Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Immediately after Operation Dragonfire

A conversation is taking place amongst the staff officers at the forward command post of 902 Division[1] during the advance across the grasslands in western Benq.  The Chief of Staff, Lt Cl Has, is finishing his evening briefing of Commander 902 Division’s HQ Staff, a group of about twenty officers and men who keep the Division doing what HQ 17 Korps require.

The business of replenishing 902 Div in advance of 17 Korps deployment dealt with, including the tactical situation, the briefing turns to other important matters.  A direct approach last night as the Div was preparing to lead the way out of Fort Nuttar from a member of an Inquisitorial retinue was re-buffed.  Lt Col Has ensures that everyone is brought up to speed.

“….Elleryion Carries was the Officer’s name.   Inquisitor Hallas’ retinue suggested to AG HQ that the mighty Inquisitor Hallas’ status demanded an honour guard.  Major Carries response was that the AG was short of resources and that all available personnel were being deployed.”

“Sounds reasonable to me.  We can’t afford to strip sub units out of the line to baby sit individuals in tactical dreadnaught armour, no matter who they represent.”  Huffed Captain Pasquilliano. 

“Nice to see the Departmento stand up for itself.” Chipped in Major Speer.

“Quite.  But the retinue member left the impression that the lofty Inquisitor was likely to look upon such an answer unfavourably. You must admit, telling agents of the Holy Ordos where to go is something you would only do if you had direction from CIGS.[2]

There is a babble of voices as the officers present all being talking at once.  When it comes to precedence, there is consensus that there is a sliding scale depending on the exact circumstances.  And the Invasion of Benq has not resulted in enough witches or deamons to warrant the Holy Ordos taking over.

General Commandant Welbahnn raised an eyebrow.    Lt Col Dalthem held up a hand to quiet his fellow officers on the staff.  “Sir ?”

“The attitude of Inquisitor Hallas’ retinue sounds a little threatening to me.”

There was a moment’s quiet from those in the Crassus as a flight of low flying thunderbolts  passed overhead, barely subsonic.  The Crassus rocked slightly and the tent flapped.  Very low flying thunderbolts.  Bloody cowboys.

The General Commandant turned to his Chief of Staff; “Colonel Has, see if we have an urgent need for an SO2 somewhere and staff the request up to Korps HQ.”

Lt Col Has paused for a moment.  “I believe that DCOS[3] is a gapped post, I’ll get on to it right away.”  He turned back to address the rest of the staff; “Back to work, gentlemen, we have a campaign to fight and a war to win.  We need to be ready for the bleeding edge in 48 standard, no excuses.”

General Commandant Welbahnn

Two days later, in preparation for moving through 903 Division, General Commandant Welbahnn has been touring his unit headquarters accompanied by his Chief of Staff and Head of Intelligence and Security.  Obersturmbannführer Pentürug is waiting discreetly with his 2iC at the back of his command Chimera.  The DKK 19th Armoured Regiment are being replenished in place before beginning to move from their lager.  Obersturmbannführer Pentürug is the forth regimental commander in turn to visit Div HQ to receive his orders direct from General Commandant Welbahnn.  The three Divisional Command Staff are talking between their Salamander and the Death Korps officers. 

“Major Carries is now on a Valkyrie on his way to this evening’s step up Korps HQ location.  There are now fourteen Ordo Hereticus Inquisitors and their retinues scattered across the whole of 72 Army Group.  Not all of them seem as, difficult, as Inquisitor Hallas.  From what I understand even those with a similar zealously puritanical outlook find him quite hard to get on with.  He’s having trouble deciding whether he needs to be on the front line or sitting on General Zhukov’s shoulder. “

At General Commandant Welbhann’s non-verbal instigation, the three men paused.  “What about other Inquisitors in and around our forces ?” 

“None yet, sir.  However, there are plans to embed Inquisitors and their retinues within front line elements, these plans just havn’t had General Zhukov’s chop yet.”

“It looks like the glacially slow response times of ‘Group might actually be helping us for once.” Colonel Has grinned.  “About time too. We’re not likely to be first on the Inquisitions list, either.  As the Lord General Militant[4] fawns on 18 Corps and they’re still likely to be twelve to eighteen hours astern of us, they’re likely to get their Imperial Shackles before we are.”  The General Commandant Welbhann turned to his SO1 Intelligence and Security[5], “Lau, how is this going down with the Commissariat ?”

“The Commissariat are loyal servants of the Emperor, sir.  And stand by to obey the dictates of the most holy ordos.”

“They’re not keen then ?” 

“They get quite pissed when someone else on our side kills more of our soldiers than they do.  But this is something more, Lord Commissar Harris is sharp and his anodised case hardened heart belongs to the guard.  I don’t know, but I’d put money on him being about as impressed with Inquisitor Hallas as we are:  If someone frags a hound, the leash gets shredded too.”

“Alright then, enough for now gentlemen, we’re keeping Obersturmbannführer Pentürug waiting, let’s deal with the business in hand and only worry about the Inquisition if they become an issue.”

[1] At this point, 902 Div are the 17 Korps reserve and about to take over speadhead duties in three days. They are 120 kloms east of Guionvudar. The command post is a converted Crassus.
[2] Chief of the Imperial General Staff – the fulcrum of the ranking formation in any Imperial Guard deployment; ie the Chief of Staff of the Commanding Officer of the Army.  So this appointment is entirely dependant on the formations deployed, attached and detached at any moment in time. 
[3] Deputy Chief of Staff.
[4] Referring to General Zhukov as the ‘Lord General Militant’ is of course a private joke amongst the staff officers of 902 Div.  And quite possibly other formations within 72 Army Group that aren’t Army Group HQ.
[5] Staff Officer Grade 1 (Lt Col).  A fully manned staff branch in any HQ will usually have an SO1, SO2 (major) and SO3 (Captain) in order to function at DM proscribed levels of efficacy. 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Reinforce Success, do not feed failure

Mortars fired.  The bombs were landing around Y Company’s rear, causing casualties.  Squads scattered to avoid the stonk, seeking cover in the rubble.  The forward positions, already in cover, found their movements constrained by sporadic but effective sniper fire.    Tanks that had moved up[1] only hours before raked the likely vantage points with Heavy Bolter and Heavy Stubber fire.  Troop Commanders tanks fired up their engines and joined in with las cannons.   Third Battalion’s own mortars fired stonks into the buildings in front of Y Company’s position.   The Battalion’s  embedded Vostroyan liaison Officer managed to raise a fire mission from the Death Korps to the north, raining Thudd Gun and Heavy Mortar fire into the city beyond the Valhallan’s own light mortar stonk.

The seven or eight minutes of fire taken by Y Company resulted in thirty eight minutes of fire from various sources supporting the Valhallans.

Purple rain began to fall.  Weird meteorology had begun about four months ago and steadily increased in frequency as 72AG advanced on Xyphonica[2].  None of those involved in the ground campaign thought anything of it.   However, at that moment their attention was on the stricken Devastator strategic bomber.  Carrying a full load of 31.5 tonnes of unguided HE and incendiaries, the 78 tonne bomber was on its outward journey to the East of the City[3], but now, aflame and with two of the crew having bailed out[4].

In almost full view of the Valhallans, the burning bomber overflew their positions, still heading into the city, losing altitude all the while.  The bomber crashed, its load detonating, two thousand four hundred meters east of Y Company, directly on their line of advance.  Valhallan sub unit commanders were swift to raise their men, issuing their orders to be ready to move just before 1* General Polkovnik Komenichi, the commanding officer of 540th Kado Regiment of the Valhallan Imperial Guard, told them to.  3* General  Tolstoy, 17 Korps Commander, was already talking to his other Divisional Commanders.  903 Div would advance into the gap torn by the crash[5].  If it met significant resistance, it would halt or fall back to its prepared positions.  If it found a commensurate gap in the PLA’s defences, the rest of 17 Korps would immediately redeploy in support, allowing any opportunity to be exploited. 

In the space of three hours the Valhallans were beginning to dig in at the eastern extreme of the Devastation wrought by the crashed bomber.   Comrade Major Puchov wryly commented to his second in command that rarely had the Imperial Navy managed something so idiomatically eponymous with one of its assets.   Resistance was light, although signs that the enemy had invested a great deal in protecting this approach into the city were evident.  Places not blasted by the explosion had been subject to a brief but violent firestorm, which had robbed the oxygen from confined spaces such as bunkers and their interconnecting tunnels even if the fire had not touched those inside.  In more than one place the exits from bunkers were blocked with the bodies of men who, on experiencing what might only have been partial asphyxiation, had panicked.

Engineer assets, those immediately available, began clearing routes to the furthest extent of the Valhallan’s advance.  As other formations reached what had been the Valhallan positions earlier in the day, the DMPC sorted them out – recce units, especially those on foot and walkers were waved straight through.  Engineer assets were immediately directed to assist with route clearance.  All others had to wait for their lines of advance to be cleared. 

General Tolstoy has then informed 72AG of this possible breakthrough and requested support from Army level assets.  A detachment of half a dozen Knights from the Legio Astoria’s allied houses is sent to secure and reinforce the breach.  It will take them another eighteen hours at flank speed to reach the FLOT.

To the south, 18 Corps, reaching its objectives for the first day of the Operation, began to dig in, but its perimeters were not secured.  Bloodpact infantry began to infiltrate imperial lines.  In post event analysis, it became evident that they were not immediately engaging 18 Corps front line positions, except to force small local breaches.   23 Inf Div had been thoroughly penetrated and the entire TAOR degenerated into fire fights between platoon and company sized units on both sides, thoroughly intermingled in depth.   3rd Sacon Line Regiment had been in the van and seemed to be less thoroughly compromised than other parts of 23 Div.  General Robbeme (Cadia) had ordered the Sacon to begin to turn its reserve companies around to face back into what should have been Imperial territory in preparation for eliminating the infiltrating Blood Pact.

The reserve companies had just made the turn and were facing west when a large force of Emperor’s Children struck the forward lines.  Large numbers of annihilator and exterminator pattern predators swept through the front lines, supported by numbers of space marines armed with sonic weapons as well as more usual marine arms.   Un-warned of the possibility of traitor marines[6], where ever they appeared, resistance was only offered after the marines had begun their attacks.

Accompanied by more shadowy, unconventional elements, the Blood Pact and the Emperor’s Children shattered 23 Inf Div in a matter of hours.  The 2nd Urdeshi, the highest quality, hardest fighting part of 23 Inf Div was particularly hard hit saving Vitrian Highlands and Brimlock Dragoons.  If 72AG was going keep the ‘Rowin’ Industrial District, 23 Inf Div would not be leading the charge. 

Meanwhile the rest of 18 Corps braced itself for a possible counter offensive.

[1] A detachment of the Armageddon 22 Armd Regt
[2] Along with increasing losses of allied aircraft.  As the PLA’s air brigades were beaten, by now reduced to possibly ten viable airframes or less, enemy action was not suspected until the matter came to the attention of Inquisitor Gibbs of the OM; his savants analysed the available data and predicted that Hellblades (of the cursed forgeworld of Xana II) were responsible, making their attacks under the cover of their weather-bending side effects.  This would later prove to be true as the battle for Xyphonica unfolded.
[3] The ‘Rowin’ Industrial District, the objective of 38 Corps.
[4] Out of nine.  There is no record of these two crewmen, or any sign thereof, being found during the campaign, despite having bailed out over the centre of 17 Korps positions.
[5] The Korps Recce assets are already on the move to the Valhallan FLOT, the Korps reserve, 904 Div are immediately ordered to move up to what are currently the Valhallan’s positions.  The DMPC are immediately told to facilitate the immediate moves and also work out how to move them though 903 Div when the time comes.
[6] 18 Corps staff were not forewarned that Traitor Space Marines might be on Devos IV.  At Battalion level, the notion that traitor marines might even exist was generally suppressed by the Commissariat as bad for morale.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Into Xyphonica

At D+18 of Operation Redrake, three squads of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils were moving out ahead of the Battalion, using their bayonets to probe the rubble as they crawled forward on their belt buckles.   Wherever a squad of the engineers went, they were covered by an armoured sentinel from their own unit, autocannon slowly sweeping back and forth on overwatch. 

The men of Y Company were perhaps slightly resentful that as line infantry their squads were not similarly protected.  On occasion they might be issued a crew served weapon, but that was usual for defensive operations and not for an advance to contact like this.   Of course, there were occasions where they did have to lug the crew served weapons during attacks, but no-one who actually had to help do this thought that it was ever worthwhile[1].

To a constant background of artillery and mortar fire, 17 Korps was pushing east to establish a forward line within the outer suburbs of Xyphonica.  As a largely armoured formation, their infantry assets were leading the way, with the Palladians and Mordians of 905 Div to the south and Death Korps of 902 Div to the north, if fell to the men of the Valhallan 540th[2] to establish a foothold in the centre.  “Leading the way” the middle and junior ranking officers had long decided, was Generalspeak for ‘bearing the brunt’[3].

1* General Polkovnik Komenichi, whilst he doesn’t have anything heavier than a las cannon mounted on a wheeled carriage, has enjoyed intimate support from other parts of 17 Korps.  Earlier on during the war, 903 Div included the remains of the Arcomet 887th Ork Hunters; itself a composite airborne and armoured formation quite suited to complimenting the Valhallan infantry.  With their airborne assets rolled into 60 Airmobile Div (38 Corps) and their armour spread throughout 72 AG as battle casualty replacements, the Arcomet 887th is no more.   For now, Gen Komenichi is reliant on what the other Divisions have allocated.

Kasarkin Scouts from the Arocmet 887th, retained on a supernumary basis for over a year, forging through the outskirts.

Of course, 904 (Corbanian) Div, the Korps reserve[4] are immediately behind 903 Div and most of the ‘cab rank’ of fighter bombers allocated to support todays operation are directly overhead.  So the Ozark Engineer Battalion’s squadrons are in good company when it comes to supporting the Valhallans.  Once again their leading companies, preceded by the engineers, are accompanied by Armageddon Forward Observation Officers from the Korps Artillery units.  Mordian mortar teams, both Griffin equipped units and mortar squads in Chimera are moving up with the Valhallans.  The engineers armoured elements, hellhounds and demolishers, stand by to clear away bunkers, improvised or otherwise.

All of this is welcome, as today, Y Company, along with four others from the regiment’s three battalions are tasked with pushing through the urban landscape, pushing through the enemy’s recce screen and closing with the enemy’s established positions, pending the Korps’ assessment of their foothold in the district. 

Operation Redrake began, in 17 Korps TAOR, with a huge demonstration of the power of artillery.  Starting at D-14, All Korps heavy and medium artillery assets[5] swept systematically into their line of advance to a depth of 800m.  With a beaten zone of four square kloms, the six klom front is plastered for six hours until all of the buildings and other infrastructure features are flattened.   Four years ago, a popular residential district of medium and high price dwellings inhabited by families, serviced by schools, clinics and churches, one of the success stories of the Dinorwic Cluster, is eradicated.

As D-8 approaches, the Armageddon 22rd Armoured Regt pulls up to the startline (the edge of the urban area).  They, with their attached FOOs and FACs remain on overwatch over what was once a prosperous and pleasant place to live.  Anything that moves, even if it is windblown debris or just ruins settling, attracts a disproportionate amount of direct and indirect fire.

At D-4 the Valhallans move from their laying up points onto the startline.  The DMPC[6], so hated in peacetime, were now silently thanked under people’s breath for providing clear traffic routes through the fog of war to ensure that at least units started the next Operation in the right place.  Routemasters, NCOs from the Necromundan 1st, quietly and without fuss, made sure that the Ozark Engineers passed through the Valhallans and then through the Armageddon tanks, holding them from D-2 to D-hour and then releasing them out into the sea of smashed buildings to forge a path through to the next line of built up area.

Already badly damaged by tank and artillery fire, the Ozark Engineers armoured elements scrape eight paths through the rubble and punch through tide mark of damage and into the city beyond.  By D+2 the four leading battalions of the Valhallan 540th are fanning out into the city, seeking out the enemy.

Y Company with ‘their’ engineers (two squads, two Sentinels and one Bulldozer equipped Chimera) have found themselves under occasional mortar fire and attracted more files in the city than they did on the prairie, but have only now encountered the enemy, dug into the rubble of an elementary school destroyed months ago by strategic bombing.   Unfortunately for Y Company, their line of approach is through a series of high rise apartment buildings.

The high rise buildings obscure the line of fire of any mortars or artillery.   Y Company have to dislodge the enemy the hard way, at the minute, they have no idea how many there are, what they are armed with or if they intend to stand or fight.

Comrade Major Puchov could call up a squad of heavy bolters, allowing him to lay down a curtain of material destroying fire to cover an assault, but that would take time and there’s every chance that the enemy is a small detachment with orders to withdrawl after a brief firefight.  The real hazards are likely to mines placed in areas any assaulting troops would be using for cover and booby traps in enemy fire positions.  Comrade Major Puchov cannot ask the engineers to use the Chimera to assault the position – if the Chimera is destroyed by an ATGW, then his engineers would lose a lot of their capability to deal with booby traps and mines, thus leaving Y Company bereft of a much need asset.
In the end, the engineers agree to support the assault with the Sentinels and Chimera firing over the Valhallans.  Comrade Major Puchov leads 3, 4 and 5 Platoons[7] in a bayonet charge across the 30m of open ground whilst 1 and 2 platoons and his command team support by firing from the upper stories of the apartment blocks.   The deluge of fire is triggered by a single shot from the Engineer Master Sergeant’s plasma pistol. 

The brief charge is successful – what appears to be a reinforced platoon of the enemy is forced off their position by Y Company.  The platoons lose eight men[8] during the charge and six in the ensuing melee.  Their efforts gain them four enemy dead and eleven wounded prisoners.  The prisoners are dealt with as per 72AGs doctrine.  It’s far too late in the war to take the chance that any of these people are redeemable.

The enemy have obviously only recently occupied the position.  Most of the munitions recovered by the engineers are home-made, as the rebels are running short of everything this late in the war.  It’s noted by the 1st Sergeant that two of the rebel bodies have cleaning kits and power cells but no las rifles – the best guess is that the rebel[9]s resources are so tight that they now have more soldiers than weapons.

At D+18 17 Korps, now 3km into the urban area, halt and consolidate their positions.  Armour moves up and reinforces the FLOT and the lighter and medium artillery move into the back edge of the ruined residential district.  Kitchens and forward fuel dumps are established and ammunition and water taken forward.  The Korps reserve is brought up to scour the damaged city blocks between the rear areas and the front line. 

18 Corps now (dusk the same day as 17 Korps begins its consolidation) begins its push into Xyphonica directly to the south, aiming for the ‘Rowin’ industrial district.  38 Korps begins its push into the commercial district and heads for the ‘Amazonis’ rail and highway nexus.  The three assaults are on a converging course for the Basilica at the centre of the government zone in the centre of the city.

[1] Although anyone whose bacon was saved by those same weapons doubtless thought them indispensable.
[2] By this stage of the war, 903 Div is reduced to the Valhallans and a few hangers on.  For most of the last year, 17 Korps has not tried to use 903 Div as a manoeuvre force on its own; but now faced with the imperative to break into the Xyphonica conurbation, 903 Div becomes the cheese slice in the Rye Bread sandwich.  2* Gen Tolstoy (Officer Commanding 17 Korps) expects to have fold the remains of 903 Div into other formations once 17 Korps has a decent foothold in the city.
[3] Although in truth part of the reason for the Valhallans having the lowest casualty rate in 72AG for the previous six months, crossing the prairie, has been that the brunt has been borne by the armour.
[4] 901 (Cadian) Div is officially ‘resting’ for this operation, but is effectively co-located with 904 Div, who are stood by.
[5] Analogous to ten battalions of heavy and medium artillery.
[6] Departmento Munitorium Provost Corps.  In 17Korps case, the Necromundan 1st Regt. And assorted Vostroyans from 7/157 First Born Infantry Regt.
[7] Less those armed with Grenade Launchers, who are left to fire a barrage in support.
[8] Three walking wounded, who are allowed by Commissar Thorski to pass to the rear bearing the locations of the dead for later recovery and interment.
[9] At least some factions. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Rules ? What rules ?

A bit of a tease.  These were painted by Raven's Nest Painting.

I've got some cars too, but they need modification before they're fit for Fury Road...