Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

Why Frosthaven terrifies as much it tempts me

Breaking the ice.

That box might kill me. A heft of 16.2kg (35 lbs) is definitely enough to do some damage, but it’s a different kind of weight that worries me. You see, I don’t know if we’re ready for the immense dungeon-delving and tactical card-picking experience of Frosthaven. Back at the time of ordering, it seemed like a good idea. In the hazy Lost Years of pandemic lockdowns, Jaws of the Lion -- miniature spinoff to Frosthaven’s equally gargantuan predecessor Gloomhaven -- was the ideal companion.

Its densely packed box of missions and monsters opened the door to a warmly lit tavern of escapism. A co-op adventure of cultists, demons, and grid-based combat to conquer? Anything to get us out of this living room. It beckoned us in, shoved cards into our hands, and then smacked us square in the jaw with difficulty. We couldn’t get enough. So the minute Frosthaven’s Kickstarter opened the floodgates, my wife and I practically raced each other to supply credit card details.

Frosthaven terrifies me weight
A chunk of that weight may be inserts, but you could still get a serious workout done with this box.

The plan was simple: Clear the calendar, wrap up our ongoing campaign games, and dedicate an entire table to the big boxy boy. Setup isn’t an issue if you never pack the game away, right? There was just one problem: us. Several years down the line, lockdowns have lifted, and our calendars have filled up. Weeks that felt like lifetimes mid-lockdown have resumed their normal course of disappearing faster than a Quatryl’s health bar in a boss battle.

It’s the eternal refrain of the adult gamer that there’s never enough time to actually play, but consider us experts in board-game ineptitude. We’ve owned Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 for two years, yet we’re only just entering the penultimate month of November. That asks a maximum of 23 games total, and Frosthaven promises more than 100. Help. Undaunted: North Africa, too, laughs bitterly from our Kallax shelves. You could almost stage a repeat of World War 2 in the time it’s taken us to navigate the trenches of its mission book.

Frosthaven scares me pandemic comparison
Pandemic may have started the campaign game craze, but Frosthaven is here to ensure we never need another again.

Worse still, we adopted a cat. And as any feline owner will attest, anything and everything in your house swiftly becomes theirs. Board game box lids? A cozy new bed. Miniatures? Ideal for batting across the floor. If you want to take out a group of Inox quickly, no card combo can outpace a pair of paws rampaging across the table.

So when that weights routine of a package landed on our porch this week, it did so with a reverberating thud of both anticipation and foreboding. How much of our lives are we about to sign away? Could such inconsistent gamers seriously conquer everything it has to offer? Scoff all you want, Gloomhaven stalwarts, but our table may never know freedom again. 

Fortunately, the gathering ice on Frosthaven’s wintery box has coalesced into an unexpected silver lining. Its imminent arrival served as impetus, pushing us to polish off mere appetizers -- Pandemic, we’re looking at you -- so we can dive into a main course liable to last months if not years. 

The last month has seen us getting more and more board games to the table, flexing our card-laying muscles in training for the task ahead. Keep up the consistency demanded to best these smaller, boxy minions, and we might just have the resolve to see our first Frosthaven characters retire before we do. This time, we’ll stick to the plan.

If you’ve also suffered from Frosthaven fear, our helplines are available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want more board games in your life? Listen to the Going Analog Podcast!

Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Frosthaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found scouring the web for the latest and greatest games, then wondering why he never has time to actually play them. Share your love of deck builders with him at @Fernoface on Twitter or drop an email to henry@moonrock.agency.