Back in March when things started to lockdown, Osprey Publishing offered the pdf version of Frostgrave as a free download. I had heard some good things about the game in the past, so I was happy to download a copy and take a closer look.
Frostgrave is a tabletop miniatures wargame that pits dueling wizards against each other in the frozen ruins of the ancient city of Felstad. Each wizard can be joined by an apprentice and a band of up to 8 hired soldiers. Wizards specialize in one of ten schools that determine which spells they can start a campaign with and how difficult various spells are for the wizard to cast. The types of wizards available are Chronomancers, Elementalists, Enchanters, Illusionists, Necromancers, Sigilists, Soothsayers, Summoners, Thaumaturges, and Witches. Soldiers range from thugs and thieves to more elite options such as knights, templars, and apothecaries.
In a normal battle, two or more warbands are competing to recover treasure from within the ruins of Felstad. The wizard whose warband escapes with the most treasure wins. The game also includes several scenarios that add interesting additions such as an anti-magic tower, a mausoleum that spawns skeletons, or circles that randomly teleport those who step on them.
My favorite aspect of Frostgrave is its campaign system. Rather than resetting your warbands to their initial state after each battle, the campaign system lets wizards gain experience, hire more soldiers, and acquire magical items between battles. When playing a campaign, you need to make a roll after each battle to see whether soldiers and spellcasters who were taken out in the battle recover or pass away from their injuries. You also to use random tables to determine what each treasure token your warband claimed represents. They can be gold coins, potions, scrolls, magical equipment, or grimoires that allow your wizard to learn new spells.
After reading through the pdf, I decided that I wanted to try out the game. While there are official miniatures for Frostgrave from North Star Figures, it can be played with any fantasy miniatures. I don’t actually have many fantasy miniatures though. Inspired by Dads Playing Games, I put together some warbands made of Lego minifigures. With those warbands, I played out a few games against myself to learn the rules and see which spell options and soldiers types I enjoyed the most.
After playing a few games, I decided that Frostgrave deserved more play time and that I wanted to upgrade to actual miniatures. I ordered a box of wizards and a box of soldiers to let me build out a variety of choices. I also picked up some of the expansion books. Each expansion adds both more scenarios and options for the game. For example, the Frostgrave Folio adds scenarios, rules for captains, expanded rules for potions, and more.
Once the new miniatures arrived, I painted up a set for two initial warbands and put together a small set of ruins out of foam board. Then I taught my wife how to play.
In our first game, we played the basic scenario. My wife used her wizard’s telekinesis spell to good effect and claimed 3 out of the 5 treasures, and we both had a lot of fun playing. After the game, we were each able to afford a few new soldiers to add to our warbands.
For our second game, we used the Well of Dreams and Sorrows scenario. This scenario had a well in the center of the board that would grant bonus experience points to a wizard that drank from it. I was lucky with a shot from my marksman and managed to take down my wife’s wizard before he got to the well. While that let my wizard drink from the magical water, my warband had a harder time claiming treasure. In the end, we split it with 3 treasures each.
For our third game, our warbands ventured into the Keep which had teleportation circles. In this battle, things started to go poorly for my warband early on with my tracker and knight falling early. I only really contested 4 of the 6 treasures, and in the end I only claimed one. After the game, all of my wife’s soldiers recovered while my tracker passed away and my thug was injured enough that he will have to sit out our next game.
Before we play our fourth game, I need to paint a handful or new soldiers for us to hire. I also ordered the Undead Encounters set to give us some skeletons, zombies, and ghouls to use as monsters. Once I have that set painted, I’m planning to keep building up a collection of monsters so that we can play a wider variety of scenarios and use them for a variety of random encounters.
Later this summer, a new edition of Frostgrave will be released. It is supposed to be compatible with the expansions for the first edition, but will clean up and streamline the rules a bit. I’m looking forward to picking it up when it is released.