Following on from our Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress Preview, we took it to the tabletop with three other experienced tabletop gamers from different genres. On The Tabletop articles will follow on directly from preview articles and will cover solely our experiences with the game. For more details about Blackstone Fortress and its components, please check out our preview.
These play-through articles catalogue our initial experiences with the game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
Before we set up the game, our group selected the explorers we would be using for the adventure. Lizi picked at random and chose Pious Vorne, the flamer wielding Missionary Zealot, James chose Taddeus the Purifier, the Ministorum Priest with the aim of being our healer. Anna selected Amallyn Shadowguide, the Asuryani Ranger because we’re pretty sure she wants to cosplay as her. I was torn between Rein & Raus and UR-025 because they look incredibly fun to play, but in order to keep the zealots from torching Amallyn in an ‘accident’ I realised that strong leadership would be required, so I chose Janus Draik and we were ready to begin.
In our group, I was the only one who had played Blackstone Fortress before, so everyone else was learning as they went. We set up the first expedition according to the first play through setup in the rulebook and took the ships for our expedition. As Taddeus and Vorne both come on the same ship, we got to chose another one to complete the four ships around Precipice. Lizi and James chose Kravv’Cha’To, so that we could, by spending a 6+ dice, make an automatic critical success attack in an emergency.
The initial game set up from the rules booklet is very straight-forward and we had our explorers deployed in the Maglev Transport Chamber ready to begin.
We descended into the Blackstone Fortress and drew our first exploration card. A Combat! The map tiles were set up and we drew encounter cards to see what enemies we faced. We had four different groups of enemies to set up, which were:
- 4 Negavolt Cultists
- 6 Traitor Guardsmen
- 6 Traitor Guardsmen
- 3 Negavolt Cultists
The second group of Negavolt Cultists were ignored as we had deployed all we could. We made some mistakes with reinforcements during our first combat and didn’t make rolls after units had been eliminated. Looking back now, we should have been making reinforcement rolls for Group 4, who didn’t deploy at the start. As we removed Negavolt Cultists from Group 1, Group 4 could have reinforced.
Lizi began by making some epic activation rolls in the initiative phase and nearly destroyed the first set of Traitor Guardsmen with Vorne’s Cleansing Flames (which as a non-Games Workshop wargamer, she initially thought was for healing). These were then finished off by Janus and Amallyn. We made a mistake with Amallyn by moving her into the first room. Amallyn could have kept overwatch down nearly the entire length of the map tiles, and even though there was cover half-way down, she would still have been effective as enemies moved into view.
As it was, Taddeus seeking purifying combat, rushed into the centre to engage the Negavolt Cultists who had moved into the open. Vorne, following Taddeus’ example, rushed into the centre and roasted the Traitor Guardsmen emerging from the side passageway halfway down. Lizi once again made some epic rolls and killed three Traitor Guardsmen on the same hex and immediately became inspired, flipping Vorne’s card over to the inspired side.
An inspired Vorne is a thing of beauty. On the inspired side of the card, Vorne’s standard attacks either upgrade the dice for the attack, or add an additional dice. Vorne’s defence dice also upgrades and his Chainblade and Cleansing Flames attacks come down on their dice requirements. Amallyn moved into the centre and it was over for the enemies of the imperium from there. Taddeus and Vorne decimated the enemy ranks and Amallyn made short work of the stragglers.
We reached the exit Maglev Transport Chamber having gained 1 clue and 3 archeotech and without taking a wound, a great start to our delving into the Blackstone Fortress.
As all our explorers were still fresh, we decided to press on further into the Blackstone Fortress and drew the Cut Them Down, Challenge Card. This required all the explorers to take shots at enemies at different ranges. Once again Taddeus and Vorne showed their distain for the enemies of the Imperium, and made short work of the challenge. Janus and Amallyn weren’t able to make their shots and the group came away with 2 further archeotech cards.
Our third Exploration card drew another combat. We set up the map tiles, and this map had the enemies extremely close to our deployment, with the reinforcements areas further back. We once again drew two lots of Negavolt Cultists (so the second group didn’t deploy) along with some Spindle Drones.
Amallyn used her Phase Crystal to move straight into the centre of the first open map tile and set up overwatch. Taddeus rushed into the first room, which was currently clear of enemies and searched, discovering our group’s second clue. Under the covering fire of Amallyn, Vorne rushed into the nearby room filled with Negavolt Cultists and using the Destiny dice, made short work of them all. Janus moved into the coridoor, taking battle to the Spindle Drones but only managing to remove one of them. Taddeus followed Vorne and brought the Emporer’s mercy to the Spindle Drones from the rear.
All of the enemies failed to reinforce and two more archeotech’s were discovered as the group made their way to the exit Maglev Transport. Taddeus had take a wound, but healed himself on the way to the exit.
Our group ended our first play session with 2 clues and 7 archeotech and no lasting wounds. We would continue into the Blackstone Fortress on our next session, saving our first return to Precipice until we needed it. We require 4 clues to be able to attempt a Stronghold challenge, and 4 Strongholds need to be completed to be allowed an attempt on the Central Vault to complete the campaign. We’ve still got a long way to go and things will almost certainly get much harder. But with two of the Emperor’s chosen with us, He has already showed us his blessing and we will meet any challenge.
Adam – I really enjoyed the playthrough. Leading the merry band of explorers was interesting and we had a crack team in terms of abilities. Having Taddeus and Vorne leading the way with cleansing flame with Amallyn covering is incredibly powerful. Taking Janus was a good choice because UR-025 would have been overkill. Rein and Raus would have been useful for the mobility, but Janus just felt right in the group. Teaching Blackstone Fortress is very easy as everything for the players is written on their cards. Having someone experienced with the game is a must though, as we missed several rules or events because I had only played it a few times, and because of the amount of small details over the three different rulebooks required for play. Once these are learned, the game is very streamlined and fun. The co-op side of the game is fun and it’s very easy to get into character. I told the players not to get attached to their characters as the chance of them dying is high, but I think it’s too late.
The components are of great quality, especially the miniatures which are full of motion and character. Keeping things between games is helped by the stasis chamber sleeves, but playing it across a couple of groups would require writing everything down. The AI control of the enemies is good, but not perfect. The fact that it relies on their position against the explorers works well, but sometimes the enemies do weird things that certainly aren’t optimal. Playing with a player controlling the enemies would be a much more challenging experience. I’m really looking forward to continuing our adventures in the Blackstone Fortress and would recommend it to everyone.
Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who’s favourite games include Dark Souls the Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, Shadespire and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter – @StealthBuda.
Lizi – As an every now and again board gamer, I found the game had a lot of parts and was quite complicated to get my head around, but by the end of the second round I felt like I was getting there. It was good fun and made up of a number of smaller rounds. Our first two rounds were quite easy but it looks like it gets more difficult as you go. I think it would be better as a full campaign instead of playing individual rounds separately, so you’d have to pack it up in the right order so you can come back to it, or if you’re obsessive like me, just put aside a week. The different sections of the board and the role of the dice means you’ll never be playing the same game twice. The miniatures are great with loads of detail and I like that your character has their own challenge to become inspired which makes them more powerful.
I would definitely advise playing your first few hours with someone who’s played before and can guide you as you get started. And finally If i was to make any changes, it would be an additional board with a token on to check off the steps of each iteration (shuffle characters, decide any changes, role destiny dice, role own dice etc ) because the number of different things to remember each round was not complicated, but a the volume of steps means it would be easy to miss parts.
Lizi is a mathematician, the closest she’s ever been to being a gamer is almost completing Lego Batman on the PS2. Her favourite games are Codenames and Zombicide.
James – I like all sorts of games, but as a wargamer at heart and a 40k player to the core, this was always going to press my buttons. I loved the detail on the minis (I wouldn’t be averse to having them in a larger army), and I was especially impressed as they were push-fit models. The gameplay was only a step above standard Warhammer 40,000 rules in complexity; a few more range bands and damage tracks are easy to follow as you only have the one character to worry about per person.
I was playing as a combat healer but charged in with the rest to attack the heretics cluttering up the Blackstone Fortress. I liked the character and would play as him again, however the biggest part of his use was also my one negative for the game. He was a healer who did no healing! This wasn’t because I did a Leroy Jenkins, it was more because no one really took much damage. The threat wasn’t really that high and it didn’t feel like the challenge level was great. I’m sure it ramps up as the campaign goes on, but as a first session it seemed easy once we had the hang of the mechanics.
I’d definitely play it again, but not one off – I think to get the best out of it I’d want to try the full campaign.
James is a long-time tournament wargamer (but he’s not as horrible as all that), RPG and board game player. He works designing and producing games of all types, and is launching his own company Black Cats Gaming in 2019. Follow him on twitter @Guilensturn and @followblackcats and check out his company at Black Cats Gaming.
Anna – The game was easy to learn although the rules did seem a little long winded. Overall I found it fun, but just it was a little slow to keep me completely engaged, although I’m not sure if that was just because we were new. I think the combat turns for the bad guys could definitely be sped up so that one roll applies to all of them instead of each one taking individual turns. It would also help if they had more variety of health. I was unlucky with initiative several times so that usually by the time my turn came around all visible enemies were already dead so I really had not much to do in the game. Amallyn was fun to plan for and set up but I rarely got the chance to really use her effectively. I would like to play more of it before I recommend it to anyone else, just to get a better feel for the game and the game rounds.
Anna is a cosplayer and photographer. She started roleplaying a few years ago and now runs several of her own games. Her favourite games are D&D, Betrayal and the Witcher series. You can follow her gaming exploits and see her cosplay work and photography here.
Have you played Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress? What did you think of it? Which explorers did you use in your team? Let us know in the comments below.
This copy of Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress was provided by Warhammer Community.