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My last battle was against Chaos Tzeentch and my opponent included an activated Black Stone Fortress in his fleet, naturally this detracted greatly from his 2000 point limit but I was lacking in a plan to deal with it.
My 2000 point Imperial fleet that I am using for the Medusa campaign luckily had a Mars class Battlecruiser and a Dominator class Cruiser both of which posess Nova Cannons but I ended up firing those at his fleet and completely ignoring the fortress, which (through luck alone) only managed to destroy the Mars class and dammage some other cruisers (although I spent almost 3/4 of the game on 'brace for impact' orders with my whole fleet).
I know one viable option is boarding and 'hit and run' attacks as it has no turrets or crew but his remaining fleet did a pretty good job of blockading my force from reaching it and with its 90cm warp cannons it has no inclanation to move towards me.
Unfortunatly it also makes use of a large number of shields and hit points meaning that even Nova cannons will have a difficult time breaking through, and with its ability to move (unlike the unactivated BSF) long range torpedo slavos are a waste of ordanance.
I think probably the best option is to send out bombers in individual squadrons to aviod weapons battery fire and hope that with a 20cm move they will eventually make contact and avoid fighters, but in order to distract the enemy ord, I will have to take a fleet heavy in carriers to threaten his main fleet with bombers and assault boats.
So you know the battle ended with the BSF untouched but his only other ship remaining was his crippled Despoiler class Battleship. Minor victory to the Imperial fleet.
So are there any other options to dealing with the BSF?
I think the two phrases that become important when fighting Blackstone Fortresses (herein called BSF) are "Brace for impact" and "attack craft."
The BSF is a beast. It can take severe punishment without a worry thanks to strong shields and lots of hull points, it passes all leadership tests and can move in any direction it wants. However, it's most impressive feature are those warps cannons. In a good round of shooting, the BSF can cripple a cruiser no worries - crikey! Its long range means it can sit behind a Chaos fleet and still make its presence felt, and the sheer power of the weaponry will force you into bracing for impact quite often. This is bad for carriers as they cannot reload ordnance whilst braced, and as the BSF passes all Ld tests it can target any ship it has in range (so you cannot protect your carriers with other ships). You need to consider these strengths when combatting the BSF.
The most glaring weakness is that a BSF has no turrets, leaving it horrendously vulnerable to attack craft. Being so expensive, it is likely to make up the majority of the chaos fleet in most games. This gives you a numerical advantage - something you can use to your advantage.
When taking on a BSF and attendant fleet there are several things you can do to make your life easier:
- Attack craft. OK, so you have mentioned it above, but a couple of bomber wings spell death to a BSF. With no turrets, anything that reaches the thing will have its full number of attacks to play with - large and numberous booms! Aginst a BSF single bomber squadrons work great - there are no turrets so grouping them togehther is not needed (it'll just make them more vulnerable to direct fire). Torpedoes can work well, but as the BSF can move in any direction it can avoid them quite easily. I try to use torpedoes to heard the BSF into the area I want it - i.e. into the path of my bomber wings. Torpedoes are also useful if you fire them from short range into the BSF, giving it no time to move out of their path.
- Carriers. In relation to the above point, you will obviously need carriers in your fleet. The BSF is expensive, giving you a few points to spend on carriers without reducing the shootyness of your fleet in relation the your opponents. I would advise you to take several carriers. As the BSF can target any vessel it has in range, it is likely to be pounding your carrier vessels from early on; tying to stop them from reloading ordnance. With this in mind, it is a good idea to take two, or even three carriers so that you can stick one on brace for impact and still throw out ordnance with the others. The Chaos fleet will likely be packing its own carriers to defend the BSF, so it is vital you gain "air" superiority. Your torpedoes can help alot in this respect; they will force your opponent to divert fighter attention to the torps or risk taking hits on his conventional ships.
- WATCH MY SIX! It is vital you get your bomber through to the BSF. With this in mind think carefully about targeting your weaponry on enemy carriers and any other vessels that seek to prevent this from happening. Nova Cannon help greatly here. Don't bother shooting them at the blackstone - those shields will absorb most (if not all) of the damage, even from a direct hit. Instead use the novas to batter a path through the enemy fleet - you'll be clearing a path for your bombers whilst at the same time earning VPs for destroying and damaging enemy vessels.
- Conventional weaponry. As tempting as it is to throw you entire fleet at the BSF I would advise against it. The aforementioned reilience to damage will mean most of your attacks will give it little to worry about. A better idea is to concentrate your fire on the rest of your opponents fleet and let the ordnance engage the BSF. This way your shootyness will actually be able to hurt something, earn you some VP's and help carve a path in the opponents fleet for more bomber wings. As mentioned above, you should have the numerical advantage, hopefully outgunning the conventional section of the opponent's fleet.
- BRACE FOR IMPACT! You will use this lots. Its a good idea as you dont want any of your carriers to get crippled. Be sure to take several carriers so that you can use this special order without seriously affecting the number of attack craft you can pump out.
Thats all I can think of right now, hopefully it is enough to give you some ideas of how to take on your mate's BSF. Just remember; if you destroy that thing you will have earned yourself a nice VP cake with moral victory icing. Good luck matey!
A quick addendum to the above (i forgot to put this in sorry)
- Crippled. If you manage to cripple the BSF then firing on it with conventional weaponry becomes a bit more useful. With half strength shields (and the fact that it treated for gunnery purposes as a "defence" target) the BSF suddenly become alot more vulnerable to the fleet's guns. It will still be a tough thing to kill, but much less difficult than when it was fully shielded!
I've fought one of these guys b4 with Tau. My opponent almost cried when he suddenly realized that my torpedoes were not only faster than normal, but could make 45 degree turns and mantas have a 4+ save against being intercepted. The BSF naturally went strait for my explorers but the thing was gone after 2 turns of ordinance fire. Granted this may not be much help for an imp player, just saying that the huge mofos can be killed.
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I was just wondering about the Warp cannons and how they relate to the critical hits table as they are not starboard, port, prow or dorsal. Does any 'armament dammaged' remove the Warp cannons from play?
Thats a good question. If you interpreted the rules strictly (as is state on P25 of the Basic rules pdf file) then "weapons damaged" criticals hit are not applicable to the BSF as it has no specific mountings (prow, dorsal etc). As such, you would apply the next highest result that does apply; in this case an "engine room damaged" result.
This does seem a bit silly however, as hits to the weapons should do some damage. Perhaps you could make a house rule that for every "weapons damaged" critical, the warp cannons lose 2 points of strength until the critical is repaired? Or something like that anyway - I don't think the critical hit should put all the warp cannons out of action as the BSF is so huge and advanced the cannons must be spread out and pretty tough to damage. Otherwise, it is just skip straight to "engine room damaged".