Events conspired that morning to keep from putting a list together, so I headed over a little early to work on a Frostgrave list in case we got the opportunity. For simplicity, and speed, I just hired a very basic list of apprentice and 6x infantrymen and everyone with standard equipment. Interestingly enough, Mike showed up having taken a similar approach except with x3 infantrymen and x3 archers.
Semi-randomly, I chose enchanter for my wizard and hastily grabbed spells. I thought enchanter would be great for giving out +1 weapons and armor to everyone, which I only did once. Some of the "cool" spells I ended up taking were also near useless, because the neutral school difficulty rating put them out of reasonable reach. Of note it is really not awesome when you cast heal on yourself and fail the roll causing yourself damage, LOL. Mike's spell list seemed better thought out and afforded him some nice strategies during the game.
So it was my fishmen warband (Wrath of Kings Hadross models) against Mike's goblins lead by a witch in the standard scenario. Mike won with only 2 goblin archers remaining and having fully frustrated every last one of the fishmen before their ultimate demise: He employed a very solid tactic of casting telekinesis on the treasure tokens to bring them closer to his guys and then casting mud in front of his troops. With no range attacks (except via spells), this left me at a bit of disadvantage.
Things I liked about the game played:
- Fairly concise set of rules (later in this post you will see that I think this is a bit of a double edge sword though).
- The spell schools, alignments and choices provide a nice depth to an otherwise heavy amount of parity.
- Group activation with a "cost" such that you have to sometimes make difficult choices in whether or not to do it.
- Use any models! I see a future for some Confrontation and Alkemy models...
- While I really haven't digested the campaign system yet, I already see the potential for it forcing interesting choices/decisions. For example, there are several spells that are out of game spells that might be very worthy of taking but then reducing you in game spell pool quite a bit. Also, of course, there is question of how much risk to take with your wizard during campaign games.
- Random creatures (we choose not to play with them for our first game).
- The other scenarios, again I really haven't dug into them but I hope they are good because IMO the base scenario stinks (see below).
- I am concerned about the scenarios. As I just mentioned I really haven't dug into the scenarios yet but the base scenario (each person puts out 3 treasure tokens 9 inches from their table edge) stinks. In the base scenario ultimately you "should" just place them exactly 9 inches from your table edge, rush them and the get them off the table forcing a draw. There are only a few low probability ways for your opponent to stop this IF you put your treasure in clear line of sight. Hopefully the other scenarios are more tactically challenging.
- Archers seem a bit over powered. They have the exact same cost as infantrymen but the infantrymen will get shot up crossing the board to get to them (wait for my next point before you scream terrain). Additionally, the way melee is structured there is a risk as the "attacker" that you could loose and take damage but you don't have to worry about that if you are shooting a bow. Unlike the infantrymen, the archer can always melee if you want to or if they get trapped, not quite as well as an infantrymen but decent enough.
- I think the game was envisioned to be played on a terrain heavy board. This would potentially offset the range combat advantage. I actually prefer games that use lots of terrain but there are 3 main issues I have seen with terrain heavy games: a) logistics of having that much terrain, b) understanding by both players of what all the terrain represents (rough ground, climbable, etc etc) and c) exactly how much to have such that range attack profiles are not now over costed.
- As hinted at above, I sometimes find the rules to be a little to vague. Without a clear definition of LoS, I was left unsure as to whether to use a true LoS interpretation or a more abstract one. Also, combat is described as being in "contact" with the other figure. Caveat, I may have missed some of the finer points that clarify some of these things, it was after all my first time through the rules and game.
- Some specific rules are buried away in text (an example is that spellcasters can not cast if they are in combat). Luckily the rules are short enough that this does not seem to be a major issue but I still feel a bit uncertain at times and finding that exact sentence to confirm consumes time. I think this will be a non-factor after reading over the rules a second/third time but stands now as a concern.
- As always with campaign systems, there is the fear of "run away." A really good way to mitigate this is to keep campaigns short but balancing that with allowing a rewarding amount of character growth is difficult. Perhaps the fact that only your wizard and apprentice level up helps manage this, but I can't say for sure without having played through a campaign.
- I may not have all my facts straight here, but wizards get experience points for treasure removed from the board and from kills. So buffing/non-combatant casters will suffer some in the campaign system compared to direct damage casters.
Don't get the wrong impression because of my concerns. I think Frostgrave is a good, solid game and I love the support it is getting: A new campaign book, sellsword/captains, etc. Plus it seems to have generated a lot of traction. These concerns are not anything that will keep me from jumping in on a campaign if one gets going. Is it better than some of the alternatives such as Otherworld, Mordheim, Song of Blades, Heroes, Regiments of Renown, etc - I don't know. Don't really care since it seems to be a decent enough system that people around here might want to play. Basically if the game system is decent enough and there is not an alternative I LOVE, then I am not going to fight an uphill battle to convert people.
Also of note. Mike and I played our game utilizing 2d10 rather than the standard d20. The reasoning was that 2d10 would provide a Gaussian distribution (like Warmachine) rather than a uniform distribution of a d20. I am actually interested in quantifying the effect of this change along with the 3d6 approach. Hmm, I wonder how exactly to approach that analysis. I do know I will be lazy and do it via Monte Carlo's rather than figure out the probabilities with math. lol