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Tooth and Claw
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Battle #1 <> Battle #2 <> Battle #3 <> Battle #4 <> Battle #5 <> Battle #6 <> Final Thoughts
Tooth and Claw: Battle #2 ("Patrol")
Wolf Guard leader Balder Wolfclaw had experienced hot climates before. He had fought Orks in the swamps of Galladorno and tracked Tyranids across the wastes of Charon IV, but they were balmy compared to the plains of Veda. The climate control function of his power armor was sorely taxed to maintain even a bearable level. However, the two native Vedic guides that were leading him and his men through the 8-foot high grasses seemed to take no notice of the sweltering heat or ever-present insects. Truly, these people had learned to bear much hardship stoically.
It was now fourteen hours after the Dark Eldar attack on the landing area, and Balder was leading Grey Hunter squad Mimir—flush with reinforcements to replace those who were killed, wounded, or captured in the last battle—on patrol farther down the river. In the distance, the mountains of Ghuyurashtra loomed.
Suddenly, up ahead, the guides began shouting in their native tongue. The squad rushed to where the two natives were pointing and saw the carcass of a female tiger. The body was nearly seven feet long and its fur was white with long irregular brown stripes. The beast had been split open along the back and its spinal cord had been removed. A mass of flies and scuttling beetles clung to the body like moss, and the rebreathers of their power armor did little to filter out the stench of decay. The two Vedic guides fell prostrate and began chanting and wailing in mourning.
“Ready your weapons,” Balder commanded. “This could be a trap.”
No sooner had he spoken than a Dark Eldar Raider, almost a dozen svartalfir clinging to its sides, rose silently up out of the high grass about 200 feet away. A pair of Space Wolves dangled—dead, or merely insensate?—from barbed nets. Balder recognized them: Ossi and Hurgrin, both squad members. Both old friends.
One of the Dark Elves, in a silver mask, stood at the prow of the vehicle and waved nonchalantly. Then the accompanying Warriors fired their splinter rifles: the Grey Hunters’ armor protected them, but the two guides were instantly shredded. The alien in the silver mask blew the Wolves a kiss as the Raider turned and sped towards a nearby forest.
“Well men, I stand corrected,” Balder growled. “This is definitely a trap.”
“We’re going after them, aren’t we?” asked Skarl, Balder’s right-hand man.
“Of course we are. We don’t leave our brothers.” He drew his combat knife. “And everyone knows that the mere touch of cold steel kills alfir.”
He activated his communicator, gave his location to the other squads in the area, and waved for his men to mount up in their Rhino.
For a few long moments, the only sounds were the chirping of the colorful birds high in the branches of the jungle trees, the buzzing of insects, the splash of rushing water, and the low growl of the Rhino’s idling engine.
Not far from Balder and his men, a fully-loaded Sky Scorpion Raider glided silently through the trees, mere inches above the forest floor, staying low to avoid detection. Upon Kharynydia’s signal, the Ozone Scorpions nimbly leapt to the ground.
Kharynydia’s fingers danced as she used sign language to give the orders. The squad began to move forward quietly, weapons ready.
There was a rustle from a nearby bush and Loril trained his splinter cannon on it, firing a full burst. The others, eyes wide with panic, fired as well, their flechettes shredding the undergrowth. A troupe of monkeys sprang away, screeching in alarm, but the Scorpions kept firing, slaying dozens of them, until Kharnynydia could restrain them.
“Pray that the Fenrisians chop you to pieces, Loril,” she hissed. “Better that than the Doctor learn of this!”
Nothing escapes the keen ears of the Space Wolves. Warily, Balder and his men moved back towards their Rhino.
“Reinforcements are on the way,” Balder told his men, as they mounted their Rhino. Up ahead, out of sight of Squad Mimir, a harsh crackling sound rent the humid air as Lars Ulrik and his bodyguard of Terminators appeared among the ruins of an ancient temple. About a hundred yards to Squad Mimir’s left, another Rhino rose from the sandy bottom of the river, allowing Gray Hunter Pack Roskva to disembark and use the bank for cover. The Land Speeder Typhoon “Maelstrom” screeched above the treetop canopy, looking for targets. Long Fang Pack Aesir crested a hill and surveyed the scene.
Finally, the jungle erupted with a new sound, a sound never heard before: singing. Ferin Ironhammer strode boldly up the worn path, calling out:
Fear not, fine friends, though
the foe is nigh
With that, Ferin aimed his heavy bolters down the path. He could just barely make out Kharynydia and her squad, though they had sought the cover of the trees. He fired, blasting huge holes in several gammudh trees, but none of the filthy svartalfir were harmed. He laughed. “The day is young, and our enemies have done the favor of coming to us!” he bellowed.
Lars Ulrik smiled, shaking his head at Ferin’s characteristic exuberance. Through the trees, he saw Kharynydia and her Dark Elves and pointed them out to his battle brethren. “The old meadhead has sent the prey right towards us. Make sure it cannot run away. Then we can kill them at our leisure.”
The Terminators opened fire on the Sky Scorpion Raider that glided silently alongside the squad. Bolter shots and cannon shells whined past, but one struck true, blasting an enormous hole in the driver’s chest. He slid off his chair and to the jungle floor, his craft pilotless.
“Now, where’s that Raider that Balder told us about?” asked Lars. “The one with that cur in the silver mask?”
A moment later, Lars had his answer. Four Raiders appeared: two staying beneath the treetops to avoid “Maelstrom” and Long Fang Pack Aesir, two braving the path to target Ferin. As they came, Dark Eldar scuttled off them like insects, scurrying into the safety of the trees. For an instant, Lars caught sight of Dr. Jheste, his quarry, but the fiend in the silver mask ducked behind a thicket.
Then hell erupted.
One of the Raiders fired a sickly pale blue ball of plasma at the Terminators, disintegrating Jurgan before he could so much as scream. A bolt of black energy from a blaster carried by one of Kharynydia’s flunkies struck down Haggr. One Raider fired at Ferin, fortunately missing.
As Lars picked himself up, he heard the scream of Reaver bikes from up ahead and to the left. And then he saw that the jungle before him was suddenly filled with Dark Eldar.
With a growing sense of horror, Lars realized that, in moments, he and his three remaining guards would be surrounded.
Safely hidden behind a hathi bush, Dr. Jheste hummed contentedly to himself. The new lower leg he had grown for himself after the last battle itched where it joined to the rest of the limb, but that didn’t trouble him. Around him, bolter rounds flew and mon-keigh voices shouted, but none of that mattered either. All that mattered was opening the silver box in his hands. Just a few more turns of the dial atop the device….
Meanwhile, the Space Wolves advanced—as best they could, anyway. They were plainly ill-used to jungle terrain. Their Whirlwind, “the Kraken,” had attempted to follow Roskva’s Rhino up the river but had gotten stuck, snagged on some underwater protrusion. The Rhinos belonging to Squads Mimir and Roskva found themselves ground to a halt—a tree root had buckled the driveshaft of Mimir’s vehicle and Roskva’s ride became stuck in the mud of the riverbank. The men inside stumbled out, cursing their luck, and plodded forward.
The Speeder “Maelstrom” soared above the jungle canopy. The crew took aim at Kharynydia’s drifting Raider but missed. Not far away, “Ragnarok,” the Wolves’ other speeder, appeared, following the river, its grav-engines spraying huge sheets of water as it whizzed by in search of prey. Squad Aesir, the Long Fangs, continued their climb to the top of a low hill, from which they could survey the battlefield. With commanding positions, the Wolves had the Dark Eldar effectively trapped beneath the canopy: any attempt to rise above the trees would result in fiery death.
On the ground, Ferin continued boldly down the path, still singing—this time, an uncomplimentary ditty about the mothers of his foes and their mating habits. He fired at Vhlondryll’s Raider and missed.
Lars and his Wolf Guard were determined to hold out until reinforcements could arrive. They shot down Relonarr’s Raider, but alas, the Dark Elves had already disembarked. Still, that was one less heavy weapon to be used against them—and one less means of escape for the enemy. Lars hefted his sword. “Let’s take the fight to them! After me!”
Laying down suppressing fire, they advanced, trudging through the undergrowth that threatened to strangle them. Suddenly, they found themselves faced with an enormous, nearly impenetrable thicket. It would take too long to smash or blast through, even with their armor and weaponry. They would have to go around. Their charge had failed.
The svartalfir swarmed towards the Wolves, splinters filling the air, pattering off the Terminators like summer rain. Warriors sprang nimbly through the underbrush, Reavers swerved amongst tree trunks, Warp Beasts in the shape of huge blue scorpions followed.
Kharynydia’s Raider, pilotless, smashed itself against a boulder, exploding in a shower of sparks. But two others ventured onto the path and fired at Ferin. A dark lance beam sheered off his heavy bolters.
The old Dreadnought looked down, to where his weapons lay in the dirt. Then he looked at the end of his arm, where a jagged hole smoked. Then he laughed.
“Is that the best you can do? That didn’t hurt!”
His laughter died as he saw a purple mist appear among the trees and a horrid throbbing noise filled the air. A huge metal scorpion—a Talos—zoomed over the thicket and smashed into the Wolf Guard, beheading Grunni and slicing off Mursson’s left arm at the shoulder. Lars howled with rage. As one, he and Sorgr, the last remaining Terminator, hurled themselves at the beast.
Behind the thicket, Dr. Jheste chuckled.
Up ahead was a clearing, and Balder and his men made for it.
Not far away, Ferin Ironhammer, Venerable Dreadnought, stood on the path, facing down the two Dark Eldar Raiders that slowly glided toward him like sharks moving in for the kill. With the enhanced vision provided by his photoreceptors, he could see the pilots of the two craft preparing another volley.
Ferin opened the comlink to the squad on the hill. “Are you ready?” he asked.
“Aye, my lord,” came the answer. “We have them in our sights.”
“NOW!” Ferin shouted, and suddenly lurched to the left, ducking into the forest with surprising speed for so large and bulky a construct. Startled, the svartalfir gunners hesitated—and the heavy bolters of Long Fang Pack Aesir fired, destroying the first Raider in a huge explosion. The other Raider zipped forward, but its dark lance hit nothing but a tree trunk this time. Ferin laughed.
Meanwhile, near the river, Squad Roskva, “Maelstrom,” and “Ragnarok” were engaged in a fierce firefight with a huge mass of Dark Eldar. The Gray Hunters shot five, their Rhino shot another two, “Maelstrom” gunned down three, and “Ragnarok” killed one of the Reavers, but still the svartalfir came, keening to each other in their strange language. The immobilized Whirlwind, “Kraken,” fired a salvo that obliterated a Warp Beast heading for Lars, but there seemed little the Space Wolves could do to stop the relentless wave of Scorpions.
Lars swung his sword again and again but failed to pierce the adamantium hide of the Talos. It casually reached out and disemboweled Sorgr before he could raise his power fist. Then it turned his attentions to Lars. The Space Marine saw something evil glimmer behind its electronic eyespots.
“Well, come on then, bastard!” Lars roared.
The enemy moved in, firing their weapons. Blasters destroyed the Land Speeder “Ragnarok” and the Rhino belonging to Squad Roskva. A Raider fired at Ferin but missed. Then the assault began in earnest. About 40 Dark Eldar on foot and 3 Reavers engaged Squad Roskva in close-quarters fighting.
Worse, the scuttling Warp Beasts charged Lars as well. He spun to face them, his sword slicing three of them into moist gobbets that quickly dissipated back into the Immaterium. The Talos lashed at him, but even in his Terminator armor, Lars was too quick for it.
“Come on, I said!”
Safely behind the thicket, Dr. Jheste smiled under his mask as another Raider—this one full of Silver Scorpions, Wyches by another name—slid past, safely hidden from the Space Wolves’ heavy weapons. Only one Wolf unit had not been engaged: Gray Hunter Pack Mimir. But all that was about to change.
Jheste used the Dark Eldar sign language as Blygos and his men went by, blades ready. “Let none escape.”
Blygos nodded in reply.
On Jheste’s right, four full Raider squads engaged Gray Hunter Pack Roskva. Though the Fenrisians were fighting bravely, they would not survive. The odds were simply against them. Unless, of course—
Suddenly, the thicket he was hiding behind disintegrated as round after round of heavy bolter fire hit. Land Speeder Typhoon “Maelstrom” had found him and the gunner was adjusting his sights. Best to get a move on, old fruit, Jheste told himself. He dove behind an enormous tree, momentarily safe.
The Whirlwind “Kraken” fired a salvo that went wide, killing only one member of Relonarr’s squad instead of incinerating the lot of them. Not far away, Ferin fired his heavy flamer at Eylservs’ crew, but they were out of range.
Ferin snorted in disgust and charged Eklavdrah’s Raider, which had moved in closer for a better shot. Grabbing it by its scaling nets, he pulled it in close, defying the shrieking jet engines that fought him, and smashed it under his foot, the resulting explosion killing the pilot and setting the surrounding foliage ablaze but doing no harm to Ferin’s armored form. He laughed, hurling a chunk of burning fuselage toward Eylservs’ squad and they scattered back into the jungle.
“Go back!” he roared. “Go back and tell your whoreson master that I am coming for him!”
Bold words, thought Jheste, but words alone— His thoughts were cut off by the screech of the “Maelstrom” overhead as it hunted for him. He hissed into the comlink of his silver mask: “Stop fooling around with that idiot and come here right now! I need you!”
Not far away, the Talos responded. Though Lars’ sword had twice gouged the front of its mechanical carapace, it paid no heed. One claw grabbed Lars around the leg and hurled him several yards, smashing him against the trunk of an ancient tree almost as wide as a Rhino. A Marine in power armor would have broken most of their bones, but because Lars was in Terminator armor, he was merely dazed from the impact. As he fumbled for his sword, the Talos turned away from him and bore down on a new target: the “Maelstrom.”
Jheste bolted from cover and followed the Warp Beasts, who were bearing down on Balder and Squad Mimir. Behind him, the guns of the “Maelstrom” swiveled his way, but he knew that his Talos would reach the Speeder before it could fire. A few yards away, the Raider loaded with Wyches sliced through the forest. Suddenly, the tail of the Raider clipped a low-hanging branch and the vehicle crashed, killing the pilot and four of the elite warriors.
Their leader, Blygos, paid no heed. He brandished his blade and the remaining Silver Scorpions fired on Squad Mimir, their shredders killing two of them. Then Jheste, the remaining Warp Beasts, and the surviving Wyches charged.
Balder felt an unfamiliar flutter of fear in his belly. Four of his men fell to the svartalfir blades before they could so much as raise their weapons. The Warp Beasts pulled down and began feasting on another. Angrinson hacked one of the scorpion-like Beasts to pieces with his chainsword, but the Dark Eldar were too fast for them. Balder swung his powerfist at Blygos, but struck only air as the vile degenerate danced out of reach. Skarl stabbed Jheste with a knife, piercing his chest but missing whatever heart the silver-masked devil had.
Jheste howled in agony. Glancing around, he saw that his Talos was attempting to pull apart the “Maelstrom,” but had yet to get a solid grip. Jheste staggered back for a moment, letting one of the Silver Scorpions engage Skarl, while he checked his hand-held battle monitor.
Several yards away, across the road, Eklavdrah and the others were mopping up Squad Roskva. The Dreadnought Ferin Ironhammer was bearing down on them, however, and should he reach them, none would escape his wrath. “I think our little trap has worked quite nicely,” Jheste said into his comlink. “Fall back. Let the mon-keigh mourn their dead and contemplate what further horrors we will visit upon them.”
Like fallen leaves in a gust of wind, the Dark Eldar were gone, taking their captives with them, their laughter ringing in the ears of the Space Wolves.
Lars, still woozy, joined them. For a long time, no one said anything. Finally, Lars asked, “Where are Balder and his men? They were the first to find the enemy. How did they fare?”
Ferin turned, using his scanners to track the men through the jungle that hid them. “They are there,” he said, pointing southwest with the stump of his right arm. “Balder lives still. Many of his men do not.”
While his remaining men stood on guard, wary of any svartalfir tricks, Balder picked through the wreckage of a Raider. He found the armor of Ossi and Hurgrin—the squad members abducted during the last battle—under the smoldering fuselage.
They are surely dead, Balder said to himself, but I must know. I must see their faces one more time. They were my men—and my friends.
He pried off Ossi’s helmet. The armor was empty. Hurgrin’s was likewise.
Balder wept bitterly.
Post-game Analysis by
In my opinion, this hampered mobility is what cost Pat the game. On a regular battlefield, his Wolves would have ripped apart my army. On this one, I used my superior mobility to isolate his squads, throwing several Raider squads at Gray Hunter Pack Roskva, jumping the Terminators with the Talos and Warp Beasts, attacking Squad Mimir with the Wyches.
If Pat made any mistakes at all, it was deploying the Terminators too far forward of the rest of his force. By winning the first game, Pat had won a “Spoil of War” and claimed the ability to Deep Strike a squad of his choosing. He decided to “beam in” the Terminators (ordinarily not allowed under the rules in Codex: Space Wolves). But because Squad Mimir had to plod along on foot, they could not reach the Terminators to back them up, and the rest of the Wolves were on the other side of the road that run down the middle of the board.
We made some mistakes with the rules. We allowed the Long Fangs to fire on two Raiders along the road, even though they would not, under the strict letter of the jungle-fighting rules, have line of sight (see page 19 of Codex: Catachans).
Our most egregious error was the one involving the arrival of the Talos. It should have arrived at the start of the Dark Eldar Movement Phase of Turn 4, not the Assault Phase of Turn 3. Lars and the Wolfguard Terminators would have had another round to act, which probably would have allowed Pat to equal or surpass my Victory Point total. Unfortunately, we didn’t find out about that mistake until much later. We will adjust for this at the start of the next game.
Barring the prophetic words of Axl Rose, I truly did not understand the difficulties of jungle fighting. My difficulties can be attributed to three tactical errors, although some of them I knew of before the game started.
Tactical Error #1: Deep Striking the Terminators. I anticipated that movement was going to be a major problem for me in this battle, so I opted to compensate by teleporting the Terminators into the thick of battle. I had hoped that their superior armor would serve them while the rest of the army caught up. However, all this did was to isolate the Terminators, where they were easily chewed up (quite literally), while the other troops were bogged down by the terrain.
Tactical Error # 2: Moving to engage the Dark Eldar. I like to play my Space Wolves like combat-happy Vikings, and so generally rush forward to engage the enemy in close combat. In this scenario, I would have been better served by sitting back and shooting and using a counter-attack since the Dark Eldar were going to come at me anyway.
Tactical Error #3: Using Long Fangs in a jungle fight. I knew that the Long Fang squad would be a hindrance in the jungle fight scenario during the campaign, but I was hoping they would redeem themselves later in the City Fight scenarios. I thought that at the very least they might get some shots off on some Raiders to reduce the Dark Eldar’s mobility. Unfortunately, Kenton (mostly) used the jungle canopy to excellent effect, thus pretty much negating the entire squad.
I am not all that upset by losing.
The battle was my first using jungle-fighting rules, so I knew there would
be a learning curve. The game was close and hard fought, and we both had
a lot of fun trying to outmaneuver each other through the terrain. Besides,
did anybody really expect a bunch of rabid Vikings to fight well in a tropical
jungle? I didn’t think so.
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© Copyright Kenton
Kilgore and Patrick Eibel, September 2002
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