We had our first crack at Frostgrave last night. My friend Other Tim came over and threw down with me and the kidz.
For any that aren’t aware, Frostgrave is a new set of fantasy miniature skirmish rules by Joseph McCullough with a strong campaign element set in an ancient ruined magical city. Players take on the role of wizards leading expeditions into the ruins to collect relics of the ancient magical land. Unfortunately there are other wizards trying to do the same and wizards are a pretty comptetative lot and sometimes it comes to blows… well… pretty much all the time it comes to blows (or blasts of magical energy!)
The game went a little longer than I expected… Despite Other Tim coming over around 7pm we didn’t finish up until after midnight!? I’m quite certain future games won’t take nearly so long – the main factors contributing to the games length were that three of us had to make warbands - two of whom hadn’t even read the rules and one of which needed a lot of help with creating hers AND we only had one book between us (though I did print off extra copies of the spell cards!) – and we were playing our first game (with people who had not even read the rules) AND we were playing a four player game! I expect future games won’t take much more than an hour for two players (maybe two for more players…)
One thing that was really interesting was this was the first time in a LONG time that I’ve played a game where everyone supplied their own warband – and not only that – everyone’ warband was completely painted and was painted by themselves! This may not seem like it should be such an odd thing, but for years I’ve played with a group of people that, for the most part, weren’t miniature gamers – in that they had no interest in buying and painting their own miniatures, but they were willing enough to show up to game nights and play with whatever I happened to have going on…
I had thought this might be a one-off game to try out the rules and then we could make some new campaign warbands based on what we learned in the first game, but everyone seems keen to carry on with what we’ve got.
We played the “standard” scenario – everyone placed three treasures then we diced to see who would pick the first side. Whoever got the most treasures at the end of the game was the “winner” (though I don’t really get what the value of “winning” is – other than you are the person with the most treasure at the end… everyone else gets to keep any treasure they managed to get off the table during the game…?)
My party consisted of Felkazaar the Magnificent (an elementalist) and his apprentice Trevor, steady old Rob the Ranger, Colin and Bertram - two Infantrymen with intimidating large chopping devices, a thief named Giselle, and a handful of thugs (Big Joe, Fats McPhee, Mad Marvin, and Crouchy Fred)
Spells: Call Storm, Destructive Sphere, Elemental Ball, Elemental Bolt, Elemental Hammer, Fast Act, Bind Daemon, Telekinesis.
The Girl’s party consisted of Liessa Starhlem (Sigilist) and her apprentice Raveena Stetione, Dingo the Warhound, Lahira the Thief, Suzanna the Ranger, Aravon the Treasure Hunter, and four thugs (Fred, George, Robert, and Jermian)
Spells: Explosive Rune, Furious Quill, Power Word, Write Scroll, Push, Telekinesis, Transpose, Heal
The Boy’s party consisted of Akzar Kallesel the Necromancer and his apprentice Nitrom Kristan, a Knight, a Man-at-Arms, an Archer and three Thugs.
The game kind of assumes everyone is playing humans – to add a little flavour (and because The Boy didn’t HAVE any human adventurers) we let him use skeleton figures for the members of his warband because it kind of made sense, thematically – they still counted as regular thugs, archers, etc…
Spells: Bone Dart, Bones of the Earth, Raise Zombie, Spell Eater, Steal Health, Summon Daemon, Curse, Decay.
The Boy also had on hand an incredible selection of Daemons of assorted sizes – just in case he was able to summon one (though he really only needed four different sizes; Imp, small, medium, large…) and a zombie in case he raised one of those as well…
Other Tim’s party consisted of an Enchanter and Apprentice, a Barbarian, two Gunners (Crossbowen), and five thugs
I’m not entirely sure what spells he took… pretty sure they included Telekinesis, Embed Enchantment, Enchant Weapon, Strength, Absorb Knowledge(?)…? Animate construct….? I’ll find out for next game…
Each of us set up three treasure throughout the ruined area we would be battling over and then diced to see who got to pick which side we’d set up on first.
(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)
Other Tim and the Kids setting up.
Initial set up (or part way into turn one…?) Most of the treasures were set up around the edges, which I think lead to not as much interaction between the parites as there could have been…. (Mental note: place more in the CENTER of the table!)
I didn’t take quite as many pictures or notes as I might have liked to make a first game report as I was the only one with a copy of the rules and the only one that had read them through – so I have – for the first part of the game doing a lot of explaining and looking things up that I couldn’t remember. It is a pretty simple game, though, so once we got going it played fairly quick and there wasn’t much to look up… but I was still having to keep track of what three other people were doing…
I think I had the highest initiative on the first turn (not always the best thing to go first… especially when there are three others that are going to go before you get to react!). Here Felkazaar the Magnificent and Giselle the thief make the first tentative movements into the ruins. Giselle grabbed one of the treasures and I’m pretty sure Felkazaar the Magnificent successfully cast Telekinesis to move another a bit closer!
The Boys shambling mob shambles forward and steals a fountain of blood (bloody vandals!).
I think Trevor the Apprentice also cast Telekinesis to move the shelf full of books a little closer… there was a lot of casting of Telekinesis the first couple rounds.
Liessa Starhlem, The Girl’s Sigilist, Aravon the Treasure Hunter, and… one of her thugs. Aravon made it TO the Treasure he’s standing beside, but didn’t have another action to pick it up, so on Other Tim’s phase one of his spell casters whisked it away with Telekinesis.
Aravon the Treasure Hunter was quite severely wounded, later in the game, I think by one of Other Tim’s “gunners” (though it may have been a spell…?) luckily Liessa Starhlem has the power of healing and was able to restore enough health to him to keep him going and he was, eventually, able to snag another treasure and make off with it!
Again with The Boy’s necromancer and undead (but not really undead) mob. He is a cautious player and not one to charge headlong into a fray.
I, on the other hand, rarely shy away from a (miniature) fight… Bertram (the Infantryman) and Mad Marvin the Thug charged off to my left to try and beat back the boys Man-at-arms, Apprentice, and freshly raised Zombie (hiding around the corner). I think Big Jow had inititally been with them, but he peeled off to grab the shelving unit full of books to try and drag off.
On my other flank, Colin led Fats McPhee and Crouchy Fred off into a building in search of other treasure and ran into some of The Girl’s Thugs.
Big Joe and Giselle are dragging off some loot while Rob the Ranger has sprinted out into the open to grab some more (I didn’t really want Rob to be a treasure hauler – he’s better than that… but he was the only one handy…) My spell casters desperately trying to cast spells (Elemental spells are kind of hard to cast… They’re pretty BAD-ASS when they go off! But pretty hard to make them work – both Wizard and spell caster were down below half health by the end other game and all of it was due to burning health to empower spells!)
I’d initially had Bertram and Mad Marvin try to quickly gank the Man-at-Arms but he wouldn’t go down so quickly – and actually caused Bertam a rather nasty injury! I was torn by leaving Bertram out there to hold off the tide of undeadness (to allow my other guys to drag off their goodies) – and potentially lose him – or retreat him off the table so he might fight another day (this is exactly what I LOVE about campaigns – in a one off game it doesn’t matter if you leave guys out to die… not so much in a campaign!)
One striking thing about Frostgrave is there is not morale system – oh, there’s Will tests when someone casts a spell to frighten people and such – but there’s no morale tests when a certain percentage of your warband is lost. I think because the campaign is so much a part of the system, players will retreat their guys of their own accord when they need to save them – or leave them out to fight it out and die if the situation is considered desperate.
The Boy’s Knight was locked in combat with a pair of Other Tim’s Dwarven Thugs for a good chunk of the game. His imp (which he successfully summoned early in the game) and a thug went chasing after a bit of Treasure – which Other Tim’s spell casters kept using telekinesis to whisk away from them.
Though he tried to cast it a number of times, I don't think the Necromancer was ever successful at casting Steal Health...
Though he tried to cast it a number of times, I don't think the Necromancer was ever successful at casting Steal Health...
After Bertram had scarpered, trying to hold his innards in, Mad Marvin singlehandedly held off The Boys Apprentice, Man-at-Arms and zombie – taking out the zombie TWICE (“Ah said STAY down!”) as the Apprentice kept raising him again…
Well… maybe it wasn’t ENTIRELY single-handedly… The wizard did eventually help out blasting first the Man-at-Arms and then the Apprentice with Elemental Bolts
Over on my other flank things weren’t going to well. Crouchy Fred had originally knocked back one of The Girl’s thugs he met at the doorway, but the thug charged back in and beat down Crouchy Fred – taking him out! Another Thug rushed in to join them and were later joined by Lahira the Thief. Fats McPhee took an arrow in the back from Suzanna the Ranger – who shot him through the window as he tried to pick up the treasure…. Yeah, things were looking bad for Colin… but Colin is a hard, HARD mofo…. He single-handedly (for reals) took down two thugs and the Thief, dodged arrows from the ranger and made off with the treasure (while dragging Fats McPhee to safety)!
Other Tim checking Line of Sight near the end of the game…
Fats McPhee, as it turns out, recovered from the arrow wound rather quickly. Crouchy Fred wasn’t so lucky. He died out there in the ruins of that forsaken city… Everyone else’s injuries will heal by our next game. Among the four piles of treasure I managed to haul off I collected up 450 gold crowns FIVE scrolls (Control Animal, Furious Quill, Call Storm, Mind Control, and Absorb Knowledge) and a Grimoire containing Elemental Bolt (which I already know, so I’ll sell it for another 250 gold…).
My Wizard gained a whopping 410 Experience points (50 for successfully cast spells, 200 for treasure hauled off 80 for personally taking out The Boy’s Apprentice and another 80 for personally taking out two other soldiers – all with Elemental Bolt!). that gained me four levels which I used to raise my strength and health and improved my Elemental Bolt and Telekinesis spells.
The Boy lost two in the game – both to my Wizard. The Man-at-arms will miss his next game (The Boy said it was due to him missing a few of his bones and they’d have to find some replacements…) and the Apprentice ended up with a permanent injury (Never Quite As Strong – permanent -1 to health). He gathered up two treasures and netterd 140 gold, a grimoire containing Scatter Shot, and a +2 (Fighting) Magic Sword!
The Necromancer gained 140 experience and improved his ability to cast Steal Health.
Two of the Girl’s Thugs had been severely injured along with Lahira the Thief, and Dingo the Dog – all recovered, though, except for Robert the Thug who succumbed to his wounds (and Lahira the Thief will have to sit the next game out as she recovers from her wounds). Among the two treasures she collected was found 130 gold, two scrolls (Grenade and Furious Quill) and a Grimoire containing Imp.
The Girl’s Sigilist gained 150 experience and one level, but has yet to decide what to do with her new level.
Other Tim had a couple of thugs taken out by The Boy’s Knight… I can’t remember if they lived or not (he took his record sheet home with him). He dragged off a tonne of treasure there was hundreds of gold pieces, 6 potions, and armful of scrolls and two grimoires… I can’t remember what all of them were I know there was a potion of invisibility and a few explosive concoctions and the grimoires were for spells he already knew (and so would be selling them).
I can’t remember how much Experience the Enchanter got either… but I’m pretty sure he was at level three…
Though it was a late night everyone had a LOT of fun and are anxious to get more games in! Hopefully we’ll be able to recruit a few more players for our campaign. I know John is interested and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to talk Amanda into joining…
Overall I like the system – it has a fast simple combat resolution system – I thought the keeping track of Health/Hit Points for individuals might be a bit clunky, but it turned out to be not so burdensome at all. The spells (that we’ve used so far) seem fun – and the Elemental spells seem pretty harsh (though hard to cast!). I really like the setting and campaign system and am looking forward to some extensive campaigning! The way phases of each turn is set up really lends itself to multiplayer games as no one is waiting long for their turn to move some of their guys.
The game is somewhat limited in scope – as it is very tied into the campaign in the one setting and kind of assumes that everyone plays humans– perhaps expansions will add some variety and further options (Thaw of the Lich Lord is due out in November). For the foreseeable future I think Song of Blades and heroes will remain my “Go To” game for fantasy skirmishing (outside of the Frostgrave city limits!).
Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:
Oh… probably more medieval/fantasy stuff (for Frostgrave!).