One of my favorite parts of Gloomhaven wasn’t even originally a part the game: enhancements. Isaac came up with the idea as a stretch goal during the initial kickstarter, a goal that funded just a few days before the campaign ended. Oddly enough, the commenters on that post were largely against the idea: the “destruction” of game components was still a very new idea back then and it stirred a lot of controversy, but I think time has shown us that this is one of the very coolest part of Gloomhaven! It seems remarkable that a game makes taking coins feel so urgent at every stage, even at very high levels, and that is largely due to enhancements. But enhancements can be daunting: so many stickers! So many choices! Such complicated pricing! This Gloomhaven Strategy Guide for Enhancement can help.
How do you enhance? Which cards are the best to enhance? What is too expensive to be worth it? What can this guide tell you about enhancement in Gloomhaven that you don’t already know? Well, there’s a lot to consider.
How to unlock the Power of Enhancement
Enhanement isn’t something that’s unlocked from the beginning of the game. You must get a certain global achievement before you’re allowed to start doing it, and that global achievement is obtained by successfully finishing a certain scenario.
Well, this is obviously going to contain some spoilers, so toggle below if you want to find out which scenario, and the quickest path to get to that scenario.
Minor Spoilers about Scenario Paths (for early main story scenarios)
The “Power of Enhancement” Global achievement is gained in scenario #14. Which means, you must complete #14 before you enhance any cards. Luckily, you can unlock that scenario very early on if you want to, in as little as 4 scenarios.
The two quickest paths to scenario 14 are listed below.
1 > 2 > 4 > 5 > 14
1 > 2 > 3 > 8 > 14
This is the only other path to scenario 14:
1 > 2 > 3 > 9 > 11/12 > 18 > 14
Once you’ve beat scenario 14, you’re free to start enhancing!
Which Cards do I enhance?
The first question is always which cards should you enhance? And that question is different for every class, but there are a few principles to go by.
Enhance Low Level Cards
The first thing to consider is that enchanting low level cards is cheap. The cheaper the enhancements you do are, the more of them you can afford, and the earlier you can start doing it. Retirement is always a ticking time bomb, so getting the most of the money you make as soon as you make it is important. To that end, I mostly enhance level 1 and level X cards.
The second reason to focus on enhancing low level cards is that it’s a big power spike immediately if you ever choose to play that character again after retiring them. The enhancement stickers stay around even after retirement, so making sure you get the most out of those enhancements for this character, and in future reincarnations is excellent.
Enhance Cards That You’ll Always Use with that Class
Nearly every character in Gloomhaven will have some number of low level cards in their hand even after they hit level 9, but many other cards will become obsolete. Figuring out which cards you’ll be keeping, even at level 9, is important so you don’t end up keeping a bad card because its enhanced or getting rid of an enhanced card later on when a better option comes around.
If you’re playing through without looking at higher level cards or class guides, then this can be tricky, but after a few games, some cards should standout as being among your best. You won’t always get it right, but Gloomhaven isn’t very high stakes, and any enhancement is useful.
Otherwise, there are lots of guides out there that focus primarily on which cards to take at each level, which make it easier to focus on cards you won’t get rid of.
Enhance Cards to Make your Strongest Abilities Stronger
Some people want to make bad cards good, or to focus on something their character isn’t naturally good at. Making a heal 2 into a heal 3, on a character who struggles to stay healthy, for example, is typically a bad use of an enhancement.
Thats because enhancements are typically pretty minor in the greater scheme of things, and the gain from making a bad ability decent is far less than the gain of making a powerful ability more powerful.
An exception to this might be to add jump to a character who otherwise has poor mobility. There are others, but like everything in this guide, it is situational.
Enhance Cards that Aren’t Single-Use Loss Cards
You typically get more milage out of cards you can use more than once, but there are plenty of exceptions to this. The Spellweaver is the obvious one, but so are many summons.
Enhance Cards to Make Synergistic Combinations of Abilities
Sometimes you’ll upgrade an ability to make it marginally more powerful, but oftentimes you’ll add an ability to a card with another ability because certain combinations of abilities are just inherently powerful. For example, attacks that target many enemies are great with curse, or disarm, etc.
I’ll talk in detail about Gloomhaven’s powerful enhancement combinations in the next section this guide.
Enhancement Strategy Guide
Add Strengthen to Bottom Action Heals and Buffs
Strengthen gets my vote as the most powerful enhancement in the game. First of all, it will often effect more than one attack. If you put strengthen on a bottom action, you can still attack that turn with a top action, and next turn with a top action again, and potentially even a bottom action too. That’s up to 3 actions that will get the benefit.
In addition to that, strengthen lets you circumvent the enhancement rules: typically a bonus put on a low level card effects just that card’s ability. But strengthen lets you power up any attack you play after it. Higher level abilities that are too expensive to upgrade directly, and AOE attacks which also have an expensive upgrade cost both benefit greatly from this.
That said, not every class can use it equally as well. Classes with lots of AOE attacks can use it well. Additionally, if you have few to no rolling modifiers in your deck, that also increases the strength of strengthen.
Add Immobilize to Pushes
Immobilize on a melee ranged enemy is as good as a stun when no one is adjacent to that enemy. The downside of that is that you must spend your move after using your immobilize, to get the advantage of it.
But when the immobilize is on a push, it will often be very easy to make sure that enemy isn’t adjacent to any of your allies.
Add Elemental Infusions to Movement Actions
Movement is something you’ll do nearly every round, and you’ll usually have many cards to choose from for it. That makes it the perfect candidate for an elemental infusion, since you’ll likely be moving the turn before you use your elemental infusions anyways, and using it won’t put you in the awkward position of using an attack poorly just for an elemental infusion.
If you’re playing a class that relies on elements, without a reliable way to generate it in your party, this is a great option.
Improve Attack Range of Ranged Summons
Summons are more expensive to upgrade than other cards, but if you manage to keep a summon alive, you can get far more uses from it than from the typical card.
One tactic to keep summons alive longer is to give them more attack range. This will give them more flexibility to attack from through doorways, behind obstacles, etc. They will still do stupid things sometimes, but the longer their range is, the less often that will happen.
Add Curse to AOE Attacks
This is more powerful when playing with more players, because you’ll have more enemies, and they’ll cluster together more often. But even in two player games, I’ve seen it shine.
This applies equally to adding bless to AOE buffs.
Add Another Hex to AOE Stuns and Disarms
Stuns and disarms are the bread and butter of how to get ahead of the enemies in this game. When you make them bigger, more enemies will get hit, you’ll have more flexibility when the time comes to use that attack, and
Add Wound to Stun Attacks
This modificatoin ends up being essentially +2 damage, since the enemy will take damage twice before it gets to take it’s next turn, which is really powerful. And stuns are among your most powerful cards, which fits the theme of upgrading your best cards.
Enhance Permanent Effects
If you rely on a permanent effect, consider upgrading it if you can. This doesn’t apply to most characters, but for the few who have a few permanent effects they rely on, upgrading them is great. I won’t go into more detail for fear of spoilers, but you’ll know those characters when you find them.
Add Jump to Big Movement Cards
When you’re struggling with mobility, this is a cheap upgrade that can help out. It’s pretty low impact all things said, but it’s a nice quality of life upgrade.
Thanks for reading my Gloomhaven Enhancement Strategy Guide. I hope you found something useful here.
In the near future, I plan to expand on this guide, going into each of the starting characters, and their best enhancements. Let me know if there is anything else you’d like to see added to this guide. Thanks for reading.