“The port city of Pradeep was attacked today by Tau invaders. A valiant defense by our brave troops managed to throw back the xeno invaders with heavy casualties.”—Imperial News Report, 3 857 736.M41.
The fall of Volantis in early 736.M41, coming so quickly after last year’s loss of Malati to Tau forces, led to widespread panic among the citizenry of Dar Sai. It was widely believed the xenos were poised to strike at the strategically valuable port city of Pradeep.
Yet, instead, a lull settled over the battlefields of the war-torn moon. Unknown to many, the orbital blockade imposed by the Imperial Navy was creating a logistical nightmare for the Tau invaders. The Tau military leader, Commander Swiftstrike, simply did not have the resources to sustain an ongoing military campaign.
They say desperation breeds ingenuity, and that certainly proved true in the case of Swiftstrike. Pushing his Earth Caste laborers to the limits of endurance, and canabalizing anything still usable from among his damaged vehicles, the Tau commander managed after nearly 10 months to cobble together sufficient military assets to test the Imperial defenses once again.
Tau Commander: Swiftstrike, supreme commander of Tau forces in the Sculptor System
Imperial Commander: Captain Matias Donnan, commandant, Pradeep Defense Forces
The scenario rolled was “Big Guns Never Tire.” Four objectives (worth 3 victory points each) were placed on the battlefield.
Special rules included Night Fighting, Mysterious Objectives, and Reserves.
Well aware of the firepower of Tau infantry—and the xenos’ weakness in close combat—Captain Donnan opted to conduct an infantry advance through the town that ran along the west flank of the battlefield.
To protect the flank of this attack were the company’s armored assets, supported by mechanized infantry.
The Tau chose to put their faith in the range and power of their pulse rifles, deploying in the northern outskirts of the town with open ground in front of them. The goal: force Imperial forces to cross a killing zone.
The Imperial armor greatly outmatched that of the Tau, but Commander Swiftstrike hoped that his single Hammerhead tank—supported by a Broadside Suit and Pathfinder Squad—could use the cover of woods to even the coming firefight.
If not, Bloodsword had one ace up his sleeve. A mistake in the Imperial deployment allowed him to deploy a team of Stealth Suits, one with a homing beacon, behind the human lines. This would facilitate the Deep Strike of three Crisis Suit teams that could strike the Imperial forces from the rear.
Players: This was a solo game played by theGM. (No doubt explaining why both commanders were conservative in their attacks.)
IMPERIAL TURN ONE
Taking advantage of the predawn darkness, Imperial infantry cautiously advanced through the town on the western flank, supported by the Hellhound to the infantry’s right. Moving quickly, Beta Squad ran forward and took up position on a wooded hill that offered a good line of sight on the Tau lines.
This attack was weakened, however, after patrols spotted Tau Stealth Suits in the ruins of a large government building to the rear. To meet this threat, the 2nd Weapons Squad was ordered to break off its advance and hurry southward to meet the xeno threat.
In the open terrain to the east of the town, one Lemon Russ tank, supported by Ceti Squad, the Armored Sentinel Squadron, and the 4th Special Weapons Squad, advanced north.
On the far flank, the second Lemon Russ tank—supported by a Chimera with multi-laser—targeted the Tau Hammerhead tank. In the darkness, however, the Imperial’s targeting array could not acquire an accurate line of sight on the xeno vehicle. Shots were fired but no damage was done.
TAU TURN ONE
On the west flank, the Kroot advanced from behind the cover of a building and deployed a firing line that would permit them to target Imperial troops with their sniper rifles in the next turn.
Elsewhere, Tau infantry moved up to take a position along the town’s edge, carefully using the urban cover to limit their exposure to Imperial fire.
Three Piranha advanced, their anti-grav technology allowing them to “hop” over the primitive laborer huts to bring the Hellhound under fire. Sadly, their fusion blasters failed to harm the armored vehicle.
On the far flank, the Hammerhead and Broadside Suit targeted a Lemon Russ tank, but even with the assistance of the Pathfinder Squad, their shots were ineffective in the darkness.
Farther to the east, a second squad of Kroot slinked through the woods, hoping to position themselves on the forest’s edge and snipe at the Imperium’s right flank.
IMPERIAL TURN TWO
To the infantry’s right, the Hellhound used its Infernal Cannon to engulf one Piranha in holy promethium, while the Lemon Russ tanks brought the Hammerhead tank under fire—to no effect.
The only artillery bombardment of the entire game was brought down by the ordinance officer, who targeted the Pathfinder Squad. In a spectacular bit of luck, the bombardment went wide—and landed directly atop the Hammerhead. Striking a weak point on the vehicle’s top armor, the xeno tank was destroyed in a cataclysmic explosion of smoke and flame.
This loss was devastating to the Tau, as their most powerful anti-armor weapon was made ineffective. The potential for the Imperial forces to use their armor advantage to control the battle was greatly improved. What’s more, “First Blood” went to the Imperium.
In the Imperial rear, a partially successful attack was mounted by the 2nd Special Weapons Squad, whose flamers managed to kill two Stealth Suits in the government ruins. Alas, the xeno leader—with the oh-so-critical homing beacon—survived.
TAU TURN TWO
Barely surviving the Imperial attack, the surviving Stealth Suit used its jetpack to escape the ruins and flew in the direction of the Imperial HQ. Activating its homing beacon, it signaled the multiple teams of Crisis Suits overhead to begin their landing.
This attack did not go unchallenged. Imperial air assets managed to disrupt the incoming Deep Strike. Only one of the three Crisis Suit teams—those armed with burst cannons—managed to reach the ground.
Unable to target the Hellhound or Lemon Russ tank, the Crisis Suit team sought to make the most of their unsupported arrival: They targeted the Company Command Squad of the Imperial troops—the high-volume fire of the Crisis Suits’ burst cannons cutting down every man in the squad.
This was a critical counterstrike: The squad’s destruction not only earned the Tau a victory point for “Slay the Warlord” but also eliminated the offensive threat of the ordinance officer and psyker attached to the HQ.
Elsewhere, the Kroot on the west flank managed to kill two guardsmen with sniper fire. On the opposing flank, the Kroot that had just advanced so confidently through the woods reversed course, leery of being targeted by an advancing Chimera armed with flamers.
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