In the last few weeks I’ve gone over some of the techniques for making battlefield terrain. The focus has been on buildings and structures and this week we’re going to finish that theme off by bringing it all together. I promised some multistory buildings too. Read on to see more of the good stuff and how I achieved the beginnings of some great results!
What am I doing?
I decided to make everything so that it would fit on convenient 15 x 15 cm tiles. This was so that I could orientate the same tiles to create different looking terrain, whether I’m playing Age of Sigmar, AoS Skirmish, Frostgrave or even some Dungeons & Dragons.
Similar tiles can be used to create urban scenery in Warhammer 40,000, which I’ll cover at some point in the future.
I also upgraded my hot-wire cutter. It was a little more expensive, in the £50-60 region, but the arm doesn’t flex, the wire doesn’t bend and it heats up consistently making its ability to cut through foam much better! Alarmingly, the wire does glow bright orange, which was a little disconcerting at first!
So how did I do, what did I do, and how did I do it? Read on…
A trial run…
I decided to test my formula for creating tabletop scenery with an unsuspecting volunteer. I quickly ran down the basic steps of creating the terrain piece, introduced the volunteer to a hot glue gun and Styrofoam, hefted a tonne of miniature bricks onto the table and allowed that person to run away with their imagination. This is the outcome so far (note, it still needs painting).
As you can see, it really doesn’t take much to get stuck in and have a go. Once again, there wasn’t a huge amount of planning involved in the creation of this quaint little tower – imagination provided the blueprints and away they went!
The Tile Set Blueprints
OK, so creating as many 15 x 15 cm tiles as required. To make my life easier, I got hold of some 1 cm thick black Styrofoam. It was an eBay purchase and cost me about £16 but may be cheaper in other parts of the world. Why did I buy these? It’s quite difficult to thin down thick Styrofoam on account of the wobbly nature of the hot-wire cutter.
So, not everything needs be to broken or derelict, no, there needs to be more so I’m going to build some complete structures which fit on the 15 cm tiles; watchtowers, tall walls, dead-ends, bell towers, warehouses, pig pens, shambolic defensive positions – you name it!
Because each tile is essentially 6 x 6 inches, I can fit four in a single square foot. Multiply this by four and you’ve got yourself an interchangeable, customisable and modular tabletop terrain system. I’ll go to town on some bigger open plazas with ruined columns etc in the future (to make it easier and give any missile troops a chance).
Footpaths & Plazas
From a design point of view, I’d like to build some footpaths, essentially narrow death traps that must be risked to get to different places on the map. Here are some images of the test pieces I worked on. It can take time to get it right, so give yourself an open mind when you’re trying out ideas – you won’t put pressure on yourself and get worked up by perceived ‘failures’ at the end of your crafting session.
The dirt footpaths are 5 x 15 cm. By applying a lot of pressure with some scrunched up tin foil to the centre of the Styrofoam piece, and lighter touches to the outer quarters I was able to create the impression that the path had been used for many years. I cut some 0.5 x 0.5 x 15 slithers of foam and cut them up, weathering and aging them with the foil to look like curb pieces.
In the future when I attempt larger roads, I will use the ‘crazy pathing’ idea and simply trim the pieces down to compensate for the curb. I’ll also impress the foam in places to make it look like carts had been through, wearing down the road over the years.
The roads should be at least 10 cm wide and up to 30 cm long (the extent of my purchased Styrofoam sheets) – they will look good running through the centre of the board, or alongside the boards on bigger battle arenas. Details are important here, so I need to think about how I’m going to decorate the pieces to make them believable.
It sounds easy, but it’s actually very hard to make simple open spaces and retain the feeling of interest and wonder. Because there’s likely no focal point to grab the eye, it needs to have a few extra details to keep the area ‘alive’ and quirky.
I’ve decided on a single gallows with some stakes rammed into the ground to keep people away from ‘justice’ being served…
I added some ‘crazy pathing’ for a bit more variety, weathering the whole lot with the tin foil method. To make the pathing stones I cut foam strips 2 x 2 cm then went over the corners, freehand cutting in irregular ways. I then cut the stones from the end of the strips at 0.5 cm, creating odd and mismatched but flat stones. In hindsight, I should have cut these narrow than 0.5 cm, maybe half that again to 0.25 cm.
Texture is also important, so I’ll likely be using some of the rolling pins from Green Stuff World. An example of my trial run with these can be found in the images below…
Ramping It Up!
Finally, I decided to have a go at the multistory building idea.
I wanted to make this bigger, but I also wanted to be able to use different parts of it at different times. To achieve this, I started with 4 tiles to make a jumbo tile and began building a wall which would interconnect. I added a ruined wall around the edges of the jumbo tile, leaving plenty of gaps and debris for cover and interesting features.
I then started to make a second story of brickwork, which I could lock or lay in place and built this up a few times. Finally, I made a third story set of brickwork, but this time to accommodate half a roof.
The roof in these pieces was made from foam board, which is light and tough. I cut out rows of packing card (the sort of thin card your Amazon books are delivered in). Each row was 2 cm high with a cut 1 cm deep every 1 cm along the row. I then just cut and hacked out pieces to create the impression of roof slates. This was time consuming, but quite rewarding. You can see some of the details in the image below.
Finally, here’s a series of images showing you how to connect together.
OK, so its not complete yet (I mean, I did just complete an entire week of a UK LARP event!) So I’ll post some images next week.
That’s it for now, and the end of this miniseries for terrain and scenery. If you’ve learnt anything, or if you have some advice and tips of your own, please leave a message in the comments below.
There will be more on tabletop terrain in the future, but for now, I really want to get these pieces finished and have them lined up for some gaming!
I first mentioned BattleScribe in this article, briefly and frankly I think it deserves far more than a mere mention. So here it is, my closer look at the free army builder for nearly every war game out there!
I’m a lazy gamer when it comes to war games. Often I forget to bring or just haven’t bought the hard copies of the books that I really do need to play the game. Often I just borrow those belonging to my friends, and more often than not they never see them again for several years as they gather dust.
But now, I’ve found something amazing. Something so great that it will blast the dust away from my bookshelf, shoot laser beams from the eyes of my wraithlord and generally add the power of the god-emperor on his relic throne to every aspect of my wargaming.
I’m talking about BattleScribe and I’m talking about Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000.
I’ll point out that BattleScribe doesn’t just do Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 stuff. It covers just about every war game currently out there. The data is maintained by the community, so it’s fairly balanced and as far as we can tell, canon (if that’s even possible for anything Games Workshop?)
Just a few games that jump up as popular, to give you an idea of the coverage:
A song of Ice & fire: Tabletop Miniature Game (which I kickstarted but yet to play)
Star Wars Armada, X-Wing & Legion
Fantasy Battles (the 9th Age guys!)
Harry potter games
Warhammer – all of it, from just about every age and era!
There’s something for just about everyone.
Now, I can’t say that I’ve used much in the way of similar programs, but the ones I have seen are poorly maintained, have hidden pay schemes for some or all content or just don’t have the scope to cover everything war gaming.
But BattleScribe has it all. I’m just getting started. Can you tell?
I lied a bit – there are parts of BattleScribe that you can pay for. But this really doesn’t diminish the value of the program if you use only the free version. I think that after a couple of uses you may be tempted to even throw some spare money their way as a thanks for making your life much easier.
I’m terrible at flicking through the book and understanding how armies come together, detachments and points values, layers of this and that, the colour of the banner under a martian moon, etc. This feisty little program does all that for me – it even tells me if there’s something missing, if I’ve over spent on points, how many command points I have, what I need to eat for breakfast the week before (actually, my mother does that but she’s just as thorough too).
You want that list but can’t stand squinting at a screen like a cyberpunk mole? Yeah me too – BattleScribe can export your files as text and HTML. I believe the phone app for android also does PDF. So you can print out your army list, with options for including rules, points values etc.
You can share the data using URLs and they can be linked to Dropbox – I don’t ever have to pack a book ever again!
You can use BattleScribe on just about any modern platform, from desktops to phones, all makes, and versions.
Finally, according to their website you can update and edit files if you spot mistakes.
Using the Android App, it can be a bit fiddly when you first use it, and it does take a little bit of time to learn how it functions and how to edit your choices, such as war gear, detachments and commanders etc. Once you pick this up, and it is fairly intuitive, you’ll be fine. I still didn’t fully understand army detachments and specialist forces, so it took a bit of extra reading – it won’t tell you what things actually are until you select them, then it tells you what is missing. It was a bit of trial and error on coffee break.
The data files are community driven – there’s a tonne of slimy teenagers and Dorito dusted nerds out there who may want to fudge the rules a little bit. Those errors you friend found… yeah they may have just been a few tweeks to fit the “theme” of their army.
There are extra features for paying customers, mostly nice fluffy stuff like saving and customising units with names, quick views, some dice tools for when you don’t have any dice or math skills and of course, removing adverts, which I have to say, always sounds worth it.
So what does it all look like?
Well I had a bit of a fiddle and worked an army list which I think is legal, according to BattleScribe.
Here is an example of the output from PDF form, as you can see it lists everything I need to know about the unit. Other than a copy of the rules (which are brief now, thanks to GW’s overhaul) I’m covered.
You’ll notice that some of the Characteristics are labelled “Characteristic 1” etc. These follow a logical order of the stat line. It’s not really a bad point or a con, but worth mentioning in case you don’t realise in a rush.
The overall PDF has each unit nicely sectioned to set pages, so there’s very little run over. I suspect for something really powerful, like, I dunno, a Chaos character (?) the list may go on for quite a bit, but you’ll have to play around.
Here’s the whole PDF for you to look at. It’s not my final list, but I guess it’s pretty close!
Most of us have seen or heard of Forge World. If you have, you’ve likely stared in disbelief at the prices of some of the miniatures they supply – even compared to Games Workshop – a notorious money snatcher – the prices are pretty high.
But are we getting upset by the price for no reason?
I’ve been gaming for years but I’ve never actually looked into Forge World before. I’ve heard many things, but as a scientist and forensic student, I would not be doing myself any favours without investigating the facts myself.
So, here goes.
My current Project…
I’ve been looking for a nice centerpiece miniature model for this new collection, which had to fit the theme of the faction and the type of army I was hoping to create. Since most of the troops I’ve selected are essentially ghosts and spirits animating some (very cool) looking suits of armour, some random space elf dude wasn’t going to live up to the aesthetic. So I looked around – and stumbled upon a new miniature I haven’t seen before… the Wraithseer. But, oh no, you can’t buy this miniature from Games Workshop, no. You have to order it from Forge World. Hmm… there’s a risk there, I’m sure.
So I’ve looked into Forge World and I placed an order. I started to put this centerpiece commander together. These are my experiences and conclusions about the quality and worthiness of models bought from Forge World.
You’re gonna get some background on Forge World and I’ll throw in some images of how I went about the process of opening the box and putting it all together. Then I’m going to tell you if I think Forge World are worth it.
But First, some Background
Who the hell are Forge world? Forge World are a supplier of specialists model miniatures and conversion kits as well as specialist games. They generally use a type of resin for their products which is different from normal plastic. You’ll find they make all sorts of wondrous miniatures.
And to be perfectly clear, they are Games Workshop through and through. Same company. Same HQ. Same offices and same website design.
Games Workshop are a UK miniature war-gaming manufacturer. They are best known for their tabletop war-games such as; Warhammer Age of Sigmar (Fantasy Battle), Warhammer 40,000 and The Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game.
There’s a tonne of controversy with Games workshop and its various branch-off businesses, mainly; the pricing of their products, the way in which their new products are generally more powerful than the current stuff and the way in which they imply everything for Games Workshop has to be gold plated to be used. But despite all this, they generally do make some really good miniatures, to a good standard of quality. But if you ask the internet, they hate their customer base. I’m sitting on the fence of absolutes here – I enjoy the stuff they create, but I kind of agree that they are generally over priced.
My First Order from Forge World
Since May I’ve been an adult and started collecting miniatures from Games Workshop to play one of their main game lines, Warhammer 40K. Since childhood I enjoyed the setting and themes of GW’s universe, but I never really understood the concepts of some of the factions (armies) that are available for play. So, since I’ve had a little more free time in the evenings I started to collect miniatures for a faction known as the Aeldari (formerly, the Eldar). Think space-elves are you’re pretty much there. These guys captured my imagination from an early age and it’s taken me over two decades to start collecting them.
Here’s what I found with my first experience with Forge World:
You essentially get a normal product with extra components to create the specialist unit. Since the Wraithseer is a Wraith Lord, you get all the parts for the Wraith Lord, with some extra bits to make the model into the Wraithseer. GW’s Wraithlord = £28, FW’s Wraithseer = £41. I’m spending £13 on some extra bits. Is that too pricey? Well, we’ll look at the quality later and draw some conclusions.
The extra components are a different quality resin, lighter grey and more pliable. In the past, this resin was labelled as ‘Fine cast’ which suggested that the detailing on each model was of superior quality. It turns out, that wasn’t the case, so they ditched that marketing and decided to refer to the new range of products as simply, resin.
Edit (17/2/19, 17:30 GMT) – The above stricken text was later found to be incorrect. There is supposedly no link between Fine Cast and Forge World. However, this does not mean that GW dropped Finecast completely, as I’m sure there was overlap at some point between the manufacture. I’m open for more comments on this, so feel free to educate me!
Was anything bent out of shape or wildly irregular that it will not work? No, apart from a slightly wavy long narrow spear shaft, this model seems fine.
What did I have to do that was different to preparing a regular plastic miniature?
There’s a lot more flash (excessive build up of plastic / resin which you don’t normally get from the regular plastic kits) that needs cleaning and cutting away. If, like me, you’re haven’t done this sort of thing for years, you’ll really need to take your time and go slow. Look at, and think about, what you’re going to cut and how you’re going to cut it – these kits are expensive and you don’t want to mess it up! They’re also much softer, so any cutting risks cutting too deep! Resin kits need super glue to bond efficiently too, and they bond fast!
The Resin components: How does it look and feel, is the detail any better?
Hmm… yes I think it is. Some of that detail may be lost in the excess resin flash though. It certainly seems crisper in some places, but on areas of the blades, such as this cool looking spear, I had to re-carve the back of the blade so it looked less like a portion of cheese left to rot in Nurgle’s undercarriage. And check out some of those random bubble holes still!
It glues and sticks fast. Really handy when you’re relying on your heartbeat to not force your fingers to break the delicate bonds using a more brittle and fragile plastic.
It is more pliable. It feels smooth and clean, but there is a bubbling effect in areas which will require more modelling to fill in the gaps. More time required, I guess!
How hard was the model kit to assemble?
Actually, not too hard at all compared to the regular wraith lord (of which, I’ve made three since May). Some of the components are very small and fiddly but if you plan the assembly properly, you shouldn’t have any problems at all!
Am I happy with the product?
Yeah, I think I am, but let’s discuss some final thoughts. I did realise later on however that the bases provided for the Wraithlords are scenic, they have nice detail touches like cracked earth and debris. There is no such base for the more expensive Wraithseer. What’s that all about? Well, it’s either money, or laziness on the part of GW’s package planning.
Final Thoughts: Is Forge world worth it?
I think this all depends on the buyer:
If like me, you’re a regular war-gamer with limited funds, then I suspect Forge world products are not for you – simply put, you don’t need them to enjoy the tabletop war games produced by Games workshop.
If your sole attraction to miniatures is to assemble, convert and paint models, then actually yeah, I think it’s for you – I suspect you’ll buy one-off miniatures, paint them to a really high standard and marvel at them in a highly polished glass case. Or sell them on Ebay for a little bit of extra money.
Forge World is not for kids. They’re out-priced for a start – unless you have wealthy middle class parents, but also because they’re not recommended for anyone under the age of 15. Why? Well they’re fiddly, require you to use sharp points and blades… and apparently the resin is toxic as a dust. Perhaps most teenagers probably won’t know how to assemble the over priced miniature too – there’s no instructions provided!
Edit (14/2/19, 21:00 GMT) – Many of you have praised the customer services of Forge World. Apparently they are more than happy to offer replacement parts should your model not be usable, or even if any of its components are not usable. So much so, no one I’ve spoken can fault them for it. Seems they actually care!
And finally – you can’t buy the rules for these models or download them separately like you can for some products on the GW website. No, you need to buy a separate book for about £15.
HOWEVER – I have recently discovered a very cool app called BattleScribe.
BattleScribe is a free army builder app for Warhammer 40,000. It contains everything, which means you don’t need to have any of the books for any of the Warhammer 40K factions and this app even lets you download your selected army as an easy-print PDF with ALL the rules associated with the models and the choices you made for the army.
Yes, it is FREE.
So there you go – it is unlikely I’ll be buying anything else from Forge World in the near future (unless I come into a large amount of prize money for something). But if you’re a collector of interesting miniatures or if you like a challenge, then its good for you.
I’d like to hear your views and opinions on Forge World and their product line, so feel free to add a comment or message us. You can join our slowly building mailing list here.
Prior to the Festive period we got our hands on a box of Games Workshop’s Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress. So far we’ve been loving the game. Some of us have had reservations about Games Workshop in the past, their ability to piss their hardcore fans off – which seems to be normal for any company in the 21st Century, but more so because of the blatant greed. I digress, I actually enjoy the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K universe.
Over the festive period we’ve managed to get in three solid gaming sessions; the first to get to know the game and try to figure out the rules; another to start a proper campaign and see how far we could get; and the most recent session to take on the first of several strongholds in the game. Allow me to explain…
In Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress you play characters from a band of adventurers in the 41st Millenium, investigating an ancient and monolithic structure drifting in space. Access points to this fortress allow you to gain entry into different parts of the fortress, where you seek clues to find the much sought after Hidden Vault.
In game terms you need to find clue cards from your expeditions into the Blackstone Fortress. At first glance we thought this could take a good number of games, and now after a few more sessions we have a better understanding…
In session 2 we ploughed our way through a regular expedition, taking some heavy fire but actually finding a total of 5 clues, 1 more than we actually needed. This allowed us to gather the information and put it together into locating one of several strongholds which held a higher echelon of clues, to eventually permit us deeper into the fortress (we guess). So in actual fact, we don’t need to play hundreds of games as we at first thought. No, you can get all the clues you need in a single nights session of gaming.
So in session 3 we blitzed the run-up to this stronghold, the Descent, where the players must traverse a two layered dungeon map (sorry, Combat map) and then get to a focus point and access it several times to end the game. Whilst this was happening, the monsters and bad guys were spawning 50% of the time, because reinforcements in Strongholds happens on a 1-10 of a 20 sided dice.
But we cheated..!
Ok, so we had 6 players this time round (usually its 4 characters tops), so it was much easier. But in our defence, we still nearly lost several characters in the process which would have crippled our chances of completing the game as a whole and never opening that secret envelope for the Hidden Vault.
So, to the naysayers on reddit who told me that the price of the game (even discounted to ~£70) was not worth it because, on average, people would maybe play the game 4-5 times a year: your loss. Even if you hate Games Workshop for being the money making powerhouse that it is, they’ve actually hit upon a good game, that has more depth and story than any of the current or previous games they’ve made.
You see, the game relies on players not always being present every gaming session, so that the characters they play, which are persistent throughout the gaming sessions, get played by other members of your gaming group. If that character dies, there’s no chance of them coming back, they lose all of their equipment, focus and abilities not only of themselves, but of the adventuring group. That adds up to quite a loss.
Why is this a good thing?
Because it adds a sense of realism and makes the game harder challenging.
We’ve felt challenged by this game each session, more so because there is no genius mastermind controlling the bad guys. Cooperatively, we were still getting our buns handed to us by an insubstantial entity that is the games master.
A bit like a omnipresent entity in the form of a floating space fortress…
Our advice for the average gamers with families (thus limiting your game time) – play Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress with less Exploration Cards. Normally you create the deck of Exploration cards by taking 4 from the challenges and 4 from the Combat decks. This, in our opinion, can take more hours than are fair in an evening.
Three cards from each can take you 3 hours, you just get less chance of finding clue cards, but then you just play an extra session later. It’s pretty straight forward!
Blackstone Fortress is the latest adventure board game to come from Games Workshop set in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, Warhammer 40K to most nerds. It is labelled as Warhammer Quest. For those you in your thirties this will take you back to the glory days of heroic ineptitude – the golden age of adventure. For everyone else, it’s the latest in the Warhammer Quest Series. Alongside Blackstone Fortress in the Warhammer Quest series are Silver Tower (currently discontinued) and Shadows of Hammerhal both of which are set in GW’s fantasy setting, Age of Sigmar. All of these games follow similar game styles and mechanics, so if you’ve played one you should be able to pick up the others with relative ease.
Blackstone Fortress promises exploration and adventure in the grim darkness of the 41st Millenium, a vast void of horror and terror.
With character choices ranging from outlawed Artificial Intelligence robot, rogue trader and Imperial Navigator to fanatic, Ratling snipers (who are twins) and alien hunters, there should be something for anyone who has an interest in grim and gritty science fiction.
A few of you older players out there who have not ventured in table top adventure games in some time may be thinking ‘is this just Hero Quest in the modern era of gaming?’ I think it’s a fair and realistic question. So is it just Hero Quest in space? Well yes, at least in concept.
The whole point of Blackstone Fortress is to find your way into the Hidden Vault, deep inside the drifting hulk of the mysterious Blackstone Fortress. To do this, players need to discover clues during their expeditions. These clues will lead to special scenarios called Strongholds, which will eventually lead to the hidden vault. Even when a stronghold attack can be mounted, the players still need to get to them, with a 4 card expedition, purely of combat – more of this later. Getting to the hidden vault will take a lot of gaming hours, but I am certain that it will be a challenge and a worthy one at that!
In the game fluff, the Blackstone Fortress learns and adapts after each incursion of adventurers. Legacy cards add to the danger in this aspect, increasing the threat level for some monsters, such as the Spindle Drone. They up the ante during the expeditions. Once in play they stay and generally add flair and layers of danger to the expeditions. Once there are no more legacy cards in left in play, you’ve run out of time, and lose the game, no matter where you’re up to!
Let’s take a look at the goods first though…
The important bit to most gamers and war-gamers: are the miniatures any good? Yes. The miniatures are amazing and better still, they clip together – no glue required. You just need something to cut them from the plastic sprue. This took me a couple of hours whilst watching a series on Netflix so anyone with more experience may get it done in half that time.
The miniatures are constructed in such a way that they appear seamless, which took a bit of jigsaw magic to see how they fitted together – but as previously mentioned, no glue is required, so you can take your time. The same great GW quality of miniature manufacture is found throughout. I think my Kill Team just got bigger too – the models are in hot demand, check out ebay if you don’t believe me.
The game tiles are a really thick and good quality card. They pop out easily, which reduces tearing of the precious printed sides. They’re double sided but unlike Imperial Assault by Fantasy Flight, there’s not a million small pieces to get lost or confused with. The game counters are all pretty unique, with the majority of them being wound tokens (which are double sided for critical wounds). The rest are for game effects and inspiration points, which I’ll mention later on.
There are three rule-books.
Each one is written chronologically for each section of the game as you progress. They are written to the usual standard for GW, guiding you through in simple steps. The terminology may be a little different if you haven’t tried GW games before, so take your time. If you are familiar with any of the GW games, such as Warhammer 40K or Age of Sigmar, you’ll find the turn sequence and rounds familiar.
Once you have the turn sequence in your mind, it’s pretty straight forward from there. There is a bit of juggling with the game on the first play through, as you consult different books to figure out when you can heal or how to carry out certain actions. This is a minor point, however it does highlight the importance of reading through the rules before the gaming session!
Blackstone Fortress is split into two game sections by exploration cards; challenges and combats, which are drawn randomly from the Exploration card deck. The exploration deck is large, 36 cards, so it should always be a different combination. You randomly pick 4 challenge cards and 4 combat cards which make up the Exploration deck for the Expedition. When combined, these are like a campaign story arc. These are shuffled and placed on the Precipice board, which is like the character staging area.
There are 18 cards each for both challenges and combats (36 cards in total). By drawing 4 of each randomly, you’re looking at 1 in 18 chance of drawing the same cards each time you create the exploration deck. The chances of drawing the same 8 cards are something like a 1 in 105,000 chance, by my shoddy calculations. That’s a lot of gaming before statistically you get the same play-through.
The challenges are narrative encounters which do not make use of models and board pieces. They are usually a way of grabbing gear and tech (treasure, clues to future explorations), usually by causing damage to assailants. They include short narrative pieces such as ‘Get them all!’ where the players are required to inflict as much damage as they can to a fleeing group of hostiles – anyone who can deal 4 or more wound gets to draw a card from the discovery deck. Simples.
On a balancing note, these may be to help characters build up with less risk than combats or offer special cards for future explorations.
Combats involve board pieces and miniatures and are the biggest portion of the game. Each combat exploration card shows how the map tiles are set up so anyone can setup the board while others are chasing through the rules books or determine where the bad guys and monsters are placed. They also mark where certain mission specific specials may be placed.
Keeping track of the game during combat is achieved with the Initiative tracker. The players get the option to attempt to help each other by swapping places with allies or attempting to swap their place with the enemy to get the drop on them. This all happens in the Initiative phase, followed by the Gambit phase. The Gambit phase can be costly as an action dice has to be spent, followed by an ability roll to determine success. These mechanics help to really bring the tension to the game, forcing the players to plan ahead. The players feel the pressure when the cards are redrawn each round, as their plans will likely need to change.
Hostiles and bad guys are drawn from the Encounter cards deck and placed in the starting positions according to the combat exploration card, which are given a specific place on the board and the tracker. The number of hostiles on a card are determined by where on the tracker they are, for example, you may get 2 drones on position 1, or 4 on position 2. Hostiles gain reinforcements each turn and are spawned on their turn in the Initiative track with a roll of a 20 sided dice, called the Blackstone Dice (which is black and looks like a stone if you’re not familiar with 20 sided dice). This adds threat, because even if all the bad guys are dead, they can keep re-spawning as happened with our test games!
Hostiles in the game are given over to an AI system, where they react depending on a dice roll. It is not completely random, as each action they are given depends on a set few variables which allows them to act organically. Each set of rules for the monsters appears on very handy cards, giving you everything you need to know in a single place. So much easier than consulting multiple books!
Hostiles are terrifying in their own specific ways; if they’re not ripping you to ribbons with frenzied claw attacks they’re punching through your armour and ignoring your save rolls with shocking power! Case in point, UR-025 (or Mr Robot man to you and I) is a heavy duty fighter, with a better chance of rolling saves against wounds, with an added re-roll too – then he gets hit by a Negavolt Cultist and suddenly he has no armour saves. Surprises await those unprepared!
Characters in the Game
At the start of each combat round Characters are allocated action dice, regular six sided dice. The dice are stored on their character card with whatever score they rolled. These dice are used / spent on actions which require a set number on one or more of those dice. Moving require a dice with a score of 1 or more, other actions may require 4 or more on a dice etc. There are standard actions and character specific actions, which are found on the character cards, usually weapon actions.
Explore with caution. When you are wounded the dice you roll at the start of each round are blocked, covered by wound markers, meaning the potential number of actions you can make are severely impaired! Fear not however, each round an extra pool of destiny dice are rolled which any one can use – but the power of the warp means that any duplicate scores on these dice are removed, so you better roll fresh to get the most out of destiny! A lot of dice multiples came up during our game, causing tension and nail biting in equal measure.
A second type of dice rolls are attribute dice which are used to evade damage, carry out special tasks and try to recover wounds. There are wounds and then there are critical wounds – wounds can be recovered during the combat part of the game, whereas critical wounds require a trip back to your ship to try and heal. As with Warhammer Quest back in the golden age, however, there’s always a chance something may not heal fully…
The dice rolls are easy to interpret: you either fail, succeed or critically succeed. Each of the ability dice (6, 8 and 12 sided dice) are colour coded to match the information on the character sheets. These dice rolls are not always friendly, you can feel like the end of times can result from a failed roll. On the plus side, there’s very few calculations as in some GW games – just check to see how many symbols you rolled and away you go. GW have followed Fantasy Flight in this – so don’t lose those dice! Otherwise you could end up paying for more specialist dice in the future…
Toward the end of the combat sections, characters need to escape by summoning the escape lift, usually under duress. There’s no way out otherwise! When the remaining characters get to the escape lift, they have to decide to carry on fighting the growing horde, or to head back to their ships to lick their wounds. Heading back restarts the exploration so if you really need to finish you’re gonna find it hard to do!
When a character kills a number of monsters on their turn, they can roll the Blackstone Dice to see if they gain Inspiration points, where they are required to roll under the wounds they caused on a 20-sided dice. Inspiration points are used to re-roll some dice throughout the game, usually the activation dice at the start of the round, or give flip your character card over to increase their effectiveness. A bit like leveling up!
At the end of each round of the game, in combat or otherwise, a leadership token passes around the table, allowing each player to call the shots in equal measure (with a discussion, of course).
First Impressions & Thoughts
In a single evening gaming session, including learning how to play the game, we managed to get through 1 challenge and 2 combats. Assuming we don’t have to relearn the game, we could probably manage drawing 4 of the Exploration cards, which equates to half an Expedition. At this rate, in theory, we could spend hundreds of hours playing this game. So unlike Hero Quest, there is a seemingly limitless combination of events from challenges, combats and encounter (monster) cards. There’s probably scope for fan made or self made encounters too, let’s watch the internet pensively for these.
The game has a very nostalgic feel to it, similar to previous board games from GW decades ago. The hostile creatures are just as deadly as you’d expect, in their own ways. Players without prior knowledge will make mistakes which make the game intense and ups the challenge rating greatly. In this way, very much like Hero Quest!
The open form and random generation of each Expedition is a similar mechanic used by other games and it works just as well in Blackstone Fortress. It will take some serious play testing to get through all of the different combinations. In our initial play-through we had four players and one person acting as the games master. We felt this worked best for our first game so we could focus on the different parts of the game – just like in Hero Quest! You can play this game solo or without a games master, as the monsters follow an AI system, meaning all you need to do is move the pieces around and roll the dice.
What we did wrong…
We went wrong in some parts, missing the exploration round which would have made the combat a little easier if we had rolled on the event table. Although, the table isn’t all good – sometimes it can go horribly wrong… So it’s not all bad!
Why did we miss this section? It’s right at the end of the combat book, and there’s a lot in some sections. As we frenziedly played through the rounds we completely missed it! No one said nerds were thorough. So be sure to have all books to hand and refer to them often.
It is a thorough and playable game. It has the same high quality of most Games Workshop products, but you will pay through the nose for it if you don’t shop around. I was lucky, I found an ebay seller with about 20% off the RRP, I then applied a free 10% discount from ebay to get it even cheaper.
If bought from a third party retailer the price becomes a little more affordable for a game of this type. The miniatures are worth a heavy bit of gold. The card tiles are sturdy. Even the box is sturdy (I mean, it has to be, it’s a heavy one). You get all the dice you need.
Edit: This may look like a silly thing to say, but £95 is a hefty price tag for any board game. Shop around, GW will get their money, so it helps smaller businesses if you go through them!
Since this is a complete game (£95.00), there’s no expansions as far as we know, and given the replay ability of expeditions is very high, it is feasible to play over a hundred games. Maybe even twice that. So you’re looking at about £0.5 – £1 per game. Let’s be conservative and say each full expedition takes 4 hours. You’re looking at £0.25 to £0.50 per hour of play. That’s really good money for a game that should be different each time. You’re snacks will cost you more to eat!
The Feels – a dark, desperate setting with mechanics that fit those feelings. Thrilling, because when you do score a critical roll it feels like the cosmos is backing you up – any other time it’s trying to eat you!
No silly measuring distances, just count the hexes. Can you draw a straight line from the centre of a hex to the hex your target is standing in? Then you have line of sight, roll your dice. It’s that easy.
Edit: Downsides include what some players have described as ‘chaff’ play. This means that a few players think the amount of combats that are required to complete the game can get a bit samey. GW, do we need to go through quite so much to complete the game? On a personal level, I think it’s important to understand that the fighting during the combat sections are not about clearing the board – it is about surviving the battle and gathering the clues before time runs out. Perhaps GW could do with giving us more information on the bigger picture of the game earlier on.
So is it like Hero Quest? Yeah I think it is, it certainly has that heroic quality to it, and I’m sure it will one day be one of those nostalgic games we all reminisce about.
If you’ve got any questions or thoughts, we’d love to hear them! you can find us on our discord server.
You can get a few more articles by us on other Games Workshop products here or here.
*Edited 24/12/18 to reflect some feedback from our gaming group and affiliates.
Apparently, a god, responsible for most of my childhood dreams, nightmares and a huge inspiration to the gaming community on and off the digital board. Since 1989 Petersen is credited with nearly 20 digital games, 6 board games (including Cthulhu Wars, a 3500% over-pledge success on Kickstarter), executive producer of a single film and the legendary Call of Cthulhu RPG (1981).
And now the guy is combining some of my favourite things (which is yet to be identified as good or bad).
Want to play Call of Cthulhu but don’t want to deviate from the mainstream D&D engine?
Sure: it’s called Cthulhu Mythos and it’s set to be a grim and gritty lovechild of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition fantasy and Call of Cthulhu, a grand re-imagining of an older Pathfinder edition.
And it can be yours early if you’re willing to back the new Kickstarter project.
Boasting its funding goal in less than 30 minutes, it’s currently at £59K of its £7.5K target. And there’s still 19 days to go.
It’s a little pricier than some games, coming in at approximately £38 (not including the postage) but its default format is a swish-looking hardback book.
It is meant to be 400 pages of full colour horror, which is nice but it may take away some of that black and white charm you get with older editions of Call of Cthulhu by Chaosism.
But oh ye gods! Some of the new artwork is so finely detailed you can’t help but gawp in wonder!
But here’s some of the cooler bits:
There are rules (shall we say guidelines?) which allow you to play unusual races featured in the Cthulhu setting, rules for insanity and dreaming, which will hopefully blend much better than those found in the current Dungeon Masters Guide.
You can take a look at some of the content here in their free 25-page preview (it’s a lovely PDF format) with colour and stuff.
There’s even an option for miniatures if you’re the sort of gamer willing to pay for good models of stuff.
The Kickstarter is due to ship to backers in May / June time.
So, if you’re like me and you sponged up all that well marketed Games Workshop (GW) content as an impressionable youth, you may be excited to learn that the Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (WFRP) game is due for release in its 4th incarnation.
WFRP goes way back (if you’re young, that is) to 1984. I didn’t know it then, but it was to be one of the greatest roleplay games I’ve ever played. Possibly the most loved 2nd edition was carried by Green Ronin Publishing, and overseen by GW’s own Black Industries… which lasted a mere 4 years before GW decided it wasn’t making enough cash (sound familiar?)
Why is it great, you ask?
WFRP puts you in the soggy shoes of the regular people struggling to get by the in the dark and desperate world of Warhammer Fantasy, a much loved setting owned by GW.
It is purposefully set in a grim and gritty reality where horrible things happen to the best of people. Chances are you’re going to go through a good number of characters.
It’s not a game of hit points (like in Dungeons & Dragons) – getting critically hit by a monster is bad; there’s a good chance of dying or at the very least, carrying a horrific wound (assuming you survive). The damage tables give the game a very real, visceral and horrid depth – you really don’t want to get in a fight!
It’s easy to follow game mechanics may rely on the games master a little more, but it needs only ten-sided dice and maths from 0-100, making the game easy to pick up. Everyone knows how many pennies are in a pound, right?
There’s a tonne of different types of characters you can play, and I hope they’ve added more – the 1st edition had hundreds of class types to choose from. It’s a good one to start learning game mechanics if you’re new to the hobby.
History Lesson: WFRP has had its downs – the grand 3rd edition was released as a monster package and, well, people didn’t like paying all the money in the world for a complete set in one go (thanks Fantasy Flight!).
In 2010 Fantasy Flight released a thorough line of books which ended in 2014. They had changed the core system of the game (mainly because you need special dice for anything FF release). Let’s not say it flopped – it just wasn’t as popular.
We’ve been starving since, living off the scraps from auctioning sites for nearly 5 years…
In a twist of something Tzeentch, a 4th edition was awarded to Cubicle 7. GW appears to have relinquished control over some of their specialised games (I’m good with this) and these particular developers have run with the earlier and popular editions to create a mega-corpulent Nurgle edition of extreme demoness.
THEY’VE GONE BACK TO THE PERCENTILE DICE!
And Oh Boy, Cubicle 7 seems to have taken it back to its 1st and 2nd edition roots. Check out the art work for the front covers, remind you of anything??
Awesome spiritual successor 4th edition!
Legendary old school 1st Edition
I’m more excited than a naked flagellant in a field of stinging nettles!
Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play is already released in PDF format, you can get it here.
The core rule-book has all the information you need to enjoy the amazing, gritty and visceral world setting of antiheroes and ultimate evil with just some ten sided dice (y’know, like the good old days!)
The hard-copy of the books are due for release in October, you can pre-order. I’ve spotted copies from £35 – £45 so shop around!
And for those new to the game who are not sure if it’s for them? Well it’s your lucky day; you can buy the starter set to give you a feel for it too from £19 – £25.
It has a slightly later release date but the PDF is ready to go as of September (that’s now…) and comes with characters, an introduction game and 2 ten sided dice (aint that generous?)