Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists, and welcome. Is it me, or is it a bit chilly in here?
Frostgrave; another game that many of you will have heard of, and that was introduced to our gaming club by a member that has since moved away. Our club forum has a section for Frostgrave games. It also has sections for Man O’ War, Blood and Plunder, Batman, Infinity, Battlefleet, Gothic, Mordheim and Gorka Morka.
The difference between this game and others introduced by eager and enthusiastic members at our club, is that Frostgrave has kind of stuck around, with the odd game popping up on a weekly games night, where many of those other games I mentioned have fallen by the wayside.
When I wonder why that might be, I only have to skim through the small rule book and check out the thriving Facebook group to be reminded why. This game is just about the most liberating modelling experience I have come across.
The Cool Thing About Frostgrave
Many games profess to allow freedom of model selection, but this one really does provide a home for all of your favourite fantasy character models. There is one set of generic stats that split across fifteen or so ‘warrior classes’, with a spread of hired professional soldiery, back alley thugs, mercenaries and specialists like trackers and thieves, but there is nothing to specify any models that must be used to represent those warriors.
There is of course the theme of the setting, which meets all the expectations of the hardened treasure-seeking role-playing skirmish-fighting spell-casting adventurer, but other than the premise that it is unconscionably nippy, players can form their warbands from whatever models they like.
Starting to play Frostgrave was an opportunity to dig out all those old random models I had acquired over the years, and just as good if not better, an excuse to pick up some of those great, but otherwise incongruous models I had always looked at and never purchased because I didn’t think they would fit in any of my armies. Frequenting retailers like Hasslefree Miniatures, Bad Squiddo Games and Reaper Miniatures for characters was very enjoyable, as well as buying models I just loved to make up warband filler members like Fireforge Games and their various Crusades era models.
You name it, you can probably fit it into a warband somehow. I have seen entire warbands of Dwarfs, Elves and Men. Women, Halflings and even Mouslings! The entire universe of fantasy models really is open to you.
Here are just a small selection of the warbands posted to the Facebook Group for Frostgrave, which as you can see use various miniatures from multiple manufacturers, and probably representing models from three or more decades of miniature gaming.
As you can see, there is a great mix of models in both warbands, but they have their Wizard in common, though each with a different scheme. The range of warrior types available allows a player to easily build up a warband entirely out of hero models if they so wish, and the option to include a Warhound is great as well, because not that many games include a single dog as a playing piece, and the game being what it is, I am sure that many players have used models other than dogs for this piece, such as giant lizards, or giant mutant rats for example!
Here are some more Warbands.
As you can see, these two warbands are a different style to the first pair, with the first being dominated by Games Workshop miniatures, and these two being made up of models by other manufacturers. There is absolutely no restriction at all on the models that you can use, as long as they are representative of the warrior type they are meant to be, and the Rule of Cool is king.
My Warband – I mean, ‘Warbands’
Ok, this was never going to be a simple process. When it comes to choosing models for Frostgrave, there are around fifteen henchmen classes in the basic rule book, and about a dozen magical ‘schools’ to focus on, each of which inspires a different angle on your choice of theme. We have the time twisting Chronomancers, the volatile Elementalists, artisan Enchanters, deceptive Illusionists, morbid Necromancers, scholarly Sigilists, wizened Soothsayers, conjuring Summoners, miraculous Thaumaturges and fetish wielding Witches.
I have always had a thing for Witches, and a couple of years ago I bought a set of three from Wargames Foundry. I’m not entirely sure why I bought them, other than that I liked them. In their time in my possession they have served as coaching staff for my Undead Blood Bowl team, the Egdenberg Undertakers, Necromancers in my Death army for Age of Sigmar and in Kings of War, and as pure inspiration for a story I began writing which included three witch sisters, Agatha, Beatrice and Eleanor. Now, two of them lead one of my warbands in Frostgrave, Agatha, The Grimhyde Witch, and her sister and apprentice Beatrice.
For me, the followers of the Grimhyde Witch would likely either be desperate, terrified, or in thrall to the witch and her apprentice, so I decided to go for a range of rough and ready adventurers, Thugs, Treasure Hunters and a Barbarian.
As you can see from the models. Though I have used a range of metal miniatures, like the Barbarian here, another model from Hasslefree Miniatures, I have also made great use of the old Empire Militia set from Games Workshop. This set is a classic, and a staple of games such as Mordheim. The range of weapons, patched up clothing and patched up ruffians allow for tremendous variety of model assembly and equpiment.
I actually picked up a set of about twenty on Ebay for a pittance, and it was a very fortunate purchase, because they are absolute gold when modelling warbands for Frostgrave.
I am sure you will have noticed the bases I have so far mounted all of my Frostgrave models on by now, which is something of a labour of love, but in my view well worth it, as it sets the models off very nicely in the setting of the city of Felstad. These are all homemade, and if you want to know how, I wrote an article that explains it all on this very site – How to make Cobblestone Bases.
Not only have I decided to make cobblestone base toppers for all of my Frostgrave models, I also like to play Frostgrave on my Cobblestone gaming mat from Deep Cut Studios, which looks like this:
By the time the mat is covered in buildings and obstacles, and the models are all painted and on the table, it all ties together well for an immersive gaming experience.
Old Holvand’s Warband
I have also put together a warband for a Soothsayer, the Old Holvand model by Hasslefree Miniatures, plus an awesome apprentice from Reaper. These two are absolutely bursting with character, especially the apprentice, whom I have named ‘Bertwold’. ‘Old Holvand’ is the name on the Hasslefree site for the Wizard, and I saw no reason to change it.
It’s fair to say that wizard and apprentice aren’t even quite in the same scale, but the beauty of Frostgrave is that there is so little in the way of restriction or uniformity, that even having characters of differing heights doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the look of the warbands or the game.
Old Holvand’s warband as it stands at the moment is the first one painted, and for his followers, I decided to go with a mix of what I thought would play well, give flexibility, and also make use of older models I had laying around, such as the Hobbit thief, and ‘Hugo le Petit’ from the merry band of Bertrand le Brigand from Warhammer Fantasy, who makes a great ‘Tracker’.
The third warband I put together, again with models from Hasslefree, was in part to build up the number of models I was ordering from them to better justify the postage, and because they do a fantastic range of female miniatures. I have often browsed their range and tried to think of ways to make use of their miniatures, because I have never been the kind of hobbyist that collects miniatures for collection’s sake alone – I want to be able to use them as gaming pieces.
The Wizard and Apprentice both are female character models, Amalthea and Lenore from their Fantasy Humans range. Amalthea is another name I kept, as it is the name of a character from an animated film from my childhood, however I decided to change the name of the apprentice to ‘Aelissa’. I considered Amalthea and Aelissa to be of noble birth, so decided that an elite and knightly warband would suit them best.
Building warbands for Frostgrave was a great excuse to buy a set of models I had liked for a while and not yet been able to find a use for – the Teutonic Infantry box from Fire Forge games. I love these models, but until Frostgrave, I hadn’t found a reason to buy them. Then at the same time came the Uncharted Empires book for Kings of War, which introduced The Brotherhood – a Bretonnian equivalent army for Kings of War – which happily included foot knights! I didn’t need any more encouragement than that.
That box alone gave me Crossbowmen, Men at Arms, Knights and Templars. An elite collection of the more expensive and better equipped and skilled henchmen. It is now known that numbers mean a lot in Frostgrave: they give flexibility, numbers and options, and multiple cheap Thugs should be able to overwhelm a single noble knight, but I have never been one to bow to popular opinion, so a band of elite warriors it was!
I have yet to play enough Frostgrave to have warranted building the models for Amalthea’s warband, as I have the Witch’s warband still to paint first, but even looking at them makes me want to crack on get them done so that they can begin their adventure. After all, why should the Witch and the Soothsayer have all the fun?
As well as having an almost endless supply of miniatures to choose from when building warbands, and a huge variety of themes and flexibility of warrior classes to utilise, there is also fun to be had with the various accessories that you can use to make the table really come to life, but also to fill out the need for things like treasure tokens etc. I decided to buy a set of the inspirational ‘Cursed Treasure’ from Ristuls Extraordinary Market, which I purchased from Bad Squiddo Games. These pieces alone were a huge drive to want to play this game.
There are ten different scenarios to play just in the main rule book, and each of them has a different objective, which is great, because it helps avoid the danger many games have to deal with of avoiding becoming a simple free for all in the middle of the table. At the end of the day, the Wizards and their warbands have travelled to Felstad to hunt for powerful artefacts and priceless treasures, not just for a scrap!
Having little extras like these treasure tokens instead of just using a coin or other such mundane marker really bring games to life. It’s not all about the look of the game though. Many of the scenarios require some additional items to act as objectives or focal points for the game, such as the Living Museum scenario which requires six models that represent statues that come to life and attack the moment you try to make off with the treasure they are tasked with guarding! Here are my six statues, made from some classic Empire Halberdiers that I got in a box of bits and had stripped the paint off prior to repurposing them.
I have collected together most of the bits and pieces I need to allow me to play out most of the scenarios with appropriate scenery and markers etc, but slowly, slowly I will have the complete set of accoutrements. Much of the requirements are for certain types of buildings, such as a tall tower, ruined houses, a well and a mausoleum, all of which I can represent suitably with the range of scenery in my collection, but one thing I did decide to buy was a suitable model for the ‘Genie in the Bottle’ scenario.
The Genie is something of a terror when released, able to fight and throw destructive spells all over the place. I wanted a model that would be suitable, but I didn’t really want to pay the earth for some of the admittedly nicer and more stereotypical Genie models, so in the end I went with a ‘dust Djin’, which I found on Ebay. He doesn’t look quite like the traditional Genie, but I think he will do just fine.
Thanks to the relatively small scale of Frostgrave, the low model count for each warband, and the moderate time required to play a game, it’s one that my son Oscar and I have been able to play a couple of games together, and we found them fairly easy to manage as long as I looked after the book keeping, and left decision making and dice rolling to Oscar.
This a game that’s all about the narrative, and the excitement, which makes it ideal for playing alongside a younger gamer. I am hoping that before long I will bee able to bring you a game report of sorts of one of the games Oscar and I play together, and even better would be if Oscar decides he has a good idea for a warband of his own that I can help him to acquire models for, build and paint ready for a game of Frostgrave.
I feel that the freedom of choice that is intrinsic to Frostgrave is key to being inspired to collect a warband and play, and the ease with which this allows even a six year old to simply take his pick of the models he likes the look of make this a good option for a gateway game to introduce him to the hobby of actually collecting his very own models. Let’s see what Christmas brings…
I would be interested to hear from any other Frostgrave players, or anyone interested in the game. For the latter, you could certainly do worse than heading on over to Facebook and checking out the ‘Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City’ group, which is full of enthusiastic gamers, skilled modellers, and inspiring painters who are friendly and welcoming, just as a hobby family should be.
I will certainly be back later on down the line to show you how my warbands are progressing, and the various scenery pieces I have modelled or picked up to support even more scenarios.
Thanks for reading,
The Eternal Wargamer