The Decora Mining Base in the Sculptor System has been seized by the Tau, following a naval battle that saw five Imperial Navy vessels destroyed.—Imperial Voxcast, 3 248 738.M41.
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Instructional Lesson: Battle of Decora Base
Source: Naval History of the Corvus Cluster
Author: Vice Admiral Marc Gramond
Publisher: Astra Militarum Academy, Belliose III
Date of Publication: 6 873 923.M41
Access: Academy cadets, instructors, commissioned naval officers
Thought of the Day: In the darkest of moments, the Emperor’s light shines brightest.
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Excerpt of Academy Textbook
The Battle of Decora Base was a small, albeit strategically important Tau victory over an Imperial Navy task force in the Sculptor System in 738.M41.
It was fought in the proximity of the Decora Mining Base, a Jericho-Class mining facility that served as the hub of industrial mining in the Decora Asteroid Belt.
Imperial: Captain Julien Gilet, commander of The Executioner, a Firestorm-class frigate, and acting commander of Task Force Sigma.
Task Force Sigma consisted of two squadrons: Squadron 6A (three Firestorm-class frigates) and Squadron 6T (three Cobra-class destroyers)
Tau: Kor’el Ka’mais Dia’osh, captain of the Na’san, a Kir’qath (Defender)-class starship and acting commander of Mak’ta (Task Force) Dia’osh.
Mak’ta Dia’osh consisted of three Kir’qath (Defender)-class starships and three Kass’l (Orca)-class gunships.
The first Tau naval vessels to enter the Sculptor System arrived covertly in 724.M41, bearing Water Caste ambassadors that began to undermine the loyalty of the politically corrupt leaders of Media III (Sculptor IIIc).
When the leadership of Media III declared the moon’s succession from the Imperial—and its allegiance to the Tau Empire—in 732.M41, a Tau naval fleet of 17 Tau warships arrived to protect the traitorous world from Imperial retribution.
When a sizable portion of this flotilla provided support for a Tau invasion of the neighboring agricultural world of Dar Sai (Sculptor IIb), xeno naval forces were attacked by Fleet Corvus and suffered severe losses, including the death of Kor’el Dal’ta’ai.
With numerical superiority now obtained, Fleet Corvus was able to impose a blockade of Dar Sai, cutting off Tau land forces from resupply and severely weakening the xeno invasion attempt.
The Tau reinforced their naval forces in late 737.M41 and attempted to challenge the Imperial Navy’s dominance by breaking the Dar Sai blockade on 3 830 737.M41.
Over the course of a 17-hour battle, the Tau suffered significant losses and retreated to Media III, where a string of heavily fortified orbital defense stations discouraged Imperial attack and offered a safe haven for the surviving xeno vessels.
Unwilling to give Fleet Corvus the strategic initiative, the Tau pursued a new strategy of hit-and-run naval attacks designed to force Imperial warships to deploy patrols across the Sculptor System.
Such a deployment, it was believed by Tau strategists, would reduce the risk of a concentrated attack against Media III—and offer the opportunity for the weakened Tau Navy to target small Imperial naval detachments.
One of these attacks targeted the Decora Mining Base.
The Tau task force, consisting of six escort-class warships, left orbit around Media III and entered the Decora Asteroid Belt on 3 242 738.M41. It entered the range of the mining base’s sensors on 3 244 748.M41.
Unknown to the Tau, Task Force Sigma was engaged in a routine patrol that was within interceptor range of the mining base. Alerted by the base’s commander, Imperial warships immediately moved to intercept the xeno threat.
It wasn’t long before Tau sensors detected the oncoming Imperial ships. Although Kor’el Dia’osh considered withdrawing, he concluded his forces were sufficient to engage the enemy and directed his warships to attack.
Ordering his ships into two lines—with Cobra-class escorts screening the frigates—Captain Gilet led his task force in a frontal attack against the Tau.
With Tau sensors superior to that of the Imperium, Dia’osh was able to more accurately judge the distances and velocities of the approaching fleets and better time his ships’ fire.
At approximately 07:43, the Tau launched their first wave of torpedoes at maximum range, hoping to disrupt the Imperial formation and, with luck, cause some damage to the approaching enemy.
Some time later, the Imperial also fired a volley of torpedoes toward the Tau task force.
These initial waves failed miserably for both sides. Although several Tau torpedoes, with their superior internal guidance systems, managed to hit several Imperial ships, they failed to cause significant damage. Imperial torpedoes were either destroyed by the xenos’ ordinance-defense systems or failed to strike home.
When the approaching ships came into range of their opponent’s weapons batteries—under 15,000 kilometers—both sides opened up. In less than an hour, the smaller escorts (Orca- and Cobra-class ships) were largely destroyed. A single Orca-class gunship was still operational.
Moving directly toward one another, both task forces attempted to brake their momentum, with the Imperial frigates engaging a full retro burn to ensure their frontal guns could fire for as long as possible.
At this range, the Imperial ships with their heavy armor should have enjoyed an advantage, but it was not to be. The Executioner managed to destroy one Kir’qath (Defender)-class starship, but two Imperial frigates suffered a similar fate.
With a single damaged ship facing three Tau vessels, Gilet ordered The Executioner to break off the fight and withdraw. The Decora Mining Base would have to fend for itself.
It is not known if the Tau originally intended to seize the mining base, but with the Imperial’s retreat, the Tau immediately closed on the space station.
The security forces aboard the base fired the station’s weapons batteries repeatedly, but the xeno ships used targeted fire to quickly suppress these weapons. Once within 1,000 kilometers, the xeno ships launched a host of boarding shuttles.
A few shuttles were destroyed by Imperial fire, but the majority docked with the station. For about two hours, the mining base’s limited security force (50 abitrators), supported by the courageous if limited efforts of conscripted miners and technicians, attempted to repulse the xeno invaders.
Despite the Tau’s limited physical abilities in melee, the xenos—after deploying scores of combat drones—managed to overcome Imperial resistance with superior firepower.
The mining base—with all aboard—were in Tau hands.
The fall of the Decora Mining Base provided the Tau with yet another outpost in the Sculptor System and forced Fleet Corvus to worry over yet another xeno threat.
The greater impact of this battle may have been psychological. The recent victory of Commodore Gadea Hennard over the Tau fleet near Dar Sai had bolstered the morale of Imperial citizens who feared the threats created by ongoing Tau and Ork invasions. The loss of five ships and the sizable mining base left many Imperial citizens again questioning the ability and resolve of the Imperium to defend the Sculptor System.
Indeed, military intelligence reported that the Tau Earth Caste immediately expanded its efforts to spread heresy and treason through covert activity on multiple worlds in the Sculptor System.
It was this xeno effort that may have altered the fate of Captain Gilet. Some naval officers privately suggested the captain’s defeat—and his decision to retreat rather than deploy for a final stand beside the mining base–warranted a court marshal.
Instead, Henard (perhaps under the subtle influence of his aide, Captain Speakeman) opted to portray Gilet’s efforts as a courageous fight against superior odds. To great fanfare, Gilet was awarded a commendation in a ceremony widely publicized across the Sculptor System.
TheGM: This narrative tale was based on a solo game of Battlefleet Gothic (BFG) fought recently.
I actually played three games in a single night, as I hadn’t played BFG for months, and my grasp of the tactical nuances of the game was rusty.
After a Tau and Imperial victory in the previous games, and an opportunity to try out various tactics, I allowed the third and final match-up to determine the fate of the mining base.
After two attempts at “clever” tactics, I decided that a handful of small ships were so fragile that I could fight a long game of the Tau staying at a distance and firing torpedoes—or I could do what an Imperial commander would do: Charge in and just start shooting.
So, the two task forces simply charged directly at one another. The only tactics that proved relevant were attempts to adjust your speed so that your ships were first into firing range (which the Imperials won).
Alas, the Imperial couldn’t roll dice worth a hoot. What’s more, both sides kept failing to reload their torpedoes, and one wave of six Tau torpedoes simply failed to hit anything.
So, the fate of the Decora Mining Base was decided purely on the die rolls of weapons batteries, which the Tau eventually won.
It’s my hope to see more about the mining base in the future. I don’t know if it’ll be the scene of another epic BFG battle or if my growing collection of space corridors will create an opportunity for a Shadow Wars: Armageddon skirmish game.
(Oh, how I’d love to see some Knights of Altair in Terminator armor, equipped with siege shields and shotguns, attempt to take back the base from the Tau.)
Let’s keep our fingers crossed. You never know where this narrative campaign is going. It just seems to “happen.”
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our wargaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.