Mastering Gloomhaven Initiative: A Comprehensive Guide

Hey there, fellow Gloomhaven adventurers! Ready to seize victory and conquer the darkest dungeons with finesse? I’ve got just the key to unlock your triumph – the Gloomhaven Initiative. Want to know what it is and how to wield it like a seasoned pro? Let’s delve into the thrilling depths together, and I’ll show you how to gain that competitive edge. So, what exactly is the Gloomhaven Initiative, and why is it the secret to your success?

In Gloomhaven, initiative order determines who takes their turn first in a round. This is based on the initiative values on all played monster ability cards and players’ leading character ability cards. The lowest initiative value goes first, and turns continue in ascending order. In case of an initiative tie between players, the non-leading card is consulted. The player goes first when there is a tie between a player and a monster.

In the image below we can see that the Gloomhaven character ability card Trample has the initiative number 72.

Gloomhaven character ability card initiative
Gloomhaven character ability card initiative

Let’s look at some scenarios in the table below:

ScenarioPlayer A’s CardPlayer B’s CardExplanation of Initiative CalculationOutcome
1Card with initiative 20Card with initiative 30Player A’s card has a lower initiative value, so Player A goes first.Player A goes first
2Card with initiative 50Card with initiative 50Both players have the same initiative value. In this case, the player who announced their card first goes first.Depends on who announced first
3Card with initiative 80Card with initiative 10Player B’s card has a lower initiative value, so Player B goes first.Player B goes first
4Card with initiative 10Card with initiative 20Player A’s card has a lower initiative value, so Player A goes first.Player A goes first
5Card with initiative 30Card with initiative 30Both players have the same initiative value. In this case, the player who announced their card first goes first.Depends on who announced first
Gloomhaven Initiative

Delving further into this guide, we’ll uncover strategic tactics, explore real gameplay scenarios, and reveal expert tips that will level up your Gloomhaven experience. Stay tuned to avoid common initiative mistakes and to master the art of manipulating initiative to your advantage.

How does initiative work in Gloomhaven?

In the game of Gloomhaven, initiative serves as the turn order mechanic. Each round, players select two ability cards to perform actions. The leading card’s initiative value, typically the lower of the two numbers, determines who goes first. Lower numbers go before higher ones. However, choosing when to go early or late in a turn order can create strategic advantages, allowing you to control the battlefield effectively. This mechanism adds a layer of tactical depth to Gloomhaven, where every decision can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Importance of Initiative in Game Strategy

Understanding and strategizing initiative is pivotal to your gameplay in Gloomhaven. It controls the flow of the round, dictating which characters or monsters act first and thus influence the state of the battlefield. By playing a low initiative card, your character can move early in a round, perhaps eliminating a threatening monster before it can cause harm. On the other hand, playing a high initiative card allows you to move later, providing flexibility to react to the unfolding events on the battlefield. Mastering the ebb and flow of initiative can empower you to make calculated strategic decisions and secure control of the combat scenario.

Gloomhaven Initiative Tie – Who goes first?

During gameplay, it’s possible for ties to occur in initiative order. When two players draw the same initiative, the one closer to the monsters in the room acts first. When two monsters draw the same initiative, they act in ascending order of their standee numbers. Understanding how ties work can be crucial for your game strategy. For instance, if you know you’ll act before another player with the same initiative, you can plan your actions accordingly to maximize your team’s efficiency on the battlefield.

Understanding Gloomhaven Monster Initiative

Just like players, monsters in Gloomhaven also have initiatives that determine their turn order in a round. Every round, a monster type’s ability card is drawn, and the initiative value on that card will determine the order in which the monsters act. This order can greatly influence your tactical plans. For example, a monster acting before you could disrupt your plans to attack it. Conversely, a monster acting after you might walk into your carefully laid trap. The unpredictability of monster initiative calls for adaptable strategies and tactical flexibility.

Monster TypeAbility Card Drawn for the RoundInitiative Value on Drawn CardInitiative Order (Lower = Earlier)Explanation
Bandit GuardAbility Card A152Bandit Guard has the second lowest initiative value, so it takes its turn after Inox Shaman but before Living Bones and Cave Bear.
Inox ShamanAbility Card B101Inox Shaman has the lowest initiative value, so it takes its turn first.
Living BonesAbility Card C203Living Bones has the third lowest initiative value, so it takes its turn after Bandit Guard but before Cave Bear.
Cave BearAbility Card D604Cave Bear has the highest initiative value, so it takes its turn last.
Gloomhaven Monster Initiative Example

Special Cases in Monster Initiative

Certain scenarios may affect the usual pattern of monster initiative. For instance, when there are multiple standees of the same monster type on the board, they act in the order of their standee numbers. Additionally, some monsters may have abilities that alter the usual initiative order, adding an extra layer of unpredictability. These factors add to the tactical complexity of Gloomhaven, pushing players to adjust their strategies in response to changing battlefield dynamics.

Decoding Gloomhaven Boss Initiative

In Gloomhaven, bosses are a unique breed of monster. They have their own set of ability cards, each with different initiative values. However, bosses often have special abilities or actions that can change or override the standard initiative, adding an extra layer of unpredictability to these epic confrontations. In some scenarios, bosses might have abilities that allow them to act multiple times in a round or to perform actions out of turn. Thus, while preparing for a boss fight, it’s important to be aware of these potential shifts in initiative.

How Boss Initiative Changes the Game Dynamics

The initiative of a boss can dramatically impact the dynamic of a scenario. A boss acting early in a round can potentially disrupt players’ plans by moving out of range or using powerful abilities before the players can respond. Conversely, a boss with a high initiative gives players the chance to get in some early hits or set up their defenses. Adjusting your strategy according to the boss’s initiative can be a crucial factor in whether your team emerges victorious or faces defeat.

Utilizing Gloomhaven Initiative Cards Effectively

In Gloomhaven, your choice of initiative cards forms an essential part of your strategy. These cards offer you control over your character’s turn order, allowing you to plan your actions based on the evolving situation on the battlefield. With a good understanding of how initiative cards work, you can maximize their potential by choosing when to act early and when to delay your actions. For instance, using a card with a low initiative could allow you to strike first and potentially eliminate a threat, while a card with a high initiative might let you observe the enemies’ actions and plan your move accordingly.

Common Mistakes and Misconceptions about Gloomhaven Initiative

One of the most common misconceptions among Gloomhaven players is that lower initiative is always better. This isn’t always the case. In fact, there are many situations where it might be more beneficial to act later in the round. For example, if you’re planning to heal a teammate, it could be more efficient to act later, when they’ve taken more damage. Another common mistake is not paying attention to the monsters’ potential initiatives when planning your own. Always be ready to adapt your plans based on the initiative order.

Initiative and Character Classes

Different character classes in Gloomhaven come with different sets of ability cards, each with a variety of initiative values. Some classes might have more cards with low initiative values, making them quicker on the draw, while others might tend towards higher initiatives, allowing them to assess the situation and react. Understanding your character class’s initiative distribution is key to leveraging it effectively. For instance, if you’re playing a class with many high initiative cards, you might need to strategize around reacting to your enemies’ actions rather than acting first.

The Influence of Scenario Level on Initiative

As you progress through Gloomhaven, you’ll encounter scenarios of varying levels of difficulty. The level of a scenario can significantly influence monster strengths, including their initiative values. Higher-level scenarios might feature monsters with lower initiatives, potentially acting before your heroes more often. Adapting your initiative strategy to accommodate these changes is vital. For example, in a high-level scenario, you might need to use your low initiative cards more cautiously, saving them for key moments when acting first is crucial.

Tips and Tricks for Managing Initiative

Effective management of initiative can make your Gloomhaven adventure more successful. Here are some tips: First, don’t burn out your low initiative cards early in the game. Use them strategically for critical moments. Second, high initiative cards are not necessarily bad. Sometimes, it’s better to act after the monsters, especially when you need to heal allies or adjust your position based on the enemies’ actions. Lastly, remember that communication is vital. Discuss with your team about the range of initiatives you plan to play. A well-coordinated team can often overcome even the most challenging scenarios.

Advanced Initiative Strategies

For seasoned Gloomhaven players, initiative management can go beyond the basic strategies. For instance, in some cases, it might be beneficial to deliberately act late and take a hit, conserving your low initiative cards for a more decisive moment. Similarly, in PvP scenarios, playing a high initiative card early when your opponent expects you to act fast could give you a surprising advantage. Mastering these advanced strategies can take your gameplay to the next level.

Player Experiences and Testimonials

Hearing from other players can provide unique insights into the practical application of initiative strategies. Many experienced players recount stories of how initiative management has turned the tide in their favor in otherwise hopeless scenarios. For example, one player shared a story of a scenario where they saved their fastest initiative card for the final round against a formidable boss, allowing them to deliver the killing blow just before the boss’s devastating attack. Sharing these experiences reinforces the importance of a well-thought-out initiative strategy and can provide new players with valuable tips for their own games.


Who should go first in a game?

The person who goes first in a game is usually determined by the game’s rules. For example, in Gloomhaven, initiative is determined by the number on the first card each player selects for a round.

How do allies work in Gloomhaven?

Allies in Gloomhaven are typically summoned creatures that act on their own turn and follow a specific set of rules outlined in the game’s manual. They use their summoner’s initiative for the order of their turn but perform a standard move and attack each round.

Do new characters start with gold in Gloomhaven?

In Gloomhaven, new characters start with an amount of gold equal to 15x(L+1) where L is the level of the scenario. The gold can be used to buy available items.

Who goes first in an initiative tie in Gloomhaven?

In Gloomhaven, when players tie on initiative, the player who played the lower numbered second card goes first.

What is the initiative rule in Gloomhaven?

In Gloomhaven, each player selects two ability cards to play for a round. The initiative order is determined by the lowest number on the first card each player has selected. The player with the lowest initiative goes first.

What happens if you tie initiative?

In case of an initiative tie in Gloomhaven, the player who played the lower numbered second card goes first.

What is the rule for initiative?

In Gloomhaven, initiative is determined by the first card chosen for the round, with the lower number going first.

How do you break an initiative tie?

In Gloomhaven, initiative ties are broken by the number on the second card each player has selected. The player with the lower second card number goes first.

How to take initiative?

Taking initiative in Gloomhaven is based on choosing the right cards. Lower numbered cards give earlier initiative, allowing you to act before enemies or allies.

How do you count initiative?

Initiative is counted by the number on the first card selected for the round in Gloomhaven. Lower numbers mean earlier initiative.

Does Gloomhaven have an initiative tracker?

Gloomhaven does not come with a specific initiative tracker. Initiative order is determined each round based on the cards played by each player.

What is the order of initiative in Gloomhaven?

The order of initiative in Gloomhaven is determined each round by the number on the first card each player selects. The lower the number, the earlier the player’s turn.

Who goes first in ties in Gloomhaven?

In Gloomhaven, if there is a tie in initiative, the player who played the lower numbered second card goes first.

How do you choose who goes first?

In Gloomhaven, who goes first in a round is determined by the number on the first card each player selects for the round. The player with the lower numbered card goes first.


Initiative in Gloomhaven is much more than just determining turn order – it’s an intricate dance of strategy and anticipation. It impacts every facet of the game, from player actions to monster movements. Mastering the complex initiative system can add significant depth to your gameplay, transforming you into a more strategic and adaptable player. By understanding initiative rules, anticipating monster and boss initiatives, effectively utilizing your initiative cards, and avoiding common misconceptions, you can turn the tide of your Gloomhaven battles. Remember, Gloomhaven is not just about strength but also strategy – and a well-executed initiative can be your key to victory.

There you have it – a comprehensive guide on mastering initiative in Gloomhaven. Whether you’re a novice adventurer or a seasoned hero, this guide provides insights to help you navigate the battlegrounds more effectively. So ready your weapons, plan your moves, and may your initiatives always be favorable.

Side-note: If you have any unique initiative experiences or strategies, please feel free to share them in the comments below. Your insights could help other players master the art of initiative in Gloomhaven.

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