The board game Gloomhaven has attracted many fantasy-based and strategic game fans since 2019. The wining-combination of fantasy and strategy elements has engaged a broad spectrum of players and significantly contributed to its worldwide popularity and success.
Gloomhaven has a selection of classes to play, including the Summoner. Although not favored by many, this summoning class is worth your consideration.
As the Summoner needs to be unlocked by completing personal quests, this guide will assume you know the basics of Gloomhaven and are familiar with most of the terminology.
There is not much to figure out about the Summoner. Given its name, you will be correct to think that this class summons things. More accurately, the Summoner summons controllable allies (called summons) to join your quest and lay additional siege to the enemies. Without them, the Summoner is like a witch without a broom.
How to play the Summoner effectively is less evident than in other classes, so you will need to know all the ins and outs to give you an advantage. It also helps to know your type well to enable you to play each turn while planning the next round or two in your mind.
As the Summoner, you must use summons to do the bulk of your damage – or at least try to. Dealing out the maximum possible damage requires management and planning since things become more complicated and only increase as you add more to the board.
Note that you’ll need to be adjacent to a summon to play the relevant command card granting you control of the demand for a turn, which can be challenging to set up. Once there, if you do not command the summon, it will default to monster focus – the same automated system the game uses for enemy creatures.
When playing in a team, it is worth remembering that your actions have consequences for others, making it one of the more significant aspects that will influence your decision-making. You must constantly consider, for example, whether another player wants to play a tank or try to establish whether all the other players picked tanks and damage-dealing characters.
Although the Summoner is best played as Ranged Damage, you can also play the Summoner as Tank or Support.
The Summoner has excellent ranged damage, summons (ranged and melee), and controlling spells to keep the summons productive and alive for as long as possible. This role enables the Summoner to do more damage while avoiding danger.
As a Tank, you can play on the frontline using your melee summons and healing spells. However, you will need to move between your summons to command them and occasionally may need to take a hit or two to ensure your summon(s) survive. This strategy is perfect if you want a challenge, but it is worth consulting your team before choosing this route.
Playing Summoner as Support is scarce, which says a lot. If your team has already picked roles dealing severe damage, including Tank, you might play Support, but it’s not the ideal class for this role.
More than roles, you must also be aware of some in-game features to increase your game productivity as a Summoner.
Initiative Is Your Friend
The Summoner has many cards with a late initiative, which the Summoner uses to gain an advantage. Summoning late in a round ensures that the summon has a greater chance of not being hit because your enemies would have already acted.
The earlier initiative cards you have at your disposal can then be used on your next turn to give the summon(s) a greater chance to attack before potentially being hit or dying. It is also essential to know that your summon(s) always act directly before your character.
Summoning Summons Successfully
A clever and effective way to summon is to stay aware of the board and all characters’ positions.
If necessary, and you are in the appropriate position for it, you might need to summon one of your creatures ahead of an ally, using the summon as a shield to take an incoming hit. You will hopefully only have to consider this later in the game.
Another good idea is to move behind the enemies and cast a summon. This will help the summon(s) from falling behind when advancing to the next room and, if you have a team member as a Tank, you can safely assume that neither you nor the summon will be in danger.
Know Which Cards To Pick
It is better not to start every scenario with the same cards. Be aware of the different enemies in each scenario; you’ll need to start acting on this knowledge early based on the cards you pick.
For example, facing enemies with dangerous Poison or Wound attacks might force you to prioritize cards like Biting Wind, Unwavering Hand, or Conjured Aid, which heals allies.
Suppose you are under a unique threat to which you do not have an escape plan; the burden will fall on your teammates to help. You will need to work together and look for synergies between your cards and allied characters. Building the best version of your class through combined cards can be as varied as the scenario you choose to play.
Your role within a team needs to be clear before selecting your cards. The cards you choose are a crucial part of the game and allow you to effectively fulfill your duty as a team member. Conversely, if you play Support (regardless of class) but do not prioritize the healing or buff spells available to your character, you will be less of an asset to your team.
Summoner Cards Overview
The Summoner has a maximum hand size of 9. The total number of cards available to the Summoner from levels 1-9 is 30. These options allow you to play either of the abovementioned roles (i.e., Tank, Support, or Ranged Damage).
For the remainder of this article, ability cards will be referred to as simply “cards”.
You will have nine card options to start with. Afterward, you get another three card options in other levels, which you can exchange to maintain a total of nine. Most of these cards are excellent and will set you up as a very effective Summoner:
- Biting Wind
- Black Fire
- Bonded Might
- Forged Ferocity
- Living Night
- Mighty Bond
- Unending Dominance
- Unwavering Hand
- Wild Animation
- Ethereal Vines
- Leathery Wings
- Volatile Flame
You will want to use some cards interchangeably, while others you might rarely pick.
For example, Leathery Wings is not a good summon, but it produces Wind, which you can use along with Biting Wind to push an enemy, or later, Inexorable Momentum, to deal more damage. Instead, go with an alternative card that offers summons.
Unwavering Hand doesn’t fit the role of a Ranged Damage dealer, yet as Support, it is a solid pick. The top can be used to heal any ally, yet if you position your summons well, you won’t need to recover them as often. The bottom will make the card more viable if you are playing a scenario with traps (to push enemies into), which is tricky since you won’t know this beforehand.
Lastly, picking between Forged Ferocity and Volatile Flame depends on your role, the scenario, and the creatures. Still, neither of the summons is particularly good, so it comes down to your preference.
There are two card options at level 2 – Earthen Steed and Grasping the Void.
The choice between these cards is relatively straightforward: Earthen Steed is better because it has the earliest initiate of all the cards, which is necessary to act strategically (both for you and your summons). You will mainly use the bottom option to move, with the added Jump moves being much better.
Grasping the Void is not a bad card, but with the summons and other attacking cards, this will remain an average option compared to an initiative card like Earthen Steed.
The two card options at Level 3 are Tear the Fabric and Oozing Manifestation.
With Oozing Manifestation, you’ll get a decent summon that can take some hits, attack with a Muddled effect, and has good movement. The bottom is also a good attack that can be useful to damage, immobilize, or possibly curse an enemy.
Tear the Fabric’s top is good, especially against shielded enemies. The bottom is a decent heal if you play the Tank role, but in general, it falls short of the strong summon Oozing Manifestation adds to your arsenal.
At Level 4, your options for a new card increase by two, with Living Mountain and Divided Mind.
Unfortunately, the decision on which is best is not an easy one.
The top of Living Mountain adds a strong summon to your team, and the bottom contains a great move-loot combination. The latter feature makes this a desirable option since the Summoner needs more money than most other characters to obtain its optimal items.
Divided Mind allows you to move two summons within Range 2 (top) or control the attack of two summons within Range 2 (bottom). Divided Mind is a great utility card that ensures interaction with your summons, which is crucial, making Divided Mind the slightly better choice.
Upon reaching Level 5, you can pick between two cards: Strength in Numbers or Conjured Aid.
Strength in Numbers wants precisely that – numbers. The bottom is an Attack X with Range X, where X is the number of all summoned allies, including your teammates’ summons. The top gives you control of an adjacent summon but adds Attack 1 and Move 1, which is always great, especially on summons with low movement. This is an excellent pick if you know there will be multiple summons on the board.
Your other option, Conjured Aid, helps you play as Support or Tank. However, as Ranged Damage, this is not the card you want. The top summons a Healing Sprite, which is extremely weak in attack but heals afterward. The bottom is Move 5, but you should have ample options with Move and summon by this time.
Endless Spikes and Inexorable Momentum is unlocked at Level 6.
Endless Spikes summons three creatures with 4 Health, each having Retaliate 2. The bottom will give all summoned allies Retaliate 2, which could work well for a Tank build because the summon(s) with Retaliate needs to survive damage for the Retaliate to activate. Otherwise, you have outstanding ranged summons that will fit the Ranged Damage better.
Inexorable Momentum is the better option because your summons will struggle against shielded enemies, and your top attack with Pierce will defeat them. The bottom offers a good Move 3 and a Move 3 for an adjacent summoned ally, but you do not control this movement. Thus, it will not be suitable for repositioning rather than catching up or moving forward.
The following two options are Negative Energy and Staff of Visions.
Negative Energy gives you one of the best summons, namely Void Eater. The bottom is used less often but can be great, especially if you have a few melee summons – even better if one of your teammates has summons.
The Staff of Visions has a massive top melee attack, but you might not be able to use this often unless you went with Tank. The bottom is an effective combination of Move and Buff, which could work well regardless of your role.
Reaching Level 8 gives you Intervening Apparitions and Otherworldly Rage card options.
Intervening Apparitions is entirely situational. The top aids your allied summons by preventing three instances of damage, although it does not matter how much the damage is. If a summoned ally would take 1 Damage, it is stopped, and one charge is used.
The downside is that you could lose all three counters if three of your summons are hit with a low-damage spell or effect. So once again, the scenario would determine how necessary it is. If you are playing a scenario with an enemy regularly cursing you, this is the pick for you; otherwise, steer clear.
Otherworldly Rage is a bit deceiving. The bottom is tempting since it swops your position with a summoned ally and then gives you Move 3, making this a solid choice, even if you only run a few summons. The top is a less effective command spell because it does not offer your summon any movement, so it is a bit of a gamble. Yet, a solid Attack with Wound and Poison cannot be overlooked.
Level 9 offers you Horned Majesty and Interplanar Mastery.
Interplanar Mastery is another card offering you recovery of lost cards. Not only does the bottom sweeten the deal with Move 6, but the initiative is a good 22.
At the top level, you’d expect a significant and robust summon, which Horned Majesty gives you in the form of a Black Unicorn (only six health). However, it has 4 Move and Attack, with an additional Pierce 3, which is impressive. The bottom is exciting, allowing you to control a +0 Attack of each summoned ally within Range 3, which tips the scale in favor of Horned Majesty over Interplanar Mastery.
To increase your total damage and ensure more stable results when attacking, removing all the negatives first and then adding positives afterward is the best strategy.
Replacing one -2 with a +0 is a great place to start, removing two -1 cards and then focusing on the repeatable perk of replacing a -1 with a +1. The “Ignore negative scenario effects” perk won’t be as effective, as you’ll be drawing many attacking cards off the summons. Furthermore, don’t worry too much about adding the elements anytime soon.
Take your time to decide which cards to enhance since you have limited enhancements and limited gold. Here are a few suggestions:
- Wild Animation offers you the Thorn Shooter. Enhancing the summon’s attack by one will make a big difference as you use this from Level 1 straight through to Level 9, ensuring great value.
- Adding Bless to the bottom of Forged Ferocity goes a very long way in ensuring an increase of damage for yourself and all summoned allies.
- Enhancing any good Move action with Jump or an element is generally quite effective. The Jump is always productive, and getting extra elements is good if you like playing cards that use them, like Black Fire, Biting Wind, etc. Maybe more for other classes, but still compelling enough on a Summoner.
Adding another dimension to each character are the available items. If you’ve played Gloomhaven before, you will be familiar with how important some of these items are.
Stamina potions are an effective way to regain lost cards if you’ve used Unending Dominance to summon the golem or if you are saving it for later use. Both minor and significant stamina potions are great alternatives and items in general.
Summoning items like Falcon Figurine and Power Core are excellent options if you want a specific summon or if you’re playing Support and want some summons available via items instead of cards.
Utility items like Boots of Speed and Cloak of Pockets are beneficial and should always be considered, with the former enabling you to adjust your initiative earlier or later.
Cloak of Pockets enables you to carry two additional items, which is especially good for the Summoner playing Ranged Damage since you do not necessarily need a good piece of armor.
In games like Gloomhaven, there will always, at least seemingly, be a best or worst choice when it comes to the characters. You will do well to at least try the Summoner; it might summon a surprise on the faces of all those nay-sayers! Yet your knowledge of a character and decisions are still the main factors determining whether you are victorious.