As the sniper of the squad, Jean Baptiste knew the success of this mission rested largely on him. Crouched at the corner of the ramshackle shed, Baptiste followed the ork guard through the telescopic lens of his rifle as the xeno made its rounds through the xeno compound.
You must kill him with the first shot, he thought to himself. You cannot let the greenskin sound the alarm.
Trusting that the rifle’s silencer would safely muffle his shot, Baptiste aimed and fired. The ork dropped.
But it wasn’t dead. It bellowed a warning, and all hell broke lose.
On 3 438 740.M41, a squad in 3rd Platoon, Beta Company, 1st Battalion, 728th Cadian Regiment undertook an unsanctioned rescue mission to free their company commander from enemy hands.
The commander, Captain John Birk, was captured by an ork raiding party on Hegira two days earlier. A trench raid by the xenos caught the commander visiting troops on the front line outside Susa City, and although the greenskins were repulsed, there was no sign of Captain Birk afterwards. He was presumed dead—or wishing he was dead.
The loss of the popular captain was not acceptable to Sgt. Mikel Chalon and, without seeking approval, he led a small group of volunteers on a rescue mission. The 15-year-veteran NCO led his men to a small, abandoned shanty town outside Imperial lines, which was known the orks used occasionally as a staging area.
Based on observations with a monocular, Chalon determined that it was likely that Captain Birk was held in a two-story shanty at the center of town. A handful of orks surrounded the shanty, suggesting they were guarding something.
Chalon weighed his options: Charge forward on a snatch-and-grab mission, or attempt to use stealth and a silenced sniper rifle to take the guards out one by one.
He chose the latter option. It was a poor tactical choice.
A muddled attack
With the alarm sounded, Sgt. Chalon had a choice to make: rush the orks or try to take them out with firepower. Again, he made the wrong choice. His six guardsmen, accompanied by a bullgryn auxiliary, remained in their covered positions and targeted the ork guards.
Alas, the Imperial fire was largely ineffective, as the orks also sought cover. The result was a firefight that lasted for several minutes, causing only a single ork casualty but drawing unwanted attention from other orks in the area.
Although Chalon attempted to use the confusion of the fight to reach the hut where Captain Birk was held, he fell victim to xeno fire and was out of action for the remainder of the fight. The result was that the squad lacked leadership, and as the guardsmen desperately tried to bring down the greenskins, they unwittedly lost the initiative as ork reinforcements quickly bolstered the xeno defenses.
Soon, there were more orks than humans on the scene, and several orks attempted to turn the squad’s left flank. Although one charging ork was brought down, another reached a guardsman firing through a gap between two rocky mesas.
The guardsman was supported by the bullgryn, Nog, but the gap was too narrow for him to support the attacked soldier. The guardsman was quickly brought down, and the bullgryn then found himself assaulted. Despite his size and ferocity, he, too, was brought low.
With two more guardsmen wounded by enemy fire, and more orks arriving on the scene, the rescue mission was doomed. Baptiste took it upon himself to order the retreat.
Despite the inept attack, all participants survived. Chalon managed to crawl back to Baptiste during the fighting, and the sniper assisted the wounded NCO back to Imperial lines.
The orks harassed the retreating humans, ignoring the wounded guardsmen who played dead. When Nog regained consciousness, he found himself alone at the edge of town, and after a brief search for someone to give him an order, he picked up two fallen comrades and carried them back to base.
After consultations between Commissariat officers and the regimental commander, Col. August Klein, it was decided that no official disciplinary action would be imposed for this unauthorized raid.
The reasons was simple: As news spread that guardsmen had risked themselves for a popular commander, the inept rescue mission was well received by the troops, as well as by several officers who fancied themselves equally popular. Punishing the men would likely be detrimental to morale.
That said, Sgt. Chalon was visited by Col. Klien in the field hospital and given an informal and private dressing down for his irresponsible leadership. It was made clear that any further “foolishness” would lead to Chalon’s demotion to private . . . or worse.
TheGM: When I play well, I play well. When I play poorly . . . well this was one of those times.
This was the first tabletop battle between The Gaffer and myself since the coronavirus hit and, in the interest of social distancing, we played outside—and took turns approaching the table to move our miniatures.
I made several major mistakes. First, I misread the rules. In Shadow War: Armageddon, you can use a sniper rifle to kill a guard without setting off an alarm. I did not notice the small detail that the guard had to be taken “out of action.”
I discovered this rule detail after I’d rolled for wounds. Then I did the math: I had a two-thirds chance to hit, a 50-50 chance to “wound,” but only a 1 in 6 chance of taking the target “out of action.” That’s one chance in 18. So, thinking I could snipe all the guards (and not alert any off-table orks) was unrealistic in the extreme.
I should have charged the position.
And that was my second mistake. A very serious tactical mistake that I can’t blame on the dice. Once the alarm was sounded, I should have rushed the position. There were only three orks standing when my second turn arrived, and I had six men and a bullgryn. No matter how good orks are in melee, I could have tied them up with some men, raced into the shanty with one or two to grab the captain, and beaten a quick retreat.
Instead, I stayed in cover and tried to win with my superior shooting (veteran guardsmen hit on a 3+). But this meant I surrendered the initiative to the orks. Soon, I was outnumbered two-to-one by the greenskins, and that meant that, although their shooting was poor, their addition firepower greatly undermined by reliance on gunfire.
The ultimate insult was when two orks attacked my left flank. The greenskins attacked a very narrow gap in the mesas (which I intended to limit any ork charge), but it also turned out my bullgryn couldn’t join the melee. So my guardsmen died. For a final kick to my pride, the guardsmen fell in my turn, allowing an ork to squeeze through the gap and charge Nog at a bonus, and my stupid but loyal abhuman rolled abysmally and was quickly dispatched.
Accepting defeat and running away was the only merciful option at that point.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.