Review: Frostgrave – Thaw of the Lich Lord

ThawLichLordCoverFrostgrave is a game I enjoy and really scratches that itch of a quick and dirty fantasy skirmish game with a smattering of D&D like progression. You command a wizard and their retinue of mercenary followers as they scour frozen city ruins seeking treasure. Osprey publishing has recently released Thaw of the Lich Lord, a campaign expansion which provides more scenarios and other bits for your Frostgrave games.

There are 10 scenarios which revolve around the awakening of a great undead wizard that was sealed away when the city was originally blasted with ice and snow. The scenarios are a pretty good mix of different locations and most have some special rules with terrain or hostile opposition that each wizard warband has to tackle with. The locations also for the most part strive for a narrative tale being taking different locations like a hall, a frozen river, or in a district section which has levitated above the frozen city.

However most scenarios are still pretty much a loot grab where gaining the most treasure is the primary objective. An interesting twist is that the final campaign scenario is somewhat a cooperative affair where each player tries to gain the fame and glory of personally defeating the lich lord themselves. In fact it’s recommended that a neutral player referee the final scenario, taking control of the lich directly, as it works best for the scenario (however rules are provided to give the lich an AI of sorts).

There are three new spells which primarily deal with the undead. One is a useful homunculus spell which decreases the stats of the wizard, but makes a duplication. If the wizard dies, the homunculus creation replaces them. Soldier followers that die can be revived as a revenant undead creature. Lastly there is a spell that can transform a player into a lich themselves if desired. It’s a tricky spell to cast that can incur permanent stat decrease on failure, but if successful makes the wizard a powerful spell caster adding +10 to their will. These spells are only gained through grimoires or the result of some particular scenarios.

Along with the scenarios and limited spells are new treasures, additional soldier followers, and more creatures to add to your game. The treasure and creatures have their own tables which can integrate into ones listed in the original rule book. Some magic items add bonuses to the campaign game, along with tactical benefits. A nice touch is that the table lists supplement the original (so no need to convert your own).

There are a few more soldier options also. A welcome addition are options like a falconeer and javelin thrower which are nice choices to round out more ranged troops. There is also a pack mule follower for hauling loot and gear (which is fun choice). Also a bard is available for boosting other troops’ will, and some odd creature followers that can be gained through spells.

More of the creatures added to the game are primarily undead based. There are also rangifers which are reindeer man-type creatures of nature. They are relatively neutral, will attack any undead, and can be added as a warband follower through magic treasure.

The Good – I dig that Frostgrave is exploring different scenario setups. While most still revolve around getting as much loot as possible, there are some with objectives (like stopping a neutral unit from leaving the table, etc.) which is cool. I like how new treasure and monsters can be easily added to the game with new charts. The book is well organized and has great artwork and photos as usual.

The Bad – I’m disappointed with the campaign. There is no real outcome that carries over by winning or losing each scenario, or for the campaign itself overall. Much of scenario outcome rewards are tied into gaining specific magic item treasure. Also the campaign structure and rules are still unchanged and I’ve found some community suggestions are better (of which I stole and tweaked myself). The magic spells offer some cool choices but are still limited in scope. A branching campaign might have been better choice.

The Verdict – Thaw of the Lich Lord is an okay book. Rabid fans will certainly like it. Having new monsters, treasure, and soldiers are always good additions. The campaign scenarios overall are pretty cool and certainly offer something different. However there still is a glaring issue of that gap where some warbands potentially run away with victories while others get mired in a chain of defeats. Some optional campaign structure rules would have been a wonderful addition to curb that. In the end I find Thaw of the Lich Lord an okay expansion, just not quite the must have book I was hoping it would be.