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Dark Souls Board Game Character Guide: The Mercenary

Joseph is an IT nerd who is a long-time fan of the Dark Souls franchise.

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"Within the ranks of the Chosen Undead, those Bearers of the Curse and Ashen Ones all, there is not merely one discipline, but a multitude. For all that the redoubtable knights, mighty warriors, noble heralds, and cunning assassins might be most obvious, they are but a few amongst many." — excerpt from Dark Souls: The Board Game Character Expansion 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.

The Characters Expansion adds new armour treasure cards as well as six new starting characters: Mercenary, Sorcerer, Thief, Pyromancer, Cleric, and Deprived. In this guide, I will only be covering the Mercenary and various strategies and equipment you should look out for while playing the game.

Other Character Guides

The Mercenary's character sheet.

The Mercenary's character sheet.

Character Overview

The Mercenary character is similar to that of the Assassin or Thief. He focuses more on dodging attacks than blocking them, while also being able to deal a lot of damage. While all the characters can dual-wield weapons, the Mercenary makes a point of incentivizing you to do so with his ability.

His ability, Rapid Strike, allows him to make an additional attack once per spark that costs zero stamina even if they have used that weapon during the current activation. As with most abilities, this is perfect for bosses. 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.

A lot of the weapons that the Mercenary adds to the treasure deck are able to make an additional attack by default. For example, Onikiri and Ubadachi. Their base attack costs zero stamina, uses one blue die, and attacks twice in a row. Combined with the Mercenary's ability this is four attacks.

The Mercenary, when built right, can be a force to be reckoned with as the game progresses.

Starting Equipment

The Mercenary starts with four pieces of equipment:

  • Wooden Shield
  • Sellsword Armour
  • Sellsword Twinblade
  • Sellsword Twinblade
The Mercenary's starting equipment cards.

The Mercenary's starting equipment cards.

The Mercenary's starting armour doesn't give you much in the way of defense. 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 Mercenary is often the way to go to avoid damage.

He starts with two copies of Sellsword Twinblade which should you choose to use both means you sacrifice one of your dodge dice. The damage potential, however, can make up for the decrease in defense. You can use the second attack on one of the weapons which costs two stamina but gives you two black dice, and the first attack on the other weapon which costs zero stamina but gives you one black die for a total of three black dice. While black dice do have blank sides on them, using multiple can help increase the odds of rolling what you need to defeat an enemy.

Unique Mercenary Treasure

There are five unique equipment cards that you are able to shuffle into the treasure deck when starting with the Mercenary:

  • Black Leather Armour
  • Crest Shield
  • Crystal Straight Sword
  • Warden Twinblades
  • Ring of Favour
The Mercenary's unique treasure cards.

The Mercenary's unique treasure cards.

The Black Leather Armour is perfect for a character that relies more on dodging than blocking attacks. It has a black die for both physical and magical defense, and it gives you a dodge die. Its ability, however, is where it really shines. It makes it so that when you dodge you do not have to spend any stamina. It does have some fairly steep stat requirements though needing 24 Strength and 30 Dexterity in order to be equipped.

The Crest Shield, requiring 16 Strength and 22 Dexterity, gives you a black die for physical defense as well as a single dodge die, but it also has an attack. For one stamina you can push your target off its current node. This means you can if your target is currently on your node you can attack them with your other weapon, then push them off your node with your shield, and back away one node since you hadn't moved yet.

You can get extra value from the Crest Shield thanks to the Ring of Favour. Its ability allows you to recover one stamina at the end of your activation if you made two or more attack rolls. This means that your shield's attack is essentially free. The Ring of Favour also pairs really well with other weapons that attack twice by default.

The Warden Twinblades is one such weapon as all of its attacks repeat once. It doesn't have much going for it besides that, and there are better weapons that repeat their attacks. It can be good enough for the early game though especially with a Titanite Shard attached to it.

Transposed Equipment

After you defeat the first mini-boss you are able to shuffle an additional five "transposed" equipment cards into the treasure deck:

  • Eastern Armour
  • Large Leather Shield
  • Drang Hammers
  • Onikiri and Ubadachi
  • Wolf Ring
The Mercenary's transposed equipment cards.

The Mercenary's transposed equipment cards.

The Eastern Armour requires 36 Dexterity and 26 Intelligence, and believes in the "rule of two". It gives you two black dice for physical defense, two black dice for magical defense, two dodge dice, and two ring slots. Its ability also increases the cost of dodging from one stamina to two stamina. Overall, the two dodge dice it gives you helps make up for its negative effect. The Ring of Favour can also help offset the cost of dodging.

Both of the weapons pair perfectly with the Mercenary. They both have attacks that repeat once, and they both give a dodge die. Onikiri and Ubadachi would be more for normal encounters as it has an attack that does not cost any stamina and repeats once. The Drang Hammers would be more for boss fights as you are guaranteed to do at least three damage per swing with its third attack as opposed to only two damage with the swords. The swords have a higher potential damage output, but consistency is what you want when fighting against a boss as it makes the encounter end quicker.

The Wolf Ring requires 25 Strength, 35 Dexterity, and 25 Intelligence, and is almost a bit like cheating. You can roll your dodge dice, without spending any stamina, before deciding whether or not to dodge or attempt to block an attack. This can also help make the most costly dodges from the Eastern Armour worth it as you can see if the dodge will fail or not before spending the two stamina.

Legendary Weapons

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
  • Avelyn
  • Dark Sword
  • Gotthard Twinswords
  • Drake Sword
  • Moonlight Greatsword
  • Washing Pole
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dark-souls-board-game-character-guide-the-mercenary

The Avelyn synergizes with the Mercenary perfectly. It has a range of three nodes, gives a die for dodging, and both of 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. It also has an upgrade slot if you want to attach a Lightning Gem and make its attacks magical.

The Gotthard Twinswords also fit the Mercenary if you prefer more of a close-range playstyle. It requires 25 Strength and 35 Dexterity, gives a black die for physical and magical defense, but unfortunately no dodge die. It does have a ranged attack, but it does not repeat like its other two attacks do. All that being said, its a weaker version of the other two-handed weapons that the Mercenary has access to. For example, the first attack for the Gotthard Twinswords requires one stamina, repeats once, but only uses two black dice for damage. Compare that to Onikiri and Ubadachi whose first attack costs zero stamina, repeats once, and uses one blue die for damage. You should not waste stamina on an attack that can potentially deal no damage unless that is the only option available to you.

Legendary Armour

The Character Expansion introduces ten new legendary armour treasure cards. You are still only able to add five of these to the treasure deck after you have defeated the first mini-boss, but you can pick which ones you want to add instead of doing it randomly.

What makes these especially unique is that there are "normal" versions of these cards that start in the treasure deck at the beginning of the game. They are weaker versions of the legendary alternatives, however, so obtaining the legendary version will always be an improvement.

The legendary armour cards are:

  • Catarina Armour
  • Guardian Armour
  • Embraced Armour of Favour
  • Adventurer's Armour
  • Dark Armour
  • Black Iron Armour
  • Black Knight Armour
  • Gold-Hemmed Robes
  • Crimson Robes
  • Havel's Armour

Note: The legendary versions will have an orange flame in the upper right-hand corner of the card, whereas the normal versions will not.

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dark-souls-board-game-character-guide-the-mercenary

The main thing the Mercenary cares about is being able to dodge, and having the stamina to do multiple attacks. There are a few legendary armours that help him do his job.

The Golden-Hemmed Black Robes is first on the list. It requires 28 Dexterity, Intelligence, and Faith, so you will need to max both your Intelligence and Faith. If you manage to do that, it will give you one blue die for physical defense, two blue dice for magical defense, and two dodge die. Its ability allows you to recover one stamina whenever you use the Mercenary's ability. One stamina doesn't seem like a lot initially, but often times one stamina is the difference between life and death.

The Dark Armour is a very interesting piece of equipment. It requires 28 Dexterity and Intelligence, and gives one orange die for both physical and magical defense. It even gives you one dodge die and has two slots for rings. Its ability gives you an additional dodge die against enemies that are Hollows — so don't expect to have this ability activate during boss fights. Its very well balanced especially considering that other armour that gives orange die as defense — like the Black Iron Armour and Havel's Armour — usually have some sort of negative side effect. Just keep in mind that, while the orange dice can roll higher than the blue, the orange dice can still roll only a one.

Another well-balanced piece of equipment is the Adventurer's Armour. It requires 22 Strength, 32 Dexterity, and 22 Intelligence, and has phenomenal defense. It gives you two blue dice for physical defense, one orange die for magical defense, a dodge die, and two slots for rings. Its ability also gives you an additional dodge die against traps.

Notable Treasures

There are a lot of other normal treasures that the Mercenary can take advantage of should you come across them, and these are the most notable:

  • Drang Armour
  • Hard Leather Armour
  • Black Iron Armour
  • Gold Hemmed Black Robes
  • Effigy Shield
  • Dragon Crest Shield
  • Eastern Iron Shield
  • Great Axe
  • Reinforced Club
  • Morning Star
  • Shortsword
  • Brigand Axe
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dark-souls-board-game-character-guide-the-mercenary
dark-souls-board-game-character-guide-the-mercenary

The Hard Leather Armour can be a very good, long-term investment for the Mercenary due to it giving you two dice to use for dodging. it requires 26 in Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, and gives a black die for both physical and magical defense. The only downside to it is that it only has one ring slot, and the Mercenary really wants to be able to use two rings: Wolf Ring and Ring of Favour.

The Great Axe, requiring 32 Strength and 22 Dexterity, does not fit with what the Mercenary wants to do which is attacking multiple times per turn. That being said, it can potentially make for a good backup weapon if there is ever a need to hit multiple enemies at once. It has a zero stamina cost attack that allows you to roll two blue dice, as well as offering an area-of-effect (AOE) attack for three stamina. It has one blue die for defense, and has two upgrade slots. It wouldn't be the primary weapon of choice for the Mercenary, but can make a good utility item.

The Reinforced Club and Morning Star by themselves are decent one-handed weapons, but when used together can make for an incredibly powerful combo. They both have an attack that requires zero stamina to use and use one blue die for damage. The club has two upgrade slots available for something like a Titanite Shard and a Bleed Gem, and the mace has one upgrade slot for a Titanite Shard as well. These two weapons, when used together, can be very powerful early on and really only get edged out by a slight margin.

Weapon Enhancements

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
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dark-souls-board-game-character-guide-the-mercenary

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 is extremely rare — only one copy — and is great against bosses. The gem, which requires at least 15 strength, 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 can reapply it.

The Poison Gem is another extremely rare gem with only one copy. It 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.

Art from the "Dark Souls: The Board Game" rulebook.

Art from the "Dark Souls: The Board Game" rulebook.

Strategies & Loadouts

The Mercenary wants to be aggressive, attacking multiple times, and being able to dodge around the map without worry. Ideally, this is accomplished with a two-handed build, but you can do decent with a one-handed build as well.

Two-Handed Build

  • Onikiri and Ubadachi w/ Titanite Shard OR Poison Gem
  • Effigy Shield
  • Eastern Armour w/ Wolf Ring & Ring of Favor
  • Drang Hammers w/ Titanite Shard OR Bleed Gem (in backup slot)

This build will give you three black dice for physical defense, three black dice for magical defense (four with the hammers), and three dodge dice.

Onikiri and Ubadachi is the perfect option for a melee build as its first attack costs zero stamina and repeats once. The Titanite Shard is used to help increase your potential damage, but the Poison Gem can be used for more consistent damage. The Effigy Shield is used because of its ability allowing it to be equipped with a two-handed weapon. It doesn't add much defense, but anything is better than nothing.

The Eastern Armour is used here for the two extra dodge dice. It will make your dodges cost one additional stamina, but that can be somewhat forgiven when you pair it with the Ring of Favour since you will most often be regaining one stamina at the end of your turn thanks to its effect. The Wolf Ring is also used to give you a chance to see what your dodge dice roll before spending the stamina to dodge.

The backup slot is filled by the Drang Hammers. Its primary purpose to use its third attack against bosses. There are stronger weapons you can potentially use, but the Drang Hammers synergy with the Mercenary is the main factor in choosing it over another weapon. Both upgrades serve the Mercenary well, although the Bleed Gem might be the better option for longer fights.

Levels Required

In order to equip everything for this setup you will need to have a total of 10 levels:

  • 3 Strength (maxed)
  • 3 Dexterity (maxed)
  • 2 Intelligence
  • 2 Faith

You can also choose to use the Avelyn as your primary weapon if you manage to find it. Everything else would stay the same, including the levels required to equip everything, but you would have a completely different play-style. The only change to using the crossbow is that you won't have an attack that costs zero stamina unless you switch the the hammers. This downside is offset by the fact that you are able to attack from three nodes away so you should not have to worry too much about being attacked.

You would still be able to be aggressive like the Mercenary wants to be, but you can do it from range instead of on the same node as your target.

One-Handed Build

  • Crystal Straight Sword w/ Titanite Shard OR Poison Gem
  • Large Leather Shield
  • Black Leather Armour w/ Wolf Ring OR Ring of Favor
  • Drang Hammers w/ Titanite Shard OR Bleed Gem (in backup slot)

This build will give you one black die and one blue die for physical defense, two black dice for magical defense (three with the hammers), and two dodge dice.

This is functionally the same as the two-handed build except you will attack with both your weapon and your shield in order to be able to attack multiple times. The shield doesn't do any damage, only pushes your target, but it will allow you to activate the Ring of Favour should you choose to wear it. It also allows you to play a bit of a support role as you can push enemies off your party members to help them survive another round.

You have one less dodge die though, and that can be a bit of a problem as your defenses are not the greatest against both physical and magical attacks. You will still have a 75% chance to successfully dodge which is quite good, but this is Dark Souls and the odds are never in your favour.

In order to equip everything for this setup you will need to have a total of 10 levels:

  • 3 Strength (maxed)
  • 3 Dexterity (maxed)
  • 2 Intelligence
  • 2 Faith (only if using Ring of Favour, otherwise you don't need Faith)

It should be noted that both of these builds can use the Gold-Hemmed Black Robes instead of the listed armour, but you would have to max out all four stats in order to do so. If you are playing a longer version of the game where you are fighting multiple mini-bosses and have the souls to spare then the robes are definitely the superior option.

Good Luck!

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 Mercenary starting character 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

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