Monday, March 21, 2016

Libria V: Crusade inch forward

While the crusade were unable to reinforce Libria III given the alliance blockade, they were still able to send forces into and resupply Libria V. Orbiting further out, Libria V was beyond the patrol radius of the alliance fleet, which was limited to operations within the inner biosphere. Given Libria V was under the control of loyalist and crusade forces anyway, this was of little concern to the alliance.

On 2203.016M42 the recently reinforced crusade mechanicus forces broke the recent "detente" between the loyalists and crusade forces, driving into loyalist held territory. Vorushko wanted to ensure that the loyalists did not think that after a while the Xenos threat would take precidence and she would be forced to accept the loyalists position, or worse, a compromise. This was a point of principle and authority, and one Vorushko would never let go.

The attack was launched against Lycaon Guard lines, and once again the guard units proved resilient and stubborn against their enemy, but the technological edge enjoyed by the mechanicus forces ensured that after a hard fight, the loyalists were forced to yield ground to the crusade. It was a token gesture however and no major breakthrough was achieved.

Aethor: Vlokarion raid succeeds, but is costly

With the eldar & dark eldar making significant gains on the planet of Aethor, and the imperial defences in disarray, the leader of one kabal, Vlokarian continued to funnel forces across the webway to support the eldar effort. In actual fact the support for the cause of the Disciples of Y'Nead was incidental. The primary reason was to continue exploiting the human population, and as another raiding party arrived on Aethor they had no reason to believe that this raid would be any different from any other.

Unfortunately for Vlokarion's forces the imperium had, but 2003.016M42, reorganised their defences, and the highly organised and disciplined Lycaon Guard had arrived from Bastien to reinforce the defenders. The dark eldar attacked with little regard for their foe, and were suprised by the withering return fire and stubbornness of their enemy, who refused to withdraw. Very soon the dark eldar were taking significant casualties, and only the intervention of senior kabal commanders prevented a rout. Eventually the superior firepower of the xenos forced the Lycaon Guard to retreat in good order, allowing Vlokarion's forces to round up a reasonable haul of "subjects". However, the cost had been high and Vlokarion began to reconsider the Aethor expedition.

Minos: Dark Angels break the seige

Following a series of panicked and incomplete reports from the front lines warning of a new warband of Emperor's Children running rampant and reinforcing Stah'ls Iron Warriors, Imperial Commanders on Minos issued a request for aid from the Adeptus Astartes. The request fell largely on deaf ears with most of the Space Marine Chapters in the sector busy prosecuting the civil war on Libria. The Dark Angels however held the conflict there in contempt, seeing it as a petty internal political dispute within the Inquisition that served only to weaken the Imperium and sap its strength. Resolved to protect the Imperium from its external enemies and intrigued by reports of a terrible Chaos warlord of unmatched martial prowess a task force of the Dark Angel's 4th Company was immediately mobilised.

Easily locating the Chaos warband from the trail of destruction it left the Dark Angels deployed from their orbiting Strike Cruiser, the Dark Dominion. A ferocious running battle ensued as the two highly mobile Marine formations launched a series of exquisitely orchestrated lightening attacks and counter attacks. It was a deadly duel and neither side was able to best the other as each strike they made was deftly countered in turn. The conflict eventually ended in stalemate. With no possibility of a decisive advantage for either side both commanders elected to withdraw.

Although they had failed in their goal to kill or capture the Chaos commander the ferocity of the Dark Angel's assault was sufficient to halt the Emperor's Children's rampage and force them from the front lines. For the time being at least the Imperial forces on Minos had the advantage and the time they needed to re-organise and launch their own counter attack.

Libria System: Crusade Mechanicus fleet forced to abandon mission to Libria III

Following on from the successful exploitation of the Hadron Expanse by the imperial task force, the adeptus mechanicus found itself with a number of valuable tech hauls from the unexplored region, which included several hulks of old warships. Inquisitor Natalia Vorushko was keen to ensure that the Magi who oversaw the acquisition of the archeotech from the task force was aligned to her Crusade in Libria. This she managed by adeptly ensuring that her faction were in the ascendency at the Hadron jump point in the system of Brimlock, where the task force returned on 1803.016M42. Inquisitor Huron, although disappointed that the disagreement between Vorushko and Hathek was still going on, was obliged to turn over the items of value to the adeptus mechanicus representative Vorushko had made sure was waiting for him.

In exchange for this valuable prize, the adeptus mechanicus agreed to Vorushko's request to break the seige of Libria III. Since late 016M42 the inner system and jump points of the Libria system had been controlled entirely by the alliance. The Federal fleet and the Iron Warrior fleet of Apollo had locked down access to the inner systems leaving Vorushko unable to launch orbital strikes. Even the fast moving vessels of the Minotaurs and Apocalypse Riders had been unable to penetrate the defence screen since Apollo had changed the way patrols were conducted. Libria I, II and III were effectively cut off.

By mid 03.016M42 the Iron Warriors fleet had left the system to be replaced by admiral Swiftstar's tau. The federal fleet had also left, as it had formed the vanguard of the voyage to the Hadron Expanse and not yet returned. Now was a chance to strike at the weakened alliance defence, but Vorushko's crusade was in no position to do so. The astartes had few vessels, and the Crusade fleet under Cornellius and rear Admiral Fernando was undergoing repairs and trying to re-organise at Caitlen Station - which had effectively fallen to Crusade control without a shot being fired.

With no fleet to exploit what would surely be a transient weakness in the alliance defence, Vorushko requested that a mechanicus fleet break the siege. Such a fleet was already available and had been in the area for months, but until now, direct confrontation with the alliance on behalf had been avoided in favour of conducting augur scans of the Mab Nebula.

On 2203.015M42 the Adeptus Mechanicus crusade fleet arrived in the Libria system from an unexpected anlge, using their advanced technology to warp directly into the inner system. Taken by surprise Swiftstar hastily assembled his fleet to face the intruders in the solar flare region of the Librian system.

Throughout the engagement both sides were plagued by poor communications from the radiation constantly streaming from the Librian sun. It was difficult for both sides to coordinate ship movements and targets, and often captains had to attempt to guess their admiral's wishes. This reduced the effectiveness of tau ordnance strikes with torpedoes and manta bombers, but critically affected the coordinated use of the mechanicus nova cannon, which fired at escort vessels for much of the engagement.

Swiftstar formed his infamous "box" formation and faced the mechanicus head on, while the crusade fleet simply accepted the challenge and sailed towards the tau. A vicious close firefight erupted, destroying one mechanicum light cruiser and crippling two more, forcing them to flee the battle. then the Mechanicus fleet managed to utilise a lull in the storm of radioactive particles to coordinate a devastating strike on the tau custodian class battleship "Vigilence". the vessel took the full force of the imperial fleet, and within minutes of being fired upon the tau vessel exploded as her plasma drive containment failed, killing admiral Swiftstar.

Hungry for revenge the tau uncharacteristically closed still further, swarming their mantas around the two dominator class cruisers at the back of the mechanicus formation, reducing both to hulks before one blew up in a spectacular display of pyrotechnics. The mechanium fleet was able to heavily damage a protecter class vessel before both sides lost contact in the mass of swirling plasma, but despite killing the tau admiral and destroying their flagship, the mechanicum fleet had taken more damage, having only an undamaged battleship and two badly damaged light cruisers following the battle. Unable to loosen the alliance grip on the core systems of Libria, the mechanicum fleet disengaged and headed for Caitlen station to repair and refit.

Libria III: Skyfall smashes Crusade lines in Cartasia

With the Crusade forces throttled by the continued blockade of the inner Librian systems, the alliance took the opportunity to put pressure on the crusade forces already on the planet. In mid 03.016M42 commander skyfall, utilising the very pinnacle of tau battlesuit technology, launched a major offensive against the crusade forces defending Cartasia. Mostly fanatical ad hoc guard units much of the open ground was quickly yielded - as planned - to the xenos. Thousands of ill equipped but expendable fanatics died but bought enough time for the forces of Vorushko to respond.

To defend Regina and Grisk, the Sky Lords were deployed to counter attack. Utilising Knights and heavily armoured land raiders, the astartes drove straight for the enemy. Skyfall's cadres however were prepared for such an attack and laid down a withering hail of fire which quickly destroyed much of the astartes armour and then began chewing up the marines themselves. Still the Sky Lords maintained the pressure, and managed to fend off a rather half hearted and costly envelopment attempt by stealth suits, but the main front line action turned into a massacre as the ghost keels dealt with the Imperial Knight blocking the road to Grisk and the elite terminators were simply erased by high energy weaponry.

Meanwhile on the western flank of Skyfall's attack the battle was even more decisive. Here even the best equipment of the adeptus mechanicus was swept aside by the technologically superior tau force, and by 2203.016M42 the crusade had lost control of Regina, Parth and Grisk as well as the important industrial heartland of Cartasia. In two weeks the crusade had suffered a major setback and were retreating to Cartal. Outnumbered, out of supply and definitely outgunned, the future of the Crusade itself began to look in doubt.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Three forces sent expeditions into the Hadron Expanse while the warp routes remained viable, in order to reconoitre as much as possible, exploit any resources and return to the Aleph Sector. For the Imperium, the Crusade and Loyalist forces managed to ignore their differences over Libria long enough to build a formidable task force. Lead by Inquisitor Huron, who had remained neutral in the argument between Vorushko and Hathek, the imperium gathered together a large fleet of warships, including elements of Admiral Pendragon's and Admiral Enkvist's fleets, and with the reappearance of Admiral Hector to Aleph sector operations.

Added to this were several regiments of Novgorod Guard, who continued to flood in to the sector via Brimlock in an impressive display of seemingly inexhaustible manpower. Backing this up, the Adeptus Mechanicus, crucially interested in finding STC components and space hulks in the Hadron Expanse, added their own forces to the expedition.

The alliance, short on manpower and extended on all fronts, supplied a much smaller force. Only one federal battlegroup took part and this was undersized, and the only ground forces sent were a few hunter cadres from Skyfall's Aleph Expansion sphere. For chaos, despite being entrenched in wars or internecine conflicts, the ruinous powers managed to assemble a warfleet under Admiral Thok, and several thousand Iron Warriors. In addition, always looking for profit, the Dark Eldar kabal of the shattered silence also sent its own force from Commoragh.

The exploration of the Hadron expanse continued for around a terran month, with the Imperial forces out of Brimlock dominating much of the available systems. Skirmishes on the ground were largely few and far between, but there were two major engagements of note. In one, the Mechanicum met the bulk of Skyfall's entire force, and a large full scale battle took place. After hours of hard fighting it was the tau who were narrowly defeated, and this early set back seriously impacted the alliance's cause, despite the federal fleet defeating admiral Pendragon. Following that engagement it became clear the imperium outnumbered alliance forces but at least 3-1, and the alliance moved their operations further to the galactic south, effectively yielding much of the expanse to the imperium.

At the same time, the middle of the expanse was being contested by the forces of chaos and the imperium, with Stahl gaining victory over the Novgorod Guard in one system, but losing to the Mechanicum in another. The too and fro of engagements culminated in a large set piece space battle, which put much of the imperial fleet under Hector and Enkvist against mad admiral Thok and his pirate dark eldar allies.

The space battle itself was decisive, with the dark eldar seen off and Thok's fleet badly damaged. Although Thok once again escaped in his crippled "planet killer", the victory gave the imperium domination over the northern expanse, and despite being defeated on the ground by Skyfall's cadres and the dark eldar of the shattered silence, it was the control of the space lanes which decided the Hadron expedition. By 1803.016M42 the warp storms were closing in once more, and all sides prepared to leave the area. The mechanicum had retrieved several key artefacts and space hulks, while the forces of chaos had seen little gain for their efforts. The alliance had profited from their small expedition but knew there was nothing in the southern Hadron Expanse which would aid them in their many wars, and the imperial success bolstered the imperial will to resist on several fronts.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Sector Summary and the Hadron Expanse

While the Crusade, Alliance and Loyalists continued to battle for the Libria system, in 03.016M42 an opportunity presented itself in the dark unknown void of the Hadron Expanse. To the eastern edge of the Aleph sector a vast area of Wilderness space, largely unexplored by the Imperium, became navigable for a brief time due to the unfathomable nature of the warp. There was limited time to exploit this potential resource however, and all the races immediately prepared expeditionary forces to the area to see what riches they could plunder before the warp closed in once more.

The Hadron Expanse had remained unexplored throughout the duration of the imperium. Warp storms, unpredictable in nature boiled their way across the region, preventing any kind of warp travel into our out of the region. Occasionally someone would claim to have penetrated the veil, the area of systems on the edge of the expanse marking the de facto limit of navigable space, but few were believed.

The webway certainly had access to the Expanse, but the eldar guarded it jealously and never informed the tau of their knowledge during their time on the alliance. Worshippers of chaos sometimes managed to make successful jumps into the area, but this relied too much on the fickle nature of Tzeentch, and reliable travel was all but impossible.

The great becalming started in late 015M42, with the warp storms of the Hadron Expanse temporarily moving away, to be replaced with a calm quiescent empyrean. It wouldn't last, the Expanse would be open for a few months at the very most, perhaps a year, but then the storms would close in again. Immediately Inquisitor Vorushko readied an expedition to the area, keen to take advantage of anything to further the Crusade's hold on the Libria system. The tau, federacy and loyalists too prepared forces and fleets to begin the exploitation of the Hadron Expanse.

Libria IV: Hard city fighting takes its toll

Following months of heavy fighting the Imperium, despite losses, had still not been defeated on Libria IV and still controlled much of the sprawling capital city of Porthaven. In late 02.016M42 commander Skyfall led another operation to break the imperial resistance in Porthaven. This time the tau drove straight for the Water Plant to the west of the recently captured Imperial HQ complex, but the defenders were prepared and waiting for such a predictable move.

The Lycaon Guard were in the forefront of the fighting and gave a good account of themselves. Experienced in fighting the tau and Skyfall's heavy use of battlesuits, the imperial defenders would not budge from their positions, and Skyfall wuickly found himself bogged down in street fighting. Unable to use their technical superiority against the humans, the tau withdrew back to their lines after several days of unsuccessful probing actions. The front quietened down, with neither side exactly sure how to proceed.

Aethor: Dark Eldar continue onslaught

As 02.016M42 progressed the eldar and dark eldar forces on Aethor continued their advance on the capital of the small colony. Obviously more than a raid, the attack by the Xenos was led by dark eldar forces, who launched a concerted assault against Lunar Guard positions in the hills around the Aethor centre of governance. The results were predictable, with the fast moving Xenos forces quickly outflanking and engaging in deadly close quarters fighting with the imperial defenders. Unable to flexibly redeploy, the Lunar Guard forces in the hills were annihilated, and by 0103.016M42 the defenders in Aethor itself found themselves surrounded by the alien foe.

The fourth battle of Minos

Order of Battle

Imperial Fleet of Admiral Enkvist
• Leipzig – Emperor Class Battleship commandeered by Admiral Enkvist
• Sevastapol – Mars Class Cruiser (Crippled)
• Port Arthur – Dictator Class Cruiser (Hulked)
• Seelow Heights – Dictator Class Cruiser
• Malinovka – Gothic Class Cruiser (Hulked)
• 5 Cobras (4 destroyed)
The Iron Warrior Fleet of Warlord Diodotus
• Sword of Charybdis - Devastation Class Cruiser commanded by Warlord Diodotus
• Shield of Charybdis – Devastation Class Cruiser
• Iron Eternal – Carnage Class Cruiser
• Strength Eternal – Carnage Class Cruiser (crippled)
• Eternal Will– Carnage Class Cruiser
• Sword of Olympia – Archeron Class Cruiser
• Sword of Olympia – Archeron Class Cruiser
• 2 Idolators (1 destroyed)
The Battle

The Iron Warriors fleet, having spent several weeks in de facto control of Minos' inner system, discovered Admiral Enkvist was once again planning attacking in system. Warlord Diodotus, lieutenant of Warsmith Stahl had no intention of allowing Enkvist to take the initiative and made her own plan to attack the Imperial staging point at the systems edge. At 17:50 local time the now repaired fleets of the Iron Warriors and Admiral Enkvist engaged.

Unfortunately for Imperial fleet, the Malinovka and her Cobra escorts were separated from the main fleet and ambushed. The main Imperial fleet attempted to support with long range fire and along with the Cobra's Torpedoes succeeded in crippling the Strength Eternal who disengaged. In return, massed weapons batteries and Lances reduced the Malinovka to a hulk, and destroyed all but one of the Cobras who were forced to disengage. Expecting the Ghost of Rofocale to ambush as it had done in previous engagements most of the Imperial ships crews hesitated in their work and as a result the fleets ordinance was slow to reload. Over the next hour the two fleets exchanged long ranged fire, with fast moving Imperial assault boats managing to inflict significant damage on both the Eternal Will and the Shield of Charybdis. All Iron Warrior ships had taken on hundreds of additional slave crews from the populace of Minos, and so all damage was quickly repaired.

Despite the Spears of Olympia's bridge being destroyed, the Iron Warrior fleet crossed the T of the Imperial Fleet and brought their massive broadsides to bear. Over the next 30 minutes, the Iron Warriors concentrated their fire, first crippling the Sevastapol and then destroying the Port Arthur. The Captain of the Seelow Heights, being completely surrounded dived into the gas clouds and disengaged. Admiral Enkvist, having lost most of his fleet knew he had suffered a devastating defeat, the only option was to ensure no Imperial vessels fell into enemy hands. Over the final hours of the engagement the Iron Warriors attempted to manoeuvre into a favourable firing position, however Enkvist managed to evade the enemy fleet and fled the Minos system with the flaming hulks of the Malinovka and Port Arthur in tow.

The impact of Admiral Enkvist's fleet being driven from the Minos system was terrible for the Imperial ground forces. Without the Imperial ships harrying the fleet, the Iron Warriors were free to bombard the Imperial defences on Minos with impunity, reducing them to dust. Only the final fortress within the capital remained, but without further reinforcements, Minos was doomed.

Carnage in Minos

The war on Minos had been quiet for a number of weeks, The Iron Warriors taking the opportunity to resupply, while the Imperial forces fortifyied their positions. This lull came to an end when Lunar Guard spotter teams reported civilians led by soldiers massing near Imperial lines. The Lunar guard armoured reserves reinforced their artillery emplacements and a tense stand off ensued. At noon, 2002.016M42 the stand off came to an abrupt end when armed civilians poured from their defensive positions and makeshift artillery opened fire. The Lunar Guard returned fire against the soldiers, now known to be called the “Agema”. The Agema lost their only anti-armour weaponry; the Rapier destroyers, but the renegades continued pouring artillery fire into the Lunar Guard positions, slowly taking their toll. To their credit the Lunar Guard managed to momentarily rout the inexperienced Agema commander leading the largest mob of rebels, and the far more veteran Lunar Guard commander never ceased crisp, precise orders that aided the Imperial attack. However the sheer number of rebels took their toll and once the Mutant forest tribemen joined the fray the Guard in the ruins were torn apart. From here the rebels had the upper hand and the battle soon became a slaughter, the Agema and civilian renegades sparing no one. The loss of the Lunar Guard artillery meant Iron Warrior forces were able to press forward unhindered and in the coming days controlled more than half the utilised areas of the planet.