Dar Sai Campaign

A mini-campaign for the coronavirus era


The 740.M40 campaign for Port Aruna was a critical point in the war for the agri-moon of Dar Sai. Troops on both sides suffered terribly, as the fighting was the fiercest so far in the Tau invasion, although neither side realized how the campaign would be only a foreshadowing of what was to come.“—Chronicle of the Tau Invasion of Dar Sai, published 753.M41

TheGM: The Gaffer and I began the year with a flurry of battles, but since the coronavirus took hold, we’ve been forced to put down our swords. We are looking into online options, such as the online Battlefleet Gothic game, but I intend to keep the Corvus Cluster’s story moving forward in the traditional way.

I’ll be going solo, though.

Warhammer 40K blog

A Tau Recon Group, led by Commander Swiftstrike, studies the lay of the land before battle begins.

Thus my latest project: a mini-campaign to determine the fate of Port Aruna, a strategically important city on the coast of the main continent of Dar Sai.

There have been a number of battle reports describing the Tau’s attempts over the past few years to seize the Port City. The last engagement saw the xenos capture the Omao Plantation, just north of the port city, on 3 068 739.M41 (a year ago).

If you’ve been following recent events in the Corvus Cluster, you know that the Tau recently broke the Imperial Navy’s blockade over the agri-moon, and the xenos have taken advantage of their now-open supply lines to greatly reinforce Commander Swiftstrike‘s ground forces.

Warhammer 40K blog

Commander Swiftstrike

Now, Swiftstrike has several options:

• He can leave sizable troops to surround Port Aruna, which will leave him less troops for offensive operations elsewhere.

• He can leave a screening force around the city, with a risk that Imperial forces will break out and threaten his supply lines as he moves east or north.

• He can seize the city, risking high casualties but eliminating the risk to his flank and thus turn all his remaining troops to a campaign of conquest.

Swiftstrike chooses to seize the city.

To that end, I’ve pulled together a series of scenarios that will tell the story of Port Aruna’s fate. Each battle will be fought in a solo, tabletop game, and the cumulative score of the battles will determine whether Port Aruna falls.

(If the Tau win, they’ll find it much easier to seize more Imperial territory in the future, If they lose, they may still reach Port Aruna, but it will either turn into a horrific stalemate (like the city fighting in Stalingrad in World War II)—or the city will fall but the Tau will face penalties elsewhere over the next year of the campaign.)

I’ve decided to forego the traditional scenarios in the rulebook and pull scenarios from a variety of sources. They’ve been chosen based on a logical progression of events, but I also took into account the novelty of the scenarios.

I hope this campaign will be a tale of great heroism, bloody combat, even a degree of pathos—all of which I’ll try to convey through the battle reports. Here are the scenarios of the campaign:

Battle 1: Break the line

Newly reinforced, Commander Swiftstrike is determined to smash the Imperial defenses to the north of Port Aruna and drive his forces toward the port city.

Source of Scenario: Planetary Onslaught (2016-7th Edition 40K)

Scenario: Desperate Assault

Comments: I’ve always wanted to try a Planetstrike scenario, and Desperate Assault seems a perfect choice. The defender (Imperium, in this case) may place any number of fortifications onto the table at no cost. The attacker (Tau) is allowed a pre-game orbital bombardment and may Deep Strike with a sizable portion of his troops.

To me, this scenario captures the narrative: After an exhausting campaign in previous years, Imperial and Tau forces settled into an uneasy truce as they built up their forces. Fortifications have been built. If the Tau want to go on the offensive now, they need to break through a well-entrenched defensive line.

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Battle 2: Exploiting the breakthrough

Having penetrated the Imperial lines, Swiftstrike pushes troops into the Imperial rear. Imperial troops attempt to retreat in good order, while the Tau seek to exploit their breakthrough, destroy the disorganized humans, and race toward the port city.

Source of Scenario: War Zone Damaocles: Mont’Ka: The Rules (2015-7th Edition 40K)

Scenario: Armored Onslaught

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Tau fire warriors proved a formidable foe for Imperial troops on Dar Sai.

Comments: A “historical” scenario depicting an Imperial attack on Mu’gulath Bay, I’m reversing the combatants. The Tau will be on the attack.

The defenders set up in the middle of the table. The Tau can set up as close as 6″ from the Imperial deployment zone (Imperial troops are under pressure), but Tau reinforcements can enter from the opposite side of the table, as well. (Or Deep Strike or outflank from the other table edges.)

This scenario is interesting because it represents the retreating defender (Imperial troops) unprepared for battle and assaulted from all sides. To me, this represents the situation of troops during a German blitzkrieg in the early years of World War II. The bewildered defenders don’t know where the enemy will strike next.

Battle 3: Counterattack

Desperate to stem the Tau advance, Imperial forces pull together what troops they can and strike at the advancing Tau vanguard. The goal: Blunt the Tau attack and give Imperial troops a chance to reorganize a solid defense.

Source of Scenario: War Zone Damaocles: Mont’Ka: The Rules (2015-7th Edition 40K)

Scenario: The Eye of the Storm

Comments: This is a fight to the death. The Imperials can deploy on three table edges, as they are striking at the narrow vanguard of the Tau army. It’s simply a grueling, kill-or-be-killed fight, with the victor the last man standing.

Battle 4: Storm the Lines

The Tau have reached the outskirts of Port Aruna. The defenders are shaken from their retreat, but the city is well fortified, and Tau must again attack an entrenched position. If they break through, however, the city will almost certainly fall.

Source of the Scenario: Imperium Nihilus: Vigilus Defiant (2018-8th Edition 40K)

Scenario: Storm the Lines

Comments: This scenario allows me to put every fortification I own on the table. This is a huge advantage for the Imperial Guard, but two-thirds of the defenders must deploy in a “front” deployment zone, while the rest must deploy in a second deployment zone that’s farther back on the table (representing the second line of defense/reserves).

The advantage for the Tau is that they can recycle destroyed or nearly destroyed units, representing waves of attack.

Battle 5: To the Docks!

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The personal journal of Pvt. Tyesha Levers became one of the most important historical documents of the Tau invasion of Dar Sai.

The city is falling! Pvt. Tyesha Levers—a female sniper who has documented the Dar Sai campaign in her private journal—must escape to the docks and get aboard a ship that’s fleeing.

Source of the Scenario: Chapter Approved: 2018 Edition (2018-8th Edition 40K)

Scenario: The Gauntlet

Comments: The goal is to get as many troops off the long table edge as possible. The Tau already have “won.” This is a purely narrative scenario to see if the Imperium can evacuate any worthwhile number of troops.

To add some narrative, a key independent character is Pvt. Levers. Once again,  she must flee a city falling to the Tau. (Nearly four years ago, the hard-nosed sniper survived a similar disaster during the fall of Port Malati, fighting her way through that city to board one of the last ships evacuating troops. What a horror to endure the same situation again.

Final Thoughts

The nice thing about this mini-campaign is that it moves the story along on Dar Sai—and provides me with a framework for my gaming over the next few weeks.

I’m going to be a bit flexible on the victory conditions. Usually, the result will be obvious, but I’m not going to let that get in the way of a good story. I’m also making Pvt. Levers an independent character, so her actions will be clearer in the overall battle.

I may also include her sad sack comrades, Catillo and Haddaway, whose destiny may well be intertwined with our heroine. Now that will move along one tiny but, to me, important narrative in the grander campaign: The fate of these poor, downtrodden soldiers.

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The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.

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