“It feels like sand is sliding through our fingers. Every day, as you look at the strategic situation, you see cracks in the Imperial defenses. If orbital strikes and nuclear weapons aren’t enough to stem the green tide, is there anything we can do?”—remarks by Senator Gallus Arminius, offered to the Hegira High Council, only days before he was arrested and executed for promoting defeatism.
Six years after the first ork Rok crashed into Hegira, it estimated that the ork population has exponentially expanded—to nearly 5 million.
Although this number falls far short of the surviving 15 million Imperial citizens still alive on the war-torn moon, every ork is a warrior, whereas most citizens are laborers. Even with the drafting of every every male between the ages of 16 and 50, Imperial military forces cannot match the sheer manpower—let alone the ferocity—of the xeno menace.
Many military experts believed that the decision of General Tiberius Vectrix, superior ground commander on Hegira, to launch Operation Skyfire is the only reason Hegira remains contested.
[Operation Skyfire was an orbital bombardment of ork-held territory and ork troop concentrations conducted on 3 861 738.M41. At least a quarter of a million xeno troops, thousands of war vehicles, and significant ork manufacturing facilities were annihilated in the 10-hour bombardment.]
There also are intelligence reports that the ork warlord, Rumlar GrimRekkah, has been distracted from his budding WAAAGH! by challenges to his rulership. These challenges have led to a number of sizable clashes between various ork warbands, diverting their naturally aggressive activities to internal disputes.
One notable exception occurred on 3 671 739. M41, when a sizable ork warband attempted to break through Imperial lines defending Hegira’s strategic Topac Manufactorum, the largest industrial area still under Imperial control.
Testing the Defenses
In the days prior to the attack, the commander of the Topac Military District, Colonel Davide Abadi, was alarmed by reports that the orks were launching a series of small raids. Recognizing the possibility that these were reconnaissance missions testing the defenses around the manufactorum, he ordered a full alert of troops.
His diligence was well-founded. At 08:00 on the 671.739, the ork attack began.
Thankfully, the attack was very focused and consisted mostly of infantry, which suffered heavy casualties as they crossed the open desert that proved an effective “kill zone” for the Imperial defendesr. Imperial artillery and long-range tank fire quickly thinned out the greenskin ranks.
In the initial hour of the the battle, the ork attack was focused at the 6th Hegira PDF Battalion. One column of ork boyz advanced directly toward a gap between a tall sand dune and a copse of Shardwrack Spines that stood just in front of the battalion headquarters.
A second column advanced on the 6th Battalion’s weakest part of the line: its left flank.
This part of the line came under ork artillery fire, threatening to weaken the thin line of guardsmen even more. Col. Abadi immediately ordered counterfire that was so effective that enemy fire stopped entirely.
Despite such effective fire, the greenskins still managed to reach Imperial lines. A warband of gretchin, serving as skirmishers for the larger orks to the rear, managed to bring guardsmen under small-arms fire. Two volleys by the defending troops, however, quickly sent the diminutive xenos fleeing in retreat.
The stronger ork attack was directed at the center, and Abadi was determined to keep the greenskins as far away from his firing line as possible. He ordered his squadrons of Armored Sentinels forward to engage the xenos, hoping the walkers could draw the orks into a melee that would allow his infantry precious time to keep firing and thin the enemy ranks.
The tactic proved effective. The orks could not resist the challenge offered by the Sentinels, but their blows with battle axes and rifle butts proved ineffective against the walkers’ thick armor.
On the left flank, the retreat of the gretchin proved a temporary respite. Charging through the fleeting xenos, two-and-a-half-meter-tall orks raised a warcry as they approached the Imperial line.
Two volleys of fire failed to stop the onslaught, and a wave of green slammed into the guardsmen. The carnage that followed is too horrific to describe, except to say the Imperial left flank was shattered with no survivors.
At this point, the commander of the 14th Hegira PDF Mechanized Company made a serious mistake. Deployed on the right flank of the 6th Battalion, and with few orks to his front, he decided to advance his forces forward and behind the orks’ central column. His goal: To take the xenos in the flank.
Although this certainly turned the tide in the center of the battlefield, it inadvertently exposed the Imperial right flank. An unseen force of orks, embarked on Trukks and hidden in the mesas in front of the 14th Mechanized quickly, exploited this hole to slip past the armored column and swing in behind Imperial lines.
This force of Trukks managed to reach the rear of the 6th Battalion and disembarked enough troops that, if they’d charged immediately, would have led to the collapse of the entire Imperial line.
What saved the day was not tactics but the Emperor’s divine intervention. There was an unseen—and very deep—crevasse in front of the disembarking orks. Obscured by rising sand dunes, the crevasse wasn’t discovered until the ork charge began . . . and quickly came to a stop as greenskins stumbled, literally, upon the five-meter-wide and two-meter-deep gash in the desert floor.
Although the orks were able to cross the obstacle, it fatally delayed the greenskins and allowed Col. Abadi to bring up reserves. With the support of a Punisher tank, the entire ork force was wiped out.
Although the right flank had been stabilized, the ork attack continued unabated. In the center of the battlefield, an ork warlord, wielding a Power Klaw, was beginning to thin out the Sentinel delaying force.
The line was still holding . . . barely. Yet, many guardsmen were watching with growing unease the cloud of dust rising on their left flank. More greenskins were approaching. With the collapse of the left flank, the center was in great danger of being charged in the flank—an attack the hard-pressed center could not fend off.
That’s when a cheer arose. An adjutant of Col. Abadi ordered all personnel in the headquarters platoon—cooks, mechanics, clerks, and even Abadi’s personal bodyguard—to grab their lasguns and start firing upon the advancing ork column.
The goal of this still-unidentified officer was to draw the aggressive xenos into a fight. taking fire from some abandoned shacks, the ork attack was diverted, although the men of the heardquarters platoon soon found themselves charged and engaged in close combat.
Unlike their comrades in the open, however, these guardsmen used the limited defenses created by the shacks to good use. The melee continued for at least 10 minutes, buying time for Col. Abadi to bring yet more reserves forward to solidify the barely holding line.
It was the command battalion itself that saved the day. The officer in charge of the defenses, Captain Alba Plinius, ordered clerks, cooks, mechanics, and his personal bodyguard to advance from their entrenched headquarters and meet the advancing
End of Day
By the end of the day, there were almost no troops remaining on the battlefield. Preliminary estimates suggest that both human and ork forces suffered 80-percent casualties. The 6th Hegira PDF Battalion was, for all practical purposes, while the 14th Mechanized Battalion was reduced to a single, badly damaged Punisher.
Some military observers suggest the ork attack was surprisingly effective given the odds against it. But, as the attack was not supported by other ork forces in the region, there were no fresh troops to exploit the greenskin breakthrough—and thus the battle was a strategic failure.
By the next morning, the hole in the Imperial lines was filled, albeit by rushing troops from other areas of the front (and thinning those defenses in turn).
To maintain the morale of the troops and citizenry, the Ministry of Imperial Truth is claiming the battle was a great victory against the xeno invaders.
TheGM: The Gaffer had a bad day. After rolling die to determine the terrain, we ended up with a battlefield that was relatively barren, giving the Imperial Guard some excellent fields of fire. With only 600 points a side, his troop options also were very limited.
Adding to The Gaffer’s woes, Rumlar’s Meks aren’t doing their job in producing solid armor and anti-armor weaponry for the orks. We play 7th Edition, and the Ork Codex puts the greenskins at a bit of a disadvantage against my heavy armor.
(It doesn’t help that I’m a painting factory. In this battle, I introduced my Punisher tank, with a 20-shot gatling gun that’s murder on infantry.)
I keep telling The Gaffer that the campaign is a bit fairer than it may appear. He’s the better tactician. I just have the Dakka.
Of course, luck plays a role. I made a mistake leaving my northern flank open. What saved the day was The Gaffer rolling two 1’s for a charge that might have cinched the game for him. Despite my obvious glee at this turn of events, I could not help feeling he got a raw deal from the dice gods.
TheGaffer: Stupid dice…
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.