Osprey Publishing’s Frostgrave is a dream made in lead and plastic for a certain kind of miniatures gamer. Each player only needs ten figures to take part: two wizards and an open-ended selection of fantasy archetypes to support them. It means you can be up and running in no time, with painted figures from any range you choose. The game is random but fast and fun and capable of building a thrilling narrative both in and between sessions. There’s just one problem: As well as those ten figures, you also need a ton of scenery.
Header image credited to toerymer (DeviantArt)
Fantasy buildings in miniature scale are not exactly hard to come by, but it can get expensive real fast. Most pieces are cast in resin and you can easily end up paying three figure sums for a collection big enough to fill a table. Some scenarios even ask for specific set-ups; A ten-inch, three floor wizard’s tower and an entire underground library aren’t going to be had on a budget.
If what attracts you to Frostgrave is the low overhead in terms of figures, this unusual need for scenery can be off-putting. But don’t be disheartened: Searching around can yield some very affordable options, as well as some super easy pieces to make at home.
One the best value selections I came across while trying to build my Frostgrave collection comes from a company called Spellcrow. They make a bunch of resin stuff including their own line of figures and conversion kits for miniatures from other manufacturers. Their scenery range is small, by contrast, but it’s well-priced and well-suited for the game. It’s also available from online retailers in Europe and the US.
Among their other pieces are objective markers for use in various games. Some of them, though, work very well as scenery too, if you put in a bit of effort. It’s enough to buy – or make – a big round MDF base for the piece. Stick one or more markers on as you see fit, and glue modelling sand and gravel to the rest of the base. Then paint it up. It makes a fantastic piece of rough ground and very appropriate for the ruined city of Frostgrave itself. Several of them on big bases will quickly eat up table inches. They will also serve as teleporter points or columns, as required by particular scenarios.
Image courtesy of Anatoli’s Game Room Blog
Speaking of making your own pieces, I also had a dig through my kids’ toy boxes. It’s easy enough to find model walls and fences and the like online. But often these are specially made for gaming or model railways and it’s priced as such. Toys tend to be cheaper and, with a little work, can look as good or better. If you do want to invest in railway scenery, “O” scale is closest to 25/28mm miniature scale.
Perhaps the most versatile object from which to make your own scenery is cardboard tubes. A chunky tube is probably the only option for making your own wizard’s tower, but that’s a time-consuming project. A much easier option is the six roofless huts required by the Haunted House scenario. Just cut three tubes in half and run a craft knife over the edges to make them look like tumbledown ruins. If you want a shop-bought alternative, there’s a wooden set made specifically for the game.
Another home-made option is statues; You need six of them for one scenario. For this I used a bunch of old, worn and broken metal miniatures. Mount them on wooden crafting cotton reels and paint the whole thing grey for a convincing ruined statute. Plastic cake pillars also make acceptable plinths and are good for columns or making your own scenery pieces too.
If you want pre-made columns, a popular, if pricey option is Games Workshop. It looks expensive, but it works out at good value in terms of the space it covers. The Arcane Ruins set contains a bunch of useful bits. For Frostgrave, you might want to mount each piece on its own base, rather than sticking them all together like the box image suggests. Their Ruins of Osgiliath set is particularly well suited to the game. You can often find resellers, particularly on auction sites, selling multiple set bundles for a discount. Some light conversion to make each individual piece stand out will soon fill your table.
Don’t confuse Osgiliath with the Ruins of Giliath range. This is part of a range called ‘OneUp modular terrain’ which interlocks or stands alone as you like. It’s a sensible price and has a lot of great pieces suitable for an ancient fantasy city. The same manufacturer makes some affordable pieces which fit in particular scenarios too. One calls for a well or fountain, and another for a six inch Mausoleum. The one they sell is a little small, but you can expand it to roughly the right size with the included tombs.
While these kinds of scenic pieces are great for the game, most aren’t that big. Frostgrave wants you to fill the table, so it’s tempting to get one or two big pieces for both visual effect and convenience. Resin or plastic kits, however, grow exponentially in price as they increase in size. The best budget alternative is vac-formed scenery.
This can be astoundingly cheap but isn’t easy to find. One of the few companies that makes pieces suitable for the game is the UK-based Amera. You need to be careful with what you pick, though. It’s hollow and made from sheets of plastic, which limits the useful shapes it can make. It’s also a bit flimsy. You can fill it with spray expanding foam, the sort usually used for DIY, to give it more rigidity, but that’s not strictly necessary.
Although not exactly scenery as such, a play mat is also very useful for Frostgrave. Not only does it look much better than bare table-top, but if you get a three-foot square one, it’s an easy way to delimit the play area. There are a range of vendors: the one in the photo came from gamemat.eu who are unusual in offering a range of double-sided neoprene mats. They’re good quality and come in a handy zip case for transport. There’s a “winter realm” mat which is ideal for Frostgrave but the one shown, ‘battleground’ is more multi-purpose.
With luck, this should have given you plenty of options for getting your game up and running with minimal time and effort. If not, fill any remaining space with cardboard terrain. It’s not as durable as resin or plastic, and it doesn’t look as good, although it still adds plenty of visual pleasure to your table. But it needs no painting and boy, is it cheap. You can buy a variety of useful pieces from Battle Systems. Or, for the ultimate budget table, you can download and print your own from Frostgrave‘s publisher.