A few months ago, my friend Michael invited me to play Blackstone Fortress, a popular dice-based tabletop strategy/combat game. As a newbie to the Warhammer 40K universe, my immediate response was to do a quick Google search for strategy guides. There weren’t any. This article will attempt to fill that void by providing a concise overview of BSF strategy. Because part of the fun of Blackstone Fortress comes from on-the-fly problem solving, trial-and-error tactical planning, and unexpected obstacles, I’ll keep the guide as general and as spoiler-free as possible. Yet I’ll still provide tips to make your life easier and the Fortress survivable.
Players familiar with the game should skip the overview and proceed directly to the observations/tips.
- Introduction: Gameplay overview
- Observation #1: Only grievous wounds matter.
- Tip #1A: Include UR-025 in your party as your main tank.
- Tip #1B: Skip risky challenges.
- Observation #2: Enemy behavior is procedural and therefore highly predictable.
- Tip #2A: Keep your team together and send your tank out to draw fire.
- Tip #2B: Force the enemy to walk through traps.
- Observation #3: Reinforcement is a rare event.
- Tip #3A: Take it slow.
- Tip #3B: Let the hostiles come to you.
- Observation #4: Inspired characters are extremely powerful.
- Tip #4A: Switch to characters who are permanently inspired.
- Tip #4B: Set up characters to meet their inspiration conditions.
- Tip #4C: Shunt inspiration points to key characters.
- Observation #5: Gambits have a high return.
- Observation #6: Not all characters are equally good.
- Observation #7: Not all hostiles are equally dangerous.
- Observation #8: Items provide huge buffs.
Blackstone Fortress takes place in a newly-discovered space station which houses various secrets and advanced technology. The goal of the game is to defeat four Strongholds and then to defeat the Vault, unlocking the secret of the Blackstone Fortress. Players select a party of four from a total of eight available heroes, each of whom has unique abilities and weaknesses. In particular, the heroes differ in the strength of their agility, vitality, and defense rolls, in the optimal range of their attacks (1 hex, 2-3 hexes, or 4+ hexes), and in their mobility (1, 2, 3, or 4 hexes per movement action).
The party embarks on a series of Expeditions in an effort to discover clues that allow them access to each Stronghold. If the Vault is not defeated within 12 Expeditions, the game is lost. An Expedition ends either when all the encounter cards are drawn, when a hero dies, or when the players decide to retreat.
After each Expedition, the heroes return to their ships, where items can be purchased and various abilities can be used. Each ship also comes with a power that can be activated once during each expedition.
Inside the fortress, players engage in combat with various types of enemies, face challenges, and search the fortress for clues, items, and currency called Archeotech. Combat is dice-based and is conducted on hex-grid maps. Each player receives three to four dice at the start of every initiative cycle along with access to a pool of public “destiny dice.” They expend dice to perform actions like movement, healing, exploration, and attacks.
In each of the tips that follows, I’ll make one important observation about gameplay and will then provide suggestions based on that observation.
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