Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Battle of Alphe System

Finally in 10.009M42 a full naval battlegroup led by Illustrious under Commodore McManners arrived in the Alphe system. He knew his force, which included three cruisers as well as his flagship should be superior to the known forces of the Night Lords, which were orbiting the planet.

However, two days after his arrival hos astropaths reported a new force in the system. A patrol group of Swords sent to investigate reported that Admiral Thok had come to the invading powers’ aid, sending four cruisers, Jormungandr, Rheingeld, Naglfar and Skoll. This was terrible news. The Chaos ships were closing and McManners had no option but to give battle. The Night Lords fleet, and general Percival would have to wait.

The Chaos cruisers attacked head on, rapidly closing with the Imperial fleet and not keeping together, fearful of the Imperial fleet’s powerful Nova Cannon. McManners was pleased at this and gave the order to fire the Imperium’s most powerful fleet weapon. Sadly both Illustrious and Repulse were woefully inaccurate in their shooting, and failed to do any damage.

Even so the Chaos fleet was spilt up, with the carnage class Rheingeld far ahead of its consorts on the starboard bow, while Naglfar and Skoll skirted round to the port flank of the Imperial fleet. Meanwhile the grand cruiser Jormandandr approached sedately in the centre.

McManners deployed his two gothic class vessels, Hogue and Cressy on the port wing of his formation with Illustrious and Repulse deployed further back, screened by the Sword squadron. McManners planned a torpedo and lance strike on Rheingeld followed up by broadsides from his other vessels, before turning his attention to the grand cruiser. By then the other two Chaos vessels would be to the rear, but the Imperial fleet would have ample time to turn and deal with them, as they would be outnumbered and outgunned. The Imperial fleet had yet another battle with Thok sewn up.

Then disaster struck. With almost the first long range salvoes of the battle, Rheingeld got a lucky hit on Hogue. To the disbelief and horror of Imperial onlookers the gothic class vessel’s engine signature stuttered and died and the vessel was left dead in space. Almost immediately Thok had regained the initiative in the most unlikely of fashion.

McManners was sure however that Rheingeld, isolated and alone, would pay the price, but luck was not on his side. The torpedo salvo from his other gothic was confused by radiation and debris from Hogue and all six failed to acquire their targets. The carnage class escaped with minor damage.

Jormungandr was less lucky, and the combined broadsides of Illustrious, Repulse added to the firepower of the Sword squadron caused severe damage. Somehow despite the attention of bombers launched from the Imperial carrier she still manages to disengage and limp home.

25 minutes into the battle McManners had evened the odds, but Rhiengeld once again managed to evade certain death from the broadside of Repulse and the firepower of his battlecruiser, and she circled round to the rear of the Imperial fleet. Her escorting Idolators were less fortunate and were obliterated. McManners however was about to suffer the ultimate disaster.

Naglfar and Skoll had seen the damage wrought on Jormungandr, and together with Rheingeld they poured all their fire onto the Imperial carrier. Illustrious was hit again and again. Desperately she tried to disengage but with her bridge smashed and her thrusters damaged, she was unable to conduct evasive manoeuvres. With an eerie similarity to the destruction of her sister ship Ark Royal, Illustrious exploded, killing her entire crew and the commander of the Imperial taskgroup.

By now it appeared the Imperium had lost the battle, and Repulse and her escorting frigates rapidly fled the scene of destruction. The battle was almost over.

Cressy however distinguished herself well. Turning to port she saw the Skoll and Naglfar in the distance, well out of range. Rheingeld however, her crew inexperienced and impetuous, was inviting the Imperial cruiser into a one on one duel, despite being damaged. Cressy accepted, locked on to the Chaos vessel and then engaged in a twenty minute duel with Rheingeld. Very soon the Chaos captain regretted his rash action, as concentrated lance fire ripped into the starboard side of his vessel. He didn’t regret it for long however as a well placed salvo of superheated plasma ripped off the vessel’s conning tower.

With her command gone and her fire flagging the Rheingeld was doomed, at the mercy of the Imperial cruiser who showed her enemy none. Naglfar tried to help, sending in a wave of bombers against the Cressy, but these only inflicted minor damage. Only once the Rheingeld had exploded in a shower of flaming debris did Cressy disengage. The battle of Alphe system was over.

The battle was a material victory for chaos and a devastating loss for Admiral Jellicoe. He had lost both his heavy carrier cruisers and meant he would have to request a new mars class vessel from Kar Duniash. Fortunately Glorious was available and arrived several weeks later.

Thok had his victory, but largely due to luck. His fleet had approached spread out, and McManners’ plan, had he been able to enact it, may well have delivered another famous victory to the Imperium. The loss of the Hogue to a lucky shot and the fortunate escape of the Jormungandr were only two events of many which ensured a Chaos victory.

The failure of the Imperial nova cannons and torpedoes and the inability of Illustrious to disengage meant the Imperium could not have realistically achieved victory. Even so the victory remained minor thanks to the petulant behaviour and subsequent loss of Rheingeld. Given the sway of events, Thok’s fleet may well have been disappointed that the opportunity for an annihilating victory was passed up.

Although the Imperial Navy tacticians were satisfied with the way McManners conducted the battle, none of this meant anything to the beleaguered defenders of Alphe. The fleet had been sent packing, Thok had won and the defenders of Alphe now wondered if they could hold off the tide of Chaos for much longer.

Imperial Losses
Illustrious exploded
Hogue hulked

Chaos Losses
Jormungandr crippled
Rheingeld exploded
3 Idolators destroyed

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