For some weeks, the Tech Priest known as Abnightus has been searching the battlefields of Tophet in hopes of deciphering the mysteries of Necron technology.
It is a dangerous quest. The Necrons launched their attack on Tophet nearly two years ago, with a fleet appearing in orbit over the world—and troops rising from the depths of the planet. It appears that Tophet was once, 60 million years ago, a minor tomb world of the xenos.
This unprovoked attack has led to worldwide carnage. The regiments of the Planetary Defense Force (PDF) have so far managed to hold on to about half the planet, but the fighting has been relentless.
That means nothing to Abnightus. His focus is solely on his research, and he has done nothing to help the Imperial defenses.
He is interested only in scouring the battlefields for xeno wreckage.
His efforts have been, up to now, fruitless. The Necrons are loath to allow their ancient technology to fall into the hands of “lesser” species, and it seems that every piece of damaged Necron technology—down to the molecular level—is programmed to “phase out” if no longer operative.
On 6 957 739.M41, however, Abnightus learned that the wreckage of a Necron skimmer [Classification: Tomb Blade] was spotted in the ruins of a small city in the southern hemisphere of Tophet. It appears that even the advanced Necron technology occasionally malfunctions.
Rushing to the scene with a contingent of personal Skitarii, as well as members of a Deathwatch team, he attempted to wrest this prize from the xenos.
The Necrons had other ideas.
• Skitarii Alpha
• Ranger Skitarii with galvanic rifles x 8
• Ranger Skitarii with transuranic arquebus
• Ranger Vanguard with radium carbines x 8
• Ranger Vanguard with arc rifle
• Deathwatch Veterans x 3 (two with jetpacks)
• Overlord with mind scarabs
• Lychguard with hyperphase swords and dispersion shields x 3
• Immortals with gauss blasters x 2
• Immortals with telsa carbines x 2
• Necron Warriors x 12
Two armies advance
Uncertain as to the location of xeno forces, Abnightus opted to advance his troops on a wide front. He took up a position on the right flank, where he could advance under the cover of some ramshackle shanties.
The Deathwatch advanced on the left flank, using speed to cross open ground before any xeno response occurred.
As he moved forward, Abnightus learned that Necron forces were approaching from the northeast corner of the battlefield. Marching in the lead were Necron warriors, screening an Overlord, a trio of personal bodyguards [Classification: Lychguard}, and four heavy weapons specialists [Classification: Immortals].
A small contingent of Skitarii had advanced across the center of the battlefield, maintaining a link between the two Imperial flank forces. These half dozen Skitarii took up positions behind cover—a pipeline, rubble piles, and abandoned industrial equipment.
One Skitarii Vanguard took up position on the second-floor walkway of a shanty, while a Ranger with a transuranic arquebus clambered to the top of a three-story-tall drilling rig to give himself a commanding view of the fight zone.
On the left, the Deathwatch managed to reach the cover of several ruined buildings before the Necrons came into firing range. As two Space Marines had jetpacks, they believed the rough terrain would not prove an obstacle to a hasty advance.
While some Necrons broke away from the main column to take up a firing position surrounding the Tomb Blade wreckage, the majority of Necrons advanced on Abnightus’ position. As they moved forward, the Lychguard stepped to the forefront, putting their dispersion shields to the fore.
It quickly became evident to Abnightus that the Lychguard were the main threat to his goals. Directing his Skitarii to target them, however, the tech priest soon discerned that the Necron’s shields were more than capable of fending off his troops’ fire.
Abnightus then sent a single Skitarii forward to test the melee capabilities of these Lychguard. He quickly discovered that the cybernetic warriors were deadly fast, and their hand weapons could slice an opponent in half with little effort.
After that, it took all of 1.0347 seconds for Abnightus’ internal cogitators to calculate that allowing the Necrons to engage his force in melee would lead to utter defeat. He thus ordered a slow withdrawal but occasionally sent a single Skitarii forward to fight and slow the xenos down.
While costly in troops, this strategy was designed to draw the Necrons out of position, away from the Tomb Blade. Meanwhile, he hoped the Deathwatch could turn the Necron flank and seize his prize.
The Deathwatch did not find it so easy to advance as they’d supposed. They discovered that the Necron weapons were deadly, and they were forced to use their jetpacks sparingly to avoid being shot down as they flew. The need to stay in cover cost them precious time as they scrambled on foot over the rubble of the ruins.
When they finally approached the downed Necron vehicle, they found it well defended. Still, with the help of covering fire from Skitarii, the two-jetpack-equipped Marines found a moment when they could use their jetpacks to race forward and engage the enemy.
One Space Marine opened up on the Necrons with a flamer, only to discover the xenos’ metallic outer shell was unaffected.
With no other choice, the two Astartes charged. Engaging the Necrons in desperate hand-to hand combat, the Deathwatch Veterans finally emerged triumphant. Meanwhile, a third Deathwatch Veteran, a Space Wolf, took advantage of the fighting to reach the Tomb Blade unopposed.
With the assistance of two accompanying Skitarii, he tore off several pieces of technology from the xeno vehicle and began carrying them toward Imperial lines.
It was imperative that Abnightus keep the Necron Overlord and his Lychguard occupied, so they could not give chase to the Deathwatch. Thus he launched a small counterattack with several Skitarri, sacrificing them but tying down the Overlord’s troops.
Meanwhile, the remainder of his command formed up behind an above-ground pipeline, creating a well-defended and formidable firing line that soon rained immense fire upon the xenos. Despite numerous attempts to rush this position, the Neurons were repeatedly forced back.
Soon enough, however, the Necron technology was safely behind friendly lines, and Abnightus ordered a hasty withdrawal. The tech priest had his prize.
TheGM: By acquiring his wreckage, Abnightus will infer a few key weaknesses in Necron technology—and this will benefit the Tophet defenders in the coming months.
To represent this, any player playing Imperial troops on Tophet will receive a free Stratagem allowing him to reroll failed wound rolls—once per game. (I can’t totally unbalance any future games by doing any more.)
So, to the players of Shorehammer, the Imperial defenders of Tophet thank you. The sacrifice of your Skitarii has helped shift the balance of power against the xeno threat.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.