“By mid-738.M41, as the Imperial Navy blockade over Dar Sai loosened, the resupplied Tau army became an increasingly formidable military force—and Imperial troops found each battle against the xeno invaders increasingly costly.”—Chronicle of the Tau invasion of Dar Sai, published 753.M41.
Battle of Three Hills
3 883-885 738.M41
Dar Sai, Sculptor System
Excerpt: Chronicle of the Tau Invasion of Dar Sai
The Battle of Three Hills was a three-day military engagement fought to the south of the Hawi Plantation on the main continent of the Tau-invaded moon of Dar Sai.
Launched to drive Tau invaders farther away from the key port of Aruna, the Imperial attack involved nearly 30,000 Imperial Guard and Dar Sai PDF (Planetary Defense Forces), as well as 300 armored vehicles. The defending xeno forces consisted of an estimated 15,000 Tau and Kroot warriors, along with an undetermined number of battle suits and Hammerhead tanks.
Planned by the military commander of Imperial forces on Dar Sai, Captain Strevrous Stark, the objective of the attack was to break through the Tau defensive lines and advance northward, recapturing Imperial territory seized by the xenos over the previous year.
The attack was spearheaded by a company of Lemon Russ Tanks, closely surrounded by infantry to ensure that Tau Crisis Suits didn’t conduct an aerial assault from the sky, land behind the tanks, and target their thinner rear armor.
Additional support was provided by eight batteries of Basilisk and Wyvern artillery and a squadron of Valkyrie Assault Carriers.
The initial attack advanced rapidly, as the Tau refused to challenge the Imperial armored spearhead on open ground. Instead, the xenos cowered behind their defensive line, which was located in a forested area approximately 50 kilometers north of the Imperial lines.
Unchallenged, the Imperial attack quickly reached the Tau line, and the battle began in earnest. Basiliks and Wyvern batteries pounded the enemy lines, doing particular injury to the Tau’s dreaded Pathfinder teams, which use laser targeting devices to improve the accuracy of their xeno weapons.
As the Imperials advanced closer to the Tau lines, the xenos opened up with their Hammerhead tanks and Riptide and Broadside Battle Suits. The leading Lemon Russ tanks returned fire.
At this point, the Imperials refused their right flank, shifting their infantry battalions to the left to target a small forest where xeno infantry fire was quite heavy. An initial volley by Kroot auxiliary troops wiped out two Imperial infantry squads in seconds, but the xenos were quickly annihilated by return fire from no less than two entire companies of guardsmen.
By 09:00 local time, the Imperial armor had reached their initial objective: three small hills in front of the Tau defensive line. A row of Lemon Russ tanks took position at the crest of each hill to concentrate their fire on the xeno armor, while artillery batteries advanced to positions behind the hills to add their fire.
Over the course of the next two hours, a bitter battle ensured. Nearly a score of Lemon Russ tanks were destroyed by the high-velocity weaponry of the xenos, but the Imperial superiority of numbers began to make itself felt. One by one, the Tau’s Hammerhead tanks and Riptides were destroyed or forced to withdraw in the face of heavy Imperial fire.
Meanwhile, the Imperial infantry attack, supported by jets of flaming promethium jets from the Inferno Cannons on Hellhound tanks, drove the Tau infantry out of their forested positions. As the xenos fled across the open meadows to the rear of the forest, they were brought under fire by strafing Valkyries.
By 15:00, the xenos began a general withdrawal. The Imperial pursued for approximately 25 kilometers before being slowed by thick forest growth and a stiffening xeno defensive posture. The attack was called off at 18:00, and the advancing Imperial army took up defensive positions for the night.
The Imperial attack stalled on the second day, due to logistical difficulties and heavier-than-expected precipitation that hindered air support. Although a number of skirmishes were reported along the front lines, no major military action occurred.
Imperial forces renewed their attack with another armored thrust up the middle of the xeno line. But the Tau were more aggressive in their response, dropping sizable numbers of Crisis Suits and heretical AI-controlled gun drones behind Imperial lines.
These xeno aerial drops caused consternation among Imperial troops, particularly the less-trained PDF, who were attacked from the rear just as they were assaulting the Tau front lines. Caught in a crossfire, the infantry suffered heavy casualties, and the Imperial infantry advance ended for the day.
The Imperial armor also suffered heavily. Imperial recon troops were not as successful in spotting Tau Pathfinders, who from covered positions provided firing information to the xeno’s remaining armored assets. The result was heavy casualties among Imperial armored units, with the loss of eight Lemon Russ tanks by mid-morning.
The crisis of the battle occurred on the Imperial left flank. A second wave of Crisis Suits, this time led by a senior Tau officer, dropped near the Imperial artillery, with the clear intend of destroying the clear Imperial advantage in artillery assets. This attack was supported by a Riptide Battle Suit that killed scores of infantry with its beam weaponry [Weapon classification: Ion Accelerator].
Yet, the Imperial artillery proved up to the xeno challenge. By the end of the attack, Basilisks and Wyvern crews had lowered their artillery barrels to their lowest elevations and were firing them as direct-fire weapons. The Tau commander of the xeno attack was killed, and the Riptide was felled by a Basilisk that fired as the xeno battle suit came within 30 meters of the artillery piece.
After five hours of fighting, heavy xeno fire and growing casualties prompted the order for Imperial forces to withdraw. Imperial forces fell back in good order, forming up on the initial objective of three hills. As these hills dominated the surrounding landscape, Imperial forces used them as the centerpiece of a new defensive line.
Although there was some debate in high command about a renewal of the Imperial attack, casualties had degraded the combat effectiveness of several battalions and, worse, the Tau’s targeting of armor and artillery assets had severely weakened the offensive potential of Imperial forces. As a result, Captain Stark ordered his forces to dig in—a period of consolidation and rebuilding would be necessary before the Imperium could resume any offensive.
The ground war for Dar Sai entered yet another period of relative calm.
Postscript: Given the tactical importance of the three hills on the first day of battle—and the withdrawal of Imperial forces back to the hills on the third day—this military engagement became known as the Battle of Three Hills.
TheGM: This battle report summarizes two solo battles I fought recently. What’s really notable about these tabletop engagements was that I used 8th Edition for the first time.
I’m not sure I like this version of 40K. While the game played slightly faster, and I enjoyed some of the new abilities of each army, 8th Edition abstracts even more the fighting of futuristic forces, and units were getting wiped out left and right. It was faster, but I felt the fighting was over before I had a chance to watch the dynamics of the battle play out.
I hope The Gaffer and I will stick to 7th for a while. But I need to learn 8th if I hope to play at my local GW store, and I’ve signed up for my first tournament (Shorehammer), so I need to get a few more games under my belt if I’m going to prove an effective participant. (I don’t expect to win a single game. I just want to give my opponents a decent showing.)
The Imperials won the first fight; the Tau the second. So, as a draw, I just wrote up some of the highlights of the battles into a narrative story. In the end, the Imperium and Tau gained little from this clash but a lot of casualties.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.