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Friday, 14 October 2016

Your First Miniatures Wargame Campaign

Thaw of the Lich Lord is the first release for Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City, the fantasy skirmish Wargames rules published by Osprey Games. It presents a ten-part campaign that charts the rise of a newly released power in the ancient city of Felstead and the efforts of the various warbands to thwart the danger he represents. The power turns out to be a wizard older than the city’s frozen history who has prolonged his life beyond death and commands both undead and cultists devoted to him. Throughout the campaign there are opportunities to do more than just stop the efforts of the Lich Lord—a wizard and his warband might capture great artefacts and knowledge, and perhaps even learn the secrets of the Lich Lord’s undeath!

The ten scenarios present a variety of different challenges and rewards. They begin with ‘Total Eclipse’, in which rival warbands must search and fight for the ancient treasures of Felstad under a sudden solar eclipse and include skirmishes across the city’s frozen river, inside the ruins of a lost mansion, and more until the showdown in ‘The Final Battle’ which takes place in the Lich Lord’s newly raised fortress over the city. In many cases there are situations where rival warbands might be forced into alliances in order to defeat the minions of the Lich Lord and of course, this may also lead to the betrayal of one ally by another. Especially when it comes to getting some of the campaign’s more treasures home to a warband’s base. In addition, some of the scenarios would benefit from the involvement of a referee who would handle the Lich Lord and his forces. In such cases, the scenario provides full rules for handling both without the need for a referee.

The ten scenarios in Thaw of the Lich Lord takes up just half of the book. The other half is devoted to new material, some of it supporting the campaign, but all of it useful beyond its events. This includes four new soldiers that a wizard might hire. The Bard grants a bonus to the Will rolls of other soldiers; the Crow Master trains and uses Blood Crows in battle to strike at a distance, the birds requiring a Crow Roost in the warband’s base; the Javelineer is a cheap missile thrower; and the Pack Mule can carry more treasure. New spells like Lichdom and Revenant enable a wizard and a soldier to live beyond death respectively. There is also a hoard of new treasure items, such the Book of Bones, a tome that details how to create an animated skeleton when the spell Raise Zombie is cast; Club of Battering, a two-handed maul that can drive an opponent back further than most weapons; the Dark Cauldron, which grants a bonus when Raise Zombie or Revenant is cast; Quiver of the Soul Keeper that imbues arrows with ability to strike the ethereal undead; and so on. There are over twenty of these new treasures, many of which are particular to this campaign. 

There are just half this number in terms of new monsters. There is of course the Blood Crow, ready to serve the Crow Master, but the majority of the new creatures are members of the undead, such as the Frost Wraith and the Wraith Knight. Two or three are particular to Thaw of the Lich Lord, including the Lich Lord himself, who receives a two-page spread detailing his background, his abilities, and his tactics during the final battle. These tactics are fairly straightforward and make his handling when there is no Referee present relatively easy.

Thaw of the Lich Lord is well written, decently illustrated, and a solid expansion for Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City. There is perhaps a single problem in story presented by the ten-part campaign and that appears early on when the various wizards and their warbands hear rumours of new power, possibly a necromancer, having established himself in Felstad. Now they learn of this not in game, but out of game, and perhaps it would have been nice if the players could have learned this through play rather than in spite of it. Of course there is nothing to stop someone running Thaw of the Lich Lord to write his own scenarios.

As well as the standard miniatures manufactured by Northstar for use with Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City, the manufacturer has also released a series of miniatures specifically for use with the campaign. These include all of the creatures right up to the Lich Lord himself. Of course, the players are free to use whatever miniatures they want, just as in the core rules. Whatever miniatures the players use, Thaw of the Lich Lord is solid support for the rules and setting of Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City and the good news is that there is a second expansion, Frostgrave: Into the Breeding Pits, already available and a third, Frostgrave: Forgotten Pacts to come.