Frostgrave continues to be one of my absolute MOST favorite skirmish wargames. With its ten schools of sorcery to choose from, dozens of warband member options from Barbarian and Captain to the lowly Thug and Thief, and the ability to level up your Wizard and Apprentice, find new spells and magic items, and even manage a base of operations, the game is just pure fun… and I have half a dozen friends I’ve introduced to the game who are now full-fledged fans and players.
If you’ve not heard of Frostgrave or never played it, I’m going to provide a link below that will go into more details about the game that involves miniatures, fast and fun combat, and plenty of surprises and rewards for players. But this post consists of a review of the latest supplement to the game — The Maze of Malcor. This is the sixth expansion for Frostgrave, and players are going to absolutely love the new content that game author Joe McCullough has provided, as well as some rule updates.
If you’d like a detailed explanation of the game, give this overview post a read first. Much of the coverage I provide below will rely on a basic understanding of the Frostgrave core game.
Unlike the other expansions, The Maze of Malcor has expanded from the typical 64 pages to 92 pages. The book is printed in full color and includes new artwork from Frostgrave favorites Dmitry and Kate Burmak and miniatures painted by Kevin Dallimore (one of my FAVORITE miniature painters). Spread over five chapters, the book provides rule updates, a new campaign, five new schools of sorcery, new treasures, and new creatures.
The game still takes place on a 3’x3′ or 4’x’4′ table, and players can choose one-shot games or choose to play a campaign that will provide experience and treasure to empower their Wizard, Apprentice, and warband. The new expansion doesn’t add any new requirements regarding the miniatures that are used (28-32mm), but new creatures are added that can be added to a warband and can require new miniatures.
The first seven pages provide some added explanations to existing rules as well as replacements. Rule enhancements are added regarding treasure placement, critical rolls, and gaining experience. These changes are meant to act as official updates/upgrades, but players are free to ignore changes that don’t appeal to their regular gameplay. The new rules also include an updated (but still simple) flowchart to determine creature movements and attacks, including how they react if they have ranged weapons.
Finally, new players may find the game balancing suggestions for helping them survive against more experienced players useful, but there are also new rules for creating an experienced wizard so a player doesn’t have to start at Level 1.
There are twelve new scenarios!! TWELVE! These scenarios track the players as they move through the Collegium of Artistry, a school hidden in the ice for a thousand years but recently exposed. The race is on to grab the rare treasures hidden by the former headmaster, Malcor.
Each scenario provides a bit of backstory, the rules for setting up the table (including any special terrain or creatures or items), and special rules that define traps, exits, and combat. When the game is over, each scenario also explains how experience and treasures are handed out. Experienced players will note that The Maze of Malcor is quite liberal in handing out the XP — players will find their surviving wizards and warbands moving up fast and gaining powerful weapons, better skills, and other surprises.
I won’t give away any surprises, but fans should know that EVERY scenario offers up something fun and unusual. Here are the titles of the twelve scenarios that should provide some fun hints and discussion between players:
Scenario 1: The Relic Room
Scenario 2: The Great Hall
Scenario 3: The Aviary
Scenario 4: The Furnace
Scenario 5: The Gondola Docks
Scenario 6: The Cloister
Scenario 7: The Wheel
Scenario 8: The Echodrome
Scenario 9: The Astracarnum
Scenario 10: The Bender
Scenario 11: The Necropolis
Scenario 12: The Headmaster’s Office
The first six scenarios are designed for two players… but the 7-12 scenarios are recommended for three players, letting two players play their wizards and warbands against the third player who assumes control of… aspects of The Collegium. That’s all I’ll say.
The Schools of the Pentangle
Five lost schools of magic are introduced in The Maze of Malcor, although they’re really not meant to be played as wizards/apprentices. There’s a balance issue due to the way Frostgrave aligns schools of magic. Every school has a number of aligned schools, neutral schools, and opposing schools. Dropping in five new schools could mess up the balance that the original ten schools have achieved through playtesting.
That said, the five schools come with new spells that can be found and USED as single-use scrolls. Each of the five schools comes with six spells… 30 new spells in all. And some of them are just… amazing.
The five new schools are Astromancer, Distortionist, Fatecaster, Sonancer, and Spiritualist. Each of the five has its own aligned, neutral, and opposed schools (from the original ten schools) so that spell Casting Roll value can be determined. And players who just absolutely have to play one of the new schools will find a small sidebar that offers up an explanation for how to properly select spells.
New spells include Meteor Strike, Whiplash, Blood Wager, Steal Voice, and Nightmare (!). Let those spell names sink in…
Ten pages (that includes two charts to roll on) contain new treasures ONLY found as players explore the Collegium. These are incredible treasures, too — Belt of Blade-Breaking, Bloodstone Amulet, Book of Murders, Gloves of the Paladin, Lycanthrope Serum (!), and Troll Shackles… plus 35 more.
Two new rules regarding treasures will make players smile — at the end of the game, a player may exchange up to two treasure rolls on the original core rulebook’s Treasure Table and instead roll on the Maze of Malcor Treasure Table. And here’s the big one — for each roll a player takes on the Malcor Treasure Table, they get a matching roll on the Scrolls of Lost Magic. Two for one!
Eighteen new beasties! While many of these are specific to the Collegium locale, most of them are easily portable and can be added to the random monsters you encounter during a one-off game or another campaign such as Frostgrave: Thaw of the Lich Lord.
Again, trying to avoid spoilers here… there are five unique Wizard Shade creatures that will be encountered during the campaign. Not only are they incredibly powerful, but each comes with a detailed explanation for how to run them in the campaign if they are not player controlled.
Of course, everything leads to an ultimate battle with… The Wraith of Malcor. Honestly, this thing is crazy powerful. Run as an NPC, it’ll wipe out a lot of warbands, but in the hands of a living, breathing player? I’m looking forward to hearing a lot of post battle reports once players start finishing up this campaign. I’m not planning on getting too attached to my wizard and his merry band.
The Maze of Malcor is a welcome addition to the Frostgrave game. What I like best about these expansions is they don’t break the existing game (IMO). You can use the new rules… or ignore them. Use only the new creatures you like… skip the rest. You’re not forced to roll on the new Magic Item list, and the new schools of magic provides a way to throw new spells into a game (via scrolls).
I cannot wait to play one or all of the scenarios in this book. Once again, I’m getting to play a game of 2v2 at Gen Con 2018 with Frostgrave’s creator, Joe McCullough. I’ve got one of the scenarios that I’d really like to play with (or against) him…
The Maze of Malcor releases on June 19, 2018. I’d like to thank Christian at Osprey for providing an advanced copy for me to examine.
Note: The new Grimoire product from Osprey includes spell cards for all the spells provided in every expansion… INCLUDING the spells from the five new schools in this book.