Gray dominated the landscape surrounding Brother Batheus. Ork artillery had pounded the suburbs of Susa City for more than half a year, and the area’s gothic architecture had long since been reduced to ruins.
Then those ruins had been reduced to rubble, and the rubble ground into a fine dust that coated everything. The red soil had turned gray, as had the once-white marble streets.
Indeed, as xeno artillery rumbled in the distance, Batheus could see great clouds of gray dust erupting on the horizon, turning even the red-tinted sky gray.
“Hand me another ammo clip?” Batheus asked.
Not far away, another scout—his heraldry identifying him as a fellow neophyte of the Knights of Altair—was pulling equipment out of a cache of supplies, the site carefully camouflaged by a sensor-resistant canvas coated in the same gray dust that covered everything around.
Without a word, Brother Cicero reached into the cache and pulled out the ammo. He tossed it in Batheus’ direction without looking.
Catching the clip effortlessly, Batheus attached it to his belt. A moment later, the voice of Brother-Sergeant Karael Taridon came across his vox.
“Enemy sighted, 150 meters to the south. Twelve hostiles.”
Despite his mental conditioning, Batheus felt himself tense. It wasn’t the threat of violence that concerned him. Although he was still only a neophyte—not a full-fledged Space Marine—his mental conditioning suppressed any fear of violence or death.
What sparked the sudden tension was the tactical disadvantage this threat implied. Most of his squad was away from camp, conducting recon missions to determine the deployment of the ork invaders. There were only three Knights guarding their base of operation.
“This is the second time they’ve found our base,” Batheus observed. “Are they lucky? Or are we being sloppy?
“Forget it,” Cicero said. “The brother-sergeant has already ordered everyone back to support us. Our job is to hold off the enemy until we can concentrate our forces.”
Cicero already was moving. Waving Batheus to a position behind a service drone, the more veteran scout took up a position on higher ground, careful to remain concealed behind some rubble.
Taking up his position, Batheus tried to spot the orks as they moved forward. But he could see nothing. His only clue to their presence was the sensor readings displaying on his internal monitor, the xenos’ heat readings picked up by the brother-sergeant’s sensors and automatically transmitted to the rest of his squad.
“Enemy advancing on a wide front,” Taridon said. “Brother Geis reports he’s closest to us, and he can move up behind the enemy’s left flank. We’ll move on that flank and catch the xenos in a crossfire. If we hit hard, we should even the odds a bit.”
As he spoke, Taridon was on the move. He ran past the startled Batheus, closely followed by Cicero. Batheus followed quickly.
The three of them had moved only 40 meters before Cicero ran up a pile of rubble and dropped to his belly, his boltgun at the ready. Taridon signaled Batheus to another pile of rubble, then took up a position behind Cicero.
Bathetus took his position and, while studying the position of the combatants on his visor, he tried to analyze the tactical situation and learn.
It was clear that Cicero had taken a position where he could fire on the two orks that formed the xenos’ left flank. There was a gap between them and the rest of the ork mob, their isolation making the two vulnerable to attack. From his position, Cicerco could fire at the xenos—or put suppression fire on the other orks if they moved to support the isolated greenskins.
Behind the two orks, Brother Geis was moving cautiously through the rubble. It appeared he would be able to strike at the orks without their knowledge.
As he waited for Geis to move up, Batheus watched as the other orks began to reach a position to the space marines’ left. Any second, the greenskins would be past the space marines. Once the shooting began, they’d be able to swing around behind Batheus.
He had no more time to analyze the situation. A boltgun fired, and the battle was on.
Geis had slipped behind the orks and fired, but his initial fire failed to take down the orks. Batheus added his fire, along with Cicero, but given the distance and cover available to the orks, their fire had also been ineffective.
The orks retured fire. A stubber opened up on Geis, who scrambled back behind cover. A snap shot by another ork was lucky, catching the shoulder of Cicero and spinning him around. He slid partly down the rubble before coming to a stop.
“Cicero? What’s your status?” Taridon snapped.
Over the vox, Batheus heard only a grunt in reply. The scout did mange to hand signal that he was alive but out of the fight.
“Get over here Batheus,” Taridon ordered. “We’re withdrawing.”
The decision surprised the young scout, but it made sense. The rest of the squad wouldn’t arrive in time and, without Cicero in the fight, the orks would quickly overwhelm the four of them.
Batheus scrambled to his feet and ran over to his brother-sergeant, who was pulling Cicero by the leg down the rubble.
“The xenos are approaching from the east,” Taridon explained, grunting as he pulled the downed Cicero to his side. “We have an estimated 13 seconds to withdraw without challenge.”
Taridon finally pulled Cicero to ground level and, with Batheus’ help, they lifted up the wounded scout and began to move away from the xenos. Artemis pulled his plasma pistol from its holster and scanned the ruins.
“Let’s go,” the brother-sergeant said.
As they moved out, the first ork appeared. from the corner of a shattered plascrete building. Startled, the xeno stopped short then started to raise its gun.
Taridon did not hesitate. His plasma pistol fired, and the ork’s head exploded as the weapon’s super-hot beam hit home.
“One less xeno in the galaxy,” the brother-sergeant noted as the two Space Marines ran to relative safety, their wounded comrade held between them.
TheGM: The Gaffer and I recently played a series of Shadow War: Armageddon games between a warband of orks and my Knights of Altair.
The setting was the war-torn moon of Hegira, specifically the Caratice Housing Development in the suburbs of Susa City.
The first game, described here, was shockingly short—just three turns. The scenario was “Hit and Run,” and I was defending a cache of supplies that my scout squad was using as a home base as they patrolled the suburbs.
We’d played this scenario before, but when we rolled it up again, we decided to give it another try. But my dice were pathetic. I rolled up the minimum number of fighters to start on the table, while The Gaffer rolled the max number.
I thought my plan was sound. Rather than give the orks the initiative, I tried to take the fight to them by concentrating on one flank. Alas, the dice had other plans. Although I should have hit with Brother Geas (he would have hit on a 3), and Cicero and Batheus had a fair chance with a 4, I rolled two 1’s and a 2.
All it took was a single hit by the two orks to strike down Cicero, bringing me to 25% casualties on the table. A terrible morale roll later, and I’d failed my “Bottle Test.” That meant Taridon decided the tactical situation wasn’t worth fighting any more. (I agreed.)
It was a bit of an anti-climatic battle. But, then, some historical battles were won or lost on the first volley, so what’s the use of complaining? It was a “historical” result.
TheGaffer: The board looks much different from our usual table. We went to the local game shop and used their stock of Gale Force 9 scenery. GF9 is producing their gothic ruins again, and i wanted to check out the stock coming out.
It was one of those quirky misadventures, but as the GM rolled well on the spoils of war, he actually did okay with beefing up his squad. Shadow War: Armageddon is interesting in that there really are no losers, especially for orks. We’z don’ looz, we just come back fer a ‘nuvver go! Waaaaugh!!
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.