Just what the hell is Frostgrave anyway?

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Our boy Phil Millar, chief SJW, has written a  comprehensive piece on Frostgrave

Just what the hell is Frostgrave anyway?

It’s a Fantasy Skirmish Wargame, it’s also the name given to the now frozen ruins of the great city of Felstad, where a magical incident long ago left has left it empty and frozen over. The ice is thawing and so the great treasures and knowledge of the city is once more there for the taking. Most sensible people avoid the haunted ruins of Frostgrave, stalked as it is by monsters, demons and more. You, however, are not most people, you’re a wizard and wizards crave one thing above all else; power, something Frostgrave has in abundance, if you’re willing to risk it.

So, you gather your grimoires, bring your apprentice (if you have one) and hire a gang of misfits and thugs to join you in seeking out the treasures of Frostgrave. There, in packed and close confines of the city, you’ll fight off other wizards, wandering beasts roaming the city and all manner of other creatures and evils. As you fight, you’ll discover more spells and gain more power, find wondrous magic items and treasures beyond counting but that just means the stakes get higher.

How does it play?

The game involves each player taking on the role of a Wizard, from one of 10 different Magical Schools, the Wizard knows a handful of spells from his chosen School (there are currently 80 spells in total in the book, 8 from each School) and a few others and as he discovers the secrets and treasures of the Wizards of Felstad, they’ll learn a lot more. They’re usually accompanied on their adventure by an Apprentice learning the ropes in the field, a less capable Spellcaster than the Wizard but still a useful addition to any party, it’s a rare Wizard that doesn’t take on of these guys with them into Frostgrave.

51f1+fbBscL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Alongside the two Spellcasters are an assortment of Soldiers, these come in many types from the cheap and not-so-cheerful Thugs to hardly Barbarians and well armoured Knights and loads in between, you can have tons of cheap Thugs and Thieves, a mix of Soldiers each with a specific job to do in a fight or have your Wizard accompanied by a few members of a brave Templar order. There is a ton of freedom and variety in the soldiers and loads of ways to theme your party if that’s what you’re into.

The game is played on a board anywhere between 2 foot and 4 foot square, but seems 3 foot is the best trade off.The rules suggests you use tons of terrain to represent the twisting confines of Frostgrave and without it, Soldiers are not going to last long when powerful Elemental spells fly their way, a few companies have released suitable ones but any fantasy ruins will fit in perfectly to the city, even twisting labyrinths and dungeons can find a place within Frostgrave. Rules wise, you have d20s as the only dice, the system is really simple: roll the dice and add your stat to it, it’s really easy to get to grips with and allows for some great moments in the game.

You have a load of scenarios that pit war bands against each other and throw in more rules for wandering monsters, the undead or animated constructs guarding the treasures, these add a lot of variety and one game might have you teleporting around a giant library while in the next you’re breaking into a mausoleum spilling over with skeleton warriors and shambling zombies.

The simple nature of the game mechanics and the strong theme and scenarios make for a great narrative feel, and the game is supposed to be more like an RPG than most other skirmish games.It’s also intended to be played as part of an ongoing campaign. So, while a game of Frostgrave is great fun on its own, it becomes even better when you link them together, your Wizard grows in power, gaining spells they find in the ruins and learning to better harness their magical abilities, magical items found and better Soldiers recruited. The campaign sees your Wizard as the focus, the Soldiers are easily replaceable, which can seem off at first but it just means you get more attached to the leader as he amasses power. The Soldiers can each hold a Magic Item, be it an enchanted sword or something more arcane and esoteric, but they will never increase stats or other equipment, but they can be replaced with the more elite versions if you have the coin.

img7455Eventually, your Wizard might rediscover the ancient and forgotten power of Transcendence and leave behind the mortal plane forever to experience a higher layer of existence beyond the mundane, or they could die face down in the dirt after being beaten up by a bunch of Thugs, to be replaced by your Apprentice, taking up the mantle of Wizard.

What do I need?

First off, you’ll need the rule book, it’s a great book, really high quality with consistently cool artwork of Wizards showing off their magical abilities. Osprey are well known for their great quality of historical war gaming books and they’ve taken that over into Frostgrave.
After that you need a model to represent your Wizard and an Apprentice. The games rules are meant for 28mm scale miniatures (which is the most common scale for fantasy/sci fi wargaming), so there are tons of wizard miniatures out there, from Reaper, Hasslefree, Heresy or even Games Workshop, as well as the official Frostgrave miniatures from Northstar, who have made a set of both Wizard and Apprentice for each of the Schools of Magic in the game. These are pretty cool models with a real old school flavour that fits the game well.

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On top of this you’ll want some Soldiers, again, any fantasy or historical 28mm warriors will do a great job but Northstar have made a really cool plastic set with tons of different weapons and at £20 for 20, you’ll have more than enough for you and a buddy to get your war bands off the ground for a really good price. The box can make models for most of the less well armoured Soldiers, they’re all wrapped up against the cold of Frostgrave and I know a lot of people have subbed in a few female heads from Statuesque which scale well. There are a few other more elite Soldiers that might need a more specialist miniature or two but they’re still really generic and open to whatever you like the look of, although Northstar do have you covered for them in metal too. Again, worth pointing out that there are a lot of other companies out there making barbarians, thieves and knights so you have a lot of options for making your warband look how you want it to.

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Right now, Northstar are offering a great starter set bundle here, you get enough for 2 players to get started adventuring, with a Wizard and Apprentice each, 20 soldiers to make between you and a mate, as well as the rulebook, dice and treasure tokens for you to fight over.

As well as your warband, you’ll also need some way to represent the crowded ruins of the ancient city, Rendra and 4ground have both started to make terrain designed with Frostgrave in mind, although it’s all useable for any 28mm scale wargame so you can probably get more use out of it no matter what else you play. You can use whatever you have to hand, the more terrain on the board the better though, and stonework ruins will really add to the feel of your games happening in Frostgrave.

Corehammer favourite, the Dice Bag Lady, has a great page on her shop just for Frostgrave, with loads of stuff from different companies and, as its her speciality, loads of believable female miniatures for your warband, check it out here

What else do I need to know?

That’s it to get you playing right now but in the next few days we should see the “Nickstarter” (a preorder program ran by Nick who owns Northstar) for the first expansion book Thaw of the Lichlord, which sees a whole set campaign as you discover the rising power of and ancient evil and fight to secure powerful artefacts as you fight against him. Of course, not all Wizards will want to stop the Lichlord, some will be corrupted by his evil promises of power and the path to lichdom awaits those who fall under its thrall. We’ll also get more monsters to fight and more magic items to find as well as more henchmen. Alongside the release of this book is another plastic kit, this time to make 20 Cultists, for those who want a more sinister looking warband, as a new Wizard and Apprentice who are on the path to become liches themselves.

9781472814098After that, next year we’ll see another expansion, Into the Breeding Pits, a more expanded look at the dungeons and catacombs under Frostgrave and more rules and ideas for fighting in them as well as what look like Gnolls to fight, judging to the cover photo.

There is more to come, lots planned to expand the game and make it really special over the next few years, it’s a great, evocative setting that’s just starting out and it’s really got my hobby bug firing and I’d love to see more people get as excited about it as I am! Grab your friends and get them to explore the secrets of the ancient city with you, its not pricey, chances are you have half the models you need already!

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About Chris

Husband, father, procrastinator and record label mug. Living in Nottingham, but originally from Milford Haven. Back in the hobby after a decade of self-enforced exile, thanks to my fellow Corehammer punks. Sharp-minded, cynical, bitter and taken for granted. A true Iron Warrior

2 thoughts on “Just what the hell is Frostgrave anyway?

  1. Nice review, spot on. I picked up the rulebook for Frostgrave a couple of days ago and find it really inspiring. Looking forward to getting some ‘old school’ feel back but with a ‘RPG lite’ approach. Now to dig out some old miniatures and see what terrain I have….

  2. Pingback: Rage Of Sigmar or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb | COREHAMMER

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