The Tinkerer is often criticized for either being boring or too weak. I see the same comments online all the time: the Tinkerer doesn’t do enough damage, the Tinkerer doesn’t heal enough.
Well, the Tinkerer is more of a jack-of-all-trades than a master of anything in particular, and his versatility shines in a way that no other class can match. You’ll struggle a bit in boss fights due to limited single-target damage and the fact that bosses are often immune to most status effects, but aside from that, this support class is equipped to succeed in almost every possible situation.
Support characters are often associated primarily with healing and damage prevention, but I’d argue the ideal support is the one that can best adapt to any situation the team needs, and this is exactly what the Tinkerer does. With solid healing abilities (some of which affect multiple allies), shielding, attack boosts, nearly every status effect in the game, traps, looting, pulling, big AOE attacks, summons, and recovering cards for allies, the true mastery of the Tinkerer comes not only during the scenario, but knowing how to equip for each scenario. It’s unwise to simply choose a build and stick with it every time. The Tinkerer has a variety of tools, and even the weakest ones will have their use. Learning which cards to bring and how to manage your movement and losses of your powerful abilities is essential to be most effective.
The Tinkerer was my first ever Gloomhaven class, and I retired him at level 7. Near the end of our campaign, after trying a few other classes, I came back to the Tinkerer up to level 9. This class definitely works best in bigger parties, as is often the case with support classes in Gloomhaven. If you’re playing the Tinkerer in a group of two or three players, I’d suggest leaning more heavily into a damage build. I was in a group of four players, so although I bought some items to boost my AOE attacks, everything else went toward building like a support.
It’s not difficult to simply fit in as the Tinkerer, but it takes some practice and planning to stand out. Once you start seeing what this class is capable of, you won’t want to play a more restrictive class with fewer cards and options.
Best level 1 cards
These first four should all be staples for the Tinkerer, and many of these I still brought to most scenarios even at level 9. Stun Shot’s reusable Stun is already handy on its own, but I highly recommend you enhance it with a Wound if you can afford it. Since the Tinkerer doesn’t have much single target damage output, Toxic Bolt goes a long way too. These two cards, especially Stun Shot, will be workhorses for you.
The two AOEs are both fantastic. Ink Bomb can do more damage but don’t underestimate the 3-hex Immobilize on Net Shooter. You can pin down a group of enemies to buy your group some time, especially good against melee enemies to render them useless.
These three, while not quite as essential to the Tinkerer, are still solid cards that should see a lot of use at lower levels. Restorative Mist is likely the best of the three, as the bottom multi-target Heal 1 can be really useful for removing Poison or Wound from multiple allies, especially as a negative scenario effect at the start. Even at higher levels, you’ll often benefit from having this card.
Reinvigorating Elixir is alright at lower levels as a reliable Heal 3, but its situational bottom will probably lead you to eventually stop using this as you get better cards. Enhancement Field is decent but replaceable, as it provides a damage boost for allies as well as another single-target attack for the Tinkerer.
Level 1 cards to consider
Harmless Contraption is a bit of an anomaly. Since the summon can’t even attack, it’s primarily a meat shield to soak up a couple hits, which means summons are more useful in smaller groups. Having a heal on the bottom is always nice, but it’s only a Heal 2. Flamethrower has much higher potential, as you can start a scenario with a shield for your allies, but the top loss forces you to get into melee range.
Potent Potables boosts your next four heals by quite a bit, but it means losing a card from your hand in order to set this up. If your group relies on you a lot for healing, you’ll probably use this card a lot, especially in boss fights. In my opinion, the only reason to ever take Hook Gun is for the Loot, as the Pull is just too situational.
Worst level 1 cards
I don’t think I ever used Volatile Concoction or Proximity Mine. Traps just aren’t worth it for this little damage, and I can’t imagine leaving any cards behind for these. Even if you don’t use the trap abilities, the other abilities on these aren’t good enough to replace other cards.
Energizing Tonic can be good for boss fights or when you really need that extra boost, and Reviving Shock isn’t all bad, so you might use each of these a couple times while playing the Tinkerer, but usually you’ll have better options than these.
If you start at level 1, for the average scenario I recommend you take:
- Stun Shot, Toxic Bolt, Ink Bomb, Net Shooter, Restorative Mist, Reinvigorating Elixir, Enhancement Field, Harmless Contraption, Flamethrower, and Potent Potables
- For your last two, pick whichever two of Hook Gun, Reviving Shock, and Energizing Tonic that you think you’ll benefit from the most.
If you need gold or think there will be a lot of enemies killed in the scenario, take Hook Gun for the Loot. If it’s a boss fight, you won’t need the Loot, but you’ll be happy to have Energizing Tonic.
Easy choice, as Disorienting Flash isn’t great at all. Muddle isn’t all that strong of a status effect, and a Move 2 is nothing special. Plus, the initiative is quite late. The double stun up top can come in handy, but it’s a loss, and the other level 2 card is just so much better.
Stamina Booster has a pretty solid reusable top heal, and late in a scenario it can be lost for the bottom ability. Once you hit level 2, this will become your most used single-target heal.
Neither choice will be a standout card, but Tinkerer’s Tools is way too situational as it’s based entirely around traps. At least Crank Bow has a solid Move 4 and can eventually be lost for a powerful attack.
It’ll never make sense to take a card just for a single use Loot, and even a Heal 6 isn’t worth it for just one use, so Micro Bots didn’t seem worth it to me. Dangerous Contraption, on the other hand, gives you a Move 4 along with a summon that has the same health as Harmless Contraption but this one does a bit of damage. Again, not the best choices at this level.
Noxious Vials is pretty good but has late initiative and both abilities are situational. This has really strong potential but only take this if you specifically know you can take advantage of the top repeatedly.
Even so, Disintegration Beam seems like the better choice almost every time. Decent initiative, Move 2, and a Disarm after the movement. Even though the top isn’t super easy to line up and get more than one enemy, when you do it feels great.
Gas Canister is pretty weak. Even if you do land the trap up top, it’s not much damage for a level 6 card, and unless you put in the work and invest some turns, traps often come down to luck.
Besides, just look at Auto Turret! Not only is this possibly the Tinkerer’s best unlockable card up to this point, it’s also a lot of fun for a character that’s often focused on being where they need to be for the other party members. The low initiative bottom heal will get a LOT of mileage, and when you’re ready to make that final push of damage near the end of a scenario, Auto Turret’s there with consistent, reliable damage from a safe distance. Fantastic card and I love the design from a thematic standpoint.
Murderous Contraption has even later initiative (94) than the two previous summon cards, the summon has more movement and damage, and the bottom is an attack which is rare, especially for the Tinkerer. Not a bad option at all, especially if your group needs the summon for some tanking.
If you need the healing and movement more, or if you’re on the fence, Curative Aerosol is probably the safer choice. I took it and got a lot of healing out of it, while the extra movement was also very helpful.
This is one of the worst level 8 choices of any class I’ve seen. Harsh Stimulants has a powerful attack boost on the bottom, but getting into position to help more than one ally with this isn’t always easy, and for only one ally the +2 boost might not always be worth it. The attack up top is powerful but since it’s a loss, it’ll probably only see use near the end of a scenario. The only reason I’d consider taking it is if you have an ally with an attack that hits MANY targets who really benefits from the +2 boost, or if you need a strong single-target attack in your arsenal for boss fights.
Jet Propulsion at least has an incredible Move 8 with a Jump on the bottom. Yes, it’s a loss, but what kind of Move 8 with a Jump wouldn’t be? The top is rather situational, and even if you have a summon or two, this still might not do much for you. Both choices just feel so overwhelming for level 8, so I went back and took Murderous Contraption (level 7) here.
This really depends on how you want to play the Tinkerer. The bottom of Lethal Injection is solid, but the top loss just seems out of place. One big melee attack as a loss for the Tinkerer, a support class with a 12-card hand, doesn’t seem fitting to me. It’s also a bit boring for a level 9 card.
Chimeric Formula isn’t inherently better or worse than Lethal Injection, but there’s definitely a lot more room for fun and experimentation. I took Lethal Injection because we were near the end of the campaign and I wanted to be equipped in the best way possible, but looking back now, I wish I had taken Chimeric Formula just to explore the possibilities. If you’re playing primarily for fun, Chimeric Formula is definitely the right choice.
Overall, the Tinkerer has a pretty decent modifier deck, and although you won’t be your group’s primary source of damage, you want those AOE attacks to hit hard when you’re losing cards to activate them.
As usual, I suggest prioritizing the removal of negative cards first, starting with replacing the -2 with a +0, followed by removing the -1s. Then, add two +1s and the +3. Beyond that, I’d recommend going for the +1 Wound cards and the +1 Heal +2s. Feel free to squeeze in the Ignore negative scenario effects perk if you feel some negative effects have been too punishing.
Since playing the Tinkerer effectively is about being able to do exactly what your team needs each round, flexibility and movement are essential. That being said, the Tinkerer really doesn’t need many items to be effective.
Aside from movement, the other things to aim for are healing allies, being a useful support for the entire scenario by not exhausting early, and taking advantage of those powerful AOE attacks. The combination of recommended items you’ll see below showcases the potential of the Tinkerer’s AOE damage output.
Since I don’t think the Tinkerer has any necessary items at higher levels, rather than include spoilers for items at higher prosperity levels, we’ll stick to the earlier level recommendations below.
*SPOILERS UP TO PROSPERITY LEVEL 2 IN ITEMS SECTION
Here are some of my recommended options:
Head – Eagle-Eye Goggles
Body – no specific recommendation
Hands – Piercing Bow
Feet – Boots of Striding (better upgrades will unlock at higher Prosperity levels)
Small/Consumable items – Major and Minor Stamina Potions, Major and Minor Power Potions
Your most important items early on, aside from Stamina Potions, will be your Boots of Striding and/or Eagle-Eye Goggles. If you’re in a group of four and you’re playing more of a support role, start with the Boots of Striding. If you’re in a smaller group and plan to do more damage, go for the Eagle-Eye Goggles first.
As for Body items, it depends on the role you’re playing in your group. If your group doesn’t have much tanking, consider grabbing something to absorb some damage. If not, get something else that works with your build, but don’t worry about Body items until you’ve got your Boots, Eagle-Eye Goggles, and all the consumable items you need.
Unless you’re greedy with your loot grabs, you probably won’t have a lot of gold as the Tinkerer, so enhancing some of your level 1 cards will be your best bet. Here are a few suggestions:
- Add Wound to Stun Shot (I can’t stress enough how useful this was)
- Add Jump to bottom of Ink Shot (the Tinkerer really benefits from having a Jump)
- Add hex to Net Shooter (Ink Bomb does more damage but the utility of the Immobilize made this one more tempting to add the hex)
As the Tinkerer, keep in mind that your party will be looking at you to keep them alive and get them out of sticky situations. Your job isn’t to pick off low enemies or run into rooms ahead of your teammates while leaving them behind. As long as you can maximize your big AOE attacks by hitting as many targets as possible and triggering your item synergies, you’ll do enough damage to help your team while still being able to prioritize your support role.
Embrace your versatility and always be aware of the state of the scenario. If your team fails, chances are you’ll be the first one to look back and realize you could’ve done something differently.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.