Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Tales of the Frozen City

After running through all of the rulebooks and supplements over the last week or so, I thought that I should mention the one work of fiction I have from the Frostgrave collection. I received this book as part of the "Nickstarter" I invested in way back when Frostgrave first came out. There are several novels written too, but this book is slightly different in that it offers eleven short stories. I may look into purchasing the novels for my Kindle (if available) in the not too distant future.

Whilst searching the net for a suitable picture of the book cover, I noticed several images showed the tag line "ten authors present ten stories" instead of the eleven stories which my version has. I thought this intriguing but have yet to explore whether this earlier version was actually released (not that I would buy it as I already have the eleven story version, but just for finding out the story).

I have literally just re-read "Tales" (Thursday and Friday evening after work), and feel that I can now start my own adventures in Felstad using the tome as inspiration. I will try to write the weird tales of my own wizard/apprentice and their hardy warband in a similar format so that it doesn't just sound like a write-up of a game session. I kind of tried that with my DnD sessions a few years back and was partially successful (for me anyway), but I have a lot to learn about writing fiction; especially how to write dialogue - hence why I have avoided writing any up until now.

I am hoping that my next post will detail my own warband made up from my very old fantasy figures collection that I used to use back in the day for playing a variety of RPGs. I have plenty of wizard miniatures, as well as thieves, fighters and barbarians, so should have enough choice to make up a decent looking bunch. My issue, as mentioned previously, is a lack of painted adversaries.

Anyway, I digress. This post is about the eleven story collection book and what it offers as a "supplement" to the game.

I was thinking, when I first picked up the book, that each story would be centred around a particular kind of wizard, taking each school in turn, but that does not seem to be the case (or maybe it was and I was just too dense to realise?). Many of the wizardly types are covered (not that I paid too close attention to numbers of each type, because I read the tales for the stories and ideas) but some seem to appear more than others; especially chronomancers.

Each tale is only about 5-10 pages long, so the book can be read in short bursts with each session allowing one to read a complete story or two if so desired. The different writing styles add to the mystique of the stories, and as each author has their own wizardly story to tell there is a lot of variety in the types of story told.

The book is a little pricey (£6.99) for only eleven short stories, but the quality is what we have come to expect from Osprey, so I can overlook that minor point. The only main quibble I have though is that there are no colour plates within the covers; just a small pencil sketch of a wizard at the beginning of each story. These are all very nice, but I would have preferred a few more big pictures in order to fuel my imagination. That said, production costs of a book like this are probably high enough already.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Mountfitchet Castle

Yesterday, we decided to take the kids to Mountfitchet Castle near Stansted in Essex. I had never heard of this historic monument until Saturday, so when my better half suggested we go visit, I jumped at the chance. It is only just down the road from our new home, so it is most likely going to be a well-visited site over the coming years. We were a little worried about the weather when we set out, but it turned out to be gloriously bright and sunny (if a little cold) and made for a grand day out.

The site comprises of a reconstruction of the castle as it may have been in around 1066 when William the Conqueror invaded, as well as a toy museum and haunted house to keep everyone busy. The main reason I wanted to go was for the castle reconstruction, but the kids loved it too, as well as all the other attractions.

The plan, found at the entrance, is not fully accurate to what lies within, but is near enough and gives an idea of what can be found within the bounds of the perimeter walls. We explored pretty much every part of the site that we could (although a little too quickly for my liking) and I managed to grab a ton of photos to use as source material (as well as picking up their little guide book as a keep sake).

I wasn't sure what to display here on the blog as a memento of my visit, as I have so many photos to choose from, so thought I would shine a light on some of the more grand stuff...

On the way up the hill from the visitor centre is the pallisade wall and a variety of watchtowers...

The most spectacular building was the Grand Hall where Robert Gernon, Duke of Boulogne, ruled his barony from...

And on the inside we can see that Norman residences were far from dingy and plain; starting with the banqueting hall...

...and the lord's chambers...

Most medieval professions are represented within the wooden walls of the fortress, but I thought that the blacksmith's was the most impressive building after the grand hall...

I took other photos of this building, but this one really shows how impressive medieval construction was. I really like the way that the roof is slatted/tiled with wooden planks, thatched and then topped off with more wooden slatting. The "dragon" decoration (head at the front of the building, tail at the back) really set things off for me.

What I found especially interesting about most of the buildings was the way they were finished and then allowed to age. The site has been standing for around 35 years and from what I can see, left to the elements. The white-washed buildings have begun to discolour, with many walls turning greyish, and the woodwork has aged especially, and faded to a light grey/sandy brown colour (like most aged wood). This made me wonder how often the Normans would have replaced the wood, and whether wood weakened with age and perhaps the weathering made things more brittle. This is something I will need to look into another day.

I would recommend a visit to this reconstructed motte and bailey timber castle if you are interested in history in action. Our visit was only a very brief one, with only a couple of hours actually looking at the site - the rest of the day was spent in the various haunted houses and the toy museum. Next time, I can spend a lot more of my day exploring each of the buildings in turn in a lot more detail.

Mountfitchet Castle, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8SP  England
Note: Sat Nav - use the postcode CM24 8LY

Friday, 23 October 2020

Frostgrave: Second Edition

Frostgrave was released around 5 or 6 years ago and has been extensively play-tested since then by a wide-ranging audience (in both gaming styles and location - there are non-English translations available), which attests to the system's popularity world-wide. Working with that time-frame and fan feedback in mind, the author decided to create a more up-to-date version of the game with rules errata, amendments and new additions pulled together behind a new cover.

Thus, Frostgrave: Second Edition was born - a 222 page hard-backed rulebook which collates and expands upon rules that were presented in some of the previous supplements and magazine articles. These additions, according to the author, pull the game into a more coherent system that fits his original vision. They certainly do seem more rounded and comprehensive. The book retails at £25.00 but can be bought cheaper at places like Amazon and so on.

This book is a heftier tome than the previous edition and will most likely be the go-to edition that I will use for gaming. In this post, I will not do a direct comparison with the first edition as there are many places on the web that do this alreday. In keeping with the previous Frostgrave articles, I will just run through what is included in the book.

Foreword - In contrast to all of the other supplements, this foreword is written by one of the author's colleagues from when he worked on the Savage Worlds rules system

Wizards and Warbands - This section starts off with an introduction to what Frostgrave is and then sets about detailing what is needed to play a game. There is then the rules for creating a wizard, listing out all types/schools available, followed by a part about assembling a warband. From a cursory glance through this section, it can be seen that not many of the additional choices from the supplements have been duplicated, so the supplements are still a good option to buy; this second edition is a rules update not a collation of the extra soldier and treasure types and spells

Playing the Game - This part of the rule book runs through how to set up the gaming table and then follows how a game turn plays out. It then runs through activation, movement, combat, shooting, damage, then the all-important spell casting, before rounding off with using potions, collecting treasure, creature actions and finally how to end the game

The Campaign - Anything outside of the tabletop part of the game is included here; including how to deal with injury and death, out of game spells, experience and level, and how to count and spend treasure

Spells - Frostgrave would be nothing without its wizarding and spellcasting. Spell descriptions and optional rules are included here

Scenarios - No fewer than twenty scenarios are listed here for you to get your teeth into. Not all of them are repeats from the first edition

Bestiary - Treaure needs to be guarded and the wizards need adversaries other than each other, so where better to turn than the bestiary? Included here are sections on animals, constructs, demons, undead and a variety of miscellaneous beasts

Appendices - The final section details previous Frostgrave supplements and the minor changes that need to be taken into consideration when using them with this new edition of the rules, plus all of the spells listed as cards and a character/warband sheet to use for recording your wizard and their warband

The production values of this book, again, are second to none, being printed in full-colour with lots of original artwork and pictures of miniatures in action on the tabletop. I have spent ages drooling over the amazing artwork and imagining adventurers in the frozen city. I think it is now time to immerse myself into the (sometimes not so) tall stories that are told around the warm fires in the snugs of taverns in less dangerous environs, where the ale flows freely, the cold winds are kept at bay, and bellies are full of hot food.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Frostgrave: Perilous Dark

Perilous Dark takes the Frostgrave game into the realms of solo and co-operative adventures. A few online digital supplements had already explored this idea before being pulled into a printed format, for example Dark Alchemy in the Frostgrave Folio supplement, but this one goes into a lot more detail and is more rules heavy than previous supplements.

This full-colour book has the increased page count of 96 pages again, plus the usual card cover. It also retails at £14.99, which seems to be the new price bracket for these books.

In this supplement...

Introduction - The Introduction gives a brief overview of the author's thinking process when it comes to creating new supplements, and moves onto what ideas can be found in this particular tome

The Basics - This section explores the basics of the game as a solo event and as a co-operative venture; there are specific rules depending upon how the game is to be run as each mode of play has distinct advantages and disadvantages. It then runs through how to set objectives and the level of difficulty before summarising how to apply spells and monsters. It finishes up with a short recap

Limited Time, Unlimited Monsters - One major challenge in playing solo is how to create a challenging encounter. The author runs through some basics for this before introducing a couple of additional rules for time limitation and ruminating on treasure carrying capacity for soldiers. This section is then rounded off with three new scenarios that link into a mini-campaign. The scenario descriptions follow the usual Frostgrave scenario layout but with an additonal section that describes changes that can be made for playing co-operatively rather than solo. Each scenario has nods towards what has been learned (rules and ideas wise) in the section just completed

Traps and Obstacles - After a brief run through of how traps and obstacles work in solo gaming, three more scenarios are presented. These form a continuation of the narrative from the previous section and build on the knowledge gained in the rules part of the section

The Unknown - Frostgrave is all about exploring the unknown. This part of the book runs through ideas on how to create clue markers and room cards for those exploratory adventures where wizard versus wizard combat isn't the aim. This chapter continues the scenario narrative with two more challenges for solo wizards

Dungeon Crawls - This is mainly what draws me to solo gaming; the ubiquitous dungeon crawl. I have played Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D 1st edition) using the random dungeon generator and then played my own made up games, but want to try something slightly fresher. This section details two ways of achieving dungeon crawling in Frostgrave; room cards and random generation. The two scenarios, again linked to the previous growing campaign, utilise the latest rules mastered in this section

New Treasure - a set of alternative tables that can be rolled on to replace one or two treasure items gained in the Perilous Dark scenarios

Bestiary - This final section lists and stats all of the new monsters encountered in this supplement; Ballista II, Borock, Chronohound, Hellcrow, Magmite, Manaworm, Matriarch, Planar Lurker, Reaver Wight and Vapour Snake

I really enjoyed my run through of this supplement. I really hope that I am able to capitalise on this and play a few solo games in the very near future. I think I will create a warband or two in a few days time and see if I have some miniatures to match. However, the problem I will have gaming in the Frozen City is a severe lack of scenery items. I may start off just using random boxes and pieces of "stuff" I have laying around the house just to get a feel for the game and then begin to create ruins and so on when I can get the raw materials for them (I will most likely use the methods detailed in the Battle Games in Middle-earth magazines so my creations can be used in at least two settings).

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Frostgrave: The Wizards' Conclave

This supplement is a little different to those that have preceded it; each scenario is written by a different games designer but the author/editor of the book gives them the Frostgrave treatment so that they are all in a very similar format. I think it is a good idea to have multiple designers working on something at the same time, as the scenario plots go off in all sorts of directions and are not limited to just one person's imagination. It took me back a little to the good old days of the early (pre-issue 90) White Dwarf magazines before it became a showcase for painted Games Workshop miniatures (not that there is anything wrong with that).

The Wizards' Conclave is an 88 page full-colour, card-covered book that is priced at £14.99. Again, the production values are as fantastic as we have come to expect from Osprey with plenty of original artwork as well as many pictures of miniatures in action.

In this supplement you will find 16 scenarios and campaigns written by a variety of wargames authors. Full rules, treasuries and bestiaries are included within each of the encounters and situations that are listed.

Introduction - The Introduction gives a brief overview of what can be found between the covers of this supplement and summarises how Joe brought his vision of a collaborative expansion supplement to fruition

Scenarios - There are sixteen scenarios in this section, with two of them being three-part campaigns. All are set out in the standard scenario format of Introduction, Set-up, Special Rules and Treasure & Experience, but, in this supplement, these ones also have a short couple of paragraphs About the Author

This supplement summary is a little shorter than usual as I do not deem it right to go into too much detail about each scenario in the book; these are all individual scenarios with their own twists and I don't wish to give anything away. Also, just doing a repetitive list would be, quite frankly, very boring to read

The next supplement is also very different in its construction, as it features an exciting way to play Frostgrave: Solo gaming. This is the one I am looking forward to putting into use very soon as I can only really game on my own at the moment due to the lockdown and so forth.