Lieutenant Paul Adros scanned the village ahead with his binoculars. There was no sign of the xenos, but a recon patrol had spotted a Devilfish transport in the village this morning. He sighed.
Guess we’ll have to go in hot.
Adros turned to Commissar Hoyt, who stood nearby, his binoculars also scanning the landscape. “It’s time for your conscripts to get some combat experience.”
Hoyt lowered his binoculars and looked at the lieutenant. There was almost a hint of a smile on the commissar’s usually grim visage.
“They’re ready to kill xeno scum,” he said. “Just tell us when and where.”
I think Hoyt’s actually looking forward to a fight, Adros thought.
“Deploy to the left of the road,” Adros said. “When you see the Chimera’s move forward, stay on their flank. Don’t let your men fall behind or get overeager and rush forward. Anchor my armor’s flank.”
“My men will do exactly as ordered,” Hoyt said, putting his hand on the bolt pistol at his hip. “They’ve seen how I maintain discipline.”
I’ve no doubt, Adros thought. I’ve no doubt.
After the Tau were repulsed from their attempt to seize the port city of Aruna, on the war-torn moon of Dar Sai, the xenos withdrew north to the Omao Plantation. Subsequently, the xenos were attacked by the Imperial Guard and forced northward again.
A relative period of inactivity then descended upon the front line, as both sides attempted to regroup. Still, the Tau attempted to infiltrate Imperial-held territory to the left of the Imperial army—in a lightly populated and heavily forested region that was not well defended.
To assess the threat of this infiltration, the Fourth Platoon, 3rd Company, 2nd Battalion, 728th Regiment, was ordered to conduct a reconnaissance mission. Under the command of Lt. Paul Adros, the platoon was to traverse the few primitive roads in the area, visit the surrounding handful of villages and plantations, and determine enemy activity.
Casualties suffered during the fight for Aruna had left 4th Platoon understrength, so the unit was assigned support troops and transports. On 3 863 738.M41, 3rd Platoon spotted a Tau vehicle at a crossroads [Location: 84-A3-837-8s.6]. A small skirmish followed.
Order of Battle: 4th Platoon
- Task Force Command Squad: Lt. Adros, 4 guardsmen, embarked in Chimera with multi-laser, heavy bolter
- Platoon Command Squad: Master Sergeant Carlita Pack, 4 guardsmen, with auto cannon
- Infantry Squad: Sergeant, 9 guardsmen, with one flamer, embarked in Chimera with heavy flamer, flamer
- Infantry Squad: Sergeant, 9 guardsmen, with one flamer
- Conscript Squad: Commissar Terillian Hoyt, 20 conscripts
- Sentinel Squadron: 2 Scout Sentinels
Order of Battle: Tau Forces
- Fire Warrior Squad: 6 fire warriors
- Fire Warrior Squad: 6 fire warriors
- Fire Warrior Squad: 6 fire warriors
- Pathfinder Squad: 4 pathfinders, supported by Devilish, with burst cannon, two gun drones
- Kroot squad: 10 Kroot
- Piranha Squadron: 2 Piranha, with burst cannon and fusion blaster
The initial Imperial advance began slow and steady. The Chimeras moved down the central road, with 1st Squad and the platoon command squad to the right (1).
Conscripts advanced to the left (2). To bolster the poorly trained conscripts, two Scout Sentinels followed to provide support. (3)
Lt. Adros and four guardsmen rode the lead Chimera; 2nd Squad, in reserve, rode in the second Chimera.
Initial contact with the enemy occurred on the Imperial right flank, when Kroot auxiliary troops in the woods fired upon 1st Squad as it attempted to cross a stream (4). Casualties were light (three guardsmen wounded), and a return volley by 1st Squad killed three xenos and forced them to retreat. (5)
The only other significant action in the initial advance was by the Tau Pathfinders in the enemy rear. Finding themselves poorly placed, they rushed to their Devilfish (7), intending to move in support of their left flank.
As the Kroot fell back, the Chimeras advanced up the road. With clear evidence of an enemy presence nearby, the trailing Chimera—equipped with flamers—was ordered to set ablaze a nearby farmhouse (8).
This proved a wise precaution, as the Tau’s Beta Squad, clearly prepared for an ambush, was forced to withdraw from the burning building.
Now in the open, and observing the Kroot rallying nearby, Beta Squad decided to charge. Supported by volley fire from Alpha Squad (8), Beta Squad entered the woods just as the Imperial’s 1st Squad did, surprising the guardsmen with their aggressive tactics (9).
In hindsight, the Tau’s assault was a mistake. Generally inferior to the humans physically, Beta Squad suffered heavy casualties and, although a few fire warriors escaped, the squad was destroyed as far as combat effectiveness.
Aware that 1st Squad was under attack, Lt. Adros ordered 2nd Squad (his reserve) out of the second Chimera. These guardsmen reached the melee just as the Kroot attempted to support the Tau charge, (10) and they took the xenos in the flank and routed them (12). Two xeno units were now out of the fight.
On the far flank, the conscripts struggled to cross the stream and crop fields beyond. (11) There was no sign of the enemy, but Commissar Hoyt moved the men forward quickly and ruthlessly, threatening them with his bolt pistol in one hand and slapping them on their backs with the flat of his power sword.
The conscripts crossed the stream just in time. The Tau skimmers (Piranhas) hiding behind the cornfield had launched their drones, which were just coming into view from the southern corner of the field. The drones managed to kill two conscripts before being shot down by the combined fire of the newly formed squad and its supporting Sentinels (12).
Behind the Tau front, the xeno reserves moved forward. The Piranhas edged forward (13) so they could sweep around the cornfield and take the conscripts in the flank, while Ceti Squad advanced through the cornfield to confront the conscripts from the front (14).
At this point, the battle came to its crisis point. The two Piranhas raced around the corner of the cornfield to attack the conscripts in the flank. They targeted the Sentinels and destroyed one (15).
At this moment, Hoyt raised his sword and ordered the charge. With a roar, the conscripts moved forward, ignoring the Tau skimmers and braving the xeno fire to close with the fire warriors in the cornfield. A fierce hand-to-hand melee ensued, until finally all the xenos—including the Tau commanding officer— were killed (16).
The remaining Sentinel also joined the fight, challenging the Piranhas with a hail of anti-armor fire that saw one Piranha destroyed and convinced its partner to withdraw (17).
To the north, the destruction of the Tau’s Beta Squad—and the rout of the Kroot—left Alpha Squad sorely outgunned, despite its strong defensive position behind a stone wall and the arrival of the Pathfinders. As the flamer-armed Chimera slowly weaved through the difficult terrain (18) to bring this position under fire, and Alpha Squad advanced on its flank, the xenos withdrew. (19)
Despite some desultory fire over the next hour, the fighting was essentially over. The xenos abandoned their position, and and 3rd Platoon advanced to continue its recon mission. (20)
The enemy was fleeing. Casualties were minimal. He’d lost a Sentinel, but his Chimeras were fully operational.
Not a bad day’s work, Adros thought.
To his right, the young lieutenant could see 1st Squad warily advancing past a stable. To his left, the conscripts were checking a cluster of farm houses to ensure no enemy snipers were waiting for an easy kill.
Now what? Do I report contact with the enemy and withdraw . . . or do I push my luck and see if I can get to the next village?
It was really a rhetorical question. His orders were to find out what the enemy was doing out here, and driving a few squads out of this village really didn’t answer that question.
“Sergeant!” Adros called out. His platoon sergeant hurried over.
“Any xeno survivors?” the lieutenant asked. “I need prisoners for interrogation.”
The sergeant looked uncomfortable. “Sorry, sir. You didn’t mention anything about that. We followed standard procedure and killed any xeno wounded.”
Adros cursed quietly. He’d forgotten to order the capture of survivors—a rookie mistake that put a shadow over his victory.
Well, there’s your answer. I need prisoners. So, we’re going to have to keep going until we run into the xenos again.
No point bringing attention to my mistake, he thought. “Don’t worry about it, sergeant. I just thought I’d find a little pet for Commissar Hoyt.”
TheGM—There were objectives placed, but in the heat of the fighting, both sides forgot about them. It was a fight to the death. On the last turn, the command Chimera rushed down the road and seized an objective, providing the victory points to officially win. But the Tau essentially were routed.
This was a solo game, and subconsciously, I clearly favored the Imperial Guard. I had a plan for the Guard’s advance, but only a vague idea of how I wanted the Tau to respond. Very quickly I realized the Tau were simply conducting a static defense (excepting the uninspired and disastrous attacks by the fire warriors) and were too widely dispersed to bring the concentration of fire needed for victory.
Still, while my xeno commander was inept in his planning, it was a fun game. The battlefield was packed with terrain, realistically portraying a rural countryside, and the limited visibility and slowed maneuverability added a nice flavor to the fight.
Don’t knock solo gaming. While I prefer a living, breathing opponent, solo games are a great way to try out different strategies, test your troops’ capabilities, and provide a good narrative tale. (Also, you always win!)
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.