This article was first published in the April issue of Parallel Worlds.
Friend of Parallel Worlds, Isaac Childres, is at it again. Not content with the barnstorming success of Gloomhaven, this month he’s crowdfunding a new game: Frosthaven. We caught up with him to find out what it’s all about.
Hi Isaac, thanks for stopping by. Ok, so let’s jump straight in… Give us the pitch on Frosthaven!
Frosthaven is the giant sequel to Gloomhaven. It will feature the same core gameplay — running into dungeons, using ability cards to perform actions, fighting automated monsters and trying not to become exhausted in the process — but it will be an entirely new campaign of over 100 scenarios, with sixteen new character classes, over 30 new monster types, and over 100 new items. It will also feature a host of new mechanics like crafting, town building, and a calendar of seasons.
So how does it relate to Gloomhaven? Can you carry adventuring parties and characters over from one to the other?
The story is set not long after the events of Gloomhaven — maybe a year or two. It is a sequel, but it’s more like an Marvel Cinematic Universe sequel — the Thor to Gloomhaven‘s Iron Man. You don’t have to be familiar with the Gloomhaven story to enjoy this game, as the events stand entirely on your own. If you have played Gloomhaven, though, you will spot some connections and be able to pick up on a couple of loose threads. Because it is a whole new game, though, it does require a new adventuring party.
Will there be a back-compatible element? Let’s say, taking new characters from Frosthaven back into your Gloomhaven games?
Yes, character classes are backwards- and forwards-compatible. You can use classes from Gloomhaven in Frosthaven, and you can use Frosthaven classes in Gloomhaven. You’ll also have access to items you’ve unlocked in Gloomhaven on a limited basis, and some monsters from Gloomhaven will carry over into the new game, including everyone’s favourite: Oozes. We’ll be introducing new battle goals that are also backwards-compatible, and you can mix them up with the original game’s battle goals if you would like, too. Also there will be a new set of random dungeon cards that combine with the old set. Lots of compatible stuff!
Let’s be honest, Gloomhaven was one massive box of stuff. How will Frosthaven compare in terms of number and type of components?
We’re shooting for something of a similar size and scope — maybe even a little bigger with the new mechanics that are being added. But, yeah, with all those characters and monsters and quests, we’re definitely looking at something on that scale. There’ll be a lot more sticker sheets, too, with all the buildings that you can construct in town. A lot of them will be locked at the start and hidden in envelopes, so there will be a lot of those, too. We are also featuring lots of new map tiles with different shapes and new terrain types. There’s an outdoor snowy terrain, and then also a dark metallic terrain type used for mysterious purposes.
We like the sound of ‘mysterious purposes’. You’re taking this out to Kickstarter, so we guess there will be the opportunity to unlock extra contents to go in the box. Can you tell us a little about your intentions for stretch goals?
We’ve actually decided to not do stretch goals for the project. Stretch goals certainly make sense in a lot of cases because of the economy of scale — the more people who back your game, the cheaper you can manufacture it for, so the more money you have to throw toward extras. When you get up into printing tens of thousands of copies, which is what we are looking at from the start, that scale drops off. So rather than manufacture the thrill of stretch goals and hold additions to the game hostage behind arbitrary numbers, we are just committed to putting every single good thing into the box from the start. And we are going to have a good time during the Kickstarter with all sorts of exciting announcements — guest designers, contests, other cool stuff — and other community participation events.
You have released a supplement that expanded the original Gloomhaven, so why change direction and release a whole new game instead of an expanding line of supplements?
Well, Frosthaven has actually been planned since long before Forgotten Circles came onto the scene. Gloomhaven has always been my vision of giving people everything they would ever need to play a big, epic game, no expansion necessary. I wasn’t ever interested in nickel and diming people on an extended line of smaller supplementary products. Gloomhaven was it, and then Frosthaven would be the next giant thing once you were done with that. What I realised, though, was that people were getting through Gloomhaven far faster than I expected, and there was a certain level of hard-core fan clamouring for something else. That’s when Marcel, the designer of Forgotten Circles came to me with his idea, so I let him run with it. Forgotten Circles was meant to just tide people over until Frosthaven came along.
Are you doing something with Frosthaven that you couldn’t do with Gloomhaven?
Cephalofair Games has definitely learned a lot of things in the past four years. We’ve gained a lot of experience, a lot of contacts, and, frankly, a much bigger budget to work with. So in terms of what I couldn’t do with Gloomhaven, that is the main thing. Just using all of those things we’ve gained to make a higher quality product: higher quality art, higher quality writing, higher quality miniatures. I also had to limit the scope of Gloomhaven somewhat just in terms of what I could feasibly do in a reasonable amount of time, but I can also now widen the scope for this project. That is why we’ve brought in town building and crafting — two things that enhance any roleplaying game they are added to.
Who have you got doing the artwork for the project?
Alexandr Elichev is still the main artist for the game, as he was for Gloomhaven. He did the box art, all the character and monster portraits, as well as items and resources. We’ve also brought on Francesca Baerald to do the maps and stickers for us, and they are truly phenomenal. And David Demaret is doing the scenario map tile artwork. Josh McDowell is doing most of the preliminary graphic design on the project for us, though we will probably end up using a number of great graphic designers in the end.
You mentioned a calendar of seasons. How will that affect gameplay?
Yes. It is mainly tied to seasonal specific events, but many things can be limited by the season — so that certain scenarios are only accessible in summer, or have extra penalties in winter. That is all I will say, though.
Gloomhaven has had a spin-off and crossed platforms into the realm of computer gaming. Have you any plans to do this with Frosthaven?
Yes, we are talking with Asmodee Digital and Flaming Fowl about Frosthaven, as well. The basic dream is that any content created for the board game will eventually make its way to the digital platform as well.
We are big fans of Gloomhaven, and we’re now really excited by the direction that Frosthaven is taking. Can you tell us how long we are going to have to wait to get a massive box through our door?
We are looking at early 2021 for delivery. The plan is to finish up development and get all the files to the printer by the end of September this year, and then of course go through the long process of proofing all the files, making sure everything’s executed correctly, then printing and shipping — which all takes a significant amount of time.
Wow, that’s a lot to be thinking about. Do you have a go-live date for the Kickstarter?
We’ll be launching March 31st, so I hope everyone comes and enjoys the wild ride that will ensue.