I think I’m getting this game; finally. When you first start playing, everything is so overwhelming that you become so sure that it’s almost impossible to know enough to fulfill the criteria in your head that would lead you to class yourself as “competent” – it’s as unattainable in those first few weeks as flapping your arms and flying to the moon.
Then, when you surround yourself with good people and put the time into fitting ships and getting blown up again and again but learning, then you start to see how things fit together, how you need a fleet composed of specific ships to do specific things if you want to beat actual people. Fighting NPCs is similar, but the human is the most fierce prey, ha.
We have a good number of people in the corporation now, to the point where I think we’re done with the first round of recruitment: let’s see how many of our amazing people can deal with my sub-par leadership to make it to phase two! Which shall be kicking off in little more than a month.
The project is going a lot smoother than I expected; the whole idea was to get people playing the game, interacting and having fun without a strict corp structure and scheduling – these things will still exist for events and fleet ops etc, but I have no interest in enforcing lots of imaginary rules in an imaginary game.
Other than that, we’re staring at our skill queue, waiting for doctrine ships to train so we can all go ratting as a fleet and rake in the monies.
Just a quick update for a standard week in the life of a know-nothing CEO. Until next time, fly safe. Boboko Busanagi of EternalCosmicBeardCorp.
Last week feels like a world away compared to where I am now with Eve. It’s safe to say that I’ve learned more than I ever have in this game during that time.
So, the previous article was published when our corporation had two members exploring relic sites in null sec. Eight days after that article went live, we now have around ten people and now own a base in a wormhole system.
Here’s the story; me and Lane Davaham – my second in command – talked about wanting to move into wormhole space to try and make some money or learn how to play this mysterious game by dying until we didn’t die anymore. I wanted to make my own Corp because I like being able to decide what is fun for me and what I want to do, with the hope being that I can assemble a cadre of like minded individuals and we can move forward together.
The corp was almost a joke, and designed with humour in mind; this place is lighthearted and laid back in the extreme and I wanted that to be our guiding focus.
I also received a ton of advice from experienced people who had run corps before, all of their advice amounted to “Don’t do this, you will fail.” Which is fine, and frankly expected. Failure is always an option during projects like these, but i find that if you’re honest about your expectations and your abilities then things tend to work out.
Then another person got in touch and offered to sell us a base in wormhole space for a relatively cheap price. We jumped on the offer and within two days we had control transferred over and both of us were sitting inside our own base just wondering how we got here.
Since then, we have begun to build a solid core of experienced players who constantly surprise me with their patience while I ask a million questions and try to learn everything I need to, to be able to give this place a chance to succeed.
We’re currently hauling ships into our system to hand over to new players when they join and hopefully give them some guidance on how to fit and fly their ships so anyone who is new can at least go out there and feel like they are playing the game correctly.
Going forward we will be trying to make some isk (I have been told staying profitable in wormhole space is near impossible) and have some fun. Many fleets will be formed in the coming days in pursuit of explosions; be they ours or our enemies!
In short; Eve Online hasn’t beaten me yet, in fact at the moment we’re going from strength to strength with the aid of some incredibly helpful and generous people; not just with their isk, but also their patience and capacity to withstand the barrage of ignorance and questions leveled at them from their know-nothing CEO.
EternalCosmicBeardCorp is currently recruiting! Our mission statement is evolving as we evolve, and I suppose that’s the message I need to get across: it’s going to be a long road, but we’ve taken our first steps and have not yet fallen on our face – we want to keep this game fun, for new and experienced players alike, and I honestly believe it’s the people involved that will make that happen. So come along and have a chat, you’ll be welcome.
We’re determined to stay laid back, determined to have fun and determined to fail and learn. The ECBC way.
I lost 200 million isk this week. That might sound a lot – to some it’s truly just a drop in the bucket; to me it’s a big chunk of change, but the lessons I learned while losing it were incredibly valuable. Let’s talk about happier things first.
We’ve had a couple of people join the corp! Which is awesome. We’re working out the kinks and trying to really figure out what we want to do. Lane Davaham; our chief navigator convinced me to go exploring in wormhole space, which opened my eyes to a whole new side of Eve.
You can make a lot of money in wormholes, just scanning down anomalies and doing relic sites, which is all my PvP hybrid astero is equipped for. i think I started to average around 40 million per hour, which, with more time spent skilling up, will increase steadily.
The plan is to start killing NPC ships in combat or sleeper sites and salvaging all their goodies. To do this, I need to buy a far more expensive ship. To understand why I am nervous about that, I need to confess my acts of stupidity for the week.
We came across a relic site in a C3 wormhole that had 3 cruisers and 3 frigate NPCs in it. I, not knowing the first thing about combat in Eve, said to my corpmate “I can take them”. I was wrong. I was really testing whether I could lure each ship away one by one, which might give me a fighting chance, but not understanding effective distances in the game proved my undoing as they all immediately pounced on me, killed my velocity and my ability to warp, then exploded me in under a minute.
You’d think I’d learn, right? Well, a few days later I’m hauling 40 million worth of relic loot and think “just one more site”. Sure enough, NPC sleepers are present, but there’s one relic box quite far away from the mass of enemies. My plan is to approach the box, align away from the enemies and gun it while deactivating my cloak to see if they could target me at that distance.
What actually happened is that I got too close to the box, it decloaked me before I was ready and they exploded me in under a minute. Oh well.
Now I’m thinking of either just knuckling under and making my money back while training into better and better ships, or taking the plunge on a Stratios (Cloaky cruiser which is more versatile, tanky and pew pew, but slower) or just buy one now and see how It works out with a fit I can use with the skills I have.
I know it’s going to explode. I just hope the increased price (almost 300 mil after fitting it) will make me more cautious and i’m able to fight some sleepers in C2 wormholes to support my exploring corpmates.
EternalCosmicBeardCorp is currently recruiting. Our focus is to make Eve fun and to introduce new players to activities that make them feel part of the game and part of something new and exciting. We’re all learning this thing together, whether old or new. There will be many challenges along the way, but this is a wonderful game that presents so many opportunities for meaningful experiences.
No drama. No pettiness. Going forward with a will to accept failure and to learn; with fun as our goal.
I’ve been an Eve Online player for over ten years. I’ve had two separate accounts on two separate occasions. I’ve been part of corporations with thousands of members and participated in fleet battles where space station-sized ships owned by players have warped in while I goggled in surprise and wonder. I’ve plumbed the depths of player owned space on my own, under the noses of others in better equipped ships with far more skill at the game; hunting for secret relics and hidden caches of valuable items, all while frantically looking over my shoulder for player hunters and occasionally running for my life when they found me.
There’s a lot to do in Eve and I’ve done a lot of it, but I can honestly say that I have never understood the game.
It’s such a strange experience because it’s such a vast experience. The game is played with everyone all being on the same server. The mostly player-run economy means that you can make a living doing anything you want: mining, salvaging, battling, exploring, war with other players and much more. You undock from a station and every time you are confronted by everything and it’s so intimidating, even for a gamer like me who has spent hundreds of hours grappling with Dwarf Fortress.
The menus in Eve are complicated, the combat, the movement, the player interaction; everything presents you with numbers and ratios and systems with nested subsystems and to be competitive you absolutely need to atleast understand them.
This is what keeps bringing me back and also what keeps me away. There are no amount of tutorials that can prepare you for what awaits as the game eventually spits you out and says “go and do stuff”. It’s a profoundly baffling experience if you’re on your own.
Ofcourse, guides tell you again and again to join a player group, or “Corp” and yes, it’s true that this is by far the best approach to learning the game if you are confident enough. But if you’re not, or you feel like your schedule won’t match up with others, or any number of reasons why you might not want to join a player group while you’re still learning the game, then Eve won’t hold your hand. You’ll need to read and read a lot.
But for all that, you can’t ever get away from the fact that you’re playing a true space sim, set in a living and breathing universe where real humans go about their tasks with goals and ambitions. There are pirates and danger around every corner. Real intrigue between real people who head huge organisations who run regular missions with real goals. What other game ever made can boast that level of persistence and completeness? The immersion is both minimal, as you tab out or grab your phone every five minutes to check up a rule, or stat, and simultaneously tremendous as you desperately try and lose a pirate who wants nothing more than to kill you and take your stuff.
The game is about control and Eve puts everything and the kitchen sink into your hands and says “tell me what you’re going to do with it”. Even playing the game is a challenge that you must overcome, and who every player also logged in either has or is still in the process of overcoming. What a unique thing to be a part of.
So take your WoWs, your Guild Wars, your Fortnites. I need Eve. In the articles that will follow, I shall hopefully bring you all the trials and tribulations of a Newbro trying to make it in a big universe.
To be continued, Boboko Busanagi, CEO of EternalCosmicBeardCorp. (We’re new, and recruiting!)
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.