Sunday, June 23, 2013

Tyranteous: The battle of Wendrick

With the loss of the north on Tyranteous, Lord General Brooke at subsector command immediately got a verbal battering from his superior, which via astropath, was a surreal thing to behold for his command council. The irrascible tones of Lord General Thaddeus Roover came through strongly in the entranced voice of the diminutive astropath, who proceeded to deliver the dressing down of a high ranking imperial guard officer with no hint of the peculiarity of the situation. Roover was keen to know why General Denham on the ground had allowed the tau to gain a foothold in Wendrick, and whether the capital was at risk, while demanding an immediate counter-attack with the resources which were already "plentiful" enough for their purpose.

The highest ranking general in the sector sounded worried, even in the warp distorted and infuriated tones emanating from the astropath this was evident. Brooke, commander of the subsector was painfully aware of the arrival of the new sector government, and Roover's need to impress on them that the sector was in safe hands with him, despite the plentiful evidence to the contrary with the loss of Alphe, Betor, Tarsis, Melberg and the Rim Worlds... This meant more and more desperate urging that the campaigns on Hylas and Tyranteous be brought to a successful conclusion, or at least show some positive movement. For now the war against the orks was quiet, but on Tyranteous the tau were enjoying a string of victories with their new technology, and Roover was concerned that by the time admiral Jellicoe's fleet arrived, there would be nothing left to save.

Privately the senior admiral in the sector felt that Tyranteous would be lost before he could send a force, so Grand Admiral Bova Magnus did not order his subordinate Jellicoe to apply any speed to the preparations of the "Tyranteous task force". So far 6 months had past and it appeared the imperial fleet was no nearer to leaving Caitlen station, with Jellicoe citing "urgent repairs" and other pressing concerns as reasons to stall. General Denham had no choice but to continue the war, and in mid 06.013M42 with the help of a small force of Blood Martyrs, he planned his counter attack for his seniors.

Denham began his counter attack on 2006.013M42, using his Librian Guard as a blunt weapon against the tau forces. His objectives were the tau bases which had been set up behind the front line to act as marshalling and supply points for the tau army. His imperial guard forces advanced on a wide front, supported by units of Blood Martyrs and a savage artillery bombardment which crippled a number of hammerhead gunships in the early exchanges of fire.

The attack started well for the imperium, with the tau suffering losses. The aliens gave ground, with Denham's Librian mechanised forces reaching their primary objectives on the first day. Then commander Whitefire sprung his trap. Supported by the up and coming commander Dawnstride, Whitefire's forces included Riptude battlesuits, which once again the imperium found difficult to deal with. the battle escalated as Denham threw in his reserve, committing chimera borne veterans and hellhound flame tanks into the fight. Again the tau took heavy casualties, their infantry suffering to the imperial fire, but Whitefire now committed his reserves. Hordes of kroot which had been hiding in the marshy forests of northern Wendrick surprised the imperial attackers and disrupted their momentum. The Blood Martyrs leading the speartip of the imperial advance were forced to double back to deal with deep striking crisis suits, which proved to be a more difficult foe than even the astartes had imagined.

By 2506.013M42 further reserves had been committed, and the imperial navy had been called in to strafe and bomb the alien positions. Little by little however the imperial advance slowed, and although the tau continued to suffer, losing one of their Riptides finally on 26th, the imperial advance had once again failed to break through. On 2706.013M42 the imperial forces began retreating, a retreat which increased in speed as Shadowstrike committed a fresh attack to the imperial lines. Halt lines were overrun and soon the imperial guard was almost in full rout. The line stabilised on 2906.013M42, but by then the capital had been lost and the Wendrick bridgehead widened along the Lanwick sea and Jute Strait. On 3006.013M42 General Brooke's astropath once again reported a message from his commander. This time Brooke asked for it to be translated to him in writing...

Supply of food to Zadoc is further reduced.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Power of Chaos

Gargash: Uzfang defeats Lorek invasion

With the success of the chaos forces on Zoggot, Lorek sought to capitalise this by immediately launching an invasion of the far more populous and strategic world of Gargash in the Enceladus subsector. Taking Gargash would be a huge achievement towards the ultimate goal of wiping out the orks in the subsector, and joining the Norsefire empire with the chaos zone around Charybdis. If Lorek could achieve that, and eventual overlordship of the entire subsector, the entire sector would be ripe for a black crusade the like of which would make the losses in the Perseus Deeps seem trivial. The invasion plan was simple. Lorek would infiltrate forces on to the planet then use his summoned daemons to overwhelm key installations protecting the world. Then the major invasion, involving Lorek's moderate fleet, would commence.

Unfortunately the assault on the fortresses did not go well for Lorek. The key installation in the far north was protected by a significant ork force, bolstered by Uzfangs boyz when the ork warboss correctly identified that Gargash would be the next chaos target. The greenskins, keen to impress their leader, fought violently and tenaciously, goading the daemons into pointless fights with little tactical merit, and allowing Uzfang to ensure the key strategic locations of the fortress remained intact and under ork control. The casualty count was high but the fortress held, ensuring a full blown invasion would be suicidal to any approaching fleet. Gargash was safe from chaos invasion, at least for the time being.

Tau conquer northern Tyranteous

Lord General looked out on the scene in front of him from the palace balcony overlooking the city of Jutesburgh. The sun was setting, casting a peaceful orange glow over the settlement, and causing the distant waters of the Jute Strait to shine like a sea of jewels. Seabirds called to each other, and the sound of merchants and city dwellers closing for the day reminded the general of sunny evenings spent drinking on his homeworld many years before. Only the faint smudge of smoke in the far west revealed the danger now posed to imperial rule on Tyranteous, although the imposing presence of Commissar Ehren behind him in the ante room reminded Lord General Mikell Denham of the perilous position he now personally found himself in.

The north had been lost. He had known the tau attack was coming, and he had positioned his forces accordingly. He had the support of four companies of astartes. In the far north his imperial guard units had been supported by the Mantis Warriors, and in the city of Hammerton the Red Angels, Blood Angels and Blood Martyrs had come together to defend the city. Further south Denham had ordered a push north by his Librian units, to link up with the imperial forces in Hammerton. The plan had been sound, and his forces sufficient, so he thought, to turn the tide against the alien invaders and start winning the war.

Now, just a week later, North Vale and North Landing had been lost, and his army in Hammerton destroyed, its guardsman killed or captured, and the equipment lost. The Corellians and Librians further south had barely managed to get across the Jute Strait with the tau snapping at their heels. Further west, the enemy had been stopped at Weybridge crossing, but now the tau had a bridgehead on Wendrick, just a few hundred kilometres from the capital itself. How had it gone so wrong?

Commander Shadowstrike had been instrumental in the planning of operation Ulysses, the plan to rid the northern continent of imperial forces, and begin the next phase of the conquest of the imperial agri-world. Shadowstrike was keen to break the imperial armies, and the operation focussed on the seige of Hammerton. Shadowstrike was well aware that the imperium would try to defend the city, forcing the tau to accept a war of attrition in the streets of the settlement, probably intending to use their genetically engineered elite forces to massacre the tau in the streets. Commanders Windgather and Whitefire were summoned to add their forces to the attack on Hammerton and Shadowstrike devised an assault to cancel out their enemies' superiority in city fighting.

Rather than expend lives attacking the city walls Shadowstrike instead opted to bypass them completely as suits and grav tanks were deployed by mantas directly into the city after bombarding the walls, driving the defenders back into shelter of the city. In the run up to the attack the area around Hammerton was covered by heavy snow and blizzards. This time ground forces are accompanied by sky rays (although deployed in very limited numbers) to guard against air attack, however on d-day snow was fairly light and barracudas are able to fly.

The imperial forces in Hammerton now unleashed their astarted forces, believing the Tau's position in the city to still be tenuous. Space Marines of the Blood Angels and Dark Angels chapter launched an immediate all out counter attack but found themselves caught in deadly crossfire. For the first time the imperial forces on Tyranteous faced the deployment of multiple XV104 'Riptide' battlesuits, the first major deployment of such suits within the Aleph subsector. The effect was devastating, as the suits, backed up by the smaller 'crisis' variants and broadsides, prove to be highly effective in the dense city terrain, and everywhere the counter attacking imperial forces find themselves lit up by markerlights, targetted by missiles from unseen enemies and ambushed as suits and grav tanks appear from behind buildings and on roofs. Light skimmers strike from the maze of alleyways, and despite a spiritied attack from the Blood Martyrs on the right flank, the imperial forces suffer massive casualties.

As the fighting wore on into the second day, the survivors of the Dark Angels and Blood Angels are forced to quit the city, while all counter attackers are slaughtered or forced to pull back. Only a few indomitable space marines make it to the Tau lines and bitter back and forth fighting erupts around strategically important buildings. Left isolated, they are eventually surrounded and gunned down. The battle ended as tau forces moved in on central cathedral with Shadowstrike himself jetting up the approach, flanked by his personal bodyguard and surrounded by multiple Riptides. A few marines of the Red Angels fought bravely on to the last, but Hammerton was lost, well before the imperial attack from the south got anywhere near their objectives.

The southern thrust soon found itself in difficulty, ambushed on all sides in the rolling terrain of North Landing, and taken apart from the sky by barracudas. The retreat began, while in the far north, another battle was taking place.

Shadowstrike had been content to leave the imperial forces bottled up in the north, but the tau received an unexpected offer of aid from the eldar. If the tau agreed to assault Denham's forces in North Vale, the eldar would assist, so long as the tau would not get in the way of their own mission. Shadowstrike accepted the offer as it allowed him to secure his flanks with a relatively low commitment of troops.

The imperium had gathered a large force in the north, comprising of local PDF units, a praetorian regiment, units of the 405th Orbital defence force, supported by a strike force from the Mantis Warriors chapter. They had been planning their own advance on the orders of Lord General Denham, and initially they made good progress, finding tau resistance weak. As usual the tau were only to willing to sacrifice land of low strategic importance for time, and this they did with skill, harrying the attackers but allowing them to advance, spread out, and fall into the carefully prepared eldar trap.

The imperial forces met the allied eldar/tau force in a wide valley in the northern continent. Here they found themselves confronted by a large force and immediately dug in, errecting a vast line of Aegis defences, near to an ancient alien ruin and a vast stretch of woodland known as the wraith forest. This region was in fact the reason for the eldar visit, as the farseers had identified an opportunity to seal the warp gate still active on the planet.

Commander Moonshine had been left in no doubt that the eldar were on their own mission and not to interfere. Instead the tau commander concentrated on the destruction of the imperial forces while the eldar advanced on the monument. At first it was feared the imperium would get to the sacred eldar site first, but the imperial guard commanders along with the space marines had decided on a cautious approach, one which was to prove costly. Once the wraithguard of the Rillietan took up positions in the giant monument's ruins it proved impossible to shift them, and harrying attacks from the tau severely mauled the imperial forces.

In the wraith forest, the ghosts of the eldar past saw some of their kin succumb to their own ancient nightmares, several warriors simply wandering off and disappearing after hearing their ancestors' eerie calls, but the imperial forces were unable to capitalise on this, their own forces being just as loathe to enter the strange woodlands. On the imperial left flank their forces did advance, but too late. The eldar were able to disable the warp gate then turn to the annihilation of the enemy forces. Along with commander Moonface's hunter cadres, the imperial advance was checked, then thrown into retreat as the alliance surged forward. The retreat soon became a rout, as the Mantis Warriors abandonned the imperial guard to their fate. The PDF units and the Orbital Defence Force fled for their lives, while the Praetorians vainly tried to hold the line. General Denham tried to order an evacuation, but Shadowstrike made sure any airborne rescue was turned back by waves of tau interceptors launched from the fleet above the planet. There would be no escape this time.

By 0706.013M42 the last defenders in the north had been mopped up, and the eldar forces simply melted away, leaving the tau in command of North Vale. Further south the Corellians and Zadocians had managed to set up a defensive line south of Lanwick Crossing, and the tau impetus had spent itself. Shadowstrike was more than content with the success of operation Ulysses, while the imperium were once again reeling from a defeat to the tau empire. Meanwhile on Zadoc the lack of food was becoming more critical, with riots and famines now sweeping several of the hives. Food had to get to the imperial capital of the subsecto before it fell into anarchy. Imperial rule in the Zadoc subsector was more tenuous than ever.