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TGN Review: Frozen Rampage by Rusty Nickel Miniatures

TGN Review: Frozen Rampage by Rusty Nickel Miniatures

Rusty Nickel Miniatures is a brand new minis company that has launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund their first ever game, Frozen Rampage. Frozen Rampage takes the excitement of hockey and brings it to your tabletop. Being a former hockey player myself (playing goalie in local rec. leagues for a decade in the days of my youth), I was instantly intrigued by the game.

Rusty Nickel was kind enough to send me a prototype version of their game for me to take a look at and share my thoughts with you about. As a prototype, like other such reviews before, I won’t be commenting too much on the quality or look of materials, as things might change between now and when the game finally is released.

So get your pucks, sharpen up your skates and let’s take a look at Frozen Rampage in another TGN Review.

Frozen Rampage is another entry into the lexicon of “fantasy sports” games of which the most notable games are Blood Bowl and the newcomer, DreadBall. But as opposed to football/rugby and rugby/basketball that the other games somewhat represent, Frozen Rampage is based around hockey. Hockey, I feel, is a rather challenging game to try and capture in miniature, as it is a very fluid game and can go quite a while between stoppages in play. Frozen Rampage does its best to recapture that feeling in the gameplay.

Before I get too much into the gameplay, though, I will make one comment about the components I was given to look over. The rink board… I love it. Out of all the board game boards I’ve seen, this one is top-notch. It’s still a prototype (the two halves have duct tape holding them together on the back), but if the final version is anywhere near as good as this, the board will be a major draw for the game. There’s not really one single element that I can point to and say it’s specifically that element that I love the most, but just the overall feeling of a large rink where your players will do battle is pretty cool.

One thing about the rink is that there aren’t any hexes or squares or any other sort of grid-system on it. Frozen Rampage goes away from BB and DB and eschews the use of such a system and instead uses inches for movement, letting players go anywhere they want on the board. Models also don’t possess a specific facing, figuring that the models could see and turn any direction they want at a moment’s notice. These elements are some of what helps the game keep that “free flowing” feel of hockey.

Another way the game keeps that flow is through how models activate. Instead of a whole team taking a turn at once, on a player’s turn, they can activate two models to perform an action. They also get 1 free pass. Actions are such things as moving, passing, checking or taking a shot on goal. A model can only do one type of action each activation, but they can use both actions in a turn. There is also no limit to the number of turns in a row a model can activate. So you’re always able to use a model if you want. Obviously, with 6 models on the board at a time and only 2 actions and a pass a turn, not all of your models will activate, so positioning is key, getting your models to spots that will do the most good even if they may be there a turn or two.

The game lasts three periods, each consisting of ten turns. Or, if one player gets to 10 goals, then it’s a landslide victory.

Most of the rolls made in Frozen Rampage are tests where a player must roll equal to or over a model’s skill value to determine success. That is, when attacking, you look at a model’s strength and need to roll equal to or above that in order to successfully hit your target. To defend, you roll equal or above your defense stat to avoid getting wounded. This counts for strength, defense and agility checks.

Moving the puck down ice is a pretty simple affair. Passing is automatic. Each player has a distance, in inches, within which they can make a pass. If there’s no opposing models crossing the line created by the center-points of the models involved in the pass then the puck simply moves over to the other model. If there are, then those other models can attempt to intercept the puck by passing an Agility test. Or, if you simply want to play “dump and chase” hockey, you can clear the puck down the ice equal to your passing distance.

Well, now that you’ve got the puck in a good shooting position, might as well take a shot. Shooting the puck involves several steps. Rusty Nickel wanted to try and integrate as much “real hockey” abilities as they could, including wrap-around shots and intentional deflections. But for the sake of this review, I’ll stick (no pun intended) with a traditional slap-shot on goal. The first step is measuring the distance from the shooter to the goal. Further shots have a higher chance to go awry, as the player must roll a chance for a misfire. Close shots misfire on a 1, medium on a 2, and long shots misfire on a 3. A misfire means the puck goes careening off in a random direction (the distance of it based on how close the model was to the goal, since it’s assumed that from farther away the model was putting more behind the shot). Assuming you don’t misfire, you then check to see if there are any defensemen in-between the shooter and the goal, much like a pass.

Though instead of an agility check to gain control of the puck, the defensemen are really just throwing themselves in the way of the puck and roll a Defense check instead of an Agility check. Assuming now that there are no defensemen in the way (or they simply didn’t block the shot), it is now time for the goalie to see if they can stop the puck. There’s a couple modifiers to the roll, mostly in the form of being screened. Each model between the goalie and the shooter subtracts 1 from the goalie’s roll to save. Trust me, from firsthand experience, a lot of the time as a goalie you’re just flinging yourself around in what you think is the general location of where the puck is, trying to get as much of yourself in the way to increase the odds that some part of you is in the way.

So passing and shooting and all that fancy skating is nice and all, but what people really go to hockey games for are the bone-crunching hits. We all know that. Heck, I used to cheer on when I’d see someone get flattened and it was certainly something we’d always talk about. And no, being a goalie doesn’t make you immune to giving or taking the big hit.

There are three types of checks in the game, all based a bit on how far your player moves before making the attack. There’s the “move to attack” which takes up both of a player’s actions for a turn (except for their free pass, of course), but lets you move a model their full skating distance before making the check. As mentioned in the section on face-offs, the checker makes a strength roll. If that is passed, the checkee (yes, I did just create that term and no, I’m not ashamed of it) must pass a defensive roll or they take 1 wound. Then, if the checkee (and yes, I will continue to use the term) had the puck, they must pass an agility roll or they lose control of the puck to the checker.

A regular check works the same, but only consumes one action, as the active model can only move ½ their skating distance before making the attack.

Finally there’s the Cross Check. This also only uses up one action, but the attacking model can only move ¼ of their skating distance. Cross Checks are brutal and automatically cause a wound if the checker passes their strength roll. There is no defense roll against it. Plus, the checkee is bounced back d6/2 inches. If they run into the boards, they must make a defensive roll or take another wound. If they run into a friendly model, both must make defensive rolls or take wounds or finally, if they run into an enemy model, then that model gets to make a free attack. Being Cross Checked is bad news if others are around.
Every model has a set number of wounds and when they’ve lost them all, they’re out of the game. Average players have 3 wounds, so they can take a few hits before being sent to the locker room, but as the game wears on, you’ll definitely be dipping into the reserve players on the bench.

So there you have a quick overview of Frozen Rampage. As I mentioned, the game’s up on Kickstarter now and looking for funding. Hockey is a pretty complex sport and trying to bring it to the tabletop is a challenge. There’s a lot of things to potentially keep track of. Rusty Nickel focuses on the hard hitting action for the most part in their iteration of the game. I’m guessing that the dentists of the world of Frozen Rampage all drive the equivalent of Bentleys.