Campaign Info

Mini-campaign: Fate of the Thar Desert Basin

The mutants of Ungolath are preparing for war. Over the centuries, they have rebuilt the forges and manufactums of their ruined hive city, and the fires of industry—and a bitter hate for Imperial rule—has burned bright. We also must prepare for war—a war for control of our doomed yet beloved world.“—Fabius Nemetorius,, grand elector of the Council of Electors and senior Imperial official on  Morkai.

TheGM: My first mini-campaign of the coronavirus era, “The Battle for Port Arena,” was a success. It provided the framework for a series of exciting scenarios, but it also ensured a body of battle reports that “brought to life” the narrative story of the fall of the port city.

What’s more, when the city finally fell to the foul Tau, the result seemed so much more fitting and satisfying. The fall of the city was earned. Every victory and defeat was heartfelt, and the ending was both climactic and decisive.

Instead of a few weeks of isolated battles, I felt a story had been told—and something had been accomplished.

Not surprisingly, this successful mini-campaign has me thinking of what comes next. I’ve three ideas, and I think I’ll pursue all three simultaneously.

What’s to come

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A platoon of the Planetary Defense Force (PDF) patrols the desolate wastes of Morkai. The mini-campaign begins with a battalion-sized force marching to seize the Nisa Ruins at the mouth of the basin. Control of the ruins would bottom up mutant forces to the north.

One will be a skirmish-level quest by the 3rd Company of the Knights of Altair to seek out and destroy a nefarious Death Guard sorcerer on the war-torn world of Dozaria. Another will focus on full-sized battles to determine the fate of the Necron-invaded world of Tophet.

But the mini-campaign that will launch this alternating narratives will be “Fate of the Thar Desert Basin.” This five-scenario campaign will determine the future of the desert world of Morkai. We will see if the mutants of Ungolath can destroy or gain sovereignty over the isolated villages, towns, and nomadic tribes that live in the desert basin between the mutant-held ruins of Ungoloth and the Imperial-held hive city of Charcharoth.

For several years, the mutants of Ungolath have been growing more aggressive in their threats to drag the planet into civil war. If such a war is to succeed, the mutants need control of the Thar Basin, as it will threaten a major trade highway that links Morkai’s hive cities, which otherwise are isolated by thousands of kilometers of barren desert.

It also will provide a direct route of invasion to the closest hive city: Charcharoth.

Such a military threat is reason enough for the feuding hive cities of Morkai to work together to counter the mutants. But there’s a frightening reality for the world’s Council of Electors, the ruling Imperial body: There are untold millions of mutants living in the squalor shanty towns and underhives of every major city. If they were to erupt in rebellion, the bloodshed could be apocalyptic.

(The hive city of Ungolath fell centuries ago when the city’s mutants, fearful of a pogram against them, rose up and slaughtered millions in a single night The city was abandoned by the few survivors the next morning, with millions dying in the deserts. The hive city was bombed by Imperial forces but otherwise left to the mutants.)

The Thar Basin is a barren desert, with only the occasional oasis or ancient well to keep alive its nomadic tribes.

The armies

I envision a campaign that involves the mutants as desert raiders, and I’ll be playing them as a Genestealer Cult army. I don’t know that the Haruspex is actually a genestealer (it never occurred to me before), but the cult army, with its cult ambush ability, fits my idea of a desert people who know all the tricks of hit-and-run desert warfare.

So, I see troops bursting up from the sand, where they have hidden under sand covered tarps to ambush unwary enemies. I see troops racing over the sands in dune buggies, motorcycles, and who knows what else.

My Imperial troops will be an allied army. It will consist of Imperial Guard—a solid-if-small Tallarn army—and a small but growing Adeptus Mechanicus and Imperial Knights army.

For now, I have no Imperial Knights, and neither army has many tanks or armored vehicles. Part of the reason is that I haven’t gotten that far in painting such heavy support units, but it also fits the narrative that Imperial forces have been woefully neglected over the centuries—mostly focusing on policing duties. The electors of Morkai, in their greed, simply haven’t bothered to properly fund and equip their armies.

This will change in the weeks and months ahead as I keep painting. (I rotate my painting projects among seven different armies, so any individual army grows slowly.) But the arsenals of the Imperium—and the mutants—will expand with the war.

Victory conditions

Unlike the Port Aruna mini-campaign, there is no overarching story to guide the campaign. I want the mini-campaign to write itself. So, while I’ve determined what the first scenario will be (see below), I’ll wait for the result and then pick a scenario that seems fitting to carry forward the story.

Winning control of three regions is a minor victory; four regions is a moderate victory; five regions is a decisive victory.

Other campaigns often provide some advantage to the victor in the next fight. To keep things simple, I’m not doing that. The armies involved are relatively small (a few hundred or thousand a side), and the fighting will under the most abysmal desert conditions, so essentially every fight is a desperate encounter. There are no military advantages in winning a fight. What matters who controls the majority of the basin. That military and logistical reality will force the loser to withdraw from the basin.

I will try to pick scenarios that create a narrative that, I hope, will be a good tale of military combat, heroic sacrifice, and narrative pathos. But the only thing I’m certain about is that there will be war.

Here’s the opening scenario:

Battle for the Nisa Ruins

To gain control of the Thar Desert Basin, the mutants would be best served by controlling the easiest route from Ungoloth to the basin. In the middle of that route, however, is the Nisa Ruins. Control of these ruins is, therefore, strategically important.

The Imperial High Command is well aware of that. In fact, a large Imperial patrol currently is approaching the Nisa Ruins, intent on turning the long-abandoned outpost into a bulwark against mutant expansion. The mutants must stop that. So, battle is joined.

Source of Scenario: 7th Edition Rulebook (2014)

Scenario: Big Guns Never Tire

My Thoughts: Looking through all my codexes and support material, this scenario actually best fits the narrative: Both sides need control of the Nisa Ruins. Both sides also need to control enough of the surrounding territory that they can prevent their opponent from besieging this new logistical base.

The scenario, The Relic, might seem an obvious choice, as it focuses on a single major objective, but I think both sides also need to control enough of the surrounding ground that control of the base isn’t negated by roving guerillas in the area.

So, controlling a majority of Primary Objectives markers, seems an appropriate way to clarify who has the tactical and strategic advantage in the Thar Basin.

Let the campaign begin!

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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