The Blackstone Fortresses are seven ancient space-based super weapons said to have been forged by the Eldar smith god Vaul (or perhaps the Old Ones) to destroy the Necron star gods, the C'tan. For this reason, they are sometimes called (especially by Eldar) the Talismans of Vaul. However, nobody truly knows where the Fortresses came from, who made them, or why, with the inner workings of a fully functioning Fortress a mystery even to the Eldar.
The Eldar Legend
Vaul was said to be equally skilled at creating both things of beauty and tools of war. He was able to forge the souls of the departed into his creations, and during the War in Heaven, he created the Talismans of Vaul controlled by the spirits of Eldar seers killed during the war against the Necrons and C'tan. The C'tan were basically all-powerful in the material realm, but they were extremely vulnerable to the warp, so the Blackstone Fortresses were given a massive warp cannon as their primary weapon. At the heart of each Talisman sat one of the Eyes of the Witch gifted to Vaul by Morai-heg, allowing the departed spirits to channel vast amounts of energy straight from the Immaterium.
It seems Vaul had a particular rival in the Void Dragon, a powerful C'Tan who possessed control over material machinery. The War between the armies of Vaul and the Void Dragon raged in the heavens, but in the end, the Void Dragons dreams of conquest were halted in their tracks. Seeing the possibility of defeat growing the Void Dragon would lead its minions directly on the battlefield. None could stand before a fully manifested god, and to ensure its powers were at its zenith it began draining the energies of a binary star, taking the form of a cloud of dark light it surrounded the stellar body leaching its energy from it until it was sated. Vaul knew the stars as well as he did his forge, so with these weapons, Vaul went to confront the Dragon, and although the outcome is unrecorded, the Dragon still lives (although sealed away) so we can guess Vaul suffered epic failure. It is also possible that the combined fire of these fortresses made the Void Dragon weak enough to retreat to an ancient earth and start eating virgins. Even though the Void Dragon was not destroyed Vauls efforts seem to have been instrumental in the weakening of the Dragon to the point that it was able to be imprisoned beneath Mars. If the Void Dragon was shattered like the other c'tan then it is possible that the Blackstones may have been, at least partially, responsible. It's conspiracy time: it might even be possible that during the War in Heaven there may have been "alliances" formed between the Necrons and the ancient Eldar, which may have been formed in order to battle the warp-spawned terrors that had been unintentionally released upon the galaxy during this time, such as the enslavers. Vaul and the Blackstone's may have actually played a role in the silent kings plan to shatter the C'tan into shards; the Necron lords and the ancient Eldar may have in theory worked together to bring an end to the War in Heaven by aiding each other in freeing themselves from their "masters".
Six of the Fortresses were left adrift in the Gothic sector, where they were found by the Imperial Navy. The Navy moved in and turned them into naval bastions for Battlefleet Gothic, despite being unable to activate most of its armament. However, Abaddon found some artifacts that allowed him to assume direct control of the fortresses and managed to swipe three of them, kicking off the twelfth Black Crusade (AKA the Gothic War). Before the Navy and the Eldar stopped Abaddon, one Fortress scoured a planet; three of them combining their beams destabilized a star, causing it to go supernova a month later and destroy the system. Afterwards the Imperial and Eldar navies then chased after the fortresses and managed to take one back, but then Abaddon caused it and the three still in Imperial control to self-destruct.
Interestingly, the fortresses SHATTERED like glasses instead of just exploding when they self-destructed.
One of the two remaining Blackstone Fortresses in Abaddon's control would later be destroyed in the Fall of Cadia. Sick and tired of Creed's awesome bullshit and panicking after the Necron anti-warp pylons are activated and threaten to close the Cadian Gate forever, he rams the planet with his Fortress as a last ditch gambit to destroy the pylons and kill the last Cadian garrison. Cadia is quickly overtaken by the Warp, but a substantial number of the Imperials manage to escape.
Rise of the Primarch reveals the whereabouts of Abaddon's last Blackstone Fortress. Apparently Abaddon had gifted the Fortress to Huron Blackheart, who used it as a prison for Roboute Guilliman during the Terran Crusade, at least before Cypher and a Harlequin Shadowseer broke him out. Since then, the Harlequins of the Masque of the Shattered Mirage along with a rogue faction from Craftworld Yme-Loc have launched at least one attack on Huron's Blackstone Fortress in an attempt to capture it.
Forgebane and current developments reveal that the Blackstone fortresses are made of a material named.. Blackstone. This material, exactly the same used in several Necron structures like the anti-Warp Pylons of Cadia holds a curious but worrying property. You see, Blackstone interacts naturally with the warp and depending on the polarization it can shrink Warp Rifts and negate all Warp-related activity in the area, which is what the pylons does; or amplify the Warp itself, causing all kind of nasty effects like the beams shot by the Fortress or spontaneous Warp Rifts. The funny thing is that there is a lot of stuff made from this material and caches hidden everywhere (the Shadowlight device from the Ciaphas Cain novels was very likely made from the stuff, and look how dangerous that thing was), maybe even undiscovered Fortresses. The vast majority of it is located on Necron Tomb Worlds, however, and they absolutely refuse to share it since they use it extensively in their own technology.
Recently, a newly emerged seventh Blackstone Fortress that has appeared in the galactic west. Unlike the others, this one appears to be fully active, with a highly advanced defense system and an uncanny ability to act on what seems to be its own volition. It also has a habit of catching ships in its gravity field and "consuming" them. The implications of this are uncertain but unsettling. The numerous ships the Fortress has consumed has made it a prime spot for archaeotech, attracting all sorts of treasure hunters to it. These adventurers congregate in a space-station called Precipice, where humans, xenos, and mutants live in uneasy peace as the powerful lords of the place don't like the idea of everyone killing each other. This den of scum would've probably been wiped out by the Imperium were it not for the bureaucratic deadlock where its numerous branches cannot agree which one of them has the legal right to claim the fortress for itself. Rumor has it that Roboute Guilliman is soon to make a decision to resolve the matter and thus Precipice's days are numbered.
The Blackstone Fortress novel has also raised a bit of doubt on the origins of the Fortresses, with the implications raised that the seventh Blackstone Fortress is not from the Milky Way galaxy at all, and the intelligence driving it is more alien than anything related to the Eldar. Granted, these implications came from a Daemon, who refers to the Fortress as "Old Unfathomable," and a Kroot who got his insights by eating bits of the fortress' drones. (The daemon could have meant "It is not of THIS AGE OF the Galaxy," since the warp has changed quite a bit over 65 MILLION years. Etheric beings of chaos didn't exist during the war in heaven).
Probably one of the few canonical Old Ones machine that is known other than the aforementioned Blackstone Fortress and the Webway. A Spindle Drone is a robotic war machine that defends Blackstone Fortresses from intruders and is an analogue of self defense system. Similar to the Sentinels from Halo, they are cheap, easy to produce and are there to maintain the gargantuan ship when in peace times and immediately switch to "FUCK EVERYTHING" mode when hostile forces are located.
Spindle Drones are armed only with a single weapon called a Drone Pulse which counts as a S3, D1, 18" pistol with zero AP. They are there to swarm the target until there is nothing left. Hence, they are a neutral force unaligned to either Imperial, Chaos or Xenos, with their loyalties only in serving the ship. Because of this, they are one of the most alien and ancient constructs, with a design aesthetic too smooth and biomechanical for even the ancient Eldar. They also curiously resemble the Tripods from the War of the Worlds, whether this is a reference or a coincidence is not known.
On the tabletop, these guys get shit done. For 60 points a pop, you get 4 W2, A2 MEQs with a somewhat disappointing 18" S3 pistol. Even if that weren't already a bargain, they have a special ability similar to the Chaos Beastmen also in the pack, but much easier to manage. This ability is aptly called Threat Level Rising - for every Spindle Drone that is wounded or dies, the remaining Spindle Drones gain +1 to their strength, damage, and AP. This may not sound amazing at first, but Marine players, either of the Loyalist or Chaos variety, should be used to MSU management.
It should be second nature to ca/tg/irls like us to delegate wounds to a Space Marine squad, especially in the last year with our new W2 Primaris boys. If you keep them just out of trouble, which shouldn't be too hard given their T4, S4 and 4+ save, these guys can become excellent monster and character killers, becoming the suicide bomb of your dreams. Also do remember that with their UNALIGNED keyword, these guys should be able to go into any army, but possibly only in a separate detachment.
Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress is a dungeon crawler board game along the lines of Silver Tower and Shadows Under Hammerhal, albeit in the 40k setting as opposed to Age of Sigmar. The players control a party of four adventurers (chosen out of the eight in the box) on an expedition into the depths of the Blackstone Fortress. In between expeditions they stop at Precipice to trade archaeotech and utilize the various services of their ship. The ultimate goal is to conquer four Strongholds and find your way to the Hidden Vault, in order to claim the ultimate prize, hidden in a special envelope that you're probably going to tear open as soon as you open the box because you're too impatient to play ten sessions in order to legitimately find out.
The Playable Characters
- Janus Draik: A Rogue Trader and the closest thing to the main character of the games.
- Taddeus the Purifier: A mad priest who came to the fortress due to a vision from the Emperor.
- Pious Vorne: A hive-ganger acolyte of Taddeus. Despite looking like she wears armor, she has terrible defense. She makes up for it with her heavy flamer, arguably the best weapon in the game.
- Espern Locarno: Imperial Navigator. Despite being rather poor in combat, he has a plethora of support abilities that make him incredibly useful, being able to save Destiny Dice, mind-control opponents, create psychic defense barriers, and owning a ship that is the only way to resurrect dead party members.
- UR-025: Imperial Robot working for the Adeptus Mechanicus, definitely not a Man of Iron, nope. Probably the most powerful character in the game, with his amazing defense and strong weapons. To compensate, he only gets three activation die as opposed to the four everyone else gets.
- Rein and Raus: Ratling twins who deserted from the Imperial Guard. Though individually weak, their gimmick lets them operate as two characters in one.
- Dahyak Grekh: Kroot tracker, and probably the individual who knows the most about the Fortress due to absorbing the memories of those he eats (even finding out a way to do this with the Spindle Drones).
- Amallyn Shadowguide: Eldar Ranger from Biel-Tan, searching for archaeotech she believes might be able to rebuild her fractured Craftworld.
- Neyam Shai Murad: New Rogue Trader from Escalation, here to smoke out terrorists. Is more of a gunslinger than Draik and has a sword for a leg.
- Daedalosus: Technoarchaeologist from Escalation.
- Aradia Madellan: Primaris Psyker from Escalation.
- Gotfred de Montbard: Crusader from Escalation. As with the models in the Ministorum lists, he's big and tanky with a Storm Shield and Power Sword.
- X-101: Strange Servitor from Escalation. Apparently billed as a model who acts as someone else's retinue and may not be able to act on his own.
- The Dreaded Ambull: An Ambull is infesting the Blackstone Fortress and the explorers have been hired to exterminate it.
- Traitor Command: Introduces two new enemies in the form of the Traitor Commissar and his Chaos Ogryn bodyguard, and a new quest revolving around preventing him from doing some nefarious Chaos ritual.
- Escalation: The biggest expansion pack yet, adding in four new playable characters and new chaos cultist enemies.