The breakout from the initial invasion beachhead was an exhilarating time for every fire warrior in the Al’gel invasion force. It seemed, for a time, as if the ork threat finally was broken, and that victory was inevitable.
Yet, such optimism was ill-founded. One of the sad truths of the Al’gel Campaign was that every victory was balanced by a reverse, every hope matched by equal disappointment.
It is one of the tragic ironies of the campaign that Commander Bloodsword, for all his towering strategic intellect, would find himself matched against an extraordinarily cunning opponent, an immense and ferocious ork warlord who called himself simply ‘Greenclaw.’ — “The Complete History of the Al’gel Campaign” by Aun’el Mor’kan Tal’is’ta, ethereal caste, Dal’yth Sept, (689-776.M41).
On 6 687 735.M41, a large Tau invasion force landed in the southeast region of the main continent of Al’gel II. The invasion was aggressively opposed by the planet’s inhabitants, the be’gel (orks), who managed to confine the invasion-day beachhead to an area approximately 20 kilometers in diameter.
As anticipated, the Tau presence provoked a massive military response from the orks, and the Tau army immediately found itself assailed by constant ork attacks that stymied attempts to “break out” of the initial beachhead.
Well aware that he was being dragged into a war of attrition that could only end in defeat, the Tau commander, Commander Bloodsword, prepared a multi-prong “Deep Strike” behind enemy lines to break the deadlock.
This operation began on 6 201 736.M41 and was a great success. Attacked from front and rear, the ork lines were overwhelmed, and the Tau were able to use their maneuverability and superior command control to exploit their breakthrough and maul ork forces.
Within 30 hours, the Tau expanded their perimeter by nearly 4,000 square kilometers and killed an estimated 120,000 orks.
Having achieved his breakthrough, Bloodsword maintained a grueling pace for his fire warriors, pressing the Tau advance for nearly three months. The entire southeast corner of the continent came under Tau control, at a cost of nearly 80,000 Tau casualties. Ork casualties were estimated at 1 million.
Despite such success, ultimately, the campaign ground to a halt. By 6 475 736.M41, nearly half of all Devilfish transports and a third of the army’s Hammerhead tanks were out of action, disabled by battle damage or simply worn out by constant use.
Bowing to the inevitable, Bloodsword ordered his forces to take up defensive positions to regroup, even though it was recognized that this would give the orks time to gather their strength, as well.
Second Naval Battle of Al’gel II
The surprise attack on the ork fleet above Al’gel III (Tau crush ork fleet in Al’gel System) destroyed all but a handful of greenskin ships that managed to escape to the outer planets. The need to support the ground invasion precluded pursuit.
On 6 702 736.M41, these ships—accompanied by a handful of ork Freebooterz vessels recruited from the outer planets—made an attack on a Tau patrol.
The ork commander, a self-styled “Kaptin” Doomacka, ambushed the six-ship patrol as it entered the orbit of Al’gel V. In the subsequent fight, several Tau vessels were destroyed or ultimately scuttled, with the ork’s surviving ships fleeing the system. (Tau and ork ships clash at asteroid KV-9)
On Al’gel II, well aware that he had surrendered the initiative with his army’s regrouping, Bloodsword did not fall victim to complacency. As his Earth Caste cadres worked to refurbish his ground forces, the Tau commander demanded aggressive orbital and aerial surveillance of ork movements.
Military clashes, of course, continued throughout the Tau regrouping. Orks are extremely aggressive, and as individual warlords streamed to the front, they invariably threw their warriors at the Tau lines. But these assaults were launched piecemeal, allowing the Tau to meet each threat without severely straining the Tau fire line. The Tau buildup for the next advance proceeded unhindered, with Broadsword planning operations to begin on 6 700 736.M41.
Yet it was not to be. Preparations for the next stage of the invasion were delayed, and as Al’gel II’s orbit moved slightly closer to the sun, the Tau discovered that the planet’s atmosphere was extremely sensitive to solar radiation. On 6 673 736.M41, rising solar radiation levels caused significant ionization of the upper atmosphere, setting off fierce atmospheric storms characterized by extensive lightning and high-elevation electrical fields that interfered with Tau sensors and grounded Tau aircraft.
Taking advantage of these storms, one ork warlord, Skutax Greenclaw, gathered a sizable force of what the gue’vesa [Tau human allies] call “Speed Freaks”—orks partial to the use of high-speed vehicles in battle. This force was hidden in a forest to the north of Tau Hunter Cadre IV, under the command of Shas’El Ko’vash, a veteran commander of many campaigns.
This enemy troop concentration was suspected by Tau intelligence officers, but the scope of the threat was underestimated. Thus Tau preparations were simply to keep front-line troops on alert.
The upper atmospheric disturbances soon led to wind and rain storms of great severity, making even ground combat all but impossible. Even the orks settled into cover as hurricane-strength winds swept the planet for months, and the battlefront fell quiet across the continent.
Finally, Al’gel II’s orbit began to move away from its sun, and while strong electrical fields kept Tau aircraft grounded, the heavy rains and winds abated. It was clear that a new season of military operations would soon begin. The uncertainty surrounding Greenclaw’s intentions ended on 6 321.737 M41, when a “Mega Mob” of ork mechanized troops launched its assault on Tau Cadre IV.
Featured Tau artwork (“Communications Array”) courtesy of Ameen Naksewee of the DeviantArt webside. Click here to see more of Ameen’s great art.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our wargaming adventures in the sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.