Gaarkhan is one of my favorite heroes to play as in Imperial Assault. His playstyle won’t be for everyone, but for people that love a charging brawler, Gaarkhan is great. In this post, I’ll outline some strategies, items that work well with Gaarkhan, and my optimal upgrade path.
Playing as Gaarkhan
Gaarkhan’s main strength comes from his Charge ability. For 2 Strain, this lets you move 4 spaces and perform an attack. This is great, because it essentially combines 2 actions into one. Additionally, since Charge is moving a certain amount of spaces instead of gaining movement points, Gaarkhan ignores extra movements for moving through hostile figures or additional terrain. So in one activation, for 2 strain Gaarkhan can move 8 spaces and attack, move 4 spaces and attack twice, or even rest, move and attack all in one. There’s some nice flexibility that lets you move towards objectives while still attacking. His Rage ability also makes him focused, resulting in a more powerful attack if the Imperials attack him.
After his two inherent abilities, how you play him will be a result of how you plan to upgrade him. After acquiring Unstoppable, which is my favorite upgrade card, you gain some abilities that allow you to make interesting decisions. Since Gaarkhan becomes more powerful with Unstoppable when he is wounded, you can charge him into the fray straight for the objective right off the bat. If he gets attacked he gets focused, and once he’s wounded he just becomes stronger. It creates some interesting dilemmas for Imperial players.
Since buying items with credits is a collaborative effort, this is a little tricky since you have to convince your team to buy things for you. I would advise against the Vibroblade in Tier 1, since it’s not a huge upgrade from your base weapon, and thus a waste of money. Instead, buy the Extended Haft in Tier 1. This is one of the best attachments, as it either adds reach and thus extends your attack range with Charge, or if the weapon already has reach it adds a built in pierce, which is great for dealing out extra damage. Secondly, I would get the BD-1 Vibro-Ax from Tier 2. This is a great weapon and can last you the rest of the game. with reach you’ll have a built in pierce if you get the extended haft, and the 2 surges are great. The ability to surge for cleave 2 can wipe out a stormtrooper group with two attacks, and the +1 damage and Bleed in 1 surge is great. It’s the only weapon in the game that let’s you do damage and a harmful condition in one surge. If you’re not playing with Diala and have the credits for the Force Pike at Tier 3, go ahead and get it, but if you can’t then don’t worry, the Vibro-Ax is good enough. Lastly I would recommend equipping him with the Shock Emitter, which can be exhausted once per round to add a damage. So when Gaarkhan has Unstoppable, the Shock Emitter, and the Extended Haft, he will have a built in 3 damage and Pierce 1, before he even rolls the dice. That’s a lot of damage.
1 XP: Wookiee Fortitude: 1 Strain: exhaust this card during your activation to either recover 2 Damage or discard one of your conditions.
Depending on how the Imperial player is playing, this might be the best thing for you to use your 1st XP point on. If he is playing with royal guards and stunning a lot, this will be a game changer with Gaarkhan, as he can choose to get rid of a condition for a strain, thus negating the stun. However, if he isn’t stunning that often and is already putting out lots of strain, then this won’t be as necessary, though recovering 2 damage for a strain is a great benefit. Without any strain and some damage, you can rest to recover 4 damage (or 5 with unstoppable) and recover 2 more with the card in 1 action. Ultimately, I say Buy.
1 XP: Wookiee Loyalty: Exhaust this card while you or an adjacent friendly figure is defending to apply +1 Block to the defense results.
This card is nice because it doesn’t require a strain and can be used for adjacent characters, but you’re only going to be able to use it once per round, and it’s only going to save you 1 damage instead of the 2 like with Wookie Fortitude, which can also get rid of stuns.
The milage you get out of this card depends on how often you get focused. If you’re charging into battle a lot and taking hits often, then get Ferocity to make Gaarkhan’s attacks monstrous. However, if you’re finding in your campaign you haven’t been getting focused that much, then maybe pass on this until later until you’ve gotten some of the expensive ones. If you’ve gotten Gaarkhan’s Life Debt reward that focuses him when friendly figures take damage, then you should get ferocity as fast as you can. Buy.
2 XP: Staggering Blow: 1 Strain: exhaust this card after you resolve an attack. If the target suffered 3 or more damage, it becomes Stunned.
Stun isn’t nearly as valuable to the Rebels as it is the Imperial Player, since there aren’t a lot of high-value tagets you have to get through in campaign. And since Gaarkhan is a melee character, you’re going to be close enough that whoever you stunned can just remove the stun and attack you anyway. Pass.
3 XP: Vicious Strike: 1 Strain: use when you declare an attack with a Melee weapon. Apply +1 Damage to the attack results.
At 3 XP, this is way overpriced. Most of Gaarkhan’s abilities revolve around using strain or Charge, and using a strain just to do one damage isn’t worth it. In my campaign, I never even had the ability to use this card because I was either strained out or had killed who I was attacking. What makes it worse is that for one more XP, you can buy Brutal Cleave and perform an additional attack. Pass.
3 XP: Rampage: After you resolve “Charge,” each hostile figure adjacent to you suffers 1 Damage.
This is one of Gaarkhan’s best cards in my opinion. Every time you resolve charge, each adjacent figure takes a damage. No strain cost, no exhaust, just take a damage. And there’s no defense against it, so it can’t be blocked. Great card. Buy.
4 XP: Unstoppable: Apply +1 Endurance and +1 Speed to your hero. / While attacking, while you are wounded, apply +2 Damage to your attack results.
This is easily Gaarkhan’s best card. Even without the +2 damage when wounded, I would still probably take it at 4xp. The boost to your speed and endurance is huge. Having 5 speed enables you to move even further when you charge, and the 5 Endurance allows so much flexibility in what you want to do. And the plus 2 damage when wounded means the Imperial player will try to ignore wounding Gaarkhan until he’s the last one left, or if he does it early Gaarkhan just gets more powerful. It’s amazing. Buy.
Brutal Cleave gives Gaarkhan the ability to attack up to 3 times in a round for 3 strain, and that’s pretty great. This combined with rampage works great against a pair of royal guards or stormtroopers. The only issue is that it’s another 4 XP card, which means if you want this and Unstoppable you’ll have to save a lot, or get it in place of Unstoppable. My vote is with Unstoppable, but extra attack makes Gaarkhan a great offensive weapon. Ultimately, that choice is up to you. Buy.
So here’s what my ideal upgrade path would look like for Gaarkhan:
Wookie Fortitude > Rampage > Unstoppable/Brutal Cleave > Ferocity > Wookie Loyalty
Some would recommend going straight for Unstoppable or Rampage, but having the ability to shrug off stuns can help immensely in the early game. Additionaly, unless you’re swimming in XP, you’ll probably have to decide whether you want Unstoppable or Brutal Cleave. My vote is Unstoppable, but you can’t go wrong with either. This path is just a baseline, of course. For example if you receiver Gaarkhan’s life debt reward card that gets him focused more often, you’ll want to go straight for Ferocity.
Gaarkhan receives some criticism because he’s a fairly 1 dimensional character – his abilities revolve around him charging through people and smashing them. I don’t consider this a big deal, because he’s really good at it. And his ability to charge through figures towards objectives at 5 speed in the late game is useful as well. I hope this article helped give you some ideas on how you might want to use Gaarkhan to achieve victory in your Imperial Assault campaign missions. Enjoy!