Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bastien counter attack: Southern Front

While the Imperium was reeling in the north from the ferocity of the Anticross attack, their prospects in the south were somehwat better. The Chaos counter attack here was to be lead by the Claws of Lorek, with mercenary ork and Covenant support. As in the north the Adeptus Astartes were employed to blunt the attack, with the Space Wolves and Dark Angels working together to stop the Chaos assault in its tracks.

The Imperial pre-emptive strike began well, with the Space Wolves ambushing the Claws of Lorek forces spearheading the drive towards the southern Imperial defence lines. Lorek knew that failure here would mean the loss of Meshuggah and Reaverton, which would be a severe blow. The Space Wolves knew this too, and after dispatching the lead elements of the enemy force, secured a path for the Imperial Guard following up to surround Mesuggah. They held on to this for several days, but due to events in the desert they would be forced to withdraw.

Further south the Dark Angels were looking for the Orks of Thrugnik, a new Ork warlord who had apparently accepted the pay of the "Master of Chaos" in order to secure himself loot, booty, glory and bloodshed. The Dark Angels succeeded in their task but were quickly overwhelmed by greenskin numbers. Imperial intelligence on this had been incorrect and the Space Marines barely managed to extricate themselves from the jaws of the advancing greenskin horde. The Orks then turned north, threatening to cut the Space Wolves off. Amid much acrimonious debate and cries of treachery by both the Dark Angels and Space Wolves, the latter were forced to abandon their forward position.

On 2410.010M42 General Veers took charge in the south, deploying the main force of his army here for a "big push", a war of attrition designed to grind down the Chaos forces in the knowledge that he could replace his losses the faster. Veers also quietly asked for no more help from the Space Wolves and Dark Angels, who were blaming each other for the lack of progress so far. Veers feared they would turn on each other, so it was the Imperial Guard who now moved up to deal what Veers hoped would be the final blow to the Claws of Lorek and their dominion in the south of Bastien.

The broad front advance went well to begin with as Caldon Guard regiments ground down the traitor guard units of the Covenant, opening a gap and allowing the Librian 99th Mechanised and Prozan 3rd Cavalry to push through to Meshuggah. The city fell after a brief battle on 2510.010M42, but the forces of Chaos soon responded. On 2710.010M42 the counter attack came as the Claws elite marine forces, backed up by Covenant reserves moving in from Reaverton, pushed into the city.

Both sides used heavy artillery extensively, levelling the settlement and creating a hellish battlefield of stray rounds and deafening explosions. The Librians, furthest forward, though supported by Prozan Stormtroopers, weathered the initial onslaught, causing carnage in the Covenant ranks. The Prozan Stormtroopers excelled too, charging enemy rhinos armed only with krak grenades, often destroying the transports heroically before being wiped out. One day into the fighting Veers ordered in the Prozan airborne units to bolster the line.

The air cavalry assault was less than successful as the Covenant and traitor astartes units were suddenly reinforced, at exactly the right moment, by deep striking obliterators which made light work of the thinly armoured vendettas and valkyries. Most were downed upon arrival and the obvious losses being taken by their comrades seemed to have an effect on the Librian veterans holding the Imperial right flank. Firing wildly at the approach of a force of land raiders, hitting nothing, the Imperial right flank wavered, then broke, allowing the chaos forces a foothold in the east of the city.

The battle to the west and in the outskirts of Meshuggah was no less brutal, and here the loss of the airborne cavalry was felt the hardest. Although by 2810.010M42 the Imperial right flank had stopped running, it was clear to Veers that to stay defending Meshuggah meant being surrounded. The next day a bitterly disappointed Lord General ordered the retreat.

In the south the Imperium had lost thousands of men and hundreds of tanks and airborne carriers. The Dark Angels had lost a quarter of a chapter and the Imperium had taken just a few hundred miles of worthless desert. Even so, the Chaos counter attack had not been a spectacular success, and in fact the enemy had lost more ground than it had taken, and Lorek himself had lost some prestige amongst his fellow Chaos commanders. The war on Bastien would go on...

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