Players must work together out of necessity to clear out menacing dungeons and forgotten ruins. In the process they will enhance their abilities with experience and loot, discover new locations to explore and plunder, and expand an ever-branching story fueled by the decisions they make.
This is a legacy game with a persistent and changing world that is ideally played over many game sessions. After a scenario, players will make decisions on what to do, which will determine how the story continues, kind of like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. Playing through a scenario is a cooperative affair where players will fight against automated monsters using an innovative card system to determine the order of play and what a player does on their turn.
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I mean, apart from 16 new characters and a new campaign book filled with 100+ scenarios, and a whole new app that allows for your campaign to be voiced by professional actors
A co-operative dungeon crawler based on euro-style mechanics, Frosthaven is the sensational follow up to the smash hit Gloomhaven, a 22 pound box that's sold a quarter million copies.
Like Gloomhaven, Frosthaven is a big game, and you may be deciding whether or not to plonk down a cool hundred for the base box. Here are 7 things that are new to Frosthaven that set it apart from the hit original.
More complex starting characters
Whether this is a pro or con is up to you, but Frosthaven is clearly trying to set itself apart from the newbie-friendly Jaws of the Lion set (approx $40 MSRP) which is set to release later this year.
The six new starting characters feature a teleporting melee assassin, a necromancer who sacrifices health for summoning, a shapeshifter who has two entirely different decks of cards, a spearmaiden who requires very specific positioning to her allies to pull off cool combos... you get the drift.
Gloomhaven's unlockable heroes slowly ramped up the complexity from its starting six, and it seems like Frosthaven has let designer Isaac Childres let his imagination run free from the start.
More secrets to explore
Frosthaven comes with a new puzzle book that allows players to really lean into the exploration and unlockable aspect of the first game. While Gloomhaven came with 3 sealed envelopes for players to discover, Frosthaven has more than 20. If you enjoy opening new things to alter how your game plays, this part of the game just got a lot bigger.
Weather and the passage of time
Timed scenarios were an aspect of Gloomhaven that the designer wanted to add; demons attack the town! deal with them before they rampage over everything! but he couldn't find a way to make tracking them not a complete pain.
But now in the frozen north a solution presented itself. Summer and Winter will pass as you journey through the game; when time has passed 15 times, the season will change. Winter brings significantly more dangerous threats - a new, more challenging journey deck, attacks by enemies, the closure of certain shops and buildings in the town...
Wait, Calvin, I hear you say. Shops and buildings?
Shops and Buildings
The town of Frosthaven can be built up by the players using resources found during their dungeoneering. An example given was the smith, which allows players to craft new weapons and items, and a herbalist who can brew potions. Players must choose which buildings to help construct, which leads us to:
A whole new resource game
Gold holds less meaning in the frozen north - here raw resources hold sway. Instead of looting just money from scenarios, the game now has custom resource decks (that change based on which scenario you're playing) to see what you can loot from the dungeons.
These resources can be used in town to construct buildings or craft items; you can also loot items directly from the resource deck. Perfect for those who felt like the looting system of Gloomhaven left a lot to be desired.
New retirement and character unlock rules
When characters reached their personal goals in Gloomhaven, that character retired and you unlocked a new character class to play. Not only have personal goals been streamlined so that players don't get stuck with difficult ones on their first character, when characters retire in Frosthaven they set up shop in town, providing you with a new building that you have access to.
Character unlocks also happen through buildings - if you construct certain buildings, one of the game's 10 unlockable characters will be attracted to your town and unlock for you.
More dynamic scenarios
A lot of Gloomhaven's missions boiled down to 'kill all the monsters', which made for an awesome dungeon crawl but less of a story based affair. Apparently Frosthaven will shake this up; obviously we don't know any of the scenarios yet, but the mind leaps to escort missions, protect missions, or maybe even heist missions. The more variety the better!
You can check out the Frosthaven campaign for the next 30 days on Kickstarter to see whether this game is right for you.
Hey Alexandr, thank you for making your time! First up, I noticed while stalking through your artstation account that you have quite the Cinderella story! Could you share with us your journey leading up to becoming a freelance artist?
Hello! I am an illustrator artist for video games, board games and books. Most often, I draw illustrations for tabletop games. It is very popular now. Every known universe in the world wants to make its desktop. My video game love originates from console games and a little later it was acquaintance with D&D. I plunged into the world of CRPG and I'm still a fan of them. Although at that time I could not even imagine that I would draw pictures and concepts for real games. I studied at the college of design and thought that I would do house interiors. I even learned to work well in 3D programs, I modeled beautiful buildings. But the crisis struck, there was less work and I started looking for something new. At first I thought to work in the printing industry, but I did not really like it and my first work in the field of games was unsuccessful. I decided to look for work online but everything went very badly until Fantasy Flight Games contacted me. I started drawing art for cards in such cool universes like The Lord of the Rings, Warhammer 40k, Star Wars and others. I began to receive a lot of orders as crowdfunding sites got popular and many people had opportunity to start projects. So I got an order from Isaac for Gloomhaven project.
So when you finally became a freelance artist, did it turn out to be everything you expected? What were some of the toughest challenges you faced? What was the most rewarding?
At the beginning of my freelance career, I was not looking for a job in other countries. Our local customers often did not behave very well, and I had little experience to stand up for myself. I learned to negotiate and conduct work and I got a job at a firm to study. It was fun, so great to discuss the project and the news of games every day. But in the end I wanted to draw something new. This is a big freelance plus, that you yourself choose what to draw. Today I can draw ancient ruins, tomorrow demons or cyberpunk eyes concept art for my own project.
Let's start talking about Gloomhaven. Did you anticipate the game's massive success from the beginning?
The success of Gloomhaven was unexpected for me. It was the first big board game in which I drew the whole characters illustrations. I was very happy when the game began to collect good funding and when Isaac open second reprint was hard to believe, I was very happy about the project.
How do you think your art style, experience, and skills made you a great fit for handling Gloomhaven's art?
I think my style was good fit for the game and I think the players liked the illustrations. Although this is not the main thing in the game, as far as I know, the players have enjoyed the gameplay the most.
How detailed were the briefs for each of the characters? Were you able to exercise a lot of creative freedom or was there a clear direction for the desired look?
Isaac is a real creator, he came up with all the races and how they should look. We discussed every detail, shared the reference, what should be their clothing, culture, architecture. I am very pleased that each race was unique and new, it was a good opportunity to prove myself. This was the first sketch I did for the cover art.
Which character was your favorite and why? Could you use that character as an example to share with us your typical design process from start to finish?
All races in Gloomhaven are very interesting. Although one is very unusual - Aesther. After the cataclysm in their homeland, they became semi-ghost. They half exist in the world, their clothes and they are translucent. On the one hand, they are human-like, but they had to be made unusual. I tried to add all sorts of unusual colors, glitches, black bottomless eyes, as if in them only emptiness.
What do you think makes a good character design that will be loved by many people?
This is a pretty hard question. Do you remember how Miranda Presley a character from The Devil Wears Prada explained to the main character how difficult it is to find the right blue color? I think to create an up-to-date design, you need to follow all modern trends. You need to dive into games with a similar style, explore design, modern fashion, know the history of costumes, watch a lot of movies to know how it all works. We must try to make unusual combinations of colors, fabrics, anatomy, even the state of the surrounding world such as time of day, weather, lighting, so that each illustration is different from the previous one. At the same time, the artist should try to keep everything in the same style and color scale. I was very surprised when I learned that one artist Michiyo Yasuda was responsible for the colors of all the Ghibli films. I review them every year and get inspired by them.
How many alternate designs did you have to come up with for your characters?
As far as I remember, all the sketches were liked by Isaac from the first sketch. Isaac knew exactly what he wanted, it's a great quality for a client to have, and I guess my experience with fantasy style paid off. All the work was very interesting and it was very much enjoyable even though it was hard work. I worked on the principle one illustration per day. Now I am working on a new game and I am doing a lot of sketches and variations of one creature, while the client prescribes the lore and mythology behind the game's world.
Now that Gloomhaven's been released all over the world, is there anything you wish you would've altered in your art before production?
When the game was released, we immediately began to make add-ons and Founders of Gloomhaven game in the same world. I had almost no time to think that I wanted to change. Probably every artist would like to change his art after some time when he grew up as an artist. Probably I would like to spend more time on each illustration and make them even better and more realistic.
How has Gloomhaven's success impacted your career and you as an artist? Has it been all good? or are there downsides as well?
I think the overall success of the game influenced me well. I heard a lot of good reviews, it is always very nice and motivates me to draw. More people signed up on my Instagram. There are more orders for board games from indie authors. But I think this is both a plus and a minus, I would like to be engaged in projects in other styles as well. It's busy but for relaxation I most often play on my PC or PS4. I would really like to work on such games as Dishonored, TES or Deus Ex.
What are your next steps in your career? Are there any exciting developments in the works that you'd like to share with us?
I have a lot of good work now. Recently, I made the backgrounds for a project I have been working for a long time and I will finish it soon, I hope it will be interesting and will please the players. You can check some updates on Kickstarter. And as I mentioned before, I started working on a new desktop project that will be very diverse and amazing in illustrations, I vouch for this.
And lastly, what is your dream project?
I dream to draw my comics and make the game in cyberpunk style. The working title is Entropy Hunter. You can follow the tag #entropyhunter on instagram and see the concepts that I've been drawing in recent years. I draw them less often, but I try not to throw away the idea. This genre is not very popular and it is not often possible to find inspiration in games, movies or music for this, but major sources such as Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and Akira become truly cult with time. I hope that I can do something similarly successful in the future.
Thank you for reading!
#Heaven & Ale - You move any number of spaces around the main board and generally select a monk or ingredient to add to your playermat. The left side of the playermat is the "light" side and you pay twice the value of the selected resource (from 2-10 'ducets') and place that resource. The right side of the map is the "dark" side and you pay the value of the resource and place it. The Dard side of the playermat will generate money when triggers and the light side will improve the quality of your ingredients when triggers. The choice the player makes deciding what to pay and which side of the playermat to place the ingredient/monk is one of my favorite among all my games.
#Gloomhaven - Each turn players select two cards in their hand to use. They will use the top action on one and the bottom action on the other. The vast array of situations this creates in the game is challenging to create clear context for, but I will try. Sometimes you end up using the top/bottom actions you choose and it works perfectly and you crit for a phenomenal round. Other times another player does something you didn't expect or the AI draws a card that makes you flip the top/bottom actions you thought you'd use. other times you are forced into a basic move, basic attack and can't use your abilities. I am still amazed at how well balanced this game is and the dynamic the top/bottom choice creates.
#Anachrony - There is a one off action in this game (often taken late in the game) called an "escape" action. You only get to use it once and if the capitol collapses before you take your escape action you miss out. I like this actions in Anachrony because you can take it anytime after the impact tile is flipped and because of the variable points a faction can obtain and because each factions action is somewhat assymetrical. The action gives each faction a 'directive' or goal to aim for if the player chooses, but I like that you don't have to take it and can win other ways as well.
#Spirit Island - The 'mechanic' I like in this game has to do with how the game operates. When you play a card there are symbols on every card. Some cards have one some have several symbols. Spirits have 'powers' that are inate is certain symbols are present after all cards are played. However, a symbol can only be used for once, never shared for multiple powers. The innate abilities are extra actions players get to take inaddition to teh cards they play (1-3) that make the spirit's turn more powerful. There is a certain satisfaction from playin a turn and having each spirit not only play their cards but also trigger multple innate actiosn through the symbols. Sometimes you can feel like the invaders are about to win and suddenly have a rounds that works with such sweetness you are able to collectively wipe out most or in some cases ALL the invaders.
#Viticulture: Essential Edition - The Grande worker. If you are familiar with worker placement and an action space being taken up by another worker with no recourse once taken then the value of a Grande Worker is fantastic - being able to have one worker that you can place on any space even if the actions spaces are full. I've seen this copied in other games (Tiny Epic Dinosaurs). I love worker placement games and the Grande worker makes these games better!
What are your favorite mechanics/actions in a game and why?
Two of the biggest, grandest board games ever made. Two of my all time favorite board games. Two games occupying a similar space in a collection- at least from afar. This article will attempt to compare and contrast these two behemoths, as well as hopefully demonstrate why they are both so beloved by the board gaming community (and by me!).
Darth Vader with a squad of elite Stormtroopers and an elite Deathtrooper chase down some Rebel operatives.
I’ll start by painting a broad picture of how the two games are similar, before diving into what makes the two games unique.
At their very most basic level, Imperial Assault and Gloomhaven are both party-based dungeon crawlers with an overarching story campaign and scenario-based gameplay. Both games feature player characters that earn experience and level up over the course of the game, earning new abilities and becoming more powerful. Both games have extensive amounts of items for players to acquire and equip, further enhancing and specializing their characters.
Scenario set up and management of special scenario rules are also very similar between the two games. In each case, one player is allowed to read the scenario book and is responsible for set-up and reading the rules to the other players. Most scenarios in both games have special events that take place after certain triggers are met (End of Round 1, this door opened, etc) furthering the story of the scenario and the overall campaign.
Our valiant mercenaries escorting a warrior on his quest for vengeance.
The two games even utilize similar modular map boards that fit together to form unique maps for each scenario. The map pieces are interesting and varied and combine to form a multitude of exciting places to adventure.
Unfortunately, both games also share a penchant for loads of tokens and components. Damage counters, item cards, skill cards, enemy tokens, traps, doors, etc. The amount of things to keep track of can definitely be overwhelming. Fortunately Gloomhaven has numerous third party apps to help manage the AI, health, experience, and money. And Imperial Assault has its own app-assisted campaign too.
So, we’ve examined the facets of the two games that are similar and now we are all convinced that these are the same games. Right? Wrong! Let’s dig into what separates the two games.
One of the most visually obvious differences between the two games: hex-based maps in Gloomhaven versus grid-based maps in Imperial Assault. A simple difference, but a fundamentally important one, especially when it comes to gameplay.
Hex-based maps in Gloomhaven present interesting tactical combat possibilities.
For games that feature tactical combat, positioning and the shape of the map have a large impact on the game. I’m not here to argue about which system is better - frankly, they both work well - but it’s a significant difference with a dramatic impact on how the game plays.
One of the largest differences between the two games is how attacks are calculated. Imperial Assault uses a tried and true custom dice solution to determine accuracy, damage, and special abilities. Gloomhaven uses attack modifier decks to determine damage. Both systems are excellent.
The cool part of the Gloomhaven approach is that you can add or subtract cards from your attack modifier deck as your character grows more powerful in order to manipulate the odds in your favor.
The cool part of the Imperial Assault approach is that each weapon you acquire lets you roll different combinations of dice. Some weapons deal more straight damage while others are more likely to produce symbols that let you use special abilities. This approach gives characters a great chance to specialize and feel more powerful as the campaign progresses.
Beyond obvious physical differences are some significant differences in how the games actually play. Imperial Assault is a free-wheeling thematic game that encourages you to take risks and - for lack of a better way to put this - play out cool Star Wars stories using your characters.
Gloomhaven, on the other hand, rewards careful, thoughtful play of your cards each round. In Gloomhaven, each character starts with a hand of cards. This hand represents your abilities but it also represents your stamina. As you use abilities each round you either discard or lose these abilities. Discarded cards can be recovered by resting but even resting still forces you to lose one card. This puzzle creates many interesting and challenging decisions. Do you use that powerful loss ability to escape a tough scrape early in the scenario, knowing that it’ll be gone until the end? Or do you try and save it for an even worse situation? It’s this rewarding hand management aspect that sets Gloomhaven apart. This puzzle part is also something that leads many to declare that Gloomhaven is actually a Euro game hiding in a dungeon crawler’s clothes. I don’t necessarily agree with this sentiment.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I failed to talk about a few extra factors. Imperial Assault is a Star Wars product. Something about moving these minis around just calls to me and my inner child. Fantasy Flight really did an amazing job with this game. Just look at how cool it is:
If those awesome minis don’t get you excited... go watch Clone Wars Season 7 or The Mandalorian and get back to me.
Also, the legacy aspects of Gloomhaven are incredible. The thrill of opening one of those new character boxes is sublime. Progressing the story is a wonderful feeling of uncovering a mystery. Fighting against so many different enemies keeps the game fresh almost every time you play. Leveling up unlocks new cards to mix and match and makes you excited to dive back into your next scenario.
At the end of the day both of these games are incredible and I am so happy to have them as part of my collection. They are similar in many aspects but also totally different. And totally worth your time!
Thanks for reading!
[Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles Expansion, Gloomhaven, Founders of Gloomhaven]
[Viticulture: Essential Edition, Heaven & Ale, Gloomhaven, Spirit Island, Anachrony]