Sunday, June 08, 2014

Apocalypse Riders raid Aethor

For over a year various eldar forces had been targetting the small imperial colony of Aethor. Most recently the eldar of Iyanden had been active on the world, destroying several settlements and in 03.014M42 had inflicted a rare defeat on the Apocalypse Riders. Not a chapter to forgive and forget, the riders returned in company strength in 06.014M42 and found the eldar had also increased their numbers on the imperial world, and a full scale invasion looked likely in the future. With no outside support, the astartes company planned their attack anyway.

Their first action was to conduct a raid against Iyanden, deep behind their front lines. The force dropped from orbit in the mountains then used their manouverability to close with what they had identified as key elements of the eldar army. Early in in the action they scored a success, destroying a Wraithknight and the eldar commander. However the Riders then found themselves surrounded and extricated themselves only with extreme difficulty and heavy losses. The price for decapitating the eldar army had been high, but ultimately worth it.

In the hours which followed the raid the Apocalypse Riders' launched a frontal attack. This coordination was possible through the use of sanctioned telepaths in the Riders' ranks, and allowed the astartes chapter to time their assault perfectly. The Iyanden forces brought in Hornets to try to counter their fast-moving foes, but they were caught out of position by the surprise attack and picked off piecemeal as they appeared on the flanks after the main action was over. Much of the lack of coordination of the eldar forces was pinned on their leaderless position, and the tactics of the Apocalypse Riders appeared to have been vindicated. By the end of 06.014M42 the imperial governor of Aethor was informed his world was clean of Eldar forces, and the space marines left to continue their crusade against the Xenos of the Perseus Deeps elsewhere.

Libria V invaded by alliance forces

With the Crusade forces well on their way to annexing Libria I and the war on Libria III stalled, the forces of the Alliance were preparing for another war. This time it was the Federacy who were keen to advance the pace of the invasion. They had already broken the imperial blockade and Libria had long been on their target list of acquisitions. The tau had also planned to take Libria from within, but the uncovering of their plot had brought their covert operation into the open, and now the system had devolved into civil war. Worse still the imperium seemed to be forming factions, which could complicate matters even further.

After much deliberation the tau decided to commit their forces to the Librian campaign, even though the job on Zadoc was far from over. They were finally enticed to commit by the eldar, who agreed to send their own forces to aid the alliance in their initial invasion of Libria, so long as the target was Libria I and the landing ground was in the northern hemsiphere. Why, no one asked, but the help was accepted.

On 0606.014M42 the tau fleet arrived, and quickly took station above the outermost Librian system. The alliance hoped for a short war to take the world and establish a bridgehead for further operations. The eldar massed at the north pole meanwhile, using their webway portals, and immediately began eliminating any loyalist patrols checking the area.

On the imperial side the loyalists had been using Libria V as a staging post. The planet had quickly been overpowered by the imperial reinforcements under General Abrahams, and had been acting as a supply depot ever since. Without Libria V the war on Libria III would be severely affected, while the loss of Libria I to the crusade forces would become inevitable. Knowing this Libria V was heavily defended by Lunar guard, Novgorod guard and the Imperial Fists chapter of the adeptus astartes.

Aboard the cloaked Inquisition Vessel Absolute Judgement, Inquisitor Vorushko watched the unfolding events with alarm. Although her crusaders were now in action against the loyalists on Libria I, the loss of Libria V could quickly lead to capitulation of the loyalist forces on Libria IV and III before her own forces were sufficiently built up to contest them. Libria would be lost to the alliance just as she had predicted.

Vorushko summoned her astartes captains. The Raven Guard accepted the Inquisitor's logic and began planning a counter strike against the now ongoing tau-eldar invasion of the world. By 0906.014M42 the battles raged around North Springley, and several Librian regiments had already gone over to the rebel side. The Carcharadons protested strongly but eventually acquiesced to assisting the loyalists. It was something they would regret and turn the Space Sharks violently against the loyalists for the rest of the war.

The Imperial Fists and Lunar guard, as well as a warhound titan and Novgorod infantry, were already heavily engaged with alliance forces when the Carcharadons and Raven Guard arrived with no warning. Oblivious to events on Libria I the loyalists hailed the reinforcements, who targeted their attacks on the right wing of the large imperial army defending Jutesberg. Rather than worry about the Librians, the Carcharadons went straight for the eldar forces who dominated the wooded hills around the industrial city, leaving an armoured thrust of loyalists and Raven Guard to break the alliance right flank, mostl made up of rebel forces and tau units.

On the imperial right the fighting became bloody very quickly, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The alliance forces reeled at the impact of the astartes, but gradually recovered, their reserves isolating pockets of astartes resistance and slowly wiping them out.

On the left the armoured thrust intended to halt the rebel advance on Jutesberg was soon blocked by imperial heavy weaponry. Shadowsword fire and artillery crippled the imperial vehicles and only a few astartes made it to the rebel lines, where a dogged defence critically delayed the Raven Guard and allowed the tau to reinforce the wavering rebel lines.

In the city itself the alliance forces continued their advance, felling the warhound and taking their objectives, combining advancing rebel infantry and tanks with deep striking tau and eldar elements. By 1206.014M42 the imperial counter attack was utterly spent, and the long retreat from Jutesberg began. On 2006.014M42 alliance forces were at the suburbs of Timberhill and had a strong foothold on Libria V.

As soon as it had become clear that their intervention had not stopped the alliance invasion, the Carcharadons and Raven Guard abandonned the loyalists to their fate, returning battered to their mobile base in the outer asteroid fields. The Carcharadons vowed never to work with the imperial guard again, and pouring scorn on any astartes chapter that would do so, citing the Imperial Fists as particularly weak and pathetic. The Inquisitor Lord was obliged to listen to the rants of Boagrious, for she could not afford to lose the support of the Carcharadons. From now on the crusade forces would act as an astartes only force and should any "loyalist" forces get in the way of their agenda, then they would be eliminated. libria would burn.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Gabriel's World falls, Achreom invaded

For almost two Terran months the war on Gabriel's World had gone cold. General Pollack had commanded that all available troops, now mostly Librian guardsmen, be pulled back to defend a perimeter around Gabriel's Landing. The city, which had been so painstakingly won back from the Greenskins only two years previously, was now under seige by an enemy once more. The Librians took up defensive positions around the city, but had to wait until 3105.014M42 before the eldar launched their attack. Once again the Disciples of Ynnead led the assault, using their wraithguard as shock troops supported by devastating weapons fire from their super-heavy Scorpions. The Scorpions devastated the Librian armour before they allowed the wraithguard to attack. Once the heavy weapons of the defenders had been neutralised by the longer ranged Pulsars, the wraithguard moved in to deal with the infantry.

The Librians had no answer to the eldar equipment and tactics, and despite desperate short range attacks by grenadiers on the super heavy skimmers, it was too late. The wraithguard were soon among the Librian infantry and unleashed their fearsome short range flamer weaponry. The result was carnage, and in less than 24 hours the line had completely collapsed. A few lucky defenders managed to scramble onto one of the last shuttles to leave the planet, but the majority of the defenders were either killed or taken prisoner by the eldar. Gabriel's world had fallen to the Disciples.

No sooner had word reached Pollack of the loss of Gabriel's World than further alarms flooded in from Achreom. The neighbouring system had similarly come under attack, less than a day after the loss of the first imperial outpost. Once again the Disciples of Ynnead were identified, and although they found their initial raids having limited effect on the infantry heavy Novgorod Guard defenders, eventually the wraithguard elements were once again breaking through the imperial defences. By 1006.014M42 the imperium had been forced to abandon several settlements in the mountains of Naraheim, and as they retreated black smudges on the horizon behind them indicated to the guardsmen the destruction and burning by their alien opponents. Pollack now realised the Disciples' agenda wasn't just local to one system but appeared to be potentially subsector wide in scope. Denied reinforcements before, this time Pollack embarked on the battlecruiser Benbow, which had just returned from a mission in the Valitane subsector, in order to petition Lord Titus Luthor personally.

Zadoc: Aso taken by alliance, chaos take Montene

The war on Zadoc was particularly active on the western fronts at the beginning of 06.014M42. In just two weeks there were major shifts in the front lines, mostly to the detrement of the remaining imperial defenders. By 1506.014M42 the Alliance had made important gains in the west, while the imperium looked more on the defensive than ever before, and Wavell was facing a Commissariat board of enquiry.

Northern Front: Battle of the Islands
In the north the first few weeks of 06.014M42 saw co-ordinated attacks by the forces of chaos against the imperial controlled islands of Cariode and Hannuse. Launching operations from Reggia, the Iron Warriors landed a significant force on the more southern and populous island, aiming to take the important city of Montene. Cariode was simultaneously attacked by the Arch Cleric, who used a small insertion force to summon a daemonic host which quickly overwhelmed the imperial garison.

The response by the imperium to the daemonic incursion on Cariode was swift, with the Apocalypse Riders launching an immediate counter assault. They soon found their daemonic enemy and used their land speeders for long range fire support, while their highly mobile bike squads sped towards the enemy. The astartes took the fight to the enemy daemon princes, using a line of bikers to feign defeat, drawing their enemy into the open. Then the Apocalypse Riders launched a devastating - if late - flanking attack, with deepstriking elite infantry adding to the confusion. The highly mobile imperial force was able to use this ability to its advantage and the daemon army was gradually carved up and dealt with in turn. The commander of the Riders proved particularly heroic, leading his command squad against the fiercest of enemy foes and taking down two daemon princes and finishing off a Great Unclean One. By the end of 0406.014M42 the island was declared clean of daemons, and the few cultists left on Cariode were enthusiastically hunted down and slaughtered.

Further south and west on Hannuse things were not going as well for the Lunar Guard and Imperial Fists, who had been detailed to defend the city of Montene against the Iron Warriors. The Lunar Guard heavy armour, including a number of venerable Executioner Leman Russ should have been a deciding factor against the traitor forces, but their gunnery was exceptionally poor. A counter attack by the Imperial Fists who had commandeered several Vendettas floudered as Helldrakes ripped the navy craft from the sky, while foul magicks employed by the heretics obscured critical assets from view, allowing them to close with the imperial line. Overwhlemed by the assualt in less than two days the city and the rest of Hannuse was overrun. The Imperial Fists evacuated while the Lunar Guard were left to their - unpleasant - fate. Having watched their expendable minions and constructs destroy the enemy, the Iron Warriors themselves secured the city and began the usual practice of fortification.

Breakout from Aso Bridgehead
For several days the bridgehead on southern Aso had been held by the alliance against repeated probing attacks by the imperial defenders. During that time they had managed to open a webway portal and use their dominance of the skies to build up their forces in the Larrano pocket. On 0206.014M42 the breakout began as the alliance made their bid to wipe the imperium from Aso.

The alliance advance was split into two thrusts. In the east commander Windgather led his combined tau and eldar forces up the east coast towards Flavi, where he encountered strong Lunar Guard resistance and a counter attack from a company of Imperial Fists, but this was brushed aside and running battles developed along the road to Vorni. The remaining imperial defenders made a last stand at Serianna but were wiped out in a battle lasting just over three days.

On Windgather's left flank, commander Skyfall was tasked with protecting Windgather's advance. This nearly went disasterously wrong as the Novgorod Guard launched a strong offensive just as Windgather was making his breakout towards the north. The imperial force ground forward with relentless momentum, and the tau, despite inflicting horrendous casualties, were force to retreat. Tau high command became alarmed. If Skyfall did not stop the retreat Windgather would be cut off from his supply, and the assault on Aso would become a debacle.

Skyfall did not panic. Instead he continued to yield ground against the Novgorod while preparing his own outflanking manouevre. On 0406.014M42 Skyfall landed a hunter cadre to the north of the Gordinia road and launched an attack on the imperial supply line, protected by the Librian 23rd Armoured and 14th Infantry regiments. In the ensuing battle the tau rode their luck somewhat, as their Riptide in particular proved especially resilient to the imperial firepower. the tau were also lucky in catching the librians at watch change, a fortuitous event which allowed Skyfall's forces to sieze the initiative and deal a greater deal of damage early on than could have been reasonably expected. However it was the tau force's mobility which proved decisive. Early on the tau were able to capture key objectives, effectively pinning the Librians in place. Despite fighting hard the imperial forces were unable to escape the trap, and slowly the remining resistance on the road was eliminated. By 0606.014M42 the Novgorod Guard were feeling the effects. Cut off from supply and with the enemy on three sides their push into Larrano was abruptly ended. Now the remaining guardsmen dug in, preparing for the inevitable tau counter attack.

It never came. With no further meaningful imperial resistance the tau captured the rest of Aso by 1006.014M42 except for the remaining pocket of Novgorod guard. After refusing to surrender the imperial infantry were slaughtered in just over two days by a leisurely stand off bombardment by alliance forces. Any survivors were captured and led away to re-education camps. Aso had been secured and the chaos controlled city of Vorni was put under siege.

Alliance push on Andiselli
While the forces of chaos and the alliance battered the imperium from all sides, the alliance chose to launch a probing attack against the chaos front line in fromt of Andiselle. Both sides were now realising that before long the battle of Zadoc would be a fight between chaos and the alliance but until the imperium was eliminated there seemed to be little interest in prosecuting the war against one another in any meaningful way. On 0306.014M42 the alliance sent a relatively small Biel Tan force against the Arch Cleric, who responded with an equivalent force of summoned daemons. Over the next few days the battle raged over the valley protecting Andiselle, with the eldar forces eventually prevailing. However the alliance, having made gains, did not press home their attack, happy to have established their dominance, at least for now. The Arch Cleric similarly did not escalate. He had lost a battle, but he had not been caught out by the eldar. For now the front line againat the alliance was vastly overshadowed by the war against the imperium.