AAR/Review- “It’s Gettin’ Cold In Here. So put on all your clothes!” FROSTGRAVE!
"Come hither, companions. Let me regale yet another tale of..."
"Oh, grandpa, not ~another~ story of Felstad."
"Shut yer mutton holes ignorant whips, I said a regaling is to be done! A tale of my adventures, for some day you too shall need a shining beacon of
wisdom to escape with yer lives!"
*Children roll eyes*
And so it begins.
Frostgrave. Tales of the Frozen City of Felstad; once barricaded from the rest of the world beneath an equivalent number of permafrost layers as those 10 year old steaks your mom keeps in the spare freezer at her house. (O.o Yours too???) Seriously though, the nutritive value of flesh breaks down under extreme temperatures for long durations. It's why we're not in hypersleep right now travelling to distant galaxies....or ARE we?? 😉 Really, it's not worth keeping, get her to toss that stuff.
The premise of Frostgrave is interesting. The wizards of the great city of Felstad grew ever more powerful. One day, a great cataclysm occurred. Some seriously bad juju, freezing the entire city and unleashing all kinds of strange dangers upon the area. Time passes by, and the city begins to thaw.
Up and coming wizards looking for shortcuts, because they're too lazy to study I suppose, decide to make raiding parties to jump in to the frozen wasteland and find the 3R's. Relics, Riches and...Rtifacts. (Give me a break, RRA didn't seem as cool.) But the city itself is infested with all kinds of weird dangers.
Are these accursed cliffnotes worth it?
Yes. Yes, sir, they ARE!
Frostgrave is a skirmish miniatures game, very reminiscent of the Mordheim/Necromunda style campaign games from the days of yore. The rules are amazingly simplified, easy to understand and teach compared to those oldies.
It uses a d20, contested roll system. For instance, in hand to hand combat, both players roll d20s, add their Fight stats and modifiers and compare. The higher roll takes that number, subtracts the opponents armor, and bam! There's the damage dealt. Now, this can be super swingy. It's an aftereffect of the d20 randomization, the simplicity of the system, and the fact that defenders can wind up winning a close
combat on the attackers turn. There is a lot of gambling going on here.
Ranged combat is similar, except there is no retaliation, just dodging. The game itself is recommended to be played on a 3x3 table. Most ranged combat weapons have a 24" range, so A LOT of LoS blocking terrain is expected. The magic system just requires rolling a particular difficulty number based mostly on how aligned that school of magic is with your own. Some spells will be extraordinarily easy to knock off, and some almost impossible...but with a high reward. The price of failure is health loss. As an addendum, the wizard/apprentice could also sacrifice their own health 1 for 1 to make the roll a success. This is fantastic if you ~really~ needed that spell to work at that particular moment. I love it because it makes my actions truly my own. I can bend the rules towards my favor by adding that extra risk that my wizard or apprentice could die a little easier, and not blame the randomness entirely.
But that's the brilliance of the system and the setting! Killing each other is all fun and risk. You don't really gain much from it. Yeah, the wizard itself could gain a little XP here and there, but what we're really after is the treasures! Everybody wants their preciousssssessss!
Perhaps, what I enjoy most out of the system is that the randomness tells me a story. In EVERY game I've played of this so far, I've seen crazy stuff happen that feels so thematic to this oddball, frozen wasteland of mystery and danger. There is a famous Russian short story, called "Roadside Picnic." The
Tarkovsky movie "STALKER" was an interpretation of this story. The idea is that a possible extraterrestrial craft of some sort crashed in a remote area of Russia. The government blocks off the area, but Stalkers, individuals good at tracking and traversing the area, sneak in to try to get their hands on all kinds of weird stuff. There are odd gravity wells, illusions, and all kinds of mysteries that can be quite harmful to the unwise...but the ultimate treasure, a golden orb, that supposedly grants a wish is within. It's an awesome story, and you can find it as a pdf form online. Highly recommended.
Back to Frostgrave. (Or, STALKER:Winter Edition.)
The core rulebook and some fantasy figures are basically all you need to get started in this game. The rules detail the game mechanisms, which are very short and simple, how to create a wizard, warband, about 10 scenarios with twists to the standard game, a spell index, and charts for random beasts that
may appear (wandering monsters...yes, the game plays against the players as well!) It's miniatures agnostic, so you can use any fantasy figs you have, provided they are easy to discern depending upon their role. Don't say your Space Marine chaplain is a barbarian. *shakes head* He's ~obviously~ an apothecary. Duh!
The official miniatures have a nice, classic appearance to them. They give me an old school fantasy vibe which I really dig. The plastic multi-part kits are also a steal. Each box can net you 20 dudes, enough for 2 warbands, with plenty of options.
The expansion books, basically, are a collection of continuous campaign scenarios. They're mostly intended to be run through in order and tell an overarching story. So, in some cases this game is even semi-coop! How sweet is that?
There is one particular expansion however, that I truly have to recommend. Ulterior Motives. This is a deck of cards that essentially gives each player a hidden objective. Some are revealed instantly, others are kept secret until a particular moment or action has happened. This expansions REALLY spices
up the core game and adds a plethora of absolutely batguano crazy instances.
For instance...there was that one time one of my guys got bit by a werewolf and had to kill it within a certain amount of turns to cure himself lest he change in to another lupine monster, misunderstood and shunned by the rest of society. (Probably a butt sniffing social taboo, but whatevs. ;D)
During my latest game with the CSW crew, we played a 3 player Living Museum scenario demo. This particular scenario involved a series of statues in the center of the board. A treasure chest was placed in front of each statue. As soon as someone picked up a treasure, the statue would come to life and
attack, acting as a medium construct! We each also picked an Ulterior Motives card. Mine, in particular, involved me placing a trapdoor near the middle of the table. If I were to open this trapdoor, I would get an XP bonus and a new treasure (worth 3x treasure rolls!) would appear. Tim's involved a tough hunter creature controlling the central portion of the board. Karl's had some kind of teleport pad which didn't seem to come in to play.
Initially, we made our movement up to the board trying to secure local treasures ASAP. Karl, bloodthirsty Karl, wanted to get his kill on and took quite a few potshots with his ranged soldiers and spell users.
Tim seemed to be an magic experimentalist attempting to cast various spells, but failing most! If you're not failing, you're not learningI guess. ;D
A few rounds passed and we each had a group or two of soldiers clustered near the central portion of the table where the treasures sat waiting. Oooooh shiny!
"So, then, a sneaky thief Barrius was...and fast too, that one, ran up to the magical, mysterious trap door. With a deft lock-pickin' he pried open that mysterious portal."
*A green light eminates from within. A gutteral moan*
As if the entrance was a vortex, everything within the area was drawn to it. Pandora's box was opened. And it was hungry for souls.
The idea here was that once the trapdoor opened, every figure must perform a Willpower save against a target number of 18. If you failed, you moved the failure amount of inches towards the portal...ignoring ALL terrain. If you got sucked in to the portal, you drop to 0 health!
Why, yes, I did move most of my guys close to the treasure near that area. Why, yes, I did fail the majority of my will rolls. Why, yes, I did lose 6 warband members in that very instant to a dark void. Yuck. But absolutely GLORIOUS! Both of the other players also lost 2 soldiers. The curses of Felstad struck once more! It never seems to fail and is why this game is so endearing.
"Did I ever tell you guys about that giant worm that popped up out of the 2nd floor tiles?"
"I don't even know how it did that."
*Children eye roll*
"What about that time ol' Nelson was climbing the mountainside, tryin' to get to that there treasure up top. Some lucky crossbow git nails his head right
to the side of the mountain!"
"The flood of golden rats completely blocking our exit!?"
"Bah. You kids wouldn't know adventure if it struck you in the head like a white gorilla fighting over a frost banana."
A shrunken Felstad soldier, writhes sporadically, floating inside a small foggy vase. How he got in there nobody was quite sure, but if you held the vase up to your ear you could quietly hear him mumbling tales of his adventures to his grandchildren.