Narrative of War
[Administrator’s Log. Entry 23452. Fac. Adm. Lucien Treadwell reporting]
The last few days have been quite unusual, and potentially very troubling. Two days ago, I was visited by the leader of an Eldar hunting party. He said that they had been tracking a large group of xenos, and suggested that the mining operation was in potential danger. He offered to provide assistance in exchange for time in the mine to look for some “lost stones.” If what he says is true, I welcome the help, and, if not, I am sure he will find nothing of consequence among the mounds of rock and ore. I granted him use of our Ratling snipers, and he left with his units to recon the southern perimeter.
To verify the Eldar’s claims, I had the techs perform long range scans. Initial results showed no incursion, but I suggested changing the search parameter to sound and movement rather than heat. Hundreds of unidentified activation points appeared.
Based on what I saw, the enemy is many, and moving quickly towards us.
[Administrator’s Log. Entry 23453. Fac. Adm. Lucien Treadwell reporting]
Contacted garrison at Crawford’s Bend to request additional men and support. Garrison Commander responded he needed every man to defend his position. He did say that there was an Attila-Class Imperial Knight that was being serviced in their repair bay, which might be sent over. He gave no time frame for its arrival.
The officers have prepared the men as best they can. Brother Ignatius gave a rousing oratory at last night’s supper, and all are ready to make their stand for the Emperor. I released the conscripts from their sentences and offered them a chance to get away, but to a man, they pledged their support to the defense of the facility. Perhaps we may yet prevail.
[Administrator’s Log. Entry 23458. Fac. Adm. Lucien Treadwell reporting.]
The xenos are within sight now outside the perimeter defense. For the last three days, the sound of their chittering, clicking, and whooping has grown louder as their numbers swelled.
There has been no word from the Eldar reconnaissance patrol or the Imperial Knight, and they may not come. I record this as presumably my final entry. For those that may read this, remember the men who fought this day.
The captain of the watch informs me that the enemy has gone silent.
So it begins. So it ends.
We’re back again with the third battle of our latest campaign. The first fight—a Kult of Speed versus Dark Eldar—ended in a tie; in the second—Space Wolves against Khorne Daemonkin—the bad guys eked out a win. In both of those games, the forces were mirror images of each other: two swift armies in the first, two close-combat armies in the second. This time, we would have diametrically opposed forces: Pat’s “shooty” Astra Militarum and Eldar vs. my hack-n-slash Kurindans (proxied Tyranids). Let’s see what happened.
The Planetary Defense Force (2002 points) by Patrick Eibel
I have always been a fan of The Lord of the Rings, and the trilogy of movies by Peter Jackson only added to my appreciation (we will not speak of The Hobbit movies). One of my favorite bits is the defense of Helm’s Deep by the last alliance of Elves and Men, a motif I have use before in 40K games. For this battle, I really wanted to embrace the narrative aspect of the story to create an unusual force that would still be (hopefully) effective. Here is what I brought:
Combined Arms Detachment
Imperial Knight Oathsworn Detachment
Allied Eldar Detachment
I thought that this was a pretty interesting list, with plenty of firepower and bodies to throw at the lizard tide. While I was pretty happy with it, I really should have carefully read the parameters of the mission. But, time for all of that after the brutality….
The Kurindans (1995 points) by Kenton Kilgore
Despite how poor a source book it uses (the 6e-7e Codex: Tyranids), this is one of my favorite armies, mostly because I love, love, LOVE the idea of Lizardmen in 40K; that, and I watched a lot of Godzilla movies as a kid. Speaking of the latter, Pat’s campaign scenario called for me to bring “Big G,” a titanic 12" tall Godzilla figure that I’ve used in a few games over the last 15 years or so (he debuted here, returned here, and mixed it up against real Tyranids here).
“Big G” counts as a Hierophant Bio-Titan, a Lord of War whose pre-8e rules (thanks, #1 Jungle Fangirl Jen Burdoo, for sending me those) had him weighing in at 1000 points, before any upgrades. So, literally, half my army. To complement him, I thought it best to bring a whole lot of little guys, as you’ll see below.
I almost never field Unbound armies, but you can see that this one is, as it has four Elite choices. I could have grouped the Venomthropes together in one or two units, but I preferred to spread them out so as to cover as much of my army as possible.
Also atypical for me, all my eggs, so to speak, are in one very large basket: the Bio-Titan not only consumes more than half my points (1025, to be precise), he’s also, I imagine, going to do almost all the fighting, while the rest of the army mops up and/or takes objectives. If “Big G” gets taken out early—a distinct possibility, given the shooting prowess of the Astra Militarum and Eldar—this could be a very short game.
Setting Up by Kenton Kilgore
Pat and I met at Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, MD, a great store where we had played the first battle of the campaign. As is our custom, Pat set up the 6’ x 4’ table, and as he usually does, he tied the terrain in with the narrative.
On his side of the table was a huge (I mean, several feet long) and very tall (several inches) outcropping of rock, flat on top, ringed with an Aegis wall, that represented part of an Imperial mining installation. Three Imperial Bastions (without guns, because Pat had not included the costs of the Bastions into his army list) served as buildings associated with the mine. On my side of the table were other mining buildings, with a swath of clear no-man’s land in between. This nicely aligned with Pat’s initial vision for this game, as described in our campaign intro.
We kept to Pat’s scenario restrictions of him only able to bring no other vehicles than Walkers (and I having to bring the Bio-Titan, of course), but we decided to change up the mission, as Infestation from the Battle Missions book didn’t quite gel. Pat picked Last Stand from page 46 of the Planetary Onslaught supplement.
We rolled for Warlord Traits, and I got Adaptive Biology, which would provide Feel No Pain to the Tervigon starting on the turn after it was initially wounded. Nothing wrong with that! Pat’s Commissar received Implacable Determination, which made him and his Command Squad Relentless.
As a psyker, the Tervigon comes standard with Dominion, and I rolled Paroxysm for its other power. The Zoanthropes always have Warp Blast, and though I rolled Psychic Scream for their other power, I thought it wise to go with Dominion (the Primaris power) to be able to extend Synapse +6”.
I set up first, placing “Big G” on my left flank, across from two buildings, and spread my remaining Kurindans across the table in a few long lines on the very front edge of my deployment zone. In addition to spacing out the Venomthropes, I put the Tyranid Warriors, the Zoats, and the Tervigon throughout my lines to provide Synapse coverage to every one of the 90 Termagants (plus their VThrope pals).
The mission limited Pat to only a few units starting on the board. Don’t feel too bad for him, though, as the “Last Survivors” (as the scenario named them) consisted of two platoons (Green and Red) of Imperial Guardsmen, as well as a Heavy Weapon Team of three lascannons. Pat put them atop the outcropping and Bastions, well in cover, and with excellent firing lines. The rest of his army was in reserve, and rather than allowing Pat to roll as usual to bring them on, the scenario called for different dice rolls for different units on different turns, so that certain kinds were more likely to arrive before others.
The object of the mission, for those of you (like me) unfamiliar with Last Stand, was for Pat to keep as many of the “Last Survivors” alive as possible while waiting for reinforcements, as well as killing as many of my units as he could, scoring Victory Points for all those. My task was to kill the Survivors, of course, along with the enemy units arriving from reserves, for which I would score VPs. I also would receive VPs for damaging or destroying buildings: 1 VP for each Hull Point I knocked off.
There were no objectives (Mysterious or not) to be claimed, but one could score the usual points for First Blood, Linebreaker, and Slay the Warlord. We rolled, but there was no Night Fighting. I took the first turn, so let’s jump right into our story….
First Sergeant Jeremiah Zumwalt had seen—and killed—many foul xenos over his decades of service to the Imperium, but he had never before seen these: purple reptilian humanoids accompanied by a variety of green monstrosities, and towering over all of them, a charcoal-gray beast with jagged dorsal spines, whose plodding footsteps actually made the ground shake beneath Zumwalt’s feet, and whose roars threatened to burst the eardrums of he and his men.
Zumwalt had been assured by the facility administrator that reinforcements from the nearby main space port—notably, a variant Titan with sufficient firepower to deal with any threat—were en route, but until then, he and his men were to hunker down behind the defenses, repel as many intruders as they could, and hold out. Zumwalt would have felt more confident had the administrator not also informed him that a band of Eldar mercenaries, recently arrived at the space port with loot to sell or trade, had been swiftly hired as part of the reinforcements. Zumwalt knew from bitter personal experience that Eldar were not to be trusted, as they acted solely in their benefit.
He had no more time for thought, as the tide of Kurindans (as his datafax named them) was sweeping towards the rocky outcropping that was the entrance to the mine. Though not a psyker himself, First Sergeant Zumwalt had enough training to recognize the paroxysm of mental energy that washed over the forward-most squad of Green Platoon, rattling them enough that their shooting would momentarily be inaccurate. “Hold fast!” he bellowed, as two spindly, six-limbed green monsters materialized a blob of crackling white fire in the air between them, and then sent it hurtling towards the same Guardsmen. Surely it was the Emperor himself who denied this witchery, as the foul warp energy dissipated harmlessly mere yards from the Aegis line ringing the mine.
Among the Kurindans were four captains—given that they seemingly hissed orders to the infantry about them—mounted on bipedal reptiles. At its rider’s command, one of the dracosaurs spat a huge burst of acid that sailed a tremendous distance and splashed onto the Heavy Weapons team atop a bastion, killing two men manning a lascannon. Much more impressive was the stream of radioactive fire that erupted from the immense Titanosaur’s mouth, destroying the closest bastion to ruin in mere seconds. Fortunately, only a single Guardsmen atop it was slain as it collapsed.
“Green Platoon, fire while falling back!” Zumwalt ordered. “Direct all heavy fire on the beast!”
It was nigh impossible for the missiles and lascannon bolts to miss the Titanosaur, but it merely shrugged off all hits. Meanwhile, lasguns and grenades from both platoons slew three Troglodytes from the Kurindan rampage closest to the outcropping, despite the noxious green gas that shrouded the xenos.
As a Kurindan—and a mere Newt, the smaller of the two races that made up the purple xenos—the diminutive !Gmbi was incapable of feeling human emotions. Nevertheless, he experienced something akin to satisfaction as he led his army from atop his reptilian mount. Several weeks ago, his tribe’s Shamans had used their psychic powers to open a tunnel through the Warp to this planet, allowing the untold millions of Kurindans who followed !Klrt, their tyrant-king, to arrive surreptitiously in a dense jungle a few kilometers from the nickel mine.
!Klrt had sent !Gmbi and the others here to draw away Imperial forces from the main space port, which would allow the rest of the Kurindans to easily overwhelm it, seizing ships, gathering supplies, and devouring those captured or killed. With the space port’s resources, the Kurindans would move on to a different world, using either the psychic Warp tunnels, the captured ships, or both, as they hopscotched across the galaxy on their quest to reach the home planet of the Slayer of the Gods, their supreme deity. !Klrt had assured his followers that once they arrived there and reported to the Slayer their ancestors’ failure to conquer the galaxy (or at least hold on to the small empire they had possessed as recently as the 36th Millennium), they, and soon the rest of the known universe, would be destroyed by the Slayer’s all-consuming wrath.
Almost any human, save for the most nihilistic worshipper of Chaos, would consider the Kurindans’ fervent desire for autogenocide and cosmic annihilation to be hopelessly insane, but it was perfectly reasonable to all of them, and certainly to !Gmbi.
As his fellows continued their implacable advance on the mine, his throat pouch swelled, displaying vivid yellow, as he trilled a long, shrill command. As he did, the remaining four Newts who clung to the side of his mount leapt to the ground, joining the others. If !Gmbi could know or express regret, it would certainly be that he did not have more reinforcements—Newts or the larger Troglodytes—to bring to the fray. But perhaps their numbers would suffice.
!Gmbi’s lidless eyes clouded for a moment as he concentrated mightily, melding his mind with that of the plodding Newtsaurian beneath him. Few Kurindans other than the six-limbed, mutant Shamans had any psychic abilities, but those Newts who did could sometimes combine their consciousness with the otherwise nigh-witless ‘Saurians, using the beasts’ great physical stamina to amplify their powers. The practice was not without considerable peril—if the ‘Saurian were killed while psychically bonded, the resulting psionic feedback might well kill !Gmbi and scores of Newts nearby—but fear of death is not a concept that Kurindans understand.
!Gmbi succeeded in striking the closest members of Red Platoon with a paroxysm of doubt and bewilderment, which would hopefully diminish their fighting capabilities long enough for the oncoming reptilian horde to strike. Not far away, the pair of Shamans accompanying !Gmbi also successfully summoned a warp blast of eldritch energy, but it failed to strike the nearest bastion.
No matter. The dorsal spines of the Titanosaur, whose species was the apex predator of the Kurindans’ home world, began to glow white once again, and when they reached an intensity painful to human retinas, the great monster opened its mouth and fired more bolts of atomic flame, this time collapsing the bastion where the lascannon Heavy Weapon Team had ensconced themselves. Only one trooper managed to pull himself from the rubble, and he quickly fled, never to be seen again.
Acidic- and fiery breath weapons from !Gmbi’s Newtsaurian and the Dracosaur mounts of the Troglodyte captains claimed four Guardsmen. Then the Kurindan vanguard scaled the stony walls of the mine and the Aegis defense atop it, braving the swarm of hurried lasgun fire (which claimed one Troglodyte) and falling upon the Guardsmen with swords, clubs, poisoned darts, and spears. Two more Kurindans fell as opposed to one human, but the tsunami of warriors was only beginning to break upon the stronghold.
Imperial- and mercenary reinforcements arrived. The first on the scene was Commissar Cushing and his Command Squad. A squadron of Sentinels and a pack of Eldar Striking Scorpions outflanked the Kurindans on their right, while silver-armored Warp Spiders suddenly popped in behind the purple aliens’ army. Something went wrong, however, perhaps a disturbance in the Warp caused by the Kurindans’ psykers, and the Spiders appeared farther away than they meant to, one of them giving a brief, albeit bloodcurdling, shriek as he perished materializing partly within a large boulder along the riverbank.
Orders were broadcasted for the first and second ranks of Green Platoon to fire on unengaged xenos, while heavy weapons continued to target the Titanosaur. Green Platoon did shoot dead six Newts, but two plasma gunners were consumed by the superheated discharge of their weapons.
Dismay is but a human emotion, so though they certainly noticed the swift and violent neutralizing of their commander, the Kurindans atop the ramparts of the mine were not dissuaded. They slew seven Guardsmen in melee, losing two of their own, and the Imperials attempted, unsuccessfully, to withdraw. The Kurindans hacked them down and sprang over their already-cooling corpses, intent on adding more humans to the loathsome feast that they would savor if they prevailed.
Bereft of the incapacitated !Gmbi’s leadership, the two Shamans assumed command, and the primitive purple lizardmen continued to surge forward. Summoning their psionic faculties, they attempted to warp blast the newly-arrived Eldar Spiders, but the Exarch’s formidable willpower resisted their mind-witchcraft, causing the ball of crackling white fire to vanish before it could explode amongst his squad. More successful was the Shamans’ domination of the Kurindans’ minds so that they would receive and obey orders, even if separated from the Shamans by great distance.
Recognizing the Warp Spiders as the greatest threat, the Troglodyte Captains wheeled about their Dracosaur mounts, the lead one firing a great blob of acid that struck several of them, searing through the armor of one and melting the Aspect Warrior within. Alerted by the Shamans, the Titanosaur turned his massive head and spat torrents of radioactive fire across the field, instantly incinerating six of them, leaving only the Exarch alive.
Atop the entrance to the mine, two rampages of Troglodytes and Newts crashed into Green Platoon, and though three Kurindans were lost in the frenzied overwatch fire and the ensuing melee, all of the Guardsmen—including First Sergeant Zumwalt—were butchered by toothed swords, stone clubs, and spears. The outcropping was now almost totally overrun.
“Where the devil is that Knight?” bellowed Commissar Cushing. The Titan—a four-legged variant first used to destroy a rebel stronghold on the icy world of Harthngerjokln VI —would make short work of the xenos, possibly even dealing with the Titanosaur, if it arrived soon. In the meantime, a pack of Ratling snipers took their positions atop a building behind the great beast, and a squadron of Eldar War Walkers bolstered the Sentinels along the Kurindans’ right flank.
Assuming command, Commissar Cushing ordered the first and second ranks of his Command Squad and Green Platoon’s Command Squad to fire on a rampage of onrushing Newts who threatened to swamp them. Seven of the small aliens perished, but enslaved as they were to the will of the Shamans, they did not falter. The Ratlings spared no time to set their sniper rifles, firing into the Titanosaur’s back, and though one struck the monster, it ignored the paltry annoyance as an elephant ignores a biting fly.
Having fought the Kurindans once before, many centuries ago, the lead pilot of the Eldar War Walkers signaled her intention to her comrade, and then reluctantly engaged the primitive communications channel of the mon-keigh Sentinels beside them. “The Venosaurians emit the green gas that bathes the rest of them and obscures our targeters,” she said, lowering herself to use the Common tongue employed by most of the Imperium. “Strike against them, and our adversaries will be at a considerable disadvantage.”
“Veno—what?” the Sentinel squadron commander replied.
“The floating fat ones,” she sighed in exasperation. “Shoot them now.” Shaking her head, she switched off the comm-link and engaged her scatterlasers. Realizing her intent, the Sentinels joined in, and all three bloated mutants burst under the withering fire, collapsing to the ground, the last of their billowing gas umbrella swirling away, robbing the others of its protection.
Outnumbered four to one by the oncoming mounted Troglodyte Captains, the Warp Spider Exarch used his extra mechanical arms to fire both his deathspinners at them as he retreated, but though he struck true, their hide was too tough for his weapons—at least, this time.
Seeing little need to continue their pursuit of the lone Warp Spider, the Troglodyte Captains turned back to join the rest of the Kurindans as they continued to overrun the mine entrance. As the Shamans maintained their successful dominance over the minds of their kinsmen, making them fearless and directing their actions, the Newts fired poisoned spears and blowgun darts at the Command Squad, felling two Guardsmen. Alerted to the presence of the Walkers at the other end of the battlefield, the Titanosaur unleashed some of its fiery breath their way, destroying one Sentinel and one Eldar construct, immobilizing another Sentinel and stunning the other Eldar one.
Hissing and shrieking, the Newts and Troglodytes swept into the Command Squad, chopping them down. His power sword crackling, Commissar Cushing’s efforts were nevertheless in vain, and he was knocked unconscious by a blow from a stone club.
More reinforcements—Eldar Rangers, this time—appeared along the battlements of the mine, as opposite them, the Striking Scorpions surmounted the cliffs. The Ratlings switched targets, firing on the much-more vulnerable Troglodyte Captains, wounding one of them twice. The newly-arrived Rangers snap-fired their rifles at the Captains as well, but their shots went wide, as long rifles are finicky weapons requiring skill and steadiness to use effectively.
Harrying the Kurindan’s rearguard, the lone Warp Spider Exarch fired at the Shamans, but the psychic force field they constantly emit saved them. The Walkers combined their weapons to retaliate against the Titanosaur, managing to pierce its immense bulk, acidic blood spewing from the wound on its leg. The beast was far from beaten, though, and its roar of pain and rage rattled the cockpit windows of the Walkers.
Chainswords whining and buzzing, mandiblasters spitting, the Striking Scorpions charged into the rampage of Newts. The small aliens had clearly not expected this attack, as evidenced by their pitiful attempts to retaliate, either by javelin, sword or stone knife. The Scorpions killed 10 Kurindans and lost none of their own, but bolstered by the will of the Shamans, the Newts continued to fight.
Up until a few moments ago, the Shamans who had assumed command following !Gmbi’s incapacitation believed that victory was well in hand. Suddenly, however, the Striking Scorpions seemed poised to tear through the Kurindans who had seized the upper portion of the mine. Accordingly, the Shamans directed some of the Troglodytes to reinforce their beleaguered fellows. Simultaneously, a mixed rampage of Newts and Trogs hurled themselves at the ensconced Rangers, the mounted Captains bolstering them, as the Titanosaur continued to plod towards the Walkers.
The Shamans successfully harnessed the powers of the Warp to continue their domination over the Kurindans’ will, ensuring that none would falter. Though they had cover, nevertheless, three Rangers fell under the fusillade of arrows, darts, and javelins from the onrushing rampage before them. Obeying the psychic instructions from the Shamans, the Titanosaur momentarily ignored the Walkers to lay waste to the last bastion, obliterating it with bolts of atomic flame.
The Trogs reinforcements managed to reach the Scorpions, who slew seven of them and four of the Newts they had already engaged. Three Aspect Warriors were struck down, and the melee continued. At the other end of the mine complex, the Kurindans charged the Rangers, whose rapiers swiftly slew three of the reptilians, losing none of their own.
Finally, the Imperial Knight arrived—but would it be enough to turn the tide? Ratlings fired on the Troglodyte Captains, finishing off the injured one and wounding another. The Knight’s battle cannons targeted the Titanosaur, but it shrugged off both hits; a heavy stubber wounded a Captain; and the remaining guns pierced the psionic shields of the Shamans, killing both of them.
Sentinels and War Walkers continued to fire on the Titanosaur, to no avail. The Striking Scorpions hacked down ten Kurindans, while the Rangers slew five, losing another three of their own.
The Kurindans still had plenty of numbers, and the Titanosaur was unstoppable. Worse still, the comm-box in the Knight’s cockpit crackled to life. “Return to base! Return to base! We are under attack! Repeat, we are under attack! Multiple waves of—”
The transmission suddenly ended; already, the Eldar and Ratlings were retreating. Realizing that the feint had drawn them away from the main assault, as the Kurindan tyrant-king !Klrt had intended, the crews of the Crusader and the Sentinels turned their vehicles about, hoping against hope that they would arrive in time….
Kurindans: 23 Victory Points (12 for destroying fortifications + 4 for killing enemy units + 5 for killing “Last Survivors” + 1 for First Blood +1 for Slay the Warlord)
Planetary Defense Force: 7 Victory Points (5 for killing enemy units + 1 for First Blood + 1 for Linebreaker)
Post-Game Analysis by Patrick Eibel
Sometimes you get the bull, sometimes the bull get you—or in this case, the big dinosaur-lizard-thingy. While I think the deck was certainly stacked against me, I know there were a few things I could have done to improve my showing.
First, the cute little narrative list I put together looked good on paper, but had no chance with the limitations of the mission. To maximize the number of Troop units I would start with on Turn 1, I should have put all the Guard infantry into one mega-mega squad, then ditched all the snipers, and taken a big blob of 20 Eldar Guardians with two brightlances.
That being said, the Imperial Knight dawdling for four rounds did not help. Ultimately, I had no way to take down “Big G.” As doomed as my side was, I still had a blast playing at Games and Stuff with their beautiful scenery.
The next time Kenton and I throw down for a game, there will be plenty of changes, as the new edition is around the corner. For once, I am actually looking forward to the change, because the new rules seem to really address many of the problems with the game.
Post-Game Analysis by Kenton Kilgore
A final score of 23-7 is more typical for a game of American football than it is 40K, but it does not reflect any tactical genius on my part. I didn’t beat Pat so much as the mission parameters did, forcing him to start with a portion of his army on the board; handicapping his reserve rolls so that Fast Attack units were more likely to arrive than heavier ones (especially the Knight Crusader); and rewarding me richly for taking out fortifications (ridiculously easy to do with the Hierophant Bio-Titan) and killing “Last Survivors.”
Still, I’m proud of how the army did. “Big G” is its lynchpin: if the opponent can take him out, their victory is nigh-assured; if not, then their defeat is nigh-inevitable. By the end of Turn 5, the Hierophant had lost 1 Wound out of 10, and its biocannons (the “atomic breath weapon”) were destroying or neutering any target.
Still, there’s always room for improvement, and I’ll have to see how Eighth Edition affects Tyranids. One change that I’m pretty sure I’ll make is to get rid of the Tervigon: with 90 Termagants already starting on the board, there’s little need to make more, which is the Terv’s prime feature.
Instead, to take some enemy attention away from “Big G,” I’ll add a Hive Tyrant. It may seem cruel to have both in the same list, but then, I am cold-blooded.
Posted June 2017