PUBLISHER: GAMES WORKSHOP | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Warhammer 40,000 is an interesting setting, its story and lore made up of a vast array of multi-media experiences, everything from board games to comics to cards are used to tell various stories of far-future grim-darkness. Games Workshop’s Blackstone Fortress line of ‘dungeon crawl’ board games has taken 40K back to its roots, being a miniatures-based game that also has an unfolding narrative. BSF is a game about Rogue Traders and other space-faring types exploring a long-forgotten gargantuan space station, looking for treasure and power.
Blackstone Fortress: Escalation is the latest expansion for the game, and also the most comprehensive. Unlike previous add-ons, this one comes with a new campaign, 4 new characters (plus a retinue character), 8 new cultists and a big pile of cards, counters, markers, board tiles etc. Escalation continues to the plot from the core game, (though we will avoid spoilers as best we can). These are pretty, well thought out and robust.
The ancient yet cosmically powerful Blackstone Fortress is now being partially controlled by agents of Chaos. These forces have set up a stable camp within the normally every-changing fortress, and it’s up to a team of explorers to map the heart of chaos and root out the darkness that is taking over the place.
In game terms, this means that rather than drawing cards to generate encounters and combat, there’s a book with various missions in it. At the end of each adventure, players pick a path and mark that on their map. The aim is to find the shrines (one for each of the four Chaos gods) and then defeat the big boss. They are narrative passages to read out and a story of sorts to follow.
The core game has a clock based on legacy cards. Basically, every time the party returned to the ragtag village made up of parked space-ships called Precipice, the game got one step closer to ending. This has been replaced by the ‘Menace tracker’. The story is that the Fortress is now actively trying to destroy Precipice, and as the game progresses, the threat rises. Clue cards are now used to establish new entry points on the map, making it easier to dive back into the adventure without back-tracking.
The new heroes are nice. We get a new Rogue Trader, Neyam Shai Murad, who looks like a proper space pirate and wields dual pistols. It’s a lovely model, and it’s nice to see a ‘leg blade’ on a sci-fi character. We get a Crusader, who is basically a damage soak and a Primaris Psyker who can smash out a lot of damage but isn’t great at taking it. She also does a strong line in supporting the rest of the party. We round off with a tech-priest who complements any party build and will spend much of the game picking up objectives and supporting other heroes. Escalation also includes a robot-zombie thing (combat servitor) called X-101. It’s a retinue character that can only be found in the game, and the party takes turns to control it.
Blackstone Fortress Escalation takes ideas from previous fantasy-based Warhammer Quest games and expands upon them. What we have here is not only more game, but more ways of running the game. It opens up a lot of new ideas and is rather fun. A must for fans of the core Blackstone Fortress.