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43 Days Til Frostgrave!

Tick, Tock. The clock is moving ever closer to my epic gameday with handsome husband over the icy cold city of Felstad. Herein lies the second installment (Part 1: Frostgrave Beginnings) of my quest to create the most involved, detailed, and “completed” battle mat I’ve ever accomplished in my tabletop hobby career. This has recently become a “challenge” for myself and my husband as I have been 3D printing and painting for the predominate portion of the year but have played very little of any tabletop game.

Feeling the drive to play a game again I have decided to draw a line in the figurative sand, call it good enough and just play. However I have a small problem, I’m a perfectionist that wants everything to be painted and completed. So this series will document my journey and you can follow along and hold me accountable to finish this project.

I have decided to make my Frostgrave board epic, bigger (3 ft x 3 ft) with more wiggle room, more terrain of not just buildings but also scatter, rubble, ruins, and objects to break line of sight. But most importantly I want to take the lessons learned from February’s games to make it a more enjoyable experience.

Lets see my process in designing and picking out key elements I want to put on my battle map!


Learning From Past Mistakes

When I played my first few games of Frostgrave with my husband back in February I realized that my terrain was significantly lacking. As someone with game design experience it became quickly evident that game balance was DRASTICALLY impacted by game layout.

When setting up our 2 foot by 2 foot board I missed a very very key piece of advice from the core rule book.

Setting up the Table


“The ruins of Frostgrave are a dense labyrinth of broken buildings, collapsed walls, shattered statues, and patches of ice and snow. In truth the exact nature of the terrain isn’t overly important. What is important is that there is a lot of it! The table should be crowded with terrain, leaving only a few areas or avenues of open ground, and giving figures plenty of places to hide and take cover. It really shouldn’t be possible for a figure on the group to draw line of sight to any point more than a foot or so away.”

FrostGrave 2nd Edition, Joseph A McCullough
Frostgrave Board February 2021

Ouch, looking at the Frostgrave board above you can definitely see line of sight avenues going every which way across not just one foot but all the way across the map (2 feet). Why is this a problem? Well i’m glad you asked. “All shooting attacks have a maximum range of 24 inches.”

Since our map was 2×2 feet, that was the entire length in all directions of our battle mat for a small standard game. Due to this emphasis and success of your warband was significantly skewed to hiring more ranged attackers such as archers and crossbowmen. The aim of the game would be to climb into a fortified area, shoot through the windows or protected area, and pick the other time off slowly and then claim the treasure. This did not feel fun for both people involved, the game felt broken. So this time around I’m planning my game board ahead of time to attempt to balance everything out.


Key to Map Design: Educate Yourself

OK rulebook, fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice… well we wont get to that.

This time around I refuse be the victim of my lack of knowledge about the game. To fully plan my map I want to take into account all the types of movement and shooting defense modifiers in the game. This would make the world feel more dynamic instead of two dimensional while also tackling my previously experienced ranged shooting imbalance.

First things first.

Shooting Defense Modifiers

Much like other games like Dungeons and Dragons, my most familiar tabletop game. Taking cover is a large part of the game in combat. Hiding behind obstacles such as walls, trees, or even other creatures can make you less of a target and become more difficult to hit. The difficulty of hitting your shot in Frostgrave is similar to dungeons and dragons as there are three types of cover. Instead of half, three quarters, and total cover the game uses somewhat different jargon.

Intervening Terrain (+1 to hit): “Every piece of intervening terrain between the shooter and the target gives a +1 (cumulatively).”

Light Cover (+2 to hit): If an obstacle obscures up to half of its body for hard objects (i.e rocks, walls) or almost the entirety of the body (bushes)

Heavy Cover (+4 to hit): “target is in contact with solid cover that almost completely obscures its body”

This is telling me that I don’t just need ruins for my game but also a variety of terrain and objects of which to hide behind the more the better. Although I cannot cite it at this exact moment I believe I have read somewhere that ideally there should be no more than 6-9 inches of line to sight in any given direction for best experience.

Movement

In the game of Frostgrave verticality and variable terrain are such a big part of its gameplay. To play in this there are several types of movement.

Rough Terrain: Any kind of terrain that is difficult to move over or through (1/2 movement speed).

Climbing: Players can climb over obstructions at 1/2 movement speed (1 inch climb per 2 inch movement).

Jumping: “A figure may jump any distance provided it moves an equal distance in a straight line before making the jump”.

Swimming: water comes in two varieties shallow and deep water. Shallow water is considered a rough terrain but deep water does have a swimming modifiers table. Essentially if you are wearing heavier armor, carrying objects or treasure, swimming across deep water is more difficult.

Falling: Fall damage is possible and a key part of gameplay. If a figure falls more than 3 inches, they suffer damage equal to the number of inches they fell multiplied by 1.5.

These movement aspects tell me that I should ideally have multiple stories in builds, a lot of ways to climb and get around. Perhaps a few sections where you can jump from building to building? How about even some water running through the city.


My Inspiration

Now that I have a better understanding of things to look out for and considerations to make while making my map I need inspiration as to how it will be laid out and perhaps even look like.

I have had the perfect inspiration for this map stuck in my head for a long time utilizing The Elder Scrolls Franchise. You see the Elder Scrolls Online MMO RPG was the game that changed my life, helped me to step out as a proud gamer girl, and even where I started my career in game development as a combat designer.

Memorial District, Imperial City Elder Scrolls Online

The inspiration i’m drawing for this map will be loosely based off of the Imperial City. The Imperial City is the capital city of the entire continent of Tamriel which holds the infamous White Gold Tower and the Ruby Throne of which the empire sits. This city is broken into 6 sections or districts of which you can play and explore. Utilizing the time period around the Elder Scrolls Online, the city has been invaded and now in ruin, where the throne is empty, and armies (or players) fight for the right to be emperor.

When I imagine the empire of Felstad for Frostgrave my imagination makes me believe that each battle map is only a snapshot image of a fraction of the city of which my wizard and warband are exploring. Why not only try to recreate a snapshot of one of the districts of the Imperial City? The Imperial City is also a player vs player zone so map design already considers some of my line of site concerns in the world building itself making it a perfect spring board for my plan.

Of the little terrain I already own and have painted one of the primary focal pieces is the Mausoleum. Since the mausoleum has its own scenario I have decided to start my campaign into Felstad there. Which leads me to the Memorial District. The Market District of the Imperial City districts was converted into the Memorial District and turned into a mass graveyard for its dead, after a mass rebellion (not important).

The Memorial District consists of four corners of tall Market city buildings and roads leading to its center which holds a massive graveyard in its center ring. There is also a river/ sewer that runs around the city. This variety of large ruins, center graveyard, and terrain including water is perfect to utilize our Mausoleum and capture the various movement types the game can provide.

Map Layout of the Memorial District Imperial City

This is the perfect inspiration with its arches and high crosswalks, courtyards, statues, fences and so much more.


Goals

The overall goal of this board is of course to be cool and wow people, most namely my husband. This game mat should give me a feeling of accomplishment because so far this year I’ve worked on many things but haven’t quite felt “finished” in anything. Hopefully this board will also be so fun it would motivate more gameplay in my house. Perhaps even entice some players in my area to want to join via hubs bragging about it at work.

Also most importantly in the spirit of what I want to do here at crazmadsci.com my goal is showcase and feature a large variety of talent, stores, and models that you can bring to your 3D printed tabletop. I will of course be keeping track of all my data for helping you print your future battle board or even understand the cost and time commitment on bringing your dreams a reality. The the moment I have an estimated 5 terrain companies & 3 miniature companies featured in my current battleplan.


Trying to Make the Plan

No that I have a rough idea as to what I want my layout to be, what type of terrain and aesthetic I desire its time to attempt to plan my layout.

Using the above inspiration I went to draw my 3×3 board to scale on paper. I broke the map into 9 sections and proceeded to draw a central square to mark the mausoleum location and space it will occupy. Then attempt to cut construction paper to scale of the various objects I wish to have in the space and eye ball how much of what I’d need where.

Beginnings of my city layout. Blue (river), Black (roads), Purple (buildings), Orange (featured Building)

Over the course of this week I realized I have encountered two primary design blocks

  1. City Layout is largely dependent on Graveyard surface area

In attempting to block out my city to scale I have a major design flaw. I cannot conceptualize how large the graveyard itself should be with tombstones, crypts, trees etc. How big should it be to ensure a fun area for skirmishes. Until this section of the board is roughly laid out it is immensely hard to plan the surrounding area. Therefore It appears I am going to have to plan this out block by block with a more “living build”.

2. What walls should I make my graveyard with?

Since the center of the board will be its focal piece the method of which you get to its center is also important. What is the best way to funnel players? Should the fence be intervening terrain or provide partial/ complete cover? I have several different graveyard walls and fences to choose from. Some ruined in design and others structurally sound. Should I curve my walls? Or keep it straight. I have so many options to choose from and much of the choice depends on block #1. Filtering the ways you can get into the graveyard sounds like a fantastic idea to funnel soldiers or utilize climbing.

Here are my current options, nominate your favorite in the comments.

Of the list I think my personal favorites would be the Frost Kickstarter walls since they are curved and have a good amount of versatility and am capable of using them in other builds in the future. I also really like the printable scenery walls as they are extremely thematic and are not straight linear fences. However the ones from CastnPlay and Broken Anvil are also more true to what I imagine a graveyard fence to be.


Notable Featured Pieces in this Map

Since I cant completely plan out where everything will go, I am including some of my ideas and concepts that I am currently planning to bring to the table as a little tease. All have their own strengths and I am definitely going to showcase and discuss the various companies and prints in more detail as we lead up to gameday. If you see something that catches your eye or have something to add do not hesitate.

  1. A River

I really desire to bring a river to this map. Mostly to provide a larger diversity in the terrain that I see online when I see other Frostgrave boards but also make rivers which I am going to need to have for some Rangers of Shadowdeep Scenarios which I hope to do in the future. Plus even the Felstad has a river called the “Might Mergile River”. I have settled and owned the Infinite Dimension Games modular river set for sometime as i’ve always enjoyed their product and got these files for a steal of a deal when they originally released.

2. A bridge

Makers Anvil Bridge

Makers Anvil is a new company to the community that I have been keeping my eye out on for quite some time. I finally decided that this is the perfect opportunity to use their Bridge design and even incorporate their ruined section since I need some way to cross the river.

3. Ulvheim ruins

The Ulvheim ruins and buildings are probably some of the most famous and commonly spotted ruins on any 3D printers table. These are made by Terrain4Print and have been free on Thingiverse for over 3 and a half years. It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t showcase more of what was freely available to print for your Frostgrave board as well. I also want to bring these ruins to life more and plan to incorporate ruined beams and Trusses made by ecaroth as I cannot stand a table of just stone buildings.

4. Hagglethorn Hollow Ancient Ruins

To be fair until yesterday I was not planning at this exact moment to play Frostgrave with any Hagglethorn Hollow pieces. I am however planning a major write up series around the Hagglethorn Hollow kickstarter later this year. This kickstarter has been one of my most anticipated kickstarters of all time. Hagglethorn Hollow first teased its designs in 2018 on Adam Savage’s TESTED youtube and ever since i’ve been impatiently waiting to add it to my table. I plan to have at least one ruin section of the Ancient Ruins in time for gameday.

5. Shadowfey: Burgomaster’s Office

The Burgomasters Office from Printable Scenery’s kickstarter late last year Shadowfey features some of the best collection of ruined buildings and terrain for Frostgrave. In my ambition to increase my verticality of gameplay while also making it appealing to the eye. As a result one of my center piece builds will be this Buromasters office. Featuring complete modularity this is a perfect piece to showcase what Shadowfey has to offer.

This is only a sampling of what I hope to be able to create. Make sure to follow me on my journey, cheer me on, or give me pointers! Comment down below what you are looking forward to the most.


Whats Next?

Well for now I am attempting to print some of the largest pieces that I know I want on my table such as the Burgomaster’s Office. I have also been selecting my warband and 3D printing both mine and my husbands for game day. Next week I plan to discuss how to build your warband and the models we have selected for those.

While this is a journey largely based upon my preparation for my own game; I hope to incorporate knowledge so you can learn more and potentially play for yourself. If you have any questions on how to play Frostgrave or want to know more about it do not hesitate to ask below.

As always Happy Crafting,

Carrie aka Crazmadsci the Crazy Mad Scientist.


Past Hobby Blog Posts

3D Printing: Science or an Art Form or Just Plain Luck?

Many do not realize that 3D printing is a hobby much like miniature painting. It requires time, study, determination and most importantly practice. Not all hobbyists are at the same skill set. Not all printers or materials have the same capabilities. With a large variety of programs and settings how does one approach the hobby? Should it be approached with the scientific method of trial and error of slow changes? Or is there no real “right answer” and final product resulting from your individual personal taste or rather a production of art?

Contrast Paints: Understanding Their Usage

I’ve only just started adding contrast paints to my arsenal as a miniature painter. While I still have so much to grow painting this Hill Giant from Lost Adventures Volume 1 has helped me gain valuable insight.

9 thoughts on “Frostgrave Part 2: Map Design

  1. For a very long time I did not do any tabletop gaming, focusing purely on PC gaming. So many, many hours spent in Tamriel. A couple of years ago (the time has flown by!) I gave up PC gaming and returned to the tabletop. There are so many memories of great maps in various PC games that I would love to see replicated on the tabletop…especially as I gear up for Frostgrave as well….so your blog post yet again echoes my thoughts.

    It has been very challenging to organize the preparation of minis and terrain needed for Frostgrave/Ghost Archipelago/Rangers of Shadow Deep (I am expecting some crossovers).

    I admire your discipline with having a deadline and continue to look forward to seeing your project develop. It is incredibly inspirational.

    Like

    1. I also have recently placed priority over tabletop games than video games. I can’t even articulate how inspirational video games are in my tabletop playing and planning. I commonly look at armor, color and styles in video games when trying to pick color schemes in my miniatures.

      There indeed should be a good deal of cross over for Frostgrave and Rangers of Shadowdeep. I’m not as sure about Ghost Archipelago since I’ve never read the books, it’s on my list.

      For my knowledge unfortunately Rangers is more rural and countryside and Frostgrave would tend to be more city based. However Rangers of Shadowdeep has more rigid suggestions as to terrain layouts for scenarios whereas Frostgrave is more “just make terrain”. My two cents is that if you wanted overlap I’d probably focus on Rangers terrain and use it on Frostgrave.

      Thank you for the kind words as well.

      Like

  2. Wow. I’m overwhelmed. Can’t imagine how you are feeling. Sounds like you are excited and challenged. I’m looking forward to following you through this short term goal and journey. You got this!

    Like

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