Tag Archives: Frostgrave

Game Camp 2017 Day 3: Frostgrave, extended, & Cosmic Encounters


Previous: Day Two-Frostgrave

Day Three dawned with a continuation of FROSTGRAVE by request of the campers.  The older kids love it; they like the super tactical feel, the way spells can totally mess up a plan, and the “spatial” feeling a three dimensional tactical game can be with miniatures.  You can’t get that same feeling on a flat screen.

Naturally, any game I can leave set up and not have to worry about setup times is a game I’m going to like, too.good

Right off the bat, both sides came on aggressively. The Good side got ensnared in the right corner with fending off the evil Sigilist and Elementalist (aka Johnny Flamehands). Our side was facing him with a good Soothsayer and a good Illusionist. The Illusionist somewhat dominated the right middle of the table. specatularly failing to cast a Poison Dart repeatedly so much that he was down 4 points. He redeemed himself when he was the second crew to visit the temple of Fundamental Evil in the dead center. Johnny Flamehands, the Elementalist, tried earlier in the game, and encountered a being so vile, so disgusting.. well, I’ll let the evidence speak for itself.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Anyway, there was indeed a Type III demon who was so messed up looking he caused everyone he came in close contact with had to check their Will at a big minus or run in fear. The Illusionist had a Transpose spell– he had tried it before with his Wizard and failed badly, so he tried it again with his apprentice and this time he rolled very high. By carefully placing himself to eyeball the contents within, he could see both the Type III demon blob and the Zombie that was standing behind it being controlled by the Elementalist.
Bam, ZIP! Guess what happens?

One EXTREMELY ANGRY, PEOPLE HATIN’ CRAZY DEMON who likes darkness transposed into the sunlight with a very confused zombie being blinked back into the temple! RUH ROH! Bad news for that Elementalist and his crew who happened to be standing right next to him, mouths gaping in shock and unspeakable horror!

We laughed for about 15 minutes.

That kind of changed the classification of the game from “Maximum Haul” to “Grab what we have and GIT!” Team Evil started leaving the left side of the board rapidly. Team Good had more distance and more leisure. We ended up calling the game and rolling up the treasure.. quickly, as the buses were coming. Team Evil won the day, but by less than ten points, surprisingly.

We also played the hands down, don’t argue with me BEST GAME IN THE UNIVERSE, Cosmic Encounter— you can tell I’m a bit biased. I sat in on this six hand game with Red Menace, Green Machine, Blue Meanies, Yellow Peril and Orange Crush. We create nicknames for our aliens by color (as you can see) so we had to settle on White Blight for me, since the cards came from an expansion set. I engineered a four way win (hey, I’m not ashamed) and it was a great time indeed.

and a little documentary evidence about how canny these little dealmakers were getting by end of game.

Day 3 was great!  A most satisfactory continuation of Frostgrave and an epic game of Cosmic!

All Frostgrave Photographs

All Cosmic Photographs

Tomorrow: Big Danged Boats, my own 15mm fantasy naval game.

 

 

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Game Camp 17 Day Two: Frostgrave!


I chose FROSTGRAVE as my second game of the week for gaming camp. Frostgrave (by Osprey Publishing) is a game of Wizardly Looting of an ancient sorcerous city just beginning to emerge from a century of being frozen. Players play Wizards and their apprentices leading a small team of hired thugs and treasure takers into the city in search of gold, magic items and items of lore. The rules are pretty simple and easy to teach, the game is fast and ultra tactical. Naturally Frostgrave appeals to both youngsters and oldsters.

There was also a hue and a clamor to play Room 25 again, it’s a big hit.

We had a new camper join us today and he fit right in.  Frostgrave is a big hit as well, so much so that the kids requested we hold Frostgrave over for a second day.  I’m always flexible, that’s not a problem with me.

So tomorrow will probably be MORE Frostgrave, Cosmic Encounters and maybe half a day of Big Danged Boats!

For a slide show of today’s activities, click here.

Onward to Day Three: More Frostgrave and Cosmic Encounters!

T-574 Frostgrave, Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City!


This is an AAR of Thursday night’s game of Frostgrave, at HISTORICON 2017, put on by the masterful GM: Jeffrey Hiley.  “Masterful” is faint praise for Mr. Hiley’s terrain building skills, which put the rest of us pikers to shame.  Case in point, his Frostgrave city, an expanse upon which I have gamed in the past, sans the harbor area:

Add to this a new feature, a frozen harbor full of ships, a longish quay that had clear shooting from end to end and lots of open lines of sight everywhere, and you have some beautiful terrain that could make for some really tense moments in Frostgrave.

Frostgrave, Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City!. GM: Jeffrey Hiley. Fantasy. 28mm. Rules: Frostgrave. Amidst the frozen ruins of the ancient city Frostgrave, wizards battle in the hopes of discovering the lost magics and treasures of a fallen empire. Each player will take the role of a wizard from one of the 10 schools of magic.
Leading an apprentice and hired soldiers into Frostgrave you will compete with other wizards also trying to find lost secrets. Play on custom made, award winning terrain. Kids 12 and under welcome, accompanied by an adult.
Rules taught, beginners welcome.

The Lighthouse in the Frozen Harbor.

The scenario for Treasure Hunting in the Big City sets up two teams, good and evil.   On the good side were four warbands, led by a Chronomancer, an Elementalist, a Thaumaturgist, and a Witch.  On the evil side were also four warbands each led by a Chronomancer, an Elementalist, a Witch, and a Necromancer.  The sides were very reasonably balanced.   I got the Good Chronomancer.  The GM wisely handed out pre-made warbands with pre selected spells.  This is smart– for a couple of reasons.  First, creating a Frostgrave character takes some thought and takes some time– you have to think about the kind of character you want to play and how you want to play him or her.  Offensive? Defensive?  A character that can take care of himself or others?  Or someone who can throw out fireballs with gay abandon?  Secondly, those crew rosters and figuring out point costs may be easy math, but it also eats up loads of time.  So for a convention, certainly, pre-made rosters are the way to go with Frostgrave.


My Chronomancer and his hired goons step out smartly.

My Spells were: Crumble, Fleet Feet, Decay, Elemental Bolt, Spell Eater, Mind Control, Push and Leap.   This is a good selection, for a Chronomancer.  I would probably select something similar.  The only downside is a Chronomancer’s ability to reach out and impact other groups is pretty limited.  On the other hand, the ability for a Chronomancer to influence matter is pretty good.  Crumble can bring down walls, it can make holes appear under people’s feet.  Decay can make weapons crumble into dust.  Fleet Feet is a passive bonus but it does have a benefit of extra movement for either the Chronomancer or his goons.  The other spells are mostly set up to move other things or other people distances– which helps getting treasure off the map!

Not much in the way of cover out there on the ice floes.  Great treasures, though!

If you know aught about Frostgrave, you’ll know it’s about looting, first and foremost.  The Wizards enter the frozen city, each with a specially picked team of hirelings, and they exit with as much treasure as they can carry.  In Jeff’s game there were treasure tokens all about.  Some were worth more than others– if the treasure token had a gold coin under it, then the treasure was one that implies greater risk, and thus with a greater value (of 10 VP per treasure).   Our four teams on the good side were set up with two teams on my left and one on my right.


Good witch team on my left with giant bear companion (Top). This was mirrored by the evil witch across the table with Troll mirroring Bear for the evil side (Bottom).

My starting position was more or less just a tiny bit right of center.  I was in an area of smaller medieval town buildings, next to a ramp going up to the big causeway that goes up to the big round castle.  Except for the causeway, I had clear control of a high ground with plenty of cover– the third floor of a crumbling townhouse.  Not exactly controlling the right side of the board or anything but offering up good opportunities if my opponents get careless.  I had a lot of good line of sight spells– crumble, push, decay, etc, but nothing that could hurt people from a distance except Elemental Bolt, which has a high casting cost.  So I took my archer and parked my Wizard up high in the drafty crumbling top of the house with the Archer, looking for targets, and sent out my band of thugs to gather and loot with great joy.

I wish I had a sexy tale of my wizard entering into duel with another wizard and slinging bolts and such but it wasn’t like that. I took a commanding presence as I said, and my thugs had a relatively easy time of it. This was due to terrain for the most part. There was a commanding archway directly in front of me which masked the movement of my band (and my wizard and apprentice) nicely. My thugs all got treasure except one. I made good use of my spells and they failed about a 1/3 of the time. Most of them were Fleet Feet to make my people move faster. I hardly ever had another wizard in my sights at any point, but did my best with missile fire and crumble offensively. I never bothered with Elemental Bolt (it’s not a favorite) but I do love Crumble– one of my favorite spells of the Chronomancer group. So I tried to drop a wall away from someone who was next to it and maybe get him to fall. He saved. Then I tried a PUSH on him and it failed. So in order to do a one-two on the bad guys, who were up in the citadel, I started crumbling giant holes in the wall to see IN to the citadel. I did cast a successful DECAY at that point, but that was pretty late in the game now. Oh, and I used MIND CONTROL at one point, which was a lucky roll at 14. I wanted to control a giant rampaging Owl Bear out on the ice floes that was menacing my Thaumaturgist ally, but Jeff plays with spell ranges, and I couldn’t nail him. As a consolation, I was allowed to Mind Control the troll and have him rampage against his former master. That was satisfying.

So my Wizard never really came under fire, nor did my Apprentice.  They were in position to support each other and didn’t risk themselves very much.  This in my mind is appropriate for Chronomancers– they don’t have a way of bringing a world of hurt on other people, but can make things happen.  The closest I came to taking losses was when I sent two thugs and a knight up the ramp to the causeway to grab an extra point treasure.  The knight ran across the causeway to come to grips with the enemy forces in the citadel, while my ally to the left attacked them from the rim of the citadel.  There’s something to be said for having it easy– I had a very clear hand with the loot items.  There was never much danger but the treasures were only worth ten points instead of twenty.

The guys to my immediate left definitely got into it more than I did. They lost an apprentice, but killed two of the enemy apprentices. That was our highest level casualty. The guy on my right (a Thaumaturgist with some good spells) had his hands full and saw the most combat of the entire game. He fought a troll from the enemy Witch team, then ran out on to the ice flows where the good treasure was and got into it a suddenly appearing arctic Owl Bear. So he took the most casualties from the Good side.

At the end of the day, we (the Good Wizards) had a large numerical edge in the Victory Point category.  This was a great event, very entertaining and clearly demonstrating the amount of work that went into prepping the terrain for the spectacle.

HERE is a slideshow of every Frostgrave snap I took.  There are a bunch of them.

Small Wars: Vikings and Frostgrave


Since I’ve been somewhat hampered in my hobby pursuits by having my house almost destroyed, all my study packed up and the walls demolished, I haven’t had ready access to things that I traditionally spend the Winter on, like painting up miniatures for gaming projects.  I’ll live, of course, but I have a need to bump up my forces on a few nearer term projects, such as running a gaming camp this Summer.  Fortunately, my friend John Montrie, being retired, has been around to provide a brush for hire, and he’s helped bump up my forces when I’ve had to exchange money for time for the past few years.  And thank the Deity for that, too– I don’t think I could have gotten Big Danged Boats or Frostgrave off the ground without his timely assistance.  As he’s off to China for a few months I thought I’d pop up to Rockville and visit, eat some Mexican food and pick up some troops I had him working on.  Needless to say, I’m pretty pleased with the results, or I wouldn’t be posting about it!  At Fall IN I had picked up another pack of Frostgrave Soldiers (the standard 28mm semi-medieval Soldiers, 22 figures, plastic, Northstar Games).  I also picked up some newer Frostgrave specialty figures– the Lich and Apprentice, The Crowmaster & Javileneer, and the Elementalist II & Apprentice.  All in pewter, 28mm, Northstar Games.

First off, the Goons.  These are the troops that make up the retainers and followers of the wizard figures in Frostgrave:

I gave John very little guidance.. if he has a fault at all, it’s that he tends to use the same four basic primary colors (red, green, blue, yellow) as uniform highlights. I don’t mind that so much, it allows me to cluster the henchmen in handy groups.  Still, I wanted something different so I asked John to focus on darker colors and purples.  He delivered!

Here are the new major characters in pewter:

Crowmaster and Javelineer

I understand what the Javelineer does.. he tosses Javelins.  What the Crow Master does I’ll have to read up on.  Maybe the Crow flies around like another set of eyes and spies on people.

Beast Crafter and Apprentice

This looks somewhat obvious- the Beast Crafter is some form of shapeshifter that can transform himself  into animal shape.

Elementalist II and Apprentice

This is the second form of the “Elementalist” Wizard from Northstar.  I think I might like the older figures better.. more dynamic.  Eh, what the heck, they’ll make good thieves.

Lich and Apprentice

I don’t know what a Lich is in Frostgrave terms.. I always thought it was the animated dead body of a powerful wizard– and usually appears as a skeleton in wizard regalia.  This looks more like Elric of Melnibone all tarted up or something.. no matter, it’s a cool figure.

That brings me up to 44 Soldiers from two packs, 22 cultists.  With the Dark Ages Vikings and Saxon figures I have painted up for SAGA and Battle Troll, I have something on the order of 120 figures I could use for “Goons” for Frostgrave warbands.  I’m still going to get the barbarian pack(s) and I’ll probably add some variety figures in there too (like a couple of all female warbands, a dwarf warband, a Chinese Warband, and an elven warband), but I have enough soldiers and wizard figures to comfortably run games of 10 players or more– maybe even a dozen.

Viking Looters

Another project I’d like to start running this summer is the venerable VIKING LOOTERS game.  This is a venerable convention game designed by the great Jim Birdseye years ago.  The scenario couldn’t be more simple – you are a Viking and need to get back to the boat first with the most loot (represented by pennies spraypainted gold). Your movement rate is based on the amount of loot you carry. All players start at the same distance from the boat. The fun comes in that each player is dealt several cards. Each card represents an event, usually bad for someone, usually the Viking himself.  The cards cause an opponent to drop pennies, fight battles, become pursued or otherwise delayed from returning to the boat. A turn consists of each player deciding whether or not to play a card on an opponent, or passing (not playing a card). Once all cards in a turn are played (face down on the table), the GM reveals them in an order that makes sense.

Yes, the “screw the opponent” factor is high.  I know I have plenty of fighting Vikings on board– about 44 of them.  However, I don’t yet have enough of regular people doing regular things– like the Saxon villagers, herdsmen, wenches, old women, and various random characters you meet in the game.  I’m still working on the villagers, but found a pack of Old Glory “Revenge” line Viking looters in smaller 28mm.  These are Vikings doing what  you associate with being vikings– raiding, drinking and taking stuff.

Most of these were crafted to have open palms for adding “stuff” to them.. like chickens, weapons, gold and jewelry, etc.

You can see there are some villagers in there– I also have some clergy. I am getting some sheepherders done and I still need some wenches and stock animals. Pretty much standard Dark ages figures.

I plan to run this game at camp.  As you already know, I have a great Viking Ship I built from a kit that I can use for a prop.  Scenery is pretty minimal.  I’ll add in a swamp that surrounds the ship except on the River side, with just one plank leading up to the boat and a big ship guard trying to rob you as you come on board– you can’t make it TOO easy!

Anyway, I love Frostgrave and always wanted to get Viking Looters off the ground, so that’s going to be my new project for the year.

Frostgrave Sunday!


We had a short window last Sunday to get in a game of Frostgrave at the Comics and Gaming Store in Fairfax, VA. We were contemplating doing a published scenario, but didn’t have the right figures for it. So we did a free form Frostgrave game, my ad hoc level 4 Chronomancer versus level 5 (not sure.. maybe a Witch)?

I wanted to make the playing field dense. In Frostgrave, it’s far too easy to nail someone from the far side of the table, if there are no intervening terrain pieces to modify the shot (usually arrows). Also, the backstory of Frostgrave is Felstad (which the city this is supposed to be) is described as a dense urban environment, with narrow streets and all sorts of nooks and crannies.

We alternated putting out treasures, as per the rules.  There were four pieces that were relatively close– A, B, C, and D (see above).  E was a “lure” set in the “Orb of Power” which was a spell amplifier of sorts.  I figured I could score A, B and C from my entry point, even with Archers in the far area of the square.  I added a lot of standing terrain bits to break up line of sight.  When I play Subir, I can be certain of a few things; He’ll focus on spells that teleport, telekinesis, leap, or jump away from competitor gangs– or he’ll take option 2 and select spells that block me, like Walls.  One thing that he’ll always do is put a couple of archers up on a second level, where he can enjoy line of sight and pepper away as an annoyance.   He was true to his patterns– this was a night of Leap, Telekinesis, Teleportation and Archers set up high.

Subir’s fantasy sniper team.

I split into two teams, one lead by the Chronomancer and one by his Assistant.  My Chronomancer and his team hit the tower to retrieve Treasure B (above), and easily nailed C, but D was going to be hard to get to unopposed and E almost impossible.  There was also a treasure in the fountain behind the tower (not shown) that I’ll circle around to.

This is the Orb of Power, which is a Games Workshop Numinous Occulum model, repurposed (I have one too).  If the wizard stands in the Orb, he can cast spells with big pluses– think of it as a magic battery pack.  It was closer to Subir’s starting point than mine (point E in the photo above), so I didn’t really think I would get a treasure there, nor could I make use of the Orb.

My two groups moved close to each other and supported each other. Subir was much more spread out. I think he had the better idea.  Being a level 3 guy, I had some good hirelings.. A Man at Arms, two Archers, two Thugs, One Infantryman, one Thief.  A good mix of muscle and smash and grab.

The apprentice easily converged on Treasure C while the Chronomancer took Treasure A in the tower.  There’s another one in the fountain in the background.

he wanted to show off.

Or course, Subir would try a little razzle dazzle.  He telekinesed the treasure from the Orb of Power dome, and then LEAPed this thug (position A) to the second floor balcony where treasure D was.  He got to the treasure first, before my Infantryman could stop him (position B), crowed a little, and LEAPed out.

My Chronomancer basically did what Wizards do in this game.. got under cover, got up high, and got behind an Archer who provided cover.  My accompanying Thug moved the treasure to the map’s edge, as did the extra thug near Treasure C.

We did run the game with a rule I like to use– whenever you pick up a treasure, you roll on the Random Monster table.  This didn’t create a lot of distractions.. well, mostly, until…

No, it’s not Cthulhu. I don’t have a worm figure, and that’s what Subir rolled. Bad luck for him!

As Subir and his gang cowered behind some rubble, I tried something silly. I had placed a WIZARD EYE on the flat side of the wall, near that balcony Treasure D was on. I had STEAL HEALTH which works “In Line of Sight” to a target. So by extending Line of Sight, My Chronomancer was able to steal health from the Worm itself, from across the board. I even had to sacrifice a couple of hit points, to make a spell roll work, and immediately got it back from the demon! Now that’s a hoot! My attempt to intercept treasure D on the way off the board, which caused me to lose my Man at Arms, sadly, pincushioned with arrows.

Well, sadly, an urgent call from home cut our game shorter than I would like, or I would have nailed the treasure in the fountain, too. As happens a lot with Frostgrave, the game tied up 3 treasures to 3 treasures. I don’t collect warbands like Subir does so I didn’t roll for the treasures. I did lose a guy to an Archer attack, but that’s life, warbands are kind of expendable.

A great time, I only wish we could have played longer.

Stone Golem for Frostgrave


I have plans to run the Hunt for the Golem scenario published as an e-doc from Osprey Publishing.  As a scenario, it’s not overly ambitious, which is fine– I can handle 3 scenarios as a series of connected games.   It was harder than I thought finding a perfect stone Golem figure, though.  I’m not crazy about the construct figure from Northstar.  I wanted to go with a more classic formed golem look, as if out of Jewish tradition.  I couldn’t find anything from the old D&D miniatures line either.   However I did find something in the Bones line from Reaper miniatures.. paradoxically, it’s their version of a stone golem.

I like the look of this thing.. not exactly Judaic, but kind of Egyptian looking, which works, pretty much.

As with all Bones figures, you have to put the prep work in. I soaked it in water overnight, and wiped it off the next day to get rid of the mold release residue. Then I undercoated it in GW’s “Stone” color (really just a medium gray). Then I sealed it with a brush on dullcoate, and applied dark ink to capture the 3D, and a light off white drybrush to establish highlights.

The results are pretty nice! I might add a little moss and gunk on the legs, as I anticipate the golem has been stationery for a long period, and maybe draw some runes on him in places with a thin pen, as the golem is described in the source material as being covered with mystic ancient runes.

I’m liking Reaper Bones stuff.. definitely a useful line at an affordable price.

Game Camp 2016 Finale: Frostgrave Friday



A conclave of all the Frostgrave Wizards I have right now.  Click to enlarge

The final Friday dawned for Game Camp 2016 this morning. My plan was to run Frostgrave in the early hours, and have an ice cream party. It did not work out that way. Even though I had a decent setup, it took far longer than I had in mind. This was even after I stayed up late building Frostgrave bands for my Wizard figures using the online tool, and saving the sheets out as PDFs.

The Terrain was a bit thin in places, but it looked good.

Thanks to my Cigar Box Battlemat and some nice pieces I’ve either built or picked up here and there on Ebay or Flea markets, I had enough to (loosely) fill out my table. I supplemented with some cheap Styrofoam grey hills.. nothing to look at but they do look the part and are suitably matching with the city.

The centerpiece was a Great Hall piece that I picked up at Historicon 2016 from Stonehouse Miniatures.  They were very nice about sending a display model (already painted) when my order was delayed.


You’re attacking ME? Oh yes, it’s ON!!

Sadly, it took so long to get people set up with magic spells, etc. that it really cut into playing time. The kids liked it, but the lesson I learned was set up the bands the night before, but ALSO give them a set of spells to work with along with that.. don’t waste time with any character creation stuff, even if I think personally that’s the funnest bit of Frostgrave as a game. The kids won’t be playing Frostgrave next week; I might, and I’ve played it it a lot. What I consider fun isn’t the same as how they see it– so I’ll just move the game directly into the looting and fighting next time I run it. Verdict: this will be my Tuesday game next year.

As is also customary we did our end of camp ice cream party, and the kids briskly destroyed 2.5 cartons of Neapolitan ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate sauce. As is also custom, I polled the gamers about what they liked and didn’t like. Results were:

  • Star Wars Armada: Like it, could be great, would play it again– learning it the rules slowed it down
  • Battletech: Didn’t like, found it too complicated and too slow. Fair points, we’ll work on it.
  • Big Danged Boats: Universally enjoyed and enthusiastically voted for a return enagement.
  • Frostgrave: Everyone liked, probably second favorite, wished we had more time to play.

I need to put a bigger effort into teaching painting correctly.  I wish I was good enough as a painter to feel smart enough to teach methods.  I’m not ham-fisted at it but I’m not anything more than workmanlike either.  I know my limitations.  It would be great to add to the program.  I ran out Tuesday evening and bought a few boxes of plastics for the kids to paint up but I kept the painting table more contained this year. Mostly this was to avoid wastage– in the past I’ve bought (or have had donations for) lots of miniatures that got assembled poorly and covered with gobs of paint and glue, then I end up tossing this gooey mess of glue, broken bits and paint-stained tarps out on Friday. I think this can be solved with a couple of days dedicated to teaching, with a shorter game in the afternoon.

I’m not sure what we’ll run next year, but BDB certainly still has legs, and I suspect Armada and Frostgrave will return too. The other days? Eh, we’ll work on something. I like presenting one new game (at least) every camp, so we’ll see what opportunities present themselves.

Thanks again to the FANTASTIC people at St. Stephens and St. Agnes School (lower campus) who bent over backwards to help me, thanks to the parents of the campers, and a big thank you to HMGS for sponsoring our camp!

and from me, too!

Frostgrave Wizards & Warbands added to my collection


My friend John Montrie just came back from a trip to China. He took some of my  figures to paint with him on the trip. As if things weren’t busy enough in China! Anyway, he’s back, I picked them up today, and they look just lovely.

And a bad of Frostgrave generic medieval soldiers, of which this is just a sample.

FUTURE: At this point, I have purchased almost every wizard in the current pantheon from Northstar Figures. I don’t have their Illusionist but I have some Reaper Bones figures that will make excellent replacements (see previous posts). I don’t have their Witch figure because I want to go with a more traditional Witch figure and not the African/Voudron style figure Northstar is using. Not pictured is my Necromancer and Apprentice (FGV105) and Summoner and Apprentice (FGV108). I’m okay for Wizard types for a while, but I will be getting the aforementioned witch and that’s about it– some of the Reaper figs I have been painting lately could make excellent Illusionists. From the semi-official Northstar line, I will probably still pick up specialty hirelings and another box of Frostgrave Soldiers. I have enough skellies, but might want to invest in the Gnolls once they are retailing.

I’m Using 28mm Reaper Bones figures in Frostgrave


Given that individual pewter figures are getting pretty dear, I thought I’d give Reaper Bones figures a try recently, and although my first results at painting were not to my liking, I did end up developing a method where I arrived at results that I could use.

BONES, if you don’t know, is a line of plastic figures created from REAPER miniature molds.  I have no quibbles with Reaper’s sculpting, it’s almost always top-notch.  However, I don’t much care for the plastic they use– it’s the rubbery kind, not too dissimilar to the plastic used in “Clickie” Collectible figures games.  It wasn’t holding paint very well.  I had heard you could paint them right out the box.  That is incorrect.  Spray priming with Testor’s primer was a bad idea– the figure was tacky/sticky for days afterward.  Don’t do this.   I went back to basics and just soaked the figures overnight in soapy water, and rinsed them off, blotting them and rubbing off and mold release residue.  Then I painted each figure with a thinned coat of some neutral primer color, like base gray.  After drying overnight i mounted them on craft sticks and started painting.  The results were very positive.  There are so many great fantasy personalities in the Bones catalogue that I can add a ton of wizards and fighting men into the mix for a lot cheaper than pewter figures, and they match the Northstar metal ones in scale.

Here are some of the figures I’ve done so far.  Click to enlarge.  I have a man at arms figure (good for specialty infantry types), an Illusionist, a Sigilist (looking very Gandalfian), an Elementalist shooting a fire spell, a very commanding looking Enchanter from the Pathfinder range, a Demonic looking Summoner, and a big Death-dealing looking barbarian.


(Everything)


(L-R Enchanter, Summoner, Barbarian)


(L-R Man at Arms, Illusionist, Sigilist, Elementalist)

That’s about what I have done now.  My painting method seems to be repeatable so I’m going to go with that method for a few more lines.  I also have a small horde of skeletons painted, a couple of demons and other creatures, and now I am getting some mercenaries primed up.

A quick post about Frostgrave Terrain


Continuing with the Frostgrave theme, here’s some recent structures I put together for Frostgrave or other skirmish games. Here are three ruined village buildings originally sold as Normandy scenery sold as “Bold Action 28mm Ruined Hamlet” by Warlord Games. These are three identical house kits that can be put together in any kind of way you want to put them together– which is a strength. I find that you kind of have to start with the largest corner pieces to have a second story, so all of mine kind of look similar. No worries, it’s easy enough to make them look different.

I assembled the pieces, primed them grey, went over with a medium shade of gray to bring out the details, glued them to small craft wood bases. Then did a small wash with dark tone to bring out the details. After the glue dried I sprayed with a fixative and sprinkled some white flocking on it to give it that snow fall look.

Hovel 1, with a big Octopus sigil on the second floor. That’s a little piece from Hirst Arts that I painted red and black.

Hovel 2 on a nifty round base. This one will take up less space.

Hovel 3.. I added the dollhouse bench as a nice detail. I like the way the snow is on the bench, too.

Here’s Hovel 3 with an Ice troll and a construct for scale.

The ice troll is a Pathfinder Miniature. I figure it fits with the theme of the game and I can stat it out eventually.

I wouldn’t want to use these for the internal part of a city but they will work great on the outskirts. The basic philosophy of Frostgrave terrain is to block line of sight to avoid long shots from across the table. These will help!

Review: Frostgrave Cultists, by Northstar Miniatures


FROSTGRAVE CULTISTS Warband box
Plastic soldiers, 28mm scale, sold as sprues that are assembled into a variety of poses
URL: http://www.northstarfigures.com/prod.php?prod=7731
Created for the game FROSTGRAVE (Osprey Publishing) but can be used for a variety of skirmish games in the 28mm scale. Not really a good addition to historical army, the fantasy theme is very pronounced.

I picked up a box of Frostgrave “Cultist” figures at the recent Cold Wars convention. This is a big box of assemble it yourself plastic figures– and I mean big, you can make 20 figures with this box. The intent of the plastic soldiers is to quickly give a Frostgrave player suitably Winter-themed troops to rapidly bulk up warbands. I’ll stress up front they aren’t required to play the game– you can play Frostgrave with anything that seems to fit the scale and setting. I got them because they looked pretty good (I love pointy headed cultist heads), they are in scale, and there’s a lot of them.

The Box Cover. Click to enlarge.

Details: There are 4 sprues with 5 body variations on them (I think). Essentially a mixture of cloth, leather armor, maybe some studded leather. There are many head variants in this box, most of them with pointy hats, helmets or hoods. Only two bare headed head variants per sprue, I used those sparingly. There is also a few weapon variants sculpted to represent skull heads and skeletal arms. Decent variations for possible weapons– a two handed knobbed club, a bow, a crossbow (two handed), several variations of hand weapons, mostly a Kopesh, a small sword, various daggers, a couple of target style shields, a spear etc. There are some hand-only variations and nice extra bits (like quivers, pouches, sheathed knives etc) to add to the figures to increase variation. Sculpting is excellent here– very detailed and weird looking cultists with a variety that really sells it. The best part of this set is just how well the two-handed weapon sculpts fit on every body type provided, every time, with minimal glue. The plastic type is hard gray styrene, you will need a Testor’s style glue to construct them. Every body provided comes with a matching styrene circular base.

And here’s my first batch of cultists. I actually did make 20, one of them broke and was drying after a repair job. Click to enlarge

I only have them primed up at the moment but they will take a coat of paint nicely. I’m very pleased with my first “war band” purchase from North Star. I would give this a 4 out of 5, for a few minor nits about weapons choices (I would have liked to have a longsword carried by a human arm, and larger shields so we could indicate Men at Arms types, but that really IS minor).

If you purchase these, and North Star’s other warbands, they should mix very well with the regular soldier types and the follow-on skeletons. Don’t throw away the sprues whatever you do. I had to fix some broken weapons pretty quickly– be sure to use a storage system with some padding as the swords can be a little fragile. Scale wise they mix perfectly with 28mm pewter from the same company, but would also work with Warhammer Fantasy (although they might be a tad chunky in comparison), Reaper miniatures, even older pre-painted monsters from the D&D Miniature and Pathfinder miniatures lines, although the latter may lack detail in comparison.

I’m glad I bought these cultists, they will be very handy going forward with Frostgrave games.

Frostgrave at Comics and Gaming, Fairfax, 4/23


My friend Subir has been working hard on setting up a small but somewhat regular group to play miniature games somewhere near the loci of Fairfax City. We decided on Comics and Gaming in Fairfax City. This is a nice place, catering mostly to the M:TG crowd from appearances. They have a good selection of on the shelf gaming stuff supporting card gaming, board gaming, and mostly the big two or three of miniatures gaming. More importantly they have an annex room with a lot of standard 3 x 6″ tables.

SLADE THE NECROMANCER’s warband Click to embiggen.

Necromancer SLADE and Apprentice TIMMY late in the battle. Yes, Slade was laying low when he got down to TWO hit points. Click to embiggen.

After diving headlong into Frostgrave at the recent COLD WARS convention, I decided to bump up my Frostgrave holdings– I have (most of) the standard wizard types plus apprentices, in the process of being painted (along with a warband of generic soldiers). For Saturday I did a quick black primer of my Cultist figures and used my Necromancer figure, “Slade”, along with his apprentice, “Timmy”, then added a little flesh color here and there so they weren’t TOO embarrassing. Hey, I have my standards.

Frostgrave Cultists box, after assembly, pre-primed.

My Frostgrave warband, minimal paint slapped on (that day). Since they are a Necromancer’s warband, the black colors seem appropriate.

We are trying out campaign options for this game, which is new to me, since I’ve only run single skirmish games at conventions. This element of the game turned out to be a lot of fun. For starters we had to figure out where the Wizard hangs out (Page 137 of the Rulebook PDF). I chose a Crypt, since it seemed to work well with a Necromancer. Turns out I didn’t “get” what the benefits of a starting location were.. being from the Crypt, I can raise Zombies with a +2 effectiveness! However, since I can only have 1 at a time, what would the point of that be, it would only make a pretty simple spell just a little bit easier.

Slade (left) two thugs and an archer move out, with the boys giving the old man some cover.

Slade and crew (right foreground) work on one treasure token (purple) and Timmy moves under the overhang to mess with other players caught in the open. BONE DARTS away!

My main wizard, Slade, was under an overhanging building on the second floor, when someone got a bead on him and nailed him pretty good with an arrow from the second floor. Fortunately, not fatally.. but it did make him very cautious the rest of the game. Timmy made up for it by flinging the BONE DART spell right and left (it was my cheapest spell available). I nearly clobbered the Wizard on one of the opposing teams (dropped him down to 2 HPs), so he was as cautious as I was afterward– maybe more shy, since he exited off the board.

My opponent to the right played it cautious with his Wizards, keeping them under cover. and using spells that could move things and people (like Leap and Push) to get to the treasure quickly.

On my left, I was donnybrooking with Subir’s Thaumaturgic warband. He had a lot of levitating style spells, so his style was ALSO to hide his “Varsity” squad of Wizards and try to levitate the treasure off the table.

Well, the thing to do when everyone’s acting so danged cautious is act INcautious. SO I rushed the guy on the right and shot some arrows at his Apprentice Mage to threaten him.

Here’s my thug rushing the two archers covering the Apprentice to my right. I ended up killing them both.. eventually

Like any good skirmish game, Frostgrave is about finding and using cover and the terrain, and trying to take the best shot you have this turn. Here I am shooting at the Apprentice to my right.. it sure made him nervous.

The first game ended with us pretty much evenly splitting three pieces of treasure each by mutual consent. The tactical situation was at the point where there wasn’t much we could do to stop that outcome, so it seemed sensible to make good on what we had in hand. This was my first “campaign game” so my level 0 dude went up to 2 with all that treasure and experience rolling afterward.

The second game, it was kind of anti-climatic. The wizard I was up against threw down some wall spells which made excellent cover for me, but basically segmented the game into “this is my half, this is your half”.. so it was more of a treasure grab than a fight per se.

Yep, that’s a wall spell. On the gripping hand, he can’t shoot ME through it, either. Note my wizard climbing high up where he can shoot off spells from cover, and the thug going for the last red treasure on the roof. Nifty…

So, yeah, we were done about 9:00 with two games in. This experience confirms that I think Frostgrave is a hell of a lot of fun. We basically had a pick up game here with unpainted dudes, scratch built hodgepodge terrain, and I had a blast. Frostgrave makes for a very entertaining evening– it’s fast, easy to play and easy to teach. I was playing with a couple of guys who had some experience (one about as much as I have, one with a lot more). I don’t regret investing in this system and I look forward to expanding my holdings.

Things I noticed:

1) ash.pikselin.net, the Frostgrave warband maker, is SO DANGED HELPFUL. It keeps an editable warband roster on your ipad, saves it online to your account, and enforces the math of buying a warband. The only thing it doesn’t do (yet) is add the little plusses and minuses of campaigning.
2) I love my new fantasy urban terrain cloth for Frostgrave. It’s perfect (see the pictures).
3) I’m pretty pleased with my Necromancer, Slade, but his spells were bogus. I need to think it through a little better next time. I made some stupid choices.. my opponents loaded up with Push, Teleport, Heal and Leap, very useful for this kind of game, and everything I had was either too hard to pull off or not of much use for getting treasure.
4) I’m also really pleased with the NorthStar figures I bought, but they could easily work with other 28mm fantasy figures too.

So, yeah, that was a thing. I’m liking Frostgrave a lot these days. I’m definitely up for playing more of it with a regular crowd of players.

Cold Wars 2016: I’m out of order? You’re out of order!


I attended Cold Wars 2016 with my son Garrett last weekend, and generally had a pretty good time.  Generally.  I’m on staff for the other two shows of the year, Fall-IN! and HISTORICON, so I generally just go to CW as a tourist these days, and I don’t stay at the Host, as it’s usually full up by the time I’m planning on going to this show.  This makes for a short stay, as I can’t justify staying at a hotel for more than an evening.  Dutifully, we got on the road early for once on Friday and ended up getting to the show in decent time.  Cold Wars 2016 certainly wasn’t attended in record numbers, but enough people were there that parking was problematic on Friday morning at 10 AM, which is a good sign.  We both did something I had never done before this show, and that’s attend a Hobby University class on modifying and kit-bashing Matchbox cars for Post-Apocalyptic Car Combat games taught by Joey McGuire.  Mr. McGuire pooh-poohed my interest in his class, saying he felt I had already taken my class, since I have painted about 60 cars for White Line Fever.  Nonsense, there’s always something new to learn, and I learned something new here.  Actually, a few things, but first and best was a much better method of painting rust than I had used previously:
Start with flat black on all the shiny and metal parts.
Then go with a Burnt Umber dry brush, then with a Shadow’s Flesh dry brush, then actual orangey rust color. Then highlight with a darker silver.  the result is multilayered and subtle, far more subtle than the cars I’ve been doing.


Paint combination for Rust

And here are the results. I took the pickup, Garrett made a retro-cannon out of his “Nashlike” deco car


Killer Low-ridin’ Pickup truck
Gar made an up-armored “Stretch Nash rambler” with two Gatling guns on a rack up top.

I really enjoyed Joey’s class (which also taught me the benefits of Zip Kicker) and would recommend it to anyone. Special thanks to Lon Weiss from Brigade Games for providing packs of add on weapons and armor for this class.

Gar has become a big fan of Battletech (the FASA product, now owned and supported by Catalyst Gaming Labs). So he looked at the schedule and decided to go sit in on the Battletech Grinder games in the Cornwall Room all weekend.

The Grinder, apparently, is a Battletech competition where you play, get killed, and come back as a different, hopefully stronger, mech. Garrett ended up with a Battlemaster at the end but only had it for a couple of turns before they ended the Grinder. So it goes.  Thanks to the guy running this event (which was more than one table, it was a room of Battletech, btw), and thanks to MOST of Gar’s opponents for being nice to the newbie.  The less said about the loud-mouthed kid who complained bitterly about every roll of the die that went against him, the better.

I got into a pre-Dreadnought game Friday night.  I wanted to try out FROSTGRAVE but couldn’t get in to the Friday night game, it being full up.  So I went with a back up plan, and I’m glad I did.  I got a ticket to the Deadly Warfare games playtest of “Black Smoke and Blue Seas” or something like that.  More on this later, since I spent some time relieving myself of money in exchange for hobby items Friday until “go time”.

The dealer’s room was the dealer’s room.. we can’t expect the giant vendors of bygone days and should be grateful for the ones who show up in force, or the old standbys that are still making a showing, albeit in a greatly reduced footprint.

It's a picture from 2015, sorry

I got a copy of the Pre-Dreadnought rules (Black Smoke, Blue Water) we were about to play for the playtest, and starter fleet for Manila Bay.   I also picked up a cigar box battle mat for a medieval/fantasy city, probably for running Frostgrave on.  I got some nice pieces for Road Warrior/White Line Fever in a leftover parts bin at Hobby House, the new Cultists expansion for Frostgrave and the spell cards, because, well, they’re nifty looking and pretty handy.. besides, I wanted to thank Brigade Games for sponsoring Hobby University by throwing some coin his way.  I was going to get troop cards for BLUCHER, but, sadly, they were sold out when I went back for them.   I looked over the flea market as well, but didn’t find much of what I came there to buy.  I was looking for AQMF Martian stuff (which hasn’t taken a nose dive in price like I thought it might), as well as 15mm SF and some other bits and bobs.  Sigh.

Events: Given that I was only there from Friday morning-ish until late Saturday night, I didn’t see everything.  However, I did like most of what I saw.  The ballroom wasn’t jammed on Friday, which  usually has people complaining about the empty tables, but every game I saw didn’t lack for players (YMMV).

Friday night around 6PM I participated in the playtest game of BLACK SMOKE, BLUE WATER.  This is a game of Pre-Dreadnought era ship combat, with some important caveats; this game setting assumes about a twenty year leap forward in technology, so it adds some elements that would be missing in a straight up historical period game, such as air operations, submarines and etc.  The game played well.  I thought the combat in a multiplayer game really slowed down somewhat when the ranged narrowed and many options (based on calibers of weapon) opened up.  The designers welcomed feedback and got some good gouge from the players.

The game scenario was Manila Bay (the same fleets I had bought that morning).  The American fleet is entering the board just clearing Cavite island which has a battery that can shoot out 36 inches. Not having any operational need to land on Cavited, we just cheerfully ignored it and steamed onward, keeping more than 36″ out of range.  I ran the Olympia and the Baltimore.  For much of the fight we were the chief American ships engaging the Spaniards, but it was still a one sided contest (not in the Spaniard’s favor).  I felt bad for the Spaniards.. their Torpedo Boat force were pretty close to Cavite at the onset, but when it was clear we weren’t going near the place, they had to spend most of the game running in flank to engage the Americans, only really coming close in the last few turns.  The Spanish Admiral was quite aggressive, unlike his historical counterpart, and gave almost as good as he got.  In game terms, the Olympia was the best ship on the board (and that bears up with the historical battle).  Having guns of over 7″ was a big advantage in certain situations and that contributed to the American fleet sinking a Spanish battle cruiser.  We called the game after a certain point and discussed the mechanics.  For a small slide show of the engagement, please click on the picture below.

It was a fun game experience, and I do like the rules.  I find the combat to be a little drawn out, but what can I say, they are correct in modeling all that gunfire, such as it is.. each of the ships of the era had a veritable battery of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary gun types of various sizes and calibers.  They were effective in their roles, up to a point.  My torpedo (the only one that hit of the six that were shot) was what ended the one Spanish ship that sank, and that also seems to reflect history.. the ship guns weren’t huge and they weren’t very accurate.   It just seemed to be a remarkably bloodless engagement compared to the actual historical Manila Bay.

Some great games were going on in the Distelfink Friday night and Saturday day…

Jon Paul Cosgrove’s excellent “Zombies attacking a Prison that is suspiciously like the one he worked at” game had some amazing scenery.

zombies and prison

zombies and prison

There was a Russian Revolution/Civil War game going in the back, not sure who ran it but it looked like tons of fun.. and was a beauty to behold.

Oh and there was THIS THING, which was playing Saturday, I think:

Invasion of the Pasta People? Maybe?

Whatever! Looks like it was a blast to play.. and it certainly was colorful.

Jim McWee was running a zombies overrunning a town game that I think he has run before. Sure was nice and colorful!

There was even a naval game based on the Destroyermen series going on in the corner:


courtesy of Leo Walsh

The best part as always was seeing old friends again and jawing with some familiar faces we don’t see but a few times a year (if we are lucky):


(Bob and Cleo at the table next to me)

One game I wanted to capture in pictures was a double blind game of MIDWAY based upon the classic Avalon Hill game of the same name being played in the Distelfink.  It was fantastic.  Fortunately the guy who writes DE NERDIBUS got a few pictures of it and I include the link below.

Saturday morning Gar and I got in to the one game we both played together, which was S161: Frostgrave – Cold Harbor, run by Jon Lundberg.  I had a really fun time playing this.  I had a Chronomancer and small gang (including a polar bear!).  We slipped in to the city from the South side, hardly killed anyone (except for a rampaging killer snowman) and was altogether too polite — not a lot of blood was spilled.  Still, I got 4 treasures off the board, which is a respectable showing, I think.  Click the picture above to see a very small album of pictures from the first Frostgrave game I played Saturday Morning, if you have an interest.


(or try this link)

I did one more run on the dealer’s room Saturday but the stuff I was going back for had sold out.  So it goes.  I ended up taking a nap in a chair in the lobby, and checking in with Garrett, who was joyously stomping other big stompy mechas. as you can see here:

25807517041_4077e9b58e

He played until quite late in the evening, and it was a slugfest. Garrett’s comment about his day immediately brought up that age old stereotype. “Dad, the guy next to me was your age, almost. I’ve never smelled an adult that smelled that bad in my life.. do people not shower here or something? It could have gagged a maggot“. He didn’t understand why I was laughing until I hiccupped… (to clarify, the man he was referring to IS NOT PICTURED)

Apparently the Membership meeting went off while I was pre-dreadnoughting the night before. Here’s what I got from Otto Schmidt, who did attend:

I attended the membership meeting at Cold Wars on Friday night at 7 pm.

The following items were announced

Three hotel chains are in negotiations to buy the host, two are national changes one is a regional chain. THE HOST sales rep says that all of them will NOT tear the host down but will repair and restore it bit by bit, one section at a time. The guest rooms will need the majority of the work, but the meeting rooms will need not much more than some new carpets and cosmetic changes. The heating and air conditioning plant will be replace and some electrical work done and the bathrooms repaired. This was reported by the Bod who said that the impact on us would be, if we stayed, that the hotel would lose 60 rooms at a time as they were reconditioned, but that could be taken up by surrounding hotels. They did say that the room rate then would, according to the host, go up to $149 USD a night.

The BOD also said they were looking at other venues including YORK convention center and Lancaster Convention Center, both of whom had been rejected previously and Dave Waxtel is investigating a location in Somerset County NJ. No name was mentioned.

I had a report from the owner of the Continental hotel who is heavily involved with the local hotel organization that the host is in receivership (or soon will be) to the bank. This was not said at the meeting.

The Bod announced that Fall in 2016 will be at the host and Cold Wars 2017 will be there also. After that it would be as negotiations with the host and new owners progressed.

The BOD said they were looking at a cost saving measure of buying tables for the convention. They said their largest expense each year was $60,000 USD for table and chair rental. They were investigating buying these (folding chairs) and it would cost about $25,000 USD total. The original plan, (pre-auction) was to store these at The Lancaster Host and let the Host Use them for other events and the host would pay us a fee when this was done and that the cost of the purchase would then be amortized over about four years. This plan was put in abeyance after the auction kerfuffle, because it was realized that if we did that the tables and chairs would be seized if a foreclosure was processed, and it did not mater if we owned them.

If a bank or agency does this, the release of them would not take place till all creditors with outstanding charges against the hotel were satisfied, and any assets or possessions on site would be part of “inventory” and so sold off.

No discussion was made of the chairs and table rentals for Historicon in Fredericksburg and the rental cost was not broken out for that, nor was it said if the tables and chairs allegedly stored at the host (if it came to pass) would be trucked down to Virginia) nor the cost of haulage and dunnage for that.

Nominations of officers were made. The Bod will publish them in the newsletter. ”

(this is repeated on TMP and elsewhere, quotations Otto Schmidt)

There was some other reports about someone attending Salut in the UK (Dave Waxtel) and as to whether he was paying for it or the Board. Dave is. There was a lot of discussion (on TMP or elsewhere) as to whether a Salut “diorama game” convention will work in a US market (most Americans think not). There was some discussion about paying clubs or GMs to run large set piece games by helping them with their construction expenses. “This is paying GMs to run games” was mentioned from the floor. There was some contention– I could point out HMGS has paid GMs in the past and has the leeway to do it on a per show basis.. just ask anyone who has paid for “Uncle Duke” in the past.

As for the comments about the Host. Hmmm. I fully expected 2016 to be the last year I would be going to a Cold Wars game at the Host. I’m astounded that chains are interested in this property, but apparently it is fulfilling a requirement for mid-income to low-income convention gatherings that no other property around can fill, and there’s a real economic need for a property called the Host. Still.. there’s SO MUCH work to do to fix this place up..


The temporary physical plant, now taking up several parking places.. this keeps the place in hot water.. most of the time.


Downstairs toilets were broken most of Saturday– with big yellow “do not cross” police tape covering the doors. One of the urinals UPstairs broke, too (pictured). So at one point, there were only three urinals and 5 stalls for the entire Lancaster host facility (working).

Everywhere, everywhere.. there’s signs of decay and crumbling. The kitschy cool sixties rock exterior is crumbling off the building in several places. The railing up the side of the handicapped ramp to the lobby is now floating in mid air in all but two places.. The roof.. well, you know about the roof.

Saturday night I resolved to get into another game of Frostgrave, as I like the rules a lot. I really wanted to attend S244: Frostgrave: Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City. I was the last alternate to get in. Jeff Hiley’s terrain was simply fantastic. He won an award for it in the middle of the game! I played a Summoner for this game, and managed to nab 4 treasures.. but only got two off board by end game. We were doing the good versus evil thing, which suited me. This was my favorite game of the convention by a country mile; this is not to say I didn’t love the other games too, I just got into the setting so much with Jeff Hiley’s terrain efforts it was hard to come to any other conclusion.


Jeff getting an award.

We got into a big fight with some do-gooders at the choke points on the ramp. I think I was up against a Thaumaturgist at least. Sadly the only spell I had much of a shot with was LEAP, which did work most of the time, and Summon Demon, which was ineffectual most of the game. The rest of my spells were just too blinkin’ hard.

There’s a nice slide show of the Second Frostgrave game Saturday night below, if you have an interest. Just click on the picture.


(Or try this link)

As it was 11PM at this point, Gar and I had to bail out and head home.. it was an easy trip but we were already pretty tired so didn’t want to press our luck.

Sadly we had to miss Eric’s Road Warrior game, but it’s just as well, I prefer the HO sized one.

So that was our COLD WARS 2016. For me, it was the Frostgrave Cold Wars. I’m quite taken with that game and am painting up some warbands. The decrepit surroundings didn’t make the convention run less efficiently (though there were and are the usually carping about things that never seem to change, like long lines). I definitely gamed more and enjoyed myself more than I usually do at conventions. Thanks to all the crew who helped me get Guidebook done for this convention– Theresa, Paul, Scott, Scott, Heather etc. (see previous post on that subject. I did try a few new things this year, like taking pictures and uploading them to the guidebook. Not sure who can see these or if they are shared to the general guidebook user base or not. In any event, Guidebook was its usual useful self. The CD of Cold Wars really could care less about it, but the attendees do, so I’ll keep doing it despite official indifference.

Finally, if I could sum it up, I’d say this was a convention of interesting games and some good times.  My son came with me and I encouraged him to go off and find his own groove.. he hung out with guys his own age (or older) all weekend and had a terrific time.  I played in some great games, and saw some great games being played.  It was more of a game playing convention than a shopping con for me.

So as the sun set swiftly in the West, we drove home, tired and all conventioned-out. See everyone at HISTORICON!!!

(SLIDE SHOW of all Cold Wars 2016 pictures I took over the weekend)
(or try this link)

De Nerdibus: Cold War pictures (including the Midway double blind game)

Xin’s Lair: Cold Wars 2016 Frostgrave Game

Small Wars: Frostgrave, what’s it all about


Today’s SMALL WARS post is about FROSTGRAVE, the new-ish fantasy skirmish game set in the frost shrouded city that gives the game its name. Frostgrave is a game of magic, combat, looting and exploration that combines a little old and a little new with a strong fantasy narrative element that fosters both a connected campaign game and good storytelling.


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Amidst the frozen ruins of an ancient city, wizards battle in the hopes of discovering the treasures of a fallen empire. In this fantasy skirmish wargame, each player takes on the role of a wizard from one of ten schools of magic, and builds his band of followers. The wizard’s apprentice will usually accompany his master, and more than a dozen other henchman types are available for hire, from lowly thugs to heavily armoured knights and stealthy thieves. Wizards can expand their magical knowledge by unlocking ancient secrets and may learn up to 80 different spells. While individual games of Frostgrave are quick and can easily be played in an hour or two, it is by connecting them into an ongoing campaign that players will find the most enjoyment. The scenarios given in the book are merely the beginning of the limitless adventures that can be found amidst the ruins of the Frozen City. [Osprey Publishing]

[editorial note— I use the phrase “blue line” here to represent most of Osprey Publishing’s recent output of low-cost, introductory miniature game rules on a myriad of subjects, both historical and fantastical, because of their distinctive use of the color blue on the cover.  Osprey does not use this term as far as I know]

frostgraveFrostgrave came out from Osprey Publishing earlier this year (2015), with the usual minimal fanfare I associate with an Osprey wargame release– I knew nothing about this game, then suddenly it was on the Osprey publisher table at wargame conventions, on Amazon, and there was some online buzz associated with it, about as much as any other “blue series” Osprey wargame– one more among the horde of releases, in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the blue line series of rules, and I’m happy that Osprey is stepping up to the plate and supporting the natural marriage of great historical art and somewhat okay wargame rules at a very affordable price.  I especially like the Kindle releases of said rules, for various reasons.  I do think the flood of releases tends to create a “cult of the new” effect, when Osprey Publishing might be better employed releasing fewer rulebooks a year and doing the legwork associated with new entertainment products– building some social media buzz, energizing a fan base, recruiting some GMs to run high-profile demo games, etc.  For all I know, this is being done, somewhere, I just haven’t seen much of it in the historical miniatures community.  A quick look at the Preliminary Events List (PEL) at a recent Historical theme miniatures convention (Fall-IN! 2015) showed few, if any, games being run from Osprey publishing previous line of blue line rules.  That’s including In Her Majesty’s Name, a blue line game release that came out with lots of fanfare, two expansion books and a series of excellent 28mm figures from Northstar Miniatures.   In Her Majesty’s Name has only been out since the middle of 2014, and already, well, nada… and it’s a great little game, too!

One game I did start to notice being run at conventions (including Fall-IN!) was Frostgrave, released in the first half of 2015, was not following the “blue line pattern”.  First of all, it’s not a thin paperback, not that there is anything wrong with that.  The print edition is a large format hardcover, with extensive and vibrant illustration throughout.  It’s also 96 pages, which is quite a bit more extensive then the smaller paperbacks.  That’s not all fluff and superfluous stuff, either, but lots and lots of supporting material for the game, including campaign options, but we’ll get to that shortly.

To characterize Frostgrave by a certain type, it’s a points-based, fantasy themed skirmish game set in a consistent universe, namely of various parties investigating the ruins of an ancient city of Frostgrave.  If that sounds familiar to gamers with longer memories, yes, this has been done before as a game– namely Mordheim, by Games Workshop.   Mordheim used a very similar framework for a fantasy skirmish game back in 1999, where small bands of adventurers explored another ancient city for the same motivations– treasure and glory.  Mordheim was a big hit back in its day and (in my recollection) a pretty good small skirmish set– I have seen it adapted to many other settings besides fantasy, including a WW2 game I played in.  One of the selling points of Mordheim was the continuous campaign concept, which is also a feature of Frostgrave, and I suspect will contribute to Frostgrave having a longer shelf life.

Wizards, Schools, Spells and Warbands

The primary focus of Frostgrave is the individual Wizard character.  These are not the wimpy magic users of old D&D.   These are tough, hard-bitten specialists that live lives of adventure, plundering ruins, stealing loot, and they are not shy about reaching for some iron when the magic runs low.  Wizards study at ten schools of magic.  Schools of magic form complex relationships with each other– some being aligned, some being opposed, and some neutral.  This effects spells selection,and in a greater sense, how the game will play out tactically.

Chronomancy
Elementalism
Enchantment
Illusionist
Necromancy
Sigilism
Soothsaying
Summoning
Thaumaturge
Witchery
Table 1: Schools of Wizardy

Each school has a list of spells associated with it (See table 2) and he or she must choose EIGHT of them to start. Three must come from the Wizard’s OWN school of magic, one must come from each of the three ALIGNED schools of magic, and the last two must be from any of the five NEUTRAL schools of magic.  Each description of a school has a small table outlining alliances, neutral schools and opposing schools to make it clear.

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Table 2: Spell list per School

All of these spells have their strengths and weaknesses.  I think this is one of the detail areas that really lends a certain color to Frostgrave games.  Most of these spells are firmly within the “flavor” of their School and caster-type.  Illusionists rely on perception spells, such as Monstrous Form and Beauty.  Elementalists are kind of like magic style Green Lanterns, summoning big Elemental hammers and bolts and shields.  Chronomancy spells localize “something” and allow it to pass through time– causing decay, crumbling, and petrification, but also speeding someone up really well.  If you are at all versed in fantasy style roleplaying games, you know about all you need to know about the background to Frostgrave’s magic and wizardry.  There’s nothing particularly new about it to any avid fantasy geek.

The Wizard’s existence is summed up as a collection of statistics (called a stat line) describing how he performs.. none of that is particularly new to a roleplaying fan– Move, Fight, Shoot, Armour, Will and Health.  The higher the number, the better.  I’m from the “people move a certain way, swing a sword a certain way, fire shooty things in a certain way, defend in a certain way and run away when they don’t want to hang out any more” school of design.  In other words, all the actions defined by the “stat line” are, and should be, generic.  There just isn’t a need for that much detail there.  Frostgrave gets high marks from me for making all this stuff as simple as possible.

Warbands are another critical element to this game.  Wizards may have spells at the ready but it’s suicide to enter the ruins of Frostgrave alone.  A smart wizard recruits some cannon fodder erm, hirelings to accompany them into the ruins.  The wizard gets 500 gold crowns (GC) to hire muscle on a points/cost basis.  A must-have is an Apprentice Wizard for 200 GC.  He (or she) is a little insurance for long campaign games where the boss wizard might perish from wounds.  The Apprentice can rise up and take the boss’s place, and hire another apprentice!  There is a wide range of potential hirelings from the rulebook that can bulk up the wizard’s followers into a proper warband (see table 3).  In addition, the FRPG savvy Frostgrave player can probably add anything that seems to fit into this table, as long as it has a workable stat line associated with it.

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Table 3: Warband Hirelings (from the Frostgrave rulebook)

This is another area that adds color and customization to the game.  I could easily see slinking into Frostgrave, my Wizard being followed by his hireling thief, assassin, and infantrymen.

What do we do with all this stuff?

So you have some miniatures painted, and warbands assembled and some decent terrain put together?  What next?  You actually get into the mechanics of playing the game.  Don’t worry, they’re very easy to pick up.

  1. Initiative
  2. Action Phases in this order:
    1. Wizard
    2. Apprentice
    3. Soldier
    4. Creature

That’s pretty much the bulk of the game sequence.  Action Phases allow each active agent to perform two actions– moving, shooting, casting a spell, etc.  Combat is pretty simple skirmish stuff.  If you have played a skirmish miniatures wargame of ANY kind, including historical, all of this is fairly familiar to you.  Movement hampered or boosted by terrain, objects as cover, melee when bases come into contact, etc etc.  As I’ve alluded to above, I favor a KISS principle for running miniature skirmish games and Frostgrave is all about simplicity.  I’m not criticizing, here.  I think the familiarity that many experienced players will bring to this game is a big strength.  Frostgrave is like comfort food.. meatloaf rather than Pâté, to be sure, but it’s still a tasty meal.   There are some chrome elements of the game– critical hits and the like, and casting spells is a process that can be heavily modified by the tactical situation, but all of this is rather well defined and easy to understand.

Victory (kind of), or the long game

“Winning” is an open ended concept with Frostgrave.  You can score points by gathering treasure, but the real winner is the guy with troops (and most importantly, a living Wizard) who live to loot another day.  Frostgrave plays very well as a one-off 2-3 hour long skirmish game in a fantasy setting, but I think the game really shows its true colors when you start playing campaigns, which the rulebook concerns itself with from chapter 3 onward. There’s a certain satisfaction watching your characters grow with experience.  I haven’t seen that since.. since.. Mordheim, actually!   I have yet to play anything but a couple of quick skirmish games, myself, but the game left me wanting to continue my character from game to game.  If you want a good workable campaign system for fantasy combat, this is the game for you.

In Summary

I think Osprey Publishing has developed a great little game in Frostgrave.  There’s nothing extremely innovative about the game itself– if I could sum it up in a sentence, I’d say that Osprey has taken the fast melee sequence out of a D&D dungeon crawl and called it a skirmish game.  Before I get grief for that statement, understand that I think that’s a great thing.  Many people don’t have the time for long drawn out roleplaying sessions where they build the game narrative through repetitive trips to town to buy things, research things, interact with the local tavern and government.  Frostgrave assumes this is taking place off screen and focuses on the bare-knuckle brawl once the action starts.  I like this approach a lot– it’s about as RPG as I can get at my age and level of commitment.  The game is very well supported by Osprey and supporting material is already being published.  I just picked up Thaw of the Lich Lord and I believe other publications are about to drop or are scheduled for early 2016.   Northstar Figures, whom Osprey partnered with for the In Her Majesty’s Name game (and expansions), is producing quality 28mm figures to represent the primary wizard types, with apprentices, war band soldiers and some summoned creatures.  These are in the popular 28mm scale and can be easily supplemented with standard FRPG miniatures or GW Fantasy figures.

 Northstar Figures Frostgrave miniatures

I have a few of Northstar Figures wizard packs and will be painting them up shortly and blogging about the project, like one does.

In FROSTGRAVE, Osprey Publishing has found a system with legs that plays fast, can be taught quickly to novices, and is big and colorful with a wide-open fantasy milieu.  It’s already being played at conventions and I suspect it will grow in popularity as long as Osprey keeps supporting it.  Osprey should probably develop an outrider-style program for GMs who want to run Frostgrave at cons, as I could easily see this game gaining some traction in the upcoming year.  Well done, Osprey.