Why I’m Excited About Frosthaven

March 16, 2020

Why I’m Excited About Frosthaven

I feel like I’ve been talking about this a lot, but, ahead of the Kickstarter launch, I wanted to get into all the cool stuff in Frosthaven and why I put it in there. Hopefully this will be somewhat succinct, but we’ll see what happens.

So let’s start at the beginning, though it’s hard to remember exactly where that is. It feels like ever since I created this world, I wanted to play in it as much as possible. Gloomhaven was just the beginning, and when I thought about other dangerous, wild places, the northern coast immediately came to mind. It felt perfectly natural that we would explore there next.

Since I started designing Gloomhaven, I’ve had ideas on how to expand the mechanics of the system. Stuff from other board games, Kickstarter backers’ suggestions, video games, and my own weird brain. Stuff that would have been cool in Gloomhaven, but I just had to draw the line somewhere or it would never get done. Stuff that ultimately just made more sense and would have more import in this cold, northern region.

One of these things is the new seasonal events and restrictions. I remember when I was first developing Gloomhaven, I had certain scenarios in the campaign that you only had a limited time to complete. You know, like, the demons are attacking the city, and you can’t just go do other stuff for a month and then come back and defeat them. If you didn’t engage with that scenario immediately, something would happen, and it would no longer be available.

These circumstances were more thematic, but they just didn’t feel good mechanically. It was just one more thing you had to keep track of, and coming up with good repercussions for ignoring timed scenarios without it just feeling like an arbitrary punishment was difficult. It just wasn’t important enough to keep in the game, but it stayed in the back of my head and reemerged on Frosthaven.

But I came at it from a different angle. The passage of time wasn’t as important for annoying people with timed scenarios, but would be important for tracking seasons, which would carry far more weight in a cold part of the world.

I decided the best thing to do, for simplicity, would be to split the passage of time into two seasons, which the campaign will cycle through. The game will start at the beginning of summer, where things will, of course, still be cold and miserable. But you’ll encounter events generally on par with events from Gloomhaven. City events will, on average, be good for you, while road events will provide interesting encounters that are more likely to make the next scenario slightly more challenging.

Each time you return to town, though, time will pass. And once time passes 15 times, winter will begin. You will then switch both event decks out for decks of much nastier events. The town will be under constant attack, and venturing outside will become increasingly dangerous. Survive for 15 more passages of time, and summer will then begin anew.

The goal of this cycle is add more of an arc to the story. You’ll need to build up the town and prepare for this impending doom. Then, once it arrives, you’ll have to suffer through it, minimize the damage, and repair and build up your town even more the following summer.

And now that the system is implemented, it makes sense to then return to that original angle, at least a little bit. Some scenarios may only be accessible in certain seasons or for a limited time. It won’t be a constant annoyance of navigating the timing, but it’ll be present when it makes sense.

The other thing that made a lot of sense when I started to craft the story of Frosthaven was the idea that gold didn’t have a lot of value up in the north. The town is cut off from the rest of the world for most of the year, and you can’t exactly make weapons out of gold or burn it for warmth. No, raw resources – wood, metal, and hides – would be far more important. I knew I had to change the loot system.

Because it was important to gather more types of things than just gold, money tokens (or loot tokens) had to represent far more. And so it felt natural to create yet another deck of cards that would be drawn from when a token was looted. These cards would be an assortment of money (exchanged at the same rate as before) and other important resources, both building materials, and also herbs and even the rare random item.

What’s really cool about this is that, like other decks in the game, the deck of loot cards is customizable. If you’re fighting in a forest, you’re much more likely to find wood, whereas if you are in a mountain, your are more likely to find ore. Each scenario in the game will have a small loot chart that will tell you how to build that scenario’s loot deck.

This comes into play especially with the herbs. There are six herbs in the game, and they are very location-dependent. If you are looking for a specific one, you’ll need to go to a specific area to find it.

What do the herbs do exactly? And how do you use the resources you find to build the town (and items)? That’s a big discussion, and I’ve rambled on for quite a while already, so I think we’ll save that for the next post.

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