I recently managed to sneak away from home and have a game of Frostgrave with clubmate Jocke. I had really been looking forward to this; the game has been on my “must play” list ever since it was released just over a year ago, but other projects have kept piling up and I’ve constantly postponed getting a dedicated warband together.
So for this game I was left with rummaging through the depths of my collection in search of some suitable fantasy models, just so that I could get an ad hoc warband on the table and try the system out.
I ended up with a bunch of GW and Forge World figures, plus the odd Avatars of War model and a couple of Greek Psiloi from Warlord games. This group of adventurers was of course perfectly suitable from a technical point of view, but I can’t help thinking that a dedicated bunch of models, appropriately based, will make a world of difference when it comes to that all-important look and feel of the game. We’ll see how that goes.
Since I was not at all familiar with the rules I just randomly picked a school of magic for this experimental wizard, and he became a Chronomaster. His retinue consisted of his Apprentice, a couple of Infantrymen, a Crossbowman, a Ranger and two Thieves.
The setting is the outskirts of the Frozen City, where a crumbling temple looms quietly beside the deserted road. Abandoned houses and silent mausoleums bear witness to the doom that befell this once fair city.
Our gang of brave adventurers enter the scene in search of lost treasure, but almost immediately spy another warband approaching through the ruins. This can only mean trouble!
And trouble it is indeed, in the form of a rather motley crew. Led by a pot-wielding and raven-flinging hag of a Witch, this bunch is a veritable cluster of fantasy tropes – imps, zombies, elves and dwarves have all been attracted by the Witch’s perverse charisma (and perhaps by her promises of gold as well), and now apparently aim at nicking those treasures from under our heroes’ noses.
We can’t have that, now can we? The warband rapidly splits up, the Wizard leading a few men towards the temple while the Apprentice and the remaining force sneak round the empty houses to set up an ambush.
The Witch’s entourage close in on the ruins from the other side, making sure to stay in cover…
…while her Apprentice and the rest of the crew take up a strategic position.
The scene is undeniably set for an ugly confrontation; the snow will turn red before sundown!
In an attempt to extend his line of sight and thus circumvent the enemy’s clever use of cover, the Chronomaster tries to cast the Wizard’s Eye spell. This uncanny invention attaches an “eye” to a flat surface of the caster’s choice, and then allows him to use it as an extra line of sight for all purposes. Useful indeed!
Unfortunately though, the spell fails this time around. However, the Apprentice and his trusty Infantryman approach a box of treasure that just happens to lie around behind the mausoleum. Meanwhile, the Witch urges that crazy Amazon Infantrywoman forward. I really don’t know what’s most intimidating about her – the scythe or the decolletage…
Both sides are still keeping out of each other’s sight, waiting for an opportunity to either snatch some treasure or fire off a ranged attack.
One of our Chronomaster’s Thieves then attempts the former, rushing up to the temple ruins and scaling a low wall, his eyes fixed on that interesting-looking barrel…
…while one of the Witch’s Thieves manages to pick up a crate of potions (or is it soda pops?).
Then one of our Infantrymen gets ready to pick up that juicy crate, only to have it snatched away by a dastardly trick of magic – the Witch’s Apprentice uses the Telekinesis spell to move the crate closer to his own position. The nerve!
Infuriated by the enemy’s audacity, our Crossbowman (well, he’s actually a Musketman, but according to the rules there are no such things in Frostgrave) takes a few steps forward to get a better view, takes aim and then fires a salvo.
This keeps the Witch and her retinue back, but it’s not only bullets they fear; the Chronomaster has finally managed to cast the Wizard’s Eye spell, placing it in a position that gives him full line of sight towards all of the enemy’s possible advance routes.
Meanwhile, our other thief, escorted by the Ranger and an Infantryman, is closing in on treasure hidden close to the farmhouse.
Just as he grabs the treasure, he notices that the Witch’s Warhound has caught his scent and now thunders towards him, barking and slavering with a mad lust for blood. Luckily, the Ranger knows how to deal with such rabid beasts; a few bullets later and the monster lies whimpering in the snow, his tail between his legs.
“Should’ve kept that darned mutt on a leash, eh?” the Ranger calls to the Witch as the Thief makes off with the treasure. Things are starting to look good for the Chronomaster’s gang!
But the old crone is busy elsewhere. In spite of the clear and present danger, she has now convinced the Amazon to make a run for that barrel.
Both bullets and spells come flying as she runs, halting her progress. But the Witch won’t accept any delays. “Get a move on, you bimbo!” she screams, while muttering coarse rhymes in a guttural voice and frantically leafing through her grimoire – she wants to use the Telekinesis spell again.
But it’s too late, as the Chronomaster’s Thief has already scaled the wall and grabbed the barrel.
Then the most annoying thing happens. One of the Witch’s Marksmen, who has been skulking around out of sight for the entire game, suddenly climbs the temple ruins, getting a clear shot at our Thief.
The poor bloke falls flat on his face, leaving the barrel up for grabs. And something tells me that the Amazon won’t hesitate to take what is not rightfully hers…
While everyone is thus occupied, our Infantryman has managed to take back the crate that was telekinesis’d away a couple of rounds ago. But something creeps up behind him – it’s the enemy Zombie who comes a-grabbing at his throat with cold, lifeless fingers! Not the most pleasant experience when you’re carrying heavy treasure and can barely move.
Luckily, the Apprentice is close by and whisks our man away by casting the Leap spell – the target model gets a free 10″ move, which means that both soldier and treasure ends up at a safe distance from the undead creature.
“Dammit!” the Witch croaks. “Will NOTHING go my way today?” She does have every right to be angry, as she’s suffered a series of appallingly poor dice rolls (while our side has pulled off at least five 20s by now).
“Look at me, Mistress!” a tiny voice then echoes through the ruins. And lo! ’tis the tiny Imp, who’s not only stolen a crate almost twice his size, but also jumped down a steep wall with it on his shoulders, without breaking any of his wee bones in the process. Perhaps all is not lost for the old hag and her gang…
And indeed, as the Imp scurries away through the frosty forests, another tiny figure can be seen running in the same direction. It is the Witch’s Dwarf Thief, who is taking off with a treasure all of his own. The hag now holds three treasures, while our side only has two so far.
We need to get our hands on that damned barrel! The Amazon is getting dangerously close to it…
But luckily she is shot down before being able to pick it up.
In a foolhardy effort to get rid of the marksman in the ruins, one of our Infantrymen climbs the icy rocks and advances through the crumbling columns. However, this ends up being a bit more perilous than anticipated, as he gets fired upon by a distant Archer. The arrows whistle by dangerously close, but the Infantryman ducks in time and escapes unscathed.
And just seconds later, the Witch suffers more losses as our Musketman puts a bullet in the aforementioned Archer. The Witch’s Apprentice is now alone in a hostile world, as the Witch herself decides that enough’s enough and quietly slips away.
Well, perhaps he’s not totally alone: the Zombie makes one last effort at being mean and scary, by sneaking up on the Chronomaster’s Apprentice and tickling him in the neck. Not appreciated! This particular Apprentice happens to be a stern fellow, who rapidly downs the undead scourge with a focused staff-blow and a hard stare.
And that’s basically the end of it; the Witch now lacks the manpower to seize the remaining treasure, meaning that both sides end up with three tokens each.
Overall a really fun game – unpredictable, dynamic, fast, and with loads of crazy stunts being pulled off. Jocke suffered from some horrible dice rolls while I seemed to be favored by the D20 God this evening, but since tactical movement and positioning is just as important as dice rolls in this game, it didn’t make a world of difference.
The system is very good and offers a lot of customization and options, both when it comes to list building and playstyle, and the heavy campaign focus is right up my alley. Needless to say, I’ll certainly be playing more Frostgrave in the near future!