Gloomhaven Scoundrel Guide: Float Like A Butterfly Sting Like A Sledgehammer

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Scoundrel is really the Gloomhaven version of Arya Stark. She is a sneaky, nimble woman with quick fingers and will completely waste any enemy in her way.

Scoundrel Class Overview

The Scoundrel was the first character class I played, and I played with the Scoundrel deep into the game, purposefully avoiding the life goal because I didn’t want to retire her.

After Scoundrel, I played a few other characters, and all of those characters benefited from my time with Scoundrel. You see, Scoundrel’s character is all about positioning and opportunity. In other words, Scoundrel is all about careful planning.

Although she does have a few ranged cards to help her out of a tight space, Scoundrel is primarily played as a melee character. She has medium health, being a little tougher than Spell Weaver, but definitely unable to take a beating like Brute.

This means that your character’s positioning is the key to success as the Scoundrel. She is not good at long-winded, shiel-clashing skirmishes. Instead, she is an assassin. She sneaks in, lands a hit, grabs the gold, and disappears.

Scoundrel Cards Overview

When choosing cards for Scoundrel, you should consider pairings or combos. Eventually, as you get to know the character, you can devise plans that take two to three rounds to reach a payoff. The point is that you shouldn’t pick cards in isolation.

Scoundrel only has nine cards, so you don’t have much leeway to choose a bunch of ‘lose’ cards. So instead, you need to prioritize three elements: attack, movement, and, perhaps most importantly, initiative.

In this detailed guide, I will be leaning toward the build I used, which isn’t so much a range or poison build. Instead, I focused on just straight-up enemy annihilation.

For this, I prioritized cards that gave me high attack damage, even if they required some setup and planning. Then, I coupled this with high-movement cards, allowing me to get into the perfect position to deal with the damage.

However, the real secret to Scoundrel is in selecting initiatives. You need cards with both low and high initiatives. For Scoundrel, high initiative cards are just as valuable as low ones.

The combination allows you to use a run-hit-hit-run maneuver as your staple attack. First, you chose a high initiative from a safe location, letting you go last. Then, on your turn, you run in and attack your target.

On your next turn, you chose a low initiative combo, allowing you to go first. Then, you attack your target again, possibly killing it, and then run to safety, leaving Brute to take the blows. Thus “run-hit-hit-run.”

Starting Cards

Let’s first look at the two cards I advise you don’t pick. Then the two cards you will alternate between, depending on the situation, and finally, the other eight cards of your starting hand.

Trickster’s Reversal: Let’s start with my least favorite card, which, in my defense, I really have tried to play. First, the low initiative is the most useful part of this card. Still, both the top and bottom actions are highly circumstantial.

In the early game, you are unlikely to meet enemies with high enough shield values to use the top attack effectively. And it is only on rare or badly planned occasions that you find yourself placed in a corner needing the bottom action’s damage mitigation.

Sinister Opportunity: The next card I would ditch for a starting character is Sinister Opportunity. Or choose between this card and Back Stab, as they are similar. The card isn’t bad, and many love it. It has an ultra-high initiative, the ability to position yourself and your enemy, and the potential for a powerful attack.

Unfortunately, it’s complicated to line things up in such a way that you actually take advantage of that attack, and it requires a few rounds of careful planning from the whole party. It’s also a lose card, so it is best to leave it out when you are just starting off.

However, as you get used to the mechanics, you may want to replace Back Stab with it.

Throwing Knives is by no means a bad card. It gives you a multiple-target, ranged attack at the top (with some experience) and a massive loot-2-action at the bottom. However, the loot two is a lose-action, and the attack damage at the top will be lacking in many scenarios.

Still, it is a good option if you are playing a scenario with multiple, weaker targets or building a ranged Scoundrel.

Backstab: Instead of throwing knives, I usually have Backstab in my hand. Although attack 3 isn’t that great for a lose-card in Scoundrel’s world, the very low initiative and impressive 6-movement make this card a brilliant positioning tool.

For that reason, this card has always been a staple for me in the run-hit-hit-run combo. And with some setup and planning, the attack can be devastating when used with Smoke Bomb.

Smoke Bomb is my favorite Scoundrel card. At least, in my opinion, it is the quintessential Scoundrel card that perfectly summarizes the character. First, you sneak in as an invisible threat, allowing you to land a devastating blow.

The top part of this card makes you invisible for the next turn. It doubles the damage you deal on your next attack after playing this card. Furthermore, it activates the dark element.

If you can surround a target with your party and play Backstab in the next round, you will effectively deal a blow of 7 x 2 or 14 damage. Sweet dreams, big, bad, boss.

The bottom of the card is equally valuable, allowing you to bring an enemy to you for an attack.

Single Out is the card that I typically pair with the bottom action of Smoke Bomb. By pulling a target to me, and away from his allies, I can use Single Out to deal a very respectable 5 damage. It’s also handy in bigger areas with more space between enemies.

However, the bottom part of the card isn’t all that useful and will have you burning your card with little benefit.

Quick Hands is one of those average cards you will likely swap out early on for an upgrade. The loot action is pretty mediocre, and the initiative is more or less in the middle, which you want to avoid for Scoundrel. However, the added movement in the top action helps close tiny gaps and get a quick stab.

Flanking Strike is a card that you will likely never remove from your hand. The 5 movement at the bottom is pretty solid, and the potential to land a 5 attack and gain experience at the top is also decent. However, the shining jewel is the ridiculously low initiative of 4, which allows you to move before your party is even done planning.

Thief’s Knack has a relatively poor initiative but the rest is awesome. Having an attack-3 at the bottom of a card is ridiculously useful and has been the killing blow for me many times. At the top, you can disarm a pesky trap and gain 2 experience points.

Did I mention you also get 1 experience for just using that attack? So having experience opportunities both top and bottom means you can use this card to help level you up quicker.

Venom Shiv is a card that I definitely have a love-hate relationship with. While the card looks great, with an attack 3 on top that adds poison and experience and a move 5 at the bottom, it’s actually just ok. This mostly has to do with the lousy initiative of 60, which is right in the middle zone, where Scoundrel dies.

Special Mixture is a heal card that most people will probably tell you to leave in your hand. And while it is handy in the early game, I dropped it out of my hand later when I could get a big health potion.

The bottom part of the card, which allows you to move 3 and poison one enemy, is not very useful, and the initiative is pretty bad. This means that this ends up being just a healing card, so if you can learn to play without needing it, you open up a slot for an attack card. However, keep it in your hand for now.

Swift Bow is a handy card apart from the less-than-ideal initiative. The top gives you an attack of 3 and a good range of 4. However, the bottom is also cool, if you pair it with boots of striding, allowing you to move across and loot 4 tiles

The range attack means you can alter the run-hit-hit-run combo to a run-hit-run-shoot combo. Or you could use it as a ranged attack to soften the enemy before you go in for the run-hit-hit run.

Level 2 Cards

Once you leveled up, you must choose between two level 2 cards to add to your deck. And decide which card it will replace.

Open Wound is the card most people will settle for in round 2. It’s just a great card. It has low initiative, an attack of 4 that adds wound and gives you experience. Then, at the bottom, you have a solid move 5.

As an added note, I have always preferred wound to poison, especially for enemies with massive shield ratings, so I would swap Venim Shiv for this card. Alternatively, if you have potions and don’t mind the risk, you can ditch Special Mixture.

Flintlock, isn’t all that bad, but it doesn’t stack up against Open Wound. You get a ridiculously high initiative, which is great for waiting out the combat while you’re invisible. You also get a loot 1 on top, which is uncommon. But the bottom, ranged attack, albeit quite potent, is a lose-action.

Level 3 Cards

Duellist’s Advance is another card that I hold dear. You can swap out Quick Hands for this card, as it adds one to both the attack and movement at the top. However, it swaps the bottom loot action for the ability to add 2 damage to all attacks this round. (If the enemy is not next to any of its allies).

2 damage may not seem like much, but played in combination with Smoke Bomb, it suddenly becomes 4 damage. This card becomes part of the setup for a devastating attack.

Hidden Daggers

Hidden Daggers is a good option if you are playing a ranged type of Scoundrel. Again, it’s not a terrible card. It gives you invisibility at the bottom and has a high initiative. It also has a decent, multi-target ranged attack at the top, but it’s a lose-card if you use it.

Level 4 Cards

Level 4 gives you two good options; choosing one can be quite hard.

Gruesome Advantage, the bigger brother of Back Stab, potentially adds 2 damage points to the top attack. It also adds 1 movement to the bottom, making it a ludicrous 7-movement card. But it also gives you a horrible, straight-in-the-middle initiative.

I landed an attack that did more than 40 damage using this card. My friends positioned themselves around a boss, isolating it. I used Smoke Bomb the prior round, and I played Duellist’s Advance with this card. To save you the math, that is an attack of 11 x 2.

Holding my breath, I turned my modifier deck and jumped clean off my chair when I saw the beautiful X2 card. An attack of 44 damage. Insane. However, if I had used Back Stab instead, that attack would still have been 36 damage. So, in the end, I think the other level 4 card is probably the better choice in the long run.

Flurry Of Blades is the pick of the two. It’s a multi-target ranged attack that gives you experience. It also has a ludicrously low initiative of only 3.

However, the bottom is the golden ticket here. It’s an OK movement of 4, but it gives you an advantage for your round. Perfect for a run-hit combo. This bottom action makes the card a staple for all your attacks.

Level 5

Visage Of The Inevitable can be straight-up OP, especially in bigger spaces, so enemies don’t crowd together. Basically, it “insta-kills” a normal enemy that is standing alone. Plus, if you find yourself in a crowded room, you can use the bottom action to poison all the enemies adjacent to you. I would replace Single Out with this card.

The big downside of the Visage card is that you will replace an attack card with it, leaving you with one less attack card to fall back on. If you know you are playing in a very crowded space, then possibly leave this card out of your hand for that scenario.

Cull The Weak is good if you don’t want to sacrifice a standard attack card. It is an upgrade to Single Out, adding attack damage. It still has an OK initiative but a bottom action that isn’t all that useful or practical for hand sizes as small as Scoundrels.

Level 6 Cards

Crippling poison is only a good option if you build a poison-focused Scoundrel. It doesn’t compete with the other option if that is not your goal. It has some nice features, like a bottom attack that adds poison and immobilizes. Still, the top ability is a permanent active ability.

While that is good at face value, Scoundrel’s small hand size makes it less valuable and harder to manage. But, again, this card is a must unless you are building a poison Scoundrel.

Burning Oil is my choice for a level 6 card. It gives you a powerful ranged and wounding attack, a very high initiative for waiting out fights, and a Loot 2 action at the bottom. You can swap out Swift Bow for this improved version and use it more or less the same way.

Level 7 Cards

Stick To The Shadows is a great all-rounder type of card. It gives you a powerful attack up top, which can go up to 8 if you have all the conditions in place, and at the bottom, you get a move 2 and invisibility. It’s a solid option for almost any type of build, albeit not the most exciting. I would drop Special Mixture for this card if you still have it.

Spring The Trap is the boss killer. The top allows you to spring a trap and place the damage on an enemy within range. However, the bottom allows you to do double damage where an enemy is next to your allies but not his. So the same conditions as Back Stab.

Join this card with Back Stab and Smoke Bom, and you have a 28-damage attack. Draw a “times-2” multiplier, and you get a 56-damage attack. But you also lose two cards in the process, so if you draw a miss, well… too bad.

Level 8

Unfortunately, level 8 gives you two “meh” options.

Pain’s End is only really useful if all is lost and the game has reached a painful end. Or if you have been overly risky in your play style. The top heal 8, and lose option is something that wouldn’t help I you need it, and the bottom movement is also very circumstantial. So I wouldn’t choose this card.

Stilleto Storm is another one of those multi-target dagger card that lets you target 4 enemies. The bottom is also pretty useful in a scrape where it adds retaliation to your movement. This card might be a good upgrade if you have been building a ranged character.

However, because you are now in the late game and approaching bosses with near-endless health pools, I would choose Spring The Trap from level 7 and move it to my hand when needed.

Level 9

Watch It Burn: If you have been building a character that thrives on throwing daggers that hit just about every target in their path, this card is probably for you. The top is a permanent ability that adds poison and wound to every single attack that you do. So, if you are constantly hitting 4 targets, that becomes a potent card.

I chose this card, and although I loved it, it made things challenging with the smaller hand size. So I often ended up using it as a movement card instead.

Long Con: At the top, you have an attack 4 that disarms all adjacent enemies. So now you can run-hit-hit-run into an entire group of foes and not worry about getting punched in the face. The bottom action of this card is less useful in my experience, and because it loses the card, you probably won’t use it.

As an added bonus, this card has the lowest initiative I’ve seen on a player card.

Scoundrel Class Perks

Scoundrel’s perks aren’t super special and game-breaking, but getting them in a particular order can make all the difference in the world. So, firstly, my party has a ritual in which we also pick “Ignore Negative Scenario Effects” first. It just takes the stress of the road scenarios.

After that, the choice is pretty much yours. However, one mistake I made was removing as many negative cards as possible before adding any cards. This ended up being dumber than I thought.

Making my deck smaller vastly increased the odds of drawing the miss-card. My attacks missed a lot. I would start with the options that replace cards; this way, you make your deck more positive, but you don’t make it smaller.

Then add invisibility and add some rolling cards. After that, you remove the minus 1 cards, and then lastly, remove the zero cards.

Scoundrel Class Enhancement

As far as enhancements are concerned, I would advise you to get a few early on, but place them on the cards you know you will keep.

For me, this was a card like Flanking Strike, which added the Jump to the movement. Jump is definitely the first enhancement you should get. It completely redefines your ability to get into the best possible position for an attack.

Secondly, Thief’s Knack is a card that I also kept, so I enhanced the bottom attack. Here you have some freedom depending on your playstyle, but I would advise you to opt either for poison or wound or add 1 damage to the attack.

Finally, another early option is to enhance the top of Flanking Strike in the same way as Thief’s Knack.

Scoundrel Class Items

Choosing the right items will take your Scoundrel from a great assassin to the harbinger of death. To start off, you need to get health and stamina potions as soon as possible. And you need to keep upgrading those. That stamina potion is going to be particularly useful.

For shoes, get either the winged boots, which negates the need for jump enhancements, or the Boots of Striding, which means that there will be almost nowhere unreachable for you.

For a cloak, start off with the Cloak of Invisibility. It just gives you an added option for a sneak attack. For a helmet, start with the Eagle Eye goggles that give you an advantage during an attack. However, I changed it during the late game for the Pendant of Dark Pacts, which allowed me to refresh my potions.

I started with the battle axe as a handheld weapon, which added two targets to my deadly single-target attacks. Later, I upgraded to the Reaping Scythe, which adds 3 targets.

As a bonus item, I played the ring of haste which allows you to pick an additional card after your turn and immediately play the top action. Basically, letting you add an entire attack to your turn.

Final Thoughts

Scoundrel is an extremely fun character to play. However, she is not a “run-and-gun” or “hack-and-slash” type of character that can be played aggressively without thought. Instead, to play Scoundrel effectively, you need to learn to read the circumstances and plan two to four turns ahead.

This may seem complicated, but as you play Scoundrel, it will become second nature, and the payoff of landing a well-planned attack will be hugely satisfying.