Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City

Posted: August 10, 2015 in Books, Dark Age, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Gaming

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It’s the new miniatures wargame that everyone’s talking about (no, not Age of Sigmar)…and so Suppressing Fire’s Joseph Crouch gives us the lowdown on Frostgrave

Frostgrave is my first foray into fantasy wargaming proper. Something that I found, or rather stumbled upon whilst on Facebook in one of those handy (or not so handy, depending on the subject) recommended posts. After having looked at the “nickstarter” and immediately falling in love with the miniatures and basic premise I decided that I must take the plunge.

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

The premise is quite simple. Frostgrave is a long dead city, some Wizards grew a bit too big for their boots and conjured something they shouldn’t have, which leads to the death of its populace, and the destruction of much of the city. Thousands of years later and tales of the city are all that remain, and you, the Player/Wizard are putting a warband together to raid the mad city to gain glory and the gold that comes with it.

To my tender and squidgy mind it reads like your basic fantasy setup, but the more I thought about it the more I likened it to Diablo, Conan the Barbarian (in particular The Tower of the Elephant) and – following along the same lines as that – the Moria sequence in The Lord of the Rings. This idea that I would be raiding a crypt rather mercilessly on some mad quest for loot, trying not to wake up the long unseen beasts that dwell in the depths…or something like that.  The idea that this game could encompass the gloom of dungeon crawling with the high action of a skirmish game was not lost on me either, and the prospect of being able to micromanage my warband over a campaign seemed far too novel for it not to be one of Frostgrave’s successes.

(Models and terrain by Joseph Crouch and Ömer Ibrahim.)

(Models and terrain by Joseph Crouch and Ömer Ibrahim.)

To this date I have played three games of Frostgrave, so I’m still getting to grips with it’s intricacies as well as marvelling at the sheer amount of customisation and storytelling the game almost begs you to throw onto it. After a long think and a few bouts of soul searching with other SF contributor Robert Lindsay, I had it firmly affirmed within me that I am an evil bastard and should probably be the Necromancers. Thus, The Murderess was born, and with her, “Frederic Fassbender” the fabulous apprentice, “The Grinning Death” a female Nord barbarian and a slew of other lesser characters that even now are coalescing fuller characterisation with every game I play.

Yes, even the Zombie that my character can raise has a name.

And this is exactly what I have loved every moment of Frostgrave for the vagueness of it, the allowance and encouragement of bringing your own version of the twisted city into being. I’ve spent more time getting it ready and forming this small mythos in my head than I have playing it (for good or for bad).

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

Firstly, you must create your wizard. You can do this by first choosing the school of magic they will be; Necromancer, Thaumaturgist, Sigilist etc…and then further customising them by selecting the initial spells they will be using in the game.

Then you are ready, mostly.

The basic scenario is quite simple, at the very start of a campaign each player will start of with their Wizard and 500 gold coins that are intended for the purchasing of your first basic warband and an apprentice (the book makes it very clear that although an apprentice is not mandatory, it is in fact highly recommended you have one at your side). So, you both assemble your warband and attempt your first scenario, there’s the basic one wherein 6 treasure tokens are placed around a map and your goal is to loot as much of it as possible, or if you’re like me, kill everyone before they can pick up anything. Then there’s other more lore filled scenarios, a particular favorite of mine being the “mausoleum” scenario that focuses on you having to loot a crypt in the center of the map whilst Skeletal Knights pour out of it every turn.

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

I’ve played that one twice because Skeletal Knights are perhaps the best thing ever.

At the end of each scenario the players total up their loot and roll for injuries/deaths on their warband, as well as totaling up experience for their Wizards in order for them to improve or even learn new spells.

YES, I did say experience, because over the course of the game the Wizard will earn experience points for performing certain actions, eventually attaining a level and a point in which to spend either improving the casting number on a spell or an attribute.

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

Beyond this is a fantastic meta-game in which you can look after your warband, buy them gear, learn new spells and even customise a base that will grant your team certain buffs over the course of the entire campaign.

If it’s starting to feel like this game was designed to pull in gamers of a different kind then I think you’d be right in feeling that way. I, myself, am primarily a video gamer and love the thought of micromanaging my Wizard and warband in-between games. This approach lifts what could be a basic idea into something very memorable that exists past the core limitations of a skirmish game, and even introduces ideas brought over from paper RPG’s creating something, for lack of a better word, Epic.

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Additionally, I’ve read the supplemental book Tales from the Frozen City and have mixed feelings about it. It’s a great addition for someone that wants to rely on official lore, or someone that hasn’t quite decided what their starting wizard will be as it showcases each wizard and their particular skillset and alignment within the world of Frostgrave, but beyond that it doesn’t really add anything particularly exciting to the world, i.e a big bad for us to worry about and then dream of what Reaper Miniature will be of use for such evil, something I am sure they will rectify in the Thaw of the Lich Lord expansion due in November.

In short, I think I’ll be playing Frostgrave for a while. I couldn’t recommend it enough, it’s perfect for beginners like me and seasoned players who enjoy elements of RPG mixed in with their skirmish games.

It’s got my imagination by the cajones and it’s not letting go.

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Comments
  1. Reblogged this on Spike Direction Should Write More and commented:
    My buddy Crouch an me found a new game to play 🙂

  2. Gabbi says:

    Keeping an eye on this one, looks very interesting and unique. Thanks for posting about it.

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