Frosthaven is the sequel (but a standalone) to Gloomhaven, and as of writing this post has been recently announced, so we’re going to take a look at the Frosthaven Starting 6 classes, what the overview is, what their specialties are, and any speculation as to how these may be played (having seen the Level 1 + X cards, but never played them).
This post dives into the details of the starting 6 classes, but if you want a full overview of Frosthaven’s new mechanics, new monsters, the map, crafting, alchemy, and more then check out this full overview of Frosthaven.
One thing that I really must draw your attention to for these starting 6 classes is the remarkable increase in intricacy that they have! The designers are showing a steadfast amount of faith in the fan base and their attention to detail, as the rules for these classes (and by extension, the possibilities) are far more numerous than the starting 6 from Gloomhaven.
For context, this comes right after the announcement of Jaws of the Lion, which is designed to lessen the difficulty and therefore entice a more casual group of boardgamers into the Gloomhaven realm.
But this is not the case for Frosthaven!
There are classes with multiple initiatives, multiple action decks, shadows, persistent abilities, and more.
So let’s take a look.
Under the premise of heading North, away from Gloomhaven into the frigid (and frosty) tundra, it’s good to know that we’re taking the concept of raising the dead with us.
Our friend the Aesther Boneshaper will hold onto that piece of Gloomhaven posterity for us. And after the sheer volume of Living Bones we’ve felled in the original, it would surely do us a disservice to quit cold-turkey and only kill enemies that haven’t yet been dead at least once!
An Aesther (pronounced: ayy-ss-thurr) was once a human that suffered tragedy and had his/her soul scattered amongst the infinite planes that exist. They draw power from those planes, and (in the instance of our newly-discovered comrade here) use it to animate corpses and raise the dead to do their bidding.
Stands to reason that one of the primary focuses of this class is summoning.
But before you sigh and move on to the next section, allow me to spare you the anguish and reassure you that the mechanic around summons has changed in this instance.
They’re non-loss cards.
(well, most of them are…)
This means if they fall behind that’s not a problem. If they die real quickly, that’s okay.
There’s even more great news for the Boneshaper in Frosthaven! The summons are going to have standees that come in the character box! Your Shambling Skeleton is going to be an honest-to-Great-Oak member of the team that you can see and move, and weep for him when he gets killed immediately.
What makes the spammable summons slightly less spammable is the toll it takes on the Boneshaper’s health. In order to bring life to these dead corpses she must sacrifice a sliver of her own fragmented soul.
In more direct terms, it means “Suffer 2 damage” when you summon.
That may not come across as the biggest deal, but when you’re starting at Level 1 with only 6 Health it becomes a major consideration.
The Boneshaper is Jell-O level squishy, and needs health to do her thing, so you’re really going to need to park her in the back and make sure she’s not taking any hits at all.
Damage from attacks will mean no health to power the summoning, which will mean fewer options for actions and eventually more damage from attacks.
If you’re not careful your Aesther Boneshaper could fall into a vicious cycle.
Carrying all this in mind, I would like to present you with a curiosity surrounding the Boneshaper… there isn’t a lot of healing. More specifically, there isn’t a lot of self healing. That is going to make recovering from the whole raising-the-dead ritual reeeally difficult.
In the Level 1 + X cards there are two self healing cards, but both come with a catch – one is based on an enemy being killed that round and then the other is based on the number of allies you’ve summoned (which you need to lose 2 Health to do!).
The starting cards are nicely set up for a summoner though – quite a few really slow cards (good for summoning at the end of the round) and then a handful of initiatives in the 20s to give those zombies a chance to do what they’re gonna do before they get walloped.
The large hand size (12) will enable the use of persistent cards without exhausting really quickly because they aren’t played in regular circulation.
It’ll be interesting to see how many skeletons can actually be summoned in practice. We’ve already discussed the fact that the Boneshaper has a really low health pool, and that has to be reserved for summoning, but actually she’ll still be able to soak up a lot of damage indirectly through the zombie mob she’ll be producing.
This is definitely a class that is going to test your ability to manage health, avoid damage, and plan out your initiatives. It’s fixed a lot of the main functional problems that Gloomhaven summons have (falling behind, doing something stupid and then dying) by making them replayable, so you don’t lose them for the rest of the scenario.
Sidenote: Originally, the Boneshaper was actually called the Necromancer, and was a human… and was going to be in Jaws of the Lion… so it’s been a long road travelled for the Aesther/Human Boneshaper/Necromancer.
The creator(s) decided she was too complex for Jaws of the Lion, but Frosthaven already had a human starting class, and then “Necromancer” was a bit too cliché.
If all parties are amenable to the idea, perhaps there’s opportunity to park the Boneshaper in one corner and a Cultist in the other corner and have an undead battle royale.
That being said, I feel like it’s the only type of battle you’d see where 80% of the damage on the main combatants is self-inflicted…
Quatryl Blink Blade
The Quatryl Blink Blade is the next in our Frosthaven Starting 6, and is a small assassin kitted out with a suit of machinery that can alter the flow of time.
He can speed up or slow down time to make his actions incredibly quick, but it has to be done in short bursts, and therefore in moderation.
As a result of this newly introduced concept of speed manipulation there is a special rule for the Blink Blade.
He has two initiatives depending on whether he’s going fast or slow, and they dictate which actions on the card the Blink Blade can use (and the degree of effectiveness).
Confused? Buckle up.
The Fast actions are always better/more powerful, but you can’t use them consistently, eventually you’ll be forced to take the Slow action, presumably while the time manipulation suit recharges.
This is tracked through the use of counters – when you use Fast, you remove a counter from the card, when you use Slow you add a counter onto the card.
No counters left? No soup for you.
Isaac isn’t going to let you stockpile a whole bunch of sonic-speed-go-go juice for the first half of the scenario and then use all your best moves in the back half.
You can only have a max of 2 counters charged up at any time.
Edit: Since the original announcement they’ve made a change to the Special Rules card for Blink Blade to elaborate that you can only accumulate up to 2 counters when you go slow. You can charge up to 5 through other abilities.
At the beginning of the scenario you start with 1, so the suit will drain/recharge fairly quickly, forcing you to switch between your Fast and Slow actions carefully.
The first impression of the starting cards for the Quatryl Blink Blade is one of sheer complexity, but I get the feeling it may not really be as bad as people think. It looks rough because each card has 4 actions and 2 initiatives on it. A top action for Fast, one for Slow, then a bottom action for Fast and another for Slow.
Or if the actions aren’t separate, it has a bunch of modifiers that you need to work through to figure out which are applicable and what the net result is.
The reason I get the feeling it won’t be as onerous as it first seems is because, like any other class, you’ll soon work out which of the actions are the best (and definitely worth spending the speed counter) and which actions aren’t a top priority, but still have a decent (or at least functional) Slow action.
With practice you’ll come to use them consistently and get a feel for where and when to spend the surge in energy to cash in on an epic turn.
So don’t be deterred by the overwhelming options! Embrace them, harness them, and use them to dispatch frozen lumps of fur, horns, and teeth into the abyss.
This is still definitely the most complex class within the Frosthaven Starting 6, which would be great for a diehard player looking to hone their skills and widen their choices. However, it would be a quagmire of rules and intricacies for someone who enjoys Gloomhaven, but isn’t up for sinking loads of time into studying a class’ abilities.
The only other initial note I have on the Blink Blade is that his initiatives aren’t nearly as fast as I thought they’d be. The Fast initiatives are: 01, 12, 17, 20, 24, 28, 36, 41, 44, 45, 52, 60, and 69. The slow initiatives are each of those +30.
Compared to the Scoundrel and the Mindthief, these are positively pedestrian.
But, it will be a massive advantage to be able to really know when you’re going to go in the round though. And you can’t argue with having an initiative of 1!
Even if your attack/movement is slightly less impactful there’s something to be said for knowing you’re going last in the round. I’m excited to see how the Blink Blade actually plays, but it seems there’s a lot of opportunity for strategy to play a key role.
Wouldn’t be a Starting 6 without the hulking form of an Inox on your team! This one seems to have some sort of a checkered past, even for an Inox (and if we are to believe the lore, that really is saying something).
The Inox Drifter is a survivalist archetype that doesn’t have any particular allegiance to anyone, he’s just doing his thing living off the land and taking it one day at a time.
What’s he doing up in Frosthaven? Lord knows. Maybe he just drifted too far.
It’s hard to forage for berries in 3 feet of snow.
As with our friend, the Inox Brute (and very much juxtaposed with the Quatryl Blink Blade), the Drifter is the class within the Frosthaven Starting 6 that has actions most closely based on the fundamentals of the game. Move, Attack, and Heal.
There isn’t nearly as much text on the Drifter’s cards as some of the other Starting 6, but there is a really interesting special rule that adds another layer of pep into this Inox’s step.
Persistent abilities are the common theme throughout the level 1 cards that save the Inox Drifter from being mundane. There are six, count ‘em SIX different ability cards that will help you buff your ranged attacks, melee attacks, movement, heal, retaliate, and shield.
But wait – there’s more!
Select the Inox Drifter now and we’ll throw in TEN actions that will move the character counters back on one or more of your persistent abilities.
So what does this mean?
It means you get to take what is a very basic blank canvas and select (right from level 1) the type of character you’re looking to play. Whoever plays as the Drifter is going to have so many options about what sort of strengths and abilities their character has.
Persistent Ability options are:
+2 on Heal actions
+1 Attack, +1 Range on ranged attacks
+2 Attack on melee attacks
+2 on Move actions
Retaliate 2, Range 2
Shield 1 when you suffer damage from an attack
The Inox Drifter is also granted a hand size of 12, which is going to facilitate the use of multiple persistent abilities at once, since they have the same effect on your longevity as if you’re burning cards right off the bat.
Even though they aren’t burnt immediately, you can’t get them back, which means they’re taken out of circulation and the time between your rests is going to get shorter and shorter the more abilities you play.
That’s why, even though you have 6 options, you’re not going to want to play them all. You’ll be left with no cards or actions to actually enhance and you’ll soon find yourself exhausted in the corner with all your counters still at the start.
For anyone familiar with the Starting 6 in the original game then this mechanic should immediately remind you of the Mindthief. These persistent abilities (with the option to move counters back) is almost like a second attempt at augments that is better planned out and (hopefully) provides a bit more variety…
If the veteran vermling is anything to go off, one of the +2 attacks will likely be a fan favourite, and from a practicality standpoint the +2 Movement is likely going to be in play. The Retaliate 2 with Range 2 is a really interesting alteration to Cragheart’s Opposing Strike, which there were loads of complaints about in Gloomhaven because it had no effect on a ranged attack (something that becomes more common as you progress in the game).
There’s plenty more to unpack about this class, like tanking with Shield 1, pairing Shield + Retaliate as a more defensive build (instead of Attack + Move), and a more impactful support class that can have large Heal actions.
This article is only meant to be introductory, so we’ll leave the analysis there for now. If you’re checking out the Inox Drifter, it would be great for someone who’s into the game, but needs to stick with some of the more fundamental mechanics with an easy-to-understand twist to make it fun.
You won’t have to read an essay on every card and your turns will be just a bit faster.
Human Banner Spear
We couldn’t possible foray North into the vast, frigid unknown without a shining beacon of honour and hope coming along with us. Leave it to the humans to proclaim themselves as that beacon…
The Banner Spear is an armoured-up ray of hope that has travelled to Frosthaven to fell whatever fur-covered, big-toothed sacks of meanness dwell this far North of the capital.
And she’s bringing her banners with her.
The Banner Spears are a collective of knights, basically, at the front of the push Northward in search of glory and honour. Their society is based in the capital and they ride on high horses of the metaphorical type that would make parties of the highest reputation feel like common mongrels.
Having read through quite a few forums and discussions around the Frosthaven Starting 6, there seems to be a lot of excitement from the community around this one.
Having a knight archetype class is usually a fan favourite, and the Banner Spear fills that need for something heavy hitting, and a bit of a tank.
The Banner Spear operates off of two main mechanics, which work hand-in-hand.
The first is something we’ve already touched upon within the Starting 6, and that is non-loss summons. Similar to the Boneshaper, the Banner Spear can also summon allies, primarily in the form of stationary banners (banners that don’t move, not banners about paper products) and has less (but still some) control over their actions in comparison to the Boneshaper.
This then ties in with the second (and new!) mechanic around the blue hex.
As part of the Banner Spear’s AOE (Area Of Effect) attack, there are blue hexes that indicate where an ally needs to be positioned in order for the AOE to work!
This seems like it’s going to be incredibly hard to pull off, but the idea behind having non-loss summons is you should be able to plan ahead and figure out where to plant them in order to get your AOE mojo going.
And the payout for successfully setting up this formation is pretty good. It’s really tough to gauge how easy/difficult it’s going to be to make these formations without actually playing it, but the effect (at least at Level 1) is an Attack 3 to 5 + a debuff of some kind (disarm/muddle/immobilize/wound).
Really interested to see how that plays out and to what level these formations are successfully pulled off. There are 6 top (attack) actions with these ally-based formations, so if you’re not set up correctly you’re gonna spend lots of time in the default Attack 2 zone…
To help you along and keep you out of that default Attack 2 zone, you’re going to have plenty of summons that are bottom actions and early initiatives!
This means you’ll be able to put them exactly where you want them, early in the round (before your enemies move out of position) and still use your top action for kicking ass while everybody is still where you need them to be.
Edit: Originally this summon was on a card with Initiative 10, but I assume they’ve changed it after play testing because it’s really difficult to have a fast initiative summon.
… because summons can’t attack on their first turn.
This means an Initiative 10 summon would have to wait around for initiatives 11-99 to take their turns (basically all enemies) and more often than not they’ll be dead (note: Health 1) before they ever do anything.
Here is the Banner Spear’s “Reinforcement”. Gets summoned initiative 60, 1 Health, 2 Move, and doesn’t attack. Might as well leave that sword at home really…
If that wasn’t enough to tempt you into playing this badass knight lady, there’s one other aspect I want to highlight on the Human Banner Spear that will make her playstyles more variable.
She’s got a permanent status you can put on to have Shield 1 for the rest of the scenario.
That’s right, it means you’re gonna be right up there on the front line (as advertised) soaking up damage and tanking for the rest of the softies who are behind you complaining about the cold.
Every ballin’ ability comes at a price though, you know that. The caveat to this particular trick is all of your ranged attacks get Range -1.
This is a great quid pro quo for permashield. You’ll be tankier than your allies, but your ranged attacks will suffer. Based on the starting cards we’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but I suspect there will be more ranged attacks available at higher levels.
But for now, if activating the permashield on the Banner Spear you will have:
Ranged attacks that have to suffer -1 range (usually putting them at Range 2).
Or melee attacks that require an intricate positioning of yourself and an ally.
Apart from that, you’re going to be firing default Attack 2 melee while you get pummeled on the front line.
Edit: When this was originally announced in November the price for perma-shield was -2 Range, but they’ve updated it to -1. If I recall correctly, in the first version I think the Banner Spear’s ranged attacks were typically Range 4.
Now in V2 they’re Range 3, and the penalty for permashield is -1, instead of -2.
The Human Banner Spear looks like she’s going to be one of the most fun (and frustrating) to play. Don’t give it to the player who overcommunicates before every turn though, or you’ll be there all day as they try to coordinate everyone’s movements for the next 4 turns.
Sidenote: For those of you further along in Gloomhaven, the permanent +1 Shield bears a striking resemblance to a particular unlockable class. At first glance I really like the Banner Spear’s “Cost For Shield” more than the original because it seems like it still leaves you with more options.
She’s moody, she’s edgy, and she’s here to make sure those dead souls stay in hell!
Our next member of the Frosthaven Starting 6 is the Valrath Deathwalker, who is making up for her race’s past transgressions by ensuring the souls of the dead find rest.
This seems directly at odds with the other member of the Frosthaven starting classes, the Aesther Boneshaper, who is literally raising the dead to do her bidding…
So there may be a few misalignments in philosophy, but hey, if you can’t deal with that then you shouldn’t be a mercenary.
The Deathwalker has an 11-card hand and a starting health of 6, so here’s another party member who’s gonna be parked in the back avoiding damage!
But you don’t need friends when you’ve got a link with the afterlife and a whole bunch of ghosts are going to help you along the way. The Valrath Deathwalker makes use of Shadows in order to mark locations on the board, and they don’t occupy any space (an enemy can stand over a shadow) and then do really cool things with those markers.
I imagine a lot of the strategy around the Deathwalker is going to go towards getting Shadows down on the board and then moving them around to where you’ll need them before cashing in with a cool effect.
The Shadow tokens provide power ups for actions (Attack X, where X is the number of shadows on the board), and there’s a persistent effect where instead of taking damage you can teleport to a shadow instead. Really cool.
Take note of the fact that the bottom action isn’t a burner! This adds a whole new dynamic to the character that is going to be primarily focused on Shadow management instead of card management. You can teleport all you like, but eventually you’re gonna need to put some Shadows back down on the board, and that teleport will come at the cost of other effects the Shadows can do for you.
Buyer beware! From the looks of things it would appear the placing of these shadows is what’s going to be the tough part.
There’s only one starting card that’s really going to help you get those Shadows down on the board. Its top action is a permanent effect where you put a shadow down every time you dispatch an enemy into the abyss, the other is a non-loss bottom action where you just place a shadow in an adjacent hex.
So once the Deathwalker has built up enough shadows on the board then she’ll have time to really shine (shade?) and start laying down some damage.
In terms of Shadow usage, from the Level 1 + X cards we’ve seen this class has 7 actions that consume a Shadow, and 3 that require a Shadow to function.
It’s worth noting that the Valrath Deathwalker also has a summon. I’m not convinced you’ll be using it very often though, it’s only got Health 1 and it comes at the cost of a Shadow!
Edit: From the videos of people playing the prototype, it looks like it takes 3-4 turns to properly set up your shadow network before you can start cleaning up the board. So buy yourself some time!
This class looks like it would be for you if you can patiently wait in the back and avoid taking damage while you set up a web of shadows, and then spring into action once the network is in place.
The final installment of our Frosthaven Starting 6 is the Harrower Geminate. A mass of bugs that clumped together and formed a hive mind to move as a collective.
Or at least that’s how it was supposed to go…
These guys couldn’t actually make up their mind (quite literally) and have formed into 2 separate hiveminds that both vie for control over the collective. It’s this anomaly (the two minds) that is called a Geminate.
With a new Frosthaven starting class comes a new mechanic!
Hope you’re ready to play with two sets of cards, because the Harrower Geminate has two different hand types!
A left side and a right side.
When you’re on one side, you’ve gotta play a card from that side. You switch when it’s indicated on the card and (apart from selecting the actions itself) you have no say in the matter.
This is representing the conflict between the two hive minds amongst the collection of bugs that you’ll be playing as.
So the left side / right side thing is seriously going to mess you up as you try to plan out your turns, but at least you’ll have a decent idea of how it’s going to work. Just get ready for the outrageous frustration when you have the perfect card for the situation you’re in, but you can’t play it because you’re stuck on the other hivemind.
The left-side cards are more melee attacks and the right-side are more ranged attacks, but there’s another twist to this that I wanted to highlight as being particularly creative. You have the option (it’s not a mandatory part of the action) to debuff yourself in order to do more damage to your enemy! Check this out!
Before we gawk in awe of this attack take a look at that range specification!
Range 4 or 5, not within Range 5. That means Range 1-3 is a no-go, the target needs to be farther than that.
But MY GOODNESS! What you’re looking at is a Level 1 card that can Target 2, and Attack 5! Bearing in mind, the way I’m interpreting this card, you’d have to apply the Muddle to this attack, but still, that’s insane! Base 10 damage on a Level 1?
If you can keep your head straight and organize which half of this bug group you’re going to be on, then this is going to be a really fun class to play. The bug theme is deep in this one, and it has some hilarious card names as well.
I had to Google what Hirudotherapy is, but I got a chuckle out of it once I found out it is the use of leeches for medical therapy.
Because you’re switching between two sets of cards you’re going to get a mixture of ranged and melee out of this character. The hand size is 14 (!), but that’s comprised of 7 left cards and 7 right cards, and if you don’t switch back and forth correctly you will end up being exhausted on the left side with 4 cards remaining in your hand for the right side.
Ever seen a Spellweaver get exhausted because she did the math wrong and couldn’t use Reviving Ether? It’ll be something like that…
Harrower Geminate starts off with 8 health (middle of the range), so you won’t shy away from taking a hit, but you’ll definitely let the Banner Spear do most of the tanking.
And there will be a lot of elemental love in this class. Light, Earth, Wind, and Ice from what we can see in the starting cards. Stands to reason there wouldn’t be a lot of Fire use, being bugs and all. But who knows what the higher level cards have in store.
You can also gobble up a waning element and make it into whatever element you want it to be. So that’s pretty cool.
This is going to be a class that will take a lot of strategy and is really difficult to play well. It’ll also be hugely rewarding when you do! A character with an element focus is always entertaining, and the bug theme will make it loads of fun to clobber frozen ne’er-do-wells.
And there’s your primer on the Frosthaven Starting 6 classes that are coming down the pipeline. New twists and mechanics are being introduced, with the same (more or less) core rules that make Gloomhaven a freaking awesome game.
If you want lots more information on Frosthaven and all that is planned for the new game, check out the complete overview for Frosthaven.
The official release date for Frosthaven is meant to be revealed soon (Isaac is working on a new timeline), but best guess has it around mid-2021. I’ll update you when we get confirmation.
A big thank you has to go out to u/KalEl814 who posted the preview pictures from PAX Unplugged that made this post possible!