“We all knew it was coming . . . the Tau attack. We knew it would be a tough fight. But, when the fighting began, we did well. The Tau used the Kroot as cannon fodder, and we slaughtered thousands. But the Tau behind made it to the trenches. That’s when things got bad.“—Severely injured guardsmen, interviewed on a medical ship after being evacuated from Port Aruna.
TheGM: The following “historical account” documents the fourth battle in the five-battle mini-campaign to determine the fate of Port Aruna. This was a solo game, as The Gaffer and I can only occasionally organize an outdoor event where we take turns approaching the game table.
The scenario is called “Storm the Lines,” published in Imperium Nihilus: Vigilus Defiant (2018-8th Edition 40K). The defender was permitted to place fortifications on the table, while the attacker was permitted to bring back destroyed units over the course of the game. Other than fortifications, there was no terrain on the table—it was assumed the defenders had cleared a sizable kill zone in front of their positions.
Excerpt: Chronicle of the Tau Invasion of Dar Sai,
The Imperial attack on the Tau logistical center near Sandeep proved a significant strategic victory, as it greatly inconvenienced—and ultimately delayed—the final xeno assault on Port Aruna. This delay provided crucial time for the city’s defenders to strengthen their fortified defensive line.
But the Tau eventually resolved their logistical problems and reached the outer lines of Aruna’s defenses on 3 542 740.M41. Soon after, Imperial anti-air guns were hard-pressed to deal with the cloud of xeno drones that flew overhead, no doubt providing the Tau with detailed maps of the defenses. Two severe, two-day thunderstorms also likely hampered the xenos’ plans.
Finally, on 3 558 740.M41, the Tau attacked along the center and the western length of the city’s defenses. The attack was a combined-arms assault, with Hammerhead tanks and Riptide combat suits providing heavy ordinance fire and Devilfish skimmers and air-dropped Crisis Suits seeking to break through the outer defensive works.
The vanguard of the attack was directed at Redoubt #7, equipped with two battle cannons, and the 300-meter length of trenches to each side of the redoubt. Two Hammerhead tanks, supported by a Riptide and two Broadside combat suits, advanced on the trenches and opened fire.
After a few minutes of bombardment, fast-moving Piranha skimmers, armed with fusion blasters, raced directly at the redoubt, with the obvious intent of destroying the centerpiece of the Imperial defenses. Xeno casualties were high as the enemy crossed the open killing zone.
Interrogation of captured zenos after the battle revealed the Imperial defenses were significantly strong to force a hasty change in the Tau’s attack plans. Originally, the xenos had intended for Crisis Suits to “deep strike” behind the trench lines, so as to attack the trenches from two directions. But, as Imperial reserves were moving quickly to respond to the attack, it was feared the unsupported combat suits would be overwhelmed before they could overcome the defensive line.
As a result, new orders were issued just before the Crisis Suits were air-dropped. Their new landing zones were outside the Imperial defenses, where whey would join up with advancing Devilfish transports and their embarked Fire Warriors. They would go into combat shoulder to shoulder.
Considerable Tau assets were directed at Redoubt #7. Three Piranha skimmers and Crisis Suits, all armed with fusion blasters, charged the fortification, with long-range support provided by a Riptide and Broadside combat suit.
The thick armor of the redoubt proved a formidable obstacle to the xenos. Despite repeated attacks, none of their shots appeared to have any impact.
The same was not true for the Imperial response. A heavy weapons team in the nearby trenches opened up with a lascannon, turning one Piranha into a fireball. Then the redoubt’s twin battle cannons fired, and three Crisis Suits and a second Piranha are destroyed., leaving a sole skimmer to confront the redoubt’s formidable defenses.
Such successes led to rising hopes among the defenders that the xenos would be stopped easily, but halfway through the day, the fortunes of war changed. A Riptide was bombarding the trench lines but, when advancing Devilfish blocked its line of fire, it turned its ion accelerator to the only visible target, the redoubt.
That one shot changed the course of the battle. The high-energy beaml punctured the redoubt’s armor, slammed into the fortification’s armory, and the entire structure exploded in a fireball that killed everyone within 50 meters and sent the barrel of one of the redoubt’s battle cannons tumbling 60 meters into the air.
(As it happened, the barrel landed on the unfortunate Lt. Felix Galla, a newly commissioned officer who went to the Emperor’s side in the first minutes of his first command.)
In the initial hours of the battle, the western trenches received little attention from the enemy. Ordinance targeted the trenches, but the guardsmen simply “went to ground” and suffered minor casualties.
By mid-day, however, the enemy took more interest in exploiting the crater that once had been the redoubt. The trenches closest to this crater soon found themselves assailed by Devilfish that dropped off Fire Warriors within assault range, gun drones, and Crisis Suits armed with burst cannon. Even a Hammerhead tank turned its attention at the this part of the defenses.
Thankfully, Captain Stevrous Stark, commander of the defenses, reacted quickly. By the time the Tau threatened the trenches, a squadron of Scout Sentinels and a Lemon Russ Battle Tank arrived to add their firepower to the defenses.
For the next two hours, the combatants fought a battle of attrition. Casualties among the infantry were severe, and one Scout Sentinel was destroyed as Crisis Suits jumped over the trench line and took the fight directly to the humans.
By late afternoon, the xenos came close to breaking through. A shot from an advancing Riptide did severe damage to the Battle Tank, and a fusion blaster shot into its flank and destroyed it. The defenses appeared to waiver, but with the arrival of a special weapons team, armed with meltaguns, guardsmen were able to take down two Crisis Suits and rout the rest. The surviving guardsmen re-established control over this part of the line.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.