Last Updated on Samuel Franklinby
Gloomhaven Brute Guide – Cards, Builds, Perks, Enhancements & Items
Our Gloomhaven Brute guide will help you build this starting character for maximum effect in their melee bruiser role with perks, cards, enhancements and items to consider on your path from level 1 to level 9 or mercenary retirement. Designed to provide you with a level by level approach to building the Brute class this guide also details the key decision points to make during as you progress based on your playstyle preferences and party dynamics. By reading through the full guide you’ll be equipped for any scenario and situation that comes your way when playing as the Brute with a quick guide section also included to serve as a simple reference while playing.
With a blend of tanking abilities and damage the Brute is a durable character that can absorb some damage for team mates, mitigate damage dealt with shields and move enemies around the map to protect allies. The Brute is not intended to be a full tank though with a number of damage cards that allow them to output damage with a general theme of turning movement into attacking power and area of effect attacks. As a starting class in Gloomhaven the Brute is generally easier to play mechanically which make it an ideal character in an initial party or for a first time player to learn the game. The Brute is far from one of the overpowered classes in the game though and they are also weakened by their large number of middling to late initiative cards that can make planning your turns difficult given so many of them rely on enemy and ally positioning.
Thematically the Brute is an Inox character that comes with a high health pool and a reasonable hand size of 10 which gives you some ability to absorb damage through cards or burn a small number of cards for your own damage. Your hand size is not large enough to make cards your primary source of damage mitigation though so players need to carefully position themselves and use their other available tools. Players encounter a number of other Inox characters throughout the campaign who like your own character are presented as possessing great strength and size with most living life in a nomadic way.
To help decide if the Brute or another Gloomhaven class is right for you visit our summary of all classes or a detailed comparison of Gloomhaven character strength in our Gloomhaven character tier list article.
Gloomhaven Brute Guide Overview
This overview section of the Brute guide is designed to give you a quick reference while playing Gloomhaven and captures the upgrade path that will be useful for the vast majority of players and situations. This path is one based on maximising damage where efficient to do so while grabbing key movement and defensive abilities to ensure the Brute can survive a few hits in the front line. Damage is important in Gloomhaven as it’s often more effective than dragging fights out through damage mitigation that makes this the best default playstyle. There are some potential tweaks you can make to this summary section which are all discussed in the detailed section for those that want to min-max for specific situations. These decisions can also be used to push the Brute closer to a damage dealer or tank which will often come down to party size and composition although as a general rule smaller parties will often want more damage while larger parties will want some additional durability.
Brute Cards Overview
- Level 1: Remove Overwhelming Assault, Sweeping Blow and Wall of Doom to create your initial Brute deck
- Level 2: Fatal Advance replaces Shield Bash
- Level 3: Brute Force replaces Trample (consider bringing Trample back for scenarios with lots of shielded enemies)
- Level 4: Unstoppable Charge replaces Eye for an Eye
- Level 5: Skirmishing Maneuver replaces Grab and Go
- Level 6: Immovable Phalanx replaces Warding Strength
- Level 7: Defensive Tactics replaces Spare Dagger
- Level 8: Frenzied Onslaught replaces Fatal Advance
- Level 9: King of the Hill replaces Provoking Roar
Brute Perks Priority Overview
- Ignore negative item effects and add +1
- Remove two -1
- Replace -1 with +1
- Add two +1 (take twice)
- Add one +3
- Add one stun card (take twice)
- Add one disarm and muddle card
- Add +1 shield card
Brute Enhancements Priority Overview
- Add +1 move to the bottom of Leaping Cleave
- Add +1 attack or wound to the top of Skewer
- Add +1 hex to the top of Skewer
- Add strengthen to the bottom of Brute Force
Brute Items Priority Overview
- Iron Helmet
- Hide Armour
- Boots of Striding
- Heater Shield
- Minor Stamina Potion
- Minor Healing Potion
Gloomhaven Brute Guide Detailed
This section provides further detail on decisions you’ll have available to you when playing as the Brute and covers some of the situations where you could go either way with a particular card after a level up in particular. These decisions will be primarily influenced by your own party dynamics, difficulty and party size as they have the greatest impact on Gloomhaven gameplay. Note that the Brute has a number of cards based around retaliate that I don’t recommend form a major focus of your card build or playstyle as its often better to focus on dealing damage instead of relying on this mechanic for damage. This is because of the setup required for retaliate, many monsters have non attack turns that will not trigger retaliate at all and you often have to trade your health pool for the damage to be dealt.
Brute Cards Detailed
The Brute cards in level order are as follows with each discussed for its use cases and overall power level:
- Eye for an Eye (Starting): Far from our best card but still worth having in our starting deck given it offers us one of our better initiatives at 18. Neither the top or bottom are particularly powerful given retaliate is effective only in specific circumstances and the heal is too small overall to get excited although can help to mitigate wounds or poison. Some allies (like Cragheart) might also appreciate the extra Earth generation from the bottom heal. Most of the time you’ll be using the default options of this card though and picking it for the initiative until it gets replaced.
- Grab and Go (Starting): A solid card other than its high initiative this is a repeatable loot action that allows the Brute to grab some gold during their adventure and acquire some of the early defensive items they need to boost their effectiveness. The bottom 4 move is also one of our best and as a character that primarily is focused on getting in melee range you’ll often appreciate having this card available to you.
- Leaping Cleave (Starting): One of our best Brute cards this gives players a strong attack 3 that also rewards an experience point for our troubles that can quickly add up. With this card also attacking two enemies you’ll be able to reliably and repeatedly deal up to 6 damage in a scenario with the bottom jump action also offering utility when necessary. As if that wasn’t already enough the Air element generation on the bottom move of this card is a fantastic setup for our Skewer attack and makes us self sufficient in this regard.
- Overwhelming Assault (Starting): The first of several cards available to the Brute that feature move and push mechanics. The two push value here does provide potential for players to move into an enemy before pushing them into a trap or push targets away from allies to prevent damage. The top burn is okay early on if we need some burst damage or for the experience but quickly drops off as enemies scale up in terms of health.
- Provoking Roar (Starting): One of our better starting cards that remains relevant for a while in our adventure given disarm scales effectively as it always stops an attack with its debuff condition. As if that wasn’t enough the 10 initiative on the card itself ensures that disarm is effective for that round as you’ll go first before the vast majority of enemies. The bottom is not particularly useful as all you are doing is shuffling the damage onto the Brute and isn’t worth giving up the top for unless it will save an ally from a significant loss of their cards.
- Shield Bash (Starting): Another niche situational card for the Brute but the low initiative does help us control our turn order effectively which is important for both the top and bottom actions this card offers. The bottom uses are limited though given it is only a single shield value while the top is best saved for a late room to grab the experience or stun an elite enemy for your allies when everyone in your team is starting to run a little low on cards or health.
- Spare Dagger (Starting): A solid card that provides the Brute with a reliable source of ranged damage that can be useful in a number of situations while also providing experience towards your next level. The bottom attack is also nice to have as it gives us an option to double attack with the right card combos which can sometimes be the difference between an enemy being eliminated or surviving with a small amount of health and being able to attack us back.
- Sweeping Blow (Starting): An awkward card to use for the Brute given it has middle initiative and its power relies on having at least 2 or 3 enemies in front of you which only occurs regularly in specific scenarios and larger party sizes. The bottom move and push combo is similar in that sometimes it can feel great but often a single push value simply isn’t enough to utilise any traps in the scenario.
- Trample (Starting): A fantastic card for dealing with shielded enemies that make a number of other starting classes jealous at level 1 for our ability to pierce shields without an item. Even without the pierce an attack 3 is a perfectly average damage value at level 1 that make it a reliable attack even for scenarios that don’t have shielded enemies. When this card does eventually leave our deck at higher levels to be replaced for better options it can be worth adding back in for certain campaigns if shields are a constant problem for your party. The bottom is unfortunately quite lacking for a loss card although isn’t a terrible burn in a final scenario room for the two experience you can gain for using it.
- Warding Strength (Starting): Offering Brute players two good halves you have an average attack value on top but with the benefit of push to capitalise on any traps on the ground or to reposition an enemy away from an ally. The bottom is equally useful and best used before you expect to dive into a monster pack as it will help mitigate 5 damage overall and reward you with experience in the process. With the useful top I’d generally be looking to delay this action until a later room depending on the scenario of course and potentially not at all.
- Balanced Measure (Starting): One of several Brute cards that play into the idea that movement is damage for our character and reminds us not to be a stationary fighter on the front lines given we are a bruiser at heart. In the vast majority of situations you’ll be using the top of this card after playing a strong movement card which also has the benefit of granting experience to us for easier early level progress.
- Skewer (Starting): Giving the Brute another potential pierce option if we have Air available Skewer is a nice attacking card to have available given its at least an attack 3 and in the right situations can be even boosted to attack 8. It also opens up some potential for the Brute to pick off an enemy beyond the front lines with the piercing attack and then combined with an ally or our own Spare Dagger in another round. The bottom is an annoying loss card although does have some combinations with Balanced Measure and boots to let us deal up to 8 damage on a single enemy in a round that might make the loss worth it for a level 1 card in the right situation.
- Wall of Doom (Starting): This card does bring another fast initiative into the Brute deck in Gloomhaven but really doesn’t offer a strong top or bottom action that makes it worth bringing along. The top is bad for the reasons already noted around retaliate and while the shield portion mitigates some of that as it reduces damage we take it is not worth the loss of this card. The bottom has potential when paired with our area of effect attacks but in most cases is only providing an extra 2 damage at best.
- Fatal Advance (Level 2): If you’ve played other Gloomhaven classes you might not look favourably on this card as it’s average by even level 2 standards. However, being able to obtain another 4 move that can pair with Balanced Measure or even just help us position ourselves is actually quite valuable to the Brute and something we lacked at level 1 and will continue to lack if we don’t take this opportunity now. The top will be rarely used given the loss isn’t worth killing a normal enemy but like many of our other cards we can burn these towards the end of a scenario for experience farming.
- Juggernaut (Level 2): A close second to our other level 2 option Juggernaut is closely tied to the theme of a tanking Brute and if that’s what your party desperately needs then by all means consider taking this card at level 2 instead. Note that this card works on any source of damage so sometimes you might only block small attacks so carefully timed usage and pairing it with items or Warding Strength will help it have the most impact.
- Brute Force (Level 3): Giving us another area of effect attack for the Brute this card has the benefit of adding muddle which helps us to reduce the incoming damage that comes our way although the low attack of 2 means the damage portion only shines against multiple foes. The bottom also isn’t terrible with an ability to pick up a shield after moving that might reduce some incoming damage as well. Note that both of these card actions are significantly more powerful when used early on in a round and the middle initiative of 51 is not ideal so it needs to be paired with one of our limited fast initiative cards at all times.
- Hook and Chain (Level 3): A nice card at face value which leads many to grab this option at first. While the top action damage isn’t terrible at level 3 it quickly drops off with levels as enemies gain more health and the pull action has limited uses where it is helpful to our situation anyway. The bottom of Hook and Chain suffers in a similar way in that it sounds great but you’ll quickly realise the number of straight line moves you actually get to do in a scenario is low.
- Devastating Hack (Level 4): A large attack value considering its a level 4 card although this is driven by the loss associated with this top action. Compared to your other level 4 card that isn’t a loss card and deals only 3 less damage though it simply can’t compete and shouldn’t be taken.
- Unstoppable Charge (Level 4): The clear winner of these level up options at level 4 given it provides us a repeatable attack 5 that also gives us a drop of experience when used. This is a great addition to our arsenal and adds a lot of reliable damage to our rest rotations throughout a scenario. Towards the end of the scenario the bottom can also be a lifesaver with players potentially stunning several tough enemies for a turn to protect ourselves and Gloomhaven party members.
- Skirmishing Maneuver (Level 5): A flexible card that gives us two attacks with a move in between that has enough use that you’ll want to bring it into your hand. While this is weak against shielded enemies due to having two low attack values we have other options that we should be swapping into our hand for those scenarios. The bottom of this card also gives us our second ranged attack as the Brute which can be combined with Spare Dagger for a fully ranged turn if required with a decent combined attack value of 6 before attack modifiers. Like Spare Dagger it also comes with experience which continues our theme of relatively easy experience gains.
- Whirlwind (Level 5): Not a terrible level 5 card at higher player counts where this can easily turn into a 12 or even 16 attack loss in the right scenario, in practice though these situations are few and far between and almost non existent at lower party sizes. Whirlwind does give us a solid move 4 with a push 3 option that is the best of our move and push combo cards as it almost always allows for a trap push in a scenario (if traps exist) but I think Skirmishing Maneuver still edges it out for most players, builds and campaign scenarios.
- Immovable Phalanx (Level 6): A core card of the Brute that makes this an easy level 6 decision point as it offers plenty of benefit. This includes the low initiative that the Brute is always wanting more of in their hand, the reliable attack 4 top that even gives us a small shield to protect ourselves and the bottom that opens up a wealth of high damage attack combos in situations where we don’t need to move that round.
- Quietus (Level 6): The top on this card is lacking as normal enemies are rarely the greatest threat on the scenario battlefield and the requirement for them to be stunned is just not something we can rely on from our own cards. If you are running with a party that is throwing out stuns every few rounds though the value of this card can quickly skyrocket. Bottom wise we acquire a nice move 3 which also empowers our next attack slightly but isn’t particularly strong unless it is an area of effect much like the weaknesses of Wall of Doom from earlier levels.
- Crippling Offensive (Level 7): A top loss action that is actually quite decent for level 7 given it combines both wound and stun that are always a deadly pairing and rare to have available together (he loss isn’t something we are particularly looking for though). For the bottom we again find the move push combo on a Brute card with the added benefit of immobilise which can make it an effective defensive tool against melee enemies.
that is just awkward to use in most scenarios which isn’t offset by the added immobilise either.
- Defensive Tactics (Level 7): A great tool in our kit to stop melee enemies from coming close to us with the ability to target 2 enemies at 3 range a fantastic way to apply the immobilise effect with a reasonably low initiative to match. In addition the bottom gives the Brute a persistent source of retaliate and shield although you shouldn’t rush to play this given how effective the top action is and the low values of these that are lacking for a level 7 card.
- Frenzied Onslaught (Level 8): When combined with Immovable Phalanx this top action can potentially give us 8 damage in a turn although we need to be careful against shields and retaliation effects given that this will be effectively 4 different attacks. The bottom sounds fantastic on this card although we lack the means to use this effectively ourselves and would be relying on the right party for it to be effective.
- Selfish Retribution (Level 8): While the top and bottom actions themselves are nothing fantastic the juicy 12 initiative can be tempting for a Brute in which case you’ll be always using the bottom move outside of a final room where you want to scoop up some gold. If initiative or movement are a struggle of yours at the moment in your current party this is not a terrible choice at level 8 either given we already have a number of top attack options to cover the loss of Frenzied Onslaught.
- Face Your End (Level 9): Face Your End allows for some reliable setups of our area of effect attacks and in a full 4 player party can definitely warrant consideration because of this. Below a party of 4 though enemy numbers start to get a little too thin for this to be effective. The bottom loss can also be nice to have for a final room within a scenario as it allows you to delete an elite enemy without any fuss. Ultimately your level 9 choice as a Brute can be quite party and player specific so don’t be afraid to pick one that works for you.
- King of the Hill (Level 9): If you’re team lacks sufficient healing this might be the level 9 card you select as the 5 heal can repair some cuts from battle with each rest cycle although isn’t strong enough to overcome overly aggressive positioning on your part. The top attack does provide a significant burst combo when paired with Immovable Phalanx and Balanced Measure that many don’t expect from the Brute either and great for a boss fight in particular. As noted above both level 9 cards for the Brute offer something different and are effective if used as intended so select given your own situation.
Brute Perks Detailed
When playing as the Brute you have a clear first priority for perks with the ignore negative item effects perk allowing you to equip Hide Armour and similarly themed heavy armour that would otherwise add negative attack modifiers to your deck. Beyond this absolute must have perk players will want to do the usual clean up exercise of your attack deck by targeting any negatives and then adding any plus options. All of this means greater consistency of damage which is the focus of this Brute guide and allows your planned turns to be ruined less often by a bad roll.
Following this the Brute can acquire some good attack modifiers with the ability to add stun, disarm and muddle onto their attacks which when triggered can help prevent damage and make you just that much better at getting into the thick of battle. Players can also consider grabbing these debuff focused perks a little earlier if you’re leaning more towards a tank role in your party. This is generally the end of usefulness for Brute perks as beyond this they are simply not useful when randomly triggering like pierce and push.
Brute Enhancements Detailed
Given players can easily push the Brute towards damage or tanking with a few cards your enhancements can vary from player to player based on your playstyle. Before making any enhancement you should always consider how long you expect the card to stay with you and how often you’ll be able to make use of that enhancement in a particular scenario. While the Brute doesn’t necessarily hurt for gold as much as some other classes they do have a number of great items that become available with increases in Gloomhaven prosperity so you’ll want to ensure you keep a reserve of gold for those and often are a better first consideration than enhancements.
Enhancing movement is always a good place to start for enhancements and the Brute is no exception with an additional movement added to the bottom of Leaping Cleave given it stays with us for the entire adventure although does sometimes put us in the awkward position of wanting to use both the top and bottom. I like to always use the Air element in generates to enhance Skewer though so the top was never that tempting to me and overall a highly recommended combo of rounds. Depending on your choice of cards you can also add this to any other non-loss movement bottom you have or look to add jump on a movement that lacks that modifier.
Beyond movement buffs you’ll want to add damage through the likes of strengthen at the bottom of Brute Force although this has a good top so consider how you use this card to see if it is the right enhancement for you. One clear winner though is Skewer given the aforementioned combo with wound being an attractive option given the utility it provides against various enemy types although raw damage is equally viable if you have a number of debuffing focused party members already. Following this you can add another hex which feels fantastic when three enemies line up although more realistically will simply give you consistent 2 enemies hit.
There are many other viable enhancements for the Brute if you continue to play this character although make sure you purchase your powerful items before spending on enhancements. Depending on the regular cards in your deck some notable options include Unstoppable Charge top, King of the Hill bottom or Defensive Tactics top although you really can’t go wrong with empowering your movement, attack or attack utilities on cards you use regularly as the Brute.
Brute Items Detailed
The Brute items focus on minimising damage given they are a melee focused class, adding additional movement to their kit and providing further utility to help mitigate damage for the team. Starting core items include the Iron Helmet that always feels good when it triggers, the Hide Armour to mitigate some damage that is simply unavoidable as a melee class and Boots of Striding to buff our movement.
Beyond these core 3 the Brute can then pick their next items based on personal and party needs with good choices on the defensive side being Heater Shield and Minor Healing Potion while the offensive side you will want to look at Warhammer (pair with area of effect attacks) and Minor Stamina Potion to improve your combos. This is just the tip of the iceberg with the Brute as nearly every Prosperity level offers something that is a slight upgrade and so you’ll want to constantly consider these when you unlock new items. Without significant spoilers items that further enhance your movement (or default movement) are always attractive given your cards themed around movement, stronger variants of the Hide Armour given we are ignoring all negative effects of these anyway, weapon or shields to enhance defence or attack and consumable small items with further utility.