Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Combat Tracking

If you ever wondered what went on at the Imperial Guard academies at places like Cadia and Agripinna, aside from the things you might instantly think of in relation to elite forces, CQB, HALO and other black ops skills, there are also scholae dedicated to more militarily useful skills that can benefit a wider Imperial Guard Army Group and do not neccessarily replicate capabilities already available from bodies such as the Adeptus Astartes.  Such as Combat Tracking:

The Catachans  learned that employing local trackers can be disastrous.  Indigenous folks can be immensely talented at local tracking because they are tuned intimately to their own local biowebs[1].  Problems start from there. “Jungle Man” might be able to trail a butterfly—especially so if he can sell it—but he cannot read a map.  He does not get lost because he knows his home range and how to navigate there.

Catachans in their home range

Biowebs and tracking can change dramatically from one terrain to another, in the space not measured in miles, but feet and inches:  The Catachan 17th were clearing Ork raiders from Maratoone, a water world with a high number of (extinct) volcanic island archipelagoes. On Brun’say, the largest island on Maratoone, jungle gave way within just a few steps to desert-like terrain that resembled Tallarn. When the trees were cut the soil washed away, leaving a near Martian landscape similar to that found on any dead world or moon.  In fact, the Big Island has most of the ecosystems found anywhere, ranging from alpine tundra to forests, jungles, prairies, and desert-like areas, down to tropical beaches and coconuts.
Jungle Man could track around his village, but when loaded onto a valkyrie and flown onto a cold, dry and treeless mountain only minutes away, he might fail.  On the Big Island, alpine tundra is a nine-minute flight from tropical beaches.  Similar dramatic changes are common globally, let alone when considering other worlds.

The Catachans learned that even superb local trackers cannot make up for absent military expertise.  They cannot be transported to work reliably in other conditions.

According to Col Deaams, a retired Kasrkin and combat tracker instructor, “The key factor is the ability to make logical deductions and assumptions via an understanding of military tactics and SOP's…”  Local trackers typically cannot do this.  The Kasrkin Schola include reading ground sign (and hiding one’s own) as a fundamental part when teaching situational awareness.  Other elite forces, ISTs[2], commandos and so on, similarly attach great important to something that most line Imperial Guard regiments regard as something close to warpcraft.  The aim of the Elite training establishments is to ensure that there are good, effective trackers within the Imperial Guard.

However it must be cautioned that local trackers are at times hired to potent use.  One veteran officer mentions the Koevoet units on Samturdal VII during the Sabat Crusade.  They were engaged by the Elysians to assist with mopping  up Blood Pact stay behind units and other guerillas.  The local trackers were not just village boys plucked away from lives of finding wayward cattle.  They received combat training, and then piled tracking atop their new combat skills. The Koevoet had a reputation for hard tracking, hard killing, and hard drinking, often returning to camp with mangled enemies strapped around the vehicles. They stacked the bodies high.  They also were paid for kills, a practice that improved results.

The Elysians would get on track, often simply by flying in valkyries and looking for it in grass or other opportune traps, especially during morning or evening patrols.  You simply cannot move through many sorts of grass without making a color change.

Men of the Arcomet 887th Strike Regiment - trained and equipped in Elysian methods and practices

You can try to hide track from air observation, and it can help, but that wastes time in the open.  If numerous men go single file, there is no way to hide it.  If they spread out, they leave more trails.  Real accounts of combat tracking against good anti-trackers sound like a pict-cast submarine story.  The submarines cannot see each other, but they can sense each other through various means.  Even the stealthiest submarine creates disturbance.

After a track is confirmed, the commander will have options.  He can use a valkyrie to put a dog on the ground.  The dog goes alone.  The handler stays in the valkyrie and controls her by the radio on her back.  The Elysians tried this and it worked.

They just put the dogs down on known track, and the valkyrie lifted off to follow the dog.  Many dogs love to ride in valkyries just like they love to ride in all vehicles.  If she gets tired of tracking, she might look up and bark at the valkyrie.  No matter where it lands, there she comes.

Deep Striking

An Elysian accounts from this phase of the Sabat Crusade mentions dogs inserted by valkyrie.  During training, the dog could track an eight-hour-old trail, more than nine miles, in 40 minutes.  The dog would start off slow, where the scent was weaker, and speed up as he closed.

Dogs can be trained to hide and to lay down when they acquire a target, and to make a small yelp into the microphone.  This is not hocus pocus.  It has been done.

Combat Tracking with dogs

The Elysians would use forces inserted by air to box the enemy, and then crush the quarry with speed and efficiency.  They might find track that was seven days old, and within two hours track it to where it was an hour old, which was close enough for boxing and hammer and anvil.

Throughout their advance along the Wapaso Drift towards Balhaut, the Elysians took fewer casualties, and their tracking and martial skills forced the enemy onto their back foot. Giving not just the Elysians, but all crusade forces in system the initiative.

All pictures robbed from the internet without the owners consent. Sorry 'bout that.  

[1] The term bio-web in this document refers specifically to the interaction of organisms in their natural state, including men and their environment.  Possibly not a term used in the Grimdark of the 39th Millennium, but these thing have to make sense somehow; so there will be local/Daniverse terms for 'butterfly' and 'grass' as well, but the concept of 'combat tracking' is what I'm trying to convey here. 

[2] Imperial Storm Troopers, usually in Inquisitorial service. 


  1. Interesting stuff - paradoxically, all this lovely fluff gets saved into a folder called 'Zzzz thoughts', however, to be used/stolen at a later date.

    1. I just got the mental image of an old psyker, laiden down with bottles, each one containing a stolen thought, which he sells in the Underhive - secrets or hedonistic experiences, it's all the same to him...

    2. I'd buy that for a dollar.

    3. I now have visions of the House of Scipio owing it's position on Palladia to a shady underhive dream dealer known only as "the Responsible One".

  2. Like it - puts a far more realistic bent on an otherwise far too frequently unbelievable topic.

  3. Very cool post, man! Got me thinking about adding a unit of 'native trackers' to the 7th - could be a fun, fluffy unit!