Into the Blackstone Fortress
We finally had our mitts on a copy of Blackstone Fortress, to say we were excited was an understatement! But, as much fun poring over all the contents was, we were itching to find out how it played…
Models assembled, (they are push-fit but I would recommend gluing - and securing - them together) we attempted to explore the Blackstone Fortress. I had already decided to use the Navigator Espern Locarno pretty much based just off of the amazing looking model. Joining me would be Christopher as Taddeus the Purifier (a role he undertook with great gusto) and Lee who opted for the Eldar Ranger Amallyn Shadowguide. That gave us respectively; a support character, a close combat bruiser/healer and a sniper.
Of course, we HAD to have four explorers and therefore we selected a fourth character that would rotate ownership between the three of us. We thought about taking UR-025 for a tank type character but in the end decided on the Rogue Trader character Janus Draik, after all, it is his expedition.
With characters chosen, we set up the game and found that, although the game isn't difficult to set up, we did find that it takes up a fair bit of room. We had to extend the table to fit it all on, bearing in mind we needed to leave a decent amount of space in the middle for a combat map. Extending the table gave us 5 ft by 2.5 ft which was ample. This done we set up the Mag Lev chamber, deployed our characters and drew our first Exploration card...
It was an Ur-Ghul ambush! Not a combat map, rather a Challenge Card. The ‘Shadow Ambush’ exploration card meant that each character was set up with an Ur-Ghul next to it. The Explorers all got to attack first and then any Ur-Ghuls left (if there were any) could strike back. Once that was done the Explorers could attack again and attack the Ur-Ghul of any Explorer next to them should they need the help. So it was the xenos were dispatched without any problems, Taddeus himself killing two with his mace. Of course, we did forget that each Ur-Ghul attacks three times in its turn so we did get off pretty lightly. I would think we would have suffered at least one grievous wound otherwise, maybe more.
With that challenge out of the way, however disingenuously, it was time for another exploration card. This time it was a combat. The map didn't take long to set up and the encounter cards we drew revealed it would be four more Ur-Ghuls and a pair of Spindle Drones that we would be fighting.
I was the leader for this first round and, unfortunately, started straight away with a bad destiny dice roll (any duplicates are discarded and cannot be used). Thankfully the Navigator can reclaim a discarded duplicate destiny die once per round, which is a very handy skill that doesn't even need an action dice. In my opinion, this ability makes Espern Locarno more or less a ‘must take’!
Once the initiative cards had been laid out we took advantage of another mechanic; Covering Fire. Any two Explorers that can draw line-of-sight to each other on the map can exchange places on the initiative track. Thus it was that we elected to swap Janus and the Ranger. She would likely be sniping from the back anyway and it wouldn't matter if she acted last.
Brought to the front of the track, Janus used two of his own dice and one of the destiny die to run down the corridor leading to the Spindle Drones. This left him with two sixes left on his card which allowed him to make two devastating Flurry attacks. When done with a six, each of these allows three strikes and, with six dice worth of attacks, Janus Draik; Rogue Trader unsurprisingly took out both drones with a flourish and no small amount of bravado.
Bellowing both his hatred for the enemy and the disdain he felt for the mutant and xenos in his own party, Taddeus strode down the other corridor to the Ur-Ghul.
He just about reached the group, caving in the head of the troglodytic creature next to him before drawing his pistol and firing at those he could not reach with his mace. Sadly, the Ur-Ghul's were in cover and managed to reduce each of Christopher's attack rolls by one and the creatures skulking in the shadows escaped without further harm, leaving Taddeus in quite a compromised position.
Espern Locarno COULD have rushed in to support, but he'd had quite enough of Taddeus insulting him, 'mutant this and degenerate that', the Priest was on his own. Besides, the discovery point was unprotected. His high value dice used up, and unable to perform a search action due to lacking a 4+ (curse the Dice Gods!), he instead directed a '1+ Third Eye’ attack at the Ur-Ghuls and, although it missed, the Navigator felt that duty to the Emperor was served. If Taddeus were truly worthy, he would survive.
It seemed that Taddeus was worthy indeed as Christopher blocked two grievous wounds from the NINE attacks he received from the Ur-Ghuls. One grievous and one normal wound got through though and the grievous wound could not be healed whilst the expedition continued. Still, the Emperor Protected, for now.
It was the Spindle Drones turn to activate next. Of course, the drones were piles of sliced wreckage on the floor of the Fortress, thanks to the Rogue Trader, but we had to stay vigilant as any hostile group can return as reinforcements, even those wiped out. Thankfully, for us, the D20 roll was high enough that the Drones didn't come back.
Finally, it was the Eldar Ranger’s turn to activate and, at long range, her rifle was deadly making clean work of all three Ur-Ghuls as they were swiftly downed. This action was little more than a formality and the aloof alien snorted with derision as she lowered her rifle with her targets eliminated.
Despite the high body count, as Inspiration Points are only achieved when a player can roll equal to or lower than the number of wounds of their eliminated enemies, we received no inspiration. However, in the event phase the Mag Lev chamber that we could escape in turned up. Things were looking up. It was time to grab the discovery markers and escape. Simple. Of course, things that seem that simple rarely are...
Read part two to find out how ‘simple’ our game really was!
Grab your own copy of Blackstone Fortress HERE.