Friday, November 29, 2013

Release the hounds...

Lord Titus Luthor stared at the images and text scrolling past on his vid screen. The latest reports from the Zadoc subsector did not make easy reading. The final surrender on Tyranteous was disappointing, but not entirely surprising. Now the focus was on Zadoc, the capital of the subsector. Half overrun by the forces of chaos and counter invaded by the alliance. At least the capitulation of Tyranteous left a window of opportunity. 

With the fall of Tyranteous, the alliance had found itself with a great army on the agri-world which needed transport. Leaving behind just a few escorts the tau had departed the Zadoc system, allowing the Imperium to reinforce without interference. Luthor had reacted swiftly, ordering Admiral Jellicoe to reinforce Zadoc from forces in the Perseus Deeps. Twenty Librian, four Novgorod and several other regiments had been hastily dispatched, and would arrive in days. Along with them the Corellians were sent, and help from the astartes had been confirmed, although strangely the Apocalypse Riders had not responded to the request. 

Luthor pressed icons on his console and the images changed. Flickering before the lord of the sector was a holographic image of the Perseus Deeps, showing Corticant invaded by Necrons and eldar, Ares fallen and the worlds hard won by General Veers beseiged on all sides. Bastien, largest world in the region, glowed purple, identifying Xenos infestation. 

A knock at the door of Luthor's cabin aboard the Iron Duke broke the Lord's concentration. 

"Come in". 

A graceful figure, hooded and robed entered the room. Pulling down her hood to reveal long flowing blond hair, Inquisitor Lord Natalia Vorushko sat down silently in the chair across from Luthor's desk. In the sector, only Natalia had the rank and privilege to treat Luthor as an equal, but the veteran politician didn't mind. Over the past year the two had forged a close partnership, not quite a friendship but a deep respect and recognition for one another. 

"So", began the inquisitor lord, "I gather we're still losing." 

A wry smile crossed the Lord Governor's face before fading into stern concentration. Luthor hadn't looked up from his screen and had barely acknowledged the presence of one of the most powerful agents of the segmentum. 

"Ares is lost, Tyranteous is lost, Bastien invaded. We carry on like this and there won't be anything left in a few years, but on Zadoc we strike back." 

"Ah yes, your plan for a double strike against the alliance and the heretics." Natalia paused and gradually leaned forward. Luthor finally turned his gaze towards her and saw the look of concern in her face. "I need to talk to you about that." 


General Brooke was angry. The reinforcements had arrived on time and he was halfway through planning a great offensive, and now everything had to change at short notice. The commander of all forces on Zadoc paced up and down the ornate hall of the manor house he had commandeered for his forward HQ. His aide simply stood to attention, ready for the inevitable outburst from his senior commander. 

"Imperial intelligence requires of you a change in dispositions", the general read from the paper in his hands, shaking his head in irritation and stopping mide pace. 

"Tell me why do they always find the least convenient time?" 

The aid remained silent, recognising the rhetoric nature of the question. Brooke resumed his pacing. 

"So, the eldar have come to Zadoc. No wonder the tau felt they could abandon the system and collect their troops from Tyranteous." 

The general sighed and finally addressed the aide directly. 

"Get me the comanders of the Librian, Corellian and Novgorod forces and request an audience with the captain of the Raven Guard. I know Erik Morkai's wolves will go wherever the fighting is thickest but..." The general paused, "see if you can contact these Carcharadons. Who are they? Why do the other astartes go silent when I ask? What are their intentions? I need to know if they are going to be a problem." 

"yes sir." 

The aide nodded briefly and immediately set to his task, leaving General Brooke to his thoughts. The alliance had shown its hand now on Zadoc and intended a major strike. He would ensure they would meet the best the Imperium had on the plains of Zadoc. The Iron Warriors and the cursed Arch Cleric would have to wait. 


"Brooke isn't happy" 

Titus luthor contemplated the general's mood while taking in the magnificent view from the admiral's quarters of the planet of Farport shining in the blackness of space. It had been eight days since Natalia had informed him that the eldar were deploying in strength on Zadoc. Now she had come to him again. The inquisitor lord sat in the shadows of Luthor's quarters, reviewing a data slate. 

"We don't need him to be happy, we need him to do his duty. I'm sure the general will acquit himself well in his new task." 

Luthor raised his eyebrows, knowing that if he didn't Brooke would find himself without a command, and possibly without a future. There had been too many failures in Zadoc command, several by him. One more and that would be it. 

"Anyway, I have news on the astartes." 

The Lord Governor turned to look at Vorushko, his interest piqued. 


"The Apocalypse Riders are pulling out from conventional operations. I have spoken with their chapter master and they are certainly keen. Being of such a recent founding they feel the need to prove themselves, but I have found a different use for their aggression." 

Luthor simply looked at the inquisitor lord, marvelling at her cold beauty and the resolution behind her ice blue eyes. He knew that over the last year, the Apocalypse Riders had taken heavy casualties and taken criticism for their hot headed tactics, but time and again the situation had been salvaged because of their intervention. He was concerned at the prospect of losing such an asset. Natalia sensed his irritation and smiled. 

"Don't worry, I'm not removing them from the subsector. I have put them in contact with Lias Issodon of the Raptors chapter. At my request the remaining riders and the contingent of Raptors in the sector will form a new force. This new force is tasked with co-ordinating our new strategy." 

Luthor straightened up as realisation dawned. For some time he and the inquisitor lord had been considering ways to repair the strategic situation in the sector without being caught in open battle, where the imperium's many enemies were winning. Too many astartes forces were having to bail out the imperial guard and being sucked into the main line of battle. This was a waste of the emperor's finest and they needed to be used where they were most effective. 

"I see. So our guerilla war is to begin at last. Will the Raptor commander be able to coordinate the effort?" 

"Issodon has an exceptional record in strategic command lasting many hundreds of years and he may command enough respect to keep the Apocalypse Riders from self destructing. This new force will have access to the fastest ships we can find. They will strike hard, fast and without warning." 

Luthor smiled. "Release the hounds..."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tyranid menace resurfaces

As 11.013M42 drew to a close, the tyranid menace surfaced once again. Isolated incidents on Bastien now began to paint a picture of a tyranid vanguard force, and Inquisitor Hathek immediately set out to find out if the tyranids now being encountered on the world were of the same genetic stock as those who had annihilated Betor, Alphe and so many of the Rim Worlds. While he was en route, the tyranids attack again, this time in larger numbers, springing out of the rough mountains near Lacunia.

The force of aliens ambushed an imperial patrol on 2211.013M42. At first the guard regiment thought it was a regular insurgent attack, but soon the alien menace was revealed as hideous monsters from some kind of nightmare plunged down from the sky or burrowed up from beneath the imperial positions. Despite a hard fight the imperial guard units took heavy casualties and were forced to retreat back to the city. This seemed to be a classic tyranid "testing out" of defenses, assessing the imperial strength before the main invasion. As a precaution, Admiral Jellicoe moved the fleet to the system in order to intercept the hive fleet.

Meanwhile on Memnon, a separate splinter fleet of Nemesis was ravaging the tau settlements on Memnon. To the north the tau faced Na'Porkleon's orks and to the south the tyranids swept all before them. At Duran'Demlock, the last tau settlement remaining in their hands, they made their stand against the tyranids.

The battle escalated as both sides threw in more and more reinforcements, the tyranids swarming towards the tau as they put up a desperate fight. At first the tau succeeded, killing a Mawlock which suddenly appeared in their lines and annihilating a brood of ravenors before they could reach the tau lines. However the tau could only postpone the inevitable. Soon the main swarm and its attendant monstrous beasts, descended on the tau defences. Tau broadsides were ripped apart, and the tau Riptide soon found itself in close combat with the xenos abominations. Though badly damaged, the giant suit did manage to tear apart a Carnifex before being taken down by a tervigon. Even a brave last stand by fire warriors who managed to kill a charging Trigon was not enough to stop the horde of aliens from finally breaching the tau defences. Seeing their lines broken, the tau retreated deeper into the settlement, and the street fighting began. The tau were now holding an ever shrinking pocket, with their backs to the sea and no where to run.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hylas: No sign of victory

Na'Porkleon's reaction to the loss of Berkeley by Da Verminator's forces was petulance and sulking. However after he had recovered, the ork warlord made plans to recapture the city, though the mighty fortress built to honour Uzfang had been reduced to ashes. Instead of attacking from the south where the imperial force was still strong, Na'Porkleon launched yet another offensive from the west, charging across the open plains with his boyz and headlong into the imperial guard regiments defending the flanks of the imperial advance.

General Van Dorn knew holding on to Berkeley would be a challenge, but he hoped the plains of West Coast would allow him time to respond to any attack from this direction. On 2011.013M42 Na'Porkleon's forces attacked along a one hundred mile front, penetrating Van Dorn's pickets and focusing their attacks against relatively inexperienced Guard units. The orks attack mainly on foot, but only once they had set up heavy weapons positions covering their advance. The orks would then charge their enemy while a murderous hail of Loota Fire pummelled the imperial positions. Leading the attack Mega Armoured Nobz and warbikers attempted outflanking manouevres, adding to the imperial guardsmens' difficulties.

Van Dorn's men were further hampered by the general imperial response. Local HQ in the west was unusually slow to respond to the threat posed by the new attac, and reinforcements were sent in piecemeal, arriving in an uncoordinated fashion at the front. Valkyries and Vendettas, arriving on their own and without support, were easily shot down by Na'Porkleon's numerous Loota Boyz, and the storm troopers dropped behind enemy lines were quickly mobbed by the ork infantry.

As the battle continued it became obvious the imperial guard positions in the west could not be held, and Van Dorn pulled back from Berkeley a few hundred miles, to the shortest line between Baldwin Bay and the Hylas Plateau. Here the retreat stopped and both sides considered their next move in the war which had now ground on for 450 days, showing no signs of coming to a resolution.

Zadoc: Hard fighting in the south. Calogne falls to chaos

The chaos-imperial front on Zadoc was becoming a slowly moving meatgrinder as the forces of chaos tried to fight their way around the narrow strip of land which ringed the southern ice cap. The main city in Mida was Calogne, and taking this city from the imperium became a key objective as 11.013M42 progressed.

The Arch Cleric and the Iron Warriors pooled their forces to the east of Calogne, with the Arch Cleric unleashing his elite forces on the Librians holding the defensive line in front of the city. While they did this the Iron Warriors outflanked the imperial lines and aimed for the city itself.

In the centre the Librians were easily overwhelmed by the Arch Cleric's forces. Despite being able to deal with the minor daemons incursions and the cultists following in the wake of the daemonic outbreak, the imperial guard struggled with the various larger entities the Cleric's chanting had summoned. Soulgrinders, forgefiends and all manner of flying monstrous daemons assaulted the Librian lines. For a while the proud guardsmen stood firm against this onslaught but they could not hope to prevail. When hell drakes arrived to finish the job the librian mechanised forces had already been reduced to scrap and the infantry massacred to a man. The remaining Librian defenders pulled back behind the city to reform the imperial line, while General Brooke put his faith in the astartes to hold the Calogne itself.

The Iron Warriors split their forces again as they approached the city. One force containing the bulk of Warsmith Stahl's elite astartes headed straight for the city. The other, swollen with cultists, moved even further north, attacking Calogne from the ocean side. The main thrust quickly encountered the Apocalypse Riders, while in the north, the Ultramarines stood between the Iron Warriors and the capture of another imperial city.

In the east the Apocalypse Riders launched an immediate assault, once again demonstrating a sometimes reckless attitude to assaulting their enemy, but this time the move was a considered tactic, with the Riders attempting to trap their enemy. Fortunately for the imperium the Iron Warriors took the bait. Stahl's troops rushed forward to meet their foe, pouring fire into the marine bikers before launching an all out close assault. The Riders however, a successor of the White Scars, proved adept and skilled at dodging incoming fire, twisting their bikes to and fro in a show of impressive skill. Then, just as the Iron Warriors committed to assault, the Apocalypse Riders showed their skills again, hitting hard before withdrawing at speed from the melee... Leaving the Iron Warriors totally exposed in no-man's-land.

The loyalist forces now committed their reserves, outflanking the Iron Warriors according to a pre-determined plan. Now Stahl's main assault was in serious trouble, with the enemy to the front and rear. The attack petered out and survival became the focus. Stahl called in air support to aid his troops' situation, and hell drakes appeared breathing death from the sky. Even so the arrival of the malign creatures was not enough to salvage the assault and those few Iron Warriors who still lived retreated from the city. The Apocalypse Riders had won a memorable victory, though the cost im blood was high.

Ultimately however the impressive defence of Calogne was in vain, as the second Iron Warriors' force moved against the Ultramarines. The loyalist marines faced the cultists with grim determination and succeeded in massacring almost all of them, but the larger enemy constructs proved difficult to kill and exceptionally dangerous to the Ultramarine armour. Maulerfiends in particular took down the marine vehicles, and more Hell Drakes, summoned to aid the attack on the city, caused havoc in the loyalist ranks. Bitterly disappointed but recognising the war could be won another day, the astartes retreated, informing a vexed Apocalypse Riders' chapter master that the city had become indefensible. After a week of fierce battles the forces of chaos had their prize and had inched slightly closer towards final victory on Zadoc.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Power of Chaos: A recent history

Tyranteous falls to the Alliance

Following the Imperial advance on Renbow, the alliance forces were quick to respond. Less than a week later Windgather's forces attacked again, defeating the Apocalypse Riders and Cunningham's guardsmen where Skyfall had failed. The renewed attack saw the alliance retake the Renbow refineries and starve the imperial forces of badly needed fuel, but the Tau and Eldar hadn't finished. For too long now the war on Tyranteous had lingered on while the war on Zadoc was neglected. The alliance wanted it finished, and quickly.

On 1711.013M42 Windgather and the eldar launched what would be the last offensive in the Tyranteous campaign. The attack broke through the imperial defences at Yellowmouth, encircling the town and driving straight for Ashwater, the last imperial city on the planet. In their way stood a resolute force of Imperial Fists, who attempted to hold firm while Cunningham brought up reinforcements. The result was a massacre as the well equipped alliance force easily outgunned and outmanouvered the astartes, picking them apart in just a few hours. The wreckage of marine tanks and equipment littered the road to Ashwater, as tau grav tanks and eldar walkers made their way to the final objective.

There was no final battle. On 2011.013M42 General Cunningham could see plainly that to attempt to defend Ashwater was folly. Even defensive battles at this stage were simply a waste of resources, and at 10:18am he contacted overall commander Shadowstrike, with whom he had dealt before. Shadowstrike accepted Cunningham's surrender, and at 11am the Imperial guard on Tyranteous laid down their arms. Some battles continued however, as the remaining astartes forces battled their way out of perilous situations, those who could boarded thunderhawks and other vessels and ran the gauntlet of tau and eldar fighters to break orbit. In Deep Space many were picked up by a strike cruiser, which had been able to remain undetected in the system for several weeks.

In the west the Adeptus Mechanicus facility of Thraxicon still held out, but bottled up in the mountains with a handful of die-hard guard units and astartes warriors, they posed no immediate threat to the alliance control of the world. Tyranteous was secure and the tau could now concentrate their efforts on the conquest of Zadoc. How much support they would recieve from the eldar in this venture had yet to become apparent.

For Cunningham his wars were finally over. For over a decade he had fought the tau, most famously on Melberg and Tarsis Major, scoring a number of famous victories but always losing the war. Over that time he had come to respect the tau, and although he remained opposed to everything they stood for, he was treated well by his captors, as were the majority of the captured guardsmen. The one grain of hope the Imperium could hold on to from the loss of the agri world, was the pressure it removed from Jellicoe's fleet. With no need to supply the troops on the ground, the Imperium's supply lines were shortened and her strategic position slightly improved. This came as little comfort to the Sector commander, but Titus Luthor immediately redoubled his efforts to hold the line on Zadoc. He would not preside over the terminal decline of imperial rule in the Aleph sector.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The end on Ares

With the sudden expansion of the Eldar controlled territory on Ares and the loss of so many of his forces, General Vassilevsky was fighting a losing battle on Ares by the middle of 011.013M42. The Imperium occupied just once city, Forbestown, and by 1711.013M42 even the hills around the Forbes Valley had been occupied by the eldar who were now able to fire on imperial positions almost at will.

To save as many of his mena as possible and buy time, Vassilevsky organised his last remaining units, a handful of Librian regiments and half a company of Blood Martyrs, for a last ditch counter attack towards Pallian. If successful the hills around the valley could be cleared, and the north west turned into a fortress while the General waited for reinforcements.

The imperial forces moved out on 1811.013M42, encountering Rillietan forces on the Pallian road. Despite initial success with the long range destruction of some eldar armour, the imperial assault was soon blunted as the Blood Martyrs were taken down in close assault by a Wraithknight and avatar of the laughing god. With the astartes support gone the Librian forces tried to press home their attack. Hellhounds caused heavy casualties amongst the eldar infantry, but the Librian anti tank weaponry was sorely pressed to deal with so many eldar skimmers as well as the wraithknight. Fortunately for the imperial guard this was the largest alien walker seen on that day, the eldar having chosen to withdraw their titans now that the imperial titans had been dealt with, but they weren't needed. Unable to stop the wraithknight or destroy enough grav tanks, the Librians were soon picked apart by their enemy. By 2111.013M42 the imperial counter attack was utterly spent, and the road open to Forbestown.

A few units of Imperial Guard fought on, but in vain. Forbestown fell on 2211.013M42 and with it the planet of Ares, which was added to the eldar list of conquests. Now they turned their attention to their next target...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shattered Silence land on Corticant

With the end almost certain on Ares, the alliance quickly moved to their next target, identifying the Imperial base on Corticant. The world was already at war, with the Imperium barely holding the line against the necrons on the west of the world. The Shattered Silence , in agreement with the Rillietan, made the first move to capture the world, seeing in the invasion a chance to please the Harlequins, a chance to defeat their ancient enemy and a chance for profit.

The Dark Eldar force appeared on Corticant without any warning, cutting off the settlement of Ironhaven before systematically looting the city and enslaving its population. Alarmed at the sudden loss of contact with the southern city, General Veers quickly diverted his reserve force of Novgorod guard towards Ironhaven, meeting a determined resistance from the kabal on the Wildegate road.

The Novgorod regiment threw wave after wave of men at the dark eldar, to the point where even the depraved aliens grew bored of the killing, but were unable to break through to the city. On 2011.013M42 the offensive was cancelled as the regiment had become somewhat less than battle worthy.

Meanwhile a smaller force, led by the Inquisition, attempted to discover the aliens intent and force a passage via the Iron Road from Shadowshore. The dark eldar reacted nimbly to this threat, ambushing and wiping out the imperial column on the mountain passes through the arid plateau.

By 2211.013M42 the dark eldar had a secure foothold on Corticant, and Veers found himself fighting a war on two fronts against two implacable foes. Desperately the general called for more support from his superiors, since Corticant remained the lynchpin of the Crusade's gains, but with the Zadoc subsector almost lost, there were few troops to spare.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hylas: Berkeley retaken, ork fortress falls

Following the recent gains by the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Legio Gryphonnicus and Salamanders chapter based on Hylas now took over the offensive on Hylas. General Van Dorn was keen to keep up the momentum and with the Mechanicus and imperial guard units swinging into West Coast to face off against the forces of Na'Porkleon, the most powerful imperial forces were now redirected south towards Berkeley, and the ork fortress on the slopes of mount Flynn, defended by Da Verminator.

For many weeks Berkeley had been re-occupied by the greenskins, although the city had changed hands several times since its initial fall more than a year previously. Overlooked by the ork fortress, Van Dorn knew that retaking the city was only half the battle, he had to deal with the ork installation once and for all.

The force which led the attack was the strongest concentration of titans yet deployed on Hylas. Three warlord titans were in evidence, supported by a Salamanders company and imperial guard units. Appearing just to the north of the city, in full view of the orks, the imperial force waited, goading Da Verminator to come out and fight. Predictably the orks accepted the challenge, but the commander of the offensive had chosen his positions well, and the orks soon found themselves advancing across the Berkeley airstrip, an area of ground almost entirely devoid of cover.

This the Salamanders and the Titans had planned for, and the giant war engines and devastators opened up with all their weapons. A fearsome barrage pounded the landing pads, warping them out of all recognition and vapourising thousands of orks as they closed with the imperial force. Whole clans were annihilated, and those orks which did reach the imperial lines were easily mopped up by assault marines and veteran units.

During the engagement the orks continued to reinforce failure, emptying their fortress and annihilating themselves on the imperial guns. By the end of 1811.013M42 the ork tide had simply run out, and for the loss of a few predators the victorious imperial force marched into the battle-scarred city, while the Titans levelled the ork fortress. Berkeley had been retaken once again, and the initiative now rested with the Imperium on Hylas.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chaos defeats

The forces of chaos suffered a series of setbacks in early 11.013M42 on a number of fronts, bringing a half to a run of successful campaigns throught the second half of 013.M42.

On Grimlock the Tyranids had been quietly gathering strength following their defeat some six months previously, where they lost the important region of Atlis to chaos. Now ready for a new offensive the aliens amassed a truly vast host to land on the shores of the Krendal Sea, and as 11.013M42 began, there was brutal fighting on the coast as millions of bloodthirsty monsters appeared from the ocean.

Defending Atlis, based at the fortress of Hakargh, was a significant force of Death Guard, as well as more regular troops. Some say Mortarion himself was present, but such speculation remains unconfirmed. In any case the counter attack by the chaos forces was massive and brutal.

The main fighting took place around Eribank, where mighty bio titans clashed with daemonic war engines. By 1211.013M42 Nemesis had overrun the city and more reinforcements were joining the throng. Slowly but surely, despite fighting fanatically, numbers told, and the forces of chaos were pushed out of the Atlis region, abandoning Hakargh and the cities of the north.

On Zadoc the combined forces of chaos suffered similar reverses. In the west one of Commander Windgather's subcommanders launched the first tau assault of the campaign, driving south from the bridgehead and across the Chadana sea. The tau-eldar alliance then besieged the city of Gyent, defended by the Covenant of Damnation. The Covenant forces acquitted themselves well, but had no answer to the tau superiority in firepower, despite their destruction of at least on eldar Waraithknight. Steadilly the chaos forces were pushed back under the weight of fire, leaving them besieged in Gyent and cut off from the Iron Warriors.

In the south east, on the cold plains of Mida, the Adeptus Mechanicus launched a carefully planned limited offensive against the chaos front line. Facing off against Emperor's Children, the Mechanicus force managed to surprise the traitor legion, destroying much of their front line equipment and transports early on. Unable to manouevre the Eperor's Children struggled to hold the imperial advance, and were forced to retreat to avoid being surrounded. Even so the imperial attack was limited, althought the front line did edge back a few hundred miles. This was still a defeat however, and it was now two weeks since the chaos force had managed an advance. The prospect of Zadoc falling to chaos in 013.M42 now seemed remote.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tau frustrated on Tyranteous

As 11.013M42 progressed into the second week, the alliance could have been forgiven for thinking the war on Tyranteous was over. Despite Luthor's edict, the tau had control of most of the planet, and the imperium were bottled up into three small bridgeheads and under pressure just to hold the line. However as the tau attacks battered themselves against imperial defences in their impatience to complete the invasion and move on to Zadoc, Cunningham concieved a counter attack, against Luthor's edict.

The overall commander on Tyranteous was convinced by a young officer in the Novgorod Guard, and by the equally aggressive Apocalypse Riders captain. Both urged Cunningham to abandon the retreat and launch a new attack. After much persuading the general agreed, but the scope would be limited.

The plan was simple. The Novgorod Guard would launch a limited offensive in the east, tying down as many troops as possible while the Astartes went for the main objective, the Renbow refinery and its precious fuel. On 0711.013M42 the offensive began. For once the Novgorod units made good progress, though their own objectives were only mere miles from the front line. Even so the imperial regiment used aggressive tactics, swamping Windgather's Tau-Eldar alliance and forcing the tau to commit their reserve in the east. Now the Apocalypse Riders struck.

Using their superior speed and shock tactics, the astartes force raced out of the Tallengrove salient towards their objective, clashing with commander Skyfall's elite forces. Initially the astartes made lighning progress, and the tau fell back to gain time to gather their strength, correctly identifying the refinery as the principle objective. Here Skyfall made his stand, and for a while accurate tau firepower checked the Riders' advance, as pulse rifles and heavier tau weaponry saw casualties mount. In the end however it was the aggressive tactics and skilled riding of the astartes company which won out, and Skyfall was forced to abandon the refinery to the imperium. For the first time in weeks the imperium were celebrating victory on Tyranteous, but was it too little too late?

Hylas: Imperium regains West Coast

Following the loss of West Coast at the end of 10.013M42, general Van Dorn was not content to sit on the defensive. Instead with the help of the Apocalypse Riders and Adeptus Mechanicus, he worked on a plan to push forward once again. West Coast had been fought over again and again, with the front line moving north and south as the initiative changed sides. On 0811.013M42 with the main imperial guard units pulled out of the line into reserve, Van Dorn launched his new offensive.

The first strike was delivered by the Apocalypse Riders. Their elite formation targeted the enemy's best troops and the overall commander of Na'Porkleon's forces in the north. Led by their chapter master, the bikers rode into battle, challenging the orks to come out and fight. The greenskins of course accepted.

At the vanguard the astartes best led the way, but initially suffered from an immediate counter charge by the ork warboss, who hacked his way through several elite bikers, bellowing challenges to the Riders' leader. Instead of accepting, the chapter master disengaged, leaving his comrades to battle to the death with the ork meganobz. At the end of the fight only the warboss remained as the imperial raiding force opened fire with everything they had.

The ploy had been simple, to get the best of the ork forces out into the open, and it had largely worked. The astartes mourned the loss of their brothers, but the chapter master knew this was their best chance to decapitate the ork force in the north, and now the rest of the two armies were engaging. Relying on their skill and flamer weaponry, the heavily outnumbered marines took the fight to the greenskins, causing carnage in the ork ranks. Land speeders added long range firepower and fast moving scout forces took the orks by surprise, outflanking the loota positions and breaking the ork lines.

The Blood Axe warboss remained alive however, having weathered an impossible storm of fire from the Apocalypse riders. Smashing through the wreckage and corpses of his comrades, the giant ork eventually found his foe, the Apocalypse Riders' leader. Finally the ork had the mighty human warrior in single combat, but the fight was brutally short. Both combatants wielded incredibly powerful melee weapons, and in a few scant seconds both lay in a pool of blood and gore on the now silent battlefield. A few remaining orks in the retinue had fled, but the ork leadership had been destroyed. Na'Porkleon's armies in West Coast now had no one to direct them. Van Dorn's second phase began.

The Adeptus Mechanicus units pushed south towards Berkeley, encountering fierce ork resistance on several occasions. The greenskins were uncoordinated in their attacks, and the Mechanicus forces engineered situations to their tactical advantage, preying on the ork need for battle by deploying in defensive positions and waiting for the orks to run into pre-determined killing zones. After each slaughter the imperial forces moved forward, and by 1211.013M42 much of West Coast was once again in imperial hands, and the coast of the Sump Sea was in sight. Berkeley was still infested by orks and Na'Porkleon had sent a new warboss to the region, but the line had been stabilised.

Necrons regain initiative on Corticant

The response to the losses of territory on Corticant from the Harakthy Dynasty was swift. If General Veers had hoped the necron empire was in decline he was disappoined on 0811.013M42 as the necrons launched a two pronged offensive north towards the settlement of Violetwind Coast. In the east the necrons faced the Novgorod Guard, who fought tenaciously without support for four days before being forced to withdraw towards Fort Bastion. In the north West, defending the road to the settlement itself, the imperial guard faced the Dynasty's elite forces, and Veers expected them to simply roll over the guard defences.

In fact, the Harakhty Dynasty got a nasty shock as their advance was spotted by imperial scouts. The guard units in the vanguard of the defence took the initiative, and launched a counter-punch which put the attacking necrons off balance, inflicting heavy casualties on the first day. However as the battle wore on, air superiority and careful deployment of reserves gradually eased the guardsmen back from their defences, and by 1111.013M42 the line was close to collapse. Concious of the risk of a necron breakthrough General Veers grudgingly abandoned Violetwind, falling back to more defensible positions. After a brief success, the imperium were slowly losing once more on Corticant.

Kabal of the Venom Drake suffer reversals

Since 09.013M42 the Kabal of the Venom Drake had been raiding in the Aleph Sector. Drawn by what no one could say, but it quickly became evident they were not part of the alliance and were simply out for personal gain. In secret they had started construction of a base in the Vastrid sector, to make raiding in the region easier and more profitable, but to complete this they needed a great deal of raw materials which were hard to access.

The raids had so far provided the dark eldar with the resources they required, but in 11.013M42 they suffered setbacks. In the early part of the month the kabal landed on Aethor, defeating a Crimson Fist force sent to investigate the strange goings on in the mountains after the planetary governor lost contact with outlying settlements. Alerted the the presence of the dark eldar General Veers dispatched a single regiment of Corellian Storm Guard to the planet, which quickly annihilated the alien threat, uncovering a horrific scene at the recently constructed slave mines.

Having been shifted from Aethor the dark eldar instead raided the nearby tau colony of Protogonus, hoping to find the ores needed to complete their space station. However, the Kabal of the Venom Drake found that the eldar had become aware of their machinations, and a combined eldar/tau force awaited them on the planet, ambushing them and forcing them to flee. The Kabal would have to wait a little longer to complete their enterprise.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Massive eldar advance on Ares

After over a year of hard but inconclusive fighting in the Caeralon valley, at the start of 11.013M42 the eldar launched a massive offensive on Ares. Never before had Vassilevsky faced such a concentration of force, and there was no warning of the attack. Suddenly his forces were in full retreat from Hellebron, and his imperial guard units found themselves outgunned and out manouevered by an enemy fielding no fewer than three massive titans.

The Legio Gryphonnicus and the Salamanders attempted to rescue the situation. In the north on the road to Pallian the alien titans were confronted by three imperial warmachines, massive warlord titans not fielded in such numbers in the Perseus Deeps before. However the eldar ground down the imperial defenders and by 0411.013M42 the imperium had withdrawn from Pallian and were retreating towards Forbestown.

Worse was happening further south as the Salamanders faced the eldar alone without titan support. Sindon Station fell after a brutal eldar attack, which saw the half company of Salamanders blocking the road wiped out to a man. The southern settlement of Gorballs fell a day later after the last Salamanders to face the Rillietan attack withdrew from the town. The astartes forces regrouped, but recent fighting had taken their toll and the chapter master warned the imperium of his chapter's fading strength.

On Ares Vassilevsky had lost all of the settled territory barring Forbestown by 0611.013M42. After a year and a half of hard fighting it was a bitter pill to swallow for the Imperium. Now General Veers had to decide whether to fight to regain the planet or withdraw to strengthen his defences elsewhere in the Deeps. With the situation on Zadoc, it was certain any request for reinforcements would be denied.

Dogged defence on Tyranteous

Although the tau had all but defeated the Imperium on Tyranteous, at the beginning of 11.013M42 Luthor's order to defend had been followed by General Cunningham. Defences had been built in the two remaining imperial footholds left on the planet. Never the less the tau were keen to finish off Tyranteous to focus their efforts on Zadoc. At the beginning of 11.013M42, despite the defensive preparations taken by the imperium, the tau showed no sign of slowing their offensive.

Commander Skyfall's relatively fresh troops now took over the main thrust, giving those of Windgather a chance to rest. Initially the new tau advance stalled as the ultramarines launched a series of well planned and well executed raids against the aliens, bringing their offensive to a halt. However the ultramarines were few in number and gradually the tau superiority in numbers began to tell in the east, as Skyfall launched probing attacks, feeling out the imperium's weaknesses.

The tau commander felt he had found such a weakness in the far south of Grent. He managed to find an area more weakly defended and soon broke through. On 0211.013M42 the Librians counter attacked, supported by the Blood Martyrs chapter of space marines. The astartes immediately closed with the tau, ordering the Librians to cover their advance. In the ensuing action a number of incidents occurred which aroused suspicions of the loyalties and willingness to carry on of the the Librian regiments.

During the battle it was noted that at least one Librian tank, a Librian Leman Russ Executioner variant, fired upon and killed four Blood Martyrs at close range, claiming it was accidental. This on its own would have been put down to battlefield confusion, but moments later a Manticore artillery strike "accidentally" shelled a Blood Martyrs' Land Raider, instead of the enemy, in a show of astounding inaccuracy (which the Librian artillery corps has been trying to shake off for years) or something much worse.

After the battle several more incidents of "friendly fire" came to light, and the overall effect of these certainly blunted the Blood Martyrs' assault, allowing the tau to whether the astartes storm and advance into east Grent. His line compromised Cunningham withdrew north to prepared defences in front of Yellowmouth. The situation remained grave, and now there were suspicions that Librian regiments were trying to defect to the tau. Given that Libria was now the only secure base of operations in the Zadoc subsector, this was worrying news for the Imperial high command, and Lord Titus Luthor dispatched inquisitors and the commissariat to investigate the situation.

Chaos held on Zadoc

While the tau ground forward on Tyranteous, they made no progress on Zadoc as the newly landed troops made good their bridgehead. Meanwhile in the far south, where the lush vegetation in Atonerni gave way to the polar tundra of Mida, the forces of chaos continued their advance against the imperium. However in Mida the Imperium put up a determined defence, knowing the narrow strip of land south of the southern ice sheet would force their enemy to advance along predictable lines.

The first of these advances came on 0311.013M42 with a determined thrust from Khornate legionaries and their allies. The bezerker marines rushed headlong at the enemy positions, defended by the Adeptus Mechanicus and a force of Astartes, hoping to quickly overwhelm the loyalists. The Imperium had dug in well however, and the chaos advance soon ran into difficulties as it was pounded by imperial gunfire. In only a few hours the rush had been halted, the forces of chaos unable to cross the killing ground prepared for them. For now at least the chaos advance had been halted.

Meanwhile in space the Dark Angels pushed further in system, encountering lord Tragaen's vessels as they escorted more chaos reinforcements to the surface of Zadoc. The Dark Angels immediately launched an assault on the chaos ships, but found to their dismay an enemy whose gunfire was unnaturally accurate. As the two fleets passed each other in the upper atmosphere of Zadoc, the exchange of fire was unusually one sided. The astartes quickly started losing ships, a strike cruiser exploding dramatically in the early stages of the battle, which led to further destruction of a host of excorts.

The Dark Angels returned fire, but somehow Lord Tragaen's vessels managed to evade much of the withering fire, partly thanks to distortions in the upper atmosphere and partly due to blind luck. Regardless of the reason the chaos vessels only suffered minor damage, although one carnage class was forced to retire. As the fleets closed for battle once more following the first pass, another strike cruiser was critically hit and detonated, its remains plunging to a fiery death into the Gontina sea, throwing up tsunami all along the coast.

The Dark Angels now realised to continue the engagement would be a serious folly, and retreated from Zadoc, allowing Tragaen to complete his reinforcement of the planet, taking the moon base in orbit for good measure as his personal fleet base. The Dark Angels meanwhile moved their fleet away from the immediate vicinity of the primary inhabited system, looking for other ways to cause problems for the chaos invasion. They found their opportunity when they made contact with elements of a Khornate fleet, attracted to the Arch Cleric's cause on Zadoc by the fighting. The force of five cruisers was immediately attacked by the Dark Angels, who inflicted significant losses on the fleet before withdrawing again. It was a pattern of hit and run tactics the Dark Angels would now continue in their determination to disrupt the invasion of Zadoc.

The overall effect of the Dark Angels' action in space was mixed. Tragaen's reinforcement of the world had not been stopped, and his fleet remained very strong with perhaps eleven capital ships in the system by 0611.013M42. The khornate fleet had been mauled, but this force was only loosely allied to the invading forces at best, and the Iron Warriors had gained use of "the Device" in any case. The actions did show that the chaos fleet now deployed at Zadoc had increased to maybe twenty capital ships, and a force to dislodge them was not currently available, lest the defences of the Perseus Deeps and Vastrid be severely weakened. On the ground the action by the Mechanicus greatly improved the morale of imperial forces on Zadoc, giving them their first victory since the invasion began.

Corticant: Necrons pushed back

While the defence on Ares collapsed, the Imperium under General Veers were experiencing slow but renewed success against the Necrons on Corticant. Since the initial invasion the Necron advance had petered out, and the defence lines at lake Hartford had held for months. Now Veers felt confident enough to launch an offensive, but it would be the Adeptus Astartes who began the assault.

The Apocalypse Riders and Ultramarines agreed an attack plan to use their moderate forces to test the Necron defences at Bymarsh. The initial raid tested out the enemy strength, the Apocalypse Riders hitting hard and fast before withdrawing having dealt the Necrons a significant blow. The Ultramarines followed up this success by securing much of the Bymarsh settlement, mercilessly eliminating the remaining Necron resisitance. Guard units followed in their wake and consolidated the imperial gains. It was a small victory compared to the scale of the events in the Zadoc subsector and on Ares, but it was an imperial victory none the less.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Lord Luthor's edict

By the beginning of 11.013M42 the imperial position in the Zadoc subsector was dire. On Tyranteous Cunningham's army had been forced into a small rump on the east coast, and part of his force was cut off behind the Praetorian wall. Despite several counter attacks the orks on Hylas had overrun more than half the world, and on Zadoc the tau had just landed, adding to the pain caused by the chaos invasion. Only the vast fortified system of Libria, and the small world of Cerberex held out, islands of calm in a storm of war.

Titus Luthor demanded changes, and tasked General Montgomery and Admiral Jellicoe with holding the line until he could get hold of more forces. Luthor knew the resources in the Zadoc subsector were insufficient to turn the tide, but now he needed time.

Jellicoe and Montgomery came up with a plan. System commanders such as Cunnungham and Brooke were ordered to go over to the defensive. Marines would restrict themselves to defensive raids and the imperial guard and PDF would dig in. Ground would be given where necessary, and battles fought where the maximum toll on the enemy could be extracted. If manpower was not an issue, such as on Zadoc, it would be expended to delay the enemy. Any tactic was allowed to slow the advance of the enemy, but grand sweeping offensives were banned for the time being.

In space Admiral Jellicoe appointed Admiral Beattie to the defence of the Zadoc subsector. His orders were similar. Keep supply lines open. Avoid uneccessary engagements, only engage when the damage to the enemy will be greater than the damage to his own vessels. These changes to strategic planning finally admitted that that the war in Zadoc was currently unrecoverable. While Luthor played for time, he sent an urgent request for a vast force of men. So far he had brought in close to a million, mostly Novgorod Guard, and a few space marine companies. Now he asked for more than three chapters of marines and a further five million guardsmen, and waited for the response.

Eldar defeat Ultramarines

The end of 10.013M42 also saw a renewed offensive from the eldar on Ares. Instead of consolidating their gains in Ares City and waiting for the counter attack, this time the eldar advanced, taking Vassilevsky off guard and breaking the defences on the Hellebron road in under a day. Vassilevsky was forced to retreat rapidly, evacuating to Pallian Settlement before his forces were trapped in the mountains by the eldar.

With only a few tens of thousands defending the planet, Vassilevsky was please by the intervention of the Ultramarines, whose forces quickly deployed between the eldar and the retreating guard. This gave the imperial force time to regroup, but the ultimate prize was retaking Hellebron, which the Ultramarines set about doing on 3010.013M42.

The marines pushed forward, trusting in their armoured vehicles to protect them from the inevitable eldar reaction. Unfortunately the eldar were well equipped and ready to deal with this move by the astartes, and a bloody firefight on the Hellebron road quickly turned into a one sided massacre. The eldar easily penetrated the armour of the space marine vehicles, and soon the smoke from buring tanks could be seen as far west as Pallian. In under two days the ultramarine force had been smashed and its survivors limped back to the west. Caeralon surrendered and over the course of two weeks the eldar had reached a new high point in their invasion of Ares, holding now nearly half of the imhabited zone of the planet.

Swiftstar arrives at Zadoc

With the tau fleet in the Zadoc system having suffered significant damage, and a known imperial fleet on the way to reinforce Zadoc, Admiral Swiftstar was recalled to reinforce the tau position as the empire prepared for an invasion landing. Swifstar duly embarked several Hunter Cadres onto his ships and proceeded from Tarsis Major. Swiftstar was only able to send four capital vessels and a trio of escorts to the Zadoc system, but this was deemed a satisfactory detachment to carry out the landings.

Upon passing Caitlen Station the Imperium's warp listening devices picked up Swiftstar's movements, and the imperial battlegroup newly arrived to Jellicoe was immediately dispatched to Zadoc. Thanks to superior imperial warp technology the four capital ships, a mars class carrier, two lunars and a retribution class battleship, arrived at Zadoc well ahead of the tau. The two then closed for battle, with Swiftstar forming a smaller version of his "box formation".

The imperial fleet scored the first hits and first success, wiping out the tau escorts which were caught by surprise, before turning to starboard to show the tau their broadsides, but it was swiftstar who got the first decisive blow. He successfully directed all his firepower at the imperial battleship, using his messenger class vessel to direct fire control. Swiftstar knew the imperial fleet, and instructed his captains to aim for the enemy vessels' bridges, hoping to decapitate the command and control of the larger enemy craft.

The initial tau volley was even more devastating than the tau had hoped, and the imperial battleship was heavily damaged, her bridge shorn completely off. Soon the mars class suffered a similar fate, with at least two tau vessels pouring fire into the command centre of the carrier vessel. Unable to follow orders, the two large imperial vessels simply drifted forward firing opportunistically at the tau.

Swiftstar then closed to near suicidal ranges. The effect was devastating for one of the imperial lunar class vessels, as she was crippled and her bridge also smashed, leading to the death of the fleet admiral who had decided not to use the retribution as his flagship. However, as the fleets closed, the signal went out from the remaining imperial ships. "Prepare for boarding". This was interpretted by the tau and a wave of panic briefly flared throughout the xenos vessels.

The protectors were the first to be boarded, but the few boarding parties who managed to arrive on the tau capital ships were quickly cut down. In return the tau pummelled the battleship at close range, rendering her uncontrollable and on fire. The lunars scored more success, boarding the emissary class vessel at the rear of the tau formation. There was little swiftstar could do as the tau crew were butchered to a man, and the emissary left drifting in space.

As the fleets passed the mars class, its command gone, was unable to evade the full firepower of the tau fleet, and she was soon knocked out of the fight, venting atmosphere and tumbling end over end. The battle ended then, as the imperial battleship suffered a plasma containment breach, exploding violently and crippling one tau protector. The remaining lunar class ships, one damaged, slipped away behind the mass of burning plasma and debris of their battleship.

With the retreat of the imperial fleet the remainder of the tau vessels joined up with their comrades and began the invasion of Zadoc. On 0111_013M42 hundreds of thousands of tau were dropped from orbit, barracudas and mantas securing the skies over Foregia as the day 1 objectives were secured. Within two days the tau had established a bridgehead from the Nanalia Sea to the lagiaca sea, taking the city of Guion on day 3 of the invasion. From here they were well placed to strike the heart of the imperium to the west or the chaos to the east. Once again the tau had intervened in an imperial vs. chaos war. They hoped that like Tarsis Major before and on Tyranteous, they would end up the eventual victor in their quest to add the entire subsector to their empire.