Saturday, April 27, 2019

Determined Novgorod assault takes Tarlius 4

Following operation Restless Thunder the imperium has secured a tenuous foothold on Tarlius IV. However, many fortified areas still remained in chaos hands following their reinforcement by the plaguefleet. 

General Bessas had deployed several Regiments of Novgorod Guard following the capture of the space port on the planet, and on 2704.019M42 he began his offensive against the remaining chaos strongpoints. Expecting forces of the Death Guard, it now transpired that the Emerald Serpent has been deployed in force by the Plaguefleet, rather than the Host of Eschar. 

The Novgorod advanced in measured fashion towards the chaos lines under the cover of a heavy artillery barrage. This appeared to be going well, until a Lord Discordant and champion of chaos threw themselves into the advancing imperial line. Both were cut down, and the Emerald Serpent’s marine force took heavy casualties from imperial artillery and well placed lasgun fire. 

It was while the Novgorod were regaining their composure from initial chaos counter attack, that the real counter attack struck. Tzeentch terminators and Obliterators focussed their attention on the imperial centre, causing disarray in the guard lines, and killing the Colonel in charge of the assault. This was clearly an attempt to decapitate the imperial advance, and it almost worked. However, while the centre and left flank faltered, the Novgorod right flank remained in good order, attacking the Obliterators and terminators from the flank. Supported by their intact artillery the chaos counter attack was successfully blunted by the Novgorod Guard, and although the remaining chaos commanders launched a last desperate assault, the chaos attempt to stop the imperium from taking their last strongpoints had failed. 

By 3004.019M42 the planet was fully secured, and the imperium could make the space port operational. Acting as a temporary fleet base and jumping off point for convoys bound for the Imperium Nihilis, Bessas had secured a supply route through the Cicatrix once more. Convoys still faced a dangerous journey, as Paradorn and Mordecai remained in chaos hands, and there was the ever present threat of re-invasion from the inner worlds of the Tarlius system. However, the imperium had been spared from total collapse, at least for a time.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Hive Fleet R’lyeh stronger than anticipated

On Hexis general Konev was becoming worried by the emerging Tyranid threat, so in 04.019M42 he detached a force to investigate the ruins to the north east of the imperial sector. For this action, the Omsk cavalry were employed, supported by Carnodon tanks. However, the patrol got into trouble when they encountered strong vanguard forces of Hive Fleet R’Lyeh. 

The Tyranids gunned down large amounts of the imperial cavalry, and to the imperial guards’ distress, the cavalry charges that did hit home failed to have the devastating effect on the xenos creatures. The Carnadons too struggled to hit their targets, as the xenos appeared extremely adept at hiding and skulking amongst the ruins. 

The commanding colonel was killed, and his second in command ordered a retreat. The entire area was marked perdita, and Konev was forced to build defences against the new threat to his flank. 

Operation Thunder

Operation Thunder was led and organised by Captain Lydoro of the Imperial Fist’s 4th company. Originally intended as a shock assault to overcome all the chaos strongholds on Tarlius IV, the failure of operation Restless to neutralise chaos ground defences and garrisons, forced a late change of plan. Instead of multiple lightning assaults, the astartes would carry out a single precision strike to take possession of the planet’s space port, effectively isolating the remaining pockets of chaos resistance, which could be mopped up later. 

The major drawback of the new plan was that it was entirely predictable. The Emerald Serpent could, and did, concentrate their elite forces at the space port, intending to annihilate the attackers, dealing a fatal blow to the imperium’s hopes of reestablishing a presence in the Foramen Interdictum. 

The Loyalist Astartes began with an orbital bombardment, which caused significant damage, before following up with a massive orbital drop against the space port. The Imperial Fists dropped just outside the chaos defences, before moving en masse towards the enemy. 

The imperial attack suffered severe issues with their orbital drop. Dropping in such a small area meant some forces had to be delayed, and miscommunications meant that the initial assault went in without the support of the space marine hellblasters. This lack of firepower at the start of the assault led to the Fists taking heavy casualties. 

Worse was to follow, as the imperial knight support exploded catastrophically, injuring or killing many battle brothers, just as the astartes reached the outlying sentries. It didn’t help that the loyalists were facing not only elite gunfire and Regiments of the traitor Darrantine Guard, but the Emerald Serpents’ most powerful psykers and daemon princes. Amongst these elites, a bezerk chain weapon wielding champion of chaos managed to reach the imperial Fists’ lines as they advanced, disrupting the attack significantly and causing even more casualties. 

Eventually however, despite the death toll, the Imperial Fists fought stubbornly, massed bolter fore eventually taking its toll on the defenders. Through sheer effort of will and determination, the Loyalist Astartes reached and pushed into the chaos defences, destroying their fortifications with close combat weapons to break them open. Eventually, as 2004.019M42 the traitor resistance had been broken and the operation moved towards clearing out isolated pockets of Darrantine resistance. What remained of the elite Emerald Serpent units abandoned the space port. All those in the space port itself were massacred by the vengeful imperial angels of death. 

Heavy casualties aside, operation Thunder had achieved its main objective, and General Bessas could breathe a sigh of relief. For now. The remaining garrisons and defensive positions around Tarlius IV would still need to be dealt with before the imperium could use the space port, and its vital facilities. Tarlius IV was needed as a base to ensure convoys through the Foramen Interdictum could resume once more. 

Operation Restless

The fleet engagement around Tarlius IV occurred on 2004.019M42, as Gorshkov’s battlegroup swept into high orbit around the planet. Led by the Emperor Class battleship Leipzig, the imperial fleet had been specially readied for the operation, boasting a large complement of torpedo bomber attack craft, and atmosphere capable fighters and bombers, intended to blast apart the chaos defences on the world below. Relatively few guard units were embarked on board, and there were no troop transports, as the ground assault - operation Thunder, would in the main be carried out by the Imperial Fists. 

Attempting to prevent the landings were the vessels loyal to the Plague God. Nominally part of Tragean’s extended fleet, the formation led by the Despoiler class Irredeemable Apostate, owed their allegiance to Nurgle first and foremost, and had answered the call of Mortarions followers. Many of the chaos ships were carrying Death Guard units, and the devastation class cruisers similarly carried large numbers of Hellblades, forces which would intercept the imperial bombers before they could complete their mission. 

Both sides had an intriguing conundrum. Gorshkov’s mission had three overriding concerns. First, to launch waves of attack craft against chaos defences and garrisons, so that the Imperial Fists could complete their planetstrike in one overwhelming assault. Second, to damage the enemy fleet and force it from the system, before it could join up with Stahl’s forces or those of the Emerald Serpent. Finally, Gorshkov knew that heavy losses to his fleet - whatever the losses inflicted on the traitors, jeopardised the overall success of the operation. With those competing aims, the imperial fleet arrived at Tarlius IV at 12:00 standard time. 

As the chaos vessels closed with the planet, the battleship came under sustained fire from the imperial fleet, taking heavy damage from Gorshkov’s three nova cannons. However, at 12:22 disaster befell the imperial fleet. Port Arthur, on the starboard wing of the formation, took a lucky hit from the hades class Pustulent. The lances pierced her loaded launch bays, detonating their ordnance and destroying the ship. With one blow the chaos fleet had immediately got the upper hand. 

The plaguefleet divided its forces, with their flagship and the two devastations taking up station on one side of the planet, disgorging waves of fighters and traitor space marine craft which would lie in wait for the imperial navy vessels. The other vessels, lead by the two slaughters Dark Omen and Doombringer, swung past the planet, approaching Leipzig from behind, crippling her with short range gun power, along with lances from Pustulent, which lurked in a stand-off position. 

Leipzig took heavy damage and by 12:30 was on fire and struggling to fight back. However, waves of torpedo bombers took revenge on the chaos fleet, crippling Dark Omen and setting her ablaze. The chaos vessel disengaged at 12:39, but the other slaughter, Doombringer, was not so lucky. Wracked by explosions the nurgle cruiser broke apart at 12:51, handing the advantage to the imperium. 

The advantage was short lived however, as the continued gunfire from the rest of the chaos fleet forced Gorshkov to retreat, disengaging his flagship, Leipzig. The imperial fleet had also failed to destroy Irredeemable Apostate, and the chaos battleship was able to disgorge her entire cargo of Death Guard onto the planet. Eventually however the Despoiler class was reduced to a blazing hulk, mass drivers pushing the ruined vessel out of orbit and into system space. The battleship would later be recovered and salvaged by the traitor forces, but for now the nurgle fleet had just three cruisers remaining. 

At 13:21, repeated attacks from the bombers launched by Plagueclaw almost destroyed Cape Sarych, but the imperial cruiser’s captain was able to steer his ship away from certain destruction, thanks to heroic damage control by his crew. 

Now the odds were almost even, but Gorshkov had the strategic advantage. The chaos vessels were easy targets as they orbited Tarlius IV to unload more forces onto the world, but the nova cannons struggled to take aim at their targets, as their cogitators failed to adjust their lead to account for the near stationary targets. 

At 13:28 the Plagueclaw was severely damaged by conventional gunfire, and was forced to disengage, while three minutes later the remaining imperial vessels finished off Reaver. 

The chaos fleet had lost the battle in space, and were forced to regroup and lick their wounds. However, the imperial navy craft that made it to their targets were systematically massacred by the newly arrived chaos interceptors, and the Tarlius defence garrison was now bolstered by the arrival of significant Death Guard and Traitor Guard forces from the Host of Eschar. Gorshkov had failed to destroy the ground targets, meaning the Imperial Fists’ planetary assault would now have to be restricted to the space port. Tarlius IV would now not fall to imperial control in one swift action, but the strategic “draw” in space was satisfactory to Admiral Stark and the overall commander, General Martinus Bessas. Now imperial hopes turned to the astartes strike cruiser that appeared in low orbit. Operation Thunder was about to begin. 

Imperium plan operation Restless Thunder

Operation Restless Thunder was planned by the Imperium to reestablish a presence in the Foramen Interdictum. The loss of Destino had caused critical supply issues in the Imperium Nihilis, leaving the armies in the Perseus Deeps and Hadron Expanse woefully short of equipment and ammunition. The operation, to be led by General Martinus Bessas, a personal friend of the sector commander. Lord Maximus knew the urgency of breaking through the Foramen, not least for his own survival as commander of the imperium in the sector. 

The operation would combine space and ground operations in an attack on Tarlius from the imperial side. Launching from Vastrid, the imperial fleet under Admiral Stark was given overall command of naval operations, while on the ground, Bessas would be responsible for the ground assault. 

Operation Restless

The operation in space coordinated the actions of three battlegroups and a division. Admiral Hughes was kept in charge of actions at Mordecai, but to some, the appointment of Stark to overall operations at Tarlius indicated Maximus and his entourage were seeking to gain tighter control of imperial operations sector wide. 

Stark appointed his battlegroup and that of Hector to protect the flanks of the imperial invasion. Meanwhile, a division of cruisers would blockade the jump areas of the system, while Admiral Gorshkov would lead the assault on the target, the space port at Tarlius IV. 

Stark had three main objectives, which would often prove contradictory and challenging to complete at the same time. First, to destroy the enemy fleet and force the enemy away from the target world. Second to land as many of the attacking forces on Tarlius IV, to exploit the bridgehead which would hopefully be secured by operation Thunder, and to avoid taking heavy losses. The competing objectives would in the end prove to be beyond the Admiral’s capability to deliver. 

Operation Thunder

To secure the bridgehead on Tarlius IV, with its vital space port and facilities, the imperium could count on the support of astartes forces. The Imperial Fists diverted from their reinforcement of Mordecai in order to aid the new operation at Tarlius, but knew that they would only be able to secure the spaceport. The Fists began preparing for their assault, expecting strong resistance from the Emerald Serpent. Defences were scanned, but it appeared the Iron Warriors were keeping their forces on Tarlius Prime, along with Stahl’s main battle fleet. 

Both operations would need to succeed in order to establish a presence in Tarlius, and eventually force a passage through the Foramen. 

The Imperium order of battle 

Operation Restless 

  • Overall command: Admiral Stark 
  • Battlegroup Gorshkov 
  • Battlegroups Stark and Hector (flank protection)
  • Chatfield division (blockade)

Operation Thunder 

  • Overall command: Martinus Bessas
  • Imperial Fists 4th company 
  • 12 Novgorod Regiments: 10 Infantry 2 Cavalry supported by irregular formations of the faithful
  • 2 Last of Sycorax Super Heavy Regiments 
  • 4 Reserve Librian Regiments 

Chaos order of Battle

  • Plaguefleet of Eschar
  • Iron Warriors Perseus Fleet

Tarlius IV

Emerald Serpent: 

  • Thousand Sons. Unknown strength 
  • Daemonic allies 
  • 6 Darrantine Regiments 

Host of Eschar 

  • Brotherhood of Suppuration
  • 4th colony Poxmongers 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Hexis: Tyranids ambush Librian Convoy

The forces of Libria were still recorded on the imperial order of battle, although since the loss of the system to the Tau alliance, the remaining Librian regiments were viewed with some distrust by imperial generals, particularly those from Novgorod, whose forces were now the most numerous of the emperor’s faithful deployed in the Aleph sector.

Rather than waste manpower and equipment however, the Librians were kept in service, any losses gradually being replaced with levies from local systems. Eventually the regiments would be entirely non Librian, and would receive their new designations, but for now existing Librian formations were mostly held in reserve, or given duties away from the front line, and were never fielded against alliance armies, for fear of defection.

General Konev received three Librian regiments in 04.019M42, and although he was grateful for the fresh troops, he kept these forces on duties in the rear areas of the imperial sector on Hexis. One such mission was to escort nuclear ammunition from the scratch built space port to the front lines, a journey of several hundred kilometres through barren wastelands and old ruins north of Praxis.

On 1204.019M42 the first of these Librian escorted convoys was travelling this route, when scouts observed unusual readings from a ruined settlement that sat astride the main highway to the front lines. They had not expected any friendlies in the area, so moved forward with caution, concerned that irregular traitor forces may have infiltrated behind Konev’s front lines.

As the imperial mechanised convoy rolled into the ruins, they received a nasty shock, as Tyranid xenos of an unusual phenotype revealed themselves with a hail of biological ordnance, fired from beasts in the shattered buildings. This was not the usual pattern for the xenos either, a foe the Librians had faced in the Nemesis wars on Alphe and Betor. Expecting to be rushed by a swarm of swift footed man sized creatures, the imperial convoy lost valuable time as the Tyranids refused to play to an outdated rulebook. This Tyranid force was different, fielding massive bio weapons mounted in tank like creatures, including one (subsequently code named “Frank”) that was larger than any Leman Russ.

The Librian convoy recovered from the shock of the xenos ambush well, using their flame tanks to root out and destroy the smaller creatures, while the heavy tanks fired volley after volley into the larger creatures. The infantry accompanying the tanks suffered a horrendous fate, as they were scythed apart by living shrapnel or melted by biological ejecta, but despite the poor performance of the Librian Executioner pattern battle tanks, the Tyranids were having severe issues inflicted damage on the Librian armour.

The fighting became brutal in the close confines of the ruined settlement, but the Librian commander managed to order his vehicles to break off to the south, running the gauntlet of the xenos, gunning their engines to escape into open ground. Many vehicles made it, but the imperial convoy lost almost half of their vehicles. Crucially however, enough of the Librian tanks remained to protect the armament convoy, and the heavy beast “Frank” was eventually taken down by massed fire from the Librian lines. The imperial commander died fighting in vain to protect his remaining infantry, as he watched the heavy armour escape towards Praxis. The losses had been heavy, but the xenos ambush was prevented from cutting the imperial supply lines.

Analysis of the xenos by the inquisition designated the Tyranids “Hive Fleet R’lyeh”, and raised the threat level to Cerulean. A few Genestealers was understandable on Hexis, but this new information including reports of large xenos creatures indicated an infestation level far in excess of what should be expected. With no hive fleet detected in the region, the imperium now faced a conundrum. Where was the rest of Hive Fleet R’lyeh?

Iron Warriors strike north on Mordecai Tersius

On 1404.019M42 the Iron Warriors of the 144th Grand Battalion set out on another offensive on Mordecai Tersius. Warsmith Stahl had subordinated the Mordecai Cohort to Commander Tryphon Zabinas of the 2nd Grand Company, a known member of the Apolakron. To recent Imperial records however he is known as “Tryphon the Desecrator”. 

Iron Warrior intelligence reports that Kutuzov was massing a large number of infantry and moving armoured formations to support, in the northern city of Crassen. It appeared the Imperial forces intended to create a hardpoint on which the forces of Chaos could break themselves upon. Rapidly assembling a Dekathla comprised largely of two armoured centuries, the Iron Warriors attacked the Imperial positions, with a host of mechanical monsters. Along the centre, Tryphon accompanied his daemon engines as his compatriot Warpsmith Balas took the Hellbrutes up the flanks. Anchoring the back lines were Contemptor Dreadnought Gryphicaz and a Decimator, both acting as artillery support. Without hesitation the armoured monstrosities attacked, screeching daemonic cries from their warhorns. The Novgorod Guard simply watched as the host approached, lacking in long range anti tank they simply waited until the traitors were in range. Skulking in the ruins were the advance forces of the Novgorod as well as a Vindicare assassin, the Havocs levelled half the ruins with their chainguns at the infantry, supported by a Defilers the infantry were cut down, allowing for the remainder of the force to focus upon the Vindicare. Despite the expert skill of the Vindicare stopping a proper bead, the Iron Warriors in typical fashion simply fired so much ordinance on the Vindicare position that it was impossible to tell if the assassin was killed by fallen masonry or the C Beams of Gryphicaz.

The Novgorod had simply waited as their allies were cut down, the priests of the Ecclesiarchy struggling to hold back the hordes of fanatics. Now in range of the Guards lasguns, the whole line opened up upon the lead Maulerfiend, badly wounding the creature through sheer weight of fire. To the Novgorod Officers dismay Tryphon and his entourage wove both the warp and both mundane methods to rapidly heal the Daemon engine, repairing almost all the injuries inflicted. With even more magic the Maulerfiends are hurled forward into the infantry lines, for the Novgorod it appears this is where the Emperor intervened. Away from the controlling influence of the Warpsmiths, the daemons bound within their confinement, thrashed wildly to escape as much as to lash out at the human soldiers. The Crusaders form a shield wall around the first Maulerfiend while the Infantry stab bayonets into the monstrosity, blunting the attack and even wounding the creatures. At a curt order the infantry withdraw 5 paces and form a firing line, blinding the battlefield in sheer weight of las and plasma fire. As the seering retina burn clears both the Maulerfiends lay dead and the first wave of the assault is halted. Further intervention arrives in the form of two tank commanders, the outriders of the reinforcements to the hardpointed position. Levelling the Demolisher Cannon, the lead Leman Russ hits the Defiler square, nearly breaking it in two. The infantry, buoyed by success, advance on the Iron Warriors, wiping out the Havocs before they can level their chainguns, what started as a devastating armoured assault risks becoming a rout for the forces of Chaos. Tryphon and his entourage once again weave their skills and repair the Defiler, restoring it from a barely functioning wreck to a fully operational warmachine. The Dekathla, knowing its orders to destroy the armour as a priority, levels their weapons against the Leman Russ reinforcements, who are both destroyed with criss crossing anti tank fire.

The Novgorod, gaining pace, charge Tryphon, the Defiler and the Warpsmiths entourage. The Defiler is finally killed with concentrated las and plasma fire. As the fanatics charge Tryphon he unleashes gouts of warpfire upon them and two more fall to accurate bolt pistol fire before the Lieutenant is cut in half by Tryphons axe. Falling back at rapid pace, the artillery support arrives for the Imperial forces, only to be destroyed by anti tank fire before it can inflict significant damage. Tryphon rapidly outpaced his pursuers and returned to the line of Iron Warriors, the Hellbrutes and Balas moving into the backline of the Novgorod. The Vulture gunship and final Leman Russ armoured column arrive, destroying one Hellbrute and severely injuring another. The Decimator and Contemper Gryphicaz levelled their C-Beams and speared the Vulture out the sky while the Hellbrutes charged the Leman Russ line, obliterating the last of the armour.

Despite the impressive Las discipline of the Novgorod bringing down three Daemon Engines, they had burned through most of their ammunition. The Novgorod were systematically cut down as they fell back, the supply issues in the sector ruining any hope of a defence. The Iron Warriors overan Cressen without a fight and took control of most of the central peninsula. There was nothing Kutuzov could do to stop the advance other than regroup in the far north and hope that reinforcements would arrive.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

New hive detected on Hexis

The front line on Hexis had gone cold by 04.019M42. While exploration of the underground ruins continued, the imperium were unable to take advantage of the havoc caused by their nuclear weaponry, as supplies had all but dried up. However, explorator teams continued to dig in the ruins of the Imperial sector of the planet, keen to unearth whatever knowledge the barren sands would yield. 

On 0604.019M42, a distress signal from one such Mechanicum team was answered by the imperial fists. There the astartes were confronted by the Tyranid menace, but not genestealers as had been encountered before. This time the imperium were facing a small xenos army. The Imperial Fists fought valiantly to allow the explorator team to escape, taking not only the ancient alien artefacts they had unearthed, but also precious biological information about the emergent Tyranid threat. 

None of the astartes returned alive, but their sacrifice had allowed the Adeptus Mechanicus to return to the imperial HQ, where General Konev demanded to know the extent of this new threat. The analysis by the Mechanicus Biologis was alarming. This was no splinter fleet of Nemesis but an entirely new strain. Named hive fleet R’lyeh, there was an urgent need now to find out how much of the vast swathes of Hexis not explored now harboured this dangerous enemy. 

Mordecai: the battle of Skryme Gap

Following the expected invasion of Mordecai Tersius and the loss of Slaydon, the Iron Warriors were soon reinforced by further units from Mordecai Primaris, notably the Host of Eschar, a division of Mortarion’s Death Guard. The new nurgle force was not stopped from arriving at Tersius, as the imperial fleet knew that to risk a decisive engagement at Mordecai would court disaster. Instead General Kutuzov, in overall command at Mordecai, was ordered to inflict as much damage as he could on the defenders, while the Grey Knights and Imperial Fists rushed to their aid. 

The immediate danger to Kutuzov’s army lay to the east of Skryme, as there was a real chance that his divisions south of lake Peri would be encircled and destroyed by the new arrivals, which by 04.019M42 were massing in the imperial front lines. The nurgle army was huge, heavily outnumbering the loyalists, and there was no realistic chance of holding ground. Kutuzov immediately ordered a withdrawal of his forces around lake Peri, but he needed to delay the Death Guard. This soon developed into the battle for Skryme isthmus, a narrow strip of land connecting the eastern and western continents. Only 25km wise at its narrowest point, Kutuzov’s Novgorod Guard were ordered to hold the eastern entrance open for as long as possible to allow the withdrawal of his disconnected divisions. 

The Host of Eschar were expecting the defence at the choke point, and massed their best troops to force their way through the imperial defences. Led by the Great Lord Choleromyalgius, the Brotherhood of the Furuncle division assaulted the imperial prepared positions, advancing slowly but deliberately towards the enemy. The Novgorod, supported by many fanatics of the imperial cult, and snipers positioned in the highest ruins, saw the wave of plague marines and Poxwalkers shambling towards them, and opened fire. 

The initial performance by the snipers was poor, and remained so throughout the battle, but the Novgorod tanks managed to clear the first wave of nurgle forces, but more replaced them. Relentlessly the Death Guard pressed on, trying to overwhelm their enemy. Inevitably the chaos horde reached the imperial front lines, with their daemon princes wrecking the tanks closest to the front line. The imperial force didn’t break however, and as the Poxwalkers and plague marines charged into contact, the imperial cult counter charged, laying down their lives in the name of the emperor. 

As soon as the first wave of defenders had given their lives, the remaining defenders unleashed another violent cannonade into the chaos lines, once again thinning their ranks. This process continued for hours, the imperial forces gradually but inexorably losing men and equipment. However, the line did not break, and while their comrades died at the isthmus defences, thousands more were rushing across the land bridge to the safety of the imperial held west Tersius. Eventually however, the Novgorod were close to being overwhelmed, but then the order came in. Withdraw, the armies in the south have been saved. What few defenders remained then disengaged, allowing the Death Guard to occupy the imperial positions. 

In the coming days the Host of Eschar took their objective, taking back the city of Skryme from the imperium, and securing a bridgehead on west Tersius. However, the encirclement of the imperial armies had not been achieved, and the chaos losses were significant. It was a chaos advance, but Kutuzov had secured an important strategic victory.