Sunday, 28 February 2016

Frostgrave: Special Snowflakes

Wait! Don't Shoot!
It's the First Annual All-Live Non-Skype SwefBoot!

These are some of Dmitry Burmak's illustrations for Frostgrave, he's an official illustrator. Lovely stuff!

Good Lord! They said it would never happen, but they were wrong. I don't know who they are, or why they were talking about something so obscure and basically unimportant as three blokes getting together for a weekend of dice-based nerdery, but there you are. It's a crazy, mixed-up world out there, and if nothing else, our blog is a locus of international gossip and scandalmongery. Or so I would have you believe.

A couple of weekends back, Generals Leofa and Kasfunatu made it over to Gothenburg, where I, General Kraken, reside. And I managed to scrimmage together a free function room for us, and we had a very pleasant night of Frostgrave, for which this is a rather late battle report.

Rather late, so no battle maps! Or pictures. There was too much ale involved, plus the fun of not having to narrate measurements in inches to the other players, free from the shackles of Skype as we now were. So this is very much from memory.

Elementalist, My Dear Watson

General Leofa was new to the game, but luckily master strategian and number cruncher Kas had briefed him thoroughly on the flight over. So a new wizard was entering our fray in the form of an Elementalist, bringing a warband that was given the benefit of three free levels and some treasure so that he wasn't battling a massive difference in abilities.

Elementalist and Apprentice in the middle, two Warhounds, two Thugs and a Thief (left), a Sellsword Captain (Right), two Archers (top) and a Marksman (in red)

Now, the word on the street is that shooting in Frostgrave is pretty potent. Most people agree that your terrain should be very dense and have only a few areas with long sight lanes, otherwise it tends to turn into a shootfest with little melee.

That's been my experience of playing too, to a certain extent. Although I've good a good amount of scenery, not much of it totally blocks line of sight. If I place it so that it does, warbands very sensibly advance as close as they need to to unleash a barrage of fire. Melee is just as deadly and unpredictable, but has the extra disadvantage that if it goes wrong, you can get killed. Staying at range least avoids that downside.

I don't think this is wrong, mind you! You can plan round it or with it, or use LOS blocking spells like Fog or Wall. Or refuse to take expensive minions and just hurl clouds of weak-sauce goons at your opponent's bowline.

It does make any warband clash a game of numbers, however, and if there's one thing General Kas is good at, it's making the numbers work. So his warband is just about as large as you can get it (twelve), and under his advice, so was General Leofa's. Both their wizards have a powerful shooting spell (Bone Dart and Elemental Bolt), which mine lacks (Grenade, which is AoE but only 12" range and has been singularly unimpressive every time I've used it, thanks to my appalling dice).

Seeing another maxed-out warband bristling with snipers, I have to say my heart sank a little. Only a few games in, and we're already settling on a meta? Where are the all-thug Witch Bands? The experimental Illusionists with tiny Knight-only bodyguards?

Where, above all, is the remote chance to find a warband less effective than my own, so that I can bully a win out of them?

Ah well - it was going to be fun anyway. My suspicion was the sheer numbers against me would be telling, but I was determined to enjoy losing as much as always!

Gunfight at the Snowkay Korral

Leofa was having his first match, Kas and I our first stab at a three-way fight. So we went for a simple Treasure Grab with no extra rules, although we stuck with all the optional ones like Wandering Monsters, Criticals and Injury. 

Three treasures counters each, which we all slapped basically as near our own deployment areas as we possibly could. Then deployment saw us stacking our various troops in positions to grab and secure the nearby counters, get them home and see off any intruders in the process. 

I've discovered that Animate Construct is permanent once cast! Which is nice - I've got a Large Construct on the team until someone dismantles it, then, which helps bring my Enchanter's side up to ten despite previous losses. Kas's Chronomancer is still the favourite, I'd say, being above level ten and quite heavily tooled up with tough minions and a Sell Sword. Plus he's got preturnatual luck, of course.

The field had a central tower and quite heavy cover everywhere else, although pretty good sightlines through it all. Enough that you'd be penalised for but not stopped from shooting. My pair of Trackers eyed the opposing Marksmen, Archers and Spellcasters, and sighed to themselves...

The Treasure of the Puta Madre

Will saves? I don't have to show you any stinking will saves.

Roaming out from our corners, the warbands did exactly what you might guess. Everybody ran and grabbed their nearby counters with whatever cheap thugs, thieves and animated statues were to hand, and then their wizards and shootists lined up behind whatever cover was to hand so that they could pick off anything sent to interfere with this plan. 

Running on fewer numbers, I decided not to pick up all three of my counters. Instead, I kept some theives roaming free, ready to plug any gaps, as my spellcasters tried to get the Strength spell off on as many men as possible. Partly for the XP of casting, partly because the bonus it gives you to your Fight roll works as decent missile defence if nothing else! 

Elsewhere, the Elementalist handily snatched his loot and picked off the tentative push the Chronomancer sent against him with flurries of crossbow and elemental bolts. Despite having a Captain and a Marksman sniping at me with their gear, my line stays more or less intact, but the Elementalist is pushing a slightly concerning number of thugs and dogs in my general direction.

Then, of course, Kas starts his high rolling behaviour. Treasure counters unleash a pair of Wandering Monsters right near Leofa and me - a ghoul, a wolf and an imp all show up in our backyards, well away from the Chronomancer. Cleverly, Leofa casts Wall to divert the wolf towards me, and I'm so busy shuffling about to deal with this that before I know it, there's a Barbarian hurtling towards me and I've already lost my Infantryman to missile fire. And I still haven't actually managed to pick up any treasure...

High Plains Snowdrifter

Downhill from here on in for me. As the other two wizards ship their three treasures apiece off the board, I find I've still only managed to pick two up. Which means there is only a single unclaimed token left, which in turn means there's a lot of interested parties heading my way.

This lone token is sat behind a deserted tomb, on top of a low hill. Swiftly, my wizard, apprentice and various souped-up henchpeople surround it. Sadly, it's very clearly cursed - each and every model who picks it up gets a crossbow bolt through the head shortly afterwards.

Kas's Barbarian screams in, determined to claim it himself! My own Barbarian intercepts him, despite already suffering from a degree of arrow fatigue, and bats him down in short order. Before getting crossbowed off the hill himself, of course.

Before long, I have both the enemy warbands closing rapidly in on me. The current bearer of the unlucky treasure is still me, but both my spellcasters have succumbed to its dark curse. Three Thieves and two Trackers are all that remains of the band. Can I make it off with the last drop of loot?

No Country for Cold Men

For a moment, it looks rosy. One of my chaps lobs a potion of explosive cocktail that takes out a nearby Thug, and I've got a nicely shaped defensive ring going on round my treasure bearer. One dude and four walking pieces of ablative armour, I reckon I can make it.

Er, no. No I can't.

By losing at least one of their number every round, my guys get the treasure to within three inches of the table edge before a swarm of the Elementalists' Goons descend on them. My last thief hacks his way through two Dogs and half a Thug during a blizzard of missile fire from the Chronomancer's merry men (they don't care who they hit) before he finally succumbs.

The others then duke it out over the last token. Neither of them get close to it, they've both got powerful sniper packs at the back. Instead, they circle the central tower, each angling for good line of sight to take out the opposing spellcaster.

In the end, Luckmeister Kasfunatu gets his man, with a ridiculously accurate shot through a broken window in said tower, nailing the Elementalist with a Bone Dart. The Elementalist bugs out after this, leaving Faryll the Chronomancer winner of the day.


I don't remember this in any great clarity - it was midnight, the game had rolled cheerfully along for nearly four hours! That third player does make for a slower game, although it also made it tense and enjoyable. Each time you decide to pick someone off, you're having to think if it leaves you at the mercy of the other warband.

What this account doesn't display is the joy of having the others in the room for a change, as well as the chance to bring out and use all my painted models and scenery for a change! Hope you enjoyed the random pictures of snowy ruins and cowboys instead.

My apprentice dies, along with another Thief, but at least I've managed to get a couple of treasure tokens home and can afford some new dudes. The Thief gets replaced with a Javelinman (I'd like to try out the short-range, cheaper missile option), and I get a new Apprentice. And a tome of something situational that I'd like to sell, but I can't! Wizards will only sell spells they already know, the power-hungry idiots.

More to come soon - Kas and I are returning to our Liche Lord campaign this very night. And I've got some painting to show off...

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