Sunday, January 17, 2021

World Eaters counter attack at Abrax

The offensive on the ground at Mordecai Secundus should have been entering a new phase following the victory over the chaos fleet, but the power of Astralis was finally beginning to have its effect. Due to the daemon world's proximity, while large armies could not be delivered to Mordecai Secundus without the support of a powerful space fleet, smaller units could. By daemonic ritual and then teleportation, since late 020M42 significant reinforcements had been joining the war on the ground, as roving warbands sought to prove themselves against the hated enemy.
The latest of these smaller military formations was a force of World Eater traitor marines. Enthusiastic to shed the blood of their enemies for their bloodthirsty patron deity, the World Eaters smashed into Kutuzov's lines on 1401.021M42, forcing the imperial army back and requiring the intervention of the Hammers of the Emperor as a rapid reaction force. The imperial counter attack did not go well however. The loyalist astartes were able to take back the centre ground in the salient the World Eaters had created, using their terminators to hold the position for some hours.
On the flanks however, raptors and beserkers ran amok, brutally tearing apart any enemy they could find, and penetrating deep into the rear areas of the front line, disrupting supply lines and making the ground held by the Hammers' untenable. The loyalist space marines withdrew, and Kutuzov pulled back his line to a more defensible set of positions, while the World Eaters caused carnage amongst any formations that could not retreat in time. Just days later the chaos warband had melted away, no doubt into the wilderness of the lava coated wilderness, and the Imperium was able to regain its ground. The damage to equipment and supplies however was extensive, and it would be many weeks before a decisive push could be resumed.

Astartes create space corridor to Mordecai Secundus

With Kutuzov's army once again on the offensive, the strain on the logistics train from the jump point outside the orbit of Mordecai Tersius, now in Imperial hands, to the warzone on Mordecai Secundus, was becoming extreme. The Imperial war machine devoured equipment, food and lives at an insatiable rate, and the convoys to the inner worlds were always fraught with danger. Having to pass the chaos fleet installation with the baleful glow of the daemon world Astralis forever hanging above them, many crews simply went mad. In addition to this, there was always the constant danger of the chaos fleet making a sortie, scattering or destroying convoys and starving Kutuzov's men.
The imperial fleet made sure they adequately protected the convoys, but in early 01.021M42 the clamour for offensive action against the chaos fleet rose to a crescendo, and while the admirals of the imperial navy were unable to do anything meaningful that wouldn't result in a suicide mission against the heavily protected chaos base, the Hammers of the Emperor chapter came up with their own plan. Knowing that their fleet would be too tempting a target, and too much of a threat to go unchallenged, fully half the chapter's fleet strength arrived in the system as 021M42 began. They began their operations by hunting down and destroying raiders in the innermost parts of the Mordecai system, where the enemy would hide amongst the solar flares and radiation belts around the system's star.
Eventually the chaos fleet could no longer sit idle at their base, and moved in strength towards the radiation zone near to the star itself. Initially the Hammers' fleet appeared to be unaware of the threat, and the initial action saw a lucky salvo cripple a strike cruiser due to uncontrolled internal fires. The astartes fleet reacted quickly however, seizing upon the difficult conditions of the flare zone and managing to coordinate their efforts on a pair of carnage class cruisers that had wandered out of their assigned fleet position. Between them, three of the Hammers' strike cruisers managed to board and capture one cruiser, and set the other ablaze. The fires ran out of control on the chaos cruiser, eventually leading it to death spiral into the Mordecai star itself.
Meanwhile the astartes battle barge managed to weather a hail of fire from the rest of the chaos fleet, but the action itself was marked by poor accuracy and uncoordinated fire, exacerbated by the intra fleet communications difficulties caused by the close proximity of the star. Eventually the chaos acheron class vessel was heavily damaged, and as the three strike cruisers formed up with the fleet flagship, the chaos fleet, led by their own battleship, declined any further action. The chaos fleet melted away into the confusion of solar activity, and the Space Marines claimed a minor victory.
Minor as the success was, the defeat of the chaos fleet in the inner system allowed the armies on the ground at Mordecai Secundus to be supplied with much less danger to the supply vessels. This allowed Kutuzov and his allies to plan in earnest the next offensive. The chaos warlords on the ground however had other plans.
Fleet action losses:
Imperium: 2 strike cruisers destroyed plus escorts
Chaos: 1 carnage class cruiser destroyed, one captured, 1 Acheron class crippled

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Tau defend new gains from opportunist ork attack

It wasn't long before other forces in the Hadron Expanse attempted to take advantage of the new expansion by the Tau Empire. It may have been coincidental, or simply blind luck that led to a shambolic ork fleet arriving in the Echo Reach system just days after most of the Tau military forces had embarked on their invasion of Awarath, but the timing seemed deliberate.
The attack on Echo Reach's outer worlds by the orks was predictably barbaric and violent, but the Tau had left behind a strong defensive force, centred around kroot auxilliaries and Remora stealth drones. These forces proved ideally suited for dealing with the greenskin threat, and following a set of brutal battles, the orks were swiftly cleansed from the system. The tau had fought off the threat and confirmed themselves as now the most powerful faction in the Hadron Expanse.

Malkaor heads Arawath assault, captures Percival

For many months the Tau had been preparing for their next expansion of their Hadron Expansion Sphere. During 018-020M42 the Tau expansion had been a moderate success. The Empire had established a strong colony and military base at Echo Reach, acquired a number of other systems and taken Hussaria from the Imperium. The Alliance of the Tau, Eldar and Federacy had weakened since 018M42, and while the Aeldari pursued their own aims, the Tau became the driving force behind the expansion and conquest in the Hadron Expanse, as internal pressures and lack of resources forced the Federacy to scale back their participation in the expansion of their territory.

Malkaor was given overall command of all forces in the Hadron Expanse during 019M42, and he had learnt from previous expeditions. The war on Hussaria had been bloody and protracted, and the foothold on Boltarean against chaos had resulted in the strengthening of chaos defences, making further gains more difficult. Keen to avoid such long and drawn out conflicts, since mid 019M42 Malkaor had been planning the next phase of operations against the Imperium using the tau military doctrine of overwhelming force and surprise. Awarath was his target, as this was not only a key system in the line of Tau expansion, but it was also general Percival's sector HQ.

The invasion of Awarath took place as 021M42 began, with a massive tau battlefleet arriving in the system. Caught by surprise the Imperial battlefleet was unable to prevent the tau from landing a significant force on Awarath Prime, but general Percival had not been completely unaware of the threat from the Tau. Defending his HQ was a large force of imperial guard, as well as super heavy vehicles and a mighty Reaver Titan. In addition, as soon as the invasion began, space marine forces converged in order to defend the seat of Imperial power in the Expanse.

The assault by the tau was particularly brutal and decisive. Using Mantas to deliver kroot directly into the enemy trench lines threw the imperial defence into disarray, while overwhelming tau firepower was directed at the Reaver titan. The Blood Angels chapter responded by charging into the fray, but were soon bogged down in fighting stealth teams that stubbornly refused to die, blunting the impact of the astartes intervention. Seeing that General Percival was directing the battle from well behind his lines, Malkoar sent in his elite crisis suit drop teams, managing eventually to capture the imperial general and spirit him away from the battlefield.

Without Percival the command of the confused battle now passed to the astartes, with the Space Wolves attempting to deploy their forces via Thunderhawk into the heart of Malkaor's firebase. Disrupting this formation was key to throwing back the tau forces, but the Thunderhawk was soon shot down by massed firepower. Despite this, the Space Wolves managed to teleport their elite terminators into the heart of Malkaor's headquarters, with their librarian reaching Malkaor and severely wounding him.

By this time however it was too late. The astartes teleport action was too weak to disrupt the tau formations, and despite losing Malkaor's guiding hand, the tau had brought down the mighty Reaver titan, dealt with the astartes counter attack and broken the back of imperial resistance. Percival's HQ was overrun, and other hunter cadres were simultaneously establishing strongpoints all over the world. A few imperial forces managed to flee into the wilderness regions of the planet, and the space marines who remained were able to withdraw their forces. The Imperial system however had been totally overwhelmed in less than 24 hours, and as the tau fleet set up a defensive ring around Awarath Prime, the imperium were forced to leave the system. Now the tau began the process of rapidly securing their gains, as a multitude of Earth Caste vessels entered behind the war fleet, turning the system into a new stronghold colony for the tau empire.

The Imperium were in no shape to counter attack. With Percival now in the custody of the tau empire, the fleets withdrew to Dnatha and Vanir, desperately signaling to Sector Commander Titus Luthor that more forces were necessary. They had been saying for months that the weakening of forces in the Hadron Expanse to prosecute the war on Mordecai would have inevitable consequences, and they had been proved right.

Mordecai Secundus: Kutuzov pushes into mining complex

At the end of 020M42 the new momentum for Imperial forces continued to build. Enjoying fresh supplies and new troop deployments, general Kutuzov was able to push forward his front lines, aiming to recapture the Abrax mines from the traitors. Still relatively intact, the mines remained the essential strategic assets of the world. Initially slated as objectives as far back as 10.019M42, the Imperium had not managed to permanently secure them. Gone were the hopes of a swift conquest of the world, now even Kutuzov freely admitted the capture of just the second planet of the Mordecai system would take years. The whole system potentially decades, but eventually the Imperium would prevail. How could it not?

In response to the latest offensive against the Abrax complex, the traitor forces summoned a host of Slaaneshi daemons in the path of the Novgorod Hussars. The Greater daemons were dealt with by the imperial tanks, but the battle soon descended into a swirling melee of daemonettes and cavalry. The support of hellhound flametanks proved invaluable, annihilating many of the warp spawned abominations and allowing the loyalist horsemen to banish the remaining daemons back to the warp.

The success against the daemon horde allowed the slow but steady advance into the mining complex to continue, and by early 01.021M42 the imperium had won back more than half of the important mines. Concerns over the exposure of the imperial forces to daemonic influence was raised and constantly monitored, but it was assumed that none of the participants in the battle would live long enough to carry any taint off world anyway.