As most followers of this blog will know towards the end of last year I hit the phenomena that is Frostgrave big time. A considerable amount of time and money was spent sourcing and building my take on the frozen city and over the Christmas period I finished painting most of the minis I had acquired for the game.
Indeed since the end of November I have been fortunate to play around a dozen games in the frozen city. As of today I now have two elementalists in my Wizard's college (level 12 and level 5) who are very keen to explore the ruins further.
In this short posting I'll try and summarise what I think work about this game and perhaps some of the things that are missing/could be improved.
Having grown up with AD&D in my veins I was so excited about returning to the fantasy space. Aside from my keen interest in Fantasy Warmaster, I really hoped this would fill that void missing from my old and distant RPG days. To a certain extent it has, the official range of figures are stunning, and being unfettered by uniforms and paint schemes my fantasy figures can turn out in what ever clothes they want and nobody can say that this isn't right. These have been a joy to paint and the plastic kits are a great addition. I for one can't wait for the plastic Gnoll box to come out.
The building of my City has been a great journey and the praise received from both here on the blog and those that that have played on my boards has made me both proud and determined to do better.
So onto my thoughts of the game...
The casting of Wizards as the chief protagonists in Frostgrave is inspired. If I recall my old dungeoneering days everybody wanted a Wizard but the pain and of risk of getting him to the magical 5th level when he could cast a fireball spell often meant these classes became secondary to the prowess of a fighter or sneaky stealth of the thief.
Frostgrave delivers a whopping 100% on magic; the variety, versatility and sheer scale of the magic spells available coupled with the various schools creates a wealth of choice and different progression. The Magic seamlessly fits into the rest of the games rules (or should it be the other way round?) and as I have said delivers.
I do have concerns that the combat is over simplistic - ultimately any character can wipe out another on a single die roll. The 'spread' of a d20 allows for very little risk to be mitigated when you are planning your raids. I have found in the games that we have played the 'just go for it approach' has won as many times as the 'steady and cautious'. Maybe I am being a bit unfair but perhaps with so few figures on the table a more complex approach could have been determined when it comes to combat.
I also feel that the range of henchmen is just too broad - why have a Man at Arms, an Infantryman, a Knight and a Templar. Much better to have a 'Fighter Class' that can pick and choose their weapons and armour. I also feel that aside from the standard stats there is very little 'character' in these henchmen. I have said in the past on various forums that I would want to see these classes develop - thieves should be better at climbing and sneaking, Barbarians should be able to go berserk, and Rangers track. How these manifest is up for debate but I am actively discussing this with one of my fellows.
Ultimately Frostgrave is a simple skirmish game, pitting one Wizard against another, with each intent on capturing as many treasure tokens on the board. Its great fun, full of humour and mischief, and a game can be turned around quite quickly. The progression of Wizards is brilliant - my high level Elementalist now only needs a 7 to cast that awesome bolt and the rest of his repertoire is building nicely.
However there is something missing in this game...and perhaps I am going back to my original roots ...and that is the unknown.
Without an umpire, games master etc all the players can see the lay of the land, they know what's on the table and they know that any wandering monsters will be both rare and random. There are no crumbling buildings or traps to watch out for, no hidden surprises, and to be blunt little narrative. Its at this point that I must admit that I have not played the Thaw of the Lich Lord campaign and this may challenge my assumptions.
My current thinking is that these games might indeed need a player to step up and become that games host - to create the scenario and adjudicate it on the board. For example the starting players don't know where the treasure is and have no idea what lies behind that wall.
Come October of this year I am planning on running a multiplayer Frostgrave game at BLAM. This will pit four Wizards fighting it out to secure a hidden artefact. The Winners of each round will then go into a final with the final winner being declared the arch wizard. To prepare for this I'll amost certainly have to create the Wizards and their parties in advance, this will give me the flexibility of starting them off at a higher level. As this progresses I'll post more thoughts on the blog.
In the meantime happy adventuring in the frozen city...
Until next time