Blackstone Fortress: A New Quest
Well here we are, at last, Warhammer Quest enters the 41st millennium!
Let’s take a trip back in time…
Ever since Silver Tower graced shelves in May 2016, we have all been waiting for the 40,000 version. Honestly, I'm only surprised it wasn’t sooner. Of course, Silver Tower had some problems one of which was that it didn't particularly Warhammer Quest like. Yes, it had a team of adventurers and, yes, the narrative was fairly strong but there was little to no levelling of your characters and no town to visit between dungeon level. Certainly, it didn't FEEL like the Warhammer Quest of old. There was also the distinct lack of a Gamesmaster (or Dungeon Master) to drive the story and torment the adventurers (surely an important part of any quest).
GW did take all this on board when they released Shadows Over Hammerhal in 2017. Hammerhal did much to redress the balance, serving as a more traditional Warhammer Quest complete with activities to undertake in the titular city. However, Hammerhal had a much less cohesive theme than Silver Tower and the haphazard selection of foes came across as a bit of an afterthought. A bundle of existing models with mostly existing rules, there was little original about it and, although it was much more in line with classic Warhammer Quest, brought new problems as the rules were still very much based upon Age of Sigmar mechanics. It was more like the original yet still lacked something at the same time.
So, what about Blackstone Fortress?
One of the great things about the new Blackstone Fortress is that it really does function as an amalgamation of the previous two games, taking the very best from each and including them in an interesting fusion that also brings the NEW.
Blackstone Fortress: Miniatures
Blackstone Fortress brings an all-new set of models too, though many are new VERSIONS of existing miniatures, improved and re-imagined. These include the plastic traitor guard for the very first time, as well as Abhuman Chaos Beastmen and even one of the Men of Iron in UR-025. It’s a glorious smorgasbord of callbacks and nods to the very origins of Warhammer 40,000 with an eclectic collection that features models from several ranges. With any luck, this is only the early stages of a trend that was started in Kill Team: Rogue Trader which focuses on the more esoteric elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Blackstone Fortress: Rules
Rules-wise, the core mechanics are carried over from the previous games; you roll activation dice for your character and can borrow destiny dice from the centreboard. You then use these dice to power your attacks and skills. However, there have been a number of improvements wrought to the rules and the game itself is a lot more involved. For example, there is now an activation track where the order in which the different characters and their adversaries act. You can even influence this order for a strategic edge. Wounds have changed slightly too as you now cannot heal all wounds. Some will need to be treated back at Precipice which functions as the ‘town’ though, in reality, it’s the ships docked at Precipice that provides your options.
And, speaking of the ships, these also support you in the game. Each is represented by a tile that is double sided with one side being Facilities, to be used in the post-game sequence, and the other side Support which can be used during the game. Typically each ship is designed to best support its respective explorer with them being able to activate its ability on a 1+ and everyone else needing a 6. They can easily make all the difference in a game.
Blackstone Fortress: Characters
The characters are also a lot more rounded in their roles and there are a great many tactical options available to you as you construct your compulsory team of 4. Characters can die in this though (and it’s permadeath), taking all advances and resources with them, so you do need to be careful in your quests. Should you get through all 8 explorers that are available in the game then it's game over and the Blackstone Fortress wins!
There is even the option for a fifth player to join and take the role of the Fortress, controlling the enemies and adding a little human intuition to proceedings in the place of randomly rolled reactions. This is an excellent idea, giving you the option to play in the Silver Tower style or the Hammerhal fashion though, it must be said, that the role is not quite equivalent to that of a dungeon master. Still, it is a very welcome option should you have a fifth wheel or just someone interested in indulging their evil side.
Blackstone Fortress: Components
The components, as you might expect, are very high quality and the presentation of this is immaculate. One particularly nice touch that I really like is the ‘stasis chambers that allow you to record a character's upgrades and card in a ziplock bag. This is no plain baggie either, rather it is branded and fully emblazoned with Blackstone Fortress artwork. It is clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the design of this game and it could never be accused of being a cash grab or half-hearted affair.
Blackstone Fortress: Cards & Decks
One of the biggest changes is the way that you progress through the fortress, there is an exploration deck that is split up between basic challenges which require no models but will task your group with a peril to overcome (usually by means of a dice test). If you choose poorly or are particularly unlucky they can even kill your character outright! Fear not though, you will require your weapons and enemy models for the other type of encounter!
The other type of card is a combat card which represents a confrontation deep in the bowels of the fortress, this will have you assemble a map, deploy models and fight it out. You are usually trying to get to discovery points to find the clues you need to access the strongholds of the Blackstone (then again it may just be archeotech or some other treasure that you come across). Problem is there are usually a few groups of enemies trying to stop you from doing that. By killing you. Until you are dead.
You’ll need four clues in order to access the four strongholds in the Blackstone Fortress and you’ll have to overcome all four strongholds and their various secrets to get to the vault and ultimately triumph. There is even a top-secret sealed envelope that is absolutely NOT to be opened until you have earned it PROPERLY by completing the game (man, it's worse than Christmas)!
Sum it up!
Seriously though, this really does look to be the real deal. Just as the new Kill Team is the most evolved version of GW's attempts to produce a skirmish version of 40K, Black Fortress looks to be the ultimate dungeon crawler. The fact that it happens to be set in the 41st millennium is just the cherry on the (admittedly nightmarishly dystopian) cake.
Check it out and pick up your very own copy of Blackstone Fortress HERE.