For several days after the defeat, PDF forces fled south, the Tau following closely behind. Although some units managed to maintain cohesion and fight a series of delaying actions, other units were highly disorganized and unable to account for fully half their roster of troops.
Commissars shot dozens of fleeing men, but at one point, it appeared that Imperial opposition was close to crumbling completely.
“Only a dozen men in my platoon reported for roll call this morning,” one dirty and exhausted trooper said. “The xenos are right on our tail, but there’s no way that we’ve lost the other 38 men. They’re out there somewhere . . . lost or running.”
It’s possible that the xenos would have reached Aruna without serious opposition. But on 3 475 738.M41, salvation arrived. Learning of the Tau advance, the Knights of Altair sent a small response force to challenge the xenos. Landing by Thunderhawks at the sprawling Leonidas Plantation, approximately 40 Space Marines and a handful of vehicles arrived just in time to launch a counterattack at the xeno menace.
The subsequent battle proved extremely costly to the Knights, as the xeno’s high-powered weaponry proved very effective. A single Hammerhead tank, supported by a Broadside battle suit and a handful of Crisis suits, managed to destroy a Land Raider, Predator tank, Vindicator tank, and three Rhino armored transports.
Meanwhile, squadrons of heretical gun drones dropped from the skies to challenge the Marines on foot.
Despite their vehicle losses, the ferocity of the Knights’ attack—spearheaded by a contingent of Terminator-armored Marines—proved so deadly that the Tau failed to seize their intended objectives. A bloody stalemate followed.
Although a tactical draw, military authorites claim a strategic victory, as the Knights of Altair stopped the Tau advance and provided time for Imperial Guard and PDF reinforcements to bolster the defenses around Aruna.
“The Aruna defensive line is being strengthened daily, and as the battles outside Pradeep have proved, a fortified city is a tough nut to crack,” Captain Stevrous Stark, commander of Cadian Imperial Guard on Dar Sai, told the Bulletin.
Despite such optimism, some military observers note that the Tau managed to break the defenses of Malati three years ago. It’s also been reported that Tau reinforcements recently slipped through the Imperial blockade that has long denied the xeno invaders access to supplies and additional troops.
Such concerns were discounted by Captain Stark.
“What citizens of Dar Sai must understand about this battle is that reserve troops were attacked in isolation and thrown back. It is a small reverse and does not mean that the war for Dar Sai is being lost. As more reinforcements arrive, we will take the offensive and drive these hateful xenos from this moon. The Emperor provides.”
TheGM: These two battles were fought one weekend when TheGaffer was busy (so I had to play solo). As such, I didn’t feel the Tau deserved to seize any strategic objective on the campaign map—but I rewarded them with some territorial gains to further the narrative of our Tau invasion.
The first battle was an Imperial disaster. My PDF deployed on a wooded hill in depth to prevent a Tau Deep Strike that could cause great damage. The Tau (my Tau) took advantage of this concentration to turn the Imperial left flank—and then bolstered the Kroot advance with Crisis Suits that conducted a Deep Strike right in front of that weak flank. The concentration of firepower took a heavy toll on Imperial troops.
The PDF attempted to charge the small force of Fire Warriors directly to their front, thus turning the opposing flank to their advantage. But, as the PDF entered the open ground to take the fight to the xenos, other Tau Fire Warriors took up position on the PDF flank. Caught in a crossfire, Imperial forces took heavy casualties, and some units routed back toward the hill.
With the attack halted, the PDF commander attempted to shift troops to face the Kroot/Crisis Suit threat. But using their jet packs, the Crisis Suits won the “race” for the Imperial rear. The left flank crumbled completely,, and the battle was over.
I expected better things from my Knights of Altair. In the Astartes’ counterattack, I attempted an armored assault on the Tau’s right flank. Spearheading the attack was a newly painted Land Raider, with Terminators embarked, and two Rhinos with tactical squads. At first, this combination looked like a deadly punch.
But infiltrating Kroot and Deep-Striking drones targeted the weaker rear armor of my vehicles, and my attack was delayed while troops disembarked and slaughtered the pesky xenos. By the time the attack got started again, a Broadside Suit and a slew of Crisis Suits arrived to threaten the vehicles’ flanks. Surprisingly quickly, all three vehicles were destroyed, and the infantry took heavy casualties as they advanced into charge range.
Although the Terminators slaughtered Tau right and left, the rest of the Tau army—having dispatched their opposition in the center and left flank—were advancing to turn my mildly successful attack. If the game had continued another turn or two, the Knights would have been soundly defeated. But, the Space Marines had paid attention to objectives, and when the game ended on Turn 5, they’d just squeaked out a draw.
So, my “ruling,” as it were, is that the Tau made some initial gains but ultimately were stopped. But the xenos still have the initiative, and Imperial forces must wait for the next attack.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our wargaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.