Joseph is an IT nerd who is a long-time fan of the Dark Souls franchise.
"You are the Chosen Undead, Bearer of the Curse. It is now upon you that the fate of this world rests. You must journey across the realms, defeat the many enemies that will confront you, and ultimately choose not only your destiny but also that of this world." — excerpt from Dark Souls: The Board Game Core Rulebook
Dark Souls: The Board Game
Dark Souls: The Board Game is a dungeon-crawler that uses dice, AI behavior cards, and node-based movement to simulate the tense atmosphere, solid combat, and overall difficulty of the video game franchise that it is based on.
There are four different starting classes in the base game for players to choose from: the Warrior, the Assassin, the Knight, and the Herald. In this guide I will only be covering the Assassin and various strategies and equipment you should look out for while playing the game.
Other Character Guides
- Dark Souls Board Game Character Guide: The Knight
A quick guide to the Knight starting class from Dark Souls: The Board Game.
- Dark Souls Board Game Character Guide: The Herald
A quick guide to the Herald starting class from Dark Souls: The Board Game.
- Dark Souls Board Game Character Guide: The Warrior
A quick guide to the Warrior starting class from Dark Souls: The Board Game.
The Assassin is the most versatile of all the starting characters. You can easily make a Dexterity/Strength build using swords or bows, or go into an Intelligence hybrid and use sorceries and pyromancies. The Assassin doesn't have much in way of defense, but a lot of his gear gives him dice for dodging.
The Assassin's special ability, Backstab, is rather unique. Once per spark after making a successful dodge he can attack the enemy that he dodged. The attack doesn't cost any stamina, but the Assassin must be within range for the attack to land. During normal encounters this doesn't seem all that great of an ability, but during boss encounters it shines.
Bosses have weak points depending on the type of attack they are doing, and if you attack a boss in their weak point you can add additional dice to your damage rolls. So when a boss attacks you, and you successfully dodge, you can potentially get in an extra attack on its weak point. The Assassin's special ability may be only once per spark, but that extra damage can be all the difference in ending a boss encounter.
The Assassin starts with three pieces of equipment:
- Target Shield
- Assassin Armour
The armour for the Assassin, while being called something different, is effectively the same as the armour for the Herald and Warrior. It offers one black die for defense against physical and magic attacks, as well as giving you one dodge die to use when attempting to dodge an attack or trap. With only one dodge die your chance of success is only 50%, so dodging should really only be attempted when you have additional dodge dice, or when blocking an attack would still kill you no matter what you rolled for defense.
That being said, his starting shield gives him an additional dice for dodging which makes his chances of successfully dodging an attack 75%. Considering that his starting gear doesn't offer him much in way of defense, dodging an attack with the Assassin is often the way to go to avoid damage.
Unique Assassin Treasure
There are five unique equipment cards that you are able to shuffle into the treasure deck when starting with the Assassin:
- Composite Bow
- Shadow Armour
- Rotten Ghru Dagger
- Spotted Whip
- Hornet Ring
The Assassin has several amazing unique treasures. The Shadow Armour — which requires 34 Dexterity and 17 Faith — has an ability that allows you to move up to two nodes when dodging an attack instead of just one node. It also gives you two dice for dodging as well as two ring slots. However, it offers no physical or magical defense.
Both the Rotten Ghru Dagger and the Spotted Whip apply poison with all of their attacks. This means that even if you miss with your attack and do no damage, you still apply poison regardless. Both weapons, however, are rather lackluster when it comes to actually dealing damage. They are decent starting weapons though, or even secondary weapons when you need to apply poison.
The Hornet Ring on the surface seems kind of useless. It requires 30 Dexterity to equip, and it has the passive effect of giving you an extra orange die on attack rolls. The caveat is that you subtract two from the orange die's roll. The max you can roll on an orange die is four, meaning the most the Hornet Ring can add to an attack is two damage. Most of the time it will add one, or even zero extra damage. Keep in mind though that this is a passive effect if you have it equipped, and that it isn't the main source of your damage output. It's just a nice little bonus, and one worth having.
After you defeat the first mini-boss you are able to shuffle an additional five "transposed" equipment cards into the treasure deck when starting as the Assassin:
- Umbral Dagger
- Carthus Curved Sword
- Elkhorn Round Shield
- Alva Armour
Alva Armour is perfect for the Assassin. It gives a blue die for both physical and magical defense, and also gives two dice for dodging. It does require a bit of investment though as you will need 24 Strength, 38 Dexterity, and 24 Intelligence to equip it. That being said, it can give you more options than just trying to dodge especially if dodging an attack would move you to an unfavorable node.
The Elkhorn Round Shield is the best shield for the Assassin. It gives one black die for physical defense, two black dice for magical defense, and one die for dodging. It's ability allows it to be equipped even when you have a two-handed weapon in your other handslot. There are a few two-handed weapons that the Assassin can make use of, but this shield's value is mostly in just its decent defenses as well as the extra dodge die.
The Umbral Dagger and the Carthus Curve Sword are both excellent one-handed weapons. The dagger does more damage, plus has an attack which costs zero stamina to use. The sword allows you to move a node after you attack. It does have a zero stamina cost attack, but it doesn't do any damage and just allows you to move two nodes. This is in additional to your normal movement phase. The Carthus Curve Sword is great for when you want to play a more defensive, cautious Assassin, and the Umbral Dagger is good for when you want to play a more aggressive variant.
When you defeat the first mini-boss you are also able to shuffle five random "legendary" equipment cards into the treasure deck. There are ten legendary cards in the base game and they are:
- Dragon Tooth
- Fume Ultra Greatsword
- Santier's Spear
- Sunlight Straightsword
- Dark Sword
- Gotthard Twinswords
- Drake Sword
- Moonlight Greatsword
- Washing Pole
The Avelyn is a very viable option for the Assassin. It has a range of three nodes, and gives a die for dodging. The appeal of the Avyln is that its attacks happen three times. So, for example, with its first attack which uses one stamina you will roll a blue die to attack, apply any damage to the enemy, and repeat two more times without using any additional stamina. Its second attack is the same thing but with an orange die. This can be a great secondary weapon for when you are too far away from an enemy to attack, and don't want to expend stamina to sprint.
If you choose to build your Assassin with Intelligence, the Moonlight Greatsword is a good secondary weapon as all of its attacks do magic damage. This way when you come up against an enemy, or boss, that has lower magical defense than physical defense you can switch to the Moonlight Greatsword and still be able to do consistent damage. It doesn't offer any dice for dodging, and it only has one black die for physical defense, so if you choose to use this weapon be mindful of enemy placement.
The trend of useable secondary weapons continues with the Washing Pole. It's a two-handed weapon that offers no defense other than a single die for dodging. It does have a range of two nodes, however, as well as two slots for upgrades. It has three attacks, and it's first two are rather lackluster. Its third attack is why it can be a functional secondary weapon. It requires four stamina to use, and it uses two blue die for damage as well as apply the bleed status on an enemy. It can be an effective option when you need to back off from the fight for a while to avoid further damage, but still dealing damage yourself.
There are a lot of other normal treasures that the Assassin can take advantage of should you come across them, but these are the most notable:
- Soul Arrow
- Poison Mist
- Court Sorcerer Robes
- Black Armour
- Drang Armour
- East-West Shield
- Eastern Iron Shield
Poison Mist is a pyromancy that can be a very fun option if you manage to get it early game. Its second attack is an area-of-effect (AOE) that poisons all enemies in the node that the Assassin targets. You don't have to roll a die to determine if the poison is applied or not as it is applied automatically which gets around the enemy's defense. A lot of the early game enemies only one health, so if you can group them up and then use Poison Mist you can end encounters really early without too much reliance on random dice rolls.
Fireball is another pyromancy that has an AOE attack. It requires five stamina to use, but you get to roll two orange dice for damage and it is magic based too. Its first attack is really not worth using. Despite it costing zero stamina, it only uses two black dice for damage which can both land on zero.
Kukris is a good secondary option for the Assassin as its attack costs zero stamina and applies bleed. It doesn't do any additional damage, but being able to apply bleed for free is incredibly useful especially in boss encounters.
There are also nine other treasure cards you should look out for when drawing from the treasure deck:
- Sharp Gem
- Titanite Shard
- Heavy Gem
- Simple Gem
- Crystal Gem
- Blessed Gem
- Blood Gem
- Poison Gem
- Lightning Gem
The Titanite Shard - which requires no stats to equip - is arguably the most valuable out of the gems, as the extra +1 damage means that you'll break through most of the normal enemies' physical defenses without even having to roll the dice.
The Blood Gem and Poison Gem are extremely rare - only one copy of each - and are great against bosses. The Bleed Gem - which requires at least 15 strength 0 makes it so that the weapon you have it equipped to inflicts the bleed status on an enemy that you hit. It doesn't deal any extra damage until that same enemy takes damage from another source, in which case the bleed status activates and inflicts an additional three damage. Afterwards, the enemy is cured of the status and you must reapply the status.
The Poison Gem requires 15 Dexterity and, when equipped to a weapon, inflicts the poison status on an enemy that you hit with an attack. It doesn't deal any additional damage until the end of that enemy's activation when it deals one damage. Just like with the Blood Gem, once the enemy takes the poison damage they are cured of it and you must reapply it.
Be careful when equipping gems as once they are equipped you cannot remove them from a weapon. Typically you want to wait until after the first mini boss - if you've managed to draw any of the gems - as you are bound to get better suited weapons to upgrade.
Strategies & Loadouts
As previously mentioned, there are a number of builds you can make with the Assassin. I have created two different builds to help you get an idea of some of the options available to you.
The Defensive Build
- Carthus Curved Sword w/ Titanite Shard OR Poison Gem
- Alva Armour w/ Hornet Ring
- Elkhorn Round Shield
- Avelyn w/ Titanite Shard OR Bleed Gem (in the backup slot)
This setup gives you one blue die and one black die for physical defense, and one blue die and two black die for magical defense. It also gives you a whopping four dice for dodging which makes your chances of successfully dodging an attack upwards of 90%.
What makes this the defensive build is not for the defense dice but rather for the Carthus Curve Sword's movement step in each of its attacks. You can attack with the sword, and back away from the enemy using the movement phase of your attack that way you can potentially switch to the Avelyn on your next turn. You can also simply use the sword's third attack to move an additional two nodes, which when combined with your normal movement phase gives you a total of three nodes of movement for free.
The reason for the Elkhorn Round Shield is not only for the extra die for dodging, but also so that you have a shield for when you switch to the Avelyn.
The Avelyn is really the bread and butter of the setup as it has the potential to do a lot of damage. You can either equip it with a Titanite Shard for that extra bit of damage during each of its three attacks, or a Bleed Gem for the guaranteed three damage on a later turn.
The Hornet Ring isn't going to make or break the set, but the potential additional damage can come in handy especially considering it is a passive ability.
In order to equip everything for this setup you will need to have a total of seven levels:
- 2 Strength
- 3 Dexterity (maxed)
- 2 Intelligence
- 0 Faith
The Aggressive Build
- Umbral Dagger w/ Titanite Shard OR Bleed Gem
- Alva Armour w/ Hornet Ring
- East-West Shield
- Fireball (in backup slot)
This setup gives you one blue die and one black die for physical defense, and two blue dice for magical defense. It still gives you four dice for dodge rolling, so even if you opt in for the more aggressive build you aren't losing out on your dodging capabilities.
Both the Titanite Shard and Bleed Gem are viable options for this build. The Titanite Shard counterbalances the negative one damage on each of the daggers attack options, and the Bleed Gem can quickly stack damage especially when playing with another person.
Fireball could be replaced with Poison Mist, but you lose out on the magical damage that it gives you. When you do switch out to Fireball keep in mind that you will lose one dodge die so you will only be able to use three. The odds of successfully dodging an attack are still high, but it is something to be aware of.
In order to equip everything for this setup you will need to have a total of eight levels:
- 2 Strength
- 3 Dexterity (maxed)
- 3 Intelligence (maxed)
- 0 Faith
As there are so many cards in the treasure deck trying to find a specific build, much less a specific card, is going to be extremely difficult. Just use what you can, and hold off on using any of the gems until after you've defeated your first mini-boss at least. That way you will have a better assortment of gear to choose from and make a better decision.
I would recommend using the souls you collect from completed encounters to draw from the treasure deck first before leveling up. That way you don't level up Intelligence and Faith, for example, and then get a really good weapon you want to use that requires Strength and Dexterity.
Hopefully this has helped give you a better idea on whether or not playing the Assassin starting class is right for you or not. Feel free to comment below if I have missed something, or if you have found an even better gear combination than the ones I have listed above!
"You may be remembered either as Lords of Cinder yourselves, forever joining the Soul of Cinder, or as Ashen Ones, ushering in an Age of Humanity where the curse of undeath is at last lifted— but chaos will ultimately consume all." — excerpt from Dark Souls: The Board Game Core Rulebook