Frostgrave – First thoughts

Morning guys and girls!

Last night I was lucky enough to get a Frostrgrave demo over at Tabletop Tyrant  (FB – ) in Leicester from the very talented and excellent Adam Cooper or “Coops” from Leicester Phat Catz (FB – )and his own commission painting service Mountains of Metal ( go check them out on Facebook or via their website .

I was playing another member of the Phat Catz, a guy called Jon Adamson.  We both had very little experience in game and were playing our first games.  I’d managed to skim read the rules previously but I always find the best way to learn is by being “in the trenches”.  Jon wanted to play an Enchanter based Warband (and I can see why now!) and I was being very obvious and eeee-vil by rocking a Necromancy based Warband.


Coops took us both through the building of our Warbands and choosing of spells for our Wizards, and by definition his/her apprentice.  I settled on the following:-

1 x Warhound, 2 x Thugs, 2 x Thieves, 1 x Crossbowman, 1 x Tracker and 1 x Treasure Hunter

My spells would be 3 from my chosen school of Necromancy, and are Bone Dart (the ability to shoot a shard of bone as a ranged attack), Bones of the Earth (a skeletal hand emerges from the ground to immobilize the intended target) and Raise Zombie (the ability to induce a raised Zombie to join my warband for the duration of a battle).

Necromancy Magic schools

Then your wizard gets to choose 1 from each of the Aligned schools which are cast at an additional difficulty (+2).  The schools aligned to Necromancy are Witch, Summoning and Chronomancy.  I chose Fog (a fog like barrier to block Line of Sight) from Witch. I chose Fleet Feet (the ability to add +2 Move to a model for the duration of the battle) from Chronomancy and I chose Leap (target model may make a 10” magical leap) from Summoning.  You also have to choose  a spell from one of the Neutral schools, which for Necromancy were Sigilism, Soothsaying, Enchanting, Illusionism and Elementalism.  Now in hindsight I should have taken Elemental Bolt (The spellcaster may make an immediate +8 shooting attack against any figure in line of sight) from Elementalism which is a stonkingly good spell (or at least seemed it last night) but I had a plan and my plan involved moving quickly and covering lots of ground via spells so I chose Teleport (Spellcaster can move him/herself to any location within LoS).  Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Adam equipped us with some miniatures for our Warbands and set up what looked like a very scenery heavy 2’ x 2’ battleground.  This was my first exposure to just how scenery needy Frostgrave is and Im glad I have a fair few bits to use.  I also hadn’t realised just how small 3’ x 3’ (the standard board size for Frostgrave battles) is.  Some of the scenery Ive been planning is very large indeed…I have quite a large wintery forest courtesy of some Lemax scenery, two GW Mighty Fortresses/Citadels, two Gardens of Morr and two large Amera plastic bits.  Adams scenery was beautifully painted and it was nice to pick up some hobby hacks and tips and tricks…I’ll definitely be looking out for some of those scenery bits.


The game began and it always starts with any “out of Game” spells your Wizards can cast.  My Necromancer could cast Raise Zombie so I attempted this.  You roll against a target number, in this case 8 on a d20 for my Wizard and 10 on a d20 for my Apprentice (apprentices always know the same spells as their Masters and cast at a +2 difficulty.  In fact the stats and spells for your Apprentice are directly linked to the stats of your Wizard.

Your Wizard begins at Level 0 and has a starting stat-line or profile of:-

Move   Fight    Shoot   Armour Will     Health

6          +2        +0        10        +4        14

And this generates your Apprentice stat-line or profile as follows:-

Apprentice stats

Therefore your Apprentice has a stat-line of:-

Move   Fight    Shoot   Armour Will     Health

6          +0        -2         10        +2        10

In Frostgrave, every figure – be it Wizard, Apprentice, Soldier or Creature – has a stat-line, which determines its effectiveness in the game. There are six stats, explained below:-

  • Move (M): the speed of a character. The higher its Move, the further it can move each turn.
  • Fight (F): the character’s ability in hand-to-hand combat, and its ability to avoid missile fire.
  • Shoot (S): the character’s ability with missile weapons such as bows and crossbows.
  • Armour (A): how much physical protection a character is wearing, including armour, shields, and magical protection. It also includes any natural armour a creature may possess.
  • Will (W): the character’s determination, courage, and ability to resist spells.
  • Health (H): the physical toughness of a character and how much damage can be endured before he/she is badly wounded or killed.

Once our Warbands were selected and spells chosen we could begin.  We each were given 3 treasure tokens to deploy on the board.  This was a little difficult as you cannot deploy within 9” of a board edge and they must be at least 6” apart.  On a 2’ x 2’ board this wasn’t easy to achieve but we just about managed it by changing the limits to 6” away from table edges.  Some would be very easy to grab whilst others involved sneaking around the ruins and scenery to get into advantageous positions so fast mobile troops would be useful here as would spells that allow you to move treasures or models quickly like Telekinesis, Fleet Foot, Teleport and Leap (three of which my wizards knew although in hindsight I’d have dropped Teleport in favour of Telekinesis or even Elemental Bolt.

 You roll an opposed d20 to check for initiative and whoever wins determine which side of the board to place their wizard and his warband. The player with the highest roll, rerolling ties, selects the side at which he would like to start and activates first. Your opponent starts on the opposite side.  The first player should then place all of his figures on the table, within 6” of his table edge, in any formation he chooses but where miniatures are in relation to Wizards and Apprentices can make a HUGE difference. Your opponent then does the same with their figures on his/her table edge.  Due to the smaller boardsize we deployed in opposite corners so put as much distance between the two Warbands as possible.  You then alternate between the phases of each turn, with the initiative holder always going first.

Every turn is divided into four phases: the Wizard phase, the Apprentice phase, the Soldier phase, and the Creature phase. Once all phases have been completed, the turn is over. Assuming the game is not over at this point, the players should once again roll for Initiative and begin another turn.


In the Wizard phase, the primary player may activate his wizard and up to three soldier figures of his choice that started the phase within 3” of the wizard. The secondary player then does the same, and so on until all players have had the opportunity to activate their wizard and their 3 soldiers.  If a player no longer has a Wizard on the table, he may not activate any figures in this phase.


Once the wizard phase is complete, the turn moves on to the apprentice phase, which is very similar.  In this phase, the primary player may activate his apprentice and up to three soldiers within 3” of the Apprentice. Soldiers who have been previously activated in the wizard phase are not eligible – figures may only be activated once per turn, unless some special effect specifically says otherwise.  Once the primary player has activated his apprentice and any soldiers, the secondary player may do the same, and so on until all players have activated their apprentices. As with the wizard phase, players who no longer have Apprentices on the table may not activate any figures in this phase.


After the Apprentice phase comes the Soldier phase, in which the primary player may activate any of his Soldier miniatures that have not yet been activated. Then, the secondary player does the same and on until all players have activated all of their remaining soldiers.


Finally, the turn ends with the creature phase. During this phase all creature figures are activated in the manner indicated by their specific rules.


Models have a small selection of Actions they can perform during each turn.  When a figure is activated, it may perform two actions, one of which must be movement.  The other action may consist of a second move (at half speed), fighting in melee using your Fight (F) stat, shooting using your Shoot (S) stat, casting a spell (if a Wizard or Apprentice), or any of a number of special actions such as picking up an item of treasure or interacting with something as defined by the scenario.  A figure may perform its two actions in any order.  Thus, for example, a figure may shoot and then move, or move and then cast a spell.

There are situations in which a figure will only be allowed to perform one action. In this case, a figure may take any one action – it does not have to be movement. A figure may also choose to perform only one action, which can also be of any type.


Once a figure is in combat with an enemy figure, it may spend one of its actions to fight. In a fight, both figures roll a d20 and add their Fight (F) stat, plus any additional modifiers that may be relevant to determine their total score. The figure with the highest total score wins the fight and may inflict damage on his opponent. It is a very simple system and also great because it allows a defender to essentially win a combat and kill an attacker.  To determine damage, subtract the loser’s Armour stat from the winning figure’s total score. If the result is a positive number, then that is the amount of damage that has been inflicted.  If it is 0 or a negative number, then no damage is caused. If damage was inflicted, this amount is subtracted from the loser’s current Health stat.  In the event that both total scores are the same, the two figures land their strikes simultaneously – both are considered to be the winner and inflict damage on their opponent.


If a figure is equipped with a bow or crossbow, it may make up to one shoot action per activation.

Before declaring a shoot action, a figure should check that its target is both in range and in line-of-sight (LoS.

To check range, simply measure the distance between the shooter and the target.  If the distance is less than 24” (the maximum range for both a bow and a crossbow), then the target is within range.

Given the ruins and obstacles that should litter the table, LoS can be a bit more difficult to determine. While not essential by any means, a laser pointer or a length of string can be a useful tool for establishing line of sight. If you don’t have one then apply common sense and agree between yourselves what constitutes LoS but be consistent.  Unless the target is completely concealed from view, it is considered to be in LoS.

Once range and line of sight have been confirmed, a shooting attack is handled in a very similar fashion to melee or hand-to-hand combat. Both the shooter and the target figure should roll a d20. The shooter adds his Shoot (S) stat to his total, while the target adds his Fight (F) stat acting as some kind of dodge or combat awareness attribute in this situation. Any additional modifiers should then be added such as cover. Once both figures have a total score, the two are compared. If the shooter has the higher score, then the shot has hit and damage should be determined. If the target has equalled or exceeded the shooter’s score, then the shot has missed.

Damage is determined in exactly the same way as for hand-to-hand combat. The shooter takes his total score and subtracts the target’s Armour stat. If the result is a positive number, then that is the total amount of damage that has been inflicted. If the result is 0 or a negative number, then no damage is caused.

For example, an archer with a Shoot stat of +2 fires his bow at a thug with a Fight stat of +2. The thug is standing in the open and there are no other modifiers. The archer rolls an 8 and adds his Shoot stat for a total of 10. The thug rolls a 2 and adds his Fight stat for a total of 4. The archer has scored higher and thus has hit his target.  Unfortunately, his total of 10 is equal to the thug’s Armour of 10, so no damage was caused. The arrow just nicked his target’s sleeve or pinged off a metal plate or buckle.


As the game is all about collecting treasure I guess we ought to cover what happens when you find some?  Well if any figure is in contact with a treasure token, he/she may use an action to pick it up. No figure may pick up a treasure token if there is an enemy figure, either a creature or a member of a rival warband, within 1” of it.  Once a treasure token has been secured, it moves with the figure as the figure moves.  A figure may only carry one treasure token. Additionally, any figure carrying a treasure token is considered to be encumbered due to the weight of his hard stolen booty and as he is carrying something his/her ability to fight is reduced – his Move is halved, and he has -1 Fight.  At any time during its activation any figure carrying a treasure token may spend one action to drop it. If a figure carrying a treasure token is killed, the treasure token remains where the figure fell.

If a figure carrying a treasure token moves off the board (via any table edge except for the opposing Player’s edge), the treasure has been secured for the warband, but the figure may not return to the game.  Note that treasure has no particular use during the game – in the heat of battle, figures are far too busy fighting for their lives to thoroughly examine their loot.


Wizards and Apprentices have the ability to cast a spell they know as an Action.  To cast a spell, the player must announce which spell his wizard or apprentice is attempting and the target of that spell.  If the spell does not include a range then it can be cast at anything as long as the Wizard has LoS on the target.  The player then rolls a d20. The spell succeeds if the number rolled is equal to or greater than the casting number. Be aware that in some cases it is important to know the actual result on the die, not just that the roll succeeded or failed.  If the roll is less than the casting number, the spell fails and the action is lost. In addition, the caster may suffer damage from the failed spell as outlined in the spell failure table below. Damage caused by spells that are cast Out of Game may be ignored.


As your Wizard and Apprentice successfully cast spells and kill opposing Warband members they will gain experience.  Experience is spent on your Wizard, as the Apprentices stat line is related to the Wizards.  Successully casting spells, recovering treasures and a Wizard killing opposing Soldier, Apprentices and Wizards all generate experience.  Some scenarios can also generate experience for the Wizard but that will be covered by the specific scenario conditions.  Once Experience is gained after the battle it can be spent.  For every 100 Experience a Wizard may advance a level.


Level is a numerical representation of the power of a wizard. Generally, wizards of the same (or similar) level will be close to one another in terms of power, even if their abilities vary wildly. All starting wizards are level 0. A level 20 wizard is much more powerful. Compared to a level 0 wizard, he will almost certainly have better stats, know more spells, and have lower casting numbers for those spells. A level 40 wizard will be that much more powerful again.

For every level a wizard gains, he may choose to improve a stat, improve a known spell, or learn a new spell.


The wizard may improve one of the following stats by +1, up to the maximum shown in brackets: Fight (+5), Shoot (+5), Will (+8), Health (20). Each stat may only be improved once after each game, even if the wizard gained multiple levels – so, a wizard who gained two levels in a game could improve his Fight by +1 and his Shoot by +1, but could not improve Fight twice to give +2.


The wizard can focus on any known spell in order to lower the casting number by -1. The minimum casting number for any spell is 5, and can go no lower than this, no matter how much the wizard might want to improve upon it. Each known spell may only be improved once after each game, even if the wizard gained multiple levels – so, a wizard who gained two levels in a game could improve two spells by -1 each, but could not improve the same spell twice to give -2.


The wizard may learn a new spell for which he has a grimoire in his vault. A wizard may learn one new spell for each level he gained in a game. He may not, however, improve a spell he has just learned until another game has been played.


Games of Frostgrave can end in several ways. If one player has no figures left on the board, either because they were all killed or moved off the board, then the game ends immediately. The player with figures remaining collects all of the treasure still on the board automatically as there is no resistance to the warband scoruing the ruins. In the incredibly rare, but theoretically possible, event that neither player has any figures left on the board, the game ends, and all treasures left on the board are lost.

The game also ends immediately should the last treasure token exit the board.

Some scenarios may have specific objectives that end the game as soon as they are achieved.

These cases will be explained in the specific scenario and unless specified by the scenario, the player who collected the most treasure tokens is the winner.


That’s pretty much it for Frostgrave.  Its taken me longer to write it than it takes to learn it and that’s part of the beauty of the system.  Its simple and intuitive and covers everything you need to know in a well laid out and simple to read rulebook.  It adaptive enough to cover a lot of options and tweaks to suit your local crowd.

It’s a simple one dice, the d20, system.

Ive really enjoyed playing Frostgrave and will definitely play again.  I’ve got a warband ready to go and scenery in various stages of construction.  Its truly a great game and is everything that Mordheim could have been but better.  The setting is wide open for all sorts of expansions and already Thaw of the Lich Lord has been released with a new campaign, extra monsters, new treasures and spells to boost your wizards and Apprentices.  Coming next is the expansion “Into the Breeding Pits” which if I had to go by what I knew from internet buzz and images floating around I would say introduces the sewers and the Gnoll race.