Saturday, November 22, 2014

Daemons banished by Blood Angels on Bastien

On Bastien, the arrival of chaos had re-ignited previously inactive or dormant chaos cults, and General Veers was forced to divert some of his precious forces to control of the population, as the Adeptus Arbites became overwhelmed. Worse still, in the south the fall of Messugah and Reaverton to chaos led one cult in particular to attempt a summoning. Manipulated by the denizens of the warp, the cult managed to succeed in their quest, although they were all part of the sacrifice required for the manifestation. A large host of daemons materialised north of the chaos sector and south of Damnation.

The daemonic host had appeared behind the imperial lines, and threatened to wreak havoc. Fortunately a force of Blood Angels were on hand in the system, and mere hours after the daemonic manifestation, a rapid reaction force had arrived and engaged the daemons. This was fortuitous, as this prevented the imperial guard from having direct contact with the daemonic entities, and Veers and the inquisition were keen to suppress the reappearance of daemons on Bastien. In addition the Blood Angels were able to contain the outbreak, hunting the remaining daemons down and sending them back to the warp, minimising the damage and giving general Veers some much needed good news.

Libria V: Crusade forces take the fight to the alliance

Following the raid by the Apocalypse Riders the alliance forces swiftly took action. Commanders Shadowstrike, Skyfall and ethereal Aun Shayr decided to go over to the offensive, despite the lack of eldar support. The Alliance still held the balance of power in space, thanks to the federal fleet and the complete lack of a meaningful attempt by the imperium to shift them, although the crusade fleet was lurking somewhere in the system, able to deploy small units rapidly by fast escort.

The tau increased their forces and began a new offensive on 2211.014M42, making gains at Gold River by defeating the Novgorod defenders. Shadowstrike's forces found the going arduous against the mainly infantry imperial force, and many times the battle devolved into close combat skirmishes with bayonets and pulse rifle butts - something the tau found rather unsettling. Even so Shadowstrike made moderate gains.

Further south Skyfall encountered a patrol of guard moving north. An engagement briefly erupted north of Jutesberg, but the imperial regiment soon withdrew without explanation. Skyfall, wary of a trap, waited for reinforcements from Aun Shayr and Shadowstrike, who joined him and stabilised the front on 2411.014M42. The front line was now well defended, and a portion of the imperial force cut off, but the tau plans to continue south were suddenly interrupted from an unexpected direction.

The tau barely noticed the fast moving astartes strike cruiser and mechanicum escort craft moving in at 80 degrees to the ecliptic plain. When they were detected the federal fleet were engaged to intercept, but the adeptus mechanicus and space marine forces were able to rapidly deploy, then withdraw their spacecraft to the relative safety of the Librian cloud, a halo of dust and gas which made detecting enemy vessels extremely difficult. The federal fleet declined to pursue, although this led to the decision to employ a close blockade of the planet from then on.

The astartes forces were new to the sector and did not bother to acknowledge General Abraham's command of imperial forces on the ground. The Sky Lords chapter simply deployed their elite forces along with a powerful force of mechanicum, north of Gold river, effectively creating a second front against the tau. It was obvious this force was a new addition to the crusade, and Inquisitor Vorushko was now making her play for Libria V.

Vorushko was trying to be cunning. If she could defeat the tau in the north or at least consolidate a bridgehead, then she would attempt to defeat the tau more slowly than the alliance defeated the loyalists in the south. In this way she could be rid of both her enemies and be left in control of the planet - both ends of the system would be sewn up.

The mechanicum forces quickly dealt with Aun Shayr, cutting him down in a withering hail of fire at the start of the battle, although it is unknown whether the tau ethereal was actually killed. The tau then gave a good account of themselves, with Skyfall's troops at the heart of the action. The fast moving land raider borne force of the Sky Lords ensured the tau never even got close to the long range firepower units at the adeptus mechanicus' disposal, ensuring the tau were struggling with close combat at the same time as being bombarded by the best weaponry of the imperium.

On the right, the tau managed to prevent a breakthrough, and on the left, a diversion by Sky Lords tactical marines ensured the tau had to commit reserves - any astartes was a threat to the tau. The fight here was evenly balanced, though the tau came off worse in terms of casualties. However in the centre of the battle line the tau were first pushed back, then broken, despite destroying an imperial knight an eliminating a Sky Lords' land raider. Crisis suits and broadsides were brushed aside by the elite of the imperium, and by 2711.014M42 the alliance had been forced to cede Gold River to the crusade and fall back to their own bridgehead. The tau now had a two front war to deal with, while the first part of Vorushko's plan had been achieved.

Aethor setbacks continue

The imperial reversals on Aethor continued as the end of 11.014M42 approached. In the north the Vale of ice remained in eldar hands, although the Sisters of Battle were loathed to leave the Shrine of Celeste in xenos hands, especially after the brave last stand of the sisters who had defended it for the emperor. On 2011.014M42 they undertook their own mission independent of the rest of the imperium, launching a significant raid on the Biel Tan who had deployed around the shrine.

The Biel Tan may have expected a counter assault by the imperium, but the fury of the sisters' assault, backed up by a small force of Vannaheim imperial guard indentured to their service, tool the eldar by surprise. A furious skirmish erupted, and after a few hours the holding force of eldar were soundly defeated. The imperial force did not spend long at the shrine, just long enough to recover the precious holy relics then withdraw. Though a local victory, the overall strategic situation had not been changed by the daring raid.

Later on the same day imperial fortunes took a turn for the worse as the Shattered silence moved forward from their positions on Middlevale towards the capital of the world. The first line of defenders were the Novgorod Guard, dug in on the hills overlooking the valley as it narrowed to the neck before widening into the broad plain infront of the capital, Clade. Here the largely infantry based guard with heavy artillery support, at first managed to deny the Shattered Silence kabal any ground, as the dark eldar struggled to outflank the imperial positions.

Eventually however the relentless attacks from the xenos forces wore down the Novgorod defenders, and by 2311.014M42 the positions at the Neck were surrounded and cut off. The imperium retreated to their second line of defence, and the three valleys were cut off from the capital.

In space, Admiral Pendragon on his flagship Sir Gallahad detected an unidentified fleet in the Aethor system. Moving to investigate, he discovered a force of Shattered Silence cruisers. A brief skirmish developed, with inconclusive results, but elements of the imperial fleet were driven off by the xenos vessels, and it became clear that the system itself was now contested. This would make reinforcing the imperial forces on Aethor more challenging, as the threat from raids was now clear, while the eldar were able to use the webway with impugnity.

Imperial reversals on Hylas

On Hylas the orks kept up the pressure on Van Dorn's men after the fall of Sarina. By 2211.014M42 the imperial general had managed to redeploy a number of regiments to the north, including the Novgorod Guard, sacrificing any chance of continuing the advance on the three settlements bordering the Saltmarch - Desmond, Finlay and Benger. Van Dorn had hoped to wrestle these out of the orks' grip, but now Von Bismork was making a headling thrust towards Seaford.

The Novgorod Guard were able to deploy across the Seaford road, blocking the orks advance on the Seaford peninsular. However Von Bismork's boyz attacked the imperial positions with enthusiasm, and despite their heavy artillery, the relatively static infantry of the Novgorod regiments found it difficult to react to Bismork's "armered" assaults. By 2511.014M42 the Novgorod regiment had been pushed back nearly one hundred miles, and the settlements of Seaford were now at risk. Van Dorn urgently put into action the plans he had to defend Collingwood, as the loss of this city would split the imperial forces in two and guarantee an ork victory without intervention from elsewhere.

Van Dorn also sent astropathic messages urgently requesting aid, he needed a strike force, astartes perhaps, which could deal with Von Bismork and destroy the ork army's elite forces. However, his astropaths soon informed Van Dorn that the system was swarming with greenskins. The "Bork" fleet had arrived, and was gradually moving in system. This meant even more orks to deal with and behind closed doors Van Dorn was convinced the war would be lost.

Hopes for the imperium rested on Admiral Pendragon's fleet. Although the battleship Sir Gallahad was in the Perseus Deeps along with several other cruisers, a large cruiser force led by the grand cruiser sir Bors had been shadowing the orks for nearly a month, following their redeployment from Bastien. Jellicoe had split Pendragon's forces between the Deeps and the Mabb nebula, along with his standing battlegroups, but it was Pendragon's fleet who were finding the enemy while Jellicoe's other commanders were left chasing shadows. The exception being admiral Beattie, who Jellicoe dearly wished had not in fact found the enemy...

Jellicoe was soon rueing another naval debacle, as the imperial fleet approached the orks, led by a massive mishapen space hulk. Pendragon's subordinate, in charge of the cruiser fleet, put into practice the same tactics as used previously against Da Verminator, hoping to prove that the defeat in 02.014M42 was down to poor torpedo spread and macrocannon accuracy, as his commander had claimed. In fact, Pendragon had got his tactics wrong in the previous encounter with the orks, but the admiral refused to admit it and instead blamed his crews. His subordinates accepted this, and Jellicoe had failed to reprimand their commander, which culminated in disaster on 2411.014M42.

Pendradon's vessels charged the orks head on, aiming to use their frontal armour and a massive torpedo spread to split up the ork fleet. The move put the imperial fleet in front of some of the heaviest firepower in the sector, and within an hour of fighting all but one of the imperial cruisers had exploded, been knocked out of action or were severely damaged. One cruiser fled rather than reinforce failure - a small mercy - but the imperial defeat was comprehensive. The orks lost just one rok and had a cruiser damaged. The massive hulk remained intact and within a week lay in orbit around Hylas, disgorging thousands more greenskeens onto the surface.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Current Aleph Sector conflicts

Admiral Thok destroys Beattie

The next encounter in the Bastien system occurred on 1511.014M42 with the arrival of Admiral Thok. This signalled an escalation of the conflict as now Tragean, Thok and the Word Bearers were known to be in the system. In response, admiral Jellicoe had ordered his entire Zadoc fleet to Bastien to bolster the Perseus Deeps battlegroup. This left the Zadoc subsector largely undefended, but Jellicoe knew that such a concentration of chaos naval forces represented a serious threat to imperial control of the upper Deeps.

It was admiral Beattie's command, led by the fast battleship Tiger, which intercepted Thok's force which had penetrated to the outer biosphere of Bastien system with ease. Thok's ships took up the favoured crescent formation, presenting their massive long range firepower to the oncoming imperial battle group.

Beattie split his fleet around an asteroid field. Although this was against the usual imperial doctrine, his plan was to lure Thok into a trap. He positioned Tiger at the head of the chaos fleet, intending to cross the "T" of the chaos fleet then withdraw to port while the remainder of the imperial fleet would be allowed to take up position diretly behind Thok's vessels, ready for a torpedo run as well as utilising Glorious' nova cannon.

The second part of Beattie's plan went well, as Thok's fleet gleefully moved in on Tiger. However Beattie had made a fatal misjudgement, and this coupled with some bad luck, would doom the imperial fleet. Tiger was a "fast battleship". heavily armed, large, but lightly armoured, and now the untested design revealed its vulnerabilities as a speculative volley of torpedoes from Jormungandr closed in.

The torpedoes were intercepted by Tiger's turrets, but the short ranged guns hadn't been calibrated properly, and all the torpedoes got through. The armoured prow of Tiger also proved to be somehow defective, as four torpedoes ripped through the plating, detonating inside. The ship was plunged into darkness and all weapons systems failed. Tiger was now a sitting duck, crippled by a volley of torpedoes which would not usually threaten even a cruiser.

While the rest of the imperial fleet moved into position, Tiger, unable to escape, was pounded with fire until inevitably the ship exploded dramatically. Her consort, the Invincible, a tyrant class cruiser, was soon reduced to a smoking wreck as she two tried to escape the clutches of the chaos fleet, and by the time the imperial fleet had got themselves behind Thok's fleet the Agincourt had been crippled, and miscommunications between the remaining imperial vessels ensured that by the time they were in position, the chaos fleet had reacted. Now the remaining imperial vessels were outnumbered, ougunned and facing destruction. Assuming command, Commodore McManners ordered a general retreat, an order which undoubtedly saved the imperial fleet from further damage. The imperial vessels had landed hits on the chaos vessels, but no ship had suffered anything more than superficial damage.

Overall the encounter was a total disaster for Jellicoe's fleet. One bright point in the whole affair was the fact that Beattie had been killed in the detonation of the Tiger. If he hadn't, Jellicoe would have had him court martialled and executed anyway, for such reckless actions and conceiving a battle plan which exposed the vulnerabilities of the fast battleship, and required the careful co-ordination of his fleet. Beattie had been aiming to repeat his previous victories over Admiral Thok, but instead he paid the ultimate price of failure. Strategically Jellicoe now faced three chaos fleets in the Bastien system, and the world was now under blockade.

Imperial disaster on Aethor

The violence on Aethor escalated in mid-11.014M42 as the eldar increased the pressure on the imperial defenders. It was clear that just like Sentinel, the eldar had now completed their probing missions and the all out offensive had begun. The eldar attacked in three distinct spearheads, each one driving down one of the three valleys which represented the bulk of the populated area of the imperial world. Aethor was largely mountainous, and the capital, Clade, lay at the western end of these valleys, where they joined into a broad plain.

The imperial regiments from Vannaheim and Novgorod had been bolstered by a small force of Adeptus Sorotitas and more than a company's worth of Imperial Fists and Dark Angels astartes. The Adeptus Mechanicus also had a presence on the world, though their forces immediately took position around their installation of Vaustfall in the southern Valley of Clay.

The Imperial Fists and Dark Angels were held back as a rapid reaction force, while the guard regiments took positions along the valleys. In the north, in the Vale of Ice, the Sisters of Battle were also deployed near to the Shrine of Saint Celeste, where revered holy relics were held and subject to the yearly pilgrimage of hundreds of devotees of the Saint.

Middlevale, the widest and most populous valley was expected to be the primary axis of attack, and on 1511.014M42 in the early hours, the imperial guard reported fast moving dark eldar forces moving through their positions. The imperial commander hesitated to commit his reserve, fearing this to be a diversion, but eventually the Imperial Fists took matters into their own hands and moved forward towards the fighting.

The astartes came across a large force of dark eldar identified as being from the Shattered Silence kabal. Well equipped and numerous, the xenos forces easily contained the Imperial Fists' armoured assault, and soon the astartes found their flanks compromised. The imperial guard had already fled, and convinced this was in fact the main eldar attack, the Dark Angels launched their own action.

The Shattered Silence were initially stunned by the astartes counter attack. Not expecting such an immediate response from the imperium, their advance was temporarily checked, and a furious and finely balances melee developed in the middle of a small settlement on the floor of Middlevale. Here was the fulcrum of the battle of the central valley, and gradually the dark eldar began to gain the upper hand. In an exceptionally bloody encounter, the Dark Angels' lead elements were wiped out, although they bought enough time for the Imperial Fists to extricate themselves and managed to inflict severe casualties on the dark eldar. The result however was that the imperial forces fell back to their last defence line, surrendering Middlevale to the eldar forces. Worse still, this wasn't the main attack.

In the north, a series of skirmished between the Biel Tan and imperial forces confirmed the craftworld's entry into the campaign on Aethor. Acting in concert with the other eldar forces, the Biel Tan disrupted the ability of the imperial forces to reinforce Middlevale from the north, tying down forces in unproductive and bloody raids, which could otherwise have bolstered the imperial defence further south. The Novgorod Guard faced the largest concentration of Biel Tan forces, and were soundly beaten at Gorget's pass. meanwhile the Imperial Shrine to Celeste came under direct attack on 1611.014M42.

The Biel Tan had a mission to loot the relics of St. Celeste, as their farseer had managed to discern that one was in fact an eldar spirit stone. Perhaps this was the primary reason for the involvement in the Aethor campaign, but in any case the speed and skill of the eldar attack caught the imperial forces off guard and very quickly the shrine, defended by a small force of Adeptus Sororitas, was soon cut off. Initially it appeared the eldar would wipe out the small band of sisters, but the appearance of a living saint and the fiery oratory of the priest commanding the unit inspired a counter attack. This very quickly inflicted horrific casualties on the attacking eldar, who only just managed to escape with their prize.

the defeat in Middlevale had been bad, compounded by events in the north, but it was in the south that the Kabal of the Glass Five broke the back of the imperial defence of Aethor. The key battle came at Vaustfall, a forge and Adeptus Mechanicus installation. Here the Mechanicum themselves defended their assets, with a force which was both well equipped and prepared for a fight. The dark eldar attacked with speed and withering firepower, but the Mechanicus did not falter. Here the fight was even and both sides gave an excellent account of themselves. After two days of fighting, the dark eldar commander took a risk. He knew that the fight in Middlevale was in the balance. If he surged forward now in an effort to take the mechanicum installation, he was gambling that the Dark Angels' defence further north would crumble. If not, the Mechanicum would be able to counter-attack, and the assault would fail.

Fortunately for the kabal, the Dark Angel's withdrew on 1711.014M42, just hours after the dark eldar had made their bid to take Vaustfall. The Adeptus Mechanicus counter attack never came, as their forces were urgently needed to block the Shattered Silence from rounding breaking through in the centre and taking Vausfall from behind. The Mechanicum gone, the Kabal of the Glass Five took the opportunity to exploit their victory, defeating the imperial Vannaheim regiment stationed immediately to the rear of the Mechanicum, and pushing back the imperial line still further.

The eldar & dark eldar assault finally lost momentum on 2011.014M42, but by now Clade itself was surrounded, and the imperium barely held on to the Valley of Ice. Both southern valley's had fallen and now the xenos controlled more than two thirds of the planet. Reinforcements were badly needed on Aethor or the planet would fall before the end of the year.

Riders move on to Libria V

With their success on Libria I and the Carcharadons preparing to strike the fatal blow, the Apocalypse Riders moved their one active company in the Librian system towards the outer rim. The crusade determined to leave the heavily populated Libria II until last, as any landing would be hotly contested by both loyalist and rebel alike, and the crusade was not yet strong enough to take on two opponents. Instead, the Apocalypse Riders decided to strike at a much more immediate threat.

Despite attacking imperial forces on Libria I, the Apocalypse Riders and the Crusade in general saw no contradiction in aiding the loyalist imperial forces on Libria V. On the outermost world of the system the imperial forces were in combat with the alliance, a mixture of tau, eldar, federal and rebel librian forces. The Crusade forces still believed their first task was to rid the Librian system of Xenos, and to do that the Apocalypse Riders launched a surpirse raid on the tau on 1511.014M42.

The raid was conducted with the usual speed and efficacy now expected in their assaults. The tau were defeated and significant damage done to the emerging alliance infrastructure contributing to their war effort. However it was noticeable that the Riders limited their contact with other imperial units, and didn't even inform General Abrahams of their actions. The crusade forces would help the loyalists where it proved sensible and pragmatic, but it was clear that tensions remained in the imperial faction.

Carcharadons finish off loyalists on Libria I

The end of the loyalist defence of Libria I came on 1711.014M42 with a simultaneous airborne assault of the remaining loyalist settlements by the Carcharadon Astra chapter of space marines. The Apocalypse Riders had already rendered all defence of the loyalist territory largely impossible, and now the Space Sharks finished the job. The Novgorod Guard were the unfortunate remaining force defending, and the assault soon became a massacre. Some of the imperial guardsmen may have tried to surrender, but no prisoners were taken.

by 1911.014M42 all resistance on Libria I had been crushed. The Crusade now imposed its own government on the citizens of the world, doubling the tithe and essentially enslaving the population. The Mechanicum was nominally given control of the forge world, but the government itself was run by the administratum and a new planetary governor, all picked for their zealotry by Inquisitor Vorushko.

Vorushko's edict was carried out and the citizens of Libria I began their servitude. Some rebelled, but with the backing of firebrand priests and a host of inquisition agents, much of the planet complied with the new harsh regime. Vorushko also took the opportunity to remind the other worlds of Libria to adhere to here edict or face the consequences, advising that the imperial guard, navy and the astartes should not dare to threaten her authority again.

Libria III: Lazarus taken by rebels

General Waltham's offensive continued on Libria III in 11.014M42, as he and his well equipped rebel forces continued the momentum gained in the 10.014M42 offensive. On the left wing of the advance Waltham dug in, while concentrating the attack on the Varas Isthmus and the strategically important city of Lazarus.

The loyalists expected an attack from this direction, and deployed their most competent troops, including the Vannaheim imperial guard regiments, in the path of Waltham's assault. However the rebels made extensive use of Leman Russ battle tanks and heavy armour, as well as heavy artillery in the form of Basilisk self propelled guns. This put the loyalists at a distinct disadvantage, but they had allies. The sisters of battle had returned to Libria in its hour of need, determined to return the billions of rebels to the light of the Emperor.

The Rebels showed no hesitation in opening fire on the holy sisters, if any on the imperial side had hoped for such an outcome. For the rebels, while the Emperor remained a god, they regarded His church and His ministers just as corrupt as the government they sought to overthrow, a view shared by the Federacy, which the rebels had by 11.014M42 officially applied to join.

The rebel advance started well, as the Vannaheim units were pushed back by the sheer weight of fire from the rebel forces. The sisters took heavy casualties from massed rebel firepower, and at one point the outcome looked like turning into a rout for the servants of the imperium. However, the Vannaheim troops were inspired by the presence of the Ministorium, and the line stabilised for a while. This was aided by reports of a miraculous resurrection of one of the sisters of battle, and reports of a winged holy figure of pure white light began to circulate around the imperial lines.

Imperial hope was shattered however by a late and forceful thrust by mechanised units of the rebel army. By 1211.014M42 the imperial flank had been turned by General Waltham's chimera borne veterans, and by 1911.014M42 the city of Lazarus was in rebel hands.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Crusade close in on Librian victory

For months the crusade had been largely inactive on Libria I. General Abrahams, preferring to ignore the situation, hoped that with the crusade forces and the mechanicum in control of the industrial complexes in the northern hemisphere, they would be content to leave the remaining loyalist held centres in the south and east alone. This would allow him to concentrate on the war against the alliance on Libria V. He was to be disappointed.

In 11.014M42 the crusade, having musteres their forces, launched their newest offensive. The Apocalypse Riders lead the attack assaulting the cities of Hector and Kent city in an audacious simultaneous operation. The defenders, mostly PDF regiments and an assortment of units Abrahams could spare for an unwanted diversion. The results were predictable. Although some units performed well, the Apocalypse Riders showed their fellow subjects of the Emperor little mercy. The cities were soon surrounded and taken, with inquisition agents and ministorum priests following up to perform judgement on the citizens. Many were found wanting, and the trials put on by Vorushko were broadcast across the world, generating a religious fervour and turning Librian against Librian.

Shattered Silence contribute to Aethor venture

With the success of eldar forces on Aethor the Shattered Silence were not slow to exploit the opportunity. The other eldar accepted this help, for the danger of Aethor falling into the wrong hands would cause disaster to both the eldar and their dark kin. The eldar craftworld in the vicinity of the imperial outpost was just one of the reasons for the eldar invasion. In addition to this threat was the much more immediate concern of the webway portal. This portal, the farseers had established, could not be closed, and while the imperial world was in the hands of the Mon-keigh, the danger was low. However the farseers of several factions had determined that in the near future Aethor would fall. In fact with the current situation in the Aleph sector it didn't take a farseer to predict the downfall of the imperium.

The webway portal also gave access to Aethor for all eldar including the denizens of Commorragh. The Shattered Silence fell upon the imperial defenders with little warning. The dark eldar forces used their greater manoeuvrability to great effect, surrounding the Vannaheim defenders and mercilessly cutting them down. The raid was all over within hours, and as well as contributing to the overall campaign, the Shattered Silence had taken with them a significant haul of slaves. For once the greater good of their race and an opportunity for profit had coincided, and the Shattered Silence were not about to allow other kabals secure a lead.

Mixed fortunes on Bastien

During early 11.014M42 the war on Bastien continued to gain momentum as the imperium realised the Iron Warriors had not come to raid, but that the powers of chaos intended to retake their former empire. After establishing a bridgehead the Iron Warriors set about fortifying their positions against an imperial counter attack, but general Veers was in no position to launch one. Instead he reinforced Meshuggah as he determined this was the most likely axis of attack.

in fact, the chaos planned a blitzkreig campaign involving several of their units. The overall strategy would be to continually outflank Veers guard formations by employing fast moving units in conjunction with a pinning force of astartes and various daemon engines. Naturally the Iron Warriors would be the pinning force, and they led the frontal assault on Meshuggah, as expected by Veers. Meanwhile the emperor's children performed the first outflanking manouevre, moving south to block the imperial retreat along the Aquilus road.

The Iron Warriors' assault consisted of another dawn attack, which hampered the ability of the Librian defenders to accurately pin down their enemy. Despite fielding a large array of artillery pieces, the shells somehow managed to miss the fast moving bikers on the imperial left flank. Realising these units must not be allowed to reach imperial lines, the local commander ordered everything he had against the chaos bikers, eventually destroying them to a man. However, the cost of this was to limit available firepower along the rest of the front, and on the right in particular the forces of chaos were soon in amongst the imperial defenders. Despite accurate fire from imperial heavy weapons teams against the maulerfiends - who had been taught to immobilise these dreadful war engines by firing at their legs, the imperial front was soon overrun and the imperial army was obliged to retreat northward towards damnation.

Meanwhile the Emperor's Children had started their move towards Aquilus. If successful, the chaos bridgehead would be secured against encirclement, but no sooner had they moved across their perimeter, than the Apocalypse Riders launched a lightning ambush. Taken completely by surprise the Emperor's Children fought as hard as they could, but were soon driven back to the chaos landing grounds by the fury of the astartes attack. Only the arrival of a large and well equipped army loyal to the Arch Cleric saw the end of the Apocalypse Riders' attack, the loyalists withdrawing, satisfied with the damage they had wrought on their enemy.

The Apocalypse Riders' raid had bought the imperium time on Bastien. Veers had lost ground and the city of Meshuggah, but his army was not in a rout. The chaos forces had not yet secured their southern flank and the system warp jump point was still under the control of the imperial navy. Reinforcements will flow for the loyalists, while the traitors would have to run the gauntlet of Admiral Pendragon's forces every time they pushed in system.

The first attempt to break the imperial hold on space took place on 1011.014M42 with the arrival of the Word Bearers' fleet. There were no troop transports. Instead every vessel was a warship, though these themselves carried thousands more troops for the campaign on Bastien. Pendragon immediately closed with the chaos fleet, and a cagey and inconclusive battle took place. Both sides, wary of past horrendous losses, were less than keen to keep ships in battle once they had started to take damage, and several of the Arch Cleric's vessels even disengaged undamaged if they found themselves in a tactically unfavourable position, rather than give any advantage to the enemy.

Pendragon's flagship the Sir Gallahad was singled out early on, seriously damaging the battleship and forcing a withdrawal from the battlefield. While Pendragon attempted to transfer his flag, the leaderless imperial fleet managed to cripple the Immolator and Pire of Darnath with expert shooting, before the imperial fleet found itself in a less than favourable tactical position. Without any other guidance the imperial fleet disengaged. Numerically the chaos fleet had taken more damage, although it is hard to compare a severely damaged battleship with two crippled cruisers. However, by disengaging, the imperial fleet allowed the remaining chaos vessels in system. The Arch Cleric was able to reinforce his numbers on the ground before making the return trip. Of course, the imperial fleet was still intact and waiting.

Hylas: Von Bismork halts imperial advance

The recent ork defeats on Hylas had given the Imperium a much needed morale boost, and General Van Dorn was on a high as 11.014M42 began. However there were already warning signs that his latest offensive had overreached its capabilities. Van Dorn had launched attacks in the north and south, advancing many hundreds of kilometres, but this had the effect of extending his front lines. This was especially true in the plains of the north, made worse by the transfer of Librian regiments in the north to the south, leaving a thin screen of Vannaheim troops to defend the elongated front line now stretching out in front of Sarina.

The inevitable counter attack came on 0911.014M42, with a large force of mechanised orks attacking the Vannaheim regiments outside the city. Over stretched the guardsmen fought well, but were unable to stop the battlewagons and other vehicles of Von Bismork's boyz from reaching, then breaching their lines. In a few hours it became obvious that the front was crumbling, and there was no time whatsoever to redeploy any troops to the north. Reluctantly Van Dorn ordered an organised retreat, but by the time the order had been received, the Vannaheim regiments had already fled and Sarina had fallen once again into greenskin hands.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Power of Chaos

New necron offensive on Corticant ends in massacre

For months the necron threat on Corticant had apparently lain dormant. While imperial patrols into necron held territory frequently failed to return, the large distances between settlements on the world lulled the imperial defenders into a false sense of security. The imperial guard in particular began to suffer from boredom, and over time standards began to slip. As General Veers became aware of this he ordered the Librian units in particular to be assigned commissars, something which was becoming widespread following the revolt in the Librian system itself.

Veers however soon became distracted by the events on Bastien, and moved his headquarters there on 0111.014M42, just in time to witness the first landfall of major chaos forces. On Corticant, the necrons took the opportunity to attack while the imperial defenders were effectively leaderless, and on 0311.014M42 a huge new necron army was sighted moving swiftly up the valley containing "south road". Alarmed, the imperial forces took to theior defensive positions around the city of Wildegate and waited.

The necrons approached and should have faced a withering hail of fire from the imperial defenders, but the artillery barrage was weak and inaccurate, shells often failing to explode. As the necron force approached the defensive positions imperial gaurd tanks opened up along with lascannons and autocannons from emplaced infantry teams, but again the fire was desultory and largely inaccurate.

The necron advance suffered barely any casualties before wraiths and destroyers, supported by necron packed ghost arks overran the imperial lines. In combat the wraiths proved unbeatable, and the alien army barely slowed as it simply overwhelmed the imperial positions. In less than a day Wildegate had been taken and the necrons were splitting, one force heading to Welllake and the other turning towards Fort Bastion. Then, on 0711.014M42 the necrons once again stopped. For now the new offensive had come to an end, but the imperial defenders were only left with Fort bastion and its immediate surroundings under their control.

Von Bismork defeated in southern Hylas

On Hylas, Van Dorn had finally recieved some much needed reinforcements by late 10.014M42, and the General began planning to use these troops in an offensive which would start to retake much of the territory lost to the orks in the preceding two years. In the north the Mechanicum had already began their offensive and now the second push in the south began.

Since the war started ork warlords and their power had waxed and waned. In late 014M42 the warlord Uzfang had all but disappeared, while Kogh and Na'Porkleon had seemingly lost interest in Hylas and were busy conducting "planz" elsewhere. The relative power vacuum led to the rise of "Otto Von Bismork", who now had as many orks loyal to him on Hylas as any of the other warlords, despite the fact that he hadn't achieved much in the way of success.

The ork forts which had faced the imperial lines in the south came under sustained bombardment in late 10.014M42, and as the imperial forces advanced towards the ruins it was clear that the orks who remained were mostly those loyal to Von Bismork. On 2910.014M32 Bismorks orks even managed to launch a counter attack on the lost fortress line, but the guard forces were able to stand off and annihilate the greenskin advance at range. The success in the destruction of the northern end of the fortress line now made an advance to Brockley possible for Van Dorn, and he brought up his Librian regiments to carry on the advance into ork territory.

As expected, Von Bismork's greenskins attempted to counter this advance by driving into the imperial left flank. However Van Dorn had planned for this, and the ork battlewagons soon found themselves in a killing zone where the Librian artillery had already been ranged in. In short order heavy weapons fire and basilisk artillery reduced two thirds of the ork battlewagon force to scrap metal, forcing any survivors to walk towards their enemy. With their main assault force blunted, the imperial guard now had time to pick off the advancing ork units one by one, Punisher Leman Russ and veteran squads easily dealing with the mega armoured elites. The ork boyz who did make the imperial lines were a threat for a while, but massed lasgun fire eventually massacred any ork mobs which reached the imperial aegis lines.

The orks were unable to coordinate their attacks, and heavy artillery blasted apart any orks stuck out in no mans land. By 0311.014M42 the flank attack into the Librian left had petered out, and by 0611.014M42 the settlement of Brockley had been retaken by the imperial advance. Van Dorn was now on the advance and the orks slowly being forced to relinquish territory. An imperial victory no longer looked impossible.

Bastien invaded by chaos

Following the unsuccessful attempt to force the imperial fleet to abandon their post defending Bastien, the Arch Cleric devised a new strategy. The Word Bearers fleet managed to convince Lord Tragean to leave his anchorage at Kendrenec in force, and move along the Perseus Run towards Vastrid. Tragean's force easily outmatched Jellicoe's fleet at Vastrid, although this was defended by a series of system defences. Of more concern to Jellicoe was the possibility of an invasion of Minos, which had no system defences. Fearing this Jellicoe moved his fleet so that the bulk could cover any move towards Minos, Parthenope or Aethor, while the Raven Guard fleet, themselves a significant force, stayed behind to defend Bastien.

The move by Tragean was of course a feint. In the Bastien system the Arch Cleric arrived with his force on 0111.014M42, and to the alarm of Imperial observers the damage to the chaos fleet had apparently been made good, although it soon became obvious that at least two of the enemy cruisers were of recent design.

The Raven Guard moved to intercept, figuring they could see off the chaos fleet reasonably swiftly and then return to their station around the planet. This however was not the Arch Cleric's plan. In contrast to previous engagements the chaos force began by creating their "crescent" formation, severely damaging two strike cruisers and eventually leading to the demise of one of them. The Raven Guard then pressed home their main attack, taking the opportunity of an apparent mistake by the Word Bearers, whereby the van of their force was now shielded from the approaching Raven Guard by an asteroid field. The astartes force moved in towards three chaos capital vessels, knowing they outmatched them two to one, only to see the three vessels then vanish as the force disengaged.

Initially this appeared to be a triumph for the imperium. Half the enemy fleet had now disengaged and the Raven Guard had the initiative. However a fast and powerful battleship remained in the system, and the astartes fleet began the long process of tracking and skirmishing with their foe. Eventually the engagement became a long running game of cat and mouse. The chaos battleship, Savage Messiah would for the most part stay out of range of the more powerful fleet behind it, before turning on her pursuers with a volley of lances. Then, as the imperial fleet formed up to reply, the desolater would once again extend the range. This continued for several days, before a squadron of Raven Guard hunters found themselves exposed as the Savage Messiah made one of her turns. The squadron was vapourised in minutes and the loss keenly felt by the astartes fleet.

The chaos fleet had lost one vessel - their newly constructed hades class cruiser, which may have suffered from faulty plasma conduits, such was the rapidity of her demise. The remaining fleet had disengaged, save for the flagship. On 0411.014M42 after three days of skirmishing, the Raven Guard grew nervous. What was this achieving? without warning the imperial fleet turned and headed for Bastien orbit as fast as they could.

When the Raven Guard arrived on 0611.014M42 they realised they had been tricked, as did Jellicoe. A day earlier the large chaos fleet massing in the Perseus Run had dissipated, an Jellicoe's fleet had been stood down. Meanwhile, as the Raven Guard chased Savage Messiah around the system, twelve chaos transport barges had arrived at Bastien and unloaded their cargo. Three were caught by the astartes escorts and reduced to vapour and dust, but this had come too late. Already tens of thousands of troops and equipment had been landed on Bastien, if not enough to conquer the planet then at least enough to make their removal extremely difficult. The Iron Warriors' scouting force had created Reaverton and the surrounding plan as a beachhead, and the Word Bearers had taken advantage, all while the imperial fleets chased shadows.

Lycurgus Stahl's Iron Warriors continued to attempt to create the much needed beachhead for the chaos invasion of Bastien. Growing tired of the tirades and questionable strategies of the Arch-Cleric and distrusting the capabilities of the Word Bearer fleet, Stahl ordered his forces to continue to forge ahead towards Reaverton instead of the Arch Clerics' desired target of Imperious. This would have been far easier to defend against the inevitable counter attack should the Word Bearers have failed in their mission, and Stahl knew that the Arch Cleric wanted Imperious for symbolic rather than strategic reasons.

The Imperial forces were not idle in the face of the resurgent chaos threat, having mobilised a large number of local forces, mainly tank commanders of the PDF veterans of the previous wars against Chaos upon Bastien, as well as newly arrived Vanaheimi regiments. Stahl placed subordinate Sorcerer Ashoka, in charge of the infiltration forces and ordered a reconnaissance of the road from the mountains to the city of Reaverton. Contact was soon made with imperial forces and throughout 0111.014M14 a series of running battles occurred between the Iron Warriors and local Imperial Guard forces. The Iron Warriors rampaged across the sweeping Bastien plains around the settlement, attacking small settlements in an attempt to draw out local forces. In the first major engagement the defenders attempted to break the assault forces directly. This played into Ashoka’s hands however as the veterans of the last war expected forces similar to their previous experience. This led to several severely underestimating the speed of the Maulerfiends of the Iron Warriors which they had not previously encountered. For once experience invited disaster.

In one such encounter, during the early morning gloom the first indication that the Iron Warriors were attacking was the fusillade of fire from the Vindicators who had moved into the ruins near the defending forces. The defenders, a mix of Vanaheim units and Bastien PDF, hurriedly backed away from the rapidly advancing Iron Warriors, two Leman Russ focusing their fire upon the Maulerfiends and a Wyvern supporting artillery aimed at the Iron warriors command units, including Ashoka himself. Despite the experience of the imperial tank commander directing fire, the Maulerfiends emerged unscathed from the concentrated hailstorm of fire from the Punisher variant Russ, and managing to dodge Vanquisher cannon shells.

The chaos bikers however were not so lucky as the sheer concentration of artillery took its toll, though the Iron Warriors pushed on stoically through the bombardment. Despite the loss of their scout forces as the sun rose, the Iron Warriors attack hit home with a coordinated charge that devastated the Imperial line and left their commander dead. In the centre, an imperial guard lieutenant attempted to restore order to the situation but to no avail; as soon as the a veteran squad arrived were able to turn their guns on the Iron Warriors they were torn apart by Demolisher cannon fire from a vindicator, now free to roam almost unmolested across the battlefield. The lieutenant and his command squad, the only survivors of the short battle retreated to Reaverton's second line of defence.

The following day, the Iron Warriors struck again, this time seeking to break through the weakened defences to the city. With the information gained from the initial encounters, the Imperial forces were much better prepared for the attack on the city. As per the previous attack the Iron Warriors attacked an hour before dawn, rushing across no mans land to close while receiving covering fire from hidden Vindicators. The defenders' initial casualties were light however as the gloom of the morning threw off the aim if the chaos bombardment.

The Imperial forces had scattered spotters in the ruins on the outskirts of the city who identified over vox the Iron Warrior walkers which despite some communication errors, allowed the Vanquisher tank hunters to halve their number in scant minutes, before dawn. This was cold comfort for the local PDF forces that were stationed as a protective screen against the Iron Warriors onslaught however, as the chaos forces tore into the defenders with wanton abandon. After only an hour of fighting between human and traitor marine, not a single PDF defender remained alive, and the Iron Warriors' casualties had been extremely light. Along the length of the defenders' perimeter firefights and melees now broke out between the PDF and the Iron Warriors. On the imperial left flank the results of each furious engagement were the same as Iron Warriors bolts and blades far outmatched the lasguns of the defenders.

On the right of the city perimeter despite similar firefights between the two sides the local commander was keeping far better control and had the measure of the Iron Warriors. The callous gambit of sacrificing infantry companies paid off when despite the valiant efforts by a particularly insane Rhino driver named Falk, who repeatedly tried to block the imperal line of line of sight by weaving about and kicking up dust, the remaining Maulerfiends were caught in the open and wrecked by the Vanquishers, a veteran tank commander riddling Sorcerer Ashoka and most of his bikes with rounds, leaving only Sergeant Hakor unscathed. The Iron Warrior assault was at risk of collapse at the gates of the city however Hakor and Falk continued to urge their comrades on. Upon a rocky hill the last line of defence had seen off a small foray by Iron Warrior forces, but Falk’s Rhino charged up the clope towards the imperial defenders, crushing the Veterans Lascannon support under grinding tracks, while Sergeant Hakor smashed into the veteran company itself, single-handedly butchering the remaining guardsmen. This show of bloodlust signaled the end for the defenders as the PDF line broke, leading to a general rout. With Iron Warriors took the city of Reaverton and consolidated the plains around the settlement. The forces of chaos now had a bridgehead, and before reinforcements were drawn up to launch a counter attack, the Word Bearers transport fleet arrived, delivering thousands of warriors to the surface around Reaverton.

The initial invasion of Bastien did not pass without any imperial success however. To the east of Vanaheim the newly arrived cultists and general "hangers-on" to the chaos forces managed to summon a significant force of daemons, who launched themselves at the nearest imperial force, gibbering maniacally. The imperial force was made up mostly of Vanaheim troopers, who had landed with the Aleph reinforcements some months prior to garrison duty on Bastien. Veers, wary of such a re-invasion of his crusade prize, had begun to assign more defences to the planet for several months, and now this foresight was paying off, despite the casualties.

During previous encounters the Vanaheim regiments had not showered themselves in glory, and were considered second rate forces by several front and army group commanders. However in this instance the Vanaheim units stood their ground and held firm in the face of possibly the worst adversary, desperately clinging on to their defensive positions and just managing to hold the daemonic horde off until the entire host disappeared back into the warp. The imperial line had held, just barely, and prevented the mortal chaos units from exploiting any hole in the line. For now the chaos invasion was bottled up near Reaverton, and Veers had time to put into action the defence of Bastien he had developed shortly after its liberation.

Tyranids removed from Gabriel's World

Following the defeat of the Biel Tan eldar in early 11.014M42, General Pollack, responsible for the defense of the Cerrack Nebula, turned his attention to the incipient tyranid threat which had presented itself. Although the astartes had departed following the crushing of the eldar, the imperium still boasted several imperial guard regiments, including a full strength formation of Novgorod troops. This large formation was sent in to deal with the tyranids, Pollack reasoning that the large headcount in the Novgorod regiment would be able to cover the most ground and hunt out xenos creatures which might be lurking.

The Novgorod regiments began their sweep at the last known location of the tyranid force, and advanced on a wide front. They soon encountered the tyranid menace and soon were heavily engaged fighting hordes of aliens who threw themselves at the imperial guardsmen. The imperial forces as ever took losses, but the disciplined fire of the Novgorod guard made all the difference, and thousands of the smaller xenos were simply mown down by imperial volley fire. heavy weapons did the rest and by 0311.014M42 the tyranid resistance had been broken. Now began the long task of clearing the wilderness of tyranid spores, a task which could take years and countless lives as lone xenos predators reverted to instinct, ambiushing the unwary.

Eldar continue genocide on Aethor

After raids in late 10.014M42, the eldar arrived in force on 0111.014M42. Once again the eldar and their dark kin were acting together, although the differentiation was lost on the troopers of the imperial guard regiments who responded to the initial incursion. Local regiments and Vanaheim units were summoned, but the fast moving eldar and dark eldar easily outmanoeuvred their opponents and inflicted monstrous casualties. After a day's heavy fighting it was clear the eldar could not be shifted without reinforcements, and the garrison commander officially called for aid. Aethor had been invaded.

the response was relatively swift, with an Apocalypse Riders' strike cruiser arriving in the system just days after the call. It was clear the Riders had now taken residence in the Perseus Deeps and were effectively erving as a rapid reaction force - with a specific distaste for eldar and tau forces.

The Apocalypse Riders soon saw their opportunity, discovering a small force of eldar on the ground apparently unaware they were being monitored by the Riders. the astartes force made landfall in secret some miles from the eldar then launched an ambush, utilising their fast bike and land speeder units. However what the astartes didn't know was that the eldar were perfectly aware of the astartes presence, and no sooner had the engagement began than fast moving units of dark eldar appeared in the flanks of the marines. The ambushers had been ambushed! This wasn't the end of it however, for soon after the appearance of the dark eldar, elite units from the Officio Assassinorium suddenly appeared on the battlefield, in effect ambushing the dark eldar.

The whole engagement lasted no more than a few hours and was extremely confused. However the massed and accurate firepower of the xenos eventually overwhelmed the imperial forces, and though they were able to claim some successes in inflicting casualties on the invaders, the Riders and their assassin allies were forced to withdraw from the surface by air or risk being totally surrounded. By 0711.014M42 the imperial position on Aethor was worsening, with eldar forces being reported all across the surface of the world.