Welcome back as we take another look at a Frosthaven starting class, today focusing on the Aesther Boneshaper. Boneshapers are Aesthers who use their ability to draw energy from other planes to animate the dead on this one. With an army of undead servants at their disposal, they are a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.
Playing a Boneshaper is reasonably complex (it’s considered a medium-complexity class in Frosthaven). Everything they do revolves around summoning and managing summons. As summons use monster AI to perform their turns automatically, a Boneshaper (and their allies) needs to be familiar with how that system works to effectively predict what their summons will do, as well as what the monsters will do (which will in turn affect the summons’ actions).
To borrow some terminology: playing a Boneshaper is a bit like playing your own personal engine-building game. Building up to an effective horde of summons is setting up the engine. Once you’re there, you need constant input to keep the engine running, but while it’s going, your effectiveness is rarely matched. That being said, a Boneshaper’s life will never be as simple as just deciding they want some enemy dead and then attacking it.
What does a Boneshaper provide with their engine? Well, a bit of everything. They deal damage, toss out healing, debuff enemies, buff allies, absorb some hits with their summons, and generally just take up any space the party leaves them. As you level-up, you’ll have the option to specialize further in some of these directions while leaving others behind, or you can just choose to keep yourself well-rounded.
As the Boneshaper needs summons to function, let’s take a look at what they have access to at level 1.
These are the core of what they do in a scenario. Unlike other summons, when these summons die, they can be brought back again and again… You’ll start most fights by setting up anywhere between one to three of these cards. The more pressure you’re under, the sooner you need to turn the corner from summoning to commanding your summons to fight. And remember: these summons taking hits is not an issue. They can ultimately absorb damage for you and your party quite efficiently - it’s just best if you can try to set them up to get a couple of attacks in first.
The Wraith is another excellent level 1 summon, although this one cannot be brought back, so you’ll need to be more careful with how you position it. An attack value of one may not seem like much, but with a range value of three it’s likely to be able to attack during every round of combat, adding up to a significant total of damage. Of course, if many of the enemies in the scenario are shielded, these attacks will be mostly useless and you’re better off without the Wraith in that scenario.
Aside from your summons, this is almost certainly your most valuable level 1 card. Most of your summoning costs health and being able to recover a significant amount helps to guarantee you can rebuild your engine in the future, if necessary. And more importantly, the value of fast initiative cannot be overstated on a Boneshaper. Going before the monsters in a round isn’t just a single turn but the turns of every one of your active summons, often resulting in a huge swing in the outcome of a fight.
Let’s take a look at a sample level 1 hand:
You may find that trying to manage an entire horde of summons at once isn’t for you or that the board is simply too crowded with your melee allies. In that case, you can look to take Unearthed Horror for its summon at level 2. Like the Wraith, this is another summon that only gets one life, but it packs quite the punch while also requiring minimal space. If you go down this path, you’ll want to look for more actions that command your summons (like level X’s Approach Oblivion’s bottom action or Wrath of the Turned Earth’s top action) and actual summon actions.
On the other hand, if your party is mostly frail and often leaves your skeletons to take the hits, you can lean into using your skeletons to tank with the level 3 card Putrid Cloud’s bottom action. With that active, enemies will poison and kill themselves on your summons while you keep bringing them back, making you an effective tank for the party in a roundabout way. In that case, anything that summons, that helps to keep your summons alive, or that heals you (to allow you to keep summoning) will be invaluable.
The Warden’s Robes are perfect for any type of Boneshaper. Having shield 2 on demand for one of your summons will frequently be the difference between life and death for that summon, which then translates into another round of attacking or at the very least another hit absorbed by that summon.
Crafting early items:
Given that you rarely attack, you don’t need an offensive weapon and a supportive tool like the Protective Scepter can help to keep your summons or your allies alive.
If you feel you’re constantly falling behind, you can make some Crude Boots, and if not then a pair of Flexible Slippers will quickly pay for themselves.
For potions: Most offensive or defensive potions won’t provide you with much value so you can hand them off to your allies. On the other hand, healing or recovery can both be quite valuable to you, so be on the lookout for anything of that nature.
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