“The mobility of the Tau war machine is the greatest obstacle to cleansing Dar Sai of the xeno filth. You can watch your flanks. You can deploy a huge reserve to guard your rear. But, at some point in the battle, when a weakness appears in your deployment, that’s where the Tau will strike. They always aim a blade right at your throat.”—Chronicle of the Tau invasion of Dar Sai, published 753.M41, quote attributed to Captain Stevrous Stark, commander of Imperial forces on the moon of Dar Sai.
Imperial drive on Hawi Plantation fails
3 061 739.M41
Dar Sai, Sculptor System
Excerpt: Chronicle of the Tau Invasion of Dar Sai
After the Battle of Three Hills, the rainy season arrived on the main continent of Dar Sai, and significant military operations ceased. Yet, the commander of Imperial forces on the moon, Captain Stevrous Stark, was impatient to strike again at his xeno opponent. He spent this time of inactivity reinforcing his front-line troops, bringing up fresh reserves of armor, and preparing for a new offensive.
His chance came in the new year. On 3 061 739.M41, after a week without rain allowed the soil to dry sufficiently for armored action, he launched an attack to retake the Three Hills and the Hawi Plantation to the north.
The vanguard of this attack was the 2nd Battalion of the 728th Cadian Regiment, the 3rd Armored Company, and the 19th PDF Regiment.
One big challenge for Imperial forces was the topography of the battlefield. With a wide river to their left, and extensive forests to their right, any Imperial attack was limited to a direct assault northward, and the Tau were well aware—and well prepared—for such an attack.
What’s more, just in front of the Imperial lines was a narrow but particularly dense concentration of woods and rough terrain, which Imperial armor would need to break through before reaching more open, tank-friendly farmland. It was a choke point that Captain Stark—and Tau Commander Swiftstrike—knew would play a pivotal role in the upcoming battle.
The attack begins
To give the Imperial attack an opportunity to succeed, Captain Stark ordered the battle to begin at 04:00. Although advancing in the dark was risky, Stark considered it imperative that Imperial armor clear the rough terrain before the Tau could deploy sufficient firepower at that point and stop the attack dead in its tracks.
The advance began on time, but the lead tanks of the 3rd Armored Company ignored orders to rush forward—and, instead, advanced cautiously. As a result, by the time the lead tanks reached the edge of the woods, the Tau had been warned and had deployed armor to block the Imperial advance.
Despite this tactical reverse, Imperial armor managed to draw blood first—with Lieutenant Cipio Pax, commander of the 3rd, blowing up a Hammerhead tank with his Vanquisher-variant Lemon Russ.
For the next 30 minutes, Imperial and Tau forces traded fire, and armored casualties began to mount on both sides. But the Tau had succeeded in their initial objective—to stop the Imperial attack in its tracks and allow the xenos’ more mobile reserves to be committed.
By 07:30, Stark began receiving reports of overhead Tau aircraft and the aerial drop of xeno battle suits. More than two dozen Crisis Suits, accompanied by scores of gun drones, dropped on the Imperial right flank—all of which pushed into the flank of a column of Chimera transports. Embarked troops hastily abandoned thire burning and exploding vehicles as they came under intense fire from Tau fusion blasters and burst cannon.
These xeno forces quickly were brought under fire by a battery of Basilisk cannon, but this artillery soon found itself threatened by flanking Piranha skimmers and Devilish transports carrying nearly a company of Tau fire warriors.
Meanwhile, the Imperial left flank came under pressure as Tau infantry massed in a small town just beyond the woods, forcing a flanking force of Imperial armored Sentinels to stop their advance and deploy defensively in the woods.
As the Tau pressed the Imperials on the flanks, Stark attempted desperately to regain the initiative. Calling in air support, he targeted the threat to his right flank with a strafing run by Valkyries. At the same time, he ordered several Veteran squads—all equipped heavily with meltaguns—to challenge the advancing Crisis Suits.
What followed was a brawl, a battle of attrition, that saw screaming hordes of guardsmen charging at two-meter-tall armored battle suits. The guardsmen’s meltaguns were very effective in wiping out the powerful battle suits, but the fire of gun drones and supporting fire warriors mowed down the guardsmen with deadly efficiency.
In the end, although badly mauled, the Tau advance on the right flank continued. Outflanked, the xeno Piranhas managed to bring the Basilisks under fire and destroy them.
By the final stages of the battle, only a single Imperial tank—that of Lt. Pax—was still in action. Abandoning the advance, he turned and joined up with a reserve of scout Sentinels to stymie the Tau flanking attack. At some point during this stage of the fighting, Commander Swiftstrike was wounded, and with the day drawing to a close, the Tau pulled back and allowed the battered Imperial forces to retreat.
The Imperial attack was a total defeat, and the Tau cautiously followed the Imperials until a new defensive line was established nearly 100 kilometers to the south.
Imperial Victory Points: First Blood (1 v.p.) + Slay the Warlord (1 v.p.) +5 destroyed units (5 v.p.) = 7 v.p.
Tau Victory Points: Slay the Warlord (1 v.p.) + Linebreaker (1 v.p.) + 6 destroyed units (6 v.p.) – 8 v.p.
Minor Tau Victory!
TheGM: This scenario, “Counter-Attack,” was pulled from the 2008 Battle Missions book. The scenario was designed around the Tau battle strategy known as Kauyon, or the “Patient Hunter,” in which you lure your enemy to attack a position from which you can counter attack.
Although I didn’t plan it, terrain randomly placed according to die rolls created a choke point in the Imperial deployment zone. As I’m looking to take a more narrative approach in my solo gaming, this fit perfectly with the scenario.
While playing the Imperial player, I saw the choke point and tried to use the terrain to my advantage. But while I had Lt. Pax (aka Commander Pask) as my tank ace, I also had Longstrike as the Tau tank ace.
(Neither one could hit the side of a barn all night. Even Longstrike, with the help of marker lights, took three turns to kill a single Lemon Russ tank.)
As Captain Stark, I kept a strong reserve for the inevitable Deep Strike of Crisis Suits and gun drones. But the Tau reserve rolls put almost everything on the Imperial right flank, which gave the xenos a concentration of force that proved unstoppable. I simply could not move my armor or Sentinels fast enough through the woods to counter this attack.
Still, it proved a close fight. Well, good for the Tau for squeaking through a victory. At least I had a good time.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.