Frostgrave: The beginning – Dark Alchemy [actual play, mini-review]

Most of my posting’s been confined to Tumblr of late, but the blog deserves more attention than I’ve been giving it. Just haven’t been doing much gaming stuff since the Holidays.

I have, however, been horsing around with some Egyptian terrain and minis for a LONG-ass time, but never really got around to doing anything about it. I’ll post more images later on that score. In March the Frostgrave bug hit me and the 50-foot Lesbian at about the same time. Last Saturday we got our first practice games in; we both made quickie solo runs through all three levels of Dark Alchemy. We’re currently using soldier options from all of the books, but I haven’t had a chance to pick up Breeding Pits yet. She’s dyslexic, so part of the delay has been in converting all the text from the game books and tables into a printable, DL-friendly font and format. I personally recommend the open-source Dyslexie, which she says works “amazingly”.

My own warband is based on the excellent line of war-nuns from Reaper Minis (most from the ass-tastic desks of Werner Klocke and Bobby Jackson). I originally bought them for Mordheim but all three of the groups I put together managed to dissolve before dice ever hit table. Such is Gamer ADD..

The Band

In the main group, from L-R, back-front, we have:
Javelineer/Peltast (from Thaw of the Lich Lord) – Javelins are a nice, cheap missile option, especially important since it’s hard to find missile-equipped nun models. You can get away with using them for pretty much any spearmen you have lying around, too – which is great if you’re using leftover historical minis instead of purpose-built fantasy stuff.
Infantry-woman
Inquisitrix (based on Bob Ridolfi’s “Veronica Duskraven”) – a Sellsword Mercenary Captain. Bonuses: Movement and Shoot, Hand Weapon, Dagger, Crossbow, Coup-de-Grace and Leadership
Thief (Ral Partha Assassin with a new dagger made from plasticard) This guy used to be one of my PC models, so he’s been rotting in the bitz box since.. well, since Ral Partha was still a company that sold miniatures.
Nun-at-arms. Her shield is converted from a Pirates of the Spanish Main coin token, with paper reinforcements and wood texture scored into the surface. The hammer is all filed plasticard and paperclip, although it broke in-play and I need to pin it again.
Nun-at-arms. For this one I filed down her ridiculous little cestus and dropped a Hoplite round-shield on top.
2 Wardogs (old 3e Elven Hounds from Games Workshop)
Leader – Thaumaturge (The old Mordheim Sigmarite special character, whom I’ve used in the past as a priest in my Sisters of Battle armies). Hand-weapon, dagger, and a lot of support spells Beauty, Heal, Miraculous Cure, Dispel, Write Scroll, Brew Potion, Reveal Secret, and Planar Tear, which has wound up being one of my most useful choices to date.
In the background are some of the minis I’m making into “statues” (mostly oversized ~35mm figures), and on the right are the backups for later gameplay. I have a Templar, some angels (in case I pick up summoning spells..), another infantrywoman, a couple Pack Mules/Thugs, and my future Apprentice (Friar Stone)
The basic idea is to send the Captain in with a squad of faster minis (dogs and the Thief) to wolfpack heavier targets, while my Wizard slings Beauty and support spells onto the Nuns-at-arms for treasure-hauling purposes. The band-size limits in Dark Alchemy, not to mention the way all enemies are Constructs, Beasts, or Undead, is going to hamper the Hell out of my strategy for now, but what kind of wargamer doesn’t like a challenge? :P

My opponent has chosen an amusing evil wizard model (Orcish Witch Doctor) and a SHIT-TON of Aztec goblins, plus a few LotR Orcs I traded her out of my bitz bin. She successfully pulled an Animal Companion, so I’m loaning her a Utahraptor model I had lying around to use as a Snow Leopard. I.. kinda love how fucking gonzo Frostgrave lets you get when building warbands, and I’m really looking forward to the Sinbad/Pirates/East India thingy they’re putting out in September.

The games went quickly, and even with the half-finished terrain they looked pretty darned good. The first scenario is extremely easy as long as you just immediately dogpile the Abomination. If you try to sneak around it’ll peck you to death, but 14 HP just isn’t enough once a Wizard with +6 from her buddies starts swinging her hammers on it. As soon as it’s gone, the whole game is basically “send one person to fuck up the rats and a dog off to open the door”
The second fight was interesting, with the random skellie (or in this case, Mummy) placement making things get hairy fast. My wizard got slowed down by casting and then dogpiled by a sudden swarm of mobs that appeared right next to her, pecked to death by flames/scarabs. Generally, though things like Dimensional Rift’s small but almost-guaranteed damage are more than enough to handle packs of mummies. Grenade and Explosive Cocktails (both of which the Goblins had in abundance) also see them off quickly.
That third scenario is a beast, though; both of us escaped with only a single model, though she got her wizard off and I only managed to get my Captain out.  To fit the Egyptian-fantasy setting we made a couple fluff changes. The Fire-slingers became Mummy Queens and small animated statues of various gods summoning scarab swarms (c.f. the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies), and the flame areas were likewise swapped for Beetle Swarms.

Overall, Dark Alchemy was a hell of a lot of fun. We both walked out with a couple hundred GP, no deaths, 7-8 levels on the Wizards, and a nice assortment of Magic Items (she got a Hand Weapon+1,  Ring +1 and Staff of Power +3, plus a Grimoire and 6 potions: I got less cash and only 1 Grimoire but 14 potions.) She selected a Treasure Vault as her home base, and I went for a Temple.
Once I get some more GC together to buy a Roost, I have an excellent Falconer miniature and some cool eagle models that I’ll be using as Blood Crows instead of the dogs. The lack of missile support really hurt me in scenario 3, and my Crossbow captain made the lion’s share of my kills. I’ll be adding a bow to one of my two-weapon leftover nuns at some point to make a Ranger, or possibly converting one of my backup Sci-fi models with a crossbow or arquebus to get a Marskwoman. I’m worried about those rings and staves; in the last game I bumped up my wizard’s Dispel skill but with what she can do using Enchant Weapon I’m not pleased..

Current state of the warband:
Base: Temple (of course)
Level 8 Thaumaturge – added Circle of Protection, levelled Health (+1), improved Planar Tear (x2), Write Scroll (x1), Heal (x2), Brew Potion (x1), Dispel (x1)
Apprentice w/ Staff and a crapload of very nasty potions
Level 3 Captain, now with Sprint and boosted Shoot (x2).
2 Nuns-at-arms
2 Warhounds
Thief (will be replacing with a Ranger/Markswoman shortly)
Infantrywomen
Peltast/Javelineer