Table Top Review: Frostgrave

(This is the first post from our newest author – Christopher Sievers!  Hopefully you wil be seeing more from him here on R&R)

I have been searching for something to fill a void in my gaming life since I quit Warhammer 40K and can’t always find a group to play Dungeons & Dragons. A friend of mine has been raving about Osprey Games for awhile so when I saw Frostgrave at the local game store, I decided to pick it up and I have not regretted it!

Frostgrave is essentially a tabletop wargame set in a fantasy world where small war bands of no more than nine figures compete for treasure and glory. At the heart of each war band is a Wizard and apprentice, protected by soldiers ranging from weak thugs and war hounds to mighty Templars and barbarians. I like the small scale because it is much easier and cheaper to find and paint nine figures than it is to complete a competitive WH40K army! Plus, you don’t even need to purchase the Frostgrave minis!  You can just use any old fantasy minis you have on hand!

Picture 1
Frostgrave Warband, L to R – Thug, Thief, Woman-at-Arms, Wizard, Apprentice, Templar, Archer, Thug, War Hound

My daughter (11yo) has grown to love D&D but has yet to find a steady group of kids to adventure. So, conducting a Frostgrave campaign is what we now use to fill the gaps between epic D&D adventures. Since it is a war game, the RPG elements are more mechanical in nature with each character having attributes such as Fight, Shoot, Will, Armor, and Health; however, naming each character and leading them to victory or seeing them chopped to pieces by a Demon your opponent summoned has surprising excitement and emotional impact.

Picture 2
My Daughter’s War Band (The four in the middle she painted.  The others are from D&D sets of pre-painted miniatures

The playing field is any tabletop, approximately 4’x4’, with a large amount of terrain to represent the frozen wasteland or ruined city. You can buy terrain or you can make your own.  As you will see, I chose to make terrain with foam board and other craft supplies. The opposing war bands start on opposite sides and decide the scenario you and your opponent wish to play. My first game with my daughter was a scenario where a valuable treasure was located at the top of a tower surrounded by an anti-magic field. Recovering the treasure was our mission.

Picture 3
The Initial Setup of the Game

Using a tape measure to take turns moving our characters across the table, we immediately began casting spells. My Thaumaturge Wizard brewed a speed potion and divined a secret treasure. My apprentice cast Beauty on herself to make her more difficult to attack. My daughter summoned a demon, which I would later regret. We quickly converged on the tower, but my Wizard arrived first due to her speed potion! While the demon and her warriors hacked my soldiers to pieces at the base of the tower, my Wizard managed to spirit away with the main treasure. After being caught in a couple of my daughter’s fireballs, my apprentice failed to heal herself and knocked herself out by expending too much of her strength.

After about two and a half hours, we resolved the scenario. I expect it will take about an hour to 90 minutes for most scenarios, but this was our first and we had to reference the rules as we went. In the end, my daughter’s Elementalist earned 200 experience points and recovered two treasures. She advanced two levels and found some gold and some very valuable potions for the next foray into the ruins of Frostgrave. Unfortunately, one of her soldiers died, but she earned just enough gold to hire another.

Picture 4
Run Away!

My Thaumaturge and her surviving soldiers pulled out quite a haul. In addition to the main treasure, I recovered three others. I also gained two levels, but carried away more gold and some magic weapons for my soldiers, two of which sadly didn’t survive to fight another day. My apprentice escaped with just some severed fingers and my war hound fully recovered. Between scenarios, I know where most of my money will go – hiring soldiers that can maybe stand against the Demons that will be gleefully summoned against me.

We had a great time and look forward to our next adventure. We had several lessons learned – spells are pretty difficult to cast at 0 level and combat can be brutal. The rules are simple enough to make the game flow, but have surprising depth depending on the Wizard school and spells you choose. Depending on the scenario and size of table, the game can be played with 2 – 4 war bands. We will be spending many hours painting minis and pitting them against each other in the frozen wasteland.


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