Sunday, November 09, 2014

Mixed fortunes on Bastien

During early 11.014M42 the war on Bastien continued to gain momentum as the imperium realised the Iron Warriors had not come to raid, but that the powers of chaos intended to retake their former empire. After establishing a bridgehead the Iron Warriors set about fortifying their positions against an imperial counter attack, but general Veers was in no position to launch one. Instead he reinforced Meshuggah as he determined this was the most likely axis of attack.

in fact, the chaos planned a blitzkreig campaign involving several of their units. The overall strategy would be to continually outflank Veers guard formations by employing fast moving units in conjunction with a pinning force of astartes and various daemon engines. Naturally the Iron Warriors would be the pinning force, and they led the frontal assault on Meshuggah, as expected by Veers. Meanwhile the emperor's children performed the first outflanking manouevre, moving south to block the imperial retreat along the Aquilus road.

The Iron Warriors' assault consisted of another dawn attack, which hampered the ability of the Librian defenders to accurately pin down their enemy. Despite fielding a large array of artillery pieces, the shells somehow managed to miss the fast moving bikers on the imperial left flank. Realising these units must not be allowed to reach imperial lines, the local commander ordered everything he had against the chaos bikers, eventually destroying them to a man. However, the cost of this was to limit available firepower along the rest of the front, and on the right in particular the forces of chaos were soon in amongst the imperial defenders. Despite accurate fire from imperial heavy weapons teams against the maulerfiends - who had been taught to immobilise these dreadful war engines by firing at their legs, the imperial front was soon overrun and the imperial army was obliged to retreat northward towards damnation.

Meanwhile the Emperor's Children had started their move towards Aquilus. If successful, the chaos bridgehead would be secured against encirclement, but no sooner had they moved across their perimeter, than the Apocalypse Riders launched a lightning ambush. Taken completely by surprise the Emperor's Children fought as hard as they could, but were soon driven back to the chaos landing grounds by the fury of the astartes attack. Only the arrival of a large and well equipped army loyal to the Arch Cleric saw the end of the Apocalypse Riders' attack, the loyalists withdrawing, satisfied with the damage they had wrought on their enemy.

The Apocalypse Riders' raid had bought the imperium time on Bastien. Veers had lost ground and the city of Meshuggah, but his army was not in a rout. The chaos forces had not yet secured their southern flank and the system warp jump point was still under the control of the imperial navy. Reinforcements will flow for the loyalists, while the traitors would have to run the gauntlet of Admiral Pendragon's forces every time they pushed in system.

The first attempt to break the imperial hold on space took place on 1011.014M42 with the arrival of the Word Bearers' fleet. There were no troop transports. Instead every vessel was a warship, though these themselves carried thousands more troops for the campaign on Bastien. Pendragon immediately closed with the chaos fleet, and a cagey and inconclusive battle took place. Both sides, wary of past horrendous losses, were less than keen to keep ships in battle once they had started to take damage, and several of the Arch Cleric's vessels even disengaged undamaged if they found themselves in a tactically unfavourable position, rather than give any advantage to the enemy.

Pendragon's flagship the Sir Gallahad was singled out early on, seriously damaging the battleship and forcing a withdrawal from the battlefield. While Pendragon attempted to transfer his flag, the leaderless imperial fleet managed to cripple the Immolator and Pire of Darnath with expert shooting, before the imperial fleet found itself in a less than favourable tactical position. Without any other guidance the imperial fleet disengaged. Numerically the chaos fleet had taken more damage, although it is hard to compare a severely damaged battleship with two crippled cruisers. However, by disengaging, the imperial fleet allowed the remaining chaos vessels in system. The Arch Cleric was able to reinforce his numbers on the ground before making the return trip. Of course, the imperial fleet was still intact and waiting.

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