Sunday, Phoenix and I set to a classic game of frost grave. In some ways frost grave is the minis game I have always wanted. It is simple, internally consistent, and beautifully free of fiddly bits. It is also a game that benefits from scenario and campaign elements over the long-hall. The core game is a straight forward resource competition. The campaign variant through multiple scenarios dilutes the lethality while retaining the resource acquisition race.
Phoenix and I opted for a starter game with new war bands. I went with a sigilist using my Khador models. Butcher was my two-handed weapon wielding scholar. Yuri was my two-handed weapon wielding apprentice. The rest of the band comprised 2 archers, 3 crossbowmen, 2 thugs, and 1 war hound. My spells were:
· Elemental bolt at 16
· Telekinesis at 10
· Furious Quill at 10
· Power word at 14
· Push at 8
· Reveal Secret at 16
· Heal at 10
I wanted a utility kit with a bunch of cheap affects and a couple quality investments. Normally I would have doubled down on campaign spells like absorb knowledge and the creation variants but I did not know how long this campaign would run. Honestly it feels kind of cheesy going balls to the wall in a 2 person league. So, we will go all out in-game but I am not going to sweat the little things. This selection puts half my spells at 10 or less so I have options without having to empower everything.
We played the mausoleum scenario on a 4x4 table. In retrospect, I should have brought my 30x30 mat. Distance really matters in this for engagement range and resource access. In previous league play deployment zones were 6x6 inch blocks on larger boards where 6 players hammered it out. We did not place treasure before choosing deployment. With 2 people you have to place the treasure before picking deployment zones; otherwise the game degrades into a contest for who gets the best side with the treasure placed near the board edge. It also encourages treasure distribution such that no matter where someone else sets up one has a fair shot at the money. Doing it the other way means players tend not to interact much—they just rush the treasure off the board and try not to lose models.
The mausoleum went in the center of the board with a treasure at each corner. I put my discretionary marker at the top of the tallest tower. I figured to bate Phoenix’s troops out. Maybe I could blast them off the tower. Phoenix put one in the upper floor of a ruined farmhouse. Then we dropped several skeletons around the board. I put mine in blocking positions. Phoenix did much the same. Phoenix won the roll and chose her board edge—I got the other—neither of us wanted to move from our arbitrarily chosen starting sides.
The game started well. I got my reveal secrets spell off—phoenix failed her roll—so I had one guaranteed treasure. Phoenix sent a couple of grunts for the 2-special treasure on her side of the mausoleum and her 2 treasure hunters after the loot in the farm house. I sent a pack of archers, crossbowman, and my war hound after the farmhouse treasure with my apprentice. Butcher moved forward and pushed one of the archers forward enough to grab one of the special treasures.
After this, things got “complicated.” Butcher pushed people forward and back, getting his 2 ranged models well on their way toward removing the treasure off the board. On the other side, my apprentice and company got tied up with a skeleton. Phoenix, correctly noticing that my left flank was over-committed, sent her apprentice to assist. Two scatter shots and a couple archers later and my war hound was down and my caster had been 2 shotted. The apprentice tried to cast heal several times and just hurt himself more. At 2 health, he retreated for the board edge. Butcher had teleported on top of the farmhouse treasure but with 2 treasure hunters closing in and no support available, he retreated into the apprentice’s ranged strike.
I ended the game with 3 treasure tokens of which 2 were special markers. I successfully cast 5 spells so earned 240 experience. Butcher lost a couple toes and .5 inches of movement. The war hound survived in tacked. I rolled up gloves of strength, 3 potions (healing, demon in a bottle, and elixir of life), and a ring of feather fall. I put my two-level advancements toward fight and hp. I sold the demon in a bottle spell netting me 310 gold. I bought a ring of power 3 (for the danged apprentice), upgraded my apprentice and wizard to two-handed weapons, and purchased a marksman to replace one of the crossbowman. I picked treasury for my base since the extra money could not hurt and the chance for an extra treasure is always nice (need to roll that before the next game.) That leaves me with 0 gold and 40 experience toward the next level.
1. The d20 mechanic is challenging. Phoenix owned that game. She walked off with 4 treasures and killed my caster. However, she never rolled less than a 17 against my wizard. I could not even roll a 10 for heal. I lost .5 inches of movement on my caster but gained a much better pile of loot than Phoenix. The problem with d20 is that any one result is just as likely as any other. Over time the average will shape up around 10.5 but the average requires hundreds of rolls to normalize. In the meantime, the variance is high.
2. I forgot that moving imposes a -1 to ranged attacks—outside of spells. There is an additional -1 for every model and piece of intervening terrain. It would not have changed the result but is worth remembering.
3. I went with a treasury base. The temptation was to take a tower or a laboratory but ultimately, I wanted resources. It came down to an inn or the treasury and the inn lost on account of making the warband bigger.
4. I get to play 1 or 2 frost grave games tomorrow. I am looking forward to the experience as much as to test my metal as to just throw down some dice. I got greedy last game…none of that shit this time.
5. Frost grave has a quaint almost Indi feel. From the stream of thought writing to the minimally sized book, it has a nice off the beaten path taste. The production values are high enough to justify the price and low enough to match pace with the game’s aspirations. It falls second to PP games and only because I have so much blood and tears behind that worthy.
That’s all for now. Butcher, the red pen, shall stride the frozen city tomorrow. Woe to those who would stand in his way…especially the harbingers of probability😉