Stats at a glance
Frosthaven is the long-awaited sequel to Gloomhaven, set in the northern area where harsh climates and monsters are a constant threat. You will form a group of mercenaries willing to help by fighting the monster, solving mysteries, and affecting how the outpost expands.
Frosthaven is one of the most exciting releases of 2022 and it brings a ton of gameplay to the table, as long as you’re willing to commit to the long-term campaign. Let’s dive into our Frosthaven review.
Brief Overview of Frosthaven
Frosthaven is an adventure game where 1 to 4 players take on a variety of challenges through a branching campaign that is divided into 138 scenarios.
It is completely independent of Gloomhaven so you don’t need to play the original to enjoy Frosthaven. However, those that have played Gloomhaven will love the character and item interchangeability between the two games.
Frosthaven is a complex game in the sense of the required effort and time it takes to complete. It’s also very expensive, so if you’re new to “Haven” games, start with Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. It’s a more contained experience with slightly simpler rules, and it’s significantly cheaper than the other two.
For Gloomhaven veterans looking for more content, Frosthaven is a real no-brainer. Frosthaven takes a lot from the original but does just enough differently mechanic-wise to make it a fresh experience.
Frosthaven has the largest game box I have ever seen and fans have already made jokes about it, with one showing their toddler comfortably sitting in the open box.
The components of the game are:
- 1 Map Board
- 1 Rulebook
- 2 Scenario Books
- 1 Puzzle Book
- 5 Sticker Sheets
- 1 Element Board
- 1 Punchable Campaign Board
- 1 Punchable Alchemy Board
- 4 Hit Point & Experience Dials
- 17 Character Miniatures
- 30+ Map Tiles
- 100+ Overlay Tiles
- 24 Plastic Stands
- 6 Monster Stat Sleeves
- 36 Personal Quests
- 40 Battle Goals
- 15+ Random Scenarios
- 250+ Tokens (Conditions, Loot, Damage)
- 50+ Monster Groups, Stat Cards, and Ability Decks
- 5 Attack Modifier Decks
- 160 Event Cards
- 30 Dungeon Cards
- 48 Loot Cards
- 200+ Item Cards
The running theme of this review will be “There’s just so much to cover!” and from the list of components you can really see why. So, rather than going through the components piece by piece and potentially spoiling something, I’ll cover everything in broad strokes and highlight the pieces worth mentioning in more detail.
Frosthaven comes with so many books, reference sheets, and other pieces of paper to either read or write on. What really matters with these components is print quality, paper quality, and the layout of text and illustrations. Frosthaven checks all the boxes and has a better and more readable layout than Gloomhaven books do.
Trays for tokens
The game board is an absolutely massive map of The Northern Coast. The art really gives off that medieval tapestry feel with decorative trees, shields, and banners on the sides.
The top half of the map depicts the region, with the small Frosthaven outpost in the center of it. It’s subtly divided into squares with markings on the top and right side to figure out the coordinates.
The bottom half of the map shows a closer view of the Frosthaven outpost with many gameplay-related elements perfectly merged with the artistic vision.
I’d go as far as to say that the Frosthaven game board is one of the best, if not the best looking board I’ve ever seen. And the best part is that this level of quality extends through all the components!
And then there are punchout boards… 27 of them to be precise! The art has significantly improved when compared to Gloomhaven and it really shines through especially when you consider that there are hundreds and hundreds of pieces here.
It’s the same story with cards — they’ve got solid quality and great artwork, and the same can really be said for all the other components.
The box includes a couple of organizers for tokens and a big organizer at the bottom for character packs and cards among others.
My overall impression of the components is very positive, and while the game price may be very high, I can also see where a lot of the budget went. However, there are several production errors and typos in the box, which I’ll address in the cons section of the review.
How to Play Frosthaven
To give you the best idea of what it’s like to play Frosthaven without spoiling the story, I’ll cover only the major concepts and mechanics of the game.
For those who just want the tl;dr — Frosthaven is kind of like DnD but instead of having a dungeon master, the game story is run for you by the game. You’ll level and gear up, fight monsters, complete quests, and expand the Frosthaven settlement to unlock more content.
Before you get to the gameplay, you’re supposed to read the “Welcome to Frosthaven” booklet and organize all the components as it instructs.
Once that’s done, it’s time to create your mercenary group! There are six character classes available at the start, with more appearing as the game goes on. The six available are divided into low, medium, and high complexity but they’re all equally effective in the game.
You’ll take the miniature or the standee, standees for allies, character sheet, tokens, the character mat, cards, etc. The character mat is used for tracking hit points and traits, while the character sheet is more similar to the DnD character sheet with levels, perks, and resources.
Cards represent character abilities and they’re level-locked. As your character becomes stronger, you’ll gain access to more cards and the ability to do some deck-building.
Every character has a personal goal and once they achieve it, they have to retire, revealing more of the story. The player can then pick another character and carry on with the campaign.
Lastly, you’re given a limited budget to buy equipment for your character. The game offers advice on which items to get depending on the class, but you can also roll with your own choices.
The campaign of Frosthaven can take over a hundred hours to complete, but at any point in time you’re playing self-contained scenarios.
Scenarios start with a setup phase where the map, monsters, and characters are placed on the board. The map will include traps, doors, obstacles, treasures, and anything else based on the scenario’s instructions.
The scenario is then played through a series of rounds until resolved, at which point you’ll deal with the aftermath and clear the table.
There are over 20 pages of the rulebook explaining all the nuances of scenario and combat mechanics, so you’ll have to forgive me for covering just the basics.
Frosthaven uses classic turn-based combat with initiative determining the play order. Monsters follow a set of targeting and attack rules while players perform two actions determined by action cards.
Concepts like the line-of-sight, targeting, range, area of effect, and others affect how the characters can move and attack. The attack itself involves summing up the attack bonuses and penalties, drawing an attack modifier, reducing the sum by the target’s shield, and applying the rest of the damage to the defender’s health.
The Concept of Time
A really cool feature of Frosthaven is the passage of time, which occurs after a scenario has ended. You’ll track the time on the campaign sheet calendar, but also write notes about future events and switch between the summer and winter periods.
Frosthaven being a small outpost struggling to survive isn’t just a coat of theme, but an actual set of mechanics in the game.
The outpost will be attacked during certain events, and the players will have to help in the defense. Buildings can be damaged, or wrecked beyond repair, triggering new events. The outpost can even grow when a character retires, expanding the possibilities.
Frosthaven is more like a saga than a one-shot campaign, and the characters will likely complete their goals before the overall plot is complete. This is considered a good thing and the player can now recruit a new character, possibly one that was locked at the start of the game.
Retirement brings benefits to the whole party and unlocks a “new game+” of sorts, where the subsequent characters can get a level head start.
Pros & Cons
- The Best Game in the Series
- Countless Hours of Fun
- A Memorable Experience
Gloomhaven has been one of the highest-rated games of all time since it came out, but Frosthaven might overtake it in the long run. From component design to the new mechanics, Frosthaven brings a set of innovations that significantly improved, or at the very least changed the experience.
With all the stickers and revelations, Frosthaven can be considered a one-and-done game, but it takes so long to complete that you’ll never think of it as an experience that wasn’t worth the money. You’ll need to spend months before you wrap up the entire campaign, at which point the game has more than paid for itself!
And this long-term investment into the setting, your characters, and the story you’ve built is what makes for a truly memorable experience that only a few board games have to offer.
- Very Expensive
- Highly Demanding
- Printing Errors
While Frosthaven has a lot to offer, it also charges just as much, being one of the most expensive board games out there. From what I’ve gathered, the price nearly doubled because of the increased shipping and manufacturing costs, combined with the extra content added along the way.
I cannot exactly criticize the game for the high price, but the issue is that you’ll be spending a lot of money on something that you may or may not like, and ultimately cannot resell.
This brings us to the second issue with the game, and that’s the initial effort and the time investment it requires. You need a dedicated party willing to sit down and play Frosthaven at least twice a month, or you’ll be at risk of forgetting what you were doing and cooling off on the whole game.
And lastly, we’ve got the printing errors that have occurred with several pieces of the first edition game. It’s a whole list of minor and more serious issues that can be found on the official website and should be reviewed before you even start the campaign.
Frosthaven Review (TL;DR)
Frosthaven is a standalone successor to the legendary Gloomhaven that offers a one-of-a-kind experience in the board game world. If you’re ready to embark on an epic campaign full of challenges, discovery, and memorable moments, get your friends together and group-buy this game!
If on the other hand, you like what you’ve seen of the game but have never played Gloomhaven before, I strongly recommend Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion as it almost feels like a demo in comparison to Frosthaven while being a great game in its own right.
With how busy my schedule is and the trouble finding a dedicated crew, my experiences with Gloomhaven, Jaws of the Lion, and Frosthaven were nowhere near as long as I wanted them to be.
I say this not as some excuse, but more as a cautionary tale — if you have doubts that you won’t have the time and dedication to play through Frosthaven, then I don’t think you should invest in it, especially with how expensive it is.
This is a real shame because the narrative of Frosthaven is exactly what I’d love to experience in full — a predefined, yet well-designed adventure game.
Like I’ve said a couple of times before — Jaws of the Lion is the way to go for all those that haven’t played Gloomhaven before. With its 20-some scenarios and streamlined mechanics, now that I look back on it, it almost feels like a demo in comparison to how grand Frosthaven is.
By the time you’re done with Jaws of the Lion, you’ll know whether or not you’re ready for the big leagues, while Frosthaven might enter a 2nd edition which will solve the current printing issues and potentially be cheaper.
We hope you enjoyed our Frosthaven review! Have you tried this epic board game before? What did you think about the pros and cons we mentioned? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.