“A major Tau attack against Imperial troops north of Aruna has successfully broken through the lines and is advancing south toward the port city. A state of emergency has been declared by Praetor Justinian Hypatia, who is ordering all available military assets to the city’s defense.“—Imperial News Voxcast, 3 324 740.M41.
The following “historical account” documents the first battle, “Break the Line,” in the five-battle mini-campaign to determine the fate of Port Aruna. This was a solo game played by TheGM.
The scenario is called “Desperate Assault,” published in Planetary Onslaught (2016). a 7th Edition scenario book covering, among other things, the rules for Planetstrike. The defender was permitted to place a number of fortifications on the table, while the attacker was permitted several orbital strikes. Both players also had access to several stratagems appropriate for their role as attacker or defender.
Here is the campaign map. This scenario was Battle 1.
3 324 740.M41
Dar Sai, Sculptor System
Excerpt: Chronicle of the Tau Invasion of Dar Sai
After the Tau seizure of the Omao Plantation (3 068 739.M41), logistical challenges severely restricted Tau offensive efforts for the remainder of the year. With the exception of a minor attack on Sandeep in the center of the main continent of the agri-moon, Dar Sai settled into a period of relative calm—with only occasional skirmishing between the two adversaries.
With the breaking of the Imperial naval blockade over Dar Sai, Tau warships quickly deployed over the moon, allowing significant war material and reinforcements to be shuttled down to the surface. His army restrengthened, Commander Swiftstrike—supreme military leader of all Tau forces in the Sculptor System—was ready to renew his conquest of Dar Sai.
His first target was Port Aruna, and his attack came on 3 324 740.M41.
Approximately one hour before dawn (04:48), the Imperial defensive line north of Port Aruna came under heavy orbital bombardment by Tau naval forces. Massive 60-meter-long missiles rained down, wiping out entire sections of the Imperial trench line and destroying one heavily armored redoubt.
Some small consolation for Imperial commanders was the unusually inaccurate targeting of this attack. Approximately half of the nearly 50 missiles fired landed to the north of the fortified land, scarring the landscape but otherwise causing no damage to Imperial troops.
Casualties were limited. One Sentinel squadron, half a company of guardsmen, and a redoubt were annihilated when two missiles landed directly on their position. The only survivor was a primaris psyker, who was pulled half buried from a missile crater, stunned but otherwise unhurt.
The bombardment lifted within 20 minutes, and long-range scanners reported that Tau armor was beginning to advance. Using night-fighting auspices, the xenos managed to bring the Imperial trenches under accurate fire, but most guardsmen had “gone to ground,” and only a few dozen casualties were reported from this new Tau threat.
Tabletop Notes: The dice were not kind to either side. The first Firestorm attack wiped out a Redoubt, a Sentinel, and five guardsmen inside the fortification. Surprisingly, a primaris psyker, although having a Strength 10 pie plate dropped on top of him, survived when a “1” was rolled on the To-Wound Table.
As for troops in the trenches, a 4+ cover save severely undermined the effectiveness of the Tau fire. (This battle was fought with 7th Edition rules.)
As dawn arrived, the shell-shocked guardsmen were able to see the threat advancing upon them. To their front, a wave of Hammerhead tanks and Devilfish were advancing, their weapons raking the Imperial lines. Striding behind this wall of armor were Riptides, 18-meter-tall walkers armed with ion accelerators, which fired between the leading vehicles.
Meanwhile, another line of attack appeared overhead. Teams of Crisis Suits, smaller but more agile battle suits, fell from the sky. Strong anti-air fire, however, forced much of this aerial force to engage in evasive maneuvers to avoid being shot down, and nearly half of the descending xeno troops veered off course and landed back in the Tau deployment zone.
Those xenos who managed to land as intended proved highly dangerous. One Crisis Suit team, armed with burst cannons, caused significant casualties to infantry squads behind the trench line. Other behind-the-line infantrymen fell prey to dropping gun drones.
The Tau attempted to Deep Strike with four units. All four managed their reserve roll, but two landed on top of Imperial troops and had to roll on the Deep Strike Mishap Table. Both ended up being deployed by the defenders, and they were placed along the table’s edge in the Tau deployment zone—as far away from the Imperials as possible.
The good news was the Tau didn’t lose any troops to a mishap. But with half their aerial drop out of action for several turns, the Tau attack was seriously compromised.
The Imperial high command responded immediately to the xeno attack. Two Lemon Russ tanks arrived on the west flank of the threatened area and began to bring Tau armor under fire. This fire was not terribly accurate. One battle cannon shell scattered, although it annihilated a squad of Fire Warrs; another scattered and peppered a Riptide with shrapnel.
A Valkyrie also joined the fight, although its strafing run on a Hammerhead managed only to scrape some paint off the xeno tank.
Several squads of infantry were deployed in underground barracks as a reserve. Having survived the xeno bombardment, they were ordered to the surface to join their beleaguered comrades in dealing with the Crisis Suits and drones wrecking havoc behind the trench line.
Tabletop Notes: Anti-tank fire by the Imperials proved ineffective. The Tau shifted their advance to the east and used their Devilfish armored transports to screen their tanks from the increasing Imperial fire.
The reinforced guardsmen on the east flank had better luck. The multi-lasers from a trio of Sentinels, a handful of flamers, and the lasgun fire of numerous infantry squads began to bring down signifciant numbers of the Tau gun drones.
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