Miniature wargames are a fun and exciting hobby and, thanks to the near endless choices of games and factions within those games, it’s easy to find or create a transformation themed army or find a faction with transformation based mechanics. In most cases it’s the large number of miniatures required combined with the high cost of those miniatures rather than not being able to find an army that matches what they want that keeps people from getting started in the more well-known wargames. This isn’t true for all wargames though and the exceptions are great fun.
Frostgrave, published by Osprey Games, is a skirmish scale wargame for two or more players that manages to avoid that in a unique way – while there are official miniatures the game encourages players to use any miniatures they want. With sites like Reaper Miniatures and Wizkids offering a large assortment of miniatures it’s easy to find miniatures for the cast of characters you want to create. And if you absolutely must have the perfect miniature to represent your wizard or favorite henchman then you can order a custom miniature from Hero Forge.
Hero Forge is especially good for creating custom non-human characters, with a wide variety of anthropomorphic creatures. Other than your warband and the core rule book all you need to get started is a play area anywhere between two and four square feet, a twenty sided die or an online dice roller such as the one found on the Wizards of the Coast website, objects to use as terrain, and tokens to represent treasure. That there’s no required size for your play area means that you can set up a game wherever you have room and find the size and setup that works best for you.
The Scale of Frostgrave
The scale of the game itself helps keep playing simple and accessible, a warband typically consists of a wizard, an optional apprentice, and no more than eight henchmen. This means that getting the miniatures necessary to play is far from daunting. For monsters that your warband might encounter you can purchase additional miniatures or simply use tokens to represent them. Any miniature that’s the correct size for a monster can be substituted in so that not having a miniature for every monster isn’t a concern.
Smaller play areas allow for faster games, creating the feel of a board game, while larger areas can allow you to set up more complex scenarios for your warband to navigate. Terrain can be anything you want to create areas of different elevation and break up the space of the play area. While you can buy premade terrain pieces from various companies, there’s nothing wrong with using improvised terrain. Stacks of books, creatively arranged Tupperware and other items you find around your house can be used to set the stage for an exciting adventure, or, if you’re the crafty sort, you can always make your own scenery.
Because of how quick and easy the setup and gameplay is Frostgrave is a great way to get started with tabletop miniature gaming and for casual, fun play with friends. The rules are clearly written and easy to understand, the spells are simply described and the second chapter of the core rule book, Playing the Game, provides step by step instructions for what you can do during your turn meaning that confusion over rules and what a character can and cannot do is something that’s quickly resolved.
The rulebook provides detailed instructions for setup and gameplay as well as ten different game scenarios for your warband to play through. The Living Museum takes you through a wizard’s study full of animated statues, while The Mausoleum has you facing waves of skeletons pouring out of the titular structure. Each scenario gives your warband additional goals beyond retrieving treasure from the ruins, offering the opportunity for your wizard to gain even more magic, wealth and experience.
At the end of a game you get to see what treasure, magical items and spells your warband has acquired as well as tallying up experience gained through the completion of various tasks. Treasure is rolled randomly from loot tables in the rule book and the element of surprise makes it all the more rewarding. Of course, if the treasure isn’t something you want you can always sell it for gold to purchase an item or even a spell book that you want. Experience can be spent to improve your wizard’s stats or to make it easier for them to cast favorite spells.
The game itself offers an amazing amount of freedom with character creation. The wizard leading your warband, specializing in one of ten schools of magic, has the goal of looting treasure and magical relics from the Frozen City. Beyond that there’s no backstory to any of your characters other than what you create. This means that if you want to use an unusual or nonhuman miniature for any member of your group you’re free to do so. Choices are limited only by your imagination so it’s easy to bring in transformation elements. If you want to say that your wizard is a werewolf or otherwise cursed with a monstrous form, and is searching the ruins in the hope of finding a cure there’s nothing stopping you. I’ve seen whole warbands of nonhuman miniatures, including satyrs, mice and in one case even ducks.
Different Transformations Give Different Powers
Even better, there are multiple spells in the different schools of magic that have transformative effects. Possess, in which the target is possessed by a demon, alters the character’s stats so you can that they have been visibly, physically transformed by the magic. Other spells that can add the option for transformation themes include Combat Awareness, or Strength, both of which make a member of your warband more powerful in battle. This can be attributed to an increase in size or strength or even a feral transformation, all of which can be represented by using a different miniature to represent the change. Beauty, and Monstrous form directly alter the appearance of the caster and again allow for transformation elements to be added fluidly to gameplay.
Beyond the core book there are several expansions offering new schools of wizardry, treasure, monsters and scenarios to play through as well as opportunities for more transformations. Of course these expansion books are optional and there’s no need to purchase them. In the case of the group I play with we’ve created our own game scenarios and the game itself encourages doing as much. Of course if you enjoy the game the expansion books are well worth getting thanks to the amount of content they offer.
Two particular expansions, Into the Breeding Pits and Forgotten Pacts, directly offer options to physically transform your Wizard. Into the Breeding Pits introduces a new school of magic in the form of Beastcrafting which, over time, transforms your Wizard into a hybrid of man and beast and gives you spells like Animal Manipulation and Animal Mutation, allowing you to improve animals in your warband and transform them as well. Forgotten Pacts allows you to make deals with demons and preform sacrifices to gain demonic traits, perfect if you like corruption themed transformations. As always your options are limited only by your imagination and your wizard, in whatever form they take, is unique to you.