“The invading xenos yesterday seized the port town of Volantis, just 100 kilometers southeast of Pradeep, Imperial authorities reported this morning.
The Tau victory comes two months after the fall of the city of Malati—and just weeks after the xenos were decisively repulsed in the Sandeep Plains. Imperial authorities are emphasizing strongly that the xenos’ attack involved a small military force, although they left unclear why such a small force could not be stopped.”—Imperial News Report, 3 093 736.M41.
After the fall of Malati, the Imperial military position was in crisis. Significant numbers of men and material had been lost in the port city’s evacuation, and military units were scattered—some finding refuge in the northern port of Pradeep, others at Pran Harbor, and the remainder at the southern port of Aruna.
This operational and logistical chaos was a strategic opportunity for the Tau to exploit, but the xeno invaders had problems of their own. With the Imperial Navy maintaining a blockade over the planet, the Tau were short of reinforcements and supplies, and there was a great need to rest their troops and repair battle damage after the ferocious fight for Malati.
This forced the Tau to seek out tactical opportunities that their limited resources could exploit. One such effort, the attack for Sandeep Plains, failed. But the xenos were to have more success driving north toward the port city of Prandeep and the strategically critical surface-to-orbit defense lasers at the moon’s north pole.
To strike north, no less a figure than Commander Swiftstrike led the attack with a small but elite cadre of troops.
The scenario rolled was “The Scouring.” Six objectives of various value were placed, but until deployment was completed, it was not known that two of the highest-value objectives were those deep in the Tau deployment zone.
Imperial forces deployed first. The bulk of infantry was deployed behind the woods on the right flank, where it could use cover to advance toward the Tau. The mortar team was deployed to the left and rear of this attack, while a platoon HQ with a lascannon held the far right flank.
On the Imperial left flank, a Lemon Russ tank was deployed to give this flank some strength. Although the lumbering tank would have little maneuverability, the long range of its battle cannon meant that it could dominate much of the table.
To ensure a strong advance, the tank was accompanied by a Chimera with a veteran squad. The Chimera was armed with both a heavy flamer and flamer, and the veteran squad was armed with a heavy flamer and two flamers. These assets would shield Alpha Squad, whose sole mission in the battle was to sit on the objective in the Imperial zone. If no threat existed, the Chimera could turn to the center of the table.
To offset the Tau firepower, the Imperial Guard also deployed two Scout Sentinels in reserve for use in a flanking attack.
The Tau responded by placing their piranhas behind the ridge on their left flank, with fire warriors deployed in a Devilfish to the rear. More fire warriors and Kroot were deployed closer to the center. On the far flank, a Hammerhead and three Stealth Suits were deployed to threaten the Imperial left flank’s objective.
Two teams of Crisis Suits—one with fusion blasters, the other with burst cannon—were held in reserve for a Deep Strike.
A roll for night fighting indicated that Turn One would be in darkness.
Players: TheGM commanded the Imperial Guard. An old buddy, Ben, who hadn’t played Warhammer 40K for years, took command of the Tau.
Imperial Turn One
As night fighting was in effect on turn one, neither side worried about fire. On the left flank, the Lemon Russ tank and Squad Alpha advanced on the left-most objective. In support was the Chimera with the veteran squad.
On the right flank, two infantry squads, Beta and Ceti, advanced through the woods, along with two special weapons team and the company command squad. The goal was to advance under cover and bring their lasguns within range of the Tau, while terrain protected them from the greater range and power of the xeno weaponry.
Near the second objective in the Imperial deployment zone, the platoon HQ squad with lascannon waited to repel any advance by the Tau skimmers.
At this point, the Imperial Guard examined its objectives and found the three were worth a total of 6 victory points (v.p.), while the Tau objectives totaled 9 v.p. It soon became apparent that we had accidentally replaced one of the 2 v.p. objectives with a 3 v.p. objective. By that point, however, the game was well under way, and we decided to just accept the mistake as part of the unpredictable fates of war. But it meant that the Tau had a 3 v.p. advantage at the beginning of the game, putting pressure on the Imperial Guard to assume the role of attack to overcome their early disadvantage in victory points.
Tau Turn One
The Hammerhead moved around the edge of the woods on the Imperial left flank but carefully stayed out of the Imperial arc of fire. The team of three Stealth Suits advanced through the cover of woods.
In the center, the Tau, realizing they had little to risk in the dark, advanced a team of fire warriors across a patch of rough terrain. Kroot moved through the woods.
On the imperial right flank, the Tau were largely content to wait for the Imperial Guard to advance into the xenos’ firing range. After all, they were sitting on two of the most valuable objectives on the battlefield, so why not let the humans come to them?
The only significant movement was the skimmers releasing their drones for independent action, and the drones’ AI deployed them at the lip of the ridge so they could rise up and fire next turn.
Imperial Turn Two
As dawn arrived, the Lemon Russ tank lumbered forward on the Imperial left flank, while the Chimera advanced and positioned itself to charge forward in Turn Three in hopes of catching the Stealth Suits at the wood’s edge and unleashing death with its heavy flamer and flamer.
On the right flank, the infantry continued its cautious advanced through the woods. Beta Squad finally reached the wood’s edge, but as it had moved, it could not fire upon the Fire Warriors because of the range. Still, using its voxcaster and auspices, it provided the mortar squad with useful coordinates. A mortar barrage soon followed, but the shells went astray.
Tau Turn Two
The Hammerhead swept around the woods and targeted the Lemon Russ tank. Its powerful rail gun fired, but the high-speed round went high. In support, the Stealth Suits continued their advance to the woods’ edge. The attack against the humans would begin in earnest next round.
The piranhas held back, as they deemed it not quite time to launch a coordinated assault. The ranks of fire warriors fired blindly into the woods, but their high-powered plasma rounds did no harm. Their fire did remind the human troops, however, that despite their numbers, there was significant firepower to their front.
The Corvus Cluster is a hobby blog that documents our adventures in the fantastical, sci-fi Warhammer 40K universe of Games Workshop.