“High ground is good ground for a sniper. But it’s also a danger. It’s the first place a veteran soldier looks for a sniper and, if things go wrong, high ground can be a trap. As Baker Company withdrew across Port Aruna, I forgot that lesson. It almost cost me my life.“—Private Journal, Pvt. Tyesha Levers, Baker Co., 728th Cadian Regiment.
I spent too long trying to take down a Stealth Suit. Thanks to the attack of the Armored Sentinels, the way was open for our retreat—and guardsmen don’t waste time when it’s time to run. When I heard the thump of countless running boots start up again, I realized I’d better start moving . . . or I’d find myself left behind.
I barely made it. When I got to ground level, the Armored Sentinels were standing at the end of the alley, screening running men and spraying flames at a horde of xenos seeking to cut off the retreat.
I still remember running down the alley. I was behind the walkers, but my skin felt on fire from the heat of the flamers. As I passed them by, I looked over and saw a gap in ruins and about a dozen Tau only about five meters away. I got to the other side of the gap just in time to avoid getting shot.
It wasn’t just my speed, mind you, that saved me (although I’ve never run so fast in my life). As the Tau came through the gap, they were only a few feet away from me, but those four-meter tall Sentinels drew their attention. A lone guardsmen running for his life just wasn’t a priority when a heavy flamer is turning to incinerate you.
It’s possible I was the last member of Baker Company to get out alive. In front of me, a squad of veterans were leading the way—until they were shot down by a Breacher Team with those damned pulse blasters. Another squad went down a moment later.
I’d not have survived at all if one of those Armored Sentinels hadn’t appeared, swaying crazily as it attempted a mechanical run, and put its heavy flamer to work. Most of the Tau withdrew, giving me just enough time to reach an alley between two industrial shanties. I ran through a maze of alleys without looking back, or worrying what was in front of me, and it was a miracle I didn’t get lost—or circle back to the Tau.
As it was, I came out of the far end of the shanty town, right at the intersection of the Avenue of Cathedrals and Causeway Five, where a company of PDF troops were deployed as a screen for withdrawing troops. I ran past them and kept running to my company’s allotted fall-back position, not realize that these militia troops would soon suffer the same fate as my company.
Obviously I made it out alive. But I’m still reeling from the carnage. Only a few months ago, we’d received enough recruits to rebuild our battered company to full strength. But when they did roll call the morning after our retreat, there were only 38 of us out of 300 on our roster.
Thankfully, Sgt. Majaro made it out, and I hear Captain Faltz survived his wounds. And, of course, those dipshits, Catillo and Haddaway, are still alive. Figures.
It’s said we may be designated a veteran platoon, the embryo of a newly reconstituted Baker Company. While I can’t get my head around Catillo and Haddaway wearing a gold aquila on their sleeves, I truly pray that Baker Company won’t be disbanded. Like it or not, it’s the only home I have in this cold, ugly universe.
Still, we all may be dead in a week, and so my problems will be over. Who can say? The rumor mill says that Captain Stark has shortened our lines, giving up half the city, and hoping that the Tau won’t have the stomach for the close-in combat of urban fighting.
I’m not taking bets on that. Fighting in ruins, even on the defensive, is a nasty form of combat. We may have to abandon the city. But, for now, urban fighting is paradise for a sniper. Not any less dangerous. It’s just that it’s very satisfying to fight in an environment with so many places to deploy out-of-sight, with a nasty Absolution Pattern Sniper Rifle in your hands.
TheGM: This was the final battle of my five-battle, solo Coronavirus mini-campaign. It ended with a major Imperial defeat.
The scenario, “The Gauntlet” (Chapter Approved: 2018 Edition, 8th Edition 40K), requires the Defender to get one-third of his forces off the far end of the game table. The Attacker, slightly larger, can deploy anywhere on the other three sides of the table.
During deployment, I didn’t think the Imperial had any chance at all, but after the first few turns, I saw a ray of hope. In fact, I thought that, at a full run, the Tau didn’t have a chance at stooping Baker Company.
I was so wrong. Despite horrific losses, the only way to escape in the five-to-seven turns of the game was to run, and although some units sacrificed themselves to slow the Tau, the running units didn’t have an opportunity to use their firepower—and the Tau had every advantage in the Fire Phase.
For the Imperials, it didn’t help that the game ended on Turn 5. That meant NOT ONE IMPERIAL UNIT escaped off the board. Still, even if the game had gone another two turns, the Imperial casualties were so high that too few units would have escaped. Indeed, Pvt. Levers herself was the single miniature that even had a chance at escaping as the game ended.
So, big victory for the Tau. Not entirely unexpected given the scenario’s victory conditions. In the days ahead, I’ll count up the overall victory points of the five battles, and we’ll see whether Aruna falls—or becomes the 40K version of Stalingrad.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.