If you grew up during the 1990s, it’s likely that you have memories of a boardgame called Space Crusade. It took the Warhammer 40,000 franchise to another level, throwing heroic space marines into a spooky abandoned space ship and making them fight multiple missions for survival. The game is long out of print and like many things from the ‘90s, not as good as you remember.
Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress is everything you ever wanted from a Warhammer 40,000-themed boardgame. Rather than focusing on Space Marines (who are little one-note), we instead have a Rogue Traders, Navigators, adventurous ratlings (space hobbits), Mechanicus machines, cannibalistic aliens, and space elves - all banding together to loot an ancient space monolith, one that may well predate the galaxy.
It’s part legacy game, part dungeon crawler and part rapid skirmish game. You pick a character, such as the dashing Rogue Trader Janus Draik, and form a party to explore this ancient structure. Rather than having a set ‘dungeon’, basic play involves drawing an encounter card and resolving the challenge. This might be an ambush, or a quick opportunity for treasure. More often than not though, it’s a small skirmish.
You follow the instructions on the card and build a board. This takes about 5 minutes. You then add monsters, and resolve the situation. Your goal isn’t so much to kill baddies as it is to grab the loot. Each character has a special goal and related powers. Grab the right sort of loot and you can unlock scenarios. These are more complicated (and difficult) dungeons. They are five in total, but to get there you’ll have to flip encounter cards and take risks. Game play takes anything from 40 minutes to all day - you get to choose.
The rules use the roll and keep from previous Warhammer Quest games; you all roll dice in advance of your turn and you spend those dice to do stuff. If you roll four 5s, you can do all the stuff that needs a 5 or less four times in your turn. Roll four 1s and you’re probably just moving and exploring, unless you’ve a special item or ability that only needs a 1. There’s also a communal pool of dice that’s rolled each round, which you can dip into. Taking damage reduces the dice you can roll.
As the game progresses, you’ll take so much damage that you’ll need to go back to Precipice, a rough space station that orbits the fortress. Here you can lick your wounds and also find more clues. But every time you visit precipice, the game’s ‘legacy’ aspect ticks on. Each visit makes it more likely that horrible monsters will turn up in the next mission, or something equally awful will happen. You can also run out of time, at which point the final quest can’t be done.
The box itself is crammed with gorgeous models. In addition to the wide and varied heroes of the Warhammer 40,000 world, we get cultists, pyskers, Chaos Space Marines, Ur-Ghuls, Beastmen and so on. It’s a who’s who of the settings creepiest foes and they’ll all gorgeous lumps of plastic. The game components drip with galactic gothic creepiness.
This is fast, deep and engaging. It’s so much fun, easy to pick up and fun. The models are a little fiddly to put together, but worth the time. They’re a joy to paint, but look fine without it. We especially like the way the ratlings are carrying a mini-fridge. Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress is the game we always wanted Warhammer 40,000 to be, and it’s instantly addictive. If you own one Warhammer game, own this one.