Last Updated on Samuel Franklinby
Gloomhaven Classes – Character Selection Guide (Starting & Unlocks)
This low spoiler guide to Gloomhaven classes will help you pick your ideal party characters from starting classes, unlockable classes, Jaws of the Lion and Forgotten Circles. Including an overview of each this page is suited to first time players, intermediate and even veterans looking for a character reference page for all Gloomhaven classes without significant spoilers. This article is designed to help you pick a character based on their theme, mechanics and role in a mercenary party rather than a power level or meta focused tier list.
With the character retirement mechanic of Gloomhaven that kicks in when you complete a personal quest Gloomhaven is a game that encourages players to experience multiple characters as you progress through the various campaign scenarios in a playthrough. Accordingly this class guide covers Gloomhaven starting classes and Gloomhaven unlockable classes to assist with your decision at these key retirement points. Depending on how focused you are on the personal quest retirements and the specific ones you are randomly assigned you’ll likely have between two and four of these opportunities over the course of the entire game campaign. On this page we explore character dynamics with an overview of each and details around their hand hand size, initiative values, durability, potential for damage output, movement, experience gain rate, looting and other utility if applicable.
Note that the below Gloomhaven character guide includes minor spoilers of class names (linked to their Gloomhaven class symbols), high level character themes and core Gloomhaven mechanics. It includes spoilers for the base Gloomhaven game, Forgotten Circles expansion and Jaws of the Lion expansion.
Gloomhaven Classes Overview
The sections below are dedicated to providing players with a basic introduction to the various Gloomhaven starting classes, Forgotten Circles character, Jaws of the Lion characters and Gloomhaven unlockable classes. To minimise spoilers for those that want to maintain the sense of discovery that Gloomhaven offers it only includes the character symbols, character name and a high level overview of what you can expect when playing as that mercenary. It is designed to be detailed enough to help players select a character they are confident they will enjoy while being basic enough to not spoil your individual cards, strategies or overall strength of that character in the meta. For information on these character elements refer to specific class guides and our Gloomhaven class tier list.
Gloomhaven Starting Classes
There are six starting classes in the base Gloomhaven edition that are the first introduction players will have to potential mercenaries that can join their party of adventurers. Within these six you’ll find a diverse roster of options that ensure there is something for all tastes to build your initial party although the expansions definitely take this diversity to another level and complexity if you have them available.
The starting options in the base Gloomhaven game and a brief summary of what to expect when playing them is as follows:
- Brute: The Brute is a melee tank and brawler from the starting pool of heroes which in turn brings a high health pool and various methods to mitigate damage which are supported with fairly quick initiatives to perform this role. With a middling hand size of 10 you also have some ability to lose cards through enemy damage when necessary and utilise some of your loss cards which primarily focus on high burst or utility (stuns). The Brute has various non loss methods to perform consistent damage though and while the Brute can’t compete with other starting classes on raw damage their attacks often have additional utility like area of effect, disarm, push and pierce that help you perform your brawler role.
- Cragheart: A balanced jack of all trades character from the starting set of options that offers players a little bit of everything with damage, tanking and support in a single rock themed character. Capable of attacking from range and melee the Cragheart has a core theme of creating obstacles to limit movement of enemies and then using those obstacles for additional damage. The Cragheart has good stamina with his hand size of 11 which you’ll rely on to use your most devastating attacks when the time is right although these are only a small number of your overall core cards. Across both melee and ranged attacks you have a speciality for area of effect damage that is paired with solid movement cards to help you position as necessary although your do lack quick initiative values across your cards. In terms of utility and support the Cragheart does have some healing options for themselves and allies that can help top up your allies but is not a core theme.
- Mindthief: A vulnerable character with a low health pool that relies on crowd control to allow them to utilise their single target melee attacks without receiving significant harm in return. This playstyle makes the Mindthief the lest beginner friendly of the Gloomhaven starting classes although the trade off is worth it if you can learn to play this character at peak performance. To support this playstyle you’ll find your cards are split between quick initiatives and slow initiatives so that you can jump in and out of battles across two rounds with some tools to muddle, stun and immobilise enemies for your own safety. A core theme is also the usage of augments that can be activated to empower your attacks and inline with your theme of a thieving Vermling character you’ll also find a healthy amount of loot and movement cards across your base and level up card options with players able to bring a total of 10 cards for reasonable stamina in scenarios.
- Scoundrel: Serving as the traditional rogue inspired character the Scoundrel is similarly focused on single target melee damage although has a completely different playstyle to achieve this compared to the Mindthief above. With a small hand size of 9 and moderate health pool the Scoundrel is designed to burn brightly and fast with plenty of powerful loss cards that can quickly leave you exhausted early if not playing carefully. The Scoundrel is not short on non-loss damage potential though and is capable of attacking at close range and distance based on the situation at hand with their main damage theme being centred around having allies adjacent to targets which allows you to flank the enemy. High movement cards, invisibility and super quick initiative all help players to achieve this playstyle goal. Scoundrels also have a knack for acquiring loot in a scenario and have various easy sources of experience on their cards which can quickly propel them above the rest of their teammates in power level.
- Spellweaver: A mage that primarily calls on the powers of fire and ice to attack enemies from behind the front lines to single and multiple enemies that results in a flexible character that can deal consistent damage while being equally capable of quick burst at a price. The Spellweaver is themed around recovering lost cards that allow you to use your high power cards more freely than other Gloomhaven starting classes and helps to mitigate your small hand size of 8. As you would expect the Spellweaver has a low health pool and doesn’t fair well in direct confrontations with a mostly middling initiative that encourages you to stay behind other allies. As noted you have minor elemental themes so you will need to manage elements to reach your full potential when playing as this class.
- Tinkerer: A supporting character with a mechanical theme from the original Gloomhaven cast of characters that is capable of healing allies and providing other team utility through traps, summons, status effects and limited use high area of effect damage. Their high starting hand size of 12 is the highest of your initial options and allows the Tinkerer to bring a flexible deck of cards for situations that might arise in a scenario and freely play more loss cards than other characters. These loss cards are often pivotal to your success with loss cards providing high base damage, area of effect attacks and super charged heals for your allies that when played appropriately make you a reliable ally for a large party. These cards also have a reasonable spectrum spread across initiative values that once again allow you to be a flexible ally and while you can output some damage for the team when required this will rarely be your primary role.
Gloomhaven Forgotten Circles Characters
The Forgotten Circles expansion released in 2019 added a single new class for players to select at the start of their adventure and the scenario content added within this expansion campaign encourages use of this character in particular.
- Diviner: A supporting class that controls the battlefield through various rift powers and the ability to gain knowledge you wouldn’t have access to otherwise which makes them a complex character to take advantage of. While you won’t be dealing a significant amount of damage yourself directly the information you have available through card reveal and the ability to debuff enemies is valuable to a party which primarily comes from some easy to use curse cards. The Diviner also provides some buffs to allies through healing, bless and strengthen that is sprinkled across your cards although a minor theme that can quickly become overshadowed by the core rift mechanic. All of this is done at decent range given the Diviners low health pool and low hand size of 9. Your initiative as the Diviner is reasonably spread and you’ve got fairly limited movement cards that both require careful planning ahead.
Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion Characters
A larger Gloomhaven expansion released in 2020 that adds four new characters and new levels of complexity with each having a class defining level 5 card that is your only option at that level up. Given Jaws of the Lion itself changed some game mechanics the playstyle of these characters is impacted slightly (both for better and worse) if being used in the base Gloomhaven campaign scenarios.
- Red Guard: A character that is portrayed as a tank with a wealth of abilities based around shields to absorb damage while crowd controlling enemies with disarms and immobilises. The Red Guard is still a capable supporting damage dealer though with is primarily done at range or through attacks that impact adjacent enemies. Their hand size of 10 and strong health pool make them comfortable being close to enemies and while they have some limited ability to heal themselves their focus is on mitigation instead. The Red Guard has many quick initiative cards to ensure you can fulfil this role with few loss cards overall other than some core persistent ones that help define your Red Guard playstyle. The Red Guard also has elemental themes of fire and light which appear across many cards to provide additional utility and is a potent looter although experience is fairly sparse across your core cards if not focused on.
- Hatchet: A character that wields hatchets and enjoys throwing them at enemies from range although can utilise them in melee range when necessary with an average health pool and 10 cards to help them in this role. Damage is your core focus when playing as the Hatchet with an array of single target, multi target and hard hitting abilities that combine with all sorts of move, push and loot that make enemies fear you. Achieving this does require careful usage of your loss cards so someone that prefers to be aggressive and isn’t afraid of exhausting before their allies (similar to the Scoundrel) will do well as a Hatchet. Experience gain from this playstyle is also fairly plentiful particularly with careful management of your air element generation and usage that allows the Hatchet to achieve even greater damage and utility although this primarily benefits their own agenda.
- Demolitionist: A melee damage dealer that has large powerful fists to literally punch enemies and obstacles while buffing themselves in the process. The Demolitionist comes with a 9 card hand size and middling health value that requires them to carefully use the battlefield to deal high damage and limit the opportunities for enemies to return the favour. In order to achieve this the Demolitionist has minor themes of stun, muddle and some ranged attacks that allow you to rest between fights and reset your plans. Obstacles are central to these plans with your abilities dealing damage based on enemy locations next to walls, players destroying obstacles themselves or moving traps around the battlefield. This combines with some other cards that encourage you to think several turns ahead with plenty of move cards and a range of initiative values to make this possible although not quite as fast as some other classes.
- Voidwarden: A class that walks the line between damage dealer and support class with their ability to control the game board with their role focused on inflicting various negative effects and the ability to command enemies to attack each other. While you have some healing abilities these often have a trade off and are not your primary role but do make you flexible for various party dynamics and scenario needs. Your low health pool means you’ll want to stay behind your front line at all times and while you have a forgiving hand size of 11 you do have plenty of loss cards throughout your card options that you want to use as appropriate. Curse, poison, bless, wound, stun and muddle all make appearances in your deck along with themes of dark elements that you don’t want to compete against other characters for. Fast initiatives are difficult to find in the Voidwarden starting cards although later levels do alleviate this somewhat depending on your choices which will be impacted by playstyle and party needs. Regardless of these choices you’ll find interesting top and bottom actions across your levels with few basic cards that do only one thing.
Gloomhaven Unlockable Classes
Locked classes in Gloomhaven can be obtained once you complete a personal quest with one of the characters above and come in eleven different varieties. On average you’ll find these characters to have greater complexity than your starting characters reflecting the knowledge of Gloomhaven mechanics you would have acquired to reach this point. There is no requirement to use these unlockable characters to beat Gloomhaven though and players can select another starting class listed above after retirement instead if preferred. Like other Gloomhaven characters each has a class symbol that represents them and is included below so you can pair it with the name of the character unlock.
- Beast Tyrant (Phoenix): A unique Gloomhaven character often referred to as “two minis” for the fact it is a character that comes with two miniatures in the physical board game. One of these represents the low health beast tamer Vermling that is your traditional Gloomhaven character while the other is a high health pool bear summon that they bring to each scenario. While the bear will primarily perform its own actions in accordance with Gloomhaven rules of other summons players can direct it with certain cards when required that gives you greater control over your bear. The Beast Tyrant’s hand size of 10 is also capable of other summons, healing, ranged attacks and offers unique utility by moving the positions of figures on the scenario board. A number of healthy experience sources allow the Beast Tyrant to quickly level although the character can suffer in the looting and movement department given many of their cards will likely be invested in bear effectiveness alone.
- Berserker (Lightning Bolt): This class image can be slightly deceiving as it offers players something they might not expect with a melee focused fighter that is about balancing their health pool against damage potential. This class has a high health pool and a 10 hand size that likes to live on the edge with their core mechanic being increased damage at lower health values. With a spread of initiative values to help you achieve this players will find cards that damage themselves, heal themselves and deal a range of variable damage based on your own health. The result is a class that can deal some of the largest damage in Gloomhaven to single targets but requires careful balance to achieve that.
- Doomstalker (Angry Face): With a healthy hand size of 12 and medium health pool the Doomstalker is a durable mercenary that is a reliable contributor to a scenario. A core element of this class is persistent debuffing effects known as Dooms that linger on enemies while you continuously attack them from range beyond most other Gloomhaven classes and trigger effects when the marked enemy dies. The Doomstalker generally has no issue performing this task either with a large number of movement cards and ranged attack cards (several at range 5 and even a range 6) that give them reach well ahead of other Gloomhaven classes. Between these you’ll find minor themes of summons, heal and loot that make the Doomstalker a self sufficient character that looks to rely on themselves.
- Elementalist (Triangles): Master of all elements players have an array of cards to create and spend elements for deadly crowd control and damage against groups when playing as the Elementalist with the ability to take 10 elemental focused cards into a scenario. These attacks are done at range given the low health pool of this character with successful players wanting to plan well ahead and consider their ally needs for elements at each turn given there are only a few card actions that don’t create or use an element. Like many actions in Gloomhaven that use elements a non empowered action is relatively weak and not a viable strategy in the long run but the Elementalist does enjoy some flexibility with some cards capable of using 4 different elements for different effects (or all combined into a single attack if you can plan accordingly). The Elementalist likes to be greedy with elements although does thank their team for the privledge to use all the elements through a healthy number of blesses, unique utility like allowing an ally to go invisible and applying all manner of effects with the right elements.
- Nightshroud (Eclipse): As the name suggests the Nightshroud prefers to stay in the shadows when possible while combining it with powerful physical attacks focused on a single target. This class is all about devastating damage on one enemy and empowering it with the element of dark for maximum damage and with the right cards pure assassination. While this might give you the impression of a fast moving assassin archetype the Nightshroud actually has fairly limited movement cards although does enjoy a number of quick initiatives for your potential 9 card hand. Despite the seemingly low hand size the Nightshroud is not overly reliant on loss cards to achieve your damage fantasy so has good stamina in a scenario as a result. Their health pool is also higher than one might expect with a medium number of hit points that allow you to absorb a hit if your planning fails. Your turns when playing the Nightshroud are highly combo based with a setup turn to create your dark element before using it to deadly effect which of course works fantastically if you have allies around you that are capable of generating the elements for you instead.
- Plagueherald (Cthulhu): Debilitating enemies with curses and poison this class is master of debuffing enemies across a wide area of attack that helps you feel like a satisfying contributor to your party. The Plagueherald has a small health pool but does come with a strong 11 hand size for longevity through a scenario that gives them plenty of time to deal their consistent damage and layer enemy decks with curses to reduce damage to your allies. While capable of dealing this damage at range and having plenty of movement to position themselves the Plagueherald does lack quick initiatives so you’ll have to watch the battlefield play out before making your move in most cases. As a backup to damage the Plagueherald has some minor healing and bless potential but can’t solely fill this role in a mercenary party.
- Quartermaster (Three spears): This locked class offers great flexibility with elements of tanking, support and physical attacks (ranged and melee) which results in a hero that can do it all. Supporting this variety with a keen interest in Gloomhaven items and snapping up loot in scenarios also ties into their merchant heritage in the character lore. This is all supported with a high health pool so you aren’t afraid to sit in the front lines although you still need to be careful with the 9 hand size and the mostly middle to late initiatives of the Quartermaster. You won’t be hitting the maximum damage numbers in most parties but you’ve got some insane area of effect potential to deal consistent damage with unique item focused utility that nobody in your party will be sad about having available.
- Sawbones (Saw): While the name might suggest a fighting focused class the Sawbones is actually a deadly support and crowd control specialist known for their ability to grant players temporary cards for their turn. This character offers an abundance of healing, stuns and disarms that allow them to work on the front line effectively which is supported with a medium health pool and an average 10 card hand size. Your core gameplay loop revolves around providing players medical packs to heal themselves while wounding, disarming and poisoning enemies that get to close. With some strong movement values on the bottom of your cards and equally strong attack bottoms the Sawbones is capable of running around the battlefield but equally capable of sitting in a central location and swinging their saw around.
- Soothsinger (Music Note): Filling a supportive role in Gloomhaven the Soothsinger plays their instruments like a bard to those around them to buff the team and debuff enemies. Based around the playing of songs this playstyle is also supported by elements of crowd control to ensure the team can succeed while staying out of harm’s way. When playing this low health character you’ll be able to bring 9 potential cards to a scenario with a recurring mechanic the playing of songs that function in a similar way to the Mindthief augments in that they can be swapped as the situation on the battlefield changes. These songs also reward experience at the start of each turn that makes for some easy experience gain when playing as this class in between throwing out bless, strengthen and curses.
- Summoner (Circles): The name of this Gloomhaven character gives you instant insight into their playstyle with the class based around summoning allies into battle for the party with a medium health pool and 9 hand size. With these summons offering a mixture of melee, ranged and utility the Summoner can confidentially walk the line between both damage dealer and support although you are sometimes at the mercy of the randomness of summon actions. Similar to the Beast Tyrant you have some ability to influence the action though with a number of cards themed around allowing adjacent summons to perform their standard actions with you in control. Additional themes include a range of low heals that are more suited to dealing with status effects than actual damage, the ability to strengthen allies and an abundance of jumps with solid movement values. Don’t expect to go quick often though as the Summoner with only a single card with an initiative value below 20.
- Sunkeeper (Sun): The ultimate tank of Gloomhaven with a sun themed character that brings high health and reliable methods to obtain shield when fighting and reminiscent of a paladin in design. The Sunkeeper has high health values in addition to the durable hand size of 11 that allows you to play loss cards carefully or use them to shrug off damage if necessary. The trade off for this durability is limited movement options that make each movement an important consideration to ensure you are protecting your team appropriately. While there are only a few attacking cards available to you they are fairly decent in terms of raw damage given your class design and with elements turn into advantaged attacks that improves their average damage even further. While this damage is nice your main role is definitely creating shield for yourself and laying down some fantastic heals for your allies.
A correction: the Plagueherald actually does not have a large health pool, they have the same HP as the “mage/support” characters do, aka Spellweaver/Soothsinger/etc.
Games Finder Admin
Thanks D! We’ve corrected that error.
Games Finder Team