During lockdown I stumbled over Northumbrian Tin Soldier, and their fantastically characterful miniature collection. It’s unusual for me to pick up miniatures without a specific game in mind, but then again lockdown wasn’t usual.
The miniature designs really got me excited, and since the first models showed up on my doorstep my collection has grown steadily. As the time came to venture outside again, I really wanted to find a game to use these fab little dudes in.
After doing a bit of research Frostgrave became the game of choice. It’s miniature agnostic and requiring 10 models per warband it allowed me to use a fair bit of my collection.
What is Frostgrave?
Frostgrave is a skirmish game set in a frozen city where wizards and their hired swords fight each other for lost treasures. I’ve never played a game that has been designed around wizards, which was another reason I decided to check it out.
Getting to grips with the rules has been easy enough, and it’s also helpful that there is a really friendly community around the game in my home town. What was slightly daunting was creating my wizard as there are 8 disciplines to choose from and 80 spells. This meant I ended up choosing a discipline on the basis of a hunch and vague liking, rather than a solid knowledge of what was the stompiest power gaming spells. I wasn’t really worried about that though, because I just wanted an entertaining game I could use my Night Folk and Gnomes in.
There was one element of the game I was a little cautious of, wandering monsters. Frostgrave rules introduce wandering monsters (generally when treasure is picked up) which can vary quite significantly in power, appear from random table edges and attack any adventurers they can see. It introduces a really interesting tactical problem to be dealt with that elevates the game above a straight me vs. you. Overtime it’s becoming my favourite feature.
One potential downside is that only the wizards, and by extension the apprentices, progress. There is no progression for other warband members (with the exception of captains which is quite slow). There are, however, a number of different warband roles that do allow you to construct a narrative around a hired sword progressing in ability and equipment, but there isn’t an actual rule mechanism to support this. So, by hiring and firing henchmen you could put a narrative together about a thug becoming a man-at-arms, and then a Templar. For me the lack of progression for the henchmen isn’t an issue, its 8 less individuals I have to keep track of, and that’s reflective of what I like most about the game; straight forward rules combined with loads of narrative potential and some cool scenarios.
How it’s going?
Overall, I’m really enjoying the game, primarily for its simplicity, but also because the game always feels like its driving some awesome narratives. I also like the warband structure as it makes it easy to change the hired swords up, which means more of my growing collection gets to the see the table top.
The hall of fame.
Over the last few months my little warband has had quite a few adventures into the frozen city so here’s a quick round up of the big names.
Old Rot Tooth
Soothsayer extraordinaire. Old Rot Tooth is considered one of the best employers in the frozen city providing warm lodgings and as much food as can be eaten between adventures. Many believe he is a bit of a soft touch, but in reality he simply believes a full tummy makes a successful adventure. That, and he is generally aware of an employee’s impending doom several days before they are and often feels some responsibility. Which is reasonable as his favourite spell is transpose, allowing him to swap warriors holding treasure who are in trouble with empty handed warriors who were not previously in anywhere near as much trouble. Consequently there is quite often some substance behind that feeling.
Captain Brodrick the Discreet
Brodrick is a recent addition to the warband. Despite his questionable approach to leadership, which he believes to be best undertaken from a ruined building as far as possible from the actual fighting, he is incredibly handy with a crossbow. In his first outing he took out three enemy warband members and a necromancer.
Gorium the Undivertable
Slow but steady the Templar has undergone more than the odd transposition. He is regularly the last one off the table as he does his best to prevent wandering monsters and enemy fighters getting at the treasure. He is currently out of action for the next game having taken a heavy wound.
Teddy started life as a thug. In his first game he rubbed a lamp, waking up an ancient demon. Fortunately, Old Rot Tooth transposed him with another fighter, and he made it off the table still clutching the lamp. In the second game he successfully carried off another treasure chest and received a promotion to treasure hunter. In his last game he decided to attempt to take a treasure chest from under the noses of a couple of bears and a couple of enemy fighters, it did not end well.