhaven mechanics although is equally rewarding and powerful when you find this balance.
For information and build guides on other Gloomhaven character options visit our Gloomhaven classes overview and the related Gloomhaven class tier list. Note that from this point onwards this guide contains full card spoilers for this class and minor item spoilers (general themes only and not specific non starting items).
Gloomhaven Berserker Guide Overview
In this summary portion of the Berserker guide I provide my recommendations for a template to follow that is suited to most Gloomhaven situations and ensures players are setup for success as this balance focused class. It details the card decisions from level 1 to 9 alongside perk, enhancement and equipment options to create a well rounded Berserker that relies on their own cards for success as much as possible to remove the variance of team composition. The result is a playstyle that self inflicts damage from time to time when it is to our advantage and has cards that can take advantage of the natural decreases in our health pool as a scenario progresses.
For players that want to tweak these foundations due to team or playstyle specifics I discuss some of the alternative options in the detailed portion at the end of this Berserker guide page. This may allow players to grab some of the retaliate focused cards or ones that thrive when we are near exhaustion but I find these to significantly increase risk unnecessarily as we already have sufficient power without these mechanics.
Berserker Cards Overview
- Level 1: Remove Glass Hammer, Blood Pact and Resolute Stand to create your starting deck of cards
- Level 2: Break The Chains replaces From The Brink
- Level 3: Spiked Armour replaces Growing Rage
- Level 4: Flurry of Axes replaces Numb the Pain
- Level 5: Shiny Distraction (level 4 card) replaces Bounce Back
- Level 6: Devil Horns replaces Cauterize
- Level 7: Burning Hatred replaces Flurry of Axes
- Level 8: Bone Breaker replaces Defiance of Death
- Level 9: Maw of Madness replaces Shiny Distraction
Berserker Perks Priority Overview
- Remove two -1 cards
- Replace one -1 card with one +1 card (take twice)
- Remove four zeros
- Add one +2 fire card (take twice)
- Replace one +0 card with one rolling +2 card (take twice)
- Add one rolling stun card (take twice)
- Add one rolling +1 disarm card (take twice)
- Add two rolling heal +1 cards
- Add two rolling wound cards (take twice)
- Ignore negative item effects
Berserker Enhancements Priority Overview
- Add Jump to the bottom of Spiked Armour or to the bottom of Dazing Wound
- Add Attack to the top of Burning Hatred
- Add Wound to the top of Unbridled Power
- Add additional target to the top of Break the Chains
Berserker Items Priority Overview
- Minor Stamina Potion
- Iron Helmet
- Cloak of Invisibility
- Boots of Striding
- Minor Healing Potion
- War Hammer
Gloomhaven Berserker Guide Detailed
In this detailed portion of the Berserker guide I tackle some of the many decision points that the Berserker player will make during their level 1 to 9 journey. With many great card choices the Berserker can branch into several playstyles based on both player and party preferences that make for plenty of difficult decisions but also some comfort that most card choices as the Berserker will work out just fine in the end. This choice also extends to the likes of equipment options and enhancements which are also discussed in detail below as an extension of the overview section above.
Berserker Cards Detailed
The Berserker card choices discussed here give the player a balanced character that doesn’t assume significant party support to achieve our goals of managing our health pool and damage output. This leaves plenty of room to adjust to party size and dynamics as necessary with these factors noted below in detail while also building on the reasons behind my recommendations in the overview section.
- Starting Cards: Like many Gloomhaven characters we have some flexibility in the starting card choices for the Berserker based on your game specifics and just the start of a familiar pattern of having flexible card choices available to us. Starting with the two obvious removals from our possible options Glass Hammer offers us little value with the top burn action for the vast majority of scenarios although should be brought back in for boss fights as necessary as it has the potential to be some of the highest single target damage in Gloomhaven. Second is Blood Pact that is despite being a massive attack 6 at level 1 doesn’t fit into our balanced playstyle and more suited to a playstyle that yo-yos in health constantly with a dedicated support healer sitting behind us although once again can be viable if you have that available and wish to experiment with either the top or bottom action. The third card removal is the hardest choice with my default recommendation being Resolute Stand as the top burn attack is weak until much later when your maximum hit point value is higher as you level up. That being said these decisions can leave us a little exposed in terms of fast initiatives and if you have adequate healing available in your party you might want to drop From The Brink or even Furios Aid instead.
- Level 2 Cards: With the depth of starting card choices complete we move into our first difficult choice as the Berserker (there are many more to come). Reckless Offensive is an incredibly attractive looking card but before you lock it in you’ll need to stop to consider just how often you feel comfortable playing the top of this card. Not only do we need to consider the situation is rare in itself albeit more common at 4 player party sizes but also how often we want to dive head first into such a position due to the potential damage we will receive and with the basically useless bottom action it quickly loses that attractiveness. That being said I have taken this card successfully in a 4 player party that was support heavy with the likes of disarms and stuns that meant it was much safer to use this card so factor in your own situation.
- Level 3 Cards: The difficult decisions continue at level 3 with two top actions that are both useless to us as Fatal Fury has limited damage output at our current level (and we have better cards at the higher levels where it starts to make sense) and Spiked Armour retaliate is not the path we want to take for damage output. That leaves us only two considerations for these cards which is the bottom action and their initiative values to consider in our choice with Fatal Fury winning the action comparison while Spiked Armour is the stronger initiative. Like our decisions so far as the Berserker this becomes a bit of a personal choice although the better initiative of Spiked Armour is usually my pick.
- Level 4 Cards: Finally an easy decision for the Berserker with Flurry of Axes adding a huge area of effect damage move that we will use when the time is just right to devastate a room full of enemies and worthy of the burn action. Like all useful burn cards in Gloomhaven we are happy to find a repeatable useful action on the other half with a move 5 that provides the Berserker their largest move (without taking damage) so far. An important note from here on in terms of replacement cards is that while I provided recommendations in the overview section you really need to consider your own card usage when playing as the Berserker. One such example of this is Furios Aid that I’ve recommend we retain for the bottom heal all the way to level 9 but if you have an abundance of healing on your team this is a clear card to remove given the top action isn’t really offering as much.
- Level 5 Cards: Level 5 is a really strange level for the standard Berserker build with neither offering us value to our current deck. On the one hand we have Final Fight that immediately exhausts us for killing a normal or elite enemy which thematically sounds great but isn’t really necessary in an actual scenario while the bottom is just a conditional move when we aren’t hurting for more move actions. Meanwhile Seeing Red is designed to be used in a Berserker build that seeks to float around half HP during a scenario to maximise their damage output but the reward for this micromanagement (and support from teammates) really isn’t worth it. Instead Berserker players will want to look back to previous card options with my recommendation being Shiny Distraction from level 4 as it offers a fast initiative, fire generation and guaranteed advantage if we don’t need to move for an attack. Players can definitely strongly consider the level 2 or 3 card you didn’t take previously though if that card fills a gap you have found when playing just expect to be little restricted in your fire generation combos as fire is key to an upcoming level 7 power spike as you’ll only have Cauterize for now and an upcoming level 6 card that are both top attack based generators.
- Level 6 Cards: As noted above we’ll be taking Devil Horns at level 6 given this gives us fire generation, a reliable area of effect attack that offers wound and even a bottom solid bottom attack option for some burst rounds when necessary. The alternative Unstoppable Destruction isn’t even that bad of a card when dealing with shielded enemies at this level but really cannot compete with all of these flexible elements which Devil Horns brings. With this card having a similar function to Cauterize it’s a clear replacement option although if you didn’t take Break the Chains it might be tempting to keep Cauterize so you have at least one ranged attack available when you can’t be near an enemy or can’t close the distance.
- Level 7 Cards: Level 7 offers two great cards once again and it’s a shame we can only take one but there is a clear winner here for us in Burning Hatred which offers incredible damage output with fire available that can replace our burn action in Flurry of Axes to do a similar role with Flurry of Axes just no longer packing the punch we expect from a burn action. As a basic it also provides another source of wound if we get desperate but it’s the top you’ll regularly want to be using during a scenario. Careless Charge isn’t necessarily a bad card with a move and attack top that is a fantastic combination on any Gloomhaven card and a scenario specific persistent effect that allows us to ignore all negative conditions that removes a lot of frustration from the likes of wound and poison.
- Level 8 Cards: At level 8 players get another hard hitting attack in Bone Breaker which also gives us the satisfaction of another fire generation tool so we are no longer at risk from bad short rests which even offers a high base attack value of 5 and two debuffs that allow us to attack a melee enemy and potentially walk away to avoid damage. The bottom also gives us a great utility bottom attack that has its purpose from time to time to bring a flying target down to the ground for traps.
- Level 9 Cards: After all the tough choices as the Berserker level 9 is definitely not that with Immortality offering something tuned to a retaliate build and not worth a second look for our standard Berserker playstyle. Instead our eyes will move to the refreshing The Maw of Madness that gives us our own self heal for the first time since our level 1 cards that doubles as an attacking move with another ranged bottom attack that adds to our flexibility of options while being a potential 8 damage base if we trade enough health.
Berserker Perks Detailed
The Berserker perk pathways follows a familiar track to the other mercenaries available in Gloomhaven with our priority to trim those negative values to help our consistency and then take the other options to help our build as appropriate. Beyond the negative and zero removal I recommend players grab the +2 fire card option as we’ve got several cards that add some additional strength when fire is available and while a random fire roll shouldn’t be relied upon it might mean we can make use of these outside your typical combo.
With the fire added we can pick up the +2 rolling removes more zeroes from our deck and then we look towards the always useful stun and disarm that plays nicely into our melee exposure before adding wound and heal that are also nice although a lower priority. You’ll notice that I recommend taking ignore negative item effects last as our armour of choice doesn’t provide negative item effects so this perk is essentially useless to us. If you personally find yourself using one of the heavier items that add negative modifiers then consider grabbing this earlier as appropriate.
Berserker Enhancements Detailed
Like our card choices your Berserker enhancements are going to be informed by your ultimate selections at level ups and which cards you remove as there is some flexibility discussed in the detail card portion of the guide. With this in mind your general priority should be obtain a source of jump as this adds some great flexibility to our melee playstyle and is relatively cheap for the benefit it can provide given we already have enough base movement available from our cards.
After this point the Berserker doesn’t really need anything to support but some additional base attack, additional wound and targets on our core cards are the ones that provide the best available value. Other potential options not noted in the overview section could include strengthen on the bottom of Furious Aid if you have held onto this heal until level 9 as recommended here as your team lacks adequate healing.
Berserker Items Detailed
From the starting item options the Berserker has access to several core items including the Iron Helmet, Boots of Striding and the Cloak of Invisibility. While the cloak may seem like an odd choice for a melee focused hero who usually favour the shield focused heavy armours that make use of the ignore negative item effect perks the Berserker benefits greatly from aggressive plays with Burning Hatred and Flurry of Axes before going invisible and retreating the following round which is where jump is also nice to have.
Beyond this point of non starter items we want to pay attention to items that provide healing, add area of effect elements to our melee attacks or allow us to buff our attacks with extra damage.