Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress – Project Complete

A Previously Completed Project

The Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress Box Set is now completely painted, a blast to play, and helped me survive temporary unemployment during the height of Covid in 2020. 

Bought a foam insert online to keep the painted contents safe within the box. Money well spent after hours of work.

Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress is a complicated board game made for one to five people; that’s right, it comes with a sort of AI so you can play all by your lonesome. It was published by Games Workshop in 2018 and supported for a few years afterwards. 

The base game comes packed with a literal ton of stuff. The draw of most GW products are the glorious miniatures, and this board game does not disappoint with nine wonderfully detailed and characterful adventures and thirty-five adversaries of various types which need to be assembled and painted. The box also contains several hundred cards and tokens, dozens of board pieces to be connected in various ways as defined by the game ( and the cards i mentioned) and a pile of easily digested rules books. One book even includes rules for using the board game miniatures in games of Warhammer 40000, adding to the overall value of the box set if you play the company’s most popular tabletop wargame. 

all dressed up and nowhere to go except the dangerous space station

Additionally, the box included zip lock bags to save your game progress; this is done by storing the data cards of the adventures you were using, the cards they had collected for loot and the progress into the blackstone fortress itself. This is a very important feature, as it is impossible to finish the game in a single sitting, evening or likely even a whole weekend, unless dangerous amounts of caffeine are substituted for sleep. (Sounds like a blast. Who’s with me?)

Just some of the Double -sided cardboard punch-out board pieces and ship tokens.

Possibly the coolest part of the Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress game is the sealed envelope inside. The ending is a secret which you are not supposed to open until you actually finish the game. No turning to the last page of the novel here. That is if you can keep people from tearing it open immediately (i am lookin at you Kera). Not only that, there are several variants of envelope content. 

jerks and jerks in power armor

Old school Gaming with New School Tech

It was a tough year all around, for many people, but in 2020 I found myself furloughed for sixty-six days in the second quarter of the year. I expected it to last a week or two, so at first I enjoyed the time off with my wife (who works for the same company and was also furloughed) and painted some miniatures. I ended my sixty-six days away from work with 238 painted minis. Crazy, I know, but I digress. 

It was during that time, while texting back and forth with Robert (not that we text constantly like teenage girls or anything *cough*) that we got to discussing the futility of long distance gaming. We had been hobbying over Zoom a bunch at that point, but obviously playing a tabletop wargame in two different locations is impossible, and I refuse to play a wargame over Tabletop Simulator. At that point we might as well just play a game together over Steam. Then it struck me like a warhammer: we could play Blackstone Fortress over Zoom. 

Look Mom! I can see myself. Taking a picture of myself taking a picture while talking to Robert and the board we are playing on.

Here me out. I know it’s a rather complicated board game: there are dice, cards, tiles to compose the maps out of and a ton of miniatures and the data cards that list statistics. But, the tiles are a hex system, instead of free range of motion across a gaming table. And, of course, we would both have the same exact box.

This would allow us to reproduce the game board on both of our tables. Robert and I ran through the logistics as we saw it and then moved from theoretical to practical; he bought a box and assembled them. We converged on zoom, as he shuffled up the mission cards, made a deck and then dealt a card. I looked for it in my stack and we both assembled the map present on the card on our own tables. 

We sat on opposite sides of the virtual table, which in reality meant we situated ourselves so that the old phone he was using as a stationary camera, and 3rd zoom account, would allow us to say towards me or towards you. And we picked an “up” direction. That got us playing.

I knew the game was great, having put in a few sessions with my wife previously. Getting the game running with a friend hundreds of miles away raised the level quite generously. That first session was rocky as we figured out the tech and put our ideas into action, but it worked. We quickly developed code names to distinguish individual models when necessary, such as grenade guy, knife guy and flamer guy. This, along with each of the two sets of traitor guard painted with a different accent color, allowed us to quickly determine who was where. 

The game board set up exactly as the above pic shows, with Robert virtually sitting on the other side.

With Robert pulling the cards, I could continue to use the save game zip lock bags to save the game I was playing with Kera. When I inevitably needed a card from one of those saves, I would put the name on a sticky note. I would swap the sticky note as needed, thereby playing one long distance game with Robert and one locally with the wife. 

From there it was magic. Zoom decided not to play nice for free anymore so we went to Skype fairly seamlessly. We played. There was music played in the background. I can neither confirm  nor deny the presence of adult beverages on both sides of the camera. I could almost forget that my best friend was multiple states and many hundreds of miles away. I ended up going back to work shortly after we really got everything figured out. We definitely didn’t play as many games as I wanted (and we still haven’t finished our playthrough of the game) and I am full of regret. Blackstone Fortress helped us connect and relive our high school gaming days during a year that Robert was forced to miss what was supposed to be his second annual trip up from his neck of the woods to mine. The game will alway have a special place in my heart, and hopefully Robert and I will finish the game in person one of these days.

The game Itself

Completing a playthrough of Blackstone fortress involves playing a number of linked game sessions referred to as expeditions. Each playthrough contains both random and planned missions. Expeditions, which contain 4 random challenge cards and 4 random combat maps cards are shuffled together, and the adventurer characters are working through the random expeditions until they find enough clues to go assault one of the four strongholds. Once all four strongholds have been conquered, the players will then make an attempt on the hidden vault itself. After each expedition, be it finished or barely started a countdown card is taken, which may introduce a new enemy to the random roster or may just be a picture of an hourglass. If those cards run out before the vault is breached, the game is over.

Along the way, the characters will get a chance to get gear, become inspired to be better versions of themselves and possibly die permanently taking their collected gear with them. The game is also over if there are not enough characters left alive to launch a new expedition. Careful planning and thoughtful action could usually get a crew through an expedition, and the game rewarded thought over aggression. But, in a dice game there is also always a chance that the enemy actions will turn out more dangerous then normal, or that the generally effective player characters could whiff an important dice roll. 

Great lengths were taken to keep the game alive, extending the excitement collected in that original box. Several boxed game expansions were released, each featuring new models and cards. Upgrade cards were sold to add more options for random equipment or harder enemy challenges, which also required the purchase of an enemy upgrade set to get extra baseline bad guys. Articles were published in the monthly White Dwarf magazine, containing one-off missions for extra models taken from the extended model ranges, or extra missions, and much of those were collected in the tragically named Annual, since there was never a second annual published. 

These decks of cards are way out of print and worth their weight in gold online.

This version of Warhammer Quest was far advanced over the previous versions of the game in many ways. I was filled with excitement when Warhammer Quest Cursed City was announced. What a mess. But, that’s a story for a different day. 

What’s next?

Well, I built but never painted up the minis from the pile of expansions that I couldn’t stop myself from buying. I should probably get on that…

Temporarily extracted from my Pile of Shame

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


Obsessive and neurotic collector of little plastic men, novels about the same little plastic men and paints to make the little plastic men pretty. Married to Kera, who puts up with him and pretends that she doesn’t hear him speaking to the little plastic men in between making pew pew noises in the hobby room. Requires adult supervision. A menace to himself but rarely to others. More beard than man

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