Frostgrave is a fantasy warband skirmish game with a strong campaign element. I reviewedit early in this year for the blog. This game has generated the most supplements of all of the games that Osprey has produced on their own. Force-on-Force and Bolt Action have generated more, but they were a joint effort with other gaming companies; Ambush Alley and Warlord respectively. I have no idea about sales but based on publications Frostgrave might be their most successful game yet.
This review will look at the following supplements for Frostgrave; The Thaw of the Liche Lord, Into the Breeding Pits, Forgotten Pacts, and Frostgrave Folio. Since these are all supplements to the main book the review structure here is going to be a little different. I will not be going over what I like or do not like about each book as I normally do. Instead, I will just touch on a few highlights of each one. There is not really enough content in each book to cover it in-depth individually without giving it all away.
The Thaw of the Liche Lord
This was the first supplement and it deals heavily with undead and undead encounters in the Frozen City. It is actually a campaign book and as such focuses rightly on adding new scenarios linked by a storyline. I will leave it up to your discretion on how successful it is, but considering that the theme of Frostgrave is RIVAL wizards trying gain loot; it has a tall challenge ahead of it. I would say the constraints of the main game are what let the campaign down. More importantly, it adds new scenarios for you to play to avoid falling into a rut with the game so there is that!
The book adds some new treasures, new bestiary, and a couple of new spells. There is also a new path that your wizard can take to become a Liche themselves. I think some of the most exciting elements are the new soldiers such as bard, Crow Master, and Javelineer. However, the most interesting might be the Pack Mule that can carry multiple items for your wizard. The new Homunculus spell gives you a way to avoid wizard permanent death, and the revenant spell does the same for henchman. Both of these are useful for a warband skirmish game.
Overall, I am not convinced that this is a must buy.
Into the Breeding Pits
This book takes us beneath the Frozen City. That means there are new rules for setting up your board, doorways, ceilings, lighting etc. One of the most exciting additions is traps. This is something I felt was missing from the core rules (and were probably originally cut for space) that make a lot of sense in the setting. I also loved the idea of trapped treasures as well. There are suitable bestiary, scenarios, and treasures to go with the new location. To me these rules add the most to potentially change up your games of Frostgrave and keep them fresh. These allow you to use boards and adventure tiles from other games and really expand what you can do with this game system.
There is also a new magic form called Beastcrafting. There are three levels and as you progress you gain more animal-like traits and bonuses. However, it also becomes harder to recruit to soldiers to your warband. Again, it was a new added and interesting path that your wizard can take.
There are new soldiers to go with the tunnel theme. This time they added a Trap Expert and a Tunnel Fighter. Both seem like worthy additions to a warband.
The biggest change to the game is the introduction of Reaction Spells. These allow a spell-caster to act out of sequence and “interrupt” with a spell of their own. There are a few for some schools and they generally are weaker than normal spells. However, their introduction gives the first glimpse of adding a core mechanic outside of the main rulebooks. The rest of the stuff is just chrome and logical extensions of what is there in the core rules.
I think this book is a worthy buy to add onto your Frostgrave experience.
This book delves into a new path for your wizard to follow. It allows your wizard to forge pacts with extradimensional beings. There are some trade-offs when dealing with such creatures so in exchange for power in one area, you are going to have to mitigate some challenge for your warband. Now, your wizard can choose a few different paths to go down from pacts, the beastcrafting, to Lichedom; all are interesting and valid choices.
Like the other supplements this one adds more treasures, soldiers, scenarios, and spells. This one also allows you to add summoned creatures permanently into your warband and make them a bit more unique than the standard ones in the rules. Summoning is one of my favorite schools of magic so these additions were welcomed by me.
The soldier add-ons were Assassins (everyone’s favorite?), demonic servants, Monks, Mystical warriors, and Demon Hunters. These are useful in some situations and for a specific purpose in your warband. Plus, it will help you theme a warband based on your wizards preference.
The bestiary also introduces Barbarians to the bestiary, where Into the Breeding Pits adds gnolls, and Thaw of the Liche Lord adds Death Cultists. However, these Barbarians are somewhat unique as they also can have semi-magical brands called Burning Marks. These give them some additional perks during the game, and are something you can add to your warbands too.
This one I am a bit torn on. I love the added summoning details, but overall I think it is a book you can pass on if you choose. If you run a Summoner’s Warband the book maybe of more interest to you.
This is a compilation of all of the smaller DLC stuff that Osprey has put out over the last few years of publishing Frostgrave. That means if you got the DLC you do not need the Folio. I however, passed on the DLC so picked it up here in one handy book instead. It also added one new mini-campaign.
There are three mini-campaigns in this book; Hunt for the Golem, Dark Alchemy, Arcane Locations, and The Ravages of Time. Dark Alchemy is good as it is designed for starting warbands and solo-play so the challenges are scaled back and the treasures smaller. It is a good way to level up a lagging or new warband to a campaign. The Ravages of Time campaign is also interesting as it is set-up to force cooperation between warbands. This is an interesting direction as almost all Frostgrave scenarios are competitive loot grabbing exercises. Hunt for the Golem and Arcane Locations are more traditional scenarios.
This book has two big draws. The first is the expanded Potions rules found in Dark Alchemy. You now have a way to brew up Elixirs of Life to help avoid Wizard death. In addition, there are now greater and lesser potions to be discovered.
The second big draw is the Sellsword rules. These are all about adding a non-wizard model who can level up and gain experience too. I am all about adding more leveling opportunities in a campaign game like this. They are a bit expensive in Gold, but make up for it with gaining skills and giving you another model that can use Group activate, even if it is more limited. This is a very cool addition to your games.
I think this is a good book to add for Dark Alchemy and Sellswords alone. The rest is just icing.
At this time I will simply remind you of this nugget from my initial review of Frostgrave:
There is no depth to the mechanics and the games will get samey and stale. You or your group will have to work to keep building fresh and interesting takes on the same “Loot” scenario again and again. Plus, the core mechanics are so streamlined and simple that there is no real strategy or tactics; just parlor tricks.
After reading through the supplements, I feel vindicated in this analysis. Essentially, all of these supplements are an attempt to get over this initial problem in the core mechanics of trying to make the same scenario interesting over and over again. For the most part, they have succeeded in adding some needed depth to the scenarios, warbands, and magic. However, they are still more parlor tricks.
The biggest add-on to actually improving the core mechanics are the Reaction Spells. These allow a caster to actually react to actions other than using the alternate activation mechanics in the core game. The other big change is the Sellswords material as it also strays away from what has come before.
In summary, if I could only get one new supplement it would be Into the Breeding Pits. If I could get a second I would add the Frostgrave Folio. The other two are nice supplements, but they are just nice to haves.