Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Battle of Bastien: analysis

The Battle of Bastien occurred on 1212.014M42 with the largest clash of imperial and chaos fleets since 11.011M42. By early 12.014M42 a sizeable fleet of chaos warships had assembled at Bastien and had been blockading the system ever since the disastrous rout of Admiral Beattie's battlegroup in mid 11.014M42. Gradually Thok's fleet had been joined by elements of Tragaen's and the Word Bearers loyal to the Arch Cleric. Now the chaos fleet in the Bastien system numbered sixteen or so capital ships, and the overlords of the ruinous powers were confident that their enemy, Admiral Jellicoe, would not be able to muster the forces to challenge their supremacy in the Perseus Deeps.

Admiral Jellicoe did indeed have some serious problems. In trying to protect the Vastrid subsector, the beleagured forces in the Zadoc subsector and maintain a strong presence in the Perseus Deeps, the imperial fleet was split across the sector. Beattie's battlegroup, or what was left of it, was heading for dock at Farport for major repairs, while Admiral Pendragon's force had been all but annihilated at Hylas. Jellicoe could only spare one battleship and a handful of cruisers to break through the Bastien blockade, not nearly enough.

Help came however in the form of other imperial agencies as it had done in 011.M42. Once again the Dark Angels turned up in force, with three strike cruisers and a host of escorts, pledging to break the blockade to the planet they had shed so much blood to wrestle from the grip of the archenemy. Similarly, four cruisers and a battleship arrived from the adeptus mechanicus. Now Jellicoe had more ships than his enemy, although fewer capital vessels. He knew the chaos admirals well, and judged they would field no escorts, and that his smaller forces may be able to turn any battle in his favour. On 0712.014M42 the mixed imperial fleet left its secret rendezvous and headed for Bastien.

Five days later the imperial fleet arrived at Bastien, much closer to the planet itself thanks to the advanced technology of the adeptus mechanicus. Immediately Jellicoe's warships detected the chaos fleet, which was travelling in three divisions towards them on the other side of the planet, following a routine sweep of the inner biosphere. Keen to avoid making the same mistakes that cost him victory three terran years previously, Jellicoe consulted his colleagues in the astartes and mechanicum and a plan was devised. The Adeptus Mechanicus fleet took the left wing, Jellicoe took the middle, and the Dark Angels deployed on the right wing.

Opposing this deployment the chaos fleet of lord Tragaen quickly moved to oppose the mechanicus, while admiral Thok and the Word Bearers intended to join up to form a large fleet near the planet itself. The combined firepower would then be enough to prevent Jellicoe and the Dark Angels from breaking through, while Tragaen dealt with the Mechanicum.

The battle started in earnest around 14:00 local system time with the adeptus mechanicu fleet scoring early successes against lord Tragaen's vessels with their long range nova cannons. Jellicoe had deliberately grouped these long ranged monsters together, and soon much of the chaos battlegroup was taking evasive manoeuvres. its progress toward the imperial fleet slowed as the imperial admiral had intended. Despite weaving to and fro, the nova shells eventually took their toll. Doombringer was crippled by a direct hit at 14:16 and then Rapturous Agony took multiple hits as Tragaen's fleet gradually closed the gap between themselves and the Adeptus mechanicus, exploding in a dramatic plasma drive detonation at 15:06. Doombringer veered off and took no further part in the battle. The Mechanicum had reduced their opponents to four vessels, but the fast chaos vessels still packed a punch, and soon the Adeptus Mechanicus vessels found themselves under heavy fire. Suppono was soon heavily damaged and only just managed to limp away.

While the Mechanicum and Lord Tragaen's battlegroup were locked in a struggle on the imperial left, on the right the Dark Angels had sent a lone squadron of torpedo escorts to the rear of the Word Bearer's fleet, fully aware that the forces of chaos had no way of dealing with the fast and agile vessels. This action bore fruit at 15:50, with the crippling and subsequent disengaging of Unholy Flame. The Word Bearers did not turn to deal with the threat behind them, indeed they could not. The fleet had already been slow to form up with Admiral Thok's, and needed to form a battle line before the van of Jellicoe's fleet arrived.

In the centre of the battlefield the main Dark Angels battlegroup now came into range of Admiral Thok's fleet, and quickly Blue squadron lost several ships and was forced to disengage. However there were plenty more escorts and strike cruisers left, and combined close range Dark Angels fire quickly reduced Dagnr to a wreck, before the stricken chaos cruiser exploded at 16:29. Meanwhile Admiral Jellicoe's battlegroup had initially turned slightly to help the Mechanicum against Tragaen, but at 16:30 Jellicoe gave the order to turn to starboard and head for Bastien itself. The imperial plan was working. On the left Tragaen and the mechanicus fleet were evenly matched and slugging it out at close quarters. Valente Deo was crippled at 16:50 but Pustulent was similarly heavily damaged by an escort strike at 16:59 before exploding at 17:54. On the right the Dark Angels had veered away from the Word bearer's battlegroup to engage Thok before the Arch Cleric could arrive, and now Jellicoe made the decision to aid the astartes. With any luck Thok could be dealt with and neutralised before the Word Bearers' arrival, and then their fleet would be dealt with in turn.

Initially Thok's vessels weathered the storm of fire from the two imperial battlegroups, and it was the lead elements of the Word Bearers' fleet that suffered first. Straining to catch up with Thok, Immolator was caught in a severe crossfire as she appeared over the limb of the world of Bastien itself, taking heavy damage at 17:24. Minutes later Warp Revelator suffered a similar fate as the astartes escorts behind the chaos fleet took aim at their second target of the day. Immolator however could not escape, and thunderhawk gunships were sent in to finish her off. The chaos cruiser's fire slackened and fell silent at 17:29, the ship now a drifting hulk.

Jellicoe's fleet did not get off without any damage however. At the head of Jellicoe's formation the light cruisers Phoenix and Firedrake found themselves in a storm of fire, with Phoenix suffering heavy damage at 17:38. The dauntless class cruisers turned away sharply and retreated, but the cruiser Intrepid was late to notice their move, and soon found herself isolated as the nearest imperial vessel on the chaos starboard bow. The chaos fleet, despite locked in battle with the Dark Angels at close range, now found some sport for their starboard batteries, and Intrepid was badly damaged before she was able to turn away.

By 18:00 however the situation heavily favoured the imperial side. Lord Tragaen's remaining battered ships disengaged at 18:27, leaving the Adeptus Mechanicus vessels free to rejoin the main imperial fleet (although this would take them some time). In the centre Jellicoe had his fleet broadside on to Thok and the Word Bearers', while the Dark Angels were heavily engaged ont he chaos left. The Word Bearers' were also suffering from appearing one by one over the planet Bastien itself, and the tactical situation was dire despite the numbers being relatively even.

The imperial fleet soon started making their tactical position count. Wyrmfire was quickly destroyed by the might of Jellicoe's guns at 18:22, and at 18:24 Thok's flagship took heavy hits from Vanguard, causing heavy damage. Warp Revelator followed, with Jellicoe's torpedoes crippling her at 18:26. The battle was becoming a rout as Jellicoe's vessels mangled the oncoming chaos fleet. Pyre of Darnath and Savage Messsiah were also heavily damaged and forced to retreat by the combined firepower and ordnance of the imperial and astartes fleet before at 18:55 the chaos vessels turned towards the asteroid fields around the planet and disengaged en masse. The imperial fleet formed up around Bastien and began transferring reinforcements to the planets' surface.

The Battle of Bastien had been a decisive victory for the imperium, one which Jellicoe had failed to achieve in 011M42. The forces of chaos had lost five capital ships and had a further six crippled. Despite the loss of nine escorts, the imperium hadn't lost a single capital ship, and only four had suffered significant damage. The chaos fleet had been driven from the field and the imperium were left in control of the system. Jellicoe was praised for his actions, although the glory had to be shared between the imperial navy, the mechanicum and the Dark Angel's chapter of astartes. Nervertheless the result was a much needed morale boost to imperial forces across the sector, and in the short term it led to a dramatic shift in the strategic balance sectorwide. With three major chaos fleets out of action, supplies and reinforcements were able to get through to Aethor and Bastien, and within weeks the eldar had been ejected from Aethor and Bastien had been wiped clean of the chaos taint. General Veers even had ideas of going onto the offensive in the Perseus Deeps.

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