Gloomhaven Lightning Bolt Guide – Build & Strategy – Locked Class

The Berserker (symbol name Lightning Bolt) is a warrior class in Gloomhaven. She has high hit points and can trade her health to increase her damage and boost her abilities. While the Berserker has high health, she is a damage-focussed class, not a classic tank. She can be built to withstand more hits and do extra damage with Retaliates, she can be built to always run at low health for higher damage rewards, or she can trade health for damage and boosts when it suits her. This Berserker guide focuses on the swap health for damage build.

Berserker Health Swaps Guide Structure

This article is a full guide to playing a Gloomhaven Berserker who preserves her health so that she can choose to swap hit points for damage and bonuses when she wants to. She is damage focussed, beginning with mostly single target melee abilities, but as she levels, she becomes a more versatile character with a mixture of ranged, melee, single-target and area of effect abilities.


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Some of the Berserker cards were nerfed from 1st edition to 2nd edition. This is a 2nd edition Berserker guide. I point out which cards were nerfed as we go.

The Berserker guide covers all levels from 1-9 and evaluates each card for how well it fits with this build.

This Berserker guide follows this structure:

  • Why a Berserker Health Swaps build?
  • Berserker Health Swaps strategy
  • Level 1-9 cards and decks
  • Berserker Perks
  • Berserker Items
  • Berserker Enhancements
  • Berserker Experience
  • Berserker Combos
  • Berserker Names
  • Conclusion
Gloomhaven Berserker miniature and class board
Berserker class miniature and character board

Why a Berserker Health Swaps build?

The health swaps mechanic is pretty cool for the Berserker. Her health and damage taken often directly affect her damage output. Just as you’d expect from a character called a ‘Berserker’. If you get a hit a lot, you go into a rage and hit the monsters harder for it!

There are 3 main build options for the Berserker.

1. Retaliate

You can choose the Retaliate cards, the few Shield options and heals that you can get as the Berserker and play her in her most tanky way possible. I’m not a big fan of this build because it’s not the ideal way to play her. You can see from her perks sheet that she doesn’t have the Shields, Push, Jump, add Target etc that you’d expect to see on a tank perks sheet.

She does have some Stun, Disarm and minor heals you can barely feel which help a little.

I’m not a big fan of Retaliate generally because you need to take damage to do damage. Plus, it’s very tempting to surround yourself with more monsters than is sensible to maximise the Retaliate action! I think there are better builds for the Berserker.

2. Low health for high damage

This is the high risk, high reward Berserker build. You stay at just below half health to gain bonuses on certain abilities.

This is the build I tried with my first Berserker run. But I just couldn’t get it right and ended up on 0 hp in pretty much every scenario!

It leaves you very vulnerable to things going wrong. As a Berserker, we’re playing on the front lines, which means we need careful positioning to make sure we don’t take too many hits. But Gloomhaven isn’t always predictable. A bad round for my party and a good round for the monsters left me struggling!

I felt frustrated that my health was out of my control. I decided to try a build that was less drawn towards the half health bonuses, and more focused on giving me the control over when and where to spend my hit points.

3. Health Swaps build

With this build, I decided to go for a Berserker that could use the health swaps on my terms. I could choose to swap my health or not, depending on the situation. I could even choose to take the occasional hit from the monsters to help my team if that was the best choice.

As soon as I played like this, I didn’t feel like I’d be wiped out any time anything went wrong and I had so many choices! I had decent enough health going into the final room so I could be more helpful to my allies. And I felt a lot less self-centred! It wasn’t just about me keeping my health balanced, it was asking where I could be the most useful for my group.

Plus, I kept in a couple of the below half health bonus options, so I could still do those big hitters occasionally!

Berserker Strategy for the Health Swaps build

These are the strategies I used while playing my Berserker that I found helpful.

Not a tank

When your allies see your large health pool, they may get the impression that you’re going to tank for them. But you need to make it clear that that’s not what your character is all about. And in fact, every time you take hits from monsters you reduce the amount you have to trade for damage boosts.

Sometimes, you will likely need to take some damage for the good of the team. And that’s why we have some half health damage options in the deck. But don’t feel tempted to rush in and take damage because you feel like you should because your health is higher. You’ll be doing yourself and your party a disservice.

Trade when it matters

Because we aren’t rushing to spend our health to get it down to half for bonuses, we can choose to swap it when we want to. If we don;t need to boost an ability for extra damage because the monster is already on low health, then we don’t need to. We can save our health for when it really matters.

Change up your combos

While I have some favourite combos, one of my favourite things about this build is how versatile it is.

With our mix of melee, ranged, AoE, some really unique abilities, and the health swap mechanic – every turn is exciting! Every turn, there is something we can do to help our group. That might mean leaving behind some of your favourite card combos as you go along, but the cards play so well together you can do that relatively easily!

Go out in a blaze of glory

You didn’t expect a Berserker class to go out any other way did you? As you progress through each scenario, you hold back on a huge loss ability or two until you get to the final showdown in the final room and then let it all out!

I generally used my big loss abilities followed by a loss damage mitigation ability that stopped me from dropping below 1 health so I could take hits for my allies and keep swinging as long as possible.

Berserker Health Swaps build card analysis

There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cards in Gloomhaven. There are just cards that fit better with the build type, party composition, scenario and situations you find yourself in. With this Health Swaps build, I was looking for cards that:

  • Focussed on damage
  • Could be used throughout each scenario, not just saved until the end
  • Could still deal damage without trading health
  • Did decent damage even when I wasn’t below half health
  • Had a versatile top and bottom ability so I had options

In addition, across the deck as a whole at each level, I wanted enough movement and a damage mitigation option if things got really bad! I also didn’t want to take along too many Loss abilities that I needed to save until the end of the scenario.

Berserker cards

There are 29 cards in the Berserker deck. Looking across them all, there is a decent mix of melee damage, ranged damage, single targets and AoEs. Perfect for a warrior style class!

17 of her 29 cards contain a Move ability. There is no struggling for movement as a Berserker!

Level 1 Berserker cards

We can just pick up the 10 level 1 cards and have a play to understand the Berserker playstyle because the cards match our hand limit. But you’ll likely unlock her at a higher level than 1, so we’ll just see which cards fit the best with the health swaps build.

Blood Pact

Level 1 Berserker card Blood Pact
Level 1 Berserker card Blood Pact

Top ability

At level 1, there’s no denying that a 6 damage ability is pretty sweet!

But ouch, do we pay for it! Half our hit points rounded up is expensive if we’re at full health when we use it! Plus, it gets more and more costly for the same damage as we level up. At level 1 it’s 5 health we trade for 6 damage. Not too bad, we end up . But when we’re level 4, it’s 8 health for 6 damage. Not so cost effective now.

That’s not to say Blood Pact is a terrible card. If we were going for the build that relies on us playing on low health and getting there as quickly as possible, this is a fantastic ability. When we’re playing on low health, half of our hit points isn’t that high to deal 6 damage.

Bottom ability

This is like giving yourself Wound and in exchange you get to do one extra damage for each damage-dealing ability. It’s great for multi-target abilities because you’re not just swapping one health for one damage in those cases. You get a much better return on your health investment.

However, for our build approach doesn’t fit hugely well.

Overall Blood Pact card rating

A very important card for the low health, high damage to berserker build. It doesn’t fit with our balanced build approach.

Bounce Back

Level 1 Berserker card Bounce Back
Level 1 Berserker card Bounce Back

Top ability

In Gloomhaven, Retaliate deals damage directly and ignores Shields. And given that we don’t have any pierce abilities, Retaliate can be a good option for getting through monster Shields. Of course, (in typical Berserker style) we need to take damage to deal it.

Because this isn’t a tanky build, I’m not a huge fan of putting myself into a position to take a somewhat unpredictable amount of damage just to Retaliate. It can be helpful if you know you’re going to get hit so you can do some cheeky additional damage in return.

But generally, I’d rather save the hit points to cash them in on damage boosts on other abilities.

Bottom ability

The Move 3 is always nice to see. And that Heal 1 is great for getting rid of Poison and Wound without messing too much with your health balancing act.

Overall Bounce Back card rating

We have much better top abilities to use in most situations and we have plenty of movement options. But the heal 1 is really helpful for removing Poison and Wound. The 14 initiative is our 3rd fastest option at level one.

Cauterize

Level 1 Berserker card Cauterize
Level 1 Berserker card Cauterize

Top ability

Fun fact: Cauterize used to have 2 base damage but it got nerfed in the 2nd printing.

Even so, it’s still a good ranged ability. With 1 damage across 2 targets that also deals Wound, it’s really a 4 damage ability. Plus, it’s our only fire generator at level 1.

Wound doesn’t scale as well as other status effects at higher levels. A minus 1 to health each turn helps a lot more when a monster’s hit points are low, but it makes much less of an impact as the HP of monsters gets higher. But the key thing is that Wound ignores Shields. And the only other way we can get through them is with Retaliate.

Bottom ability

If we’re going to heal ourselves with a loss ability, From the Brink gives us a much better option. We can heal up to 25 hit points in one go and it’s fully under our control. Unlike this ability, which slowly ticks our health up each time we are healed (healing which we’ll really need another player to do due to our lack of healing abilities).

Overall Cauterize card rating

The top ranged ability is great. You’ll find a use for it in every scenario. Just remember to use it when you’re not standing right next to a monster so you don’t take the -1 damage! It’s a shame about the 40 initiative, but we can pair it with something faster.

Dazing Wound

Level 1 Berserker card Dazing Wound
Level 1 Berserker card Dazing Wound

Top ability

Stun is always helpful on the front lines. Putting a monster out of action until the end of the next turn is so, so powerful. There’s no wonder it’s not available as an enhancement!

Trading 2 health to stop the monster from hitting you is a pretty good deal. Especially because higher level monsters will hit for more than 2 damage.

Plus, you’ll miss that 2 health less as you level and your hit points increase. So nice that this already awesome ability, becomes even better value over time!

And trading health for Stun is optional too. If you don’t need to use the Stun, then you don’t have to. You still get to deal 3 damage!

Bottom ability

Move 4 is our highest standard Move at level 1. Plus, we can enhance it too! Whoop!

Overall Dazing Wound card rating

I love this card and used it a lot. That top enhancement slot is perfect for a +1 damage, a Wound or a Poison. The 29 initiative isn’t the fastest, but it’s faster than most of our other cards!

Defiance of Death

Level 1 Berserker card Defiance of Death
Level 1 Berserker card Defiance of Death

Top ability

A reusable 5 damage ability level 1, is pretty sweet! The experience point is not to be missed either! Given how scarce exp is for us!

Doing 3 damage while our health is still high is pretty solid.

Bottom ability

An awesome ability! Even though we aren’t tanking, sometimes we may find ourselves in position where we need to take a lot of hits. this ability is perfect for those situations!

Not only does it stop your hp from going to zero, it also means you don’t need to discard cards to negate damage. Effectively, you only have to lose this 1 card to protect you from 3 sources of damage, rather than 3 cards!

Overall Defiance of Death card rating

The bottom of this paired with Glass Hammer’s top is an epic way to do a huge amount of burst damage and still protect yourself from zero health. With this build however, I used the ability to negate damage when my health was low or I was in tricky situation.

Until that situation arose, I used the solid top ability.

Initiative-wise, 31 isn’t super quick but it’s reasonably fast for us.

From the Brink

Level 1 Berserker card From the Brink
Level 1 Berserker card From the Brink

Top ability

If you’re going for the approach where you save all your high damage loss cards until the end of the scenario, after you’ve used the Glass Hammer and Defiance of Death combo, you can play this ability to heal right back up to full health! The higher your level, the higher your health, and the bigger the heal this does!

Although for me and this build, I traded hit points for boosts more consistently throughout the scenario to boost average damage output rather than saving all my hit points for the final room. It means that I tended to use From the Brink to heal up to full health in the 2nd half of the scenario. So it’s already lost by the time I get to the final room.

Bottom ability

A super helpful Move 3 with Push. Always fun when there’s a trap to be triggered by some monster feet!

Overall From the Brink card rating

Brilliant card! Reusable bottom ability and an epic top that is like giving us a second life!

The 24 initiative is pretty fast for us too!

Furious Aid

Level 1 Berserker card Furious Aid
Level 1 Berserker card Furious Aid

Top ability

How bad do you want some shiny loot? I didn’t want it badly enough to lose a card for it. Not when there’s so many amazing loss abilities for us to choose from and we only have a hand limit of 10 cards!

Bottom ability

The best thing about this heal 3 is that it’s a bottom ability option for when we don’t need to move. It can also help us to rebalance our health to keep it at the amount we want.

Overall Furious Aid card rating

The top ability is really expensive just to loot. However, if you take this card for the lower heal and use it during the scenario on either yourself or on allies, then you could use the loot ability in the final room to get some shinies before you’re exhausted.

Growing Rage

Level 1 Berserker card Growing Rage
Level 1 Berserker card Growing Rage

Top ability

As a class that is very careful about saving our few powerful loss cards until the end, this ability is not ideal. It’ll do zero damage in the first round, 1 in the second, 2 in the third after we have lost cards due to rests. And so on. But you can always use the standard 2 damage in the meantime while you wait for it to get stronger.

Hopefully, you’ll actually get to use it when it’s more powerful and not randomly discard it during a short rest!

Bottom ability

A solid Move 3 even without the bonus damage. Later in the scenario when our health is below half, we’ll get the extra damage and experience.

Overall Growing Rage card rating

The main issue with Growing Rage is that it’s only really helpful later in the scenario when we’ve lost some cards and our health is lower than half. Until that point, we have much better options. At 85 initiative though, Growing Rage is our best going late in the round card.

Resolute Stand

Level 1 Berserker card Resolute Stand
Level 1 Berserker card Resolute Stand

Top ability

When used in the final room when our health is likely closer to zero, this can do immense damage! It’s another one that levels with us. The higher our maximum health, the higher our potential damage output.

If you use this on the turn after Glass Hammer which reduces your hit points to 1, you can do 25 damage at level 9! But in reality, you’d then need to use From the Brink to heal back up or just resign yourself to your zero hp fate!

I found that in a typical scenario, I’d already used From the Brink before the final room to bring my health back up and allow me to exchange it for ability boosts once again.

Bottom ability

The Move 2 doesn’t offer anything more than our standard Move and the Retaliate 1 is okay as a freebie. Might as well use it to do some direct Shield ignoring damage if the opportunity arises!

Overall Resolute Stand card rating

The top ability can be an absolutely incredible boss eliminator when played correctly. Until that point though, we only have a Move 2 with a Retaliate we don’t really need. The 9 initiative is the fastest we have available at level 1!

Strength in Agony

Level 1 Berserker card Strength in Agony
Level 1 Berserker card Strength in Agony

Top ability

This is a decent help for damage trade. We swap 2 health for 2 damage and an experience point. We can even enhance the base damage by 1 to bring this up to a 6 damage ability that only costs us 2 health. When we compare that to Blood Pact’s half our current hit points for 6 damage, this ability looks like even better value!

The hit points for damage trade is also optional on this ability unlike with Blood Pact., which makes it more flexible. We don’t have to take the damage reduction if our health is low. Plus, we can choose whether it’s worth it depending on the situation.

The boosted damage may be enough to finish off an enemy which would prevent them from hitting us for more than 2 damage on their turn. So we end up with our health at a higher point than it would otherwise have been even though we spend 2 hit points!

Bottom ability

We can choose to just Move 4 which is pretty good in itself. Or we can take some damage to sprint. There were several scenarios where running to complete the objective was totally worth trading health for!

 

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This lower ability is a good contender for a Jump enhancement too.

Overall Strength in Agony card rating

A card full of options for us to decide what we want to use, how much damage we want to take and which boosts we want. The initiative is average.

Level X Berserker cards

At level 1, we can also choose to include level X cards in our hand. So let’s see what they are!

Berserker level X cards - Glass Hammer, Numb the Pain and Unbridled Power
Berserker level X cards – Glass Hammer, Numb the Pain and Unbridled Power

Glass Hammer

Top ability

The potential for this ability is amazing and it scales really well too. As we level up, so does our potential damage!

The main problem with the top of Glass Hammer is that because it’s a loss, you want to hang onto it until the end of the scenario. But by that point, you’re really unlikely to have full hit points because you’ve traded them in to boost your other abilities or taken some damage from monsters. I took it along for my first few scenarios but could never use it to its full potential.

You could use potions and healing from your allies to bring your health up, deal loads of damage with this ability and then play the bottom of Defiance of Death to protect your health from going below 1 hp from the next three sources of damage! Then play From the Brink on your next turn to bring your health back up to full. But that’s a lot of setting up and fall out for one loss ability.

Bottom ability

Move 3 with a tasty looking enhancement slot. Perfect for a Strengthen!

Overall Glass Hammer card rating

With an initiative of 11, Glass Hammer is the second-fastest card we have available at level one. With a very reusable and enhanceable move on the bottom we’ve got something we can use reliably if we want to bring it along for the top.

If you’ve got an amazing healer in your party who can top up your health to full before you use it, it’s a good option.

I couldn’t make Glass Hammer work for me in this balanced build so I decided to leave it behind and choose a card I could reliably use throughout the entire scenario instead.

Numb the Pain

Top ability

Another solid 3 damage reusable. We have a fair few of these now!

There is a place for the bonus to this ability, but it’s quite situational. If you’re too close to a few monsters and you’re pretty certain they are coming for you on their turn, then trading 2 hit points to grab the Shield and protect you from taking more damage can be worth it.

The main problem is, the damage you take is unpredictable and it’s not like you’re trading the health for damage directly.

Bottom ability

Another move 3! We’re spoiled for choice with movement abilities with the Berserker!

I really like option Stun bonus here. As we are on the front lines, taking a monster out of action until the end of next turn is incredibly helpful in protecting us from damage we don’t want to take. It can also stop a monster from following us as we move away from it. Or prevent it from moving towards an ally.

Overall Numb the Pain card rating

The 35 initiative is ok. We go reasonably early in the round. The top and bottom abilities give us more moves 3 and damage 3 options but are they good enough to win a space in our hand at level 1?

Unbridled Power

Top ability

A Stun option at level 1 which doesn’t require us trading any hit points to use. That’s pretty cool! We only deal 2 damage when we use it, but if we use Cauterize on the turn before to get Fire in the room we can do 4 damage instead! Plus, we can always enhance that base 2 damage.

Stun is a favourite of mine for any melee class, but particularly for our Berserker build because we aren’t tanking and need to keep our hit points where we want them.

Bottom ability

Overheal by 26 hit points? At first glance, that sounds amazing given how many options we have for spending our points! But then it goes and ruins it by saying, ‘your maximum hit point value remains the same for the purpose of all ability effects’. So we can’t actually use all the extra health for anything!

Plus, we’d need to get enough healing (from ourselves and our allies) to get us up to 26 hit points in the first place! From the Brink can’t do it because it’s an ability effect.

Instead we’re left with a heal 3 with 2 experience points. And no, that heal 3 doesn’t happen at the start of every return.

Overall Unbridled Power card rating

I really like the top ability on Unbridled Power and used it a lot. It just needs to be paired with a quicker initiative card to make the most of the Stun. The bottom loss heal just isn’t very useful and we have way better losses for this build.

Level 1 Berserker build

With this balanced build, we looking for good mix of cards that are mostly damage focused but don’t need us to use up too much health to get damage bonuses. We also want cards that don’t require us to keep our health below half for the entire scenario to be useful.

Having said that, we’ll be trading hit points for damage during play so we want some abilities that give us bonuses for having lower health. But these will be mostly outnumbered by cards which don’t require lower health to be effective.

We also need to be careful how many and which loss abilities we choose to bring along. If we need to hold an ability in our hand until late in the scenario (so we don’t use it early and become exhausted), then the card needs to have a decent reusable ability on the other half of it.

We’re looking for abilities and cards that:

  • Are damage focused
  • Give optional bonuses in exchange for hit points
  • Have bonuses on Move actions

Level 1 Berserker deck

Level 1 Berserker build deck cards
Level 1 Berserker build deck cards

Here are the cards in our level 1 deck in alphabetical order.

  • Bounce Back
  • Cauterize (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • From the Brink
  • Growing Rage
  • Numb the Pain
  • Resolute Stand
  • Strength in Agony
  • Unbridled Power (Top: Consumes Fire)

Level 2 Berserker cards

Level 2 Berserker cards - Break the Chains and Reckless Offensive
Level 2 Berserker cards – Break the Chains and Reckless Offensive

Break the Chains

Top ability

In the first printing, Break the Chains had a base damage of 3. It got nerfed to 2 damage for 2nd printing. Whenever a card gets nerfed it’s worth paying attention to!

Given that our only ranged and multi-target ability is Cauterize, it’s really nice to see another option at level 2. It’ll do 4 damage without us needing to trade any health for it. The Pull 2 can even sometimes trigger a trap for bonus damage.

Ranged damage is always a good option to have in our hand for when we first enter a room.

Bottom ability

A nice potential move 7 without any hit point trade!

We have Fire from Cauterize if a higher movement is a better place for us to spend the element instead of on the damage boost on Unbridled Power.

Overall Break the Chains card rating

A solid card that isn’t hugely flashy but is hugely practical. The 53 initiative is rubbish though. It doesn’t guarantee either early or late play.

Reckless Offensive

Top ability

A potential 12 damage across 3 targets is definitely worth considering! But the fact that its melee range, makes it difficult to be viable. If we’re close enough to hit 3 monsters with it, then they are close enough to hit us back!

So the question is less about whether the 3 health points is worth the trade for 12 damage (which it absolutely is), and more about whether putting ourselves into a precarious situation to do 4 damage to 3 monsters is worth it. 4 damage isn’t likely to take more than one already weakened monster off the board, and the other 2 will just hit us straight back!

Bottom ability

Increasing monster damage by 1 for a Retaliate of 2 seems very strange to me. It’s not a great trade for our non-tanky build.

Overall Reckless Offensive card rating

Both abilities on this card make more sense for a tanking style Berserker. So they aren’t a great fit for our build. Shame, that 21 initiative would have been nice to have!

Level 2 Berserker build

What to pick up

Break the Chains.

What to drop

Growing Rage. Now we have a card with a top ability that will consistently do 4 damage, we don’t need to wait until we’ve lost enough cards to do it.

Level 2 Berserker deck

Berserker level 2 build deck cards
Berserker level 2 build deck cards
  • Bounce Back
  • Cauterize (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • From the Brink
  • Break the Chains (Bottom: Consumes Fire)
  • Numb the Pain
  • Resolute Stand
  • Strength in Agony
  • Unbridled Power (Top: Consumes Fire)

Level 3 Berserker cards

Level 3 Berserker cards - Fatal Fury and Spiked Armor
Level 3 Berserker cards – Fatal Fury and Spiked Armor

Fatal Fury

Top ability

Even though it’s highly situational, this is a cool ability to have in your hand! Any ability that instantly removes a monster from the board is a good thing! We’ll get a nice bit of floaty fire too!

Looking at the math, at level 3 if we are on 1 HP and our max hit point value is 14, then we have a 13 difference. Half of that is 6.5. So it can take out monsters up to 6 health.

We don’t go running around on 1 hp though! So if we’re at half health, this ability can remove normal monsters on 3 health or below. Nice to knock off a low HP, high shielded monster or a monster that’s already weakened.

But when we get up to level 9 with a max hp of 26, even at a comfortable half health of 13 we can pick off monsters on 6 health or less.

Bottom ability

Hit, shuffle, hit. Perfect for a front line class like us. It’s ideal for repositioning ourselves and doing 4 damage too. Both on the same monster if we want.

I love bottom abilities like this. We get to do damage from the top of one card and again with the bottom of another one. We can spread that damage out, or give it all to one monster. All while still being able to move if we need to.

The versatility combined with the extra damage make it feel so epic to use.

Overall Fatal Fury card rating

A really useful bottom ability that I used often. The top ability is very much a when the opportunity arises ability, but what a great one! 34 initiative is a little slow, but it’s ok.

Spiked Armor

Top ability

Works for a tanking build that uses Retaliate. And potentially can do some decent damage for them, if they can use their other card to apply Retaliate for the round. They may want to get a Shield up too!

It doesn’t work so well for this build.

Bottom ability

This ability make sense for the tank build that the top ability is aimed at. It’ll get the attention of all the monsters hit in the face!

For us, we don’t want to attract the attention of lots of monsters at once!

Overall Spiked Armor rating

A good Retaliate and tank build option with fast initiative. Not for us though.

Level 3 Berserker build

What to pick up

Fatal Fury.

What to drop

Numb the Pain. We now have a bottom ability that does more damage than the top of it, plus we’d rather trade our health for damage instead of Shield.

Level 3 Berserker deck

Berserker level 3 build deck cards
Berserker level 3 build deck cards
  • Bounce Back
  • Cauterize (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • From the Brink
  • Break the Chains (Bottom: Consumes Fire)
  • Fatal Fury (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Resolute Stand
  • Strength in Agony
  • Unbridled Power (Top: Consumes Fire)

Level 4 Berserker cards

Level 4 Berserker cards - Flurry of Axes and Shiny Distraction
Level 4 Berserker cards – Flurry of Axes and Shiny Distraction

Flurry of Axes

Top ability

Wow! Is this a great deal, or what? We trade 4 health to hit every monster within range 3 for 4 damage?!

That’s a target area of 36 hexes! And actually enough to hit a monster anywhere in a small room if you’re standing in the middle of it and have line of sight.

Even though we won’t be standing in the middle of the room and every hex won’t have monster standing in it, you can see the incredible potential of this ability. Even if you hit 8 monsters with it, it’s a 32 damage ability! Excellent value for 4 health!

Worth hanging onto until the last room!

Bottom ability

Move 5. Sweet!

Overall Flurry of Axes card rating

A fantastic high move action until we’re ready to go all out on the top ability! The 27 initiative isn’t too bad either.

Shiny Distraction

Top ability

Nice to have a loot ability we can use after we’ve cleared a room and are just about to enter the next one. But, I found myself using the bottom ability far more often.

Bottom ability

This is perfect to use when you don’t need to move and you are dealing damage on your next turn. Even better, if you can use it with a multi-target ability!

The fire generation is helpful as well because the bottom of Break the Chains and the top of Unbridled Power are both fire hungry but we can only generate fire from Cauterize at the moment.

Overall Shiny Distraction card rating

Would you look at that? An 08 initiative! This is the fastest card in our entire deck. It makes the bottom ability super useful because it comes into play before the monsters have a chance to do anything!

This is a really solid card.

Level 4 Berserker build

What to pick up

We’re spoilt for choice at level 4! Both these cards are very good!

Flurry of Axes just won out for me. I just couldn’t wait to try that epic top ability! So I took Flurry of Axes first. Yep, I said first. Because at level 5, I came back and took Shiny Distraction! So take whichever one you want at level 4.

What to drop

Resolute Stand. Flurry of Axes has a higher move and a top ability that can do high multi target damage in the final room. If you’re heading into a defeat the boss scenario though, Resolute Stand can be the better option because it does higher single target damage.

Level 4 Berserker deck

Berserker level 4 build deck cards
Berserker level 4 build deck cards
  • Bounce Back
  • Cauterize (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • From the Brink
  • Break the Chains (Bottom: Consumes Fire)
  • Fatal Fury (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Resolute Stand
  • Strength in Agony
  • Unbridled Power (Top: Consumes Fire)

Level 5 Berserker cards

Level 5 Berserker cards - Final Fight and Seeing Red
Level 5 Berserker cards – Final Fight and Seeing Red

Final Fight

Top ability

The clue is in the name. We can’t really use this ability until the final room (if we haven’t already randomly discarded it during a short rest!).

I do love this visual image of going out swinging. With your final turn, you get to take a monster out with you!

Bottom ability

The Move isn’t any better than our standard Move 2 until we’ve had 3 rests. That’s quite a while to wait.

Using a Fire for a bottom 3 damage isn’t much better than the standard bottom 2 damage either.

Consuming Fire for 1 extra damage at level 5 is worse than the +2 damage we get from consuming Fire on our level X card, Unbridled Power. Not good enough.

Overall Final Fight card rating

Because we need to hang onto the top ability until our very last turn, we need a really good reusable on the bottom to make up for it. But we get something that is just mediocre instead.

The high initiative would actually be helpful because we don’t have anything that allows us to go really late.

Seeing Red

Top ability

A 4 damage ability isn’t bringing anything hugely special, we’ve had abilities that powerful in our hand since level 1. The Shield is a nice touch though, especially because it applies at a time when our health is lower than half.

Bottom ability

This is absolutely perfect for the low health Berserker build! A persistent +1 to all damage abilities when your health is below half is awesome for that build type.

Overall Seeing Red card rating

A great card for the lower health Berserker build. For us, we won’t benefit from the bonuses most of the time.

Level 5 Berserker build

What to pick up

We go back to level 4 and pick up Shiny Distraction. That Advantage on all damage dealing abilities works so, so well with Flurry of Axes!

What to drop

I dropped Bounce Back at this point, and swapped it back in whenever there was a lot of Poison or Wound in the scenario to take advantage of that heal 1 to remove negative status effects.

Level 5 Berserker deck

Level 5 Berserker deck cards
Level 5 Berserker deck cards
  • Shiny Distraction (Bottom: Creates Fire)
  • Cauterize (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • From the Brink
  • Break the Chains (Bottom: Consumes Fire)
  • Fatal Fury (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Resolute Stand
  • Strength in Agony
  • Unbridled Power (Top: Consumes Fire)

Level 6 Berserker cards

Level 6 Berserker cards - Devil Horns and Unstoppable Destruction
Level 6 Berserker cards – Devil Horns and Unstoppable Destruction

Devil Horns

Top ability

This is another ability that got nerfed in the 2nd printing. It used to have an extra one damage on the top ability and the bottom! Which makes a really good card even better! So I’m not surprised it was taken down just a little bit.

There’s a lot going on with this ability. We get a 9 damage dealer across 3 monsters which also deals Wound and gives us Fire! And it’s a non-loss as well.

The only thing that makes it a little tricky to use during play is that we need to be adjacent to 3 monsters to use it to its full potential. Which we know puts us in a precarious situation for taking hits ourselves. That said, it’s still great ability.

We can deal Wound to 3 monsters which is helpful for getting rid of low health, high-shield opponents.

Bottom ability

In general, we lack options for bottom abilities on turns when we don’t need to move. This is a great option!

Overall Devil Horns card rating

An all round great card. A high hitter bottom for when were not moving and top that is a useful multi-target to have.

Unstoppable Destruction

Top ability

Finally! A way to ignore Shields!

We have to take to damage ourselves to use it but it’s totally worth the trade. High-shielded monsters can take a long time to bring down! All the while, they do damage to us and our allies and cause to burn through our turns and get exhausted.

Bottom ability

Even though it’s not a direct damage ability, indirectly it can give you an awesome boost!

If you’re carrying several items that improve your damage output, this ability can actually mean you do more damage in your next round than the 4 damage option on the bottom of Devil Horns.

You also get to choose which card to discard which means you’re not going to accidentally get rid of one of your high hitters. The 2 health you get back is also something you can trade for higher damage on subsequent turns.

You also never have to have a long rest and sit out for a turn, so it’s an extra turn where you can be dealing damage!

This ability is a quietly spoken, yet hugely powerful tool.

Overall Unstoppable Destruction card rating

I really solid card choice with such a unique bottom option.

Level 6 Berserker build

What to pick up

Level 6 leaves with a really tough choice! Both of these cards are great and whichever one you choose you’ll be really happy with.

I chose Unstoppable Destruction because I liked adding the ability to get through Shielded monsters to my deck and increasing my damage output indirectly.

What to drop

Now that we’re at level 6, it’s worth looking at which level 1 cards are still in our hands to help us figure out which one we can replace. Immediately, Dazing Wound and Strength in Agony look similar in their top abilities and we don’t necessarily need their bottom move actions as we have plenty of movement.

I replaced Strength in Agony because I found the Stun on Dazing Wound to be more tactically helpful than an additional 2 damage. Plus, if we need a really high move 7 like the one on the bottom of Strength in Agony we can boost Break the Chains instead.

Level 6 Berserker deck

Level 6 Berserker deck cards
Level 6 Berserker deck cards
  • Shiny Distraction (Bottom: Creates Fire)
  • Cauterize (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • From the Brink
  • Break the Chains (Bottom: Consumes Fire)
  • Fatal Fury (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Resolute Stand
  • Unstoppable Distraction
  • Unbridled Power (Top: Consumes Fire)

Level 7 Berserker cards

Level 7 Berserker cards - Burning Hatred and Careless Charge
Level 7 Berserker cards – Burning Hatred and Careless Charge

Burning Hatred

Top ability

Wow! Just wow! Give me that Fire boosted damage please!

By the time we get to level 7, we’ve seen just how incredible Flurry of Axes can be at clearing a room. Here we have another area of effect option that’s reusable!

With Fire boost, this has an 18 hex AoE! Even if we just take the area in front and sides of us, that’s 9 hexes! That’s a 27 damage ability at half its potential!

When you play Shiny Distraction on the same turn, you get Advantage on all the monsters you hit! Plus they get Disadvantage on their turn protecting you somewhat from being at melee range to a lot of monsters!

Bottom ability

I get so googly eyed at the top ability on this card, that I forget about the bottom! It’s a fine Move with a bonus Wound. You’ll likely never use it though!

Overall Burning Hatred card rating

Absolutely amazing top ability! It almost feels unfair that we have access to this and Flurry of Axes as well!

Careless Charge

Top ability

It’s rare that we see a Move in the top slot. It allows us to either move a really long way in a single turn without needing to boost Break the Chains, or we can use a non-move bottom ability and still move in the same turn. These options give us flexibility which is always good hard to quantify how valuable flexibility is.

The damage itself is ok, but the Push and Immobilize make it a useful ability for crowd control. We just need a willing ally to take a Wound with us!

I always feel a bit awkward using friendly fire abilities, even if they benefit the party. My allies don’t always agree with my decision!

Bottom ability

Sweet! There are plenty of scenarios where this ability would be super-duper helpful. No more need to worry about Poison, Wound, Muddle, getting Disarmed or Stunned or Immobilized.

It’s a persistent loss, so you’d need to play it at the right time to not get exhausted too soon. Perhaps after the 1st room is cleared?

Overall Careless Charge card rating

Really interesting abilities once again! The Berserker has some of the more interesting ones in my opinion!

Level 7 Berserker build

What to pick up

Burning Hatred. That huge AoE damage potential is just too good to pass up in my opinion.

What to drop

Decisions, decisions! Looking at our level 1 cards again, From the Brink stands out. It’s pretty much just a Move 3 most of the time, until we need to use the top loss to heal up.

However, now we have Unstoppable Destruction from level 6, we can heal for 2 points at the end of every round which helps us with our healing somewhat. And we still get to keep our Move 3, but we get a Wound instead of a Push 1, which is less situational.

It’s time for From the Brink to go. If you find that the 2 heal from the rests isn’t working out for you, you can always swap From the Brink back in. That’s the joy of Gloomhaven! So many ways to play!

Level 7 Berserker deck

Berserker level 7 build deck cards
Berserker level 7 build deck cards
  • Shiny Distraction (Bottom: Creates Fire)
  • Cauterize (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • Burning Hatred (Top: Consume Fire)
  • Break the Chains (Bottom: Consumes Fire)
  • Fatal Fury (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Resolute Stand
  • Unstoppable Distraction
  • Unbridled Power (Top: Consumes Fire)

Level 8 Berserker cards

Level 8 Berserker cards - Bone Breaker and Vengeful Barrage
Level 8 Berserker cards – Bone Breaker and Vengeful Barrage

Bone Breaker

Top ability

5 damage single target ability with Wound, Immobilize and Fire. That’s a lot of extras! We don’t really need the extra Fire, because we currently have 3 generators and 3 consumers in our deck. But the extra Fire does allow us extra more options when planning our turns.

Bottom ability

‘Target can no longer fly.’! Incredible! What an amazing ability to add to our already versatile deck! It makes those pesky flyers so much easier to get rid of!

Unusually for us, it’s at a range of 4. This means we can use it well before the flying monster is in melee range! Ideally, when they are hovering over a trap!

Overall Bone Breaker card rating

Two really useful abilities, whether we get to use all the damage bonuses or not. It’s also nice to see another ranged damage dealer in the bottom slot.

Vengeful Barrage

Top ability

This is like a Retaliate 3, but instead of hitting back the monster that hit you, you can choose where to apply the 3 damage. I think it’s geared more towards a tanking Berserker Build. You need to be adjacent to at least one monster to do the 3 damage back otherwise it is just wasted.

If we’re taking 5 sources of damage in quick succession we’re in trouble!

Bottom ability

The +1 damage may not sound like much, but when we think about all the AOE abilities we have, it can add up to a lot of additional damage if we use it just before Flurry of Axes or Burning Hatred.

But then with our upgraded modifier deck, Shiny Distraction has a similar impact on our damage output when used just before a big AOE ability.

Overall Vengeful Barrage card rating

The top is more geared towards a tank style build. The bottom is a really good boost to our multi target abilities.

Level 8 Berserker build

What to pick up

They are both good cards. Taking Vengeful Barrage just for the bottom is a solid choice, as is taking Bone Breaker for the ranged damage bottom option and a way to deal with fliers.

I took Bone Breaker.

What to drop

Unbridled Power. We don’t have room for a bottom ability that we aren’t using anymore. Plus, we still have access to Stun when we want it on the top of Dazing Wound, a card that also has a useful bottom ability.

Level 8 Berserker deck

Berserker level 8 build deck cards
Berserker level 8 build deck cards
  • Shiny Distraction (Bottom: Creates Fire)
  • Cauterize (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • Burning Hatred (Top: Consume Fire)
  • Break the Chains (Bottom: Consumes Fire)
  • Fatal Fury (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Resolute Stand
  • Unstoppable Distraction
  • Bone Breaker (Top: Creates Fire)

Level 9 Berserker cards

Level 9 Berserker cards - Immortality and The Maw of Madness
Level 9 Berserker cards – Immortality and The Maw of Madness

Immortality

Top ability

Nulling 5 sources of damage is awesome if were tanking. The worst thing about it is that you could just protect yourself from one damage which feels like a waste of a use. But it’s still helpful to know that you’ll be fine whatever happens.

Of course, you could use this to negate some of the damage that you do to yourself to boost your abilities instead. But you wouldn’t be trading your health for damage output in the first place if it wasn’t worth it.

Bottom ability

If you’ve got a Retaliate you always want a Shield at the same time as far as I’m concerned! And that’s exactly what this ability delivers. We move up, throw a Shield on and stoke that anger with Fire ready to hit back.

Overall Immortality card rating

Not a great fit for our Berserker build.

The Maw of Madness

Top ability

Individually each element of this ability looks quite underwhelming for a level 9 option. But when you put them all together they synergise so well for how we’re playing this class!

When we have multiple adjacent monsters, we are vulnerable. The Muddle helps to mitigate some of that risk by giving the monsters Disadvantage on their turn and we get to boost our health before they go with a nice heal or two. Perfect!

Bottom ability

A potential 8 damage, range 3 with Immobilize is amazing! Even if we don’t want to take any damage we still have a range 3 damage. Very nice for keeping the slow moving high hitters out of the way for a turn.

Overall The Maw of Madness card rating

See that 10 initiative? We need that! All the elements of the top ability work fantastically well together, and we get a powerful ranged option too. Very nice.

Level 9 Berserker build

What to pick up

The Maw of Madness.

What to drop

Ok, so we have a melee top and a ranged bottom. So, ideally we don’t want to remove any movement. From level 1 that leaves two cards.

Defiance of Death – We always use the top, but it only becomes more powerful when our health gets below half. The bottom regularly saves our life when we get in trouble, or keeps us hanging on in the final room.

Cauterize – The top is always useful. We never use the bottom loss ability. It’s time for it to go.

Level 9 Berserker deck

Berserker level 9 build deck cards
Berserker level 9 build deck cards

So here’s our final deck! We have one of the most interesting decks in Gloomhaven I think. ‘Target can no longer fly’ Isn’t something you see everyday. Neither is the mechanism of swapping health for boosts.

We have a good mix of ranged and melee abilities to help us run around the front lines and still be effective when we’re repositioning. And movement is never a problem for us.

So long as our allies are clear that we aren’t a tank, we can be free to deal decent single target damage and some huge AOEs too.

  • Shiny Distraction (Bottom: Creates Fire)
  • The Maw of Madness
  • Dazing Wound
  • Defiance of Death
  • Burning Hatred (Top: Consume Fire)
  • Break the Chains (Bottom: Consumes Fire)
  • Fatal Fury (Top: Creates Fire)
  • Resolute Stand
  • Unstoppable Distraction
  • Bone Breaker (Top: Creates Fire)

Berserker Perks

Berserker Perks sheet gloomhaven
Berserker perks sheet

Even though we’re not tanking as a Berserker, we will be on the front lines and will have to take some hits along the way. So it’s not a bad idea to start with the ignore negative item effects perk so we can take some armour without penalty. If you’re not wearing armour with a negative effect, then leave this perk until later.

After that, we remove the negative modifier perks and then start putting this in the upgraded cards. We add the pure Fire upgrades first, then the rolling ones. After those, we remove the four +0 cards. Otherwise, we increase the risk of drawing a null or -2 if we thin our deck out too soon.

We add the status effects later. The order of these depends on what you want really. I took Wound first because it’s damage dealing, then heal because chances are, we can use it. I took Stun last because we may not actually want to Stun our target, or we’ve taken them down before it applies.

  1. Ignore negative item effects (if needed for armour)
  2. Remove two -1 cards
  3. Replace one -1 card with one +1 card
  4. Replace one -1 card with one +1 card
  5. Add one +2 Fire card
  6. Add one +2 Fire card
  7. Replace one +0 card with one rolling + 2 cards
  8. Replace one +0 card with one rolling + 2 cards
  9. Add one rolling +1 Disarm card
  10. Remove four +0 cards
  11. Add two Wound cards
  12. Add two Wound cards
  13. Add two rolling Heal +1 cards
  14. Add one Stun card
  15. Add one Stun card

Berserker Items

Berserker starting items cards
Berserker starting items cards

The Berserker can benefit from loads of different items. Because we’re focussed on damage and avoiding hits, we want items that help us to do that. To avoid item spoilers I only feature starting level items here.

Cloak of Invisibility

20 gold

You’re on the front lines, so having an option to quickly disappear away from damage is a fantastic option! If you’re playing with squishy allies, let them have the cloak and pick up the Hide Armor Instead.

Iron Helmet

10 gold

Balancing health is crucial to playing a great Berserker, so the last thing you want is a double-damage hit from a monster messing with your plans!

Poison Dagger

20 gold

We’re here to deal damage to monsters and Poison helps us to help our allies to do that!

Winged Shoes

20 gold

We don’t have an ability with Jump until/unless we pay the expensive enhancement on the Move 5 on Flurry of Axes, so it’s worth grabbing these boots for the Jump.

Minor Healing Potion

10 gold

Got to be done.

Minor Stamina Potion

10 gold

So we can get our best discarded cards back to play again (plus, helps prolong our stamina of course)!

Berserker Enhancements

Enhancements cost gold and we want a good return on our investment. So I generally look to enhance abilities that are reusable and with us through multiple level ups.

Poison to Dazing Wound Top

75 gold Poison

This card is with us from level 1 all the way to level 9 so gives us a good bang for our buck! It’s pretty cheap as well.

The 3 damage is unlikely to take a monster out quickly, so Poison works well here. It’ll give your allies (and yourself) a +1 damage to all damage-dealing abilities against the target.

+1 Damage (x2) to Defiance of Death

50 gold first +1, 125 gold 2nd +1

This is the other level 1 card that will be with you until retirement. By adding the additional +2 damage to this, when it’s boosted from your health being below half, you get a 7 damage single target ability!

For all the rest of the time, it’s a 5 damage ability. We don’t see another 5 damage single target ability until level 8 so it’s well worth having a heavy hitter in your hand.

+ 1 Target to Cauterize Top

50 gold

While this card isn’t with us quite until retirement, we do have it until the end of level 8 so it’s a good candidate for enhancement and it doesn’t cost a lot to do.

You’ll leave three monsters Wounded instead of two. That’s some nice damage over time!

Poison to top of Burning Hatred

300 gold

This is the most expensive enhancement for this class. I think most classes have one pricey one that has a huge impact!

But it is amazing! You can poison all monsters up to 2 hexes away! It gives your party an incredible advantage from that point on!

Jump on Flurry of Axes Bottom

125 gold

You can just grab the Winged Shoes from the shop for 20 gold instead. But if you replace these boots at a later level, then the Jump on Flurry is a good choice. Seeing as we have to use the Move until we’re ready for our axe flurry, we might as well Jump!

Berserker Experience

Berserker class board with health and experience points
Berserker class board with health and experience points

Levelling as the Berserker is average. There aren’t a huge amount of experience icons across the cards and when there are they usually come from trading for bonuses, using Loss abilities or consuming Fire.

I found that in early levels I’d gain experience quite slowly throughout the scenario but make up for it in the final room when I used Defiance of Death and Flurry of Axes. 5 experience points in those two abilities alone.

Berserker Combos

With some amazing area of effect abilities and Shiny Distraction we can make a serious dent in a room full of monsters!

Shiny Distraction and Flurry of Axes (Level 5)

  1. Lead with the low initiative on Shiny Distraction bottom to Gain Advantage and put Fire in the Room.
  2. Use Flurry of Axes Top, take 4 damage and target all monsters within range 3.

Shiny Distraction and Burning Hatred (Level 7)

This combo begins the same as the one above, but now we have a really good use for that Fire!

Turn 1

  1. Lead with the low initiative on Shiny Distraction bottom to Gain Advantage and put Fire in the Room.
  2. Use Flurry of Axes Top, take 4 damage and target all monsters within range 3.

Turn 2

  1. Use the top of Burning Hatred to Consume Fire and target all monsters within 2 hexes for 3 damage.
  2. Use the bottom of Fatal Fury to hit a monster or two and adjust your position to a safe place.

Berserker Names

Our Inox Berserker is tough, vengeful and self-sacrificing. She personally suffers to take down her foes at all cost, even her own life. That makes her a person to be feared! These traits are what inspired the Berserker name in my Gloomhaven game – Wrathandra.

  • Kollider Irk
  • Stella Kin
  • Blix Tempa
  • Ire Rage
  • Sakri Blood
  • Irate Nix
  • Vex Nova
  • Riley Flame
  • Madden Hack
  • Violet Fury

Conclusion – Gloomhaven Berserker Guide Health Swap build

The health swap build gives you so many options on every turn that you feel like a warrior that’s ready for anything! I loved being able to trade hit points for bonuses on my terms so I could be as effective as possible when my group needed the help!

And those huge AoEs – Flurry of Axes and Burning Hatred – are simple incredible at clearing rooms!

If you give the build a go, I hope you have a blast like I did!

I’m currently creating guides for all the locked classes! If you enjoyed this Berserker guide, check them out! Listed here by their code names, I’ve completed: a Triforce class guide, a Two Minis guide, an Eclipse / Moon guide, a Sun guide, a Three Spears guide and a Music Note guide.

I’ve created build guides for all the Gloomhaven starting characters – ranged build guide for the Cragheart, tank build Brute guide, Tinkerer crowd control build guide, Mindthief damage and stun guide, Spellweaver AoE guide and a Scoundrel single target poison build guide.

If you enjoy Gloomhaven as much as I do, it’s natural to want to upgrade it to improve your gaming experience. I especially like these cards sleeves and this organizer insert on Amazon, and this incredible 3D 108 piece custom Gloomhaven scenery set on Etsy! Seriously, go check it out!

For more upgrade ideas, check out my article 15 Awesome Gloomhaven Accessories and Upgrades.

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Emily
Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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