Enter the Blackstone Fortress
On our weekly non-Infinity game night, I dusted off a game I’d been itching to play since it came out. Instead of playing a competitive game, where Jon and I pit our considerable with and guile against each other, we’ve taken a plunge into something unthinkable… cooperation.
Over the years there is one game that I’ve probably loved more than any other GW game, the original Warhammer Quest. One of my earliest excursions into gaming came through Heroquest, then came Warhammer Quest, and I was totally hooked. I didn’t own my own copy until about 10 years ago, then it was destroyed in a disaster at the my FLGS (where I kept it so others could play).
Then GW gave me hope, releasing Silver Tower, which bore slight resemblance to the original, playing a pre-set story, with negligible advancement. They gave it another shot with Shadows over Hammerhal, which I again had high hopes for, but unfortunately it still fell short, getting closer to the original, but still not what I’d hoped. When Blackstone Fortress was announced, I treated it with due skepticism, though eventually picked it up, after hearing high praise from the board game community. With the minis assembled, Jon and I took our first steps into the fortress.
Our first shot at playing the game was clumsy to say the least. I’d left the books at work, so we were working from bootleg PDFs I’d found online to get us through the first night. Neither of us had really read the rules, and were trying to pick it up with a blank slate, just the way we like it.
To begin our adventure, we each picked two warriors, Jon selected the Ratling Twins, Rein and Raus, and Dahyak Grekh, the Kroot Tracker, while I went with Rogue Trader Janus Draik and UR-025, the big stampy Imperial Robot. After following the directions for setting up the play area, we started drawing Encounter cards.
There are two types of Encounters, either Challenges, or Combats, and your initial deck starts with four of each, for a total of 8 cards. Challenges feel a lot like the random events that would happen in the original Warhammer Quest, ranging from trivial encounters, to sudden combats which can wound your character. When you draw a Combat card, you set up a game board as shown on the card, and fight whatever bad guys are generated. After shuffling the deck, we first went through all 4 challenges, which scored us some loot, but also left Janus Draik severely wounded by the time we made it to our first Combat. Each time you enter the Blackstone Fortress, you are playing a single game, so wounds carry over between Combats and Challenges, meaning damage is very problematic to deal with, especially Grevious Wounds, which generally cannot be healed while you’re on the quest.
Our first Combat was challenging, we were easily out numbered 3:1, as Renegade Guardsmen and Negavolt Cultists stormed our lines. UR-025 held the ground though, moving to funnel the enemies into a firing corridor as it blasted away with its Assault Cannon. When the smoke cleared, the Imperial Robot had suffered a Grevious Wound and a regular wound, but the rest of the party was protected by the towering steel warrior.
At this point the night was getting late, and we decided to head back to port and see how the post-game sequence works. Much like the original Warhammer Quest, there are different places for your fighters to visit, sell their wares, buy wargear, and use the special facilities provided by the various docked ships. We opted to buy some fancy guns and a medikit, and called it a night.
Finally, there is an amazing mechanic called the Legacy Deck. After each expedition you draw another card from this deck and it has a persistent effect on your future adventures. Effectively, the more loot you acquire, and the longer you take to find the final chamber, the more difficult game game becomes. When the deck is exhausted, you’ve failed on your quest, and the campaign comes to an end.
As I said, I was very skeptical when tackling Blackstone Fortress, but after our first gaming session, I have to say, I think it’s a very good game. It’s not the exact same game as the original, but it has enough mechanics that feel like the original to replicate the feeling of you and your friends playing against an unrelenting, uncaring, foe. I have the first two expansions to explore as well, each seeming to add fun side-quests and additional foes to encounter during the Blackstone Fortress, which I can’t wait to add to our next expeditions.
If you have fond memories of the original, like I do, I think this game scratches enough of the itch to carry the Warhammer Quest name, despite having totally different mechanics to do so.