WMTG and I recently squared off for a third installment of frostgrave. I finished my required weekend short shift at the reference desk and it was off to the frozen city after a taco bell appetizer.
This was the first game in which I feel we had truly comparable warbands. I was betting on a superior range game with my 4 marksman dovetailing with my fortune hunters’ reach. Most games I find one of my warband is gone by the end of turn 2. If they pick up a treasure and have to move 6 inches (doubled to 12 due to treasure halving movement ranges) then a marksman is just as capable as a 6 or 7 inch base move model of scoring the loot. The difference is that if I fail my reveal secrets roll, I often want the marksman’s resilient accurate range game more than I want another long distance mover like the ranger or fortune hunter. I hedged my bets with the 2 archers but the plan was to keep WMTG playing defense while the rest of my crew worked on the objective.
We rolled up the hunted huts scenario. We alternated placing six roofless huts on a 3x3 board. The huts ended up in an ‘H’ formation with the ends of the arms extending toward our respective deployment zones. There was a tall tower construct on my right with ruins forming a perimeter around the board. Each hut got a treasure marker. When anyone entered a hut we rolled. If we rolled high, a wraith appeared in the hut. Wraiths were immune to all but magical attacks. They did double damage to living creatures and went through terrain at no penalty.
The farthest huts (the ones on the ends of the ‘H”) were as good as claimed. Short of an all-out push, we were going to pick them up and be well on our way to scoring by turn 3. This left the 2 central huts up for grabs. Since the huts were open-topped, I opted to use my wizard and apprentice as elevated telekinesis bots. Butcher climbed to the second story of a ruined building flanked by 2 marksman. Another marksman deployed on the 6 inch mark to grab my reveal secrets treasure first turn and score in turn 2. The apprentice Went far left on top of another ruin with the archers and war hound. The hunters and remaining marksman spread out across my front line to pinch hit as needed.
Both of us made our reveal secrets checks. Butcher had too empower for 6 but I was able to move the 2 closest treasures back and out of the huts with telekinesis. My marksman picked up my bonus treasure and started trekking for my rear board edge. The rest of my team ran forward to snag the two central treasures or fight WMTG’s guys for the gold. I try not to go on full offense in the beginning of this kind of game. It is easy to focus on assassination to the exclusion of mission objectives. The catch is that if you are successful early on, it becomes a very negative play experience. So I started out focusing on securing objectives more than fighting for territory.
By the end of turn 2, we had scored our bonus treasure and were well on our way to moving the other 2 off the board. It was quickly apparent that WMTG was at a disadvantage since as in our last game, he had to physically pick up the treasure while I could just levitate the items out without activating monsters. He had to get his treasure and hug the back of buildings to stay out of line of sight of my marksmen.
Turn 3 saw us fully engaged. We pushed wraiths out of buildings, used the 1 inch victory push to get out of combat, and used supporting models to contest treasure. The rules are clearly and elegantly written down to the finest grammatical shaving. It is a testament to their quality that on only our fourth game, we were utilizing combat resolution as an advanced strategy.
The rest of the game deteriorated into a running battle with three wraiths while WMTG worked to overcome my ranged advantage. I ended up with 5 treasure as WMTG ran out of resources to throw at the problem. I lost a treasure hunter, an archer, and my war hound. He lost a couple models including his apprentice. After the post-game wrap up, I lost the hunter permanently. WMTG did not lose anyone outright but did get a niggling injury on the apprentice. I earned 350 experience, 437 gold, a grimoire of control undead, 2 scrolls, and 2 potions. This left me firmly at level 9 with 807 gold to spend after I sold all my perishable loot.
I am never sure how to optimally advance my warband. After I max out fight and HP, there a ton of directions available even when I have a template in mind. Sigilists start off weak on offense but quickly amp up the resource acquisition power curve. I bought the carrier pigeons upgrade for my base for 5gp. I spent 277 gold replacing my downed fortune hunter and upgrading my 2 archers to rangers (saving 3gp thanks to the pigeons.) Next I spent 500gp for a grimoire of scribe scroll. I used my 4 level boosts to max out my fight, add one too my hp, lower the casting cost of elemental bolt down to 15, and learn scribe scroll. That leaves me with 25GP, an optimized warband, and a decent start on a functional spell list.
- WMTG was at a distinct strategic disadvantage in this scenario. He is a competent player but the ability to remotely move treasure around the board let me mitigate most of the scenario risk. Leap is a more overtly powerful spell than telekinesis but it is less flexible too. This game re enforced how distinct the magic schools are from each other and how certain spells can dominate a particular match.
- Charma is a bitch. WMTG picked up a grimoire of mind control from one of his treasures. As seen in my game with Squish, it is right up there with leap in terms of relative power. On the one hand, I absolutely hate that spell. On the other hand, it is a perfectly valid way to challenge my ranged strategy. It is a new wrinkle in an already complex framework.
- I love how internally balanced this game feels. I come off a strong showing only to have to worry how WMTG will respond. I have played a lot of wargames over the years. Most of them hit a point where one person secures a large enough advantage that it is very difficult to meaningfully challenge them. The constant random changes in scenario, toolbox, and warband composition mean there is no certainty of future success.
- One thing that has not changed is that the dice can sink you before you even get to strategy. WMTG had absolutely terrible dice luck this time but last game he could not roll less than a 17 against my wizard. I certainly failed rolls but not with his frequency. I used my phone to randomly select my die results and I think it averaged out better for me. Of Course doing so deprives me of the visceral satisfaction of shaking polyhedrons. That being said, I am moving toward an electronic die model. It saves a lot of time and seems to be more internally consistent than the physical versions.
I hope we’ll be able to play twice more before the end of the year. WMTG is printing terrain like crazy. I love planning out builds. I love trying to work through how a scenario plays...and this is just the base rule set. The expansion campaigns are unique themed experiences in their own right. Here’s hoping for more soon.