Monday, February 28, 2022

Tau expedition suffers defeat in the Rifts but Tanis V cleared once more

03.022M42 began with continued violence in the Hadron Expanse. On Tanis, the Hammers of the Emperor had managed to land a small force to defend the base that the Adeptus Custodes had managed to establish before moving on. The tau however had other ideas and attacked in force. Of particular note was the accurate and punishing firepower of their broadside battlesuits, and within hours of the tau attack beginning the majority of the Hammers of the Emperor were either dead or wounded. However, the tau force was unable to take the base, with the Hammer's commander almost single-handedly turning back the tau attack.

The defence of the base could not be continued with just one unwounded astartes however, no matter how superhuman he may be. Fortunately the adeptus mechanicus were on hand to send in units to reinforce the base on Tanis V, and they prepared for another tau onslaught. Before long it came, this time with even more ferocity and fresh forces. It was clear the tau had the strategic upper hand, and the new force appeared to be from a different group of tau entirely. This was largely academic to the outcome of the battle, as the adeptus mechanicus, surrounded and pummelled by xenos firepower, were unable to hold on to the base. Evacuating the remaining Hammers of the Emperor as they retreated, the Imperium was once again forced to cede Tanis V to the tau, regrouping at their one and only base on the outermost planet of the system.

Mordecai: Combined assault surrounds city of Festergax

Having fully secured the Sathugar mines, as 03.022M42 began, general Kutuzov planned his next move with his generals. His guard forces were still not fully recovered from the loss of Festergax, but his war council agreed that neither had the forces of chaos. Striking hard now at the flanks of the salient the Emerald Serpent had created might encircle a large amount of chaos forces and eventually retake Festergax.

The plan set, the Imperium utilised their elite assets in the new offensive. In the south, a newly arrived force of Adeptus Custodes struck at Death Guard forces and quickly took all their important objectives. The Death Guard fought stubbornly, but had lost the initiative to the elite imperial astartes and were unable to stop the Custodes from opening up a corridor in the chaos lines through which Kutuzov poured his men through. The way to Festergax lay open, but the real fighting would take place further north.

It was on the rocky outcrops of the Mekken Plateau that the chaos forces had deployed their titan legion, as they correctly believed that Kutuzov would be most likely to utilise his own gods of war with an attack from the north. On 0103.022M42, as the Death Guard were being pushed back in the south, the Imperial titans walked, driving south against their bitter enemies - Legio Mortis.

The titanic war engines battled each other for hours on the scorched plains of the Mekken plateau. Despite losing a Reaver titan in the process, the chaos titans were gradually pushed back by the fury of the battle. Again, total destruction wasn't necessary for the imperial plan to succeed, and another hole in the chaos lines was opened up. Adeptus Mechanicus and guard forces rushed through the gap and by 0403.022M42 they had linked with the southern pincer to the west of the city of Festergax. Now if the city fell the encirclement would be complete and Kutuzov would achieve a major strategic victory.

Mordecai: Ur'Ghar falls to chaos but Sathugar Mines retaken

On Mordecai Secundus the end of 02.022M42 saw a resumption of heavy fighting on the front lines between the forces of chaos and the Imperium under general Kutuzov. There had been a relative lull following the Fotta Rhan offensive, as both sides regrouped. Now however, both sides launched simultaneous offensives.

In the south, the Word Bearers joined the fray, launching a full frontal assault on the city of Ur'Ghar. This was an unexpected axis of advance by the chaos forces, and Kutuzov's armies were not ready to face such a determined assault on the imperial held city. The traitor astartes made rapid progress, and the loss of the imperial commander seriously hampered command and control during the defence of the ruined city. In a serious setback for Kutuzov he was unable to do anything meaningful as the imperial guard were first surrounded then annihilated by the Word Bearers. Another strategic city had been lost.

In the central sector however, news was better. Kutuzov had been planning a grand strategic offensive looking to take advantage of the large salient that had developed around Festergax since the Fotta Rhan offensive. The first blow fell in the south, as Valdorgrad guard - a full mechanised regiment, pushed north to secure the remaining Sathufgar mines, launching their attack directly into Emerald Serpent forces. This was where Kutuzov had deployed his best troops and greatest fire support, and while the Emerald Serpent attempted to counter attack with Terminator forces on the right flank of the advance, the left flank was unable to hold the imperial advance. As the battle wore on, accurate and heavy artillery and tank fire decimated large swathes of the elite chaos forces, while the imperial guard only suffered losses to their light tanks and armoured vehicles, as well as easily replaceable infantry. As a last ditch effort, two chaos sorcerers attempted to use their knowledge of the warp to make a surgical strike on the imperial tank commander. They were successful, but the rest of the regiment soon cut them both down, breaking the chaos counter attack and securing the important Sathugar mines for the Imperium once more.

Rifts of Hecate activity late 02.022M42

 By the end of 02.022M42 the activity in the Rifts of Hecate was escalating. The orks were making the most progress. Having secured Ferrosiun Prime, a key source of resources, and populated a number of asteroids allowing them to hop between systems in the Rifts, the orks had followed this on by capturing Mendrus Mundi - another metal rich world, where the Bloodfang tribe had begun to churn out various ork war machines and equipment for the greenskin army, which seemed to be rapidly growing in both size and capability.

The next world to be targeted was Mendesum, which had already seen a small force of Death Guard land on the main inhabitable world in order to bring plague to the population. Seeing the chaos force as the most challenging foe, and also just because they were there, the orks dropped almost directly on top of them, spewing out hordes of greenskins accompanied by yet another Stompa. The Death Guard took heavy casualties to the reckless yet effective ork assault, shattering their resistance and removing the chaos presence from the world. Suitably pleased with this outcome, the orks set about enslaving the primative human populace and turning the resources of the world to the production of more weapons. The "plan" for the orks at least, was going well.

The forces of chaos suffered more setbacks in late 02.022M42 as more of their small expeditions were overrun by larger xenos forces. this time it was a band of cultists on Candic Minor, seeking artefacts and knowledge that fell foul of the hive fleet once more. It seemed as if the tyranids had a particular dislike for the chaos interlopers, and again the cultist force summoned a host of daemons in an attempt to protect themselves. This time however it was not merely a genestealer cult - the world of Candic Minor not having a native population. Instead huge tyranid beasts fell upon the deamons, banishing the host back to the warp, although the battle was hard fought. Realising the tyranid threat was too strong for their limited force, the chaos warband retreated. If the forces of chaos wanted to find any of the artefacts it appeared they would need significantly stronger forces than those they currently had available.

In addition to fighting on Candic Minor, the tyranids had been identified as present on Helos Majoris as well. Here, the Sisters of Battle had arrived, deploying a small force of the Order of the Sacred Truth. Only small in number, the main focus of their deployment to the Rifts of Hecate was to identify human populations and bring them into the light of the emperor, and if that failed, cleanse them with the fire of the emperor. On Candic Minor, the small force of Adeptus Sororitas had been made aware of the genestealer cult infestation, and desired to establish whether the entire population was beyond redemption. Patrolling outside of the Imperium held territory, the Sisters soon encountered more than just cultists, being ambushed by fully tyranid forces in a ruined encampment. The Order of the Sacred Truth saw off this threat, but were forced to report their findings to the commander of the Helos Majoris garrison. A full purge of the system could not be ruled out as an option.

Tanis: Custodes return to Tanis V

Having lost Tanis I to the Tau the Imperium were not about to give up on the system. For General Percival while the victory at Hexis was a welcome base in the Hadron Expanse, the expansion of the Tau Empire needed to be stopped, and if the xenos empire took hold of Tanis the strategic situation for the Imperium of Mankind in the Expanse, as well as the expedition to the Rifts of Hecate, would be seriously impaired.

Percival was unable to provide much in the way of reinforcements and barely had enough troops to garrison the base on the outer planet of Tanis VII. Orks were still present on the second ice world in the system but in late 02.022M42 a small force of Adeptus Custodes agreed to carry out a surgical strike on Tanis V. This should provide enough of a perimeter for Percival to land fresh troops, and establish a base of operations at the very least.

On 2402.022M42 the Custodes attacked, taking the tau by surprise and inflicting heavy casualties, including the tau commander. Losing their cohesion the tau withdrew from the base that had been selected for the attack, allowing the Imperium to start work on their own forward base. They hadn't been able to clear the entire world of the xenos, but had gifted the Imperium with a bridgehead from which to conduct further operations. The question now was whether the tau would counter attack.

Mendrus Mundi captured by orks, Genestealers encounter daemons

As 02.022M42 drew to a close, the xenos activity in the Rifts of Hecate continued to increase. By now the Imperial expedition had bogged down at Ferrosiun, and although Ferrosiun 2 had been secured the orks had total control of the inner world. With General Percival facing a Tau invasion of Tanis, many of the forces destined for the Rifts had to be rerouted there, allowing xenos elements to profit while the Imperium stalled.

On Mendrus Mundi, the Imperium had been looking to establish a base, and a lance of Knights had been deployed to protect the initial construction of a base. However, the Bloodfang tribe of orks, already now dominating Ferrosiun I, had managed to reach the adjacent world and were now expanding. The orks had progressed from disorganised mobs to more disciplined armies and now had the capacity to deploy several of the larger ork war engines, including Stompas. This had terrible consequences for the Knights on Mendrus Mundi, who were unable to counter the firepower of these behemoths. By the end of 02.022M42 the Imperium was forced to concede that Mendrus Mundi was now fully under the control of the greenskins, and worries of an incipient Waagh! preyed on the imperial commander's mind.

On Helos Major the Imperium had established a presence, but they were not alone. On the other side of the world from the imperial base, chaos light forces had been searching the world for ancient artefacts, when they were set upon by a genestealer cult. The worlds of the Rifts of Hecate often had nomadic or primitive human settlements as many of the worlds had been settled in the time before the Imperium, but it became apparent that some of these human populations had turned to the worship of the tyranids as gods. Likely as part of the vanguard of an as yet unknown hive fleet, the cults on Helos Major saw the chaos worshipers as invaders, and sent a force against them. 

The cultists however were not without their own mechanism of reinforcement, and turned to the dark gods for aid. Summoning a substantial force of daemons the chaos force was able to extricate itself from the situation and defeat the genestealer cult attack, gaining significant intelligence for their own aims in the process. The chaos forces were not particularly interested in establishing colonies or bases, but did have a base on Calthingum and were particularly interested in finding artefacts of power, rumoured to have been left here following the Horus Heresy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Rifts of Hecate Activity early 022M42

While the Tau tried to secure their bases outside the Rifts of Hecate, the skirmishes within the newly discovered region of space continued apace in early 02.022M42. On the world of Medrus Mundi, the orks became extremely agitated. Having seen their brethren looting and then gaining control of Ferrosium Prime in the face of continued resistance from the main imperial expedition on the second planet, the orks on Mendrus Mundi first gleefully put down a small band of chaos forces, despite the sudden appearance of a daemonic horde, then hunted down and annihilated a Genestealer cult.

Imperial observers now saw Mendrus Mundi as effectively being under ork control, and many began worrying about the strength of the greenskins in the Rifts, as now two worlds had all but become fully ork controlled. If the greenskins could find enough scrap to construct a fleet and/or large war engines, the risk of a full blown Waagh! spilling across the Rifts region, and potentially out of it and into the Hadron Expanse could not be underestimated.

The orks were not the only xenos threat the Imperium and the forces of chaos - still trying to locate arcane and ancient knowledge to further their aims - had to be concerned with. The tyranids were also present in the Rifts of Hecate. Unsurprising given the discovery of the gene strain of "R'Lyeh" on Hexis, that this particular hive fleet was also in the Expanse as a whole. The presence of genestealer cults gave more weight to the theory that this hive fleet had effectively "seeded" many worlds in the region with its genetic code, and the tyranids were acting more like a virus than a conquering army. 

This theory was no comfort to the Thousand Sons on Candic Minor however, who faced the full force of the "virus" in the form of monstrous beasts the size of tanks. Unable to deal with the power of the tyranid bio-engines the Thousand Sons were forced to abandon their investigation of the world after being severely mauled by the stampeeding tyranid beasts.

Tau take New Slough despite presence of Fecus Major

While the Tau were conducting their new offensive in the imperial contested system of Tanis, the Empire also made significant gains in the Boltarean system. Held by the forces of chaos for several years, the system remained the last bastion of chaos power in the Hadron Expanse. Initially secured by the Thousand Sons and the Emerald Serpent, the system then became home to Warmaster Stahl's forces during the Hexis campaign. Now, both the Iron Warriors and Thousand Sons had their eyes fixed elsewhere, and the time seemed ideal for the Tau to take advantage of the waning interest in the Hadron Expanse from the chaos gods.

The time window for action had also narrowed with the coming of Fecus Major. The previous controllers of the system may have lost interest, but the arrival of the Nurgle Daemonworld in the system indicated that renewed pressure from the worshippers of the warp would soon arrive. The Tau offensive therefore targeted "New Slough", one of the remaining chaos bases still held by the tzeentch worshipping Emerald Serpent.

The Emerald Serpent were not going to give up without a fight however. The tzeentch daemon princes in command of the chaos faction may have given up on territorial gain in the Expanse, but the opening of the Hecate Gap had reinvigorated their curiosity in the region, with small expeditions already underway to search for lost knowledge in the Rifts area of the Hadron Expanse. A base of operations outside the Rifts of Hecate was desirable, and the appearance of the Tau most unwelcome.

The battle for New Slough saw a violent and explosive confrontation of firepower. At the outset the power of Tau weaponry was on show, as a contemptor dreadnought was simply deleted from existence by a Hammerhead. The response was equally impressive however, as the Hammerhead itself was then deleted in turn. Fire raged across the desolate wastes of the planet for several hours, as the Tau tried to encircle then annihilate the chaos forces, before overrunning their single settlement. After heavy losses, including the commander of the Tau forces, this was achieved, and the remaining key base in the Boltarean system outside of the main world of Boltarean I fell to the invading Tau forces. Now the chaos presence in the Hadron Expanse had been reduced to the inner world itself, although the Tau now had to face an increasing thread from the Death Guard if they were to take and secure the final system within their original Hadron Expansion Sphere goals.

Tanis I secured by Tau

By early 022M42 the Tau empire had built up significant forces in the Hadron Expanse after several years of patient planning, and the focus once again fell on their "Hadron Expansion Sphere". With their base at Echo Reach now a veritable stronghold, and having secured Dnatha, Awarath, Mimir and Hussaria with some limited help from the Federacy, the commanders of the Tau Empire planned the next phase.

There was some disagreement in Tau high command over the relative priorities of their campaigns, with some favouring the system of Boltarean which they contested with chaos forces as the primary goal, while others saw the importance of securing a base in the Hadron Deeps - close to the rich new resources of the Rifts of Hecate, as higher priority. In the end the Tau waited until their forces were capable of acting independently in both theatres, so in 02.022M42 the Tau Empire began new offensives in both the Tanis and Boltarean systems.

On Tanis I the Imperium had already established a base, defended by on of the Knightly Houses. A key world in the system, on 1202.022M42 the Tau invaded in strength, deploying a full hunter cadre in opposition to the imperial defenders. The battle for key objectives was brutal, but Tau firepowere eventually prevailed, forcing the remaining Knights and their allies to abandon the world rather than risk annihilation. The first part of the new two pronged Tau offensive was going to plan.