Frostgrave! Wargaming in the Frozen City
When I first heard about Frostgrave I was excited not only because it was a fantasy game but also because it was the first range of plastic miniatures produced by North Star. They had been doing many historical games over the last year or so with Osprey but this one appealed to me and gave the impression that it would be more than a flavour of the month book release. That’s not to say the other games are bad or unsupported, I cannot comment on them as I have not played them, but the investment cost in plastic miniatures is considerably higher than metal ones. There is a reason plastic miniatures don’t get made for every game or book that gets released. So there has to be something extra special about this one.
The initial pictures posted by Nick on his ‘Nick Starter’ page looked very promising, and I have not been disappointed as the models in the plastic Frostgrave Soldiers box are excellent. Though the set contains only one unique plastic frame you get a great assortment of arms, weapons and heads to customise your miniatures. It also dawned on me that I could use components from other ranges and mix these in to create an even more diverse set of figures to use in my warband. Fireforge Games, Gripping Beast, Perry Miniatures, Wargames Factory and Games workshop all do 28mm plastics that are more or less compatible with this set. So if you have some figures from other ranges you can raid your unused sprues for some extra options.
After a chat with the guys it was clear that if I wanted to make best use of these plastics I needed the Frostgrave Rulebook as it had all the different warriors I could use. This was important because the different types of models in the game have fixed equipment, so representing it on the models is the best way to be able to tell them apart, for both you and your opponent.
After playing games like Necromunda where you can customise your warriors it can become a bit frustrating and game slowing when you have to look at your force roster every time you wish to use a model. So as long as I have the main equipment represented I can add any number of extra details to suit my tastes and not have to worry so much about what type of model it is.
Unfortunately the only rulebook they had at the time was the preview copy they had received before the main batch arrived. So I have been sitting here twiddling my thumbs working on other miniatures while I await my prize.
Fast forward some days later and I now have the book! It is a gorgeous full colour hardback with some fantastic artwork, but more on that later. Flicking through the book to find the soldiers section there are 15 different solider types that you can recruit into your warband. The standard warband is 10 models strong, you get your main wizard for free but have to fork out gold to buy anyone else. The model limit breaks down as 1 wizard, up to 1 apprentice, and up to 8 soldiers of which you can have any combination.
Your wizard has a choice of equipment as does the apprentice. The soldiers come with fixed equipment, and better trained and armed soldiers cost more gold, ranging in price from 10 to 100 gold. As you start with 500 gold its import to decide how you want to spend it. Your biggest choice is if you wish to start with an apprentice.
At a hefty 200 gold the apprentice is a premium addition to the warband. He does allow you to cast more spells, so depending on what type of wizard you have and the spells you have chosen will determine if you include him from the start.
That leaves 300 gold to recruit everyone else. Now there is nothing forcing you to take the maximum 8 soldiers, or even 1 for that matter, but it would be unwise to go into battle without some muscle to keep your wizard safe. And as tempting (and hilarious) as it is to take 8 war hounds it would leave me unable to pick up treasure and wouldn’t use these lovely plastics.
As I am the kind of player to happily throw my soldiers into all kinds of peril I am leaning towards the more budget end of the soldier market. I also have a preference in wargames for models that can move quickly. So my initial thoughts for my warband are to recruit 2 archers, 4 thugs and 2 war hounds. That’s 200 gold for the soldiers, 200 for the apprentice and 100 in the bank to replace the inevitable losses incurred by my aggressive searching for treasure.
When building my soldiers I used a pair of arms and some arrows from Perry Miniatures Agincourt English archers. I’ve also decided to mount my miniatures on 30mm round lipped bases. This style of base is my preference for miniatures that do not require to be ranked up or mounted several models to a base.
So what about the book and rules? As previously mentioned it’s a very nice full colour hardback, the artwork is amazing and very inspiring. The rules seem pretty solid using a single D20 for just about everything. The core combat mechanics have both players rolling a D20 and adding their models skill to determine the outcome. It is very easy to understand and plays quickly on the table. There are also some 80 spells for your wizards to learn and cast that will provide you with enough shenanigans from teleports to fireballs to keep you entertained for hours.
There was a couple of niggles I noticed in the rules the biggest of which is line of sight. It’s referenced for shooting but the only rule I can find for it is to use a laser pointer. This raised a few questions such as do I have 360 degree line of sight, is it base to base, models eyes etc. Coming from games where everything is crystal clear black and white it’s a bit of a casual approach but not one to ruin your enjoyment. Like any game with a campaign system its worth having an overall campaign arbiter to keep things running smoothly.
Yes there is a campaign system! Your wizard can level up and gain more spells and better combat statistics as the campaign progresses. As he gains levels his apprentice also gets better, but these are the only two models that do get better. Everyone else is static in their abilities unless given a magic item or potion. I would have preferred the apprentice to level up separately as he is essentially a slightly weaker version of your wizard, though if you wanted to play that way it wouldn’t require much of a tweak. Ok that’s an idea for an expansion I might have to run by Nick.
Well I have some of the models assembled and will be painting these up over the next few weeks. I might get a game in at some point or do a guide or tutorial to follow this so you can see how I painted my warband.