Swamps of M’Boto: Of Arms and Armor

The Angels commanders entered Colonel Akinye’s tent, the Colonel and his staff were already standing.  The staff braced to attention and the Colonel bowed low and made the sign of the aquila.

“Welcome Master Balthasar.  We are honored you have returned.”  He said, with a vague questioning tone.  “We were just planning the defense of the positions you captured.  Without your astartes we wouldn’t have had a chance to hold them, but we would have fought as long as we stood, then fought on on our knees, and then fallen forward to fight in the prone!”  He raised his fist in a triumphant pump, not noticing that his speech had done little to brace the spirit of his staff.

“Well Colonel, now we are back and I doubt that will be necessary.  Have your soldiers guard the woods to the north of the position my demi-company secured several days ago.  We will secure the hill and the trees beneath it.  And try not to give too many speeches to the men.  Few words, but heartfelt is best.”  Balthasar said.  He heard a distinct click as Maccabeus turned off his vox-speaker.

Balthasar inclined his head to the Colonel and turned to leave the tent.  As they walked out into the light of the twin moons, Maccabeus voice came up over the command channel.  “That idiot had as good as given in to defeat before the battle had started, and he was more than halfway to convincing his men that they were defeated before the fighting started.”

“Why do you think I told him to not give any more speeches Brother Chaplain.”

“I nearly choked when you did.  Have we a plan?”

“I expect the Xenos to come from the Northeast.  Mostly infantry, try to blast us off the hill.  Battlesuits and Hover-tanks will rush down the road between the trees and the hill.  My demi company will defend with the Razorback squads on the north side of the hill, the Devastators will guard the peak, I’ll be with the 5th and my command squad in the trees, and the assault squad will be behind the south end of the hill, ready to counter-attack in either direction, with our Ravenwing support close to hand.  These xenos are cautious  Their first attack will not be fully blooded.  The librarian and his terminators are aboard the ship if we need them.  You will take your demi-company north to back up the main line, but do not engage if you do not need to.  I want to be ready to counter attack, and we’ll want the full company for that.”

Balthasar shrugged his shoulders, rolling them around in his armor.  “Let us go to our camp.  The Colonel will hold the hill for the night and we will advance before dawn.  Have the weapons blessed and anointed with oils, debrief the brothers of the 7th, and let us prepare for battle.”

With that he strode off alone.  A pavilion had been prepared by the M’Boton Cheetas.  It was filled with all sorts of furs and luxuries.  Balthasar placed his weapons on the table, and carefully removed his armor.  The rack the M’boton troops had provided for it groaned under the weight but bore up.  Balthasar mused on this for a moment.  A portent he was sure, the men of M’boto might bend, might creak and shudder under the weight, but they would bear it.

His weapons he oiled, a fine Relic blade.  One of the last ever made on Caliban.  The low gothic runes spelled out “Arnot” on the blade.  The bluish-black steel shined under the oil.  To his hands it felt pitted, like a worn down mountain face.  He knew better than to test it.  Even without power the ancient weapon cut through astartes armor like paper, and even tanks suffered under the powered blade.  Reverently he placed it in the cradle on the rack.  He stripped down his bolter, chanting the ancient rhymes of maintenance, reverently oiling each piece and carefully replacing them feeling each action slide in perfectly. He wasn’t sure when his next chance to prepare would be, and he rejoiced in the simple, soldierly task in the simple white robe packed deep within his simple satchel of gear for campaigns.

his armor he carefully inspected and maintained.  Starting with the boots he scrubbed the mud and dust off, checking the hinges and joints, working up the greaves and knee pads, he checked the flex-joints for tearing.  He carefully inspected the symbols of chapter and company.  The banner bearing his own personal heraldry he unrolled and placed on its pole.  He finally hefted the breastplate of his armor and cleaned it  reverently.  Carefully polishing the edges he cleaned the plastron, and checked the lining on the inside, the tubes and hoses all connected, the connections cleaned.  Finally he cleaned the blade of the Dark Angels from handle to hilt, and then the wings of the Angels and the Aquila.  Carefully he placed it back on the rack, listening to the groan as the grey wood took the weight.  He took a moment to admire the carving on the armor stand.  No simple piece, hastily assembled; it bore the marks of a craftsman.  Not an ornament for a kings hall, but a gift to a leader of warriors on campaign. He called the Chaplain one last time to check in, and, finding all to his liking he set his vox bead to wake him at any signal and cast himself on the cot carefully so as not to break it and let his awareness slip away.

Fall of Cadia and 8th Edition

So currently there’s a lot of chatter about two things upcoming in the 40k universe.  The fall of Cadia and the upcoming 8th edition.  The fall of Cadia is coming hard on the heels of the Siege of Fenris and continues that story.  Magnus has patched things up with Ahriman, sort of, and the word of the sorcerers was teleported in toto to Prospero.  Abaddon the Armless is attacking Cadia and I have a feeling it might actually work this time, what with the campaign being called the Fall of Cadia and all.  Living saints are showing up with the Imperium getting its own “Party Float” model.  Seriously.  She’s this close to being a Protectorate Warcaster.  Guilliman is on his way back, just to piss off everyone who doesn’t like the Ultrasmurfs, even though he’s mortally wounded and “slowly healing” in stasis while the Lion is just napping.  For ten thousand years.  What can I say he naps like a pro.

So the grimdark story is moving forward.  GW hasn’t called it the “end times” because, well, that would trigger everyone who liked Warhammer Fantasy before GW RUINED IT FOREVER reimagined it in a new format.  This is especially key with a new edition looming on the horizon.  First let’s do some accounting.  20 Primarchs.  2 lost and expunged.  The Lion is napping (LIKE A BOSS), Fulgrim and Perturabo are demon princes, Khan and Russ are taking extended tours of Chaos-affiliated architecture, Dorn and Ferrus Manus are dead (ish. more on this in a bit) Konrad Curze and Sangy are dead, dead, dead.  Angron is a demon prince, Guilliman is apparently already on his way back (unenthusiastic yay) Mortarion and Magnus are Demon Princes as well, Horus is as completely destroyed as you can be, Lorgar is an especially whiny demon prince, Vulkan is a Perpetual, supposedly he’s dead but the guy has plot armor like whoah, Corvus Corax is MIA but with a HUGE asterisk, and I am Alpharius.  Or Omegon.

So the Imperium can expect to see the Lion, and Guilliman for sure, and Russ, Vulkan, Khan, and Corax wouldn’t be a stretch.  Dorn and Manus would be a stretch but Dorn is in that “Have you seen a body?”  “Well, we have a hand, sir” category.  If they want him back he’s back.  Manus would be more of a stretch but also is a huge opportunity.  First off he’s a very popular Primarch for not being one of the “major” legions/chapters.  He’s boosted by having THE best model among the Forgeworld Primarchs (Seriously, check it out) and the stories of what has happened to his head lead to the potential of a Robot Nixon style return.  What would make this delicious is the fact that he actually abhors the replacement of flesh with steel, which seems the kind of suffering GW loves to inflict on its tragic heroes.

Corvus Corax is much more likely to come back, and he’s an interesting one.  Last seen headed for the Eye of Terror he hasn’t been confirmed dead, and while his last action seems suicidal, he’s very much not.  He’s an extremely dedicated servant of the Emperor, in fact he’s a bit of an ideologue, much like Lorgar in his blind faith.  He also has an amazing wealth of knowledge of gene-seed and space marine creation, thanks to his efforts rebuilding his chapter.  He could be a huge piece of rebuilding the Imperium after the coming apocalypse.

Chaos can bring Fulgrim, Lorgar, Mortarion, Angron, Magnus, Perturabo, and possibly half of Alpharius Omegon.  Most of them don’t need much introduction, they are Demon Princes and if GW wants them in, they will be in.  Alpharius Omegon was supposedly killed, half by Dorn, half by Guilliman.  I don’t believe it for a second.  I do believe that they have the potential to be the second largest spoiler in the whole shebang.  Who is the biggest?  Magnus the Red.

No.  Really.  I’ll explain.  Here’s what I see happening, Cadia falls, the Black Crusade spills out headed all across the galaxy. As Abby’s ships approach Terra the Golden Throne fails and the Emperor dies, coincidentally banishing Abby’s ships to the Eye for a time, and possibly even creating a mini eye of terror (the Eye of Terra if you will.)  The Demon Primarchs have fanned out, many taking over their own kingdoms and the regular Space Marines are on their back foot.  Guilliman is building another Empire.  He’s done it before.  Vulkan shows up to help with War machines, Corvus Corax shows up to help create more marines, Russ shows up to help kill everything, and shortly before Terra get whomped, The Rock shows up to try to defend Terra.  And intercept a certain Fallen.  Cypher shows up not on Terra’s walls, but at the Rock.  Walking in as if he owns the place he hands his pistols over and carrying the Lion’s Blade he waits while every Inquisitor Chaplain descends on him, only to be stopped by the Watchers in the Dark.  The Watchers lead everyone to the depths of the Rock, past even Luther’s chamber, to where the Lion lays sleeping.  Cypher lays the Lion’s sword on his Primarch’s chest and asks “Father, why did you abandon us.”

To which the Lion awakes and responds “I left you to defend our homeworld, to safeguard the future of our legion.  Why did you fail in your charge.”  A few seconds later the scene is re-enacted a few rooms over in Luther’s chamber, with much of the last 10,000 years of Dark Angels history being revealed as, literally, the Lion gave a shitty mission brief, leading Luther and the Fallen to believe they had been abandoned, when they had, in fact, been trusted with the most important mission they could be given.  Coincidentally this leaves the Dark Angels and the other Unforgiven as a highly unified force, which the Lion absolutely would not hesitate to wield in the tradition of the Space Marine Legions of the Crusade era.

This is a band aid on a sucking chest wound though.  The Imperium has basically fallen.  The Emperor is dead, Primarchs are empire building in the rubble.  Chaos is expanding and all of reality hangs by a thread.  The loyalist Primarchs, Guilliman, The Lion, Russ, CC, and Vulkan, all gather on Ultramar.  Discussions go round and round on how to proceed. The Lion is the new Warmaster.  Guilliman is the Emperor-regent, CC and Vulkan are helping rebuild the armies, and Russ spearheads the charge.  However while they can try to patch the sinking ship they find themselves stuck at a dead end.

At this point they are joined by three more Primarchs.  Dorn, Khan, and Magnus.  No, I’m not kidding.  In my vision of 40k, Dorn was rescued/captured by Magnus, who has no great love for Tzeentch or Chaos, and might very well be open to returning to the Imperium on his own terms.  Dorn has intimate knowledge of the Golden Throne, from his time as guardian of the Imperial Palace, and Khan is intimately familiar with the Webway, which was a large part of the development of the throne.  Magnus is willing to fulfill the Emperor’s role for him, as, basically, the ass in the throne, provided the other Primarchs work to restore his legion.

Most of the Primarchs are more than willing to participate, but one of them, Russ, is absolutely incoherent with rage at the thought.  He has just returned to find Fenris shattered, by Magnus, and even were that not the case he would not countenance letting the traitor return to the fold.  However, Russ has few friends at the table, and his Chapter has been shattered leaving him with even less power than that.  Magnus pours oil on the waters by asking that Russ be his guardian, and, if he shows any moment of disloyalty, his executioner.  The Wolves and the Sons were always the smallest of legions, and while their hate for each other is legendary, they have both always been utterly loyal to their leaders.

This gives the Imperium a rudder.  With a new leader, Big Papa Smurf, a new Warmaster, the Lion, a cabal of technicians, and a new guiding light in Magnus, as well as flipping two of the most devious cards in the Chaos deck (Cypher and Magnus) the Imperium has the initiative.  Just in time for the return of the Emperor.

Of course Chaos won’t take this lying down.  Alpharius Omegon may or may not be loyal to Chaos, or the new Empire, or anything else at this point, but the rest of the Primarchs are in it to win it, and their power is terrible to behold.  While I don’t doubt that any of the Primarchs could have taken down Primarch Lorgar back in the Heresy era (a wounded and exhausted Corvus Corax nearly did it during the drop site massacre) I doubt any of them would be quite so succesful about taking on Demon Prince Lorgar, and Lorgar lagged far behind his brothers in martial skill.  I shudder to think of the power that Perturabo has picked up, even as a “undeclared” champion of chaos.  Now imagine the power of a Mortarion, Angron, or Fulgrim, all martial masters with the backing of their own Chaos God.  Yeah I’ll pass on that, thanks.  Added to that, the Marines will be stretched very thin, and the resources of the Imperial Guard will be taxed to the limit without the web of trade, resources, and administratum support the Imperium had.  Guilliman will likely be occupied full time just re-connecting the Ultramar sector.

So here’s how I see it.  Chaos will establish lodgements all over the fallen Imperium, with bickering warlords squatting in the ruins of humanity’s greatest empire.  At this point the loyalist Primarchs reunite and play all their cards to build the Ultramar Empire, with the ability to strike hard, but not widely, and not often.  Chaos has won incredible gains, but now faces a foe far more focused, and more driven, at a time when its own power is badly divided.

But enough lore.

8th Edition.

My first thought is “Please don’t fuck this up”

My next thought is “You know, they keep talking streamlining.  Do they mean streamlining or do they mean abstracting?”

Currently there’s a couple hundred “USRs” between the BRB, the codexes, the campaign books… yeah there’s a lot of special rules.  That list needs to be pared down.  Preferably to a couple dozen.  This alone would accomplish a lot.

There needs to be some balance changes as well.  Right now vehicles are usually not taken unless they are free, or deployed en masse by specific armies.  Vehicles should be key factors.  You need a balance between them dominating the field, and being too dominant, but it shouldn’t be a “how can I get free transports for my troops” games with formations.  On that topic, WTB Rhinos/Razorbacks.

Now let me talk about something I would LOVE to see.  Something that would make the game a lot faster, and help balance melee vs. ranged combat.  I’m stealing this idea from Epic 40k, which is still GWs best ruleset.  Firepower.  That’s right, Firepower.  Instead of rolling to hit, to wound, and then dealing with a myriad of saves, it will not die, and regenerating, we abstract all of that.  Every weapon gets a firepower rating.  Better yet every model gets a firepower rating.  An ork gets a 1.  A guardsman a 2.  A tactical marine a 3.  Add together a whole unit’s firepower and look at a chart to see how many dice you roll, modified by the targets cover and concealment.  Then you roll against the target’s defensive value.  Terminators would have a defensive value of 6, marines might have a defensive value of 5, an ork, aspect warrior or tau a 4, a guardsman or guardian a 3, and a gretchin or swarm creature a 2.  For example a marine tactical squad with 10 bolters has a firepower of 30.  The chart gives them a rating of 15/11/8 against targets in the open/soft cover/hard cover.  So against a guardsman squad in the open they roll 20 dice, with a fair chance of blasting them off the table.  Against a squad in hard cover they inflict a handful of casualties, and all this is done in seconds.  Special weapons might add a special rule to the attack, for example a fixed number of dice regardless of cover (flamers) or additional dice against certain targets (lascannon against heavily armored targets for example)

I doubt GW will do this, but I’d absolutely love to see it.  It much better captures firefights as troops blasting away at targets of opportunity rather than single, aimed shots.

Melee needs love too.  Badly.  Delivering enough troops to melee and having enough left to do anything is very hard in 7th edition.  Go ahead, charge a Dark Angel or Tau force and see how many dice your opponent brought with him.  In addition it’s just not that deadly.  Getting rid of toughness/armor and just giving a defense score helps, and if my firepower suggestion is taken, it’s relatively easy to tune the firepower/dice chart to set whatever balance you want.  Need more melee?  Firepower generates fewer dice.  Think melee in the year 41,000 is silly?  DICE FOR THE DICE GODS!

Ok this post is up over 2200 words.

Swamps of M’boto: The Return

“We are going back” Master Balthasar said.  His eyes hard on the Librarian.

“We are going back.  The Knights will take their cargo to the rock on the Strike Cruiser but we will remain here to ensure that nothing of this is spoken of where it shouldn’t be”

Balthasar glared at Herod.  The Librarian leaned back, his eyes taking a meditative cast “We will keep most of the Deathwing here, only the knights will return.  And the detachment from the 7th will be glad of the reinforcements.”

Balthasar turned his head, breathing deeply.  And again.  Focusing on the map his brain automatically created from the briefings sent from the planet below.

“Very well.  Detachment Abnell is holding the defensive complex we took a few days ago.  We will deploy there and strike the xenos through the woods to disrupt their lines facing the Guard.  I will have Captain Hanadan so inform General Middlebrooks immediately.  Will your Deathwing be ready within the hour?”

Herod nodded immediately.

“Very well, have them on the embarkation deck within the hour, we drop in sixty minutes.”  He paused to toggle his vox on “5th Company!  Gear for immediate deployment.  You have 50 minutes to be assembled by squads on the embarkation deck.  For the Lion and Caliban!”

50 minutes later, in the full panoply of war, Master Balthasar strode onto the embarkation deck.  Chaplain  Maccabeus stood at the head of the squads lined up, the vehicles were already attached to their Thunderhawks, the last of the chapter serfs fled the bay even as Balthasar crossed the threshold.  He marched to the lead Thunderhawk, then turned to his men as they stood fixed in their ranks.  “Brothers.  Embark!”

As one the assembled green troops turned and filed into the transports.  6 columns filled the dropships and vox clicks and chatter buzzed as squads and chalks checked in.

“Balthasar to all elements, final check”

“Squad 10, present and correct”

“Squad 9, present and correct”… and on until finally

“Chaplain Maccabeus, all squads are present and correct Master Balthasar”

“Brother Librarian is your element ready?”

“We are ready Master Balthasar, give the word”

“The word is given.  Captain Hanadan, open the doors and launch the Thunderhawks!”

With that the door lifted, ponderous and slow, yet smooth and the Thunderhawks lifted as one, arrowing out into the inky blackness, and turning in the double v formation that would drop them in their two demi-company groups, even as the Blade of Judgement fired her main engines to depart the system with her precious cargo.

The Thunderhawks dropped, thrusting hard even with gravity pulling them down, like homesick children desperate for the embrace of their family.  The Dark Angels were returning to war.

Swamps Of M’boto

3 Weeks prior to the battle.  Departing The Rock the Strike Cruiser Blade of Judgement climbed away, pushing towards M’boto.  The engines grumbled deep within the hull as the troopers and their naval serfs secured gear.  Master Balthasar and Chaplain Maccabeus sat in the strategium with a chart of the company hovering between them.

“Master Balthasar, I understand we haven’t been brought fully up to strength, I have to question leaving our Tactical squads so understrength.”

“Brother Chaplain we have been over this.  We could either leave every squad understrength, and risk our assault squads being short in the press, or our devastator squads short of ammunition, or we can take advantage of the Techmarines offer to grant us the use of the Razorbacks to make up the firepower our tactical squads are missing for want of battle brothers.  Now, let’s go over how we will deploy. I will take the odd squads, 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, two of the Ravenwing squads, and you will have the even squads, as well as the land Speeders.  Brother Librarian Herod will be in support, but he has his own mission and will decide which of our demi-companies he will support according to the dictates of his mission.”

“I would be more comfortable knowing more about his mission, Master Balthasar,”

“I know Maccabeus.  We believe several rebel humans have joined with the Xenos.  The Librarians and Deathwing have specific orders regarding that.  That is all you need know and more than would be wise to share, even with your sergeants.  Now, you have two full strength tactical squads, an understrength squad with a Razorback, and a full strength Assault and Devastator squad.  I will have two understrength tactical squads and one full strength.  We have enough Rhinos to transport all the Devastators and Tactical squads, and of course the Razorbacks, I will have the company command group with me, and Brother Maimonades has scared up another razorback for us.  I’m assuming you will draw a jump pack to join with your assault squad?”

“I will Balthasar.  I would like to try to draw additional weapons for that assault squad?”

“I will have a word with Maimonades.  You need all the help you can get anyway.  Oh and the final detachment with us comes from the 7th company.  Brother Librarian Abnell is bringing a pair of tactical squads, as well as a predator, and a dreadnought.  Brother Maimonades will join him.  These squads have just been assembled, and Master Ezekiah was very strict telling us to keep our hands off of them.  I plan on leaving them aboard the ship, we don’t have transports for them, and until we have a secure base they would just slow us down.  Once we have a base we will deploy them to defend it and help us secure our links to the local defenders.”

“I concur.  I’ve had a few words with the serfs as well.  Maintenance will not be a problem, we have laid in a lot of stores, and Captain Hanadan laid in a generous supply of munitions to ensure we have plenty of time for training.  I do think we should include our brothers in from the 7th in this training, in case we do need to work with them, if that is acceptable.”

“You are just hoping they make your scores look better.”

“Nonsense Master, I’m hoping they provide camouflage for your own scores, they are slipping, probably under the weight of all that ego you carry around!”

“Hah.  Speaking of which we are due for live fire ourselves.  Tomorrow we brief the sergeants.  Remember, no word of the rebel humans unless Herod or I say so.”

“Of course” sighed Maccabeus.  He stood to leave, his robes whispering as he turned to the door.  Balthasar looked sharply to the corner where a small figure darted from sight.  As he stood he grumbled to himself “Must have a word with Herod myself.  The watchers have been restless…”

Master Balthasar

Master Balthasar.  Captain of the Fifth Company.  Keeper of the Ritual.  Something of an enigma.  All that is known in the canon is that he’s a long term veteran of the Deathwing, was a veteran sergeant there, and took over the fifth after his mentor, Master Zadakiel, was killed by the Chaos Marines of the Crimson Slaughter.  So let’s flesh out this Dramatis Personae a bit.

Master Balthasar passed through the Scouts of the tenth with notice, but no great distinction.  He served ably in the Devastator and Assault squads of the reserve companies, earning a reputation as an able, precise close quarter fighter, far more at home is the press of melee than in the distant thunder of the big guns.

He moved into the reserve tactical company, and demonstrated exceptional situational awareness, frequently commanding a combat squad when his squad divided during operations.  His stint in the reserve tactical companies ended when he received a call to the 5th company, taking his place in the assault squads, one of which he swiftly rose to command.  As every marine  leader does, he led from the front, preserving his forces with canny tactics, carefully marshalling his squad and executing precision strikes, demonstrating masterful control of his squad as an extension of his will.  Master Belial was quick to call him into the Deathwing, trading the speed and flexibility of his jump pack for the inexorable power and stolid protection of the tactical dreadnought armor.  Taking part in many campaigns against traitors and renegades he learned much of the fallen and took the news of their existence in stride, incorporating it into his plans and tactics flawlessly.  He ascended quickly again, to knight and then to Deathwing Sergeant.  Commanding his own squad of knights until, in a raid against the Crimson Slaughter; chasing rumors of the Fallen, he watched across the battlefield as an ambush caught his old mentor and commander, Master Zadakiel and fire tore him and his command squad apart.

The Fifth faltered, and Balthasar rose to the moment.  Dispatching his squad to continue their mission he loped across the field, desperation forcing him beyond the normal limits of the powerful terminator armor until he was amongst his old brothers.  Snapping out orders quickly and surely he rallied the company and led them through the Crimson Slaughter’s defenses, although their Fallen comrade had slunk away, the Fifth had found their new master, and Azrael’s decision to award him the title Master merely confirmed that which was widely known when the company returned to the rock.  Putting down the bone white armor of the deathwing, he resumed the dark green of Caliban and took up the mantle of Master.

Swamps of M’boto part II

Master Balthasar saw the blue-skinned xenos as soon as he crested the knoll, passing close to the copse of trees, with two squads to his left, and another working its way through to his right, his squad screened the Devastators of Sergeant Simuels 9th squad who would set up on the top of the knoll after Balthasar’s command group had cleared it.  Balthasar boomed out the Dark Angels battle cry “REPENT, FOR TOMORROW YOU DIE” He swung his relic blade into his left hand, hoisting the massive Combi weapon one-handed he fired a bolter into the squad of xenos blocking the road beneath, as a large, fast-moving hovercraft blasted down the shoulder towards the Chaplain’s attack.

“Bring down that ship!” Balthasar cried, even as Simuel’s Missile Launchers and Plasma Cannons barked several shots, smashing the sturdy craft to the ground, where it began to burn even as the survivors of the squad within tried to crawl free, into the bolter fire of the rest of the devastator squad.  The tactical squads to Balthasar’s left also raked the wreckage, keeping the survivors from rallying under their cruel scourging fire.  Balthasar’s attention was jerked to his right as a shell struck his shoulder pad.  Across the road at some distance las-fire flickered from a position that was held by humans.

“Matthias, the hunt is on, your quarry is across the road on the far hill, call for support when you have closed in”  Balthasar tongued the stud switching to his command frequency.  “Brother Librarian, Sergeant Matthias is closing on the enemy.  I believe the signal you seek is near him”

“Very well Master Balthasar, we stand ready to drop on his signal.  For the Lion”  came the reply of Brother Librarian Herod.  The Iron Armor of the 3rd squad crashed out of the trees at last, at point blank range to the defenders currently firing at Balthasar’s group.  Other positions across the road had engaged the squad’s to Balthasar’s left and the Devastators were engaged with vehicles trying to force the road before the Chaplain could break through.  The clumsy, heavy armor of the 5th squad shrugged off the surprised, desultory fire of the defenders of the road, and the staccato bursts of their bolters sent the survivors of the attack fleeing.  Balthasar ran forward, leaping the barricade “Fifth, secure the barricade and aid 1st and 3rd.  Matthias are you in position?”

“We are, bring in the reinforcements”

Even before Balthasar could speak the booming chime of a teleporter announced the arrival of the Deathwing.  11 suits of Terminator armor, in the midst of the traitorous humans pinned under the heavy weapons of Matthias fast-moving speeders.  Lasgun and Bolter fire smacked into the terminators, not even slowing them as they opened a lethal close range fire, silencing nearly all resistance.

“The xenos are breaking!”  Called Eleazer, at the left of the line.

“Judah, harry them and destroy them”

“As the Emperor wills!”  called Eleazer, even as the jet packs launched them into a headlong pursuit.  Balthasar raced up the hill as the Speeders orbited at a safe distance.  The Devastators had chased off the xenos vehicles, one of which was burning, and smoke indicated other damage to the ones that limped away.  The bone-white terminators were in a ring around a small, sunken bunker.  One of them, armor picked out in blue, called out as Balthasar approached.

“He’s in there.  I can feel him.”  His powerful fist clenched on the staff he carried.  Balthasar looked around him.  “Purify the battlefield” he directed his squad “Herod and I will attend to this”

Herod hefted his staff and Balthasar blasted the door with the Combi-Weapon’s plasma gun, then stepped back as the bulky terminator-armored Librarian rushed the door, allowing him to heft his relic blade and race in on the Librarian’s heels.  A robed figure in simple armor faced them.

“Brothers”

“You have forsaken us, and that word.”

“You have forsaken the Imperial Truth, and all the Emperor stands foAAHHHHH” he cried, as a halo of pink and purple danced around the Chaplain’s hood.  As the figure started to buckle; Balthasar leapt forward securing the prisoner.  The librarian was speaking with the ship on another channel.  Balthasar hefted the prisoner to his feet the Librarian reached out a hand, grabbing the prisoner roughly.  “Begin the withdrawal, we have what we came for, our campaign is over”

“It is indeed.  Chaplain Maccabeus, send our transports to grid 10371138.  Have the apothecaries see to the wounded, and the fallen.  Inform the guard we are required elsewhere, the battle barge will be withdrawing us soon.”

In the Bloody, Grimdark, Future, There is Only Testosterone

To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.

-Rogue Trader and damn near every main rulebook ever.

So writing any fiction in the Warhammer 40k universe has some issues for me.  It’s a stretch.  I like writing about diverse characters, men and women, strong and weak, outgoing and introspective, noble and degenerate.  You really don’t get that a lot in the grimdark.  The heroes are intolerant, “noble” in the harshest of senses, the villains are far more interesting running the gamut from the truly and bestially depraved to, well, heretics like you and me.  No, I’m not kidding.  We’re heretics to them.  PURGE YOURSELF!

The tech of the grimdark is very interesting, especially when you deal with the arcane mysticism that has swum up around it.  It’s amazing, highly powered, high tech stuff, and no one has really any idea how it works, it’s all the machine spirit.  There’s some interesting writing to be done there.

Even the battles are problematic.  Marines are organized into chapters of 1000 marines.  The Battle company I listed has a little over 120 marines.  Let’s say I throw them into a huge battle and get tabled.  That’s 1/8th of the Dark Angels!  It’s really over 1/4 of their active strength as 4 companies are reserves, 1 is a scout company, and the Deathwing/Ravenwing are mixed with the Battle Companies to such an extent that they really just build out the 3 Battle Companies and stretch them a bit to 4 or 5 deployable forces.  So how do I write these battles up?  I mean I can have a lot of lightly wounded and good treatment, and Marines are quite hardy, but it’s going to take some creativity to keep them from dying in job lots to the kinds of weapons you run into routinely in the 41st millenium, and it takes 8-10 years to get a replacement ready and up to speed.  Years.  Even the British Regulars didn’t take that long and I can lose 25% of their deployable force in a long, awful Sunday.

I am looking forward to meeting these challenges.  It’s an interesting universe to write in and having such one-dimensional characters to begin with make writing them in a more nuanced fashion a challenge.  Too much nuance and I’m far out of canon.  Too little and it’s just testosterone filled blood and guts.  Should be interesting to walk the line.

5th Company, Dark Angels Organization

Here’s the full force I have minus some additional tanks.  Currently it is all set up as a massive Battle Company army clocking in at over 3000 points.  I actually have an enormous proportion of this, with only a few specific models to pick up, and tomorrow I will be doing the painting thing to a good portion of it.  Certainly at least the first Demi Company.  The high-level view is a battle company, with 3 of the tactical squads at 6 men, in razorbacks, the other 3 at ten men.  6 man squads have a plasma gun, 10 man have flamer and Heavy Bolter.  Razorbacks are all twin lascannon.  Assault squads are all full with jump packs and twin flamers.  I am missing 3/4 of the assaults and this is the largest hole in the roster currently.  Devastators are all at 10 men although I suspect a lot of point shaving will happen here.  They are all in Rhinos.  The Captain’s Demi Company has the command squad, with banner and apothecary.  The Chaplain could get tooled up, and will probably steal the devastator’s rhino and combat squad if he can.

The Auxiliaries is where things get crazy.  First off we have the Terminator squads.  The close combat squad comes in it’s handy land raider, which I plan on using to blitz upfield and deploy the terminators.  There’s a good chance there will be some extra terminators in it at some point, including the librarian depending on the powers he gets.  The shooty squad will deep strike in with those nasty Deathwing deep strike rules.  To take full advantage of them, we have a Ravenwing element.  This will also get looked at more closely as I actually use it in games.  Eventually I plan on having a pretty hefty Ravenwing with at least 3-4 speeders and 12+ bikes.  The special speeders DA gets are just too much fun to ignore.

+++ New Roster (Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition v2012) (3087pts) +++

++ DA Lion’s Blade Strike Force (Dark Angels: Codex (2015) v2003) ++

+ Core +

········Battle Demi Company
············Assault Squad [9x Assault Space Marine, 2x Flamer, Jump Packs]
················Assault Space Marine Sergeant [Bolt Pistol, Chainsword]
············Command Squad [Apothecary, Company Standard]
················Razorback [Twin Linked Lascannon]
············Company Master
················Power Armour [Combi-Plasma, Infantry, Relic Blade]
············Devastator Squad [Armorium Cherub, 2x Missile Launcher, 2x Plasma Cannon, Rhino, 9x Space Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Plasmagun, 5x Tactical Marine]
················Razorback [Twin Linked Lascannon]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Plasmagun, 5x Tactical Marine]
················Razorback [Twin Linked Lascannon]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Flamer, Heavy Bolter, Rhino, 9x Tactical Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]

········Battle Demi Company
············Assault Squad [9x Assault Space Marine, 2x Flamer, Jump Packs]
················Assault Space Marine Sergeant [Bolt Pistol, Chainsword]
············Chaplain [Crozius Arcanum, Infantry, Plasma Pistol]
············Devastator Squad [Armorium Cherub, 2x Missile Launcher, 2x Plasma Cannon, Rhino, 9x Space Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Flamer, Heavy Bolter, Rhino, 9x Tactical Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Flamer, Heavy Bolter, Rhino, 9x Tactical Marine]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]
············Tactical Squad [Plasmagun, 5x Tactical Marine]
················Razorback [Twin Linked Lascannon]
················Sergeant [Boltgun, Chainsword]

+ Auxiliary +

········Deathwing Redemption Force
············Deathwing Terminator Squad [Assault Cannon, 2x Chainfists, 4x Deathwing Terminators]
················Deathwing Sergeant [Storm Bolter and Power Sword]
············Deathwing Terminator Squad [4x Deathwing Terminators, 2x Pair of Lightning Claws, 2x Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield]
················Deathwing Sergeant [Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield]
················Land Raider Crusader [Multi-Melta]
············Librarian
················Psyker [Level 2]
················Terminator Armour [Force Stave, Storm Bolter]

········Ravenwing Attack Squadron
············Ravenwing Bike Squad [5x Ravenwing Biker]
················Ravenwing Attack Bike [Multi-Melta]
················Ravenwing Sergeant [Bolt Pistol]
············Ravenwing Land Speeder [Assault Cannon, Multi-Melta]

Created with BattleScribe (http://www.battlescribe.net)

Swamps of M’boto

Master Balthasar swung his boots out of the sucking mud, fighting for alertness as his demi-company trudged through the end of the mire towards their objective.  They still had several kilometers to go and the offensive was scheduled to go off in less than 8 hours.  They had left their vehicles behind, knowing they would sink in the swamp, and even the speeders the Ravenwing had attached to his command had to pick their routes carefully lest their grav-effect drill down into the mud.

“Master Balthasar, angle to the left to where the speeders are.  We have found a spit of solid ground” called Sergeant Matthias.  Balthasar twisted to see the coil of speeders begin to shake out into a line over the solid ground, and he trudged across the morass to find firmer footing.  A movement they had planned for 6 hours had taken over 10 and the troops focus was lacking as the constant battle simply to stay erect was fought with each step.  The Emperor was with them, finally and the ground even came up above the water line, nearly dry, and the troops made much better time, reaching the planned assembly area with 90 minutes to go until the attack.

“Sergeant Eleazer, form a defensive and then rest, we must clear our minds of that foul swamp.  We will hold here for 30 minutes.  Matthias ground your speeders inside.  We can trust our Catalepsian nodes but I will not have a sloppy attack even if we are covered in filth.  Sergeant Judah, take your men ahead and find the grove the auspex detected for us to attack from.  Once you have reached it vox back your bearing and rest your squad”

Master Balthasar’s vox clicked as each Sergeant acknowledged his orders.  The tactical squads broke down their sectors, the devastators picked firing positions on little knolls and the speeders grounded in dead zones out of easy observation, then each brother froze into a statue.  Balthasar and his command squad alone remained moving.  Trusting to their altered physique and discipline alone, the silent brothers surveyed the landscape and waited for the assault squad’s report.  Within ten minutes Judah’s voice came up on the vox.

“Master Balthasar, we have come to the edge of the copse.  We are holding just inside the tree line, the xenos are just on the far side and are observing the woods.  Request instructions”

“Dark Angels stand to!  Judah hold and observe, dual columns of march, 1st squad, command group, 3rd squad, 9th squad, 5th squad.  Speeders sweep east and watch for xenos reinforcements.  Brother Symon let the Chaplain know we are starting early, if they are close to the copse we will have to attack as soon as we approach so he will begin his attack in 10 minutes.  We should arrive and be ready within minutes of that, hitting the xenos in the flank as they react to his demonstration.”  Balthasar hefted his relic blade, combi gun slung at his side.  “Let our enemies repent, for tomorrow they die!”

The squads divided by combat squad, 1st squad spreading out in two columns, the command group in a blob behind them, another tactical squad split behind the first squad’s columns, the devastators heavy weapons behind them, and finally the Iron Armor of the 5th squad noisily bringing up the rear.  The cache of ancient armor had been a boon and a symbol to the men, but the heavy, clanking suits required special handling tactically.  They could give away the entire assault, but they were uniquely suited to leading the assault as well, and Balthasar’s brain whirred away at the interesting problem of passing them forward without giving away the vital element of surprise.

Just as the trees came into view the sound of heavy weapons echoed over the advancing marines.  Chaplain Maccabeus has kicked off the attack nearly perfectly and Balthasar’s deep voice boomed out over the vox and speakers “5th squad, direct advance through the copse, 7th swing to the right and assault into the enemy rear once they leave their positions, 1st and 3rd oblique left into battle line, 9th get your weapons up onto the hill to the left of the woods, Matthias wait until the enemy leave their fortifications then attack them in the open with your speeders.  In the Emperor’s name, advance!”

FOR THE EMPEROR, again

Pretty sure I’ve used that title before.  Getting back into 40k.  Currently it seems like the Dark Angels I’ve been fiddling with for a while will be fun.  Getting used to detachments will take time, and currently I have a big enough grey horde to make Leman Russ jealous, but I think I can manage that.

Also working on D’s Eldar.  We have her up to around 1k points.  Almost exactly 1k actually and with a pretty clear path to 2k.  It’s interesting and educational to see how things look from the standpoint of another codex.  It’s also eye opening to realize just how glaring many weaknesses are.  Try finding anti-air in a Dark Angels list.  Eldar may not be great but they at least have a little.  DA?  Woof.  Monstrous creatures?  Does a Land Raider count?  Not saying DA is weak, it has a lot of 2+, great bikes.  Really great bikes.  REALLY REALLY great bikes.  And T5 is pretty good in the current meta.

So I’m going to try to necro this blog with a bit more hobby flair.  Alternating between a meta/battle report post, a hobby post, and some fluff fiction fun from my battle company.  And I need VERY little in the way of additional troops to get the whole battle company on the field.  Mostly assault marines.  I think I’m 15 assault marines and 4 heavy weapons from having a full battle company; but which one do I make.

not-doing-it

Not doin it!

So, 3rd or 5th?  I can do 5th very easily just doing the slash across the shoulder plate and knee pads, but with my planned lists almost always having (very, very good) bikes, and terminators… It’ll be nice to have all the colors mixed in on my tac squads.  So…. probably doing 5th.  Still leaving 3rd open as an option though.

One of the things I like about the detachments is it lets you take org charts like that one above, and put it into an actual army list.  I can build a Lion’s Blade Demi Company that splits a Battle Company right down the middle.  Double up on that, add a Ravenwing support team to one half, a Deathwing support detachment to the other and you have a REALLY fun, neat army that has a full battle company at its core.  So right now I’m looking at that.  Here’s the list I’m looking at now.  Priorities are:  Transport for the 3rd tac squad, possible weapons changes for the termies.

listish