At Long Last, Stargrave

April 9, 2021

Ever since Frostgrave came onto the scene, resurrecting a style of miniature skirmish campaign-focused style that had been moribund for years and cementing Osprey’s place in the wargaming market, players have been demanding a sci-fi version.

That game, Stargrave, arrives at the end of April.

Stargrave uses the same basic mechanics of the other -grave games.  You’re fielding a crew of ten characters, two of which can rise in level and power; the statlines look very familiar; you have multi-level activation with your two primary figures able to activate other models nearby; the general goal is to secure treasures on a board dense with terrain; and you’ll roll d20s throughout the game.  The sci-fi wrinkles, however, make this game very different from the other titles in this series. 

Joseph A. McCullough has taken what he learned in Frostgrave: Archipelago and two versions of the original Frostgrave game to create a new experience that is both tighter and more varied.  The big thing you’re going to notice at the table is that everybody now has guns. 

Ok, not quite everybody; one of your crew options is a beast designed to cover all those loyal animal companions that can’t carry loot but move fast.  But all the other crew options come with a ranged weapon standard.  And that really changes the feel of this game.

When you’re shooting at someone, you add your Shoot stat to your roll and your target adds their Fight stat to their roll.  It creates a stronger balance between the two stats.  It also means weapons like flamethrowers allow you to basically exercise control over portions of the battleground, making the game feel at times like a dirty, violent version of chess.  The rest of time, it’s sneaking through the terrain and guarding your runners as they drag your loot back to the ship.

Loot is another thing that’s different in Stargrave; there’s now two types.  Physical loot slows you down when you carry it, but digital loot doesn’t.  You’ll need to make a dice roll to liberate each type of loot from its container, with bonuses for different sorts of tools.  Each type also has its own table to roll on to see exactly what sort of loot you’ve snagged.

Your two types of main characters are also unique from the other -grave games.  You have a Captain (who starts at 15th level) and a First Mate (who starts at 1st level).  Every time one goes up a level, you check on a chart to see what benefit they get for that level (forcing you to spread out their bonuses a bit more and preventing you from crafting a ridiculously powerful close-combat monster or some other hyper-specialized character).

Each Captain and First Mate has a background that tells you what stat bonuses they get and what powers are native to them.  Native powers are easier to activate successfully (activating requires making a d20 roll and beating a number associated with that power).  As in other -grave games, you can spend health (aka hit points) to make up any deficiency in your die roll to activate a power, but keep in mind that some powers come with strain that eats at your health even if you don’t successfully activate the power.  Captains and First Mates have the same list of backgrounds to pick from, but your Captain and First Mate don’t have to pick the same background.  They can, but they don’t have to, allowing you to either double-up on a certain set of powers or spread out their competencies.  And when outfitting your characters with powers, you can pick from the entire list; it’s just that the ones not in your background’s bailiwick require higher activation rolls.

Like the other -grave games, Stargrave is model-neutral.  The weapons are vaguely described: pistol, close-combat, carbine, rapid-fire.  These could be energy weapons, slug-throwers, death rays, or tossing about mini-singularities.  In the end, they’re all about making you dead, which is all the game cares about.  Flame-throwers and grenades get a bit more detail with their own unique rules. 

Any member of your crew who is not your Captain and First Mate can be a robot.  Robots enjoy a number of immunities from the wounding and toxicity rules.  However, certain powers can allow a rival Captain or First Mate to take them over or shut them down in the middle of a game.  And if you’ve got a great robot model you want to use for your Captain, you can always choose the cyborg background.

If you’re a fan of sci-fi miniatures, but yours are collecting dust on your shelves, you’ll absolutely want to check this game out.  Fans of McCullough’s other games will enjoy this new twist on an old favorite.  Those who are really enjoying this new explosion in narrative-focused skirmish games will find a lot to love in Stargrave.  And if your group hasn’t gotten all their vaccines yet, don’t worry; McCullough and Osprey Publishing are releasing a free solo-play mission generator at the same time the game hits the street.  Set your hailing frequencies for the friendly lifeforms at your local Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy® today to secure your copy of this game today. 

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