Spellcaster is the official magazine of Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago written by the author of both games (Joseph A. McCullough) and published via Wargames Vault. Issue 1 was available as a PDF only but issue 2 is available in both PDF and print on demand format and has had a fairly substantial graphic design makeover. I enjoyed the first issue so thought I would try out the print version this time as it was only slightly more expensive. Shipping for several books was fairly reasonable but did take nearly four weeks to arrive in Australia.
The print edition is A5 sized and contains 36 pages of contents with full colour photos and design elements throughout. The cover is fairly thick glossy card and the interior paper is reasonable quality but some of the internal colour has a slightly washed out approach, which I think is due to the printing technology used.
The issue opens with a two page editorial which explains the motivation between some of the articles and the decision to upgrade the production values.
The next ten pages cover the main feature of the issue – Dragons. Dragons are categorised into one of four age groups of increasing power – Young, Adult, Old & Ancient. Young dragons have high stats but not particularly outrageous (including F +5, A 14, W +6 and H 22) and can’t fly so shouldn’t pose too much of a problem to an experienced warband. Adult dragons take things up a notch stat-wise (including F +7, A 15, W +8 and H 26) but more significantly have a string of special abilities including flying, breath attacks, immunity to critical hits and horrific – amongst others. The rules recommend that Old or Ancient dragons be controlled by a gamesmaster or player as they have a lot of special rules and abilities which don’t make them suitable for the normal random encounter mechanics. Old Dragons have further stat and ability increase and also a large selection of spells with 8-12 casting numbers. Ancient Dragons have the highest stats in the game (including F +8, A 16!, W +14! and H 40) with a large variety of powerful abilities and spells with casting numbers 5-7 so are going to be very hard for even multiple experienced warbands to kill. If they do, killing and old dragon yields 100 experience and 8 treasure tokens and this increases to 300 and 20 (!) respectively for ancient dragons. The warbands are given a glimmer of hope through a randomised weakness table which might compromise one of the dragon’s defences. The article concludes with a scenario where two cooperating warbands sneak into the cavern of a slumbering old dragon and his minions as a three player game,
Following on from this is another ten page article covering the use of traps in Ghost Archipelago. When the optional traps rules are in use, any time a natural 1 is rolled for initiative that player selects any model on the table to be the victim of the trap and then rolls to determine the nature of the trap from a list of 20 available. The same rules can also be applied when collecting treasure and rolling a 1 for a random encounter. The list of traps are interesting and varied and fit in with the theme of Ghost Archipelago – I think my personal favourite is the Rolling Boulder! The article continues with a new Trapper specialist who increases the chances of other warbands springing a trap and then concludes with a trapped-filled solo scenario.
The next six pages cover, rather surprisingly, the adaptation of the Frostgrave rules for use in a sci-fi mech combat setting. The main rule changes are that once initiative is determined, players alternate activating individual mechs; mechs may shoot multiple weapons systems per shoot action and a special critical hits table replaces the standard damage rules. The article concludes with a two player scenario pitting two “Gunfighter” mechs against three “Lancer” mechs. I’ve got a pretty solid collection of 10mm scale mechs from various ranges including Reaper CAV and Heavy Gear Blitz so I found this an intriguing idea and something I’m keen to try but that’s not necessarily going to be the case for all Frostgrave players.
The Bridges of the Mal Dreath is a three page reprint of a scenario original printed in the Tabletop Gaming magazine issue 3. The scenario is played on a 4′ x 4′ table and has some quite specific scenery requirements including an island, moat and bridges. It also introduces a new undead monster, the Bone Bat.
Finally there is a two page Mailbox feature and a further two pages of previews called The Horizon. Some of the most interesting items from these features are a reassurance that the forthcoming Oathmark mass fantasy battles rules will not detract for the ongoing development of Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago; a set of design notes for the latest Ghost Archipelago supplement – Lost Colossus and names the next full-sized Frostgrave supplement – The Maze of Malcor.
Despite it’s diminutive size, this magazine packs in a lot of content and I think I would probably continue to purchase it in print format, although I’d want to manage the shipping costs by coinciding that with other print titles from Wargames Vault. Recommended.