well here it is - the first in a series of narrative games between myself and my good friend Ryan.
The aim: create a string of narrative game reports, where missions and their outcomes lead naturally onto new games, side missions and outcomes. These are to be written up in a narrative style as well, from both points of view, rather than simply reporting on what happened and what the score was as the game progressed.
As a side focus, Ryan and I have agreed to only use fully painted models for this series of reports, and we'll be including photos to really get down amongst the action and represent the game as it happened. Consequently you'll see fairly small forces taking part in the early stages of the campaign, and then as we increase the availability of units by getting them painted up you'll see the games expand. Hopefully we'll then manage to get a nice big apocalyptic conflict to end the series (though I have no idea yet when that end will be).
Hopefully things in the games will remain narrative focused, and whilst we'll obviously both be trying to win, I'm hoping to see some nice cinematic moments in there too.
Game 1 - Recon Strike
I went with a fairly balanced force for the first mission, which we played to 1000pts. I had been hoping to find a recon mission somewhere, but in the end we decided to plump for the spoils of war maelstrom mission from the main rulebook to represent each force trying to gain intelligence on the other. The objectives would basically be narrative points to allow me to evolve the storyline. Ryan basically took what he had that was painted, though we both ended up finishing models the night before the game even so!
The strategium of the Saint’s Retribution was a hive of activity. Sensorium crew were feverishly operating their instruments, utilising every piece of equipment, scrutinising every potential return to find the enemy. Servitors passed messages from the operators to the officer cadre clustered round the tactical plot in the centre of the room, the holographic projector showing a three dimensional image of the world below, slowly turning on the spot as the augers added tactical data to the projection.
The thunderhawk Olav’s vengeance would be docking soon, and Chapter Master Regulo would require progress reports, updates on where the enemy forces had come from, and how their sensors had not detected them sooner.
Sergeant Gonzalo had been left in nominal command of the Dusk Knight’s battle barge as the highest ranking Astartes on the ship, though the mundane operation of the vessel was under the control of Shipmaster Skeen.
Gonzalo was a quiet, determined sort with an instinctive understanding of the tactical nuances of battle. Unusually for the Dusk Knights, this even extended to ship combat, and Captain Alvaro had no hesitation in recommending him to take command of the vessel in his absence alongside the Chapter Master. Immediately upon the identification of enemy units down on the surface, Gonzalo had launched the Olav’s vengeance to provide air support to the ground forces and effect retrieval if necessary. He was not about to become the officer who had been in charge when their Chapter Master was left unsupported under enemy fire.
Even so, it had been a close run thing, the thunderhawk had not arrived on station until the skirmish had concluded, the Chaos forces disappearing into thin air as quickly as they had appeared.
‘Sir’ called out one of the sensorium operators. ‘I have something, it’s indistinct, and scanners are having a hard time discerning what it actually is, but there’s a faint warp trace, almost as if something opened a portal into the immaterium down there.’
Gonzalo turned, and spoke to his second, Tono.
‘Assemble a recon team, our squad and squad Tercero, assault teams only, no heavy weapons. Have them meet us in the drop bay. Load Hurricane Squadron into a thunderhawk and prep Daemon Squadron for close air support.’
His comm bead buzzed as he issued his orders
‘Gonzalo, report, this is Chapter Master Regulo, we are back on board.’
‘Sir,’ replied Gonzalo ‘Sensoria have detected a warp anomaly on the planet surface, weak, but it might explain how the enemy were able to arrive undetected on the surface. I’m assembling a recon team now to investigate.’
‘Confirmed, good work Gonzalo.’ said the chapter master, and then after a pause to consider Gonzalo’s words, he added ‘Epistolary Valerio will lead the strike, you will be joined by Specialist Vasco for heavy fire support and Ancient Sosimo as well, he is eager to see this world cleansed.’
‘Acknowledged, Chapter Master.’ It was unusual for a recon team to include such heavy elements as Vasco’s thunderfire cannon and the venerable contemptor chassis of Ancient Sosimo, but Gonzalo concluded that the Chapter Master suspected further duplicity from the Alpha Legion - their modus operandi was always to conceal their true objective within schemes.
Sergeant Gonzalo unclipped his war helm from his belt and placed it onto his head, the auto-seals clicking as the suit established the hermetic seal, cutting him off from the environment outside. With a thought, he energised the power fist he wore over his left gauntlet, the power field crackling as he flexed his fingers.
‘Shipmaster, you have the room.’ He said as he stalked through the door heading for the drop bay. By the time he reached it, Chapter Master Regulo would have resumed control of the bridge, and would command the operation from there, feeding all the tactical data from the sensoria down to Epistolary Valerio who would run the ground operations.
- - - - -
Alpharius watched from the shadows of the ruined building. The foolish striplings of the Imperium had taken his bait without a second thought and he watched as the advance elements of their force prowled forward into the ruined city sector where he had concealed the warp device. Soon it would be time to strike, to throw off the shackles of shadow that had kept his legionaries concealed within the shattered buildings, and to strike once more at the ancient enemy.
His task here on Golovin was simple, draw in the warriors of the Imperium and bleed them. Greater plans were afoot, but they required a sacrifice, and the greatest power was gained from those who walked willingly into such things, regardless of whether they actually realised they were a sacrifice or not.
His vox link crackled, his warriors breaking radio silence for the first time since they had broken off the combat at station 19. Confident his subordinates would not risk his wrath unless it was absolutely necessary, he enabled the system with a thought, allowing his suit to receive the transmission.
“Incoming objects sir, two tracking from low orbit and a third trying to stay hidden in the broken returns from the outer city. Looks to me like drop pods and close air support.”
“Acknowledged.” Alpharius replied, before opening the link to the troopers in concealed positions around the warp beacon. “All legionnaires, engage targets, we have incoming hostiles, I want them broken. Dead if necessary, incapacitated is preferable.”
As he broke off, the first of the drop pods crashed to the ground, a small squad of dark blue armoured marines disembarking from it and moving into cover. As the stealth field of his force flickered out of existence, allowing them to move and engage, a squadron of landspeeders off to his right opened fire, the withering hail of fire peppering the hull of first squad’s Rhino, smoke beginning to pour from its engine compartment as his legionaries exited the vehicle.
The Alpha Legion were nothing if not combat hardened however, they had been fighting the long war since before this chapter of marines even existed, and they were not to be cowed by a damaged transport. Taking cover amongst the wreckage, the squad opened fire in return, blazing plasma blasts from its special weapons and hard rounds from the bolters showering the advancing speeders, sending two to the ground in heaps of dented armour and broken gravitic repellers. Further off to his right he saw more plasma flashes, as second squad engaged the mobile artillery piece the astartes had brought with them. The cannon fell silent.
“Come brothers,” he said to his guardian squad of terminator brethren “let us join this fight before it is over” and so saying, he engaged the circuits of the ancient mind veil wired into his suit, their forms shimmering as they crossed the field to the nearby squad of marines.
- - - - -
“Emperor’s teeth!” cried Alarico, as he watched tactical display on his helmet update, the icons of Techmarine Vasco and two of the speeders from hurricane squadron flashing amber. As a squad sergeant he had access to the tactical net, updates provided by each marine’s armour systems on the health of their occupants in battlefield situations, and the Dusk Knights recon force had just lost a significant part of its firepower almost before they knew they had engaged the enemy.
From the corner of his eye, he caught the glint of giant flashing armour, its pearlescent coating one second blue, the next green and all shades in between. Where had they come from? Terminators of the Alpha Legion, the massive armour plates were hardly easy to conceal and yet these figures had appeared as if from nowhere!
They had no time, the giants were right on them, and even as he watched they struck, sending brothers Flavio and Odalis crashing to the ground over ten metres away. Alarico raged, and made to strike with his own combat blade, more in defiance than expectation, but before he could strike he felt a massive impact in his side, his armour splitting under the power of the blow. Ribs had cracked under the pressure, even his genehanced physiology and advanced armour systems unable to completely absorb the impact. He stumbled, and as he did so his head exploded with light, his vision fading as his sus-an membrane engaged to place him into a healing coma. No matter that he had been in the middle of the fight of his life - that life would be over without the restorative trance.
- - - - -
Alpharius grimaced, as he sawed the chainfist through the main systems of the drop pod, causing it to sputter and die, the chattering storm bolter mounted in its roof falling silent. He turned and saw the enemy falling back from his brothers, three of their number already down, and the remaining two making best use of their greater mobility to retreat from his bodyguard.
As they did so, one of the marines cracked off a shot with extraordinary skill, the round entering through the tiniest of gaps between the armour plates, detonating in a welter of blood and practically severing the leg of one of his squad. The giant figure crashed to the ground, out of the fight for now, though the wound was not fatal for an enhanced warrior such as the astartes.
As he scanned the battlefield for sign of his next target, there was an earsplitting shriek of turbine engines. Fat bolts of ruby red laser fire streaked from the sky, accompanied by the whoosh of rockets and the chatter-whine of rotary cannons. In a pulsing fireball, second squad’s Rhino exploded, shattered armour plates spattering everyone in the vicinity, and the aircraft flashed past, gone in the blink of an eye, but arcing round for another pass.
Engaging the mind veil once more, Alpharius advanced on the immovable form of the Contemptor dreadnought, ordering his squad to fire on the amalgam of machine and man as he did so. The underslung melta weapons attached to their bolters spoke, superheated blasts of air striking the dreadnought like a hammer. Armoured plates glowed then ran, the fingers of its powered fist becoming soft like clay as it swung at them, robbing the blows of their power. In return, Alpharius rammed his chainfist into the waist joint of the machine, shredding cabling and actuators, the wound an imitation of the one wrought on his bodyguard moments before. From behind him, autocannon fire chattered out into the brightening sky, as his havocs duelled with the Stormhawk Interceptor, but neither could find a definitive end to the conflict and the jets flared once more as the aircraft again banked around to come for another pass.
At that moment, the second pod crashed down into the ruins of the city near second squad. The delay from the first pod landing had been no more than two minutes, but such a delay had given his force the time to run riot through the attacking forces, which were unable to coordinate their strikes as a result. The perfect Alpha Legion strategy, attacking in such a manner as to prevent the opponent from retaliating in any meaningful way.
From the pod emerged the obvious leader of the enemy force, a librarian, his armour shedding waves of heat as flames licked from his fingertips. Fire from the emperor’s warriors engulfed second squad, the psychic flames joined by conventional promethium projectors and a strange, green flash from some arcane weapon he had never seen before. Whatever the green flashes hit, was destroyed utterly, 3 of his legionaries vapourising to almost nothing, their armour turning to ash in the wind.
“Alpha legion, we are done here - fall back to point delta for extraction, first squad, ensure those marines do not follow us!”
With that, he engaged the mind weil once more, he and his terminator squad leaving the battlefield, the ruined remains of the astartes strike force still mostly alive, but suffering. Their wounds would not be just physical, he considered, but psychological. They had come here confident of finding the enemy base, or at least traces of it, and they had been ambushed again, defeated with almost no effort and losses. The survivors would take the knowledge of this defeat back to their starship, and the dusk knights would become enraged by it. He had no doubt they would not feel trepidation about returning to the fight - ‘loyalist’ space marines feared nothing of the sort, even when a tactical retreat would be the more prudent solution. No, it wasn’t fear he sought, it was the clouding of judgement, so that they would become so infused with the desire to crush the Alpha Legion forces that they would become careless!
- - - - -
Regulo looked through the armourglass window of the apothecarion at the recumbent form of Epistolary Valerio and the other injured the recon force had suffered at the hands of the Alpha Legion.
“I am sorry, brother.” he whispered. “But I had to know, and the intelligence brought back by Specialist Vasco will be invaluable to us in prosecuting this enemy further.”
It had been a high price to pay, certainly. Valerio would not fight again for weeks, and Sergeant Alarico had also suffered serious injury, whilst hurricane squadron and Ancient Sosimo were already undergoing significant repairs in the armorium decks of the Saint’s Retribution.
He had what he had intended however, the recon strike force had never been meant to strike a blow against the Alpha Legion directly, but dispatching a lesser force would have given them away. Specialist Vasco had never been meant to act as artillery support for a recon mission, such a weapon was not suited to the nature of the mission, and it had been a boon that the enemy had targeted the cannon early. The brother had been able to disappear under the cover of the bright plasma flares crashing into his cover, shedding his servo harness and engaging his own stealth field as he did so.
He had returned to the battle barge bearing precious gifts indeed, having infiltrated the corrupted machine spirit of the rhino armoured personnel carrier that hurricane squadron had disabled, he had been able to track the progress of the machine, its emissions allowing the sensors on the Saint’s Retribution to follow the path of the vehicle back to its origin point on the planet, deep in the heart of the city.
They had it now, the actual location of the Alpha Legion base, and he would not be merciful in his vengeance, he would strike back at these traitors and make them pay for Valerio’s pain with their blood.
- - - - -
Ryan: What a game, the alpha legion managed to complete their goal of infiltrating Nick's house and replacing his dice with dice that can only roll ones and twos.
I decided to start everything on the board for this game, knowing at small points games like this I would need all my models in play either being bullet magnets, grabbing objectives or killing the unclean filth of the Emperor. With Nick's force coming on piece meal it gave me board control and weight of fire, so the victory was down to poor reserve rolls and by no skill of mine :) (well, maybe a little skill - Nick).
My mvp's would be the basic chaos marine squads they really carried their weight in this game. A special mention must go out to my terminators for actually killing stuff and not failing their first few saves. Being an extremely expensive unit in the chaos codex, they can be really hit and miss. Only Nick's force did the missing in this game however. Until next time. Hydra dominatus.
- - - - -
Nick: What a game indeed. Ryan is probably the best player I come up against with any regularity and it shows in the way he plays and thinks - I figured having air superiority would be a good thing in a small game like this and that my flyer would be able to rule the skies. Due to me not having finished pod 3 however I could only guarantee one of my tactical squads in the first turn, and with the objective cards I drew, it seemed to make sense to sacrifice the smaller squad to claim the objective in the centre of the table that was within reach of the terminators - if I hadn't done that then Ryan would have been stealing my objectives on his turn 1.
As it happened, my warlord then managed to fail both his reserve rolls, not arriving until turn 4 and with 377pts off the table in a 1000pt game, that was a massive issue for me. As Ryan said, my dice then continued to betray me with my contemptor failing to cause a wound in combat with the terminators after being prevented from moving off the objective he was deployed on because I kept drawing it to claim. Inevitably he didn't survive the return attacks after taking a couple of melta shots before they charged. I fully anticipated my libby arriving would at least swing things a little my way, but after having his flame breath power denied, he failed to manifest force in the following turn, then missed with all three of his AP3 attacks in a challenge against the power fist wielding Alpha Legion sergeant - even a single wound would have killed him and gained me at least one more victory point!
I really don't want to whinge about my dice though - Ryan played the perfect game and I made mistakes. Hurricane squadron made mincemeat out of one of the Rhinos in the centre of the table forcing the squad to disembark, but by then I had already fired my thunderfire elsewhere, and the tightly bunched up unit would have been a perfect target! I also foolishly deployed the thunderfire in such a position that the techmarine wasn't in cover, so as to allow him to hold a nearby objective if necessary. That of course meant the two plasma guns in the other chaos marine squad had an ideal target on turn 1 and they made the most of it - all four shots hitting and wounding.
To be honest, I'd struggle to name a unit that qualifies for an mvp, I was beaten that resoundingly. However, one moment does stand out - when brother Apolinar, having recovered after falling back the previous turn (I love ATSKNF) rallied to put a bolt shell straight through the armour of the advancing terminators. Leon next to him was so shocked that his melta shot missed entirely.
- - - - -
Most of all however, I really enjoyed writing this report up in the narrative style - knowing that it was going to lead into more games I had to take the 'killed' element of the actual tabletop game a bit more creatively, finding some way of justifying how these same guys will come back in future games. I then also had to bend the story to fit the outcome, and this aspect of the narrative is already exciting me for game 2 - I may be writing the story but I genuinely don't know where it will head, as I have to come up with the arc once I know what happens! I've set things up nicely for an aggressive Dusk Knight strike in game 2 (and I certainly have more variety in units available to me over Ryan's more limited collection), but will the Alpha Legion be one step ahead again? And what intelligence did they get from the battle? Ryan stole three of my objective cards throughout the game, so who knows what little nuggets will turn up in the future...
Till next time,