There are six starting classes in Gloomhaven which all play very differently. You’ll be playing this character for quite a long time so you want to make the right choice.
There are a few ways to choose your starting character.
- You can pick a character box with a cool logo that you like and see what happens.
- You can read the short one-line description of each character.
- You can read all of this guide to get a bit more information on each character and know what you’re getting yourself in for.
I chose my Gloomhaven starting class based on the logo on the box and it was fun… to begin with. But after a few games, I really didn’t enjoy playing my character and it was annoying for my group.
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I recommend you read this guide so you can choose a Gloomhaven starting class that sounds fun to you.
What are the Gloomhaven starting classes?
The six Gloomhaven starting classes are:
One line overviews of the Gloomhaven starting classes and symbols
The tank that can do a fair amount of damage and push monsters into harm’s way.
A solid melee and ranged earth elemental class with minor healing abilities.
A complex melee character that can buff allies and weaken monsters with mind control and summon a melee ally.
The rogue who can go invisible, poison monsters, and deal high damage in the right situations.
A mage which uses elemental magic to blast monsters from a distance and who can summon a ranged ally.
A versatile support class with heals and buffs, who does damage with crazy items, potions, and contraptions.
More detailed overviews and ranks
For each class, I write a brief overview and what it’s like to play. Then I look at the damage, experience points, looting, health, initiative, movement, stamina, starting cards, perks, and why I rank it where I do.
This guide has pictures of each character board, their miniature and the Level 1 and X starting ability cards. There are no scenario or campaign spoilers in this guide.
Stop reading here if you don’t want to know any more about the starting classes!
The Scoundrel is your rogue type. She can do a big amount of damage if she’s in the right place at the right time. With her stealth abilities and quick movement, no one even sees her when she dashes through the room!
Aptly named the Scoundrel, she always has one eye on the loot and can grab it before it even touches the floor!
What it’s like to play
Playing the Scoundrel feels like playing a ninja. The cards encourage you to dart in, do your thing and dash away again. You’ll be using invisibility whenever you can to bolster your damage with stealth.
You’ll always be trying to get yourself into the best position to get the damage bonuses for monsters adjacent to your allies. If allies and monsters aren’t in positions that benefit you, your damage is low and your turn feels very frustrating.
You will be using your quick hands to grab way more loot than the rest of your party. And you’ll use your knack for traps to disarm them before they can hinder your allies.
The Scoundrel can deal massive damage in the right circumstances. All she needs is to engage monsters that are adjacent to allies. No monsters adjacent to allies? Then her damage will be average.
The Scoundrel poisons monsters at every opportunity which will continue to cause them damage after you’ve moved away.
She has a couple of ranged abilities which are useful for when you can’t get to the front lines.
You can see from the starting cards that the focus is on melee, poison, and moving swiftly. The ‘X’ Level cards are well worth adding to the starting hand.
Experience points are pretty easy to come by as the Scoundrel. Get yourself into the right position to use the abilities and you’ll level up before you know it.
“You got all the loot again?!” That’s what your group will cry when you play the Scoundrel.
The Scoundrel can collect loot when it is a couple of hexes away and even as she casually strolls through hexes on her way to somewhere else.
I hope you like shopping!
Considering the Scoundrel is a mostly a melee class, her 8 health points aren’t great. The low health amount encourages you to play as designed. Hit and get out of there!
She has one healing ability which she can only use on herself. It’s useful if you really need it, but you’ll mostly be relying on others to heal you so that you can knock monster health points down.
The Scoundrel is quick. She goes first most of the time. If you’re playing as her, you’ll only go last if you choose to.
As you’d expect, she can move pretty far in one turn. If you want to be the first to get to the treasure (Why wouldn’t you? You’re the Scoundrel?), then it’s yours.
With all that dashing around and only a 9 card hand, the Scoundrel is often the first in the party to become exhausted. Only the Spellweaver has fewer cards in her hand, but she can recover lost cards once per game. The Scoundrel can’t.
The Scoundrel has the best perks for adjusting the modifier deck to increase the chances of good modifiers being drawn. The pierce, poison, muddle, and invisible perks are in keeping with the ninja playstyle.
The Scoundrel was the character I played first in Gloomhaven. I hated it. So much so that I took a level hit and changed to the Cragheart.
To do decent damage you need to be next to an ally or have monsters next to you. Given the Gloomhaven rules of not talking about exactly what you’re going to do, no one was ever where I needed them to be. This was incredibly frustrating!
After several turns like this in a row, you feel like you don’t have any impact during the game. And before you know it you’re exhausted from your low hand limit.
I’m sure others will get along really well with the Scoundrel, on my first run it just didn’t work out for me and my group.
I picked the Scoundrel back up again and was much more successful on my second run. Check out my single target poison focussed Scoundrel guide to see what I did.
Spellweaver is the mage of the group. She can do massive damage casting spells that affect multiple bad guys at once, but she has the lowest health of all the starting Gloomhaven classes.
The Spellweaver manipulates all the elements in Gloomhaven (fire, ice, air, earth, light, and dark) to boost the abilities of herself and allies. She has a ranged ally which is very useful.
What it’s like to play
You’ll be hanging out at the back of the group away from the melee damage. You will give monsters a hard time. You’ll be flinging fire orbs at them, impaling them on spikes you raise from the earth and then trapping them in ice.
As the Spellweaver, you’ll be planning a turn or two ahead. On one turn you’ll be putting elements into the room, on the turn after you’ll use the elements up to cast a more powerful spell.
You’ll also want to summon your mystic ally in pretty much every scenario. It’s an ethereal-ranged character that will fade away if it’s hit. You can use its ranged abilities on each turn or as a shield if you find yourself on the defensive.
At the start of every scenario, summon your mystic ally. You’ll get an extra ranged ability per turn from it.
You can deal some huge amounts of damage per turn if you play the spells right. Line up the elements you need on one turn and then consume them on the next.
The spells which deal the most damage are lost on use. This isn’t as much of a big deal with the Spellweaver as with other characters, because she has the ability to recover all lost cards once per scenario.
3 of the starting cards target multiple monsters so that gives you a huge damage boost on those turns.
Along with 6 ranged abilities, the Spellweaver has one melee ability. It only does a small amount of damage but does immobilize monsters so it’s a good way to get away from monsters that get too close for comfort.
Interesting spells cast from a distance, elemental buffs and an ethereal companion make the Spellweaver a solid mage from the start of the game.
The Spellweaver can level up pretty quickly if you use your cards effectively. The tricky part is doing that. Most experience comes from buff cards that you play on yourself or from using elements when you cast a spell.
If you can’t use your cards effectively you will be slow to level.
With one weak looting ability card that lets you collect loot one additional hex away, you’ll likely be collecting loot at a regular rate.
Starting on 6 health points, the Spellweaver is the starting class with the lowest hit points. She does have an awesome ability to take no damage from two hits that you can use in dire circumstances.
She has 3 pretty good ranged heal abilities but one is on the mystic ally card so you probably won’t ever use it. The other two heals you might use depending on what happens in the scenario.
With only one initiative card below 20, you won’t be going first each turn. You’ll likely be middle to last depending on which cards you choose.
Of the 11 cards you can choose from at level 1, 6 of them have some kind of movement ability. It doesn’t mean the Spellweaver is fast though. There is only one really fast move among them. The movement cards will encourage you to keep up with the group and not fall too far behind.
On first glance, the hand limit of 8 looks really small for the Spellweaver. Until you realize that you can recover all your lost cards using a special ability.
This actually means you can have more stamina than the rest of the group if you use your cards effectively.
Glancing down the Perks sheet you can see the Spellweaver can boost her deck with more elements to strengthen her abilities. She can also add cards to weaken monsters with status effects like stun and curse.
The Spellweaver is a good mage. She can provide healing support in a pinch but is more effective at dealing damage.
If you play as her, you need to understand how elements and magic work and use it to your advantage. If you don’t, you won’t be doing the character justice. I’ve written a guide to building an area of effect focussed Spellweaver if you’d like a closer look at a build option.
The Spellweaver isn’t a bad character, I just think there are more interesting ones to play, so she is rank 5 for me.
The Cragheart looks like a tank, but it isn’t. The Cragheart is actually a character with decent ranged, melee and area of effect abilities, and some minor heals.
Referred to as ‘it’ rather than he or she, the Cragheart harnesses the power of the earth to create rocks, dirt tornados, and avalanches. It is hard to tame the wilds of nature though, and sometimes it damages allies as well as monsters.
What it’s like to play
As a big lumbering beast, you’ll want to play the Cragheart as a tank. But don’t. Although you have quite high health points, you have no abilities to reduce damage taken.
You can step in and use your melee abilities and defend your allies occasionally. Just don’t do it too often or you’ll be the one who needs support.
You’ll mostly be standing just behind the front lines and hurling boulders and dirt at monsters and obstacles. Pesky pillar getting in the way? Fling one of the monsters into it. Pillar is no more! On the flip side, you can create obstacles between you and monsters too.
Choosing your abilities to do the most damage to monsters without affecting your allies is one of the interesting things about playing a Cragheart. You do have a few healing cards though, so you can always patch your allies up on the next turn.
The Cragheart’s damage is average but a lot of its abilities can target multiple monsters to boost your damage dealt on your turn. The disadvantage is that many of its abilities can also negatively affect allies.
8 of the Cragheart’s starting abilities are ranged however, there are a fair few melee abilities too. It does have a retaliate ability which can be helpful if you find yourself in the adjacent hex to a monster!
The Cragheart’s starting cards are a good mix of ranged and melee abilities. The immobilize and muddle status effects along with a few heals, bring a good element of support to the Cragheart’s role in a group.
The Cragheart levels up quite slowly because there is not a huge amount of experience on your cards. Even where there is potential to get experience, some are conditional on there being an earth element in the room and you use it up.
There is one Cragheart starting card with a looting ability that allows you to loot from one hex away. It’s not very powerful and you’ll probably want to replace the card with one with a more useful ability. So you’ll just collect loot at the normal rate.
The Cragheart is tied with the Brute for first place on health points at level 1. Unlike the Brute, however, the Cragheart does have several small healing abilities. You’ll likely need these to heal yourself as you may need to take the occasional hit. Or you can use them to heal your allies when they get in the way!
The Cragheart’s initiative is medium to slow so you usually won’t be the first to take your turn.
The Cragheart is one of the slower characters. Pay attention to keeping up with your group or it will take you a couple of turns to catch up. There is a starting ability that you can use to catch up with your group but you’ll lose the card from your hand when you use it.
With a hand limit of 11 you become exhausted at a slightly above-average rate. If you pay attention to when you use your lost card abilities you’ll be ok.
From the Cragheart’s perks sheet you can see the character has a focus on immobilizing and muddling monsters. It can add additional wind and earth elements to the room and only has a few damage-boosting perks.
Overall, the Cragheart is jack-of-trades and master of none. While mostly ranged, it can be played upfront to provide tanking support. It will never deal the most damage, but it can support other damage dealers. It can also give heals but not at the strength of other classes. It can manipulate rooms to remove and create obstacles to help your party.
If you like a versatile character that can adapt to most situations and support the group where it needs it most, you’ll enjoy playing the Cragheart.
You can also build a Cragheart to focus on one particular skill. Take a look at my Cragheart ranged build guide for an in-depth look at a build for Levels 1-9 (with no campaign spoilers).
Easily the strangest starting character, the Mindthief has some weird abilities. She is a fast melee class with a summonable ally. She uses psychic skills to buff herself and her allies, and to weaken monsters, and turn them against each other.
What it’s like to play
You’ll be scurrying around getting in quick jabs and darting off again leaving monsters damaged and usually with a negative status effect. The last thing you want is to be trapped on the front lines. With your low health points, you are very squishy.
You’ll always be planning one or two moves ahead and paying careful attention to where monsters and allies will be. Then you’ll help or hinder them with your melee abilities and mind control.
Your summon will be your faithful companion. You need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t fall too far behind. They aren’t as fast as you.
You can do a pretty high amount of damage per turn if you focus on buffing yourself and stacking negative effects on monsters. A lot of the Mindthief starting cards have damage bonuses for active negative conditions on monsters.
Your summon is also a nice way to deal a couple of extra damage per turn.
The starting cards for the Mindthief are so varied, you can have fun with all of them. The mixture of buffs, debuffs, summon, invisibility, and mind control make for a very interesting build whatever you choose.
You can level quickly as the Mindthief. She has experience point gains on pretty much every starting card. In the first scenario my group played with her, she gained 15 points.
Having a couple of loot cards in the starting cards makes the Mindthief one of the faster looters in the starting classes.
With only 6 health points, the Mindthief is very fragile. She does have a minor shield ability, can push monsters away, immobilize them and scurry away pretty quickly. It makes her an edgy character to play because she has mostly melee abilities yet very low hit points.
She has 2 healing abilities in her starting cards. She can only heal herself with these abilities though.
As you would expect for a rat-based melee character she moves pretty quickly. Her lower initiative starting cards have her augments and her summon as the top abilities.
Continuously moving is key to not getting wiped out as the Mindthief. 7 of her 13 starting cards have movement abilities that are paired with other actions like stun, heal or hit.
One cool thing about the Mindthief is that she has abilities to control the movement of allies and monsters too.
With a hand limit of 10, the Mindthief becomes exhausted at a normal rate.
From the perk sheet, you can see the emphasis for the Mindthief is on improving modifier cards to increase the chances of dealing more damage. There are also a fair few on increasing the chances of a debuff.
The Mindthief is by far the most complicated starting class to play in Gloomhaven. Being a melee class with low health points is a challenge for anyone to play. But you can have a lot of fun and be very effective by manipulating monsters and allies.
If you’re bored with the standard role-playing game classes and want to try something new, then give the Mindthief a go.
Take a look at my level 1-9 Mindthief guide for building a damage focussed character who stuns foes.
The Brute is the tank class. No question. Play the Brute and you will be first through every door, smashing monsters in the face and keeping the monsters’ attention on you.
What it’s like to play
You’ll be the tank that keeps the attention of the monsters while dealing melee damage. You can do a minor heal on yourself or allies but are definitely not a healer.
You have higher hit points than the other starting classes so people will look to you to take the hits. You’ll spend your games reducing the damage you take, stalling, disarming, and stunning monsters, and getting in a hit whenever you can.
The Brute is quite a simple character to play as all the abilities are self-explanatory. You don’t need to plan a couple of moves ahead to make the most of your skills.
The Brute’s damage is surprisingly good for a tank. A few of the Brute’s cards target multiple monsters which is a nice way to multiply your total damage on a turn.
He has one ranged ability but all the rest are close up. The retaliate abilities are a nice way to do some additional damage on your turn.
Depending on your group, you may need to swap out some damage cards for defensive cards in later scenarios to support the other players.
As you’d expect from a tank, the starting cards contain mostly melee, shield, movement, and push abilities.
The Brute levels up pretty quickly thanks to the damage reduction and shield cards. You’ll be using these in every scenario and they come with some nice experience.
The Brute has one card with a looting ability which allows you to loot from one hex away. It’s not very powerful and you’ll probably want to replace the card with one with a more useful ability. So you’ll just collect loot at the normal rate.
The Brute is tied with the Cragheart for the highest number of health points at level 1. He also has a minor heal which you can use in an emergency to heal yourself and others. But it’s nothing to write home about.
You’ll be relying on other players to heal you.
In comparison to the other classes, the initiative is medium to high. You can choose a high initiative if you need to get in between the monsters and your party.
9 of the 15 cards you can choose from at level 1 include some kind of movement ability. They aren’t super quick, but do give you a quick boost if you need to get to an ally quickly to direct attention back to you.
With a hand limit of 10, you can become exhausted as the Brute quite quickly if you don’t manage your hand well.
From the perks sheet, you can get an idea of how the Brute is designed to be played as he levels up. The perks are around weakening monsters through disarms, muddle and stun along with a couple that boost your damage and shield yourself.
The ‘ignore negative item effects and add one +1 card’ perk, means that the Brute can wear heavy armor without any negative effects.
The Brute is very good at what he does – tanking. If you like to play the tank then you’ll enjoy it. In our games, the Brute has been so essential to protecting the other players.
When the Brute player in our group unlocked another character and needed to retire the Brute, we really worried about how we would cope without him!
Check out my Brute tank build guide for how to build a tanking Brute.
The Tinkerer is the support and healing class in Gloomhaven. This character buffs allies and weakens monsters with crazy contraptions and potions.
The Tinkerer has low health so the majority of the abilities are ranged and the Tinkerer has a decoy available to distract monsters.
What it’s like to play
As the supporting class, you’ll be paying attention to what the monsters and your teammates are doing very closely. Each turn you’ll be damaging and weakening monsters and healing and boosting your team members.
You’ll feel like a Tinkerer as you use all manner of different contraptions, traps, decoys and healing tonics that your character has made.
Most of the time, you’ll hang back and let your teammates with higher health take the hits. If you do find yourself at the front, you can use your quick wits to distract or immobilize monsters and get out of there.
The damage dealt by the Tinkerer is pretty average, but it does have 3 area of effect abilities at level 1 which will increase your damage. They are all cards that are lost on use though. There is one high-value ability to use on a single monster but that too is an ability you lose on use.
4 starting cards have abilities that stun, wound, poison, or immobilize monsters which are fantastic at supporting the group.
With mostly ranged abilities, negative effects, and a decent amount of healing, the Tinkerer’s cards are fairly versatile and make it a solid support class right from the off.
The Tinkerer gains experience reasonably quickly with most abilities giving some kind of experience.
The Tinkerer starts with one loot ability which allows them to collect loot up to 2 hexes away and gain 1 experience point too. If you use this action you’ll need to lose the card for the rest of the encounter so it may be worth it at the end of scenario, but not before.
Starting on 8 health points makes the Tinkerer one of the lower health starting classes. It has one weak shield ability but that’s the only thing to reduce damage taken.
The good news is that the Tinkerer has plenty of healing abilities. So if you or your allies get hit you can heal back up again.
The Tinkerer is swift when they need to be. They have a good amount of starting cards with low initiative numbers so you will often be one of the first to take your turn.
The Tinkerer can move pretty quickly when they need to. It’s helpful for getting out of sticky situations and dashing through a cleared room.
With a hand limit of 12, you don’t get exhausted too quickly. Because the higher damage and area of effect cards are lost on use it can be easy to get exhausted.
The Tinkerer’s Perks Sheet makes perfect sense for the character. Along with the usual changes to modifier cards, there are lots of perks to increase negative conditions and boost heals to allies.
I am a huge fan of the Tinkerer class. It’s a support and healing character at its heart but it is done in such an interesting way.
The theme of a builder of interesting contraptions makes the character really fun to play. You won’t just be standing at the back healing people, you’ll be summoning decoys, hurling nets, and even wielding a flame!
For the theming and versatility of this character, it is by far my favorite class in Gloomhaven.
I’ve written a build guide for how to play a Crowd Control focussed Tinkerer from level 1-9 if you want to check it out.
Conclusion – Gloomhaven starting classes
Hopefully, this guide has given you some useful insights into the Gloomhaven starting classes so you can choose the one that looks most interesting to you.
Want to know what all the Gloomhaven unlockable characters are? Don’t want any campaign spoilers? Then check out my Gloomhaven Locked Classes article!
From the first game, Gloomhaven was an instant hit with my group. It’s well worth the price for the hours and hours of fun you can have with it! Check out the latest reviews and price of Gloomhaven on Amazon.
If you enjoy Gloomhaven, you may want to check out the upgrades available for it to improve your gaming experience. I especially like these cards sleeves and this organizer insert on Amazon, and this incredible 3D 183 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.
As well as build guides for the starting classes, I’ve created guides for all the locked classes! I’ve completed these guides listed here by code names – Sun, Triforce, Two Minis, Music Note, Lightning Bolt, Three Spears, Circles, Angry Face, Cthulhu, Saw, and Eclipse / Moon.
More Gloomhaven articles
- Gloomhaven Unlockable Classes Revealed (No campaign spoilers)
- 15 Awesome Gloomhaven Accessories and Upgrades
- Brute Guide – Tank Build
- Cragheart Guide – Ranged Build
- Mindthief Guide – Damage and Stun Build
- Scoundrel Guide – Single Target Poison Build
- Spellweaver Guide – Area of Effect Build
- Tinkerer Guide – Crowd Control Build
- Locked Class – Angry Face Guide
- Locked Class – Circles Guide
- Locked Class – Cthulhu
- Locked Class – Eclipse / Moon Guide
- Locked Class – Lightning Bolt Guide
- Locked Class – Music Note Guide
- Locked Class – Saw
- Locked Class – Sun Guide
- Locked Class – Three Spears Guide
- Locked Class – Triforce Guide
- Locked Class – Two Minis Guide