Warhammer looks like such a cool game, and I’m sure it is. There is a certain amount of mystery for me in what a game of Warhammer looks like, whether you’re talking about Age of Sigmar, 40K or any other number of different extensions of the universe there are out there. As a fledgling war gamer it can be completely overwhelming to start looking at the information available for the WH universe.
Questions swirl around me in do we want to play fantasy or science fiction (with a definite fantasy bend)? what types of units do I need? Maybe I just start with humans, they’re always a good way to start a new game, right? What do you mean there are multiple types of Space Marines? They are on what rule set? How much money do i need to sink into the minis? What are the paint schemes I have to paint to? What do you mean orange with green and purple is an illegal color scheme for Blood Angels? Do I really have to spend at least $800 to really have a force to bring to the table?
Are you confused yet? I know I was. And frustrated to boot. Beyond this you have to buy so many different books and knowing which ones to buy next to impossible. Now I know there are people that will tell you that all you need to do is go to your LFGS and talk to some people and they will help you get started. As a gamer I am plagued with the detriment of being an introvert and the thought of going to a gaming store and asking for help from people who know the game inside and out without a modicum of understanding scares the shit out of me. So after realizing Warhammer was not for me I found another game that I will let you in on. Oh and you really only need one book (MSRP $35 USD, though you will regularly find it for as little as $20 – $25 USD and used copies are out there as well) and then everything else can be as free or expensive as you want it to be from there as you dip your toes in or throw yourself off the deep end.
Enter the skirmish wargame Frostgrave: Second Edition: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City (PDF from DrivethruRPG, Book from Amazon or direct from Osprey Games), written by Joseph A. McCullough and published by Osprey Publishing.
This game is a fast paced race to the treasure against (or with) your friends. One of the best parts of the game is it has a simple enough rule system that even if you miss half of the more intricate rules your first few times through play, you can always pick them up as you go and you will start to see the depth of play that can be achieved from such simple rules. The game is based around D20 resolution where you are fighting against opposing war band/s of wizards controlled by your friend/s. This is accompanied by an extremely satisfying spell selection process where you use schools of magic to determine your starting wizards spell selection.
You and your friends delve into a frozen waste of a ruined city encountering roaming beast that have reclaimed the once great seat of magical power that was the city of Felstad. The terrain can be as simple as throwing some books and junk on a table to represent different sites in the fallen city. Or you can purchase, print or otherwise create your own unique terrain from scratch. Here is a picture of my groups current set up for Frostgrave, this is in no way a static terrain set, but it is showcasing most of the materials we have currently for our games.
Being a skirmish level game no party should ever have more than 10 (though the party who summons zombies, demons and constructs may break the rule if they can get away with it!) So building a war band consists of a simple few table with a couple small restrictions, like only 4 of the more powerful units may be used at any given time to flesh out your party or your amount of starting gold. Within these restrictions you will find that after the first game you may in fact have more than enough resources to start building upon and replacing all of those cheap units that you started with.
Oh yeah, did I mention this game has a campaign aspect that makes it feel almost as much like a better version of D&D than well D&D itself? Yeah so keep your wizards alive and get the loot of the table and you get to roll on some more random tables to discover what rewards await your party after the last treasure is removed from the board. This along with creating a home base for your wizard gives the game so much depth and replay value.
So what brings up this topic of Frostgrave? Well after about a year hiatus, my group was able to get back together and create new war bands last night. We threw down in a co-op game where we fought off doves of enemies and grabbed all the treasure we could. What oh yeah co-op, thats right you heard it, we have modified the rules (slightly) to play cooperative. I created a band of quick thieves to grab all the treasure, while one friend created a tanky force to be dealt with in melee and then our third wizard deals with ranged attacks on the board. Each turn we automatically add uncontrolled monsters to make sure we are not too bored. Though with full war band strength we did not have too much in the way of troubles with the scenario. Post battle we split gold, items and even experience. Working together makes it feel even more like a TTRPG in that aspect.
Now where was I, oh yes reviewing Frostgrave. Look if you’ve made it this far into the post, you have any inkling of desire to dip your toes into wargaming then I will just tell you that you need to get this game. The cost of barrier to entry is so small with needing nothing to play except stuff you probably have lying around in board games or simply printing out some paper miniatures and paper terrain to drop on the table.
Grab the book, some junk lying around the house and a friend to play with. You will not be sorry. Or you can always play Solo, yeah there are (official) rules for that too in the Perilous Dark supplement if you’re here for that.
Derek Bizier, the Halfling Master,
hoarder collector of fine games