Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Rifts of Hecate update

By 04.023M42 the Imperium had gone on the offensive once again in the Rifts of Hecate. Encouraged by Inquisitor Huron general Maximus saw an opportunity to enhance his flagging career having been demoted by the newly appointed overall commander of astra militarum forces in the sector - Baran Price. However as this news filtered back to the sector capital on Vastrid this caused some disquiet. Supply lines to the Hadron Expanse remained overstretched, the war on Mordecai was far from won and the Imperial Navy did not have enough forces or reliable warp lanes to adequately provide the logistics for a proper campaign, and protect the Imperial interests in the Hadron Expanse.

Worse, the Imperium hadn't yet achieved victory in the Hecate Gap. Granted recent battles had seen the forces of chaos, the tyranids and necrons abandon the attempt to gain control over the gap, at least for now, but the Tau and orks remained entrenched, and the eldar were increasingly worried that an overstretched Imperium was not aligned to its overall goals. While the Imperium kept winning this didn't seem to be an imminent threat, but Sector Cardinal Valentina Schumadz sent an urgent message to general Maximus, demanding he secure the gap and that all further offensive operations on new world must first be cleared with high command on Vastrid.

Mordecai: Central Sector Advance

In 03.023M42 the Imperium opened a new offensive on Mordecai Secundus with the help of the Dark Angels. Their supply lines now in much better shape compared to their enemy on the planet, major operations could once again be resumed, and the new offensive targeted the forts opposing the imperial lines of the central sector. The plan by general Kutuzov was to take at least one of these forts using the astartes, before following up with the imperial guard, and in time perhaps cut off, or force the withdrawal of, chaos forces occupying the narrow strip of land west of Nazurgal and fort Pargenath.

The operation went well, although the fighting between the Dark Angels and Night Lords for the chaos forts was intense and brutal. Neither side were in the mood for giving any quarter, and for the Dark Angels it was also a matter of pride, their forces having suffered a defeat at the hands of their traitorous brethren in recent months. After a hard fight however, the Night Lords force was eliminated, opening up the chaos defensive line next to the northern Sarkar Traps and allowing the other imperial forces to exploit the gap. By the beginning of 04.023M42 the chaos forces in the narrow land strip to the south were now at risk of encirclement, and the advantage on Mordecai continued to slip gradually in favour of the Imperium.

Ferrosiun Prime invaded

As the beachhead on Pyrrho Zeta was first secured then expanded, general Maximus detailed a task force supported by Admiral Sommerville's fleet to land a force on Ferrosiun Prime. The Imperium by 03.023M42 had built a significant base of operations on Ferrosiun Secundus, and with at least one Inquisitor giving approval to recommence offensive operations, clearing the orks from Ferrosiun Prime was the obvious next step.

With the majority of the Blood Fang orks engaged at Haven, the imperial forces landing on Ferrosiun Prime knew they would like not immediately face the strongest opposition, and this assumption proved correct as the Novgorod Guard were able to land and build up significant strength before being challenged by the greenskins. The greenskins that attacked were known to be from the "hobbgobbos of Grunk Prime" and still posed a significant threat however, and the Novgorod Guard deployed to meet them.

On the imperial left flank the mobile infantry in chimeras were able to set up heavy weapons teams armed with lascannons that dominated the main firing lines, taking out much of the enemy ork armour. Meanwhile the novgorod tanks led the advance into the main ork throng, blowing significant holes in the mass of greenskins facing them. Many of the tanks were lost, especially on the right flank, where they rolled into well equipped elite ork forces and their HQ formations, including a big mek and an unidentified "big ork on a squig". The ork counter charge into the imperial armour however put the greenskins in range of the imperial cavalry, who performed their own counter charge that broke the ork resistance. Having destroyed the initial resistance the imperial forces now fanned out to extend their control over the junk ridden wastelands of the main continent.

Pyrrho Zeta: Imperial Advances

During 03.023M42 the battles for Haven and Ergura's Fall had briefly paused, as many of the factions consolidated or withdrew their forces on those two worlds, and the remaining combatants prepared for an inevitable showdown. On Haven the Imperium were building up their forces to conduct an all out offensive against the orks, while on Ergura's Fall general Maximus was organising his forces to take on the Tau, who were themselves preparing for the imperial onslaught.

Within the Rifts themselves the Imperium - despite being told by Inquisitor Esquerra to withdraw, were building up their forces and going on the offensive, in line with Inquisitor Huron's instructions. Huron was confident of victory in the Hecate Gap, and saw no reason to wait for this success before continuing the crusade into the Rifts. In his view, the pessimistic assessment by his colleague was incorrect, and the combined threats from the necrons, tyranids and orks had not materialised into the sector threatening combination that Esquerra apparently feared.

With the order given to continue into the Rifts, crusade general Maximus wasted no time in assembling strike forces to push forward in two systems he had established bases at already. On Pyrho Zeta the initial garrison was first made aware they would soon be evacuated, then had that order cancelled and were told that they would soon be reinforced. In mid 03.023M42 the Unnumbered Sons astartes chapter arrived on the world delivering a surgical strike against the necron forces that had been keeping an eye on the imperial garrison. This decisive victory then paved the way for Imperial Guard reinforcement, but not before the Drukhari decided to intervene.

Either for their own profit or because the dark eldar feared the Imperium would find secrets the xenos would rather stay hidden, the drukhari launched a raid against the newly arrived imperial forces on Pyrrho Zeta. The xenos were unpleasantly surprised however by a force of Adeptus Custodes that had deployed with the imperial invasion force to counter such unexpected eventualities. The elite imperial force battered the dark eldar, forcing them to retreat back into the webway. With the imperial beachhead on Pyrrho Zeta now secure, the Imperium moved forward in a more deliberate fashion, employing units of the Imperial Guard from the Novgorod regiments.

On 2803.02342 the Guard forces moved out into the plains of Pyrrho Zeta to be immediately met by a large necron force. The Necron army surged forward only to have their front line annihilated by a massed cavalry charged which decimated the massed infantry wave under the impact of exploding lances. The imperial tanks engaged the Necron fire support in an unequal duel which they quickly won, and in a desperate attempt to reclaim the initiative the Necrons then brought down a monolith and counter charged. The nightbringer materialised in the middle of the militarum lines and slew the marshal directing the attack but the counter attack, whilst inflicting some damage and killing most of the cavalry, failed to blunt the Novgarod's momentum and the Necron lines rapidly collapsed as the tanks pushed forward.

By the end of 03.023M42 the necron presence on Pyrrho Zeta had been neutralised, the imperial perimeter secured, and fresh waves of reinforcements and supplies were now arriving on the world. Now the Imperium only needed to deal with the chaos occupation of the southern hemisphere and the system would be controlled by Maximus' crusade.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Rifts of Hecate battles continue

While the battle in the Hecate Gap raged with the Imperium getting the upper hand, battles in the Rifts of Hecate proper reignited. If the Imperium did secure the Gap, it would become all the more important for the other factions to secure bases in the Rifts to avoid being steam-rollered by the Imperial Crusade. At the same time the factions of heretics and xenos sought to undermine the positions already held in the region by imperial garrisons. 

The first of the renewed conflicts in the Rifts of Hecate flared up on Helos Majoris, the main imperial base in the Rifts themselves. With most of general Maximus' armies now engaged on Ergura's Fall and Haven, the Drukhari thought they would opportunistically raid the world, sending a force to obtain slaves and equipment while also damaging as much imperial infrastructure as they could.

Unfortunately for the Dark Eldar, a company of the Unnumbered Sons, not seen before in the sector, had quietly arrived in the area and responded quickly to the imperial garrison's distress calls. The astartes caught the xenos raiding force by surprise and quickly annihilated them, freeing the slaves and minimising the damage to imperial infrastructure.

On Pyrrho Zeta the Night Lords were pursuing their own aims for their dark gods, which mostly included raiding necron tombs for artefacts and supplies. Not realising the necrons were not in fact in suspended animation the Night Lords blundered into one such tomb and quickly found themselves in a violent firefight. The guns of the necron force overwhelmed the traitor astartes and this particular mission had to be aborted.

On Calthingum the chaos held bases found themselves assaulted by ork forces in early 03.023M42, as the continued violence in the area brought more and more greenskins flocking to the fight. This particular band of Bloodfang orks may have been part of a wider strategic operation by the greenskins, were destined for Haven and got lost, or had decided to make a detour to fight some chaos forces. In any event the brutal xenos race landed in force, and the chaos garrison on Calthingum resorted to summoning a horde of Khorne daemons to oppose the invader.

The appearance of greater daemons seemed to energise the orks however, and a violent and disorganised melee erupted around a major chaos held installation. Despite killing the ork Warboss, the appearance of another - or the same ork Stompa as the one seen elsewhere (the random spatial-temporal nature of ork tellyporta technology not precluding the possibility of the Stompa effectively being in two places at once) turned the tide for the greenskins as it bludgeoned a blood thirster from existence. Seeing this the ork boyz rallied once more and overwhelmed the rest of the chaos army, securing more than a foothold on the chaos held world.

Imperium bludgeon their way forward on Mordecai

While the war for the Hecate Gap raged in the galactic East, the ongoing attritional conflict on Mordecai Secundus did not take a back seat. Both sides were somewhat exhausted and although the Imperium held a slight advantage in terms of supply, having bottled up the chaos fleet in their anchorage, Kutuzov's armies were unable to take full advantage, lacking a safe passage across the Cicatrix Maledictum, and with Army Group Perseus still competing with Army Group Hadron for the precious reinforcements of personnel and equipment.

By late 02.023M42 Kutuzov had received new regiments of Librian Guard, even though their homeworld was now part of the secessionist Federacy. He was assured by the Commissariat that their loyalty was not in question, though their fighting ability had not been tested for some time. With this in mind the general assigned the 51st Mechanised Regiment the task of retaking the Abrax mines, knowing that should they fail, the strategic situation on the Eastern Front wouldn't likely be too detrimental.

The Librian force rolled into the now chaos held western reaches of the mine complex without meeting much resistance, but were soon opposed by an elite force of Emperor's Children. The mechanised troops forced their way forward, supported by Leman Russ, and although the traitor astartes were able to move into close combat with the armoured formations, the Librians proved extremely stubborn. Casualties soon mounted on both sides, but the chaos forces found it difficult to take down the heavily armoured imperial tanks, and after several hours of hard inconclusive fighting, were forced to withdraw due to worsening supply issues.

The battle hadn't been a stunning victory for the newly arrived Librians, but the inconclusive engagement ended up favouring the Imperium, and the guard regiment was able to hold on to a small section of the mining complex. Satisfied with the performance of the Librian regiments, Kutuzov drew up plans for his next offensive.

Tau suffer major setback on Ergura's Fall

While major fighting continued on Haven, the Imperium were still keen to advance on Ergura's Fall. the world had become a conflict between the Tau, Imperium and forces of chaos, but as the tide turned against the worshippers of the dark gods strategically, imperial command judged that a general withdrawal of chaos forces was now likely. The necrons continued to be a problem around their tomb worlds, but the Tau were the major force that needed to be dealt with.

General Maximus was unable to allocate any fresh troops to operations on Ergura's Fall, so Inquisitor Huron, having been rescued from his excursions on Haven, turned to his own contacts to defeat the Tau, securing the assistance of a force of Grey Knights, who deployed onto the world and immediately planned a shock assault against Tau positions.

The Tau were taken completely by surprise by the appearance of the elite forces of the Inquisition, and although they put up a strong fight, the battle in the rolling plains that characterised the system's only habitable world was extremely one sided. The Tau forces who engaged the Grey Knights were obliterated, and the xenos force lost an entire Hunter Cadre and were forced to retreat. The Tau forces on Ergura's Fall had now lost a third of their strength, and the Imperium now had breathing space to finish off the orks on Haven before turning their full strength to securing the second system vital to controlling the Hecate Gap.

Violent Escalation on Haven

In early 023M42 Inquisitor Esquerra had issued an edict for the Imperium to secure the Hecate Gap by taking the worlds of Ergura's Fall and Haven, while preparing to evacuate the Rifts of Hecate, closing the gap in the warp storms once and for all. In an agreement with Inquisitor Huron, also working in the Hadron Expanse, Huron would seek the remaining necron Nexus Arrangement in the Rifts of Hecate, oversee the withdrawal of imperial forces from the region, secure the necron Tomb complex on Haven where another Nexus Arrangement was holding the Hecate Gap open, and close the Gap.

The rationale for closing the Gap was clear. Although the Rifts of Hecate were rich in resources, the combined threats of tyranids, necrons and lately a powerful greenskin infestation put the Imperium at risk. Imperial forces were already overstretched and at the end of a tenuous supply line in 023M42, and Esquerra wanted to secure the Imperium's logistics before attempting a crusade into new or in this case long lost territories. Inquisitor Esquerra had left on urgent business elsewhere, leaving Huron to oversee events in the Hadron Expanse, but Huron had other ideas.

The tomb complex containing the Nexus Arrangement holding the Hecate Gap open had fallen into ork hands, but the orks as yet hadn't figured out the importance of their find. With the Imperial armies actually doing rather well on both Haven and Ergura's Fall, despite the supply situation, Huron made the unilateral decision to change Esquerra's edict, conquer both systems in the Hecate Gap, and move forward with the Crusade in the Rifts of Hecate.

To do this Huron, with one Nexus Arrangement in his possession, moved to Haven in order to scout out personally the situation around the necron tomb complex now in the hands of the orks. He didn't bother to tell any military personnel of the importance or even existence of the ancient xenos artefacts, reasoning that ignorance was the best defence. Unfortunately on this scouting mission, the Inquisitor and his retinue found themselves surrounded by orks of the Bloodfang tribe, who were now within touching distance of two of the most powerful artefacts in the sector. Huron called for immediate extraction, and forces were scrambled to his location in order to hold a perimeter long enough to rescue him and his important artefact.

Many imperial units rushed to his aid including the Sisters of Battle, Dark Angels (including what appeared to be the chapter master himself) as well as hastily diverted Leman Russ battle tanks from a Librian mechanised regiment. Fierce and confused fighting erupted with the Imperium calling in bombardments as the orks swarmed the location, while even the tau, surprised by the commotion, sent their own air force to inspect the action. A number of quite baffling events characterised this engagement, including the unexpected behaviour of the ork Shokk Attack Gun, which at one point managed to replace an entire Leman Russ crew with snotlings. This initial success was somewhat damped from the ork perspective as the snotlings then began operating the tank for the Imperium. Later, the ork warboss was infected with a "madboy" virus, confusing him long enough for him to be slain in combat, while Inquisitor Huron's attempt to use Xenos technology in the form of a man portable railgun was less than effective.

Fortunately for the Imperium, the perimeter held long enough to see the extraction of all important personnel, and critically the evacuation of the Nexus Arrangement in the Inquisitor's possession. 

With the ork strength now understood, Huron immediately convened a council with General Maximus. The focus was the Greenskins and the necron tomb complex. All available forces including the reserves were deployed at Haven with one aim, to force the orks back. If they failed, Haven and Huron's mission would lie in tatters, as would control over and access to the Nexus arrangement holding open the Gap. Success would put the Imperium in pole position to fully conquer both worlds and continue the Crusade both Huron and Maximus dearly wanted.

Against the horde of orks including the mighty war engine "Hope Killa" were arrayed the forces of the Novgorod Guard, an entire Knight Lance and a force of Adeptus Custodes. The battle raged over the southern plains of Haven as the Imperium pushed north from their second bridgehead. Casualties on both sides were vast and the orks, having numerical superiority were able to systematically wear down the imperial left flank, where desparate fighting took place to hold off an ork counter attack. This imperial flank eventually gave way, but the time bought by this valiant stand allowed the Knights and Adeptus Custodes to throw themselves into the middle of the ork horde in the centre of the front the imperial mission had created. Most of the Knights were lost in the melee, but on the right flank the Imperium secured their objectives, and in the centre the sacrifice of the imperial war engines was not in vain. the orks were gradually exhausted to the point where the Bloodfang tribe retreated to avoid being encircled and annihilated.

With the main action over both sides counted the cost. The Imperium were now in control of nearly 40% of the world and were now the preeminent faction on Haven. One more push against the greenskins and Haven would fall to the Imperium.