Today at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, Isaac Childres, owner of Cephalofair Games and creator of Gloomhaven held a panel with Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower to reveal a bevy of details about the full-blown sequel to the #1 board game on BoardGameGeek. Enough with the preamble – lets forge ahead and dive in.
What is Frosthaven?
Frosthaven is the “big-box” sequel to Gloomhaven (a game we’ve discussed on this site so many times its hard to link just one podcast, so here is the article Tom Awesome wrote about our session) set to release on Kickstarter on March 2020, with a release “less than a year” from that, according to Childres – with the aim being early 2021. Childres states early on that a player wouldn’t have to play Gloomhaven to pick up this game and that the learning curve will be similar to starting the original game (which is widely regarded as being quite unforgiving).
Frosthaven will release with a new campaign containing around 100 scenarios (Gloomhaven has 95), 16 new character classes, all new items and item mechanics, enemies, status effects – basically every aspect of the game is being tweaked and iterated upon in order to improve upon the experience. The gist of the game is the same mechanically – scenario driven,
The game is named after the outpost of Frosthaven, an almost destroyed area to the north of the capitol of White Oak, or to the Northwest of Gloomhaven and the board from the original game. Frosthaven serves as the new hub for this game – with your band of adventurers leaving Gloomhaven after the resolution of the main questline of the original game to try to stabilize the barren, hostile northern reaches.
What Are the New Classes?
The starting six classes of Frosthaven are, according to Childres, more complex than the starting six for Gloomhaven. A focus was that each class needs to manage a specific type of resource in order to effectively manage their actions. The characters are available for demos at PAX Unplugged, and one intrepid fan was able to grab some pictures of the character placards and ability decks here and here.
A familiar face that was initially announced to be included in the starter set Axe of the Lion (due September 2020), the Necromancer was removed because summoning is a bit too complicated to manage for players learning the game.
However, summoning for the Necromancer (and other characters with summons in Frosthaven) is slightly different – when a summoned minion (which are called Shambling Skeletons and are on two Lvl 1 cards) is defeated on the battlefield, the card used to play the summon isn’t lost as it was in Gloomhaven, it is only discarded. This means the summons can be cycled back through after the next rest, which makes summons much more versatile. However, the Necromancer does spend their own health to play out summons. Thankfully, the majority of the abilities the Necromancer has access to quite a few healing abilities, both for self and for allies.
Human Banner Spear
Fulfilling the all-important role of tank for a first level party, the Bannerspear is a melee-focused class, with a few ranged attacks peppered in there for good measure.
Similar to the Necromancer, her summoned character, her hawk, also isn’t lost after being removed from play, so after a rest it can be deployed again. And this plays an important role in the Bannerspear’s new schtick that she brings to the table: Formation attacks. Similar to Gloomhaven, this character has attacks that will hit multiple hexes, labeled in red on the card) while she must occupy the grey space. However, with formations, now allies need to also reside within green hexes in order to complete the attack (or add bonuses).
The favorite of all Gloomhaven classes for one of the main playtesters for all versions of the game (according to Childres), the Deathwalker’s main purpose is to ferry newly deceased souls onward to the great beyond.
In the game, this is represented by putting out shadow tokens on the board after an enemy is killed. These shadows will give the Deathwalker benefits as well as the ability to manipulate them to negatively affect enemies (which sounds quite similar to that of the Diviner’s rifts in the Forgotten Circles expansion).
As the Drifter’s name suggests, self-sufficiency is the key for this class. The main mechanic he has is that his actions will recharge persistent abilities he has out in play. For instance, if we think back to the bottom ability on the Brute’s Juggernaut card, each time the Brute is hit, he wouldn’t take damage and would cover up one of those spaces. The Drifter’s recharges would allow him to remove those tokens in order to get more uses of that ability – super cool!
Quatryl Blink Blade
This bad boy is all about time manipulation. The Blink Blade is “similar to the Flash” in Childres’ own words, using the contraption on his wrist to speed up or slow down time.
This guy has two initiative values and many of the actions on the cards then have a fast and slow variant – if the player chooses to use the faster initiative, they remove a counter off of a tracking card and can then do the Fast actions and activate at the faster initiative. If not, he uses the Slow column, which is a very intriguing new mechanic.
For the uninitiated, the Harrowers are an enemy class from Gloomhaven that isn’t really a singular entity as much as it is a collective of thousands of bugs to make up one hive mind. Well, except for the Geminate (think Gemini), which is a collective that formed two opposite consciousnesses.
In the game, the player actually plays this character with two separate hands of seven cards each and performing different actions cause the player to swap between the two hands/personas. One is more melee focused, while the other is a ranged spellcaster. Childres admitted this is probably the most complicated character to play, but seems like a high risk, high reward option and something that would have an experience player salivating.
What Are the New Races?
Three new enemy and playable races were announced, while another enemy-only race was confirmed along with two other undead enemy types.
The Algox are a yeti-tized cousin species to the Inox – a bit bigger and a lot hairier, the Algox are actually split across Snow and Ice types that don’t quite get along (an element that will factor into a portion of the main quest).
Meanwhile, the Lurkers will return with new species native to the frozen north, including a class that will be playable as well – Childres said they communicate telepathically so that is how they would be able to communicate with their more civilized compatriots in the mercenary band.
The third image is of a new species that wasn’t named in the presentation which are robotic constructs that roam in barren areas for unknown reasons. As Tom Vasel put it in the presentation, whoever designed that one must have had a bad step on a d4 in their day.
And it wouldn’t be a Gloomhaven game without some undead creatures and some pesky bears to deal with. The Living Doom (as Childres said “the most powerful undead”) and the Frozen Corpse (think of it as an Algox cosplaying as a White Walker from Game of Thrones). But, these guys don’t just look cool (see what I did there) and hit hard, they also bring new status effects into play.
The Frozen Corpse has the ability to cause Brittle to characters, which means the next time that character gets hit, they will suffer double-damage (and invariably the x2 card will also come up at that point causing QUADRUPLE damage)! The Living Doom on the other hand has access to the new Bane status effect. Once a creature has Bane attached, they have until the end of their next turn to heal and remove it – if not, the creature receives 10 damage!
This was a big point that Childres wanted to make a point of as this effect specifically is there to fix some of the abilities in Gloomhaven that allow characters to instantly kill monsters, which causes issues with balance in that those abilities make it too easy to take down some of the more beefy foes. Two other key points on status effects – a) Regenerate (which was introduced in Forgotten Circles) will make a return, which allows a character that hasn’t taken damage to heal on each turn until they take damage; and b) these new status effects will also be available to the character classes as well, so it does cut both ways.
And it wouldn’t be the north without a polar bear (apparently floating on a chunk of ice). If these are as frustrating to manage as the Cave Bears from O-G Gloomhaven. There is also a new enemy-only race called the Abbisal (not sure of the spelling as it was only said) – which is a race of Fishmen that are led by the Fish King (the pescatarian fast-food magnate of the northern coast).
That’s Probably All That Is New, Right?
Oh no! We haven’t even touched on some of the biggest changes in Frosthaven. There are a few different systems that have been completely overhauled.
The loot system is no longer just to earn gold. Instead, a new loot deck will be created for each scenario and will include resources (wood, stone, metal, etc.), herbs, other items/treasure on top of gold. When a token is looted from the board, the player then draws a loot card from the stack and gets those materials. All of these items can be used for…
This is one of the main systems Childres wanted to build into the game system (which shouldn’t be surprising seeing as how he got his start with Forge War). All of those materials the players collect in-scenario can be used to then craft new-to-Frosthaven items and weapons in the town, while the herbs can be used to create new potions (some of which might do more harm than good). However, the party will only have limited options until they pool together some of those hard-earned resources with some…
That’s right, the party is tasked with using their power to rebuild the destroyed outpost of Frosthaven. Once the players meet certain prerequisites and have the resources to pay, they can build new buildings in the town, unlocking an armorer or alchemist that will give them more options for crafting and defending the town. Once they purchase the upgrade, the party will then place stickers down to actually rebuild the town on the game board.
As mentioned before, the players need to also be concerned with rebuilding the walls and other defenses around the outpost. The reason for this is because…
Winter is Coming!
The north is a dangerous and barren place! In fact, Childres mentioned that once winter sets in, the one path through the mountains that allows people to get to Frosthaven (as seen by the winding trail through the Southwest of the Copperneck Mountains above) freezes over in the winter not allowing anyone to get in nor out.
This change of seasons will be evidenced in the implementation of a calendar to keep track of the time that passes throughout the campaign. As players complete scenarios (or a series of linked scenarios), time will pass. After about fifteen of these passages, the season will change from mostly terrible Summer to untenable Winter.
To reflect this passage of time in the campaign, there will be separate Summer and Winter decks for both Road and City events. Per Childres’ admission, none of the Winter events are good. And, the party better hope that they focused enough resources on rebuilding the defenses of the town or it may be overrun by any number of the baddies we’ve outlined above and probably don’t know about yet.
But Wait, There’s More!
On top of those broader changes, tweaks have been made to many of the other underlying systems from the original game. The retirement goals are being reworked into a system that accommodates for the types of opportunities the mercenaries will have access to as the campaign develops. The deck will start out relatively small and as areas are unlocked and milestones are met, more will get added to the deck as they become achievable – which addresses one huge gripe about the original game.
The Battle Goal cards (that allow players to earn perk checkmarks) are also getting a revision to provide more balance, variety, and opportunities for players. Alongside this, a new puzzle design is being implemented in response to the general disdain/frustration with the abstract and obtuse nature of the puzzle in Gloomhaven.
The scenario progression changes from the Forgotten Circles expansion is also getting a slight retooling to make it more user friendly. The one cool innovation made with the expansion was adding the unlocked areas in a scenario onto separate pages/sections of the campaign book so as to maintain more of a surprise element.
However, the biggest drawback to this in the expansion was that the dungeon tiles, enemies, and obstacles needed for these unlocked areas were not listed. This meant that mid-scenario, usually multiple times, you’d have to dig back through the box to find what would be needed, slowing down the game at a point when it hurts the most – during the ramp up to the conclusion. To fix this, the scenarios will now have a full manifest at the start to help smooth out these transitions.
I’m sure I missed more than a few things and as PAX Unplugged progresses, more and more information will probably come to light. However, I for one, as a huge fan of the original, am even more excited for the next entry in the series now that we have a slew of more details on Gloomhaven 2: Frozen Boogaloo!