Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Close Air Support

The Arcomet 887th were a 'remains' unit which had been fighting Orks Spinward of the Dynorwic Cluster.  They provided the majority of the close air support for 17 Korps until after the Cudlip Lines had been breached.  After shouldering the burden for so long, the arrival of other assets saw the remains of the Arcomet formations absorbed into appropriate Airborne and Armoured units.

But whilst they were a part of 17 Korps, they were extremely busy.  As can be seen from the following account of one action, the Cadian 144th LRRR had sent teams out to probe into the Hanogal Heights.  One of the recce teams had been ambushed and called for assistance.  Two twin punisher cannon armed call signs were in the vicinity:

Picture curtosy of Karitas, whose IG were the Arcomet 887th for a while.
So I was flying Hunter Six Alpha with Zeb, that is, Tech Bosun Fifoom as my WEO[1] and Lieutenant Anbert flying Hunter Six Beta with TB Jusea as his shotgun.   It was early days so there wasn’t the tanker on standby like we later had out over the prairie.  But we were based in Freeman’s Square in the middle of the city, so covering the high ground to the north and east really wasn’t a problem.

We had been over flying Jeao Balbosa and it was pushing dusk when we got a call from COC about a recce team[2] in trouble at a farm in the hills to the north of the Hanolag Heights.  When we got there, there was a pair of thunderbolts on station but they had been unable to penetrate the low cloud cover without risking hitting the dirt.

The team had a FAC and the thunderbolts had put us on his frequency and briefed us on their situation.  Some Preatorians had ambushed the team, the medicae was seriously wounded and the sergeant had had his lasrifle explode in this face when the battery was hit, wounding him in several places, but he was still ambulatory. 

The thunderbolts, unable to assist further, departed for their base.  They literally just flew off into the sunset. 

By that time we had found the FAC’s voxnet and could hear his commentary.  They had been forced into one building in the corner of the farm complex and were trapped; the Praetorians[3] were just holding their rifles up to the windows at arms length and spraying into the building on full auto, whilst the team were dropping grenades out of the windows to try and keep them at bay.

Well, we weren’t going to listen to them die and fly home for amsec and grox burgers, so we figured out that the valley ran north to south and if lined up over the farm, we’d have a few kloms to get in and hopefully not hit the dirt at the other end.   We made it down through the cloud; the Voss pattern vulture is VTOL capable, but it burns fuel so fast that we don’t really do it.  Besides which, it makes you a stationary target, which isn’t nice.  There were many layers down to about 3000 feet AGL.   We had no local maps and the ‘spex on the Vulture is not set up to navigate NOE at that speed in the dark.

Under the cloud it was practically dark already, the smoke and haze from the firefight just added to the FOW[4].  It was only just bright enough to see, but not yet dark enough to flip the ‘spex for night work.  There were fires in some of the buildings which added more smoke and cast light and shadow making it difficult to figure out what was going on down there.   Zeb said that we could turn the lights on and they’d shoot at us.  He was joking, but the team on the ground were fast running out of time.  Besides, at least we’d be able to see.

So we turned on the searchlight, the navigation lights, the landing lights, everything we had.  The two entirely expected effects were that we could see and that the Praetorians were now giving away their positions by shooting at us, we more or less instantly started taking small arms fire from the ground.  The heat was off the team in the farm and we had targets.  With H6B, we took it in turns and each made seven gun runs over the next twenty five minutes.

Having knocked out the heavy and special weapons (at least for the time being), the ground team managed to fight off the Praetorians immediately outside the building. So the team took the chance and ran for it. 

It was at this point that we changed to danger close gun runs, we were shooting over their shoulders in the dark as they moved.  When they were in the building it was easier to shoot close to them, but once they were on foot it was a bit hairy, really.  We got a bit too close at times, they were dismounted, running and carrying their wounded.  Every time they moved we could see the surface fire aimed at them, which to us was a self nominating target.

Most of the time we were shooting over their heads as we flew directly over them.   Eventually they got far enough away - 800m in the dark, carrying their wounded to meet up with another team.  The Praetorians got fed up with us shooting them, although they were pretty determined.   They weren’t gonna give up until they were beat.   Of course, there was every chance that the recce team were going to die.  Or we could crash and burn trying to save them.  Neither of those things happened in the end. 

We got a thank you from their Commanding Officer, which is nice.  You'd never get that from a Vostroyan Officer. 

[1] Weapon Engineering Officer.  The gunner in any close orbit command airframe.  In this instance, the Arcomet argot is to use the word ‘shotgun’ for the WEO.
[2] They were a six man team from the Cadian 144th LRRR.  They had been mounted in a locally procured technical, but this had been destroyed in the opening shots of the ambush.
[3] The Praetorian 5th had been the Devos XII garrison, they had thrown in their lot with their adopted world when it attempted to secede from the Imperium.
[4] Fog of War.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Just before Operation Dragonfire, in orbit.

There are reasons that the imperial Navy would not drop troops in position around Xyphonica.  And that they would only drop troops at Fort Nuttar when the FLOT was already in the Western Suburbs of the city, hundreds of Kloms away.  All of which date back to the time when it is alleged that the Blood Pact arrived on Devos IV.

Investigations after the event determined that the mass conveyor пелерина Интрига[1] had been converted to a troopship at the Imperial Navy’s Belis Corona naval yards nearly 500 years ago.  It had lifted troops to warzones around the Galactic Core for 157 years, before being attached to the Imperial Navy’s 876th Fleet at the outset of the Sabbat Crusade.  After seven years, including hot dropping onto Balhaut[2], the пелерина Интрига disappears from the record[3].

The ship, all three and half thousand meters of her, appeared at the Naval Way Station at Aurent[4] early in 857.M41 reporting for duty, carrying the Mordant 303rd “Acid Dogs” as a ‘ready to deploy’ Astra Militarum formation.   They were issued with the appropriate codes, assigned an escort[5] and despatched to the Devos system.   All of this is pretty usual.

Two months later, longer than the standard journey time from Agripinna to Devos, but not remarkably so, the пелерина Интрига slid into orbit.  Her escorts remained in their allotted positions as she moved into low orbit, all the time following the instructions delivered by the task force flagship, now the Dictator Class Cruiser “Slaydo”.  The пелерина Интрига announced that she was ready to discharge her cargo and then reported a minor fire in the lower decks. 

The lead ship of what had been her escort detail reported that the four Dencara class escorts[6] were still hot (to move, having not yet powered down to their geo-stationary orbit) and therefore available to move to collect escape pods should the worst occur.

The Slaydo turned her augurs on the пелерина Интрига and failed to locate the reported fire.  In spite of this, she issued the order to move the escorts into rescue positions, even as she demanded that the пелерина Интрига confirm the location and extent of the damage.  The troopship swung into an ever lower orbit, complaining that it was becoming harder to maintain her position. 

Listening in, the four escorts, 11,000km closer, turned their augurs on the supposed location of the fire and also could not detect any damage.  However, what they could clearly see, which the fleet commanders on the Slaydo could not, was her drop ships beginning to cycle through their launch patterns, over the wrong hemisphere of the planet.

The master of the Captain Gunnerson reported this to the Slaydo who challenged the пелерина Интрига; the troops were supposed to be landed at the starport, not directly on the battlefield; this had already been communicated and acknowledged, why were they now disobeying instructions designed to keep Imperial Navy assets safe from ground fire ?  The reply was that if the fire on board became too big to contain, the troops could be saved by disembarking now, before it was too late.

Whilst ostensivly  plausible, this was not consistent with the initial reports of a small fire.  The reports of a small fire were not consistent with the lack of any sign on the augurs, either.   Not the close up view from the escorts nor the powerful sweeps of the Slaydo.   The drop ships dropped.  Taking 22 minutes to make planetfall, 30 minutes to disgorge their load[7] and then 38 minutes to re-dock and then begin loading again.

72AG were immediately on to their Imperial Navy liaison teams.  Why wasn’t the regiment being delivered to the star port ?  If the prime mover was in distress, why could the drop ships not push further west and allow the unit to be extracted later ?  Close Orbit Command, suitably embarrassed, immediately sent as many assets as they had to discern the situation and help where they could.

The пелерина Интрига’s dropships went through three cycles.  The ship was still not giving satisfactory answers to the Slaydo’s questions, the first marauders over the scene reported taking fire from where they expected to find disembarked guardsmen. 

Marauder Destroyers - two Punisher cannons under each wing... Why not ?
The Ordo Hereticus delegation had made sure that one of its members was on duty on the Slaydo at all times.  At this particular moment, that person was Inquisitor Hallas Blingnor.  Having been warned by his immediate superior about spoiling relationships with the other agencies involved in the campaign, he had, perhaps uncharacteristically, refrained from ordering the Captain of the Slaydo, Rear Admiral Devolt, to carry out what ever thing first popped into his reactionary, puritan mind.

Instead, taking advantage of his personal relationship with Castellian Brodeep, Inquisitor Blingnor ordered the Black Templar Strike Cruiser, the Lostwithial, to fire on the  пелерина Интрига.  Un accountably, the troop transport seemed to have been watching for ships powering up their weapon systems.  The troop ship was designed, like a space marine battle barge, to do its job in low orbit under fire.  Its shields went up.  The last round of drop ships departed.  Whoever those people were, barring the usual casualties due to shaking and impact, they were now down[8].

The пелерина Интрига ran away from the Lostwithal and the rest of the Imperial Fleet[9], largely in geo-stationary orbit would take hours to make ready and get underway.  But the Dencara Escorts were close and ready for action.  Flipping from rescue to attack was a change of thought and attitude, with no requirement to change any system.  Already at action stations, they raised their shields and joined the fray.

Whilst they did not have enough fire power to take the пелерина Интрига down straight away, it could not evade or outrun them and didn’t have the firepower of its own to do more than superficial damage to the Commissar Yamoto and Colonel Jacka.  Targeting the drives,  the escorts subjected the пелерина Интрига  to 54 minutes of constant strafing; the troopship was soon drifting.  An hour and seventeen minutes later, the first Black Templar drop pods hit the embarkation decks.  The last four squads of Black Templars from the Lostwithial would assault and clear the пелерина Интрига.

What they found there was evidence that the forces allied to Magister Sholen Skara had seized the vessel in the massive Naval Engagements around Parthenope during the Sabbat Crusades[10].  The vessel had quite obviously, since then, been used by the Great Enemy to ferry his soldiers around.  There was every indication that those landed were kin to the Blood Pact or Sons of Sek.  The Black Templars set the hulk on a course to the sun and recovered their drop pods.

Inquisitor Blingnor had scored a famous victory through his eternal vigilance and keen instinct for confronting heresy[11].

[1] “Cloaked in Intrigue”
[2] 765 M41.
[3] Obviously it remained a part of the Imperial Navy until the Naval Battle at Parthenope, despite the loss or destruction of pertinent records.
[4] The Imperial Navy’s waystation in the Agripinna system.  The major travel nexus into and out of the EoT warzone as well as the home of Klestor Sector Command.
[5] Four Dencara Class Fleet escorts, the Captain Gunnerson, General Estra, Commissar Yamato and Colonel Jacka.
[6] The Dencara class fleet escort is essentially a Firestorm class frigate with the engineering decks configured differently to accommodate an increase in shield generator capacity.
[7] The Infantry units were landed almost in the western suburbs of Xyphonica. An ideal position to assault the city, perhaps, but not much good if you wanted much of the regiment left after the action.
[8] Estimates range from 4000 to 8000 soldiers. 
[9] Taking into account the atmosphere of Devos IV, the пелерина Интрига was over the horizon within 12 minutes.
[10] A notable disaster for the Imperial Navy, 767.M41.
[11] In all his years of shooting them all and letting the Emperor sort it out, it has never once occurred to him that he might be wrong.  

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The systems around Hydraphur have a game….

The game exists in many forms, from child’s board games to more sophisticated games in proper casinos, depending on where you are.   The game is essentially snakes and ladders, but it’s common name is Knovians and Gudrunites.

Merinophia is a terran standard world not too far away from Gundrun.  Merinophia has 40% sea cover and most of the surface is rough terrain, with deep valleys, long dividing ridgelines and heavy vegetation.  Merinophia is a net exporter of people.  There are 108 tribes of Knovians (the peoples of Merinophia), who all jealously guard their own identity and traditions as fiercely as they guard their ancestral territories. 

Gudrun Rifles - modelled on Cadian Shock Troops, most are destined for the Cadian Gate. 
Knovians have a fine tradition of independence, hospitality to travellers and maintaining blood feuds long after the reason for the feud has been forgotten.   This has on occasion led the entire planet to reject the call for the Emperors tithe.   Bringing Merinophia back into the Imperial fold has usually fallen to regiments founded specifically for the task on the nearest high population world.   Historically, this has happened three times in the last three hundred years.

Knovians have a proud history of service to the Imperium and enthusiastically provide small, tribal based units to the Imperial Guard.   Commonly raising Nekye (Platoons), Gars (Companies) and on rare occasions, Teip (Battalions).    Perversely, the Knovians are provided by their planetary governor with armoured vehicles.   Almost exclusively Knovians in the Imperial Guard are either Tank formations, Motor Rifle units, armoured artillery or other modern cavalry type units.  

Knovian Motor Rifle Troops on parade.

Historically, the Knovians have been backwoodsmen, hunters of the wooded valleys, their extended families forming the basis of their society.  Traditionally, the culture on Merinophia was a raiding one, in which young men would prove themselves by raiding their near neighbours – even those with which they are on friendly terms – for beasts of burden, livestock or even brides.  These raids, which were essentially meant to be bloodless (although a raider caught by his intended victim might get a good beating before being released or ransomed), were also a way of maintaining the skills useful in fighting a guerrilla war to defend their homeland.

So the Knovians have been politically fragmented but culturally united.  Whilst sharing the same argot, identity and traditions, each of the 108 tribes was entirely self-governing, except when threatened by some external enemy.   

Traditionally, Gudrunite attitudes towards the Knovians have been complex, a mix of fear, hatred and respect.  Knovians are considered to be generally untrustworthy, wily yet primitive.  Sometimes they were portrayed as noble savages, more often just savages. To a considerable extent, this reflects the tenacity, skill and ferocity with which they have fought off Gudrun’s armies over the centuries.

Gudrun itself has a long and proud history of providing foundings for the Imperial Guard.  Some of the proudest names are those regiments raised for the three Merinophia campaigns.  Knovians also have a long and proud history of Imperial service.   However, such is the force of history, it would be an act of folly to deploy this units in the same formation. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Xyphonica's Zouvres

The Devos IV PDF had three levels of soldiery.  The regular army, who formed most of their three Divisions, was stiffened and filled out with reservist soldiers who drilled regularly as a second job and were liable to service within a given notice period.  

If their world had needed to pay the tithe, the regular army would have provided the manpower, the reservists would have had to step up to the plate in terms of defending their world until a new generation of the regular army could take their place.

Behind this, liable for call out only in times of war, were three infantry brigades, drawn from the populations of the major cities (one from each) formed from men who were volunteers who drilled four times a year, unpaid, but with concessions from various trade bodies and the status perk of wearing a uniform. 

These volunteers, wear a buff uniform with a knee length coat.  The uniform includes blousoned red trousers with matching epaulettes and kepi.  Since being called out, these particular men have replaced their peacetime kepi with pointy hood, for reasons kept within Inqusitorial circles.

Those volunteers from Cities on Acre have been recruited into the Imperial Guard; though not in the formed units of 2nd Civil Defence Brigade.  They have been rebuilt about cadres from other off planet IG regiments as 2nd (Devos IV) Infantry Division of XXXVIII Corps.

On the Brick of Scrutiny are volunteers from 86 Volunteer Battalion of the 3rd Civil Defence Brigade, drawn from the population of Xyphonica.  In their normal lives, a lot of these men are curators, choristers, cleaners and street vendors from the basilica precinct, one possible source of the pointy hoods.

Although light on heavy weapons, these men have an intimate knowledge of the city and thus a certain advantage in the street fighting which is going to come.  And four years of war has given them time to mobilise and train properly, including motivational training, which isn't hard when you are defending your actual house from invaders from outer space.

And this particular band are being led by an individual who has been incarcerated for many years. His prison record deleted, his crimes unknown, he seems to be one of the growing number of witches found on Devos IV as the amount of psychic activity increases, so the rate of individuals manifesting matches it, the cause and effect feeding each other in an escalating spiral.

And this is how, on paper, the first page of the volunteer's TO&E looked before the outbreak of war:

1st Civil Defence Bde
1-90 Volunteers
1-91 Volunteers
1-92 Volunteers
1-93 Volunteers
1-94 Volunteers
28 (Res) MP Bn
2nd Civil Defence Bde
1-95 Volunteers
1-96 Volunteers
1-97 Volunteers
1-98 Volunteers
29 (Res) MP Bn
3rd Civil Defence Bde
1-86 Volunteers
1-87 Volunteers
1-88 Volunteers
1-89 Volunteers
61 (Reserve) Special Police Cadre
62 (Reserve) Special Police Cadre

Anyway, bored with these now, so I've put them away and started some others....

Friday, 15 July 2016

Where Aqillas Dare

De-conflicting 3D battlespace is not easy.

At ground level there are the various weapon systems used by the sleepy headed killers on the ground.  They also have mortars. 

Immediately into this space come close air support assets such as Vendettas and Valkyries being used in a support role.

Firing into this space on a ballistic trajectory are the medium artillery systems, Earthshakers and other heavy artillery, Manticores and other MLRS.  This also includes AAA, which has to be prevented from engaging friendly air assets.

The air layer immediately above this includes the ‘cab rank’ of Thunderbolts in CAS role (‘Jabos’), Vendettas, Avengers and their ilk; including Maruder destroyers on interdiction missions.

These first three layers often become mixed during action; most of the engagements happen at flying stand level.  It is important that pilots return to their allotted airspace as soon as practicable to allow close orbit command to manage the battlespace effectively.

Above them in a much larger layer are Thunderbolts in the CAP role, Marauders bombers on their missions and Devastator bombers on their strategic missions.  This layer is always broken into separate strata if there is likely to be more than one asset crossing a location.

Above this, a little way back from the combat zone, will be flying tankers, either flying specific missions or on call to keep other assets on station until their munitions are used.  This space is shared with Marauder ISTAR and wild weasel missions.

And the layers are further occupied by whatever weather systems the planet has.  Seemly benevolent skies with perfect flying conditions will inevitably have lethal, wing-ripping-off windshear or an overcharged layer which lightening strikes anything at a certain altitude.  Straight forward things like sand or dust or electrical or ion storms can block areas in vertical or horizontal vectors.  Factors like the imposition of an operational ceiling is just something else for the Battlespace Commander to deal with. 

Through these layers come the occasional ballistic missile system (deathstrike, etc).  Whereas the majority of battlespace control is broken into 1km3 blocks and 20km3 cubes, any flight of a weapon system has to be treated as if it were a priority airframe, clearing other assets out of the flight path before it can be deployed without risk of a ‘friendly’ fire incident.

Adding the enemy into this space is fairly straightforward.  Enemy air assets do not need to be de-conflicted from battlefield artillery systems.  AAA systems are free to engage up to a certain level.  Above this, interception is the responsibility of Thunderbolts in the CAP role.

Much more complex are allies with incompatible C3 Systems or blatant unwillingness to coordinate.  Drop pods, lance and torpedo strikes could be accommodated, if they were known about.  Much less easy to integrate are Thunderhawk and smaller flyers which inevitably fly with their transponders disabled, even if notice is given about a likely flight into an area, experience has shown that they will not file a flight plan, not attempt to communicate with Close Orbit Command and often stray out of that area anyway.  All of which means that they are more than likely to be engaged by Imperial AA assets, both AAA and interceptor aircraft. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

3422 Army Group

3422 Army Group has arrived.  The group is organised into two Corps of three Divisions.  It arrives as a complete fighting force and is off loaded by the Imperial Navy at Fort Nuttar. 3* Gen Smonnovic Chief of Land Warfare (the Plenipotentiary actually running the war) wanted them dropped east of Xyphonica, but with no guarantees that they would be safe from enemy action, they were dropped at what the Navy believed was a compromise location.

Random internet picture - there's some good stuff out there, if you look.
Dropping them east of the city would have speeded up the investment of Xyphonica.  Depositing them at Fort Nuttar actually gave 3422AG to properly organise and shake out before deploying.  Humans who have spent some time sailing the void need some time to recover from its mildly debilitating effects.  Shortfalls in supplies could be made up from Fort Nuttar's copious depots.

The major units of its formations are:

44 Corps
569 Div
1292 Hrossey Yeomanry (Mechanised Infantry)
1293 Hrossey Yeomanry (Mechanised Infantry)
1294 Hrossey Yeomanry (Mechanised Infantry)
6 Hjaltland Light Infantry
7 Hjaltland Light Infantry
3rd Hellier Tank Bn
56 Armoured Artillery Regiment
785 Div
44th Cadian Tank Regt
2139 Heavy Tank Co (Cadia)
66th Gudrun Rifles
80th Bram Pioneer Bn
1st Lydian Lunar Fusillers
4th Llar Heavy Infantry
2 Div
677 Itzhaki Drop Infantry
680 Itzhaki Drop Infantry
681 Itzhaki Drop Infantry
36 Salah Light Infantry
1st Salah Mecanised Recce Brigade
Sisohtto Airmobile Support Regt

6 Corps
65 Div
9004 Elenen Tank Regt
9005 Elenen Tank Regt
9006 Elenen Tank Regt
Bilal Heavy Artillery
Nabil Mechanised Artillery
88th Elenen Armoured Engineer Regt
Hangelan Mechanised Infantry
66 Div
9007 Elenen Tank Regt
9008 Elenen Tank Regt
9009 Elenen Tank Regt
Juno Light Infantry
8th Dewi Line Infantry Regt
Hymason Armoured Artillery Regt
67 Div
9010 Elenen Tank Regt
45th Cadian Tank Regt
6770 (Armegeddon) Armoured Regt
102 Coalition Artillery Regt
Mirrilor Mechanised Engineers
2239 Sturgot Infantry

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance.

You'll recall that one of the concerns of much of the command staffs within 72AG was that, in the event of significant reinforcements arriving, the amateurish interference of High Command in the running of the army and the conduct of the war could result in ineffective squandering of resources.

“The General “[1] , fortunately was distracted by the move of his Headquarters from Benq to Acer.  He also wanted the Princips of the Legio Astoria, the head-quarters of the Inquisition on Devos IV and the representative of the Brothers of the Lostwithial[2] to co-locate in Rand[3]

So with the energies of 72AG (‘Group) bent on finding suitable accommodation and securing the agreement of their ‘guests’, the asked for reinforcements arrived and are assigned to their formations according to the plan laid down[4]

143rd DKK Siege Regiment                                                                      XVII Korps 903 Div
90th DKK Heavy Artillery Regt                                                                XVII Korps 903 Div
141st Elysian DTR “Helldivers”                                                               XXXVIII Corps 60 Div
Cadian 120th Mechanised Infantry Regt                                                  XXXVIII Corps 4 Div
Bollostar 234 Independent Combat Engineer Company                          XXXVIII Corps 4 Div
Bollostar 235 Independent Combat Engineer Company                          XXXVIII Corps 4 Div
Bollostar 236 Independent Combat Engineer Company                          XXXVIII Corps 4 Div
5th Sturgot DTR “The Emperor’s Spear”                                                 XXXVIII Corps 60 Div
26th Valhallan Field Artillery Regt                                                           XXXVIII Corps 4 Div
6th Gudrun Rifles                                                                                      XXXVIII Corps 4 Div
670th Sturgot Independent AT Battalion                                                  XXXVIII Corps 5 Div
Knovian 44th Armoured Brigade[5]                                                          XXXVIII Corps 5 Div
6th Strugot Infantry Regt                                                                           XXXVIII Corps 5 Div
7th Sturgot Infantry Regt                                                                           XXXVIII Corps 5 Div
872nd Sturgot Drop Engineer Company                                                   XXXVIII Corps 60 Div
873rd Sturgot Drop Engineer Company                                                    XXXVIII Corps 60 Div
42nd Sturgot Drop Field Apocartharion detachment                                 XXXVIII Corps 60 Div

By the time ‘Group actually take full cognisance of the reinforcement situation, ‘The General’ is ready to order his forces to invest Xyphonica.  With insufficient forces to effectively surround the city, the initial plan involves seizing  key points across the city, more in hope than surety that the PLA/PDF doesn’t have much fight left and that after the establishment of bases at these points, future operations would more be counter insurgency police actions, rather than war fighting.

Unlike real Gods, the Departmento Munitorium works not so much in mysterious ways as in slow ones.   With the encouragement of the OH, a successful petition to the Legio Astoria, interest from the Black Templars, Kelestor Sub Sector Command has the Devos IV situation pretty near the top of its list of wars to support. 

With a lull in the situation in the Macogh system three years ago, units now ready, with the transports to embark them, are directed to Devos IV.  Another Army Group, under 4*General Faulkuie arrives just after the opening moves of the investment of the city.

4*General Zukhov finally gets what he’s been campaigning for, a fifth star and the formal title ‘Lord General’.  The Plennipotentiate who has been actually running the war, 3* Gen Sommonovic (Vostroya) Chief of Land Warfare, gets his forth star and becomes CinC of 72AG.  Gen Zukhov’s former Chief of Staff, 2* Gen Mentunfor (Krieg) Chief of the Imperial General Staff, is also promoted to fill Sommonovic’s vacant space. 

The actual position of CIGS, of course, follows Gen Zukhov to Planetary Command[6]
The arrival of 3422 AG, with two Corps of three Divisons, gives the Imperial Guard enough resources to properly surround the city; offensive operations cease to allow existing gains to be consolidated whilst 3422 AG shook itself out and moved into position.  With no hurry, no urgent operational imperative to pursue, this process took six weeks.

[1] 4*General Zukhov, the Vostroyan CinC of 72 Army Group, for a long time referred to as ‘the lord general’ behind closed doors.
[2] Black Templars.  The Lostwithial remains in (a very distant) orbit.
[3] The Seaport of entry to continental Benq for the Imperial Guard.
[4] The Macharian Thunder Guard are finally formally allocated to XXXVIII Corps.
[5] XXXVIII Corps’ 5 Div initially looks small, however the Knovian 44 Armd Bde are fourteen company sized units of LRMBT, chimera mounted grenadiers and chimera chassis artillery. 
[6] CIGS oversees the appointment of officers to staff appointments.  It is his responsibility to ensure that command staffs have high performing teams. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Snakes in Paradise.

The various staffs of the three Corps (each of five divisions) have an unsettlingly random relationship with 72AG (" 'Group " to the various staffs).  Various officers at ‘Group, insulated from the fighting by being on the other side of the planet, on a different continent[1], can be more focused on their own careers, lining their own pockets and currying favour with 'The General' (4* General Zukhov, the commander in chief of 72 AG and effective ruler of Devos IV).  The shooting war is a long way away and the PDF cannot win (The General says so), so internal intrigue provides mental and emotional stimulation which a mere real shooting war does not. 

The fact that the conduct of the campaign and running of the planet has been devolved almost in its entirety to the four Plenipotentiates means that what actually happens in ‘Group is, in effect, just tinkering[2].  However,  for the Corps staffs, actually piquing someone’s interest in ‘Group can allow a deputation or submission from their Corps to by-pass normal channels an speed up delivery of a particular resource, steal a resource destined for another Corps or reverse a decision affecting the Corps[3].

The behaviours which facilitated such shenanigans are largely practiced and perpetuated by the Vostroyans; Duty officers from other, disparate, hereditary ‘Guard populations, such as Elysians, Cadians or Krieg would rebuff such requests out of hand.   Duty officers from Iron Guard related populations, Mordians, Palladians or Preatorians would ignore all requests, unless they came from higher ranking officers, in which case they were passed on.  Duty officers from populations where military life is governed by nepotism, Vostroyan, Volpone and Knovians, would all act outside of due process when approached by those with whom they shared some sympathy[4].

Inefficiencies caused by the friction of war, added to decisions were made about the ground war with which the Imperial Navy disagreed, caused bafflement in Close Orbit Command.  Relationship difficulties were exacerbated by further difficulties caused by interference due to corruption[5].  By the time the Operational Corps regrouped at Fort Nutter, the frustrations with the rest of ‘Group HQ which were felt by Close Orbit Command were beginning to show[6].

Further problems are caused by the casual and unprofessional way intelligence is received, processed and disseminated by 4* Gen Zukhov’s inner circles[7].  In general, following the attitudes of their leader, the Intelligence cells within 'Group are not treated with any importance at all, after all, the important thing to the mindset of the typical Vostroyan Officer is that the conduct of open battle is all important; an anti-intellectual arrogance regarding what the rest of his Operational HQ view as paramount has driven a wedge in between many of the parties responsible for the war[8].

Comptroller Bellormus had put in a huge effort to resource the Campaign adequately[9].  The Macharian Thunder Guard had landed on Devos IV and could have been moved to the front by the time Operation Restore concluded.  The Division sized cavalry unit was due to become 903 Div of XVII Korps.  However, 3* General Ramos wanted them for XVIII Corps.  This produced falling out between the two Corps Commanders[10] and between Comptroller Bellormus’ staff and the Vostroyan watch keeping team of Col Polarneirov.

The failure of Operation Dragonfire and subsequent success of XVII Korps at Chobli has not helped relationships between Corps HQ and ‘Group. 

The disparate habits of the various ethnicities, their differences have so far been something of a talking point.  If the Imperial force on Devos IV becomes larger and more disparate, the differences in mannerisms[11] could become a potential stumbling block.

As if to emphasise the troubles which hamper any such endeavour, the units which arrived to form 4 Div and 4 Div of XXXVIII Corps included

·         143rd DKK Siege Regiment
·         90th DKK Heavy Artillery Regt
·         141st Elysian DTR “Helldivers”
·         Cadian 120th Mechanised Infantry Regt
·         Bollostar 234 Independent Combat Engineer Company
·         Bollostar 235 Independent Combat Engineer Company
·         Bollostar 236 Independent Combat Engineer Company
·         5th Sturgot DTR “The Emperor’s Spear”
·         26th Valhallan First Born Field Artillery Regt
·         6th Gudrun Rifles
·         670th Sturgot Independent AT Battalion
·         Knovian 44th Armoured Brigade (mixed AFVs in fourteen independent companies)
·         6th Strugot Infantry Regt
·         7th Sturgot Infantry Regt
·         872nd Sturgot Drop Engineer Company
·         873rd Sturgot Drop Engineer Company
·         42nd Strugot Drop Field Apocartharion detachment

Sturgot is a military depot on Agripinna fed by rest and rehabilitation facilities which deal with broken or combat ineffective units and remnants; each is a composite unit of widely varying skills and experience[12].  Individuals may still show the effects of physical or psychological trauma. Units may have a lot of time to meld, become functional and re-train to their new role, or perhaps a familiar role with new comrades[13].

For historical reasons Knovian and Gudrunites do not make good stablemates. Additionally, The Knovians are valiant, individually courageous and collectively brave.  They are skilled at their own roles as AFV crewmen and excel at small unit armoured warfare.  They don’t like taking orders and are hopelessly unpractised and unwilling to try large formation deployments.  The DKK 143rd Siege Regiment had been declared surplus to requirement by the Imperial 3445th Army, who had trouble with DKK units ‘getting a bit carried away’.  DKK reinforcements en-route to the 3445th Army have been reassigned to 72 AG.

The 5th Sturgot DTR are formed from a diverse population of experienced soldiers with very high professional standards.  Their immense esprit de corps and pride at being an elite unit formed from last survivors has meant that they have ended up fighting with every other unit they were billeted near.  The 7th Sturgot Infantry are the remnants from only three backwater foundings who had lost their entire compliment of officers and commissars in their first battles, making them in the eyes of the DM more or less the ultimate unknown quantity.  

Not all of the reinforcing units allocated can be put together with any other part of the army, they can all work, but need to assigned to formations where they will fit in and not cause problems for other parts of the army.   Comptrollor Bellormus’s staff are aware of this and have a plan for assigning the units, including needing to reassign some units already in the line, in order to get the best possible performance out of the units being sent.  This plan has been agreed with the Operations Team.  

Comptrollor Bellormus has asked the Imperial Navy to land this latest tranche of reinforcements directly at Fort Nuttar.

There are good operational reasons for landing at Fort Nuttar, it being the forward operating base for the whole army.  It is the point to which the entire planetary supply chain delivers.  Equally importantly, although no one would ever admit it; 4*Gen Zukhov will be somewhere en route from the SPOE[14] to Port Randstad.  Landing ‘where they are needed’ will cut out a 36000 Klom rail and sea journey.  And hopefully avoid the General’s interference.

[1] After Operation restore when the Plenipotentiates move to Fort Nuttar, 72AG moves from near the space port on Acre to the sea port of Randstad at the furthest part of continental Benq.
[2] 4* General Zukhov likes to take a personal interest in every aspect of the Campaign and often makes tactical decisions, some of which (depending on who is on duty at ‘Group) are then transmitted straight to the subunits involved without recourse to their parent formations.
[3] Obviously this is wasteful, inefficient, counterproductive and contrary to the Tactica Imperialis.  But custom is so much stronger than law.
[4] Sympathy on any basis at all; shared ancient battle honours, table fellows at formal mess dinners, all manner of fast talking or promised payments either in money, battlefield loot or decorations.
[5] XXXVIII Corps ran its tanks on Avtur for a two weeks prior to Fort Nuttar being finished.  The knock on consequence being they did not have adequate air support for Operation Dragonfire.  The situation was entirely their own fault for misdirecting the fuel.  And the lack of lubrication in the Avtur would result in an increased maintenance burden in their AFV fleet during the initial assault on Xyphonica.
[6] Close Orbit Command is the title of the Imperial Navy’s contribution to the atmospheric campaign, transport, strategic and tactical resources.   Being effectively a ‘fourth Corps’, its officers were dismayed at the level of intrigue and absence of co-operation.
[7] Quite often intelligence delivered to AG72 HQ directly is ignored and not passed on to the Operational Team.  Conversely, information from the intelligence and security cell presented by the Operational team, intended for 4* Gen Zukhov himself is often received by junior members of his personal staff, 'the General' being "unavailable".  It is extremely doubtful whether this is ever passed on or not. 
[8] 4* Gen Zukhov has previously intervened in operational matters by ordering forward the Cadian 144th Field Artillery to perform a recce task, leaving the Cadian 144th LRRR standing.  There are many occasions where he has done things like this, not normally as obviously inept, but still causing downstream problems for those who have to mitigate the effect of his interventions.
[9] By the end of Operation Restore, XXXVIII Corps is fully staffed.  Additionally, somewhat to Comptroller Bellormus’ surprise, units to form a second two Corps Army Group begin to arrive at the starport.  
[10] 3* General Ramos does not dislike 3* General Wellbahn, but understands how a Vostroyan Command will run and is playing the situation to best advantage.
[11] Vostroyans of equal social standing will salute (the emperor, as everyone has an aqilla on their uniform somewhere), kiss on both cheeks and then salute again.  Officers and enlisted  men will also not address each other directly, all communication going through SNCOs.  The DKK will remain properly dressed when on duty, which includes remaining masked, even indoors or inside a vehicle.  This causes problems with nearly everyone.  These are two examples of the challenges faced when trying to get such a diverse army to work.
[12] It is the nature of such things that on occasion, persons who felt they might have been let down by another unit on a campaign somewhere will find themselves in the same position somewhere like Strugot and end up in the same unit.  Due to the scale on which the Departmento Munitorium works, where this is likely to manifest as a problem downstream is not addressed.   There are enough commissars at the Sturgot Depot to ensure that there are no problems on Agripinna.

[13] Occasionally, units departing Sturgot are adequately rested, experienced soldiers with a professional outlook. The very best are channelled into new Drop Troop Regiments, of which there is always a shortage.

[14] Star Port Of Entry.  On the North Western coast of the loyalist continent of Acre.  Initially, AG HQ was at the Starport.