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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Frostgrave Review

So I have two games in with this system so far and I have to say I am impressed. I haven't done anything that could be called a review yet because I don't believe one should review a game until one had played the game. Now that I have I feel its OK to venture a few opinions and share a few ideas.
One can hardly call a game that comes with Osprey publishing behind it a  surprise and there was some anticipation in my local gaming circle concerning this game. That said Frostgrave seems to have taken the gaming community by storm, its sold out to everyone's surprise, including the author, Joseph McCullough as he noted in a recent blog.   Locally this is the game that has sparked the interest of two of my friends sons, has converted at least one X-Wing player to painting his own figures and gotten this old historical player reverting to his RPG fantasy roots.

A lot of old time GW players are comparing the game to Mordheim as I never played that game I can't venture an opinion but most of them speak of Mordheim with affection.  For me the game takes me back to playing D&D with a brave party of adventures but combines the tactical aspects many of those game lacked.
Its about Treasure! 
OK so lets talk about the game.  Its focused on your Wizard and his Apprentice as they search for treasure and magic in a long abandon city wreaked by magic.  There are various types of wizards some are direct damage dealers via fire balls and lightning bolts, other buff their soldiers and still others summon extra planer allies (called demons regardless of origin).  All of the spells are useful and you should select your firs 8 spells very carefully.  Dealing damage is important but don't over look spells that let you enhance movement.  Also Enchant Weapon is a spell you want access to if you can get it.
Look out for the frost troll
One of the key aspects of Frostgrave is the fact that your not just facing another wizard with a war band. There are other dangers in the city from animals that have wandered in and are now scared and hunger to undead terrors and demons that have been lurking in place for centuries.  You could play the game cooperatively at least to the extent that for me to win I don't have to beat you just get more treasure.  I am in fact working on a version of the game for a convention were the inhabitants of the city (run by a team of GMs) will be the real enemy, not your fellow players.

The game has an experience system so you can progress in a campaign were you will up grade and replace losses from your war band and build a hideout/stronghold for your Wizard.  You track experience for the wizard his apprentice rises with him. Your other followers don't gain experience, something I have some thoughts on.  There is no handicapping system for new players but I don't know how big a problem this will be an unlike some on the web I will wait to see that problem rather than anticipate it.   I will say that I think nay players first game should be against another level 1 wizard and his war band, just to keep the learning curve gentle. I plan to have a permanent level 1 war band just for this reason.

Game mechanics are simple but elegant you roll one d20 add in a modify for the appropriate skill and you succeed or fail based on how your roll compares to target number that goes up based on the difficulty of the task.  In combat both parties roll on d20 for the principle combatants, additional fighter on one side or the other grant a flat +2 bonus to the roll.  If you roll higher than you opponent you win and your total is compared to the other guys armor ratting, if you bet that you do damage.  You can win or lose big even if your the better fighter on paper.

In conclusion the game has a lot of depth and give us all a solid foundation to build on.  There is enough there to get us all going and I  have several house rule idea I will write about latter.  The most obvious is that this system could easily be adapted to small scale historical warfare by just replacing Wizard and Apprentice with a Leader  and Sidekick (or other appropriate titles).  Drop the magic but keep the other aspects and you can easily take the field with Sharp, Harper and a band of "Picked men" for example.

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