Saturday, August 20, 2022

Adeptus Sororitas retake Burroneus

Following the decisive fleet battle in the space around Mordecai Secundus, supplies began to arrive on the surface within weeks, allowing Kutuzov to shore up his defences especially around the chaos salient that now existed with Festergax at its head. Soon, Kutuzov would go on the offensive, and the forces of chaos were very aware of this fact. Imperial intelligence picked up significant troop movements into the Festergax salient, and it was clear the Emerald Serpent believed this city, that had changed hands numerous times, would be the initial target of the Imperium's new offensive.

Knowing this, Kutuzov met with his generals and decided that Festergax would certainly not be the first priority. It was a key strategic position, but the troop movements made this an unpalletable first target for the renewed armies of the Imperium. Instead, Kutusov asked for options, and the Sisters of Battle proposed their own plan in the south to take one of the twin cities. Burroneus and Ur'Ghar stood like guardians of the southern passage between the Sarkar Traps and the Kuneus lava sea, acting as a bottleneck and keeping the imperial forces bottled up in the Sathugar plains. A strike here would hit the chaos forces while they were off balance, and potentially unlock the opportunity for a breakthrough to the south.

Kutuzov agreed to the plan and the Adeptus Sororitas charged the city of Burroneus on 1508.022M42, facing weaker opposition as the Death Guard had pulled back to Ur'Ghar. The Emerald Serpent quickly responded, using Astralis to redeploy rapidly, and a violent battle erupted on the narrow isthmus between Nazugral and the twin southern cities. In the centre the Sisters pushed their infantry supported by Immolators with dominions skirmishing on the flanks. It appeared the traitor forces underestimated the infantry push, as their terminators arrived not in the centre, but elsewhere to deal with the skirmishing forces, allowing the Sororitas infantry to push forward relatively unmolested. Eventually the Repentia squads moved into range to be able to unleash a devastating charge, overrunning the chaos centre and unhinging the defence of Burroneus. The city fell, and the Thousand Sons legion found their control of the warp severely hampered by the unshakeable faith of the Sisters of Battle. Frustrated, the Emerald Serpent withdrew to Ur'Ghar, leading to the recapture by the Imperium of the entire Sarkar Isthmus in the process.

Meanwhile the Iron Warriors were clashing with the Adeptus Mechanicus on the flanks of the Festergax Salient. Here the forces of chaos were launching continual skirmishes in order, they thought, to disrupt the Imperial major offensive. In actual fact, Kutuzov had no intention to launch an offensive here, but the spoiling attacks by the Iron Warriors were not particularly successful in any case. Both sides engaged in close quarter fighting, with stubborn resolve, but neither side were able to deal any real damage to one another.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Decisive fleet action at Mordecai


For over two years the Imperial Fleet at Mordecai had been engaging in a standoff with chaos forces, unwilling to engage directly, fearing that a decisive confrontation might lead to total disaster for the Imperial invasion of the system. The chaos naval forces in the system were strong, backed up by a fleet base and the power of the daemon world Astralis, and the Imperium had been focussing on a "fleet in being" to similarly deter the traitor forces from launching their own decisive operation. By 07.022M42 both sides had amassed a significant fleet presence, and Kutuzov's army was struggling with supplies and reinforcements, as each shipment had to be escorted by one of Admiral Stark's battlegroups to run the gauntlet from the jump point to the inner biosphere. All this changed with the re-appointment of Admiral Jellicoe to overall sector fleet command.

With the change of leadership, the cautious standing orders of the previous Lord Admiral, the timid and decadent Bova Magnus, were torn up. Instead Jellicoe made a proclamation stating that any well planned and reasonable offensive actions by his subordinate admirals would have his full support. At Mordecai Admiral Stark saw this as both an endorsement of the aggressive stance he had advocated for, and also as a challenge to show his worth as a commander of His Imperial Majesty's finest warships. In mid 07.022M42 Stark and Gorshkov decided to initiate a showdown with the Emerald Serpent in the primary biosphere of the Mordecai system. To do this, Admiral Stark put together a large force of capital ships, led by his battleship Kirov, with no fewer than four retribution class vessels and nine other capital ships. Moving these into place in the region of Mordecai Secundus, the closest habitable planet to the Mordecai star, would force the chaos fleet to respond rather than yield their hard won logistical control over the battle on the ground.

Admiral Stark's prediction of the response by the chaos forces proved correct, as the Emerald Serpent duly appeared with ten capital ships, and one vessel the Imperium had suspected was in the possession of the chaos faction, but had never confirmed - a ship simply known as "planet killer". Although it was uncertain as to whether the vessel was equipped with the same devastating planet destroying weapon that gave the class of ship its name, the ship itself was massive, and bristling with other weaponry. Seeing the Emerald Serpent fleet bearing down on him, Stark issued his orders and the largest fleet action in the Mordecai campaign so far soon followed.

Line of Battle:
Imperial Grand Fleet (Admiral Stark)
Kirov (Flagship, Retribution class battleship)
Vanguard (Retribution class battleship)
Resolution (Retribution class battleship)
Bulwark (Jovian class battlecruiser)
Malinovka (Dominion class cruiser)
Narva (Gothic class cruiser)
Tsushima (Dominator class cruiser)
Tanenberg (Dominator class cruiser)
Implacable (Dominator class cruiser)
Repulse (Dominator class cruiser)
Basilisk (Dominator class cruiser)
Medusa (Dominator class cruiser)

Emerald Serpent (estimate)
Planet Killer, Despoiler class battleship, 10 cruisers

The Battle 

The chaos fleet formed up into a a line, attempting to bring the long range broadsides of the heavy chaos cruisers to bear on Stark's battlegroup, with the carriers (at least on Styx class and several devastations)on the right flank, with the planet killer and a Despoiler class battleship on the left. In between these the rest of the chaos fleet armed with heavy broadsides formed the van of the chaos fleet. Stark positioned his dominator class vessels, armed with nova cannons, towards the back, with his battleships deployed at 45 degrees so that if the Emerald Serpent rushed his nova cannons, they would inevitably have to face the full broadside of these mighty vessels. The imperial deployment now put the chaos fleet into a difficult position. If they charged, their "T" would be crossed. If they went for the retributions, they would be forced to face nova cannon fire for an extended period of time.

Throwing caution to the wind the chaos fleet decided to charge into the centre of the imperial fleet. The chaos vessels took heavy punishment from the retributions and the dominators as they attempted to get to within close range, with the planet killer taking much of the fire, and being knocked out of the battle. Accurate fire from the imperial fleet also caused a significant amount of damage, as the imperial cruisers targeted the bridges and communications structures of the chaos vessels. The effect was devastating. Once the chaos fleet had managed to close, they now had the chance to strike at close range, evening the battle, but the damage to their communications now rendered coordinated actions all but impossible, and the return fire from the chaos fleet was haphazard and sporadic.

Eventually the chaos fleet did manage to position their five carriers behind the imperial fleet, but without gunboat support this was too little too late. The carrier attacks did limited damage to the imperial formation, and inevitably Stark's ships swung round to bring their firepower to bear on the last remaining functional portion of the chaos fleet. The Emerald Serpent commander gave the order to disengage, and those who could, did, but plenty of the chaos cruisers did not receive the order, or had difficulty obeying, such was the chaos wrought by the imperial hits to their bridge areas and communications centres. Several chaos cruisers did not disengage, and were pummelled for target practice by the imperial vessels while their comrades fled the battle.

At the end of the battle the Imperium had lost two cruisers, reduced to hulks by the chaos fleet, but the Emerald Serpent had lost five, including their flagship. The result was a decisive victory for the Imperium, forcing the withdrawal of Emerald Serpent fleet units from the system, and ensuring Lord Tragean's vessels stayed within the protective envelope of the Mordecai Spacefort's powerful gun batteries. This yielded full control of the space around Mordecai Secundus to the Imperium, allowing reinforcements and supplies to flood in to Kutuzov's army for the first time in two years. Pleased with the result, Admiral Jellicoe sent his warm congratulations to Admirals Stark and Gorshkov, and the pendulum on Mordecai swung decisively in favour of the Imperium f Mankind.

Chaos: 5 cruisers destroyed
Imperium: 2 cruisers destroyed

Rifts of Hecate activity

While the Imperium pulled back to the Hecate Gap, the other factions fighting in the Rifts continued to fight amongst themselves. The tyranids continued to move through space towards the Gap, while the necrons, furious at the sudden invasion by lesser races, decided to focus their efforts against the new chaos enclave that had been set up on the three worlds of Mendesum, Calthingum and Pyrrho Zeta. Seeing the latter as the most vulnerable system, the necrons launched their attack in late 07.022M42, taking the forces of chaos by surprise as they emerged from tomb complexes the worshippers of the dark gods had no awareness of.

The battle was brutal, and the chaos space marine force rapidly mustered to deal with the threat was woefully ill equipped to deal with the emerging necron army. Although they did manage to slay a high ranking necron noble, the battle was a defeat for chaos, and the necrons reclaimed several of their tomb complexes on the world, establishing a foothold to conceivably rid the Rifts of chaos forces.

Meanwhile, the eldar race were extremely concerned with events in the Rifts. Their overall goal, though concealed from the other races, was to ensure that the tyranids, necrons and orks that infested the region, did not find their way into the Hadron Expanse, and more specifically, the eldar were concerned if any one of these forces found their way into vulnerable webway nodes the eldar were aware of being in close proximity to the Hecate Gap. Should the fighting lead to any of the other races becoming aware of these effective "back doors" into the webway, the consequences would be dire for the eldar race.

Consequently, the dark eldar were also motivated to prevent this from happening, and willingly aided the Ynnari who orchestrated the campaign against their mutual enemies in the Rifts of Hecate. In late 07.022M42 eldar raids increased in intensity, as the Drukhari fell upon the forces of chaos at Mendesum, and the Ynnari attacked the orks at the critical system of Lodax.

The fighting at Lodax ended favourably for the Aedlari, as the superior Ynnari forces obliterated the orks on Lodax secundus, allowing the eldar force to occupy several critical areas of the planet and secure key webway nodes. On Mendesum however, things did not go according to plan, as the Drukhari were unaware of a recently refitted and heavily equipped phallanx of chaos knights on the planet. Heavy firepower and hard hitting close combat capability nullified the Drukhari speed and agility, and the dark eldar raiding force was severely mauled before escaping back to Commoragh.

Mordecai: Festergax Retaken

On Mordecai during 022M42 there was a growing pessimism in the imperial ranks. For months the forces of chaos had enjoyed superior logistical support thanks to their fleet base and the daemonworld of Astralis hanging overhead, and instead of one decisive push, the war of attrition had seen the territory the Imperium controlled slowly whittled away. For every imperial success, the ground gained was smaller, and every chaos victory claimed a little more of the hard won objectives Kutuzov's men had so far died in droves for.

Late 07.022M42 was no different, as a force of Thousand Sons supported by a powerful chaos knight launched a direct assault on the city of Festergax. The city was now little more than ruins, and it had changed hands many times over the course of the war. Kutuzov sent in his own Imperial Knights to defend the city, but the Thousand Sons had ample support, and gradually one by one the imperial war engines were toppled or blown apart. Unable to hold the chaos forces, Kutuzov was reluctantly forced to withdraw his administratum personnel from the city, which fell just a few days after the beginning of the chaos assault. There was no mass chaos breakthrough, but the tide was now firmly with the traitor forces. If something wasn't done about the imperial logistical situation and soon, the war on Mordecai Secundus would end in inevitable defeat for the Imperium.

Imperial Forces land at Haven

During 07.022M42 the Imperium stopped expanding into thr Rifts of Hecate. Much had changed in the sector in the preceding months, thanks to the intervention of the Inquisition. The sector commander had been replaced, and the new imperial high command felt that there was a real danger of imperial forces becoming overstretched. In reality the Imperium was already massively overstretched, with a major war against chaos at Mordecai swallowing nearly all new reinforcements that arrived in the sector, and with no stable route across the Cicatrix Maledictum, the "crusade" into the Rifts of Hecate now seemed little more than folly.

Crusade general Justinian Flavius Maximus saw his appointment to the Hadron Expanse for what it really was, a demotion, but the general took his responsibility seriously nonetheless. He had arrived in late 04.022M42 and ensured the bases at Ferrosiun and Helos Majoris were strong. However, he soon received a message from the Inquisition to begin falling back. Protesting at this, Maximus made a strong case for keeping the gains the Imperium had already made, and a compromise was agreed. Maximus would not immediately have to fall back, but in order to prevent the necrons, orks and tyranids which had been found in strength in the region, from swarming through the Hecate gap towards major imperial worlds in the sector, he would need to create and fortify imperial positions in the Gap itself.

There were two world that the Imperium would need to secure in order to control the Hecate Gap. At one end, the system of Ergura's fall, and at the Hadron Expanse end, the habitable world of Haven. Bases here would pave the way for a standing fleet presence, guarding the gap from hostile forces trying to break through.

General Maximus diverted his latest tranche of Novgorod reinforcements to an assault on Haven. Upon landing, the imperial troops had little time to rest or construct a base, as they soon found that the orks had already got their ahead of them. This was somewhat worrying, as if Haven ended up under greenskin control, it risked trapping the Maximus' forces in the Rifts and setting the scene for a new Waaagh! into the Hadron Expanse proper. The imperial landings had attracted the interest of the orks in any case, so a confrontation was inevitable. The Novgorod forces lined up with a large force of conscripts at their front, which were doomed from the start. The human shield tactic was successful however, as while the orks hacked apart the inexperienced infantry, the Imperial artillery had amble time to thin out the greenskin numbers. This allowed the Novgorod veteran infantry to mount a second wave assault, breaking the ork attack and securing time and space for the Administratum to start work on a new base. The first landings at Haven had been a success.