Vydaroth strode forward, his armored boots leaving two-inch furrows in the muddy, tortured soil of the Kasomir Plateau. Around him, his fellow Plague Marines matched his march step for step, their ancient, corroded boltguns spitting death at the enemy ahead. Gloom shrouded the battlefield. Overhead, a fierce void duel was taking place in the heavens, and the sky was lit with fiery explosions as two navies clashed in low orbit.
For two weeks, the Death Guard had held this position, near the Chapel of St. Theodosius the Spiteful, fending off probing attacks by the Imperial attackers seeking to pry the Death Guard out of their defensive positions. Theirs was one the last remaining redoubts held by the Maggot Magnates vectorium on the Kasomir Plateau — all others had been ousted, setting in motion a tactical retreat by the Death Guard. In the last two days, as word reached the Plague Marines that the attackers were mustering a final assault, Lord Krakmarrow had led the defenders in a series of profane rites, desecrating the chapel and summoning forth a cohort of daemons blessed by Grandfather Nurgle to fight alongside them.
Those thrice-cursed daemons were even now taking the battle to the enemy, surging over the shattered ruins of the chapel. Everywhere, the air was filled with the buzzing of flies and the sharp tang of noisome vapors excreted from various and sundry orifices. Truly, it was a garden of fecundity fit for the Grandfather.
Behind the advancing Plague Marines, an ear-splitting whump signaled another salvo from the squad’s armored support. The lone Plagueburst Crawler had been immobilized days ago by flaming debris falling from the orbital skirmish taking place above their heads, so the warband had fortified it with sandbags, turning it into a virtually impregnable firebase. The crawler was now earning its keep as it lobbed devastating shells onto the advancing Imperials.
Ahead, Vydaroth spotted the shattered remnants of a low wall. At his signal, the squad loped up and took positions behind the tumbledown stones. From out of the gloom, the attackers swept in — armored zealots hefting bolters and shouting oaths. But they were smaller than the accursed Astartes. Vydaroth spotted the fleur-de-lis sigil upon their armor, and what remained of his lip curled in a sneer. “Sororitas!” he bellowed to his squad, then raised his weapon and opened fire.
Whew, how’s that for a narrative intro?! Paul and I got together earlier this month for a game that was not particularly large in size, but it was heavy on the narrative.
To start out, we took a look at where things stand in our Caluphel Awakenings campaign. The Maggot Magnates, my Death Guard vectorium, are on the verge of being ousted from the Kasomir Plateau, so we decided to play out the last stand of a small band of Plague Marines encamped near the ruins of a ruined chapel.
This game doubled as an excuse for me to try out my newest batch of terrain, and for Paul to get the Order of Our Lady Ascendant, his vintage Sisters of Battle force, onto the table!
We played at 40 Power Level on a 4×4 foot battlefield — a nice sized table, given our fairly small armies. In keeping with our tradition, we used the Open War cards to generate a suitable scenario and victory conditions. We’ve found the Open War cards to be great fun and really helpful in dialing in the narrative component. Here’s what we drew.
So, it seems that both sides were trying to protect two couriers. For the Adeptus Sororitas, the courier was a squad leader carrying deployment orders for the Sisters of Battle on Caluphel Prime. For the Maggot Magnates, the courier was Chrysos Lymph, a fearsome Plague Surgeon trying to escape with the last of the gene-stock extracted from the Ultradyne Genetic Laboratory, near the day/night border on the frontier of Caluphel’s Nightlands. The Death Guard had been rampaging across the planet for months and were now seeking to escape with their riches, even as the noose closed around their neck.
The “Orbital Debris” twist was cool and flavorful … we imagined a massive orbital battle taking place for control of the space above Caluphel even as our armies dueled on the surface. Debris impacts and the ensuing damage were fairly consequential in our game!
The deployment layout we selected ensured that we would have a quick game. Paul was able to deploy his Sororitas within easy boltgun range of my Plaguebearers. I’d have to trust in their resilience (and some lucky dice) if I wanted them to survive long enough to charge the Sisters of Battle.
Even as the Sisters squared off against a vile horde of daemons, another threat lurked on the side of the battlefield. A fearsome chorus of clanking and hissing heralded the arrival of a Penitent Engine! In the center of the fearsome war machine was a cruciform sinner, chained in place, surrounded by tattered scrolls inscribed with the hallowed words of the God-Emperor, her shrouded head thrashing back and forth as she sought out the enemies of Mankind.
What a model! We were discussing how this model might be just about the grimdark-est thing ever — literally a walking crucifix with flamethrowers and buzz-saws.
The photo above, featuring a ruined section of the Chapel of St. Theodosius the Spiteful, really sets the scene for the Penitent Engine’s arrival in our game.
But! The Sororitas had still more grimdarkness to bring forth. Howling and thrashing at the feet of the Penitent Engine were three Arco-Flagellants — doomed criminals who were granted one last chance at redemption on the field of battle. They raced ahead of the lumbering Penitent Engine and reached the Death Guard lines right as the anointed Rhino transport arrived bearing divine gifts for the heretical Plague Marines.
Here’s another look at the pending showdown. The red-hooded chap in the foreground is Chrysos Lymph, the Plague Surgeon of the Maggot Magnates vectorium and my courier for this game. Inside the Rhino is Paul’s courier! Whatever happened, the game would be decided here, between the ruined chapel and the low stone walls surrounding it.
As the Rhino rumbled up to the Plague Marines, one last salvo from the Plagueburst Crawler crashed down, blasting the Rhino to flaming scrap and spilling the occupants onto the gloom-shrouded battlefield. The Sisters of Battle barely had time to get their bearings before the Maggot Magnates swept in, surging over the stone wall to hack at the defenders with pox-drenched knives.
The melee swung back and forth, but even so, the Penitent Engine stomped ever closer, its soot-encrusted flamethrower spurting gouts of promethium in anticipation of burning the heretics. Even sustained fire from the Plague Marines couldn’t slow its implacable advance.
But before we see what happens, let’s check back in with the Plaguebearers who were menacing the approaching Sisters of Battle in the ruins of the chapel.
As expected, Paul directed his Sisters to open fire with their bolters, which they did, to devastating effect. More than half of the squad was annihilated in a single turn of sustained firepower.
I glumly reached for my morale dice, ready to resign the squad of daemons to the dead pile on the side of the table. But … Plaguebearers (and most other chaos daemons) have a special rule where if you roll a 1 on your morale check, not only do you pass, but you also add back d6 dead models to bolster the squad!
I held my breath, cast my dice and saw … a 1.
Huzzah! I rolled again got a 5, which meant that my decimated squad was back to near full strength! Paul’s dismay was palpable. It was, we agreed, a true “chaos moment” in a game full of cool moments.
I started my turn and, as expected, charged my Plaguebearers into the massed Sisters of Battle waiting on the other side of the ruined wall. Death to the False Emperor’s lap dogs!
Even as the Plaguebearers swept in to visit unspeakable punishment upon the Emperor’s chosen, the game was about to be decided elsewhere. The Penitent Engine, spewing exhaust and leaking hydraulic fluid, crashed into Chrysos Lymph and proceeded to rend his body apart.
The brutality was almost beyond imagining, and the Plague Marines faltered at the apparent demise of their commander. Conducting a fighting withdrawal, they gathered the remains of the Plague Surgeon and escaped to the Death Guard’s redoubt at Outpost Omicron. There are conflicting reports that Chrysos Lymph’s mutilated body began to stitch itself back together even as it was borne away from the defiled battlefield. The heretical Plague Surgeon may yet menace the Imperium again!
And thus ended our small but fun game. As always, it was visually gorgeous, which I tried to capture in my photos.
From a lore perspective, the newly arrived Order of Our Lady Ascendant scored a significant victory by forcing the last of the Death Guard from the Kasomir Plateau. The Maggot Magnates were left with their significant fortified position at Outpost Omicron, where Plague Marine excavation teams are hard at work seeking … something … deep under the surface of the redoubt.
That’ll be the focus of a future game, so stay tuned!