Frostpunk: The Board Game Review

03 April 2024
From video game to ultra thematic board game, Frostpunk: The Board Game hits all the right (if frozen) notes for a great game. Don't be caught between a generator and cold place, this game is one worth melting for.

Written by Alexandra Sonechkina


Frostpunk: The Video Game

Re-imagining video games as board games has historically been a rocky endeavour. Some in pursuit of authenticity make the transformation too literal. Others rely only on artwork and setting to play into fan's nostalgia. Yet, occasionally, a game finds that sweet spot that satisfies the most fervent video game and board game fans and Frostpunk: The Board Game is that occasion. 


Related article: The best video game adaptations


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What is Frostpunk: The Board Game?

The developers of the video game, the polish studio 11 bit Studios had previous experience in bringing a video game to the tabletop, with the survival game This War of Mine, which saw players as non-military survivors living in the besieged city. The studio’s interest in darker and morally grey themes continues with Frostpunk as well. Here, players are transported to an alternative reality of the 19th century, where things have gone terribly wrong, leaving the world frozen and under perpetual snow. The warmth from a gigantic generator is the survivor's last lifeline. As leaders and advisers, players will need to send out parties to look for resources, like food and coal, construct shelters and other buildings, ensure that the generator has enough coal to keep everyone warm, pass on laws and even send out expeditions in hope to find any other settlements nearby. In the video game, this is re-imagined as a survival resource management game, the board game is very similar. 

At the centre of the modular hexagonal board is the piece de resistance of the game - the generator cube tower. Through the course of the game, players will be dropping black coal cubes inside it and seeing how many fall all the way through to the removable drawer underneath. Those then are transferred in a separate track that marks the generator overheating, and, eventually exploding, triggering just one of the ways the game can end. 

From the generator centre piece, emanate three rings of hexagonal tiles of winter wasteland, which players can explore to gather various resources or construct buildings on. Not all tiles begin on the board straight away. Players will need to reveal new tiles to discover resources. The main board and the generator tower are only a small part of the game. They are surrounded by numerous boards used to track everything within your settlement - from temperature and incoming storm position to population numbers and even levels of hope and despair among the survivors. There are also a number of decks that describe the circumstances of the chosen game scenario, events and depict the settlement’s citizens and their special skills which can ‘power-up’ certain actions. It is a lot of different components, and they will mercilessly take up all of the table space. However, all these tools and information are needed to immerse players in this grim setting.

Thematic and powerful

Frostpunk can easily rival Robinson Crusoe in its thematic prowess. Every component, or action, or decision makes complete thematic sense and links back into core objectives of the game. The resources are not just requirements on the card that you need to satisfy, they have a logical real-life application. For example, you need to get the wood to build a shelter, which can keep your workers warm at night. If you don’t, some workers may get sick and even die, eventually leading to a low group morale and limiting number of available actions. Yet to get that wood, you may need to venture out of the warm zone of the generator, in which case a worker will get sick, regardless. Unless, of course, you spend more coal and increase the generator’s power range. The action to simply pick up wood leads to several key considerations that can drastically affect the state of the game! 

The Power of Choices

Frostpunk rarely offers an action choice that doesn’t result in a consequence further down the line. This is where the cooperative aspect of the game comes into its strength. Players discuss what to do and then also consider if the potential consequences are worth it. The events never offer black and white choices - that would be too easy for this game! - but have morally grey options that can lead to some interesting discussions around the table. 

The most fascinating of these, are the choices that challenge players to choose between their strategist gamer brain and what is ethically right. For example, let’s talk about the children. To perform actions in the game, players use worker and engineer meeples. However, there is also a third category of meeples in the game, children, and they do nothing. Except, of course, cost you resources in keeping them fed and warm, to the detriment of your ‘working meeples’ who might not get enough food or proper shelters. During the game, you could be presented with the choice to allow children meeples to do actions. Your gamer brain goes: ‘Finally! I can have extra actions!’ Yet, your ethical side goes: ‘Eeew, child labour!’ The hard circumstance of your situation might be that you desperately need those extra actions because you are barely surviving. Just one or two extra meeples could lead to making it to another round. But this is represented by sending little children in the deadly cold to shuffle snow to find coal. So, what do you choose?

It is hard! From the very first round of the game, you are immediately thrown into a crisis mode. The game has nine phases, but there is only one, the action phase, where you can attempt to solve the settlement's current problems. You could easily play a game of Frostpunk for three hours, for it to end abruptly as one of the many trackers move into the loss condition. With the time it takes to set up and with how much space it takes on the table, this game is definitely a full-day affair, which can make those losses feel especially hard. 

Survival Board Game

However, you expect that from the gameplay - it is a harsh setting that depicts dire circumstances, anything other than hard gameplay would feel out of place. Yet, it’s the clunkiness of some of the functional game elements that bring the overall impression down. Some phases are clumsy in execution: you would trigger the track movement in one phase but resolve its affects several phases later. The generator is an impressive dice tower, so much so, it blocks part of the map. The rulebook even offers a solution to have the tower to the side of the board, which undermines the gameplay immersion. To add to it, laid out on the table the game is messy. Building tiles have their own board, but some of them are placed off the board. Some decks have dedicated locations, others just go wherever there is space. There are tokens everywhere and it is easy to accidentally bump one when reaching for something else on the table. While all these components are needed to build the world of Frostpunk, the busywork of upkeep and organisation of components can easily distract players from the game. Frostpunk seems to appreciate that because each player role is tasked with upkeep of specific parts of the game, but that alone doesn’t fix all the clunkiness. 

Related article: The best survival board games

Frostpunk Board Game Review Summary

To a player that loves a challenging, sprawling and long cooperative game none of these might matter. They might find themselves so immersed in the world that they won’t mind the long set up or unruly components. However, another player might find that a constant struggle that can swiftly end in a defeat is not worth the hassle. When you are using board games as a form of escapism and relaxation, travelling to a world as unforgiving as Frostpunk might be the wrong destination. Yet, whether you love it or find frustratingly hard, Frostpunk: The Board Game leaves a long-lasting impression! 


Should you play Frostpunk: The Board Game?


Incredibly thematic and equally tough to win, Frostpunk: The Board Game shows that some video games were made to eventually become board games.


You can buy a copy of Frostpunk: The Board Game on Amazon



Both games attract players that are for a challenge and are interested in discussing tricky morally grey situations.



Designer: Adam Kwapiński|

Publisher: Glass Cannon Unplugged


Time: 120-150 mins

Players: 1-4

Ages: 16+

Price: £100



  • Generator
  • Generator upgrade
  • Generator board
  • 36 Tiles
  • Hope and discontent board
  • Supply board
  • Round and morning board
  • Population board
  • Dusk board
  • 12 Rim board pieces
  • Building board
  • Discontent and hope bag
  • 4 Responsibility sheets
  • 310 Cards
  • 93 Building tiles
  • 40 Wood tokens
  • 50 Coal tokens
  • 8 Steel tokens
  • 36 Meeples
  • 10 Steam core tokens
  • 30 Tree tokens
  • 3 Steam hub pieces
  • 22 Markers
  • 61 Tokens
  • 3 Heat range indicators
  • Dreadnought marker

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