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The Gloomhaven Brute – An Exploration

We have a pretty ace group in Gloomhaven. The epic game, designed by the epic designer Isaac Childres, is a dungeon crawler come adventure come exploration come RPG game that takes tabletop games to a whole new level. In the game you (and your gaming group/friends/only you as it can be solo) take control of a team of unique adventurers looking to make their way in the world. It includes moral choices, real consequences, and more strategy than you can shake a swarm of rats at. Gloomhaven is a revolutionary game.

Our group comprises of myself as the Mindthief, two friends as the Scoundrel and Tinkerer, and one more friend playing another role. That other role is the Brute, and the class I would like to focus on today. We’ve already explored the Mindthief strategy on this blog, so now it’s time to look at one of the other classes. Today let’s look at the Gloomhaven Brute strategy and what it entails.

The Brute Strategy: Spoiler Alert


As I pointed out in the Mindthief article, Gloomhaven is a legacy game, and so I really don’t want to be “that guy” who gives things away. Leaving aside the starting cards (Level 1 and X cards) we will not be mentioning any later cards by names, but instead we will be using general principles when talking about the places where the Brute excels above the others.

If your party isn’t playing the Brute, and you don’t want to be exposed to even the basic concepts of the Brute then this is a good place to stop reading. I’ve already mentioned the Mindthief article which may or may not be of more interest to you. Alternatively there are a few more generic strategy articles.

Likewise, I do use images from our Gloomhaven adventures in this article – so if you don’t want to see any photos of potential scenarios you haven’t done yet then please consider yourself warned.

Right, now all the boring spoiler alerts are out the way, shall we talk about the Gloomhaven Brute? Yes? Let’s do this.

I’m going to set this out like I did my the other Gloomhaven strategy article because consistency is the spice of life – or something like that. That being said – this isn’t so much a strategy as an exploration of the class at lower levels.

What is the Brute good at?

The Brute is a bit of a deceptive class. Whilst it seems very simple to pinpoint straight out of the box as being the thug of the party, it doesn’t quite play out that way. Our very first game, we all hid behind the Brute, sending them forward to certain doom because we thought (very wrongly) that it was the best combat based class in Gloomhaven. Where it is very good, it feels like a bit of a misconception to discuss which the best or worst classes are due to how different they all are. The Brute is very good at combat, but he/she/it is very good at a specific type of combat.

The Brute in Gloomhaven is kind of the equivalent of a cannonball made out of butter. Yes, you can freeze it and it will do a lot of damage; however, if it stays in one place for too long it will go soft and collapse pretty quickly. This means the Brute needs to stay alive, and luckily, he/she/it is pretty good at doing that. Despite the name, the Brute is not a purely offensive character, but instead, is a character who needs to consider defence just as well.

Of course, the Brute is about one word and that word is damage. It can deal out a lot of damage early on in the game, making it an incredibly useful tool, with cards that do 2, 3, and 4 damage as a base.


Fighting demons and things that look like Ringwraiths…

The Brute Strategy of Becoming a Tank

Like the Mindthief has a strategy revolved around the gaining and acquisition of experience, the Gloomhaven Brute has a strategy around becoming an absolute beast in combat. Time and time again we have had that “Hulk Smash” moment, and it is all due to the Brute being able to transform.

Of course, when we talk about transforming the Brute we are not, oddly enough, talking about increasing the damage it can do in combat. Instead, we are talking more defensively. We are talking about is keeping the Brute alive so that he/she can deal the damage.

It is because of this, and the general lack of experience granting cards the Brute has, that makes cards like Warding Strength so valuable. Warding Strength is a first level card, and it gives the Brute the ability to soak up damage like armour might. What it also does, however, is grant experience points.

Warding Strength is a critical card for the Brute, being the main defence card available at the lower levels.

Attack Formation

Attack Formation

Unexpected Support

One of the more surprising things about the Brute, that I did not realise, is how it can be used as a support unit. There are several cards in the Brute’s arsenal that can be used to draw fire. Level one cards like Eye for an Eye are great for healing allies at a distance, whilst things like Promising Roar can absorb damage your other team mates won’t necessarily be able to take.

Promising Roar, when paired with the aforementioned Warding Strength, is a great combination. Force an opponent to target you instead, whilst nullifying it with the protective ability of Warding Strength. This means that weaker characters, those who can deal a lot of damage whilst not being able to take it themselves, stand a much higher chance of survival. In fact, with the Brute’s strength, with this ability, they can avoid some pretty serious damage.

Gloomhaven Brute Strategy: The Brute is great for taking down bosses

The Brute is great for taking down bosses

Going The Distance

The Brute, in most circles/groups, is the kind of character who needs to be able to rush head first into combat. It is rare, in our group, that the Mindthief (who I almost called a Mindflayer by accident, but that is something completely different) or the Tinkerer will open a door. The Scoundrel will if they can, after all, they move so fast they can open a door and (depending on the size of the room) get into combat pretty quickly. Alternatively, as with a lot of groups, the Brute will be the driving force behind opening doors.

This means that, as a general concept, the Brute needs to relish their distance attacks as, when they burst through a door, there is a high chance they will be out of reach of smashing enemies directly. Cards like Spare Dagger at first level, as an example, are great for bursting forth from a door and planting in the face of the nearest enemy. There are more cards, as the Brute levels up, and these are important to get and to keep. These especially get interesting around level 5.

One thing that is equally interesting is how the Brute has area attacks. Unlike the Tinkerer, who also has area attacks, the Brute is not a fire and forget kind of character. He/she/it actually has pretty good stamina and doesn’t just explode. Cards like Skewerwhich does attack more than one enemy, are not just valuable, but essential to a group exploring a Gloomhaven dungeon. Area attacks are great, weakening a group of enemies up to the rest of your group to attack.

To minimise damage it is always an idea, within Gloomhaven, to destroy an enemy the first turn you can. What this means is that it is often advantageous for the Brute to hit first. Do damage to as many enemies as you can, and then leave it to the rest of the team to mop up. By going first the rest of the team can tailor what they need to do, with the Brute making the first dent.

GH - First Mission 2

Combat, rat swarms, and getting our asses handed to us.

The Versatility of the Brute

In most games, it is safe to say that the Brute will probably be one of the most damaging character; however, that doesn’t mean that being the tank is the only thing they are good at. The Brute is a combat focused class, but he/she also has a lot of other tricks up their sleeve.

Those tricks – the ability to heal and take damage in particular – are ones that need to be balanced out with the rest of the group. Other characters have healing abilities, and if there are enough of those in the group then you, as the Brute, won’t necessarily need to take your absorptive abilities with you. That being said, if the group is thin on healing then taking those cards, just in case, could be worthwhile.

So, there we have it – a brief exploration of the Brute. The Brute has been criticised online as being one of the more two dimensional classes, but that doesn’t mean they lack in fun. It is an unfair description as, as proven with this article, the Brute can have a lot to them depending on how you play.

What are your strategy tips or tricks for the Brute? What is your favourite things about them? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Other Articles in this Series:
The Mindthief


  1. I’ve stated a second game with a friend who just got a copy, he’s going brute and I’ve gone Mind thief. It’s probably not the greatest combo – lack of healing is obvious. But I really wanted to try the mind thief.

    Things are going well with my main group and my Spellweaver though, I love playing her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m playing the Mindthief! Love it!

      We don’t have the Spellweaver but I have heard good things. Are they mainly distance, support, speed etc.? What’s their thing?


      • The Spellweaver is an interseting one. She has the smallest number of cards from the starters with only 8 and a lot of loss cards too, but she has one that lets you recover all loss cards, so using that at the right time is pretty important.
        She does quite a lot of multi target attacks, but not loads of damage, more just chipping away, good at clearing up low health groups I guess.
        She doesn’t have a lot of health either, so yea need to stay back a bit. Shes quite fast and has a few good movement cards – including one that moves you 8 – great for grabbing a chest!


  2. I only scanned the article past the “stop reading here” part because I’m thinking of getting the game (spoiler alert is appreciated). In general I wanted to ask, how hard a game is this to pick up? The group I play with seems to do better with somewhat less complex games than the ones where the rules are harder to pick up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are a lot of rules, but the basics are really simple – you have a hand of cards, each with a top and bottom. Each turn you play two – the top of one and the bottom of the other. That’s the core mechanic. Of course, there is more to the game than that, but that’s the basic idea. It’s pretty quick to pick up after that, and so much gameplay once you do. One thing worth considering is that it is a giant commitment. If your group doesn’t immediately click with it I would recommend they try a few dungeons to let it warm on them.

      Liked by 1 person

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