Month: January 2023

Air Caste in Retreat

Air Caste in Retreat

This is the first game of our “Invasion of Planet No’ohrm Ha’an D” series of battles. The prior fluff is here: https://the-dark-muse.com/2023/01/02/the-invasion-of-planet-noohrm-haan-d/ and the rules for the mission are here: https://the-dark-muse.com/2023/01/11/assault-neo-normandy-missions-1-strategic-air-war/. Next game will be a second Aeronautica Imperialis mission–a bombing run against strategic infrastructure.

Kor’Vre Vior’la Ires had been the Navigator and Weapons Operator on his Tiger Shark AX-1-0 for three years. Seconded by the Air Caste to the No’ohrm Ha’an system for system defense, Ires’ combat wing had been stationed on the fourth planet in the system for quite some time. The system itself had strategic expansion import, and there were a few times that the wing had been deployed in full combat status. Most recently an Ork Rok fortress drifted into the system outskirts, and disgorged that race’s motley forces across the sixth and seventh planets of the system. Ires’ plane had downed three Ork Stompas as they raged across the chemical fields of one of the planets, saving countless T’au lives from their cruel guns. With his pilot Kor’El Diaron dodging the thicket of flak fire they monstrosities kicked out, Ires could focus on using the paired railguns of their plane to demolish the Orks’ heaviest of equipment.

The fourth planet was a good spot for a base, as the planet was itself a delightfully relaxing place. Covered in natural vegetation and the ivory and limestone constructions of some past civilization made it smooth for them to all settle down and into the pace of life there. Even amidst military drill, the atmosphere of calm and comfort filled the planet. Apparently the only predator species on the planet were occasional feral gyrinxes, which made the basic animal life of the place calm. Ires was watching a few birds alight on a tree outside the ivory structure where he had made his home outside the barracks, when the peace was shattered. The warning sirens went off–shrill in the warm air. “Scramble” Ires recognized immediately, and without even grabbing his personal pack he dashed fast as he could across the smooth courtyards and garden terraces to reach the airfield the Earth Caste had carved from the greenery.

As Ires settled into his navigator’s seat in the plane, he was already asking Diaron what she knew of the threat.

“Came out of nowhere. A fleet of Aeldari ships sporting all sorts of make and marking apparently. More than just pirates and raiders tho. This is an invasion force.”

Ires’ computer was spitting out threats, both in the space above the planet and the atmosphere of the planet itself. Seems like the fourth planet was the focus–the board was lit up with enemy fighter craft streaking in formation across the skies. They seemed to be targeting the two main air bases, and already the pair of Gal’leath class Battleships from the Merchant Fleet in high orbit were broadcasting distress calls. Had the capital weapons of the Aeldari stricken their main system ships? How did the Water Caste not warn them of potential attack?

Diaron guided their Tiger Shark into formation with the swarming Barracudas and other Tiger Sharks. If the capital ships were crippled, it was a good thing that they had taken the time to build terrestrial bases for some of the air forces perhaps. Maybe the Water Caste were more prepared than they expected.

Drone-captured video feeds of the enemy attack wing registered on their instruments. “At least three different color schemes amongst the Aeldari planes,” he said to Diaron over the comms. “Three Craftworlds?”

“Perhaps,” she replied. “Or perhaps just raiders? Though this is a big force for raiders.”

Ires had never faced Aeldari in actual combat before, only in computer-run simulations. He was prepared for them to have both perfect formations and then break into individual… flourishes… of pursuit when the battle enemy was reached. He was not ready for how flawless their ability to fly really was in person. Even the computer simulations could not capture the daring-ness of their maneuvers, so perfectly executed. Diaron could fly circles around Ork and Imperial fighters, even in their large Tiger Shark bomber. But she might as well be flying a bulk air tractor compared to the Aeldari’s grace and precision.

At least they had firepower volume, Ires thought. The railguns were actually not so effective against the swarming lighter craft, but Ires’ smaller armaments and turrets started to take their toll in sheer mass of fire. The Aeldari were perfection, but delicate perfection. It was all about closing fields of movement. Ires watched a foe plane snake through six columns of fire from four different T’au vessels. Even the slightest gap in fire would be used by the Aeldari to escape. Ires programmed the targeting solutions to closer bursts–waves of fire that hopefully formed a wall. The few Aeldari planes that had been dropped took only a couple of hits to down at most.

Ires managed to down a Phoenix class bomber (according to the ident computer, that was the designation), and proudly broadcast the basis of his firing solutions to the wing’s gunners at large. However, in that moment he noted just how many planes had been lost. The Aeldari first strike had eliminated too many ships, taking out as many of the Barracuda fighters as they could manage first–then turning on the slower Tiger Sharks. Diaron had already gotten the call, and was snaking their way out of the conflict space. They and a sole Barracuda managed to get free and shake pursuit. While the Aeldari had taken losses, it wasn’t as dramatic as what the T’au wing had suffered.

Diaron guided the Tiger Shark up out of the atmosphere, and toward the fifth and sixth planets in system–engaging the gravitic drive to make further distance from the spot of conflict at rapid pace. There were ample ground assets on the fourth planet, and the dense hedgerows of the the green countryside would make for slow going for a conventional invasion force. The T’au might have time to regroup, and with time could surely outnumber the Aeldari. The question was whether the remnants of their fighter wing, the other fighter wing, and the remaining space fleet could protect the skies or not. In the short term, the Aeldari would have the advantage. The air war had begun to be theirs, and if they would start with strategic air attacks or a full-on assault, only time would tell. Ires found himself thinking about his pack, back on the ancient terrace where he had been bunking. Was the design Aeldari? Or some other lost race? Either way, he had lost friends and his dwellings, at least for the moment with the latter. He began writing up a more nuanced firing solution to share with the wing’s Kor’O when they could reach contact. The Aeldari would go no further if he could prevent it.

Painting Progress

I painted up yet more Aeronautica Imperialis planes for this game. Two more Phoenix bombers joined the ranks, both with Starcannons to serve as close firing attack craft.

For longer range, I built and painted a delightful Forgeworld model: the Vampire Hunter. It’s a great looking plane, and I love the look of it (please Forgeworld… re-release this one in 40k scale for us). It’s rules in the game are underwhelming. Sort of a long-range heavy damage plane. Not awful, but my Phoenixes and Nightwings did way more work during the battle than the Vampire.

Finally, I’ve also been working on my 40k Drukhari forces. Added another 5 Wracks to my completed pile, which was fun. I’ve got more of these on the docket as well, as I want to flesh out some big squads of bodies for the invasion scenarios. Needs to be those masses of soldiers unloading off of Raiders onto the beach to assault the T’au lines. And Wracks will be part of that.

All told a lot of painting done! Yet more to go. Much more.

Army Painted Totals

40k Aeldari (Primarily Drukhari but also Asuryani, Ynnari, and Harlequins): 116 PL

Aeronautica Imperialis Aeldari: 295 points

Hulks of Omen – Drawbridge Games

Hulks of Omen – Drawbridge Games

About two years ago now, the amazing Ryan built an enormous 12-foot wide, 4-foot long Space Hulk board for Drawbridge Games’ grand opening celebration at their new location. We ran a special Space Hulk event with it: https://the-dark-muse.com/2021/07/05/drawbridge-grand-opening-celebration/. We ran that event at 25 PL and focused on infantry only with a single HQ character–which is quite similar to what the Arks of Omen rules utilize for those boarding action games. Thus, it’s time to run a new version of the Drawbridge Space Hulk event, with the all-new Games Workshop rules.

When: February 16th, with deployment starting at 6:00pm. Dice roll at 6:30pm sharp. Players who will arrive later can let us know and we can be ready for your force to cut their way in from an appropriate external bulkhead.

Who and What: You! All players are welcome, it’s a $5 entry fee for the event. Bring an Arks of Omen Boarding Patrol, using the mustering rules on page 64 of the Arks of Omen book. Short version is 500 points consisting of HQ 0-1, Troops 0-3, and Elites 0-3. Only infantry allowed and nothing with the Fly keyword, and only a few exceptions (found here: https://www.warhammer-community.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/qPJwZxeX8lH4HarK.pdf). Force Warlords gain a single Boarding Action Enhancement (page 63 of Arks of Omen), but no other Warlord Traits or Relics. If you’ve got questions, just inquire on the Drawbridge Games Events facebook page. All models need to be painted–the usual three colors rule applies. If players cannot bring 500 points, they can bring fewer if they wish (as we want everyone to feel welcome to join in, no matter how much you’ve got painted of late).

Background: Amidst the flotilla of Arks of Omen that have been unleashed by Abaddon and Vashtorr, sails the overhauled and dark techno-purposed Space Hulk Baccillum Dulcis. Thought scuttled by an alliance of Imperial forces, the hulk had burst its way back into the warp where it was re-engineered into one of the fleet. Laden with forces of Chaos in the grand assault, once more a rushed set of Imperial defenses dispatch to take out the Hulk as it emerged once again–this time in the Scylla Quintus system. At the same time, varied Xenos forces have converged on the Baccillum Dulcis–keen to get their hands on lost techno-arcana (or to just plain fight in the case of the Orks, and to just plain eat in the case of the Tyranids).

Three Teams: The assembled players will be divided into three teams fighting their way through the Hulk. They will roughly be Imperial, Chaos, and Xenos, tho numbers may mean some adjustments and allies of convenience amidst them. This time the Chaos team will be set up in the middle, as they occupy the Ark, while the Imperial team establishes a joint assault from one side (and Xenos raiders strike across other varied points.

Procedure: Rules for Boarding Actions will be in play, particularly the measuring, visibility, and allocating attacks rules. There will be a set of defined mission objectives that are given in secret to each player for their own 500 point force to try and accomplish, which will add toward the score for their side. The side that scores the most mission points from these across all team members will win the event: either triumphing and forging onward in the case of Chaos, scuttling the Ark in the case of the Imperials, or making off with particularly choice prizes in the case of Xenos. We won’t use any Command Points given the size of the game, and there may be some other changes that we need to do given the situation–but on the whole it should run using these rules pretty smoothly.

Prizes: As always, we’ll have a few prizes for the event that we’ll give out–and all players can win (not just those who side has victory). Players get one entry into the prize draw for attending, and one entry for each new unit they painted specifically for this event. This time our best painted variant will be “coolest boarding force” which is both about painting skill but selection of units that make up a proper boarding party–and winners of that get additional entries. Finally, there will be bonuses for completing portions of your secret mission, as well as bonuses for every player on the side that wins the event. Players must be present at the end of the night to be part of the prize draw.

Assault on Neo-Normandy Missions (1) – Strategic Air War

Assault on Neo-Normandy Missions (1) – Strategic Air War

As I indicated in my prior post, a few of us at my LGS (the outstanding Drawbridge Games, in Pittsburgh, PA, USA) are doing a Warhammer 40k re-fight of the Normandy invasion in WWII as a series of linked campaign games. The story set-up for the entire invasion can be found in this post: https://the-dark-muse.com/2023/01/02/the-invasion-of-planet-noohrm-haan-d/ We’re doing the missions as Tau as defenders, with Aeldari (both Drukhari and Asuyani) as attackers. I’ll have a blog post about how each of the battles fares as we play them, but I also wanted to set up the parameters of the various games that we’re playing so that if others were inclined to do their own Normandy-themed campaign they could. There are four phases of the campaign, which include multiple games within each phase. The four phases are: the Strategic Air War, the Airborne Landings, the D-Day Coastal Landings, and the Consolidated Invasion. We’ll be using a modified version of the Planet Strike rules from Games Workshop to guide these, where we’ll fight every battle but they result in consequences for further battles down the line, from rules modifications, bonus units, or just different missions based on results. Huge kudos to my friend Ryan for putting together the core of these rules for the set of games and having the idea for it in the first place.

Phase One: Strategic Air War

This phase of the invasion involves the dogfight squadron battles to establish air supremacy, followed by an attempt by the attackers to strategically bomb the supply lines of the defenders in the lead-up to the invasion. We’ll play this out with two sequential games of Aeronautica Imperialis.

Game One: Air Supremacy

The attackers are seeking to gain air superiority by tackling the defender air assets directly. This game played as a standard Aeronautica Imperials dogfight with two equal sides. Points for enemy flyers eliminated are used to calculate margin of victory.

For our game, we’re having a whopping 500 points vs 500 points (or more!) battle, with the mighty Tau Tiger Sharks and Barracudas being struck by swarming Aeldari Nightwing Fighters and Phoenix Bombers. We use the optional damage rules, as tailspins, smoking hits, and on-board fires make for a much more amusing game overall.

For outcomes, a victory by the defenders slows the ability of the attackers to completely own the skies on landing day. However, they still have the strategic advantage at this point of the war in the air, so there’s no bonus conferred for a defender win. If the attackers win, however, the leave the skies of the shores undefended while the defenders’ air force withdraws to protect more inland targets. That awards the attackers the following ability for the D-Day Coastal Landing missions in Phase Three.

Tactical Bombing Run: Once per game in the D-Day Coastal Landings battles, the attackers can call in air support to soften up a visible-by-air hard target and/or defensive position of the defenders. During their Command Phase of any term, the attackers can nominate a single enemy unit or fortification, and roll a d6. On the score of a 3 or better, the bomb hits on-target. They get a +1 to the roll if the target is a Titanic Vehicle (in this game, that’s the KX139 Ta’unar Supremacy Suit or the KV128 Stormsurge), and a +2 to the roll if the target is a Fortification. If they target an infantry unit, then instead there is a -2 to the roll. On a successful 3+ hit, the target takes 2d3 mortal wounds. On the result of a modified 6, all units within 3″ of the target take 1d3 mortal wounds. If the target is a fortification, on a hit the fortification takes 2d6 mortal wounds rather than 2d3, and units inside take 1d3 mortal wounds. This also can explode on a modified roll of 6 as above (as ammo stockpiles or critical machinery detonate).

Game Two: Strategic Bombing

The attackers are preparing for the coming invasion by bombing roads, bridges, railways, and landing pads to deny options from the defender in preparation for the looming coastal assault. This game is played as a modified Aeronautica Imperialis bombing mission, where the defender has three bomb-able ground targets that can yield points to the attacking forces. Each has 5 structure points, and yields 5 victory points for each structure destroyed plus a bonus 5 if destroyed completely. Two of the targets have defenses that can return fire as normal until destroyed.

Again, we’re hoping to have 500+ points of planes per side in our fighting of the battle, which makes for a pretty epic air combat, and again use the optional damage rules as well for the game.

For outcomes, again the defenders are trying to just hold on and keep their defenses intact. A win for them ensures that their reserve forces and materiel are un-interrupted. However, a win for the attackers in this mission will disrupt the reserves of the defenders. They gain the following bonus during the D-Day Coastal Landings phase of the battle:

Delayed Reserves: The Defender in this scenario suffers a -1 to all reserve rolls using the Planetstrike Mission Rules reserve charts.

Once the Strategic Air War phase of the invasion finishes these two missions, it moves on to the second phase: Airborne Landings (which will be the next rules post on this site).

Painting Update

Air Force and Airborne units both are things I’ve added to my painted pile. I had four Aeronautica Aeldari planes done, so I added two Phoenix Bombers and a Nightwing to increase the force (and I have more to finish).

And while it’s looking a bit ahead, I also finished up a unit of Scourges to help flesh out the Airborne troops of my force for that phase of the invasion. I’m super-pleased with the Hawk Wing paint scheme on these, which matches the first unit of Scourges that I painted up with Haywire Blasters.

All-in-all a good amount of painting progress to get ready for the Assault on Neo-Normandy invasion missions that we have ahead these next few months.

Army Painted Totals

40k Aeldari (Primarily Drukhari but also Asuryani, Ynnari, and Harlequins): 113 PL total, 5 PL in 2023

Aeronautica Imperialis Aeldari: 198 points, 86 points in 2023

The Invasion of Planet No’ohrm-Ha’an D

The Invasion of Planet No’ohrm-Ha’an D

FYI. This is the draft version of the fluff background for a set of games that I’ll be playing with some friends, pitting Tau vs Aeldari in a linked campaign that does a 40k version of the Invasion of Normandy from World War II. Changes will be made as the narrative solidifies.

“Ah, good kin. So glad you could join me. Your seer-sight did steer you right, I assure you.”

The Warlock exchanged a bemused glance with her Autarch at the words uttered by their host. To call them “kin” was near-insult, and the Warlock’s visions were clouded with all manner of warning signs. Even finding this eddy of the Webway with their own small craft, and docking with this entirely suspect Voidship left them near-convinced this was a bad plan from the start. This was a Drukhari ship, and their host an Archon named Yraleath.

“I assure you… relax” Archon Yraleath continued, attuned to their discomfort. “As you well know, this is about mutual gain for your Craftworld and my Kabal both. Our ancestors draw from the same source, and that bloodline shares roots long hidden, but now found.”

Yraleath swept his hand to a large drawing easel that floated just above the deck on a grav-suspensor platform, which contained an elaborate set of sketches. Unfurled star charts and a few open tomes were also on the easel. Flecks of paint and ink, and worryingly perhaps other substances given some of the jars that littered what seemed to be the Archon’s study, were everywhere. But the core of the sketch was clear: an elaborate tree housing a gem, beside what were clearly hand-inked battle plans.

“The Peridot of Isamena,” Yraleath said, his hand gingerly patting the canvas painting. That name provoked another glance between the two Craftworld visitors, this time more of surprise. “Ah, yes. You recall Isamena’s name at but a mention. She who wove the stones and the earth, one of the engineers who helped grow your very Craftworld.” The Autarch gave a clear nod of confirmation, and the Archon continued. “Isamena was not only a traveler on your home amidst the stars. Her lover, a Corsair named Ynakara, may be less known to you. Ynakara walked many paths, including the streets of Commorragh. And their children walked with Ynakara, and their descendants number many amidst our Kabal. One of your great architects and engineers, but also our greatest of grand-mothers. After a fashion.”

“When she grew weary after so many years, Isamena left your Craftworld, as you well know. What I have discovered is that Ynakara helped her find a place to settle. And there she worked on growing her most wondrous and massive creation… beyond your lovely Craftworld, of course.” There was only the slightest hint of jeer in the phrase, and both Warlock and Autarch let it wash away. “The Peridot of Isamena, a gem gradually woven up from the earth amidst the cluster of a Juniper tree in the direct center of her garden, a garden woven to cover an entire planet. All those natural lines, all that energy, all converging in a single point. A most auspicious rock.”

“Thru much research and investigatory… hmm… raids, I’ll say, I’ve located the planet where our shared ancestor made her retreat. And as far as I can tell, the world-garden is still very much intact. Her touch is everywhere, in every tree and stone. With all energy centered in the Peridot. And all the more surprising, it yet stands despite the current… occupants.” Yraleath pointed toward the star charts. “What is the phrase that pertinacious Farseer of Ulthw√© uses for them? Striplings? Those young striplings of space, the T’au, are the ones who hold the planet now. At least they are not the barbarian Mon-keigh of Terra, who would tear it all down in an instant if they knew one of ours had a hand in it. But the T’au have a muse of beauty at times, so I do believe they would preserve another species’ garden for its own sake. At least not unduly plow her woven creations into the soil out of xenophobic spite.”

“There are reasons you would seek Isamena’s creation, and reasons my Kabal would be interested in mounting a raid there as well,” he continued. At this the Warlock knew there was more unsaid in the Archon’s offer, but chose not to push on it. However, she did resolve to report the suspicion back to the Seer Council upon return. “It will take more than a usual sort of raid, of course, as the stripling T’au have quite a force on this world. The nearest Webway access leaves a system to traverse. The T’au refer to the system as No’ohrm-Ha’an, and the fourth planet, designation “D”, is the one where Isamena’s lost garden lies. We’ll need to arrive in force in the system, and mount a full invasion to root the… bovine in battlesuits… out of the city where our prize lies. That will take your armory of ships and the fabled Wraith Host of your halls. I need your military might for a proper invasion of the beach-side coast if we’re going to be free of the T’au. You need my forces, our speed, and my most brilliant battle plans to make it all a success, not to mention my help in finding the center of the garden when we get there.” Yet another glance was exchanged between the Warlock and Autarch at the strange self-serving confidence of their strange host.

Yraleath rolled up the canvas pages and drawn diagrams and carefully tied them with a length of reddish twine of some sort. He handed them to the Autarch. The Warlock took a look closer, and saw that the twine was likely a length of dried and cured intestines, and knowing the Drukhari, it would be those of a sentient creature surely. She would have to inform her Prince of that fact, but perhaps at a moment when he did not bear it in his hands in front of their host. As surely the reaction would be one of disgust, and care to avoid seeming even slightly rude was needed here.

“Think it over, my kin.” The last words of Yraleath echoed in their minds they exited his study and started to walk the halls of his vessel back to their own craft.

“This would cost so many lives,” the Autarch muttered. “The operation he sketched looked immense at first glance–a full air war, multiple insertions of raiding elements by drop craft the night before, then a mechanized shock assault across water onto a fortified beachhead. Those T’au may be a young race, but their guns are formidable.” Their Craftworld had encountered the T’au on occasion, and even their temporary emplacements and air defenses loomed as deadly both their minds.

“You’ll bring this to the Seer Council,” he continued. “Look to the skeins of fate, as you do. If this is true–and I don’t trust our ‘kin’ entirely on that even–but if true, we must act on it. I can awaken the Wraiths and stoke the forges of Vaul. We can bring such destruction to the skies and shores of the T’au that they will be forced to leave the planet, to withdraw back to their other holdings. At least long enough for us to transplant what we can of the garden of Isamena back to a spot where we can tend it. And see if her soul resides in the Peridot, as having her wisdom and guidance once again would be of great help in these troubled times.”

The Warlock sighed as she took her seat when finally back in their own craft. Isamena had chosen to retreat from the Craftworld when she grew weary. Now they were on the precipice of bringing not only fire and death to the planet of her refuge, but perhaps to bring her dormant spirit into service once more. That alone gave her pause. But to leave such wonders in the hands of the T’au Empire, to not have them within the halls of the Craftworld, that too must be considered. The Warlock mused to herself whether the seer-sight would “steer them right” indeed. No’ohrm-Ha’an D? A vision of darkness and haze over beaches littered with Aeldari bodies crowded her sight as their ship took off and slipped back into the cold stark void of space.