Battle Report (Tabletop)

Knights of Altair defeat Tau force on Dar Sai – Part 1

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Chapter Master Adrias Ioculus and his Honor Guard charge the Tau Warlord and his bodyguard at a key moment of the battle near Sandeep.

“The noble Space Marine chapter, the Knights of Altair, played a pivotal role in fighting the xeno invaders in the Sculptor System. Alas, these Astartes were spread thin,  limiting their role  largely to hit-and-run attacks designed to have the maximum strategic effect.

For example, when the Tau invaders on Dar Sai marched on the strategically important port city of Aruna in mid-740.M41, the Knights were not called in to defend the city. Instead, elements of the 1st and 4th companies of the chapter were asked to launch an attack farther north, near the town of Sandeep. That attack, aimed at a key logistical center of the Tau army,  cut fuel and ammo supplies and slowed the Tau advance  on Aruna considerably, buying important time for the Imperial Guard to prepare their defenses of the city.”—Chronicle of the Tau Invasion of Dar Sai, published 753.M41

TheGM: This battle report is different than those of the past.  I want to describe this fight from my own perspective as a player.

I’ve completed a bunch of new terrain and, as I like a “pretty” table, I decided to just cover my game table with terrain. I didn’t worry about its impact on gaming; I just wanted to make a really nice-looking table.

I figured I could just declare some terrain as “just for show,” otherwise all the terrain would result in lots of cover saves and difficult terrain rolls. But then I thought about it: Isn’t that what real troops have to do? Remember the bocage terrain that the Allies had to fight through during the Normandy campaign of World War II?

And isn’t lots of terrain, with all its limits on movement and line of sight, what makes City of Death scenarios so much fun?

So, I decided all the terrain counted. You’d roll for difficult terrain when you crossed a wall or fence, or when a vehicle tried to navigate through a copse of trees or a vineyard. Let’s, I thought, find out what it’s like to play in heavily wooded, pastoral terrain.

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As Dar Sai is a lush agri-world, I decided to put as much terrain as I could on my game table. There are crop fields, stone walls, orchards, ponds, forests, corn fields, farm shacks, rock formations, and a stable for livestock.

Strategic Background

All battles in the Corvus Cluster are part of the overall narrative of our campaign, so I needed to find a good background for this fight.

I decided to pit my Knights of Altair Space Marine Chapter against the Tau. I just felt like pulling out my Marines, and the pastoral setting seemed to fit Dar Sai.

My problem was that I’d started a five-battle, mini-campaign for the port city of Aruna, and I didn’t want this separate battle to skew the results of the campaign. So, I needed to come up with a story that had a narrative link  to the fight for Aruna but didn’t directly influence the mini-campaign’s victory conditions.

My solution was found in the delay in fighting all the campaign’s battles. I date my battles according to when they’re fought (and then translate them to the Imperial calendar), and although the Tau are racing to Aruna, there was a several week lag between some of the tabletop battles. I need to explain that delay, as the Tau would not deliberately slow down their advance.

My solution is simple: With the Imperial army on Dar Sai retreating in disorder, something needed to be done to slow the advancing Tau forces. On 3 396 740.M41, a hastily organized armored force counterattacked, surprising the vanguard of the Tau advance and stopping it cold.

This victory did not significantly change the strategic threat. Imperial forces reached the safety of Port Arena, but they were disorganized and demoralized, and time was needed to prepare an effective defense of the city.

So, somethingwas  needed to put the Tau off balance. To that end, the Knights of Altair sent elements of the 1st and 4th companies of their illustrious chapter to Dar Sai to destroy a key logistical center of the Tau and stop crucial ammo and fuel supplies from reaching the attack on Aruna.

This attack would not to prevent the xenos from reaching the city, but it would force the Tau to delay their final assault until they could bring up necessary supplies. In short, this delay had no effect on the results of the mini-campaign; it did explain the sudden delay in the Tau’s final assault. In my opinion, this was a great way to use the battle to further the narrative.

The battle began on 3 508 740.M41.

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Although both sides spread their forces across their front line, both armies put more emphasis on the center and right flanks.

Deployment

The scenario was “The Emperor’s Will.” Both sides set up on the diagonal edges of the table, with a single objective within each deployment zone. Both sides placed their objectives in the farthest corners of their respective zones, so the battle would be won by someone being an aggressive attacker (breaking through their opponent’s line) or, more likely, by someone achieving more secondary objectives (Slay the Warlord, First Blood, Linebreaker).

The Tau rolled to set up first, and they  set up with forces across the table, so as not to give the Knights a weak flank to attack. The Tau intended to see what the Marines did, then they would either sit back and use their firepower against the Space Marines—or shift their center to one flank and attempt to turn it. (It should be noted that the Tau left flank was slightly stronger, and they subsequently went on the attack.)

For fun, I decided to play the Knights as Black Templars. Normally, I treat the Knights as Imperial Fists, but I was intrigued by the idea of a more melee-oriented army (not normally my style, as I’m  more of a sit-back-and-shoot kind of guy). I took a Land Raider with an Honor Guard as my main offensive unit, accompanied by High Marshal Ioculus (using stats for the Black Templars Chapter Master Helbrecht), and I decided to slam straight up the middle, with infantry and bikers attempting to turn the Tau right flank.

If successful, I’d roll up the line and seize the Tau objective. Of course, as I was playing the Tau player as well, I intended to roll up the Imperial right flank, as well. We’d see.

Click here to read Part 2 of this battle report.

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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