Gloomhaven Demolitionist Guide – Cards, Builds, Perks, Enhancements & Items

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Samuel Franklin

Gloomhaven Demolitionist Guide – Cards, Builds, Perks, Enhancements & Items

This guide to the Jaws of the Lion Demolitionist will allow players to make sure their punches land effective hits on enemies with a Gloomhaven breakdown which includes all card choices and beyond to create a formidable character. From the starting card decisions to the individual card selections that you make with each level up this guide also covers perks, enhancements and itemisation in both an overview and detailed form. Based on my personal experience in playing the Demolitionist through the Jaws of the Lion campaign but also the broader Gloomhaven campaign rules this is how I built a deadly front line fighter while mitigating some of the class weaknesses where possible.

The Demolitionist is a Quatryl Jaws of the Lion character that makes up for their small size with large mechanical fists that draw on the races affinity to engineering and machinery which has allowed many to easily integrate into society for their sought after skills. The result is a specialist at throwing their fists around the battlefield, utilising rocket boots, explosives and occasionally utilising the obstacles of the scenario themselves to create a new path forward. The Demolitionist is a specialist melee fighter who is capable of dancing around the front lines to inflict large damage while also providing some minor team utility through the likes of push and obstacle destruction. With a lack of healing actions and a small 9 card hand though playing the Demolitionist is a careful balancing act and with small movement card values this character can struggle when used in the core Gloomhaven campaign. On the other side your strengths include having a number of stuns, a great (albeit small) modifier deck of perks and a good blend of true damage, single target and area of effect so you always feel like there is a card for your objective.

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).

Table of Contents:
Demolitionist Cards, Perks, Enhancements and Items Overview
Demolitionist Cards Detailed
Demolitionist Perks Detailed
Demolitionist Enhancements Detailed
Demolitionist Items Detailed

Gloomhaven Demolitionist Guide Overview

In this overview section to the Demolitionist guide players will find a quick reference guide to playing as this short but powerful melee fighter. My recommendations are based on on my experiences playing the Demolitionist in both Jaws of the Lion and Gloomhaven which ensures you are setup regardless of the specific campaign scenarios you adventure into. While this is not usually a major consideration the Demolitionist has some movement challenges and reliance on obstacles that does weaken them slightly in the main Gloomhaven campaign scenarios which are generally bigger and have less obstacle emphasis.

In the overview section I’ll detail my recommended options between level 1 to level 9 alongside perks, enhancements and starting Gloomhaven itemisation. For further details on the decision making process to reach these recommendations I’ve also included a detail guide section that discusses these decisions and provides alternatives where relevant to your situation.


Demolitionist Cards Overview

  • Level 1: Remove Lobbed Charge, Rubble and Wind Up to create your starting deck of cards
  • Level 2: Robotic Enhancement replaces Explode
  • Level 3: Fire Bombs replaces Explosive Blitz
  • Level 4: Extra Fuel replaces Level
  • Level 5: Mech Suit replaces Implode
  • Level 6: Drill Fist replaces One Two Punch
  • Level 7: Micro Missiles replaces Knock Out The Support
  • Level 8: Gut Punch replaces The Big One
  • Level 9: Wholesale Destruction replaces Fire Bombs

Demolitionist Perks Priority Overview

  • Remove two -1 cards (take twice)
  • Remove one -2 card and one +1 card
  • Remove one -1 card with one +0 poison card
  • Remove four zero cards
  • Replace one +0 card with one +2 muddle card (take twice)
  • Add one +2 card (take twice)
  • Replace one +1 card with one +2 fire card (take twice)
  • Add one +0 all adjacent enemies suffer one damage (take twice)
  • Replace one +1 card with one +2 earth card (take twice)

Demolitionist Enhancements Priority Overview

  • Add Jump to the bottom of a Extra Fuel
  • Add Move to the bottom of Crushing Weight, Robotic Enhancement and Micro Missiles
  • Add Wound to the top of Robotic Enhancement
  • Add Wound to the bottom of Gut Punch

Demolitionist Items Priority Overview

  • Minor Stamina Potion
  • Eagle-Eye Goggles
  • Boots of Striding
  • Minor Healing Potion
  • War Hammer


Gloomhaven Demolitionist Guide Detailed

For the detailed portion of the Demolitionist guide you’ll find discussion of why certain cards are taken, why certain cards are removed and the alternative options you may have based on your party dynamics or preferred playstyle. These decisions include how many obstacle destruction cards you bring, the blend of initiatives and also the number of ranged attacks that create a different Demolitionist playstyle. Careful consideration of the scenario ahead is also useful with some cards coming back into our 9 card hand from time to time if we expect to encounter many obstacles to destroy (or have a teammate to create them for us).

Demolitionist Cards Detailed

The Demolitionist cards below are presented in level up order with reasoning behind each suggestion so that players can opt to deviate as they see fit.

  • Starting Cards: Starting card removal is about targeting our weaker cards with burn actions that simply aren’t consistent or powerful enough given our low hand size is simply not well suited to burn cards. This sees my recommendations for removal including Lobbed Charge given how ineffective mercenary placed traps usually are without a source of pull, Rubble for similar reasons and the setup required to make use of destruction tokens and Wind Up as it’s usage is quite niche and it’s unlikely we’ll have the break in fighting required to use this as a melee fighter.
  • Level 2 Cards: Level 2 cards provides us with the choice of Crash Protocol that provides 8 attack across 4 turns in a persistent effect which is simply not worth the burn and a bottom move 3 card that is also where we find our only jump as the Demolitionist. On the other hand we find Robotic Enhancement that provides a simple to use stun attack and a solid move 4 that can also overcome difficult terrain that occasionally appears in a scenario. Robotic Enhancement is the clear winner of the two although players who are not playing traditional Gloomhaven and only playing the expansion content may want to come back to grab Crash Protocol at some point as the lack of ability to enhance jump can make this card worth consideration.
  • Level 3 Cards: Level 3 gives us Fire Bombs that provides a straight upgrade to Explosive Blitz with an additional target and a non burn bottom action while also retaining the flexible fire generation and makes for an obvious replacement card. That being said Explosive Blitz bottom is an incredible door opener so depending on your party dynamics you might not want to drop that card just yet as it allows you to walk into any room and stun basically everything that is a threat.
  • Level 4 Cards: Finally a large movement card presents itself with Extra Fuel giving us 5 movement speed and a fantastic candidate for Jump if we are playing with Gloomhaven enhancements, the attack 1 bottom if fire is available is also surprisingly useful as our perk deck starts to come online to turn it regularly into 3 damage on a movement action. The top is definitely also great with a source of wound and a large 5 attack value if a target is a near a wall that makes it significantly stronger than Remote Detonation that has a weak bottom burn action and a high niche top action. While I recommend taking Level out of your hand at this point it serves as a great side card to add back in when your objective is to destroy non monster targets.
  • Level 5 Cards: Just like the other Jaws of the Lions characters we only get one level 5 option as the Demolitionist and while I recommend taking it I’ve definitely seen people play or talk about playing without this card successfully and taking a past level card instead. The only real skipped option in my mind is Crash Protocol for the bottom jump if playing only Jaws of the Lion otherwise take the Mech Suit. At our hand size using this card carefully is critical and I generally use it towards the middle to end of a scenario as a second wind card and use the movement action until that point.
  • Level 6 Cards: Level 6 for the Demolitionist is a closer choice than our levels to date and at larger party sizes Dust Cloud may just have the edge if you can consistently position yourself in the middle of a group and let our fantastic modifier deck do its work. My default recommendation is Drill Fist though which provides an insane level of burst against non shielded enemies and also can serve as a counter to shielded enemies across top and bottom actions that make it a winning option for us and allies.
  • Level 7 Cards: Micro Missiles is my recommendation at level 7 as it gives us another attack to use at range if we fall behind or can’t position ourselves in a map choke point. While this is a clear upgrade to Fire Bombs in design it does lack the fire generation which we have some use for and we will appreciate having multiple fire generation sources once we hit level 8 so I will generally keep Fire Bombs for now and it also is a good way to ensure we float in and out of the front lines as we aren’t a tanky character. Insult to Injury isn’t all bad if you would rather go that route as it creates a potentially large amount of burst damage when the top is paired with Drill Fist (carefully given our hand size) and if you combine the bottom move immobilise with some of your push attacks you can disable melee enemies.
  • Level 8 Cards: The combination of Gut Punch is simply too hard to pass up with a potential attack 7 top attack and nice bottom stun that makes a devastating card combo. This is positioned as a replacement to Piston Punch given the similar actions and an obvious replacement but I find having two cards that provide bottom stuns something that is simply too powerful to help our survivability and we can always use the default move of Piston Punch if necessary. Instead I opt to remove one of our final obstacle destruction card in The Big One which is likely due to a Gloomhaven bias as there are simply less obstacles available to make use of this card. Once again if you are playing Jaws of the Lion campaigns only it’s probably a better choice to remove something else given the abundance of obstacles gives us a great number of bless modifiers.
  • Level 9 Cards: Our pinnacle level is a clear choice with Wholesale Destruction giving us an incredible top attack and a unique persistent bottom card that isn’t going to be used given the amazing top that lets us hit enemies multiple times in a round. To fit this in we’ll need to drop the fire generation of Fire Bombs so our combo to maximise Gut Punch is now limited to Extra Fuel top the previous round but it’s the weakest card we have left at this point.


Demolitionist Perks Detailed

The Demolitionist has one of the strongest perk decks of Gloomhaven to date although it is also one of the thinnest that means you can expect the odd null attack round although this is something mitigated by our area of effect and multi hit attacks. Following a familiar path through perk acquisition we focus on removing as many negative values as we can to build consistency before we start to buff it further by removing zeros and adding in some +2 cards.

Beyond this point grabbing the fire generation perk can be a great way to generate our favourite element and take some pressure off the player from playing perfect combos and adds some flexibility back to how we approach scenario battles. Next if we are playing in a large 4 party size the adjacent damage is an attractive option before finishing up with the earth generation although I would flip these last two choices in 2-3 mercenary party sizes.


Demolitionist Enhancements Detailed

Enhancements when bringing the Demolitionist back into the core Gloomhaven experience allow us to address some of the weaknesses the class has and is definitely welcome. The most obvious is finding a source of jump which I like to place on Extra Fuel given it’s our largest move card although that is in competition with the top attack so you may find another movement card to add jump instead of improving base move based on your preference. For further upgrades adding wound to our core stun attacks is an attractive proposition as this combo allows us to stun an enemy and generally lock in a guaranteed 2 damage to them.


Demolitionist Items Detailed

Drawing from the base Gloomhaven items the Demolitionist wants to obtain the likes of the minor potions that are available, additional movement speed offered by Boots of Striding and then the utility offered by both Eagle-Eye Goggles and War Hammer to provide higher damage output or stuns to our attacks. As a melee character the cheap Iron Helmet is also a viable option to ensure a rouge 2x attack from an enemy doesn’t ruin our day and increases in value if we are expecting to take more hits in our party setup.

Items beyond this point for the Demolitionist should prioritise equipment that recovers our cards or items and add area of effect to our hard hitting melee attacks to improve our damage output significantly when necessary.

Written by
Samuel Franklin
Samuel Franklin is the founder and lead editor of the Games Finder team and enjoys video games across all genres and platforms.

Gloomhaven is one of Sam’s favourite board games and he finds himself regularly playing the convenient digital version alone and with friends. He enjoys the tactical turn based combat and unique characters that Gloomhaven offers with his favourite being the Spellweaver.

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