Sunday 10 January 2016

Batrep: Playing for keeps!


Last time, I described how I had scratch-built some magic portals.  These are needed for the Frostgrave scenario "The Keep".  Just before New Year, we had a chance to play this game with 4 players.  So, did the portals make a difference?  Read on to find out...

The Wizards

"Mysterio the Soothsayer" (me).  Even with some new hires, this band is smaller than I'd really like.

"Baryn the Timeless" (Chronomancer, AH).  A newcomer relying heavily on soldiers with big, chopping weapons

"The Great and Magnificent Peltar" (Enchanter, Steve).  An all-goblin warband with 4 thugs and 4 archers.

"Malcolm Firestorm" (Elementalist, AD).  The highest level (5?) wizard with the best equipped group.

So, we had 2 newcomers in this game (SteveH and his son, AH); I was scraping the barrel a bit to fill out their warbands, hence the various shapes and styles of the figure bases.


The heavily-ruined keep contains 4 portals.  These are all that remain of the building's magical transport system, but they have degraded with age and lack of maintenance.  If anyone stands on a portal then they'll be sent to one of the 4 portals at random.  A wizard who does this (once) will earn a modest number of experience points.

The Game

The game started predictably (if somewhat boringly) enough, with Firestorm's crew advancing and throwing bolts of magical energy at everything they could see.  Initially this was very successful, with both Ellie (the apprentice) and Firestorm himself scoring long-range kills on enemy soldiers.

Soon, all squads were advancing rapidly and trying to collect the treasures that were near them and contest those which were slightly further off.  A couple of notable incidents were:
  • Ellie, Firestorm's apprentice, tried to summon a demon.  In the past, this squad has dismayed and terrified opponents by successful magic in this area, so the rest of us breathed a collective sigh of relief when the spell failed.  However, A. then revealed that one of his soldiers had a "demon in a bottle" potion; this was deployed immediately and the resulting demon charged straight into the line of goblin archers.
  • A wandering owlbear appeared after someone picked up a treasure somewhere.  It came onto the table near Peltar's group and immediately attacked Nemo, his apprentice.

Things weren't all going Firestorm's way, though.  One of the goblin spellcasters (I forget whether it was the wizard or the apprentice) threw a handy grenade spell over the ruins into his apprentice's squad.  Most of the soldiers were saved by their armour, but Ellie, the apprentice, was knocked out.

Not only that, but the goblin archers recovered from their surprise over having a demon attack them from behind.  With a shout of "Get it, lads!", they all piled into the monster and pulled it down, though not before taking some wounds in the process.

Meanwhile, some of Peltar's halberdiers rushed in to help their beleaguered apprentice.  However, despite wounding the owlbear grievously, the enraged creature proceeded to chew through the humans after another.  This probably wan't helped by one of Mysterio's archers firing multiple arrows into the melee on the basis that anything he hit here was good!

Peltar, fed up with having his soldiers smoked by Firestorm's bolts, cast a Wall of Fog between the 2 parties to block line of sight.  As he did this, a new threat appeared behind Firestorm's party: a pair of ancient zombie warriors appeared close to the larger squad.

Those of Firestorm's second squad who had survived the Grenade spell now attacked Baryn's goblins.  The fighting here was intense and bloody as the goblins fought tooth and nail, but they were steadily cut down, apart from one desperate goblin who fought 3 humans to a standstill all on his own.

On all sides, some stout soldiers were dragging away chests and sacks of treasure, just to be on the safe side.

Incredibly, the shambling, fragile zombies laid out 3 of Firestorm's best soldiers before the wizard himself returned and incinerated one with mystical energy.  However, the elementalist was now badly hurt himself, reduced to 1 hit by a combination of miscasts, cutting himself to power spells and the odd arrow.

In the north, the last of Firestorm's warriors fought the last of the goblin soldiers.  In the interests of fair play (!), Mysterio cast a Blinding Light on the nearby goblin apprentice; all he could do was stagger about, disoriented, until the knight finished him off too.

After finishing off Peltar's apprentice and his bodyguards, the badly hurt owlbear staggered on.  It encountered one of Mysterio's soldiers in the rubble and charged at him angrily.  The fresh soldier hit the poor creature a hefty blow and killed it before it had a chance to strike him.

Eventually, one of the wizards stepped experimentally onto one of the magic portals.  I was beginning to think that this would never happen!
  • Mysterio was transported instantly to another location, though sadly this was nowhere near any action.
  • Firestorm, badly hurt, decided that discretion was the better part of valour and slunk off.
  • The goblin wizard, Baryn the Timeless, slew Firestorm's knight and then also decided to leg it with his last minion and some treasure.

Finally, all that was left on the table was Peltar, Mysterio and a couple of their bowmen; everyone else had fled, had left the table carrying treasure or was dead.

The 2 wizards advanced on each other, whilst their 2 archers exchanged futile arrows.  Their leaders flung magic at each other: Peltar's Steal Health struck home, but Mysterio's Blinding Light was resisted.

Despite his initial success, Peltar was afraid that the more experienced Mysterio would soon conjure up some more potent spell.  Rather than risk this, he strode forwards and smote the soothsayer an almighty blow with his staff.  Mysterio fell like a log and lay on the ground, unmoving.

At this, Mysterio's last archer turned and fled.  He was too smart to think that he could win when outnumbered 2 to 1!

Final Results

  • 4 treasures to Peltar.
  • 4 treasures to Mysterio.  Wizard badly hurt; must pay 100 gold or miss the next game.
  • 2 treasures to Firestorm.
  • 2 treasures to Baryn.
For the most part, casualties survived and recovered; there were relatively few dead.


This was an exciting game with some interesting use of magic.  Having said that, the previously-established wizards were notable for trying pretty much the same tactics as before.

I was disappointed at the various players' timidity in trying out the magic portals, but maybe this wasn't surprising.  After all, with 3 hostile bands, the odds of landing in the middle of a group of enemies was quite high!

Wandering monsters were infrequent, but performed well beyond expectations!  The owlbear (using the stats for a regular bear) and the pair of zombies between them accounted for 5 soldiers and an apprentice.  More to the point, they completely changed the outlook for the bands that they attacked.

Finally, beware goblins in numbers.  They may look weak and timid, but if they can swarm you then they'll tear you apart!


  1. That was awesome fun to read, even better to play no doubt!

    1. Thanks, dGG. There were some choice moments, for certain!

  2. Nice report and love all the adhoc warbands they all work so well despite the differing bases

    1. I'm painting up more figures all the time to try and fill some of these gaps, but the mismatched bases will be with me for a while longer, I think.

  3. That sounds like a fun game with lots of twists. That poor owlbear!

    1. Huh, the owlbear should have quit while it was ahead! It seemed to do much better after it was badly wounded; perhaps it got really, really enraged :-) ?

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, HW. That's 2 "cool" comments so far - which is quite appropriate when I consider the snow & ice setting!

  5. Very exciting bat-rep, four 'teams' seems to more than double the action ut it was a pity the transporter placements had little effect.

    1. Well, a 4-way battle does increase the number of possible targets considerably. I spent much of the game trying to balance things by interfering whenever one warband looked like it was gaining ground :-) .

  6. Reading this great report, I can start to feel my will power straining.

  7. As goblin leader, I mourn our King's passing today.

    The report brings back memories of a hard fought struggle in the snow.
    Multi-way combats worked well with both Frostgrave and Pulp Alley (Also reported here), bringin a degree of balance to what might otherwise have been unseemly brawls.

    Frostgrave provided a good skirmish - with Magic adding a sparkle to proceedings.

    Overall I preferred the more interleaved action sequence of Pulp Alley, but would happily play either game again.

    1. Thanks, Steve/Baryn the Timeless. I'm sure we'll play more of both Frostgrave and Pulp Alley, hopefully quite soon!