BLACKSTONE FORTRESS ANNUAL 2019 / PUBLISHER: GAMES WORKSHOP / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Games Workshop’s space dungeon crawl boardgame Blackstone Fortress can easily be seen as the spiritual successor to the cult hit Space Crusade, and already has its own cult following. The game has only been out for a year and already it’s garnered a small collection of expansions, all of which tweak the game with various missions, rules and events.
One of the more interesting add-ons are all the rules that could be found in GW’s own magazine, White Dwarf. Though there is a retro charm of bringing a binder filled with scraps of paper to the gaming table, it would be nicer to have them all in one place. This Annual does just that, as well as adding some updates and extra bits to the game. The various new rules are mostly welcome additions to the game, but a little bit of judgement is required. For example the book expands on retinue characters, a thing that was first introduced in Blackstone Fortress Escalation. It allows the party to go on a quest to acquire a player-controlled ally. Some of these are very powerful; there’s an Ork mercenary which just causes devastation, and you can also get two Ogryn brothers that are very powerful. If you add the Abominable Intelligence expansion which makes the game more combat-focused, then these allies seem essential. We also get designer notes on using Abominable Intellect. It is essentially intended as a difficulty slider for the game, increasing the scope.
Rules for solo play are welcome, as is guidance for changing the number of players. There’s a section on ‘more stuff to do between missions,’ which lets you explore Precipice, the rag-tag village that surrounds the Fortress. This is a little short; it’s basically some encounter tables and a ‘push your luck’ mechanic for the game. It’s a pity because Precipice is a really cool idea; it’s made up of various explorer space ships and really deserves its own dedicated expansion. One of the slight niggles is that the book introduces characters and cards to the game, but doesn’t actually include any physical cards. You can scan and produce your own (permission is given in the book), but homebrew cards and character sheets never match the standard of the game’s quality. It also suggests you use models that aren’t that easy to get, but there’s nothing to stop you from having fun and coming up with your own converted models; that’s half the fun. The Blackstone Fortress Annual 2019 is vital if you collect Blackstone Fortress but it’s important to realise that you should have all the other expansions first. This is a companion piece to the entire set, and a must have for those who find this game so addictive.