Sunday, February 26, 2012

Action in the Perseus Deeps

While the Vastrid sector saw the bulk of the fighting in late 02.012M42, there were still significant actions in the Perseus Deeps throughout this period, with the most significant action taking place over Sentinel.

The Enraptured had slowly gained the advantage on Sentinel following the demise of Lorek's forces, and by the middle of 02.012M42, had pushed the Imperium away from the Spaceport and central compound. Realising there was a risk that the Aurora Angels and Red Angels would be overwhelmed without support, General Veers summoned a meeting of his top generals and admiral Jellicoe to understand what he could spare for Sentinel.

The picture painted for Veers was not a good one. Almost one million guardsmen were still involved in anti-insurgency work on Parthenope and Bastien, and couldn't be spared lest the forces of Chaos gain a foothold in the population once again. Another 500,000 were on garrison duties on Eris, Corticant and other smaller worlds. None could be spared, and even then, the priority would be Zog, where the Imperial defenders were barely holding off the Necrons, or Alphe, where Hathek felt sure the Tyranids would resurface soon.

The Dark Angels came to the rescue. The commander of the second company entered the room, declaring that with Hylas retaken for the Imperium, there was no immediate need to prosecute the war against the Tau, and that the war on Chaos must take priority. Inquisitor Hathek rolled his eyes, as this was the very thing which had led to his falling out with Inquisitor Xanthus, but the help was well received.

On 2702.012M42 the Dark Angel fleet, including two battlebarges arrived over Sentinel to find the fleet of Lord Tragean waiting for them. Using the gravity well of a nearby terrestrial planet the Dark Angels closed on their enemy, noting that the chaos vessels had placed their battleship at the head of their battleline. The Dark Angels then rushed the rear of the Chaos line, causing a great deal of damage with their gun batteries and boarding torpedoes, while the Desolator class battleship was unable to mount an effective reply.

During the battle two chaos vessels were badly damaged, and the carnage class Unnatural Permutation was reduced to a dead hulk. Although the Space Marines lost a number of escorts, neither battle barge was damaged, and the chaos fleet fled, realising their position was hopeless. A few days later the Dark Angels arrived at the planet of Sentinel itself, swiftly taking the orbital docks before landing in force at the Space port. In one stroke the initative on Sentinel had been completely reversed.

The chaos forces had other problems during 02.012M42, as the Shattered Silence kabal launched a series of raids against the Enraptured on Blight and Carnage. Meanwhile on Zog, the forces of the Eldar tried to help the Imperium by attacking the Necron forces beseiging the Imperial compound. However, the swift mechanised attack met resolute defence and the effect on the Necron armies was negligible.

War in the Radeon Cluster

The action in the Vastrid subsector continued into the end of 02.012M42. By now all but one of the habitable systems in the Radeon Cluster had been secured by General Pollack and his Imperial forces. In the Cerrack Nebula only Aspaster held out, and Pollack's spies kept a close eye on Thrugnik's orks, watching for any threatening build up. Along with the major worlds of Keprok and Magark, Aspaster formed a trio of worlds held by the Orks, with Fort Ate and Fort Thrace protecting the major Imperial worlds from invasion, should an Ork Waagh! form.

In the Cerrack Nebula, rimward of the main Imperial worlds, Pollack had established Spinitus and Achreom as major fortified bases, but their proximity to the now war torn Sentinel and the Dark Eldar/Necron war on Drift, forced Pollack to deploy the majority of his strength on these two important worlds. While Pollack requested extra forces to defend Gabriel's World, the Orks arrived once again, landing in force on the small rocky world.

The Orks quickly overwhelmed several of the small Imperial bases on the world before Pollack could mobilise a response. When it came, it was in the form of the Space Wolves, who arrived in system on 2602.012M42, just four days after the Orks had landed.

Unfortunately the counter assault by the Space Wolves did not go well. the Astartes seemed unprepared for the ferociousness of the Orks under Thrugnik's command, and after bitter fighting they were forced to concede the bridgehead to the greenskins. With almost half of the inhabited zone on Gabriel's World now overrun, Pollack had to counter this new threat before turning his attention to Drift and Aspaster. Only after the suppression of these two worlds along with the others would Pollack's campaign be over.

Meanwhile the Dark Eldar were in action in the Nebula. On 2202.012M42, in an attempt to complete their occupation of Drift, they launched an offensive against the small necron tomb world which represented the last enemy resistance on the planet. Despite sending in their best troops. the Shattered Silence kabal were unable to oust the defending necrons from their positions, and the tomb world - although not fully awake - was able to put up a stalwart defence against the dark eldar. Exhausted, the forces of the Shattered Silence withdrew some days later to regroup and rethink their strategy for conquering Drift.

The Dark Eldar were also in action against Thrugnik's orks on Gabriel's World. realising the Orks posed a possible threat to their war on Drift, the Shattered Silence arranged for a lesser kabal to attack the Orks, as they had been doing at regular intervals for months. Although the Dark Eldar did some damage to Thrugnik's forces, they took heavy casualties themselves and failed to achieve their objectives.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Battle for Hylas

Shadowstrike's fleet had repulsed the Space Wolf task force coming to support their battle brothers on Hylas before landing ground troops, retaking almost half of the planet. For weeks the Tau and Space Wolf task forces engaged in a game of cat and mouse, threatening to attack and then withdrawing when the other manoeuvred to counter them. It soon became apparent there could be no easy victory on Hylas – both sides were too canny, too experienced and too mobile to allow for a quick and total victory.

It was the Space Wolf commander who proposed a solution – that both forces meet on neutral ground and settle the matter in honourable combat. Although primarily governed by pragmatism the xenos Tau have a concept of honour of a sorts and had no more desire for a long and inconclusive campaign than the Space Wolves so they accepted the challenge.

The two armies met amidst an abandoned settlement at dawn and the battle began. The conflict unfolded much as the campaign had, with both sides launching a series of thrusts, parries and reposts. When one faction seemed to be gaining an advantage a sudden counter attack would reverse the situation. When the dust settled the battle had been fought to a stalemate with neither side seeming to have a clear advantage. The Tau however had lost much of their anti armour capability. They could hold the Space Wolves for weeks, perhaps months, but eventual defeat would be inevitable. Rather than waste further lives the Tau withdrew their forces. For now Hylas would be abandoned to the Imperium, a token victory to salve Imperial ego after the loss of Tyndareous, but the conflict had destroyed what little remained of the peace treaty drawn up between the Tau and Imperium. Further conflict between the two empires seemed inevitable.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vastrid Subsector: Imperium fortifies

The Vastrid subsector saw continued fighting between 1502.012M42 and 2102.012M4 as aliens and factionality within the Imperium saw attacks on the bases General Pollack had won in the Vastrid subsector.

The first attack came as a surprise when the Red Angels launched a punitive raid on the Space Wolves on Achreom. The raid failed badly and the Space Wolves easily defended themselves against their ill-equiped Astartes brethren. After the engagement the leader of the Space Wolves, Erik Morkai, was furious with the actions of the Red Angels and demanded Inquisitor Hathek excommunicate them. However, knowing this was another provocative move by Xanthus, Hathek declined, a move which provoked even more annoyance from the Space Wolf commander.

While the Imperium was fighting itself, the newly conquered world of Spinitus came under attack from two Dark Eldar factions. The first, identified as the Rillietan, smashed the base of the Aurora Angels space Marines, who had been brought in to aid Pollack's actions in the Cerrack Nebula. However the second attack was ill timed, and the Dark Eldar lacked the element of surprise, so when their attack came, the Librian Guard defending were perfectly prepared, launching their own counter move as soon as the aliens were in range.

The battle was a very one sided affair and the Dark Eldar were forced to abandon their assault. Even so the outcome of the Dark Eldar raids was Pollack moving several regiments of Guardsmen from the less important Gabriel's World to defend Spinitus, a move which didn't go unnoticed by his enemies.

The Enraptured gain on Sentinel

Following the frantic action in late 011M42 to secure the Device, the world of Sentinel had not been a major focus for Imperial efforts. The Perseus Deeps campaign had effectively stalled, as resources were stripped from General Veers and redirected to other more pressing needs outside of the Aleph sector. The Imperium had made good gains, but now Lord General Roover ordered a defensive stance, knowing that somewhere in the void Nemesis was building its strength, even if it hadn't flexed its full muscles on Alphe, and that the Chaos forces in the sector had largely been dealt with. Or so he thought.

It was true that Lorek had been beaten, the Catechism had all but disintegrated with the disappearance of Moonface, and the Covenant of Damnation had been all but wiped out during Veers' crusade. No other faction had taken the role as the leader of all chaos, and Imperial high command now felt it was time for consolidation, not further war.

Veers however disagreed. It didn't help that the spat between the Inquisitors Xanthus and Hathek had plunged the Imperium back into a war with the Tau, and denied him even further resources. The General was powerless however, and could not even muster enough Imperial Guard to retake the shattered remains of Sentinel, which was still half occupied by those Chaos forces left behind by Lorek following his departure.

The Aurora Angels and Red Angels did agree to deploy to Sentinel to watch over events. It was expected that over time the unmarshalled and scattered forces of chaos on Sentinel would dwindle and be easy pickings, but there was always the risk that one faction would gain dominance and lead the war against the Imperium, In late 02.012M42 that's exactly what happened.

After Lorek left Sentinel having failed to acquire the Device, the faction known as "The Enraptured" had schemed, beguiled and blugeoned their way to become leaders of the chaos forces left on Sentinel. Now with their forces unified, they went on the offensive, taking the watching Astartes by complete surprise.

The Aurora Angels and Red Angels both found themselves facing a highly mobile mechanised force opposing them, and while the Aurora Angels were able to hold their ground for a while, the Red Angels found themselves ill-equipped to face the reinvigorated traitor legions. The Enraptured smashed through their lines, forcing the Imperial forces to retreat towards the space port. By 2202.012M42 the Imperial hold on Sentinel appeared in doubt, and Veers urgently requested more forces from Roover, citing he Enraptured as a new potential "Master of Chaos" in the Aleph Sector.

War in the Zadoc Subsector

While the Space Wolves battled the Tau on Hylas, the other races in the Aleph sector were also making war with one another in the largest upsurge of violent conflict for more than two years. Da Verminator was sighted again, this time raiding several outposts in the Rim Worlds for reasons unknown. The chaotic leaders of the Rim Worlds called their brethen for aid, and within three weeks of the call the mighty warfleet of Grand Admiral Thok had docked at the rapidly growing Iron Warrior fortress world of Aornis.

Confident of victory against the Orks Thok formed his battle line on 1802.012M42, when Da Verminator arrived in strength in the Aornis system, eager for a fight against "real" opposition. The Ork constructs, only loosely resembling "vessels" rushed headlong into Thok's guns at a speed which the grand admiral was quite unprepared for. This shock was also felt on many of his capital ships' bridges, as fire from the chaos vessels proved sporadic and inaccurate as the orks approached. Da Verminator had gambled and won. Now at close range the ridiculously overpowered and cumbersome ork weapons came into their own, pummelling Thok's ships and forcing the grand admiral to flee, his battle line irreparably shattered and his fleet in disarray. The orks then plundered the space docks of Aornis before setting course for the Ork strongholds in the Mabb Nebula.

Some of the Orks landed on Aornis itself, spoiling for a fight "up close and personal". Some were identified as previously belonging to Thrugnik's warbands, raising the real possibility that the two Ork warlords were not enemies, or worse, were even working together. In any case the Iron Warriors managed to fend off the ferocious Ork assaults, holding their ground and after defeating the greenskins, reusing as much of what passed for equipment to shore up the defences of Aornis.

Prior to the Ork attack the Eldar had also attempted to raid the fortress world, but the stout defence of the Iron Warriors had prevented them from doing any real damage. This raid and the Ork invasion had taught the Iron Warriors just where their fortifications were lacking, and towards the end of 02.012M42 they were confident that Aornis was now as strong as it could be.

The Eldar did not confine their raids to the Iron Warriors on Aornis however. Just days after the engagements at Aornis, the Eldar appeared at Fort Sparcos in the Mabb Nebula. Quite why they were attacking the Orks was a mystery to the major powers in the region, as the last time the Eldar had attacked on Fort Sparcos was to aid the Orks in their defeat of the original Imperial defenders. None-the-less, the Orks were up to the task, defeating the Eldar raiders and sending them packing back into the webway. Just as with the Chaos raid the Orks capitalised, restrengthening their defences and increasing their forces on the world. Perhaps this had been the Eldar intention all along, although without the cost of so many Eldar lives...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mabb Nebula: current map

Vastrid Subsector current map

Perseus Deeps current map

Imperial gains and setbacks in the Vastrid subsector

General Pollack was still prosecuting his war in the Vastrid sector as 02.012M42 progressed. Already his battlegroup, with a lot of thanks to the Astartes chapters who lad lent him their strength, had made significant progress in the Cerrack Nebula and Radeon Cluster since operations had begun in 010M42.

Pollack had a relatively small force of only five capital ships, ten Imperial guard regiments and attached Astartes companies, who were a law unto themselves anyway. Even so Spinitus and Achreom had recently been fortified, while in the Cerrack Nebula only the orks prevented total Imperial domination. Pollack didn't have enough forces to realistically dislodge them from here for the time being at least.

In the Radeon Cluster Pollack new the Orks on Gabriel's World would be vulnerable. Da Verminator had got the ork fleet trashed in late 01,012M42, and the ork supply lines were looking almost non existant. On the arid scrubland of the planet, only a few warbands remained, often fighting with each other for control of the world.

Pollack decided to deal with the threat before they began multiplying or came under the control of a more powerful warlord. He requested an initial drop from the Space Wolves to be followed up by Imperial Guard landings. In the event the Guard weren't necessary. Although the orks put up a fight they had no way to contend with the Imperium's absolute aerial and space supremacy, and those orks who escaped the initial Space Wolf landings were gradually obliterated by the Space Wolf fleet from orbit.

By 1502.012M42 the Imperium had secured Gabriel's world and assigned a few thousand Imperial Guardsmen to hunt down any straggling orks, while the adeptus administratum went about rebuilding the planet's infrastructure.

While Pollack was successfully adding Gabriel's world to his list of conquests, Inquisitor Huron had secquestered a regiment of Librian Guard to help him in his investigations of Dark Eldar activity. Pollack had objected, but had no power to stop the Inquisitor Lord. And so on 0802.012M42 the cruiser Agincourt arrived at Drift and set down the Inquisitor and his guardsmen.

For two days the Imperial forces landed on the uninhabited world went about their business unmolested. An outpost was set up and Huron found intriguing evidence of Necron activity underground, although only indicated by faint energy signals. He kept this information to himself. perhaps thats why the Dark Eldar were being attracted to this world.

Then on 1002.012M42 Huron's Librian scouts made contact with a significant force of Dark Eldar and were obliterated while warning their comrades. Immediately the Librians formed up into an offensive line and began moving towards their enemy, the tanks kept in the open plains while the infantry, supported by chimeras and hellhounds, moved through the old settlement of Drift Prime, now reduced to an ashen ruin by previous wars.

The Librians moved towards their enemy to avoid being trapped at their bridgehead, and it almost worked. The small Dark Eldar craft sent against the Librian tanks were obliterated by Demolisher and Leman Russ fire, and the left flank of the Librian move cut through the Dark Eldar cleanly and efficiently. However, in the city the Librians faired far worse. Raiders with dark eldar warriors kept the Librian infantry pinned down while the Imperial gunfire was inaccurate and ineffective. The dark eldar then threw in their air support, the wings of the alien craft bearing witness to the fact they were of the Shattered Silence kabal.

the dark eldar air strikes were devastating to the Librian infantry, and after a day of fighting the Librians were forced back inch by inch, towards their landing zone. Inquisitor Huron delayed the order to evacuate but he finally relented once the tanks of the Librian 81st regiment were destroyed by dark lance fire, something which had eluded the Shattered Silence for much of the battle.

Despite losses the Shattered Silence had forced Huron's army to abandon their toehold on Drift, but the inquisitor had learnt a lot. There were necrons on Drift yes, but also dark eldar, and dark eldar who seemed not only to want to raid and pillage and steal, but to have Drift for themselves. They were far more interested in seeing off the Imperium this time than taking slaves. What did they want from Drift? Huron had to wonder as the Agincourt moved away from Drift along with its battle scarred human cargo.

Orks raided

The Tau needed to consolidate their gains before further expansion could be contemplated. Pirates and raiders were the most immediate threat but Shadowstrike was aware of the growing Necron menace in the region and feared it was only a matter of time before a major invasion occurred.

The colonisation effort was dependant on convoys of civilian freighters and carriers which needed to be protected from the multitude of alien raiders that infested space between the Tau Empire and the Purseus Deeps. Shadowstrike continued his policy of aggressive defence, using intelligence to hunt and target potential raiders at their source rather than wait for them to attack a convoy. The Ork pirates in the Mabb Nebula had been making a particular nuisance of themselves and plans were drawn up for a ground strike.

A veteran task force deployed to Bothorion with the objective of assassinating a particularly dangerous Ork warlord in a meticulously planned dawn strike. Things began to go wrong when the Orks sallied forth to meet the Tau attack. The element of suprise blown the veteran cadre heading the attack reacted with ruthless professionalism, systematically targeting high priority targets and falling back in a well practiced fire and manoevre drill. The horde of clanking Ork walkers and swarming boys proved surprisingly resilient to the Tau's high power weaponry but gradually the withering hail of fire took its toll.

It wasn't enough however and soon the horde threatened to overwhelm the cadre. Realising that further fighting would result in unacceptable losses the Tau commander reluctantly ordered the sacrifice of a small rear guard force so that the remainder might withdraw to their extraction point. The Orks had been disrupted sufficiently to curtail their activities and allow the colony at Lucardium to be completed without further harrassment, although the warboss hadn't been eliminated and was still at large.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Dark Eldar make gains on drift, raid Parataea

The Dark Eldar, particularly the Shattered Silence, continued their raids in early 02.012M42, but it was clear their activity was becoming ever more focussed around the Cerrack nebula and the planet of Drift. Concerned by their continued raiding in the Vastrid subsector, the subsector commander requested more forces be directed to his region. Lord Roover agreed, and Jellicoe was commanded to send a force from the Perseus Deeps with two regiments of Imperial Guard.

Jellicoe detached four cruisers and a squadron of Firestorms from his battlegroup at Corticant, led by the Armaggedon class Valiant. At the same time, the Space Wolves detatched a strike cruiser with one company of marines which arrived at Drift on 0302.012M42, having landed their troops at the nearby Imperial base of Achreom.

The Imperial Navy battlegroup arrived shortly after, on 0502.012M42, but while inbound to the planet of Drift, the Shattered Silence kabal launched an organised assault on the Imperial forces in the system, attacking the Imperial navy with their fleet and appearing from nowhere on the ground, launching a violent raid against the Space Wolves.

On the ground, the Space Wolves found themselves in deep trouble, with the dark eldar attacking in mobile formations, completely outmanouevring the marines. Before long they were pulling back to their recently constructed bastion, and preparing to evacuate.

With success on the ground the dark eldar fleet only had to catch the Space Wolf strike cruiser in orbit over drift to score a significant victory. However, the four cruisers led by the Valiant had just arrived, and they would need dealing with first.

The two fleets approached each other warily, but the commander of the Valiant was pleased to note that his inexperienced dark eldar counterpart was approaching from his starboard quarter. This allowed the Imperial fleet to swing to port, locking on their full broadsides against the enemy. The single dark eldar cruiser qas quickly crippled and fled, and the Imperial vessels took their toll on the remaining escorts, destroying most of them. Never-the-less, three of the four Imperial ships were badly damaged, and the commodore of the battlegroup was forced to put in at Vastrid for repairs, ruling out any possibility of landing troops on Drift in the near future.

While the dark eldar grip on Drift grew ever tighter, the aliens were still active in the Perseus Deeps, taking particular interest in raiding the Tau on their lesser colonies. Between 3001.012M42 and 0602.012M42 Paratea suffered a series of raids from dark eldar forces deplyed by ship. To counter this, Admiral Shinobi moved his flag to the fleet based out of Cernunos, his other vessels being stuck at Tarsis Major undergoing repairs. With this fleet the Tau deployed in force at Parataea, hoping to stem the attacks, but on 0802.012M42 the dark eldar appeared in force, defeating the Tau and forcing them to abandon Parataea for the time being, while the dark eldar ran amok along the streets of the Tau colony.

Da Verminator reappears in Perseus Deeps

The orks made a reappearance in early 02.012M42, attacking shipping between the Perseus Deeps and the Vastrid Sector. Raiders in ramshackle looking craft were encountered as far to the galactic fringe as Aganthus and in the other direction as far as Achreom. At first it was thought these forces were new and unrelated Ork warbands, but after one vessel was crippled and boarded, the crude sigil of Da Verminator was identified.

The Tau were the first to take any meaningful action against the Orks, as Shadowstrike dispatched a Tau force from Cernunnos to protect Aganthus. Predictable to a fault the Orks returned to their previously easy hunting grounds, only to encounter a fleet of brand new Tau vessels awaiting them.

The battle was horrificly one sided with the Tau making scrap metal out of Da Verminator's ungainly looking vessels. Shadowstrike was pleased with the new fleet, recently arrived at Cernunnos, and the Tau colonies in the Deeps were protected from Ork predation once more.

The battle near Aganthus forced the Orks in the opposite direction, and on 0902.012M42 Da Verminator's fleet arrived at Achreom in the Vastrid subsector, intent on raiding the Imperial outpost. Unfortunately, following heightened Dark Eldar activity in the area, the Dark Angels had recently arrived, and were well placed to ambush the large but lumbering Ork vessels. Once again the ork fleet was reduced to a floating mess of metal, but the Dark Angels knew that the orks would surely build more while Da Verminator lived.

War over Hylas

Neither the Imperium nor the Tau were slow to react to the unexpected invasion of Hylas by the Space wolves at the end of 01.012M42. The Imperium, led by Inquisitor Xanthus, were keen to keep the pressure on the Tau and conquer Hylas quickly, while Shadowstrike, now in charge of all sector Tau forces, was desparate to counter attack as soon as possible. Meanwhile Inquisitor hathek, bitterly disappointed at events in the Mabb nebula, abandonned the Tau treaty, at least for the time being. In the Perseus Deeps, where Hathek held overall influence over events, he could ensure that Tau worlds were not targets of Veers' Crusade. However in the Mabb Nebula, he had no way of stopping Xanthus and his allies.

As it happened, the Tau already had one fleet in place to defend Hylas, commanded by Admiral Shinobi. However Xanthus was able to augment his forces by leveraging his contacts in the Adeptus Mechanicus. By 0302.012M42 he was able to assemble a force of three Imperial Guard regiments, escorted by a powerful Adeptus Mechanicus battlegroup, which arrived at Hylas only two days later.

Shinobi handled his fleet with more experience, using a nearby asteroid field as cover from the Imperial nova cannons. Unfortunately his fleet captains were inexperienced, and when they attempted to navigate the belt, several vessels were badly damaged. Rather than risk total annihilation, Shinobi withdrew, and the Imperial guard regiments were landed on Hylas, eliminating the remaining Tau defenders.

The Adeptus Mechanicus fleet then withdrew, their mission complete, while the Space Wolves awaited pick up by their fleet. The intention was to leave the 3 guard regiments behind to mop up any disorder and generally restore Imperial rule. Two days later however, Shadowstrike's fleet arrived.

Shadowstrike's modern Tau vessels quickly took up station above the world of Hylas before the Space Wolves arrived to pick up their ground troops. They were able to take the Imperial fleet by surprise, and the Astartes vessels found out to their horror that the new Tau vessels were much more effective than the older ships they had been used to fighting. Approaching each other head on the superior firepower of the Tau soon told, and the Space Wolves were sent packing without causing much damage to the Tau. Now the ground war began again, as Shadowstrike took back key installations from the Imperium before they had a chance to properly dig in. The war on Hylas went on and the Tau shelved the idea of a peace with the Imperium, who they had mistakenly believed spoke with one voice.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Hathek's treaty hangs by thread

Following the Tau's conquest of Tyndareous a water caste delegation was sent to Inquisitor Hathek and the crusade council. With Tyndareous pacified and Xanthus' forces there destroyed or fled it was the Tau Empire's position that there was no need for further hostilities. No sooner had the ambassadors of both races shaken hands and mouthed platitudes of their hopes for continued peace and co-operation then new information came in: the Space Wolves were attacking the Tau world of Hylas. The Tau delegation registered its outrage at this fresh breach of the treaty and left in stony silence. Xanthus may have lost the war on Tyndareous but it looked as if he would succeed in destroying Hathek's plans for peace. The Tau no longer trusted in Hathek, believing him to be either duplicitous or totally unable to control his own forces and the treaty was left hanging by a thread.