Naval Battles

Ork fleet attempts to blockade Hegira

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The capital ships of Flotilla X-23 were traveling past some large asteroids when they detected the ork ships in front of them.

Imperial Voxcast (3 833 741.M41)—For a few hours today, an ork fleet of more than a dozen warships attempted to blockade the moon of Hegira.

The xenos failed. The arrival of Imperial warships drove them away.

But the bold greenskin naval action resulted in a 20-hour interruption in the unloading of desperately needed food and munitions  from orbit—and led to a naval battle that cost the Imperial Navy four escort ships destroyed and more than 60,000 naval crewmen killed.

“It is our belief that the ork ships—little more than a ragtag group of xeno pirates—traveled to Hegira in search of defenseless commercial cargo ships,” said Commodore Gadea Hennard, commander of naval operations in the Sculptor System.

“For a short time, they scattered and interrupted commercial shipping,” he added. “But when Imperial warships responded, they beat a hasty retreat.”

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The survival of Flotilla X-23 was aided tremendously by the dispersed deployment of the ork war ships, which were busy seeking undefended commercial ships.

Despite Hennard’s public expression of confidence, other naval officials say the ork appearance over Hegira was more serious than is being acknowledged.

“This was the largest concentration of ork ships we’ve seen in the Sculptor System,” noted one commercial ship captain who requested anonymity. “It’s been dangerous for years to pass too closely to the Great Asteroid Belt, but we’ve never had to worry about the xenos getting near a populated moon.”

No commercial vessels were lost to the xenos, naval authorities say. As sensors first spotted the ork approach, all ships were ordered to leave orbit and head toward the main fleet orbiting Mythos [Sculptor Ib], a sizable communications relay station for the Adeptus Administratum.

For reasons still unclear, Flotilla X-23 did not receive the warnings. Consisting of a grand cruiser, two cruisers, three frigates, and two destroyers, the flotilla—low on fuel after three months patrolling the outer system—was unaware of the xeno threat until only 40 million kilometers from Hegira.

“Given the position of the two small fleets, and their trajectories and velocities, Flotilla X-23 could not evade the xenos entirely,” one naval official said. “The ships were forced to, as navy personnel call it, ‘run the gauntlet.'”

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Orks ships were widely dispersed as they sought out commercial ships, and they were badly positioned to close with Flotilla X-23. (The Imperial flotilla is not show, as it was 1 million kilometers past the right edge of this vid-pict.)

Under direct orders from Commodore Hennard, the flotilla attempted to race past the ork blockade and rendezvous  with the main fleet. The goal, the official said, was “to form a superior naval force with which to engage the xenos.”

Although an unorthodox order, given that naval policy is to close aggressively with any threat, the flotilla obeyed and sought to accelerate past the orks. 

Their efforts were aided by the disorganized deployment of the xeno ships, officials say. While some ork vessels easily reached the Imperial flotilla before it escaped, other ork ships were too distant to reach the engagement before it was over.

As it was, the damage caused by the xenos  indicate that Commodore Hennard’s order to avoid engagement was sound.

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Flotilla X-23 attempts to race past pursing ork escorts. Two xeno gunships were destroyed, but the fast-moving ork vessels managed to board—and seize—four smaller Imperial ships.

“As the flotilla attempted to race past the orks, the three cruisers managed to destroy two Savage-class gunships with long-range fire,” the officer said. 

“But half a dozen ork gunships accelerated forward and, once within point-blank range of the flotilla’s escorts, launched a series of boarding actions using boarding torpedoes and teleportation devices.”

Four escorts—a Cobra-class destroyer and three Firestorm-class frigates—were successfully boarded. Distress calls from the ships reported heavy fighting against greenskin boarding parties, but all four Imperial ships ceased broadcasting within 30 minutes of the attacks.

“On-ship fighting is up close and personal, and it’s the kind of fighting that orks excel at,” one officer shared. “It appears that sizable numbers of orks were able to board those escorts, and so it is no surprise that the ships were lost.”

The cruisers and one Cobra destroyer managed to escape and join up with Commodore Hennard’s fleet.  Twelve hours later, the combined naval force accelerated toward the orks—and the xenos withdrew.

Imperial warships pursued. That pursuit ended 30 hours later , however, when the ork ships split up and disappeared into different regions of the Great Asteroid Belt, a near-suicidal move on the part of the xenos, naval authorities said.

“We know the orks have some kind of base within the asteroid belt,” said Captain Marcus Speakeman, an intelligence officer for Commodore Hennard.

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Widely dispersed, the ork war ships were surprisingly aggressive in seeking to intercept Flotilla X-23. Four Imperial ships were lost, but casualties could have been worse. Half the ork ships, including two cruiser-class vessels, failed to close within firing range before the flotilla escaped.

“But our warships could not pursue. The asteroid belt is a treacherous region to navigate, as asteroids the size of small cities travel through the region at high speed and with trajectories that are not recorded. We would have lost more ships to the asteroid belt than to the xenos.”

Speakeman was asked how the orks manages to to travel through the asteroid belt with impunity.

“They can’t,” he replied. “I’m sure they lost some ships in their retreat. But the xenos aren’t worried about casualties. Also, it’s obvious they have surveyed some areas of the belt, and they have found a few passages where the trajectory of asteroids is less of a threat.”

The intelligence officer expressed confidence that the orks’ presence in the Great Asteroid Belt is numbered.

“The Mechanicus has been tasked with surveying the asteroid belt and finding these safe areas that the orks are using,” Speakeman said. “Once we have that information, our naval forces will enter the belt, hunt down the xenos, and end the threat.”

TheGM: Our game of Battlefleet Gothic was based on Scenario Five: Blockade Run in the original 1999 rulebook. (Man, am I getting old.)

The Gaffer built a fleet focused on boarding actions and, anticipating that, I designed a fleet focused on long-range fire and torpedoes. When we rolled up the Blockade Run, I thought I was toast—as it meant I was forced to cross the table, and that meant I would be forced into close-range fire.

Thankfully, the scenario’s random deployment for the blockading force put The Gaffer’s ships on the left-hand side of the table, so I set up on the far-right side and simply ordered “All Ahead Full!” every turn.

There wasn’t a lot of tactics involved in this four-turn game. The Imperials ran, the orks chased. I got off some shots that destroyed two ork gun ships, but four orks managed to board four escorts (deployed deliberately to sacrifice themselves to save the capital ships).

It wasn’t an epic game. But it was a nice diversion for 30 minutes, it was a good excuse for a celebratory beer (or two).

The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our hobby adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.

Categories: Naval Battles

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