The Second Saturday Scrum Club met again last weekend in my dining room, with charter member Walt O'Hara organizing an introductory game of Frostgrave for us. I've owned the rules and some of the supplements for Frostgrave for about a year but had yet to play it, so I was especially interested to try what is arguably the hottest miniatures skirmish game on the wargaming circuit these days.
Loyal readers will note that I have played Ghost Archipelago, the sequel to Frostgrave, twice in recent weeks, both times in games organized by Chris Palmer and Don Hogge of the HAWKs club (recap and recap). The core mechanics seemed identical to this untrained eye, though the folks I played Ghost Archipelago with had recently finished a long Frostgrave campaign and claimed that Ghost seems designed to promote more melee combat. While spell casting seems central to both games, Ghost's substitution of a mystically imbued fighter for Frostgrave's wizard protagonist likely explains some of that sentiment.
Since none of us but Walt and his son Garrett had played Frostgrave before, we asked Walt to pre-generate some warbands for us to march to their doom. I rolled poorly and chose fourth, ending up with a warband led by an Illusionist and his apprentice.
Once warbands had been selected, the scenario was designed for two teams, three players to a side. Jared Smith, John Sears, and I formed the "less evil" team, while Walt O'Hara, Garret, and special guest Rich McKee banded together in alliance as the "more evil" team. (It was great getting to play another game with Rich, whom I had met through mutual friend and fellow Scrum Clubber Zach Howard at Trident Con last fall, where Rich ran a fun Tekumel role playing game scenario. If you're going to GenCon this year, sign up for one of Rich's games; he's slated to run several, and I can attest to him being a fun game master.)
The scenario was straightforward and good for a group of newbies like us: Scrape and scrounge around this little corner of the city of Frostgrave looking for loot while contending with the hostility of random monsters and our rivals on the far side of my dining room table. Periodically, a golem of some sort appeared at the periphery of the playing area and started stomping toward the nearest group of figures.
Below is not a traditional battle report, per se, as much as a melange of snapshots from various stages of our game that evening, which carried us from about 6:00 p.m until the self-imposed cutoff of 10:30 (daylight savings time and a long commute back to Virginia for some players helped drop the curtain on our game). Most of the below pictures were snapped by my lovely wife Ellen, who would rather serve as war correspondent than join the fray (those few not by Ellen are likely from the smart phones of me or Jared). All of the miniatures were from Walt's great collection, as was about 80% of the terrain. A few scratch-built buildings came from John's shadowy wargaming past, and I provided perhaps a dozen small pieces of scatter terrain I had recently painted. All in all, it was a suitably dense, atmospheric board on which to play out our treasure hunt.
|The center third of the battlefield. We were playing on a roughly 40"x72" area, and so even standing on a dining room chair couldn't yield a shot of the full battlefield.|
|Walt and son Garrett fixing the roofs while the sun still shines.|
|Pre-game battlefield inspection by one of our new kittens, Cha-Cha. Fortunately, it passed muster, otherwise one of the warbands would have to confront her as a wandering monster during the game.|
|Some fun photography filters to create the springtime in Frostgrave effect.|
|A thief from Jared's warband contemplates the risks of dashing across the open terrain toward a treasure pile in the distance. Attacks from crossbows and the like are particularly far ranging in Frostgrave.|
|A mechanic that Walt introduced into the game involved the need to search various bits of scatter terrain to determine if you actually find any treasure. Jared's men start poking through this stack of barrels hoping to uncover some loot.|
|Jared's men fighting one of Reaper's disco zombies.|
|My Illusionist hoping that there is still enough time to run a treasure off the board if his bowman throws it down to him.|
|One of Walt's stooges about to grab a treasure chest.|
|Walt looking up some rules after placing another golem on the battlefield.|
|"You killed my apprentice! He will be avenged!"|
|Walt's archer up on the second story of some ruins was giving me a hard time.|
|My archer trying to decide if he should take the chest and run or keep to his perch for clean shots at Rich's band of necrophiliacs.|
|This was a nice piece of terrain from Walt's collection, a city gate by Miniatures Building Authority, I believe, with a nifty guard room under the removable roof.|
|I quite liked those temple ruins, and with Walt's help have tracked down the seller to order my own.|
|One of Jared's men with his trusty war hound at his side.|
|Golems sitting idly by at the side of the board until game master Walt mysteriously decides its one of their turns to enter the fray.|
|New kitten Gigi looks on in horror as the battle rages across our dining room table.|
|My Illusionist and his henchman, Inigo Montoya.|
|A possible treasure tucked away in one of John's scratch-built buildings from gaming days of yore. Do you know how many cups of coffee he had to drink to construct this building?!?|
|Some of Jared's gang making their way through the ruins. That guy poking his buddy in the back with the spear is kind of a dick.|
|Some loot sitting on these ruins, ripe for the taking.|
|Another cool building from Walt's collection. Wonder what's inside?|
|"There might be something valuable in this decrepit, haunted-looking old building...Let's check!"|
...and they were never heard from again.
|Why does this feel like a trap?|
|Rich's Necromancer started the game by summoning a skeleton archer to accompany his warband. Disgusting.|
|I wonder what the overdue fine is on these?|
|A stone golem making its way up the back of the hillside creeping on my crossbowman, who is busy taking shots at Walt's men below.|
|One of my infantryman about to grab some loot...alas, the game ended before getting it off the battlefield.|
|(clockwise from far left) Jared, John, Garrett, Rich.|
|My Illusionist and some of his crew near the start of the game. His greatest illusion? Competency.|
|Walt had some fun miniatures in his collection. I really wanted this dual wielding battle axe mini for my warband, but he wasn't a good fit for any of my profiles. Hopefully next time!|
|The Forces of Kinda Good (left to right: Joe, Jared, John)|
|Before having to deal with the stone golem, I had to dispatch with these rats nibbling at my heels.|
|Garrett's crew uncovered the answer to what was inside that large building!|
|Garrett's men flee the building after disturbing the 1,000-year slumber of a Frost Giant.|
|"Hey! I'm thirsty!"|
After drinking some millennium-old liquid from a decanter in the ruins, one of John's thugs wanders off in search of a bathroom.
|Garret and Rich eventually took this disgusting flesh golem down.|
|Swarms of rats scurrying through the streets,|
|Begging for a head shot...|
|"As the apprentice to the High Illusionist, I claim this treasure as mine!"|
(His last utterance.)
|Walt's thug rushes in to kill my apprentice...|
|Garrett and Rich, who enjoyed the game enough to order a copy on Amazon while we were still in the midst of battle.|
Final Thoughts and Parting ShotsIt was a nice reprieve to have somebody else organize the game this month, leaving me to the mundane work of hosting prep. And it was even more enjoyable to get to see some of the Scrum Club members' miniatures and terrain. I really enjoyed Frostgrave, and I like when folks take core rules and make them their own, as Walt did by adding some narrative bits, like providing every warband with their own secret mission cards that provided the opportunity to score additional points outside of the scenario's main objective of looting the ruined city.
The next time we play, I will try something other than the Illusionist, who had nothing in the way of actual combat spells (which made that wizard type ultimately not a good fit for my typical rough-and-tumble play style). When we play again--and I can easily see us playing again and starting a campaign with games sprinkled into the regular schedule--I will definitely try my hand at working up my own warband, which is often part of the fun of these skirmish-style games.
For anyone keeping score at home, my teammates and I ultimately won the game with a slightly dubious mechanic of rolling the values of each recovered treasure after the game had ended, with no idea of what it was worth until after the fact. The games of Ghost Archipelago I played simply had major and minor treasures worth 10 and five points each, respectively. In Walt's Frostgrave game, depending on that post-game treasure roll, you might have walked away with a chest containing 200 gold or a mere 20. If this were a campaign, it wouldn't matter that much, and would likely even out over time, but in a one-off like this, that's a lot to leave to the dice gods.
But as always...who cares! I took some licks, and got some licks in, and had a generally rollicking time with pals new and old pushing our little lead adventurers around my dining room table. Win or lose, I've won.
In fact, I think we may have landed on a motto for the Scrum Club: