“It cannot be denied that Imperial commanders had hints of the ork naval threat to the Sculptor System. Yet, as often is the case, the prevailing view that orks act impulsively and without forethought created complacency and overconfidence in the Imperium’s ability to contain the xeno threat.“—“My Life in the Imperial Navy,” the memoirs of Admiral Marcus Speakeman, published in 819.M41.
NEWS REPORT, Imperial Daily Bulletin to Citizens
Ork warships destroy two Imperial ships in asteroid belt
By Amicia Gellena
Bulletin Staff Writer
Two Imperial warships were lost yesterday after clashing with a small flotilla of ork vessels in the asteroid belt of the Sculptor system.
The Tyrant-class cruiser, Heretic’s Bane, and a Cobra-class destroyer, Medusa, were destroyed with all hands. Another destroyer, Exalted in Belief, escaped under orders to warn the system’s main battle fleet of the xeno threat.
“We are all saddened—and outraged—at the results of this small engagement,” Commodore Gadea Hennard, senior naval officer in the system, said in a statement.
“The handful of ork vessels in the Sculptor System pose little threat to planet-bound citizens,” he added. “With more than 20 Imperial warships in the system, the xenos are unlikely to risk leaving the asteroid belt and face destruction.”
The tragic Imperial defeat began at 08:38 on 3 764 739.M41, in the outer ring of the asteroid belt. Heretic’s Bane, along with its escorts, was on routine patrol when they spotted a Kill Kroozer and three smaller ork ships.
The extent of the threat was not immediately apparent, Imperial naval leaders say. A Kill Kroozer is a well-armed warship but not quite equivalent to an Imperial cruiser.
The disaster stemmed from an underestimation of the smaller ships, authorities suggest. Originally thought to be roughly equivalent to an Imperial destroyer, the xeno ships turned out to be “Ramships” as classified by naval intelligence, which are unusually dangerous for their size. These ships have heavily armored prows, which aggressive orks use to ram human vessels and then board them with well-armed xeno troops.
At first, the Imperial patrol did not understand the threat, authorities surmise. Following standard protocol, Heretic’s Bane and the two destroyers targeted their lances at the larger Kroozer, believing it to be the greatest threat.
But it was the smaller vessels that struck the first blow of the xenos. Three Ramships charged at the destroyers and, although one was destroyed as it approached and one failed to strike home, the third xeno ship managed to collide with the Medusa, board the destroyer, and slaughter its crew.
“You cannot imagine the carnage and brutal, primitive ferocity of an ork,” said one naval veteran who served on a warship boarded by orks. “The ship’s corridors end up bathed in blood, with hacked corpses and dismembered arms and legs blanketing the decks.”
As the Medusa was lost, Heretic’s Bane and Exalted in Belief were forced to separate as the Kill Kroozer bore down upon them. The Imperial cruiser sought to disable the large xeno vessel with a broadside, while the Exalted attempted to get behind the ork ship and fire into the ork vessel’s weaker-armored stern.
The ork response was typically aggressive. While the Kill Kroozer faced off against the Heretic’s Bane in close-quarter broadsides, the victorious Ramships abandoned the Medusa and accelerated toward the hard-pressed Imperial cruiser.
One Ramship was destroyed by torpedoes as it approached, but the others plowed forward and rammed the Heretic’s Bane. Although the ork boarding party was finally defeated, some orks made it to the cruiser’s bridge and killed the captain and his senior officers.
Pulling away from the Ramships, Heretic’s Bane attempted to flee, naval authorities say. But as the cruiser cleared the Ramships, the Kill Kroozer opened up new with a new bombardment of the Imperial cruiser and damaged its engines.
Now critically damaged—and the ship struggling to maneuver without a bridge command—Heretic’s Bane was unable to accelerate out of danger. That allowed the ork Ramship to make a second attack and board again.
Exactly what happened aboard the Heretic’s Bane is unknown. Ordered to warn the fleet, the Exalted broke off its attack and accelerated toward Sculptor IV, where fleet headquarters orbits the Tau-invaded moon of Dar Sai.
As it fled, the destroyer received one last message from Heretic’s Bane, advising that the crew was being driven back and would attempt to blow up the ship. No communications with the cruiser have been received since then, nor have system-wide sensors recorded any energy readings that would indicate the massive explosion that would occur if the vessel’s reactors went into a meltdown.
“At this time, we are unable to determine the fate of the Heretic’s Bane,” said Captain Marcus Speakeman, senior intelligence officer for Commodore Hennard. “We are relatively confident the crew is dead, but whether the ship was scuttled—or is a floating hulk yet to be discovered—is unclear.”
Some scholars suggest a more ominous possibility. Over the past few years, ork raiders have been attacking—and seizing—a variety of military and commercial vessels and disappearing with their prizes into the asteroid belt.
“Some believe the orks have a hidden base within the belt,” said one scholar, who demanded anonymity out of fear of arrest by the Commissariat. “It is very likely that the xenos are using the raw material of these captured vessels to build up a fleet of their own. Heretic’s Bane may well be converted into another Kill Kroozer.”
The GM: After my solo practice game (Imperials warships clash with Kill Kroozer), I pulled out some of my Ramships and gave them, along with my Kill Kroozer, to our resident ork commander, The Gaffer.
Despite my greater “experience” with Battlefleet Gothic, the ork fleet ripped me apart.
There is something terrifying about ork Ramships. An Imperial cruiser has a sizable advantage in crew numbers, but orks are orks . . . and my ability to fend off a xeno boarding party finally proved inadequate.
Imagine how the ship’s crew felt when they’d driven off the first attempt to seize Heretic’s Bane and then saw the Ramships coming again? The orks are simply not to be discouraged in a brawl.
So, another small—albeit ominous—victory for the orks.
TheGaffer: It was a fun little fight to while-away an hour (which is all the time we seem to have these days). This was a battle to get familiar with the rules and see “How da’ Monsta’ Works.”
Ship battles are my joy, especially age of sail. Battlefleet Gothic, with it’s mechanics of broadsides and boarding actions, plays more like Trafalgar than Trek. Be that as it may, the GM played very well but made a critical mistake believing the cloud would obscure weapons fire…lesson learned. After that, Rumlar, having won the initiative by psychology and numerical superiority, kept up the pressure. The Imperial’s long range fire started to play havoc on the <need to think of a name for the Kroozer> but the ram ships forced the Heretics’ Bane to maneuver and split fire.
And then there were the dice rolls. Two critical hits to the bridge. It’s too early to say how the new front in the asteroids will play out. The model making will be fun either way. Rumlar is not doing well on the ground at the moment. But that can change too.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.