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Frostgrave Miniatures

Mage Knight castle terrain for Frostgrave

While on the prowl for prepainted terrain for Frostgrave (paid link), I came across two easy decisions: the Mage Knight Castle Keep (paid link) and Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse (paid link).

I remember these being on super-clearance a few years ago, so maybe the Castle line didn’t do so well? Whatever the case, they’re still quite cheap — around $20 each on Amazon, including shipping (with Prime).

For large, light, and durable prepainted terrain, $20 is a steal. I snapped up one of each, and I liked them so much that I went back and ordered a second keep. Frostgrave wants a lot of terrain, so I’ll take any chance I can get to acquire larger pieces on the cheap.

Remember, the ruins of Frostgrave are crowded and maze-like, so there should be lots of terrain on the table, and there should be few areas where line of sight extends more than a foot or two, if that.

So how do they look out of the package?

Mage Knight Keep

Pretty damned awesome, I’d say! Here’s the front of the keep (the back is identical):

And here’s the side:

You can see the slot in the middle, which is for plugging into the walls (none of which come with the keep). I don’t have any matching walls, so I’ll be using it as a standalone tower — or maybe adding some short ruined walls to either side. I like that the slot is fairly unobtrusive.

Lastly, the roof:

The weird knob on top is the Clix dial, for using the keep as a unit in Mage Knight.

Mage Knight Gatehouse

Stylistically, the gatehouse is a great match for the keep. Here’s the portcullis side:

Unlike the keep, the back isn’t identical to the front:

It actually comes with a little bar to put across the door, which is a neat touch. I almost broke the doors trying to get it on, though, so off it will stay.

Here’s the side, with its wall slot:

And finally, the top, with the same dial setup as the keep:

Comparisons and scale

The gatehouse and keep are about the same width, but the gatehouse is slightly taller (about 1/2″) and much thinner. Here’s a top-down shot to show the most dramatic difference between them:

Being designed for a 28mm skirmish game, it’s no surprise that both keep and gatehouse are perfectly scaled for Frostgrave. Here’s one of the MK minis they came with to put their size in context:

I’ve closed the doors and lowered the portcullis, but it’s worth noting that all of the doors open and the portcullis can be raised and left up if you like. The gatehouse is skinny enough that you can move a mini through it, turning it into a big archway, but the keep is not. (And of course both are hollow.)

There are also walls to connect the Castle elements (paid link), as well as a nifty-looking tower (paid link), but they both command high price — when you can find them at all. I’ll keep an eye out, but I’m not optimistic.

For my money, the Mage Knight Keep (paid link) and Gatehouse (paid link) are both great deals for prepainted terrain. I like the paint job on both, they’ll stand out on the map, they offer elevation (with plenty of room for minis at the top — and remember that by default all Frostgrave buildings can be scaled!), and they fit right into how I picture “my” Frostgrave.

If I was picking one, I’d pick the keep — no question. It takes up more space on the battlefield, and the added functionality of the portcullis on the gatehouse doesn’t seem like it’ll be too important in Frostgrave.

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Frostgrave Miniatures

War Torn Worlds prepainted terrain for Frostgrave

In getting into Frostgrave (paid link) — which I first wrote about here on Yore just a few days ago — I’m basically going from zero to Frostgrave — I don’t have stuff from other games to pilfer to use for this one.

I’m not a minis — or terrain — painter by nature, so along with buying Pathfinder Pawns to use as minis, I also want prepainted terrain.

Which shouldn’t be a problem, right? There has to be tons of prepainted terrain out there . . . right? Not really!

Most of the good options I found are either not ideal for Frostgrave (Dwarven Forge) or are out of print (Battlefield in a Box, which does have tons of non-fantasy stuff, War Torn Worlds, and Terraclips). War Torn Worlds actually appears to be out of business, despite a functional website — their email address bounces, and their phone number is out of service.

So I haunted Ebay and spent a bunch of time poking around in dusty corners online, and I was able to turn up a sizable stash of War Torn Worlds stuff at Wondertrail and a smaller stash at Noble Knight.[1] Wondertrail’s inventory looked suspiciously well-stocked, so I called them to ask what they actually had on hand. They were lovely to work with, and I ordered most of their stock (and Noble Knight’s).

War Torn Worlds ruins

It looks just how I expected: like it’s been sitting in a dusty back corner of a brick-and-mortar hobby store’s inventory for several years. Which is fine by me!

Only the bags were dusty. The terrain inside — which is made primarily of recycled tire rubber — is brand new. The main thing I ordered were sections of Ruinopolis, WTW’s line of modular ruins tiles. They come in three finishes that I’m aware of, and gray and “brownstone” both looked like a good fit for Frostgrave.

Here’s brownstone:

And here’s gray:

Gray says “fantasy ruins” a bit more loudly, but beggars can’t be choosers — and in any case, when I look out my window the buildings I see don’t all match. To my eye, the gray and brown tiles go just fine together.

I also bought most of their walls, which include large cutstone, small battle-scarred cutstone, and small battle-scarred modern (WTW calls these “flex ruins”):

I figured that in a game with spells like Grenade — not to mention Frostgrave’s weird denizens and phenomena — battle-scarred walls, even modern ones, wouldn’t look out of place.

They look pretty sharp up close, too.

All in all, I’m thrilled with the War Torn Worlds line. I can’t wait to see how it looks on my battle mat (a square of white felt, at least to start with), and mingled with my other terrain.

In addition to looking good, it’s also light and durable. That’ll make it easy to transport and forgiving of bumps, which I like.

It’s a real shame that it’s not more readily available, and — assuming I’m right — that War Torn Worlds went out of business. Reasonably priced prepainted terrain is a boon to folks like me who can’t be arsed to paint things, but who still enjoy miniatures games.

[1] I also found some good Battlefield deals, which haven’t arrived yet, and one or two other things. I’ll probably wind up posting about them here sometime down the road.

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Frostgrave Miniatures

Pathfinder Pawns for Frostgrave: wizards from the Inner Sea box

After picking up Frostgrave (paid link) and liking what I saw, my next purchase for the game was a box of Pathfinder Pawns (paid link) — specifically, the Inner Sea Pawn Box (paid link).

From poking around online, I had the impression that Pathfinder Pawns would be a cheap, versatile, and attractive option for Frostgrave. You get a ton of them in the big boxes — somewhere around 250+ in the Inner Sea box, for example — and I figured there’d be a ton of possible wizards and soldiers in the more character-centric boxes, like Inner Sea.

I spent about three minutes flipping through the sprues and punching out all of the pawns that screamed “wizard” to me, and came up with a bunch right off the bat.

Here are 10 wizard/apprentice pairs that suggested themselves:

And here are another 11 I couldn’t immediately pair up, but which also seemed all wizardy:

When I was lining them up for the photos, my daughter Lark walked over and said, “Are they all wizards, Daddy?” Success!

The artwork is great, they’re double-sided, and the chipboard is nice and thick. There are exactly enough medium bases in the box for two Frostgrave warbands (20), plus a bunch of large-size bases. I also dig that the characters are super-diverse, with lots of options for women, men, different skin colors, and lots of distinct personal styles on display.

In the time it took me to find these, I saw what looked to be dozens of excellent soldier options, too. I may circle back to those in another post.

I’ve got a couple more Pathfinder Pawns boxes on the way, but I’m already happy with how the Inner Sea box (paid link) is working out as a source of Frostgrave minis.

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Frostgrave Miniatures

Frostgrave: campaign-oriented fantasy skirmish wargaming

I got Frostgrave (paid link) and its first, and currently only, supplement, Thaw of the Lich Lord (paid link) in the mail yesterday, and so far it’s everything I was hoping it would be.

What I dig about Frostgrave

Frostgrave is a fantasy skirmish wargame set in a city recently released from the grip of a magical winter — formerly Felstad, now known as Frostgrave — and its core conceits are right up my alley. Here they are, along with some of the many other things I like about it:

  • You play a wizard, with a character sheet and everything, who leads your warband.
  • The warbands are small: 1 wizard plus a maximum of 9 other figures, 1 of which can be an apprentice. That’s super-manageable if, like me, you don’t like painting or fussing with large armies.
  • The play area is small, too, at 3′ on a side.[1] That’s an easy amount of space to find just about anywhere.
  • You don’t need official miniatures (though they’re available if you like), so you can slap together a warband from whatever stuff you already have on hand. Sure, you can always do this, but Frostgrave goes out of its way to encourage this approach. This was the single selling point that pushed me over the line and made me order the book.
  • The default objective is treasure, which is scattered around the map. The winner, unless a scenario says otherwise, is the player who gets the most treasure.
  • And finally, it’s geared for campaign play: You can establish a base on the outskirts of Frostgrave, level up, learn new spells, etc.

There’s a roleplaying flavor to Frostgrave — hell, the whole concept of recruiting a bunch of mooks to go steal treasure from a monster-haunted city is straight out of old-school D&D. I roleplay a lot more than I wargame, so that aspect of Frostgrave appeals to me.

The backstory fits on half a page, and the rulebook is pleasantly short — about 130 pages, and those are 8×10 pages to boot. Joseph McCullough‘s writing is clear, warm, and inviting[2], and the layout is just as clean and useful.

The very first rule in the book, which addresses situations where no exact rule exists, really sets the tone:

In these cases, use your best judgement and try to come to a mutual agreement with your opponent. If you can’t agree, each player should roll a die and go with the interpretation of whichever player rolls highest. You can discuss the situation further after the game and decide how you will handle the situation next time.

I love the art style, too. All of the art is by the same artist, Dmitry Burmak.

And of course there are plenty of photos of miniatures, terrain, and scenes in Frostgrave.

Short, sweet, and casual-friendly

Everything from the hook, to the premise, to the simple-but-not-simplistic rules, to the production values, to the brevity of the book points towards me enjoying Frostgrave. I’ve been playing wargames since I was a kid, but I’m not hardcore — I’m a lot closer to the casual end of the spectrum.

Hell, my first purchase after the rulebook (once I realized all of my D&D miniatures, which I’d planned to use, were hopelessly buried in our storage unit) was a bunch of Pathfinder Pawns (paid link) to use in lieu of actual minis. Which, again, Frostgrave totally encourages.

I like shorter games with manageable armies, and without a lot of worrying about time-consuming details like whether your mini’s weapon matches her description. I also like an interesting premise, and Frostgrave (paid link) has that, too. I’m excited to finish reading it, punch out some pawns, pull together some terrain, and find an opponent.

[1] Of course you can play on a larger or smaller field of battle, and the book mentions this option. It mentions lots of options, all throughout; it’s a relaxed, conversational sort of rulebook. I dig that.

[2] Thats a weird trio of adjectives to describe wargame rules, right? But it fits!