The Raven’s Head had, once upon a time, been a popular tavern situated near the center of Inverius’ metalworks. A popular hub for off-duty manufactorum workers, guildsmen, scrap-haulers, scavvers and even the odd Arbites patrol, it had once formed the living, breathing heart of this district. Inquisitor Ariadna Zao imagined that, before the war, this place must have rung loud to the sound of clanking tankards, sloshing ale, slurred drinking songs and raucous laughter. That would have been before the Tyranid bombardment, however, had flattened it like it had almost every other building in the district, gutting it like a carcass and leaving but a few skeletal, spore-bleached walls and floors standing.
Ariadna quietly slid the lid back on her flask of theosophium and pocketed back in her cloak, before looking back out at the downcast grey skies hovering over the ruins of Inverius. From here, in the ruins she had set up as her temporary headquarters, she could see how desolate the city had become: what little was left of the civilian population had abandoned shops, habs, and offices in their flight, and what had been a bustling metropolis only a few weeks ago now looked like a centuries-old ruin after all of the fighting it had seen. Even if they managed to win here– and the odds of that were looking increasingly slim– the sheer devastation that the Tyranids wrought meant it could be years before the hive city was repopulated again.
The PDF had completely fallen apart by this point, Ariadna knew. The untested, unready soldiers of the local garrison had not been prepared for the sheer horror of the Tyranid onslaught, and had been nought but meat for the beasts to devour. Now the fate of Inverius relied on her and the Deathwatch she had requisitioned, as well as the uneasy alliance of Aeldari and T’au that she had narrowly managed to thread together. Even then, she knew, that might not be enough– especially with the renegade Space Wolves wreaking havoc behind Imperial lines, and the madmen of the Fractured Blades spreading their heresy. She had recently dispatched Sergeant Cervantes to deal with them, but he was a proud, conscientous man would no doubt feel revulsion at fighting fellow Astartes. No doubt, he would have words with her upon his return. She quashed whatever guilt she had over the matter: such were the sacrifices the Inquisition had to make.
At this point, everything balanced upon a knife’s edge. While the alliance had been very successful in its engagements against the Tyranids, the rapacious horde had merely been slowed in its advance, not slowed. For them to be successful here, they had to break up the Tyranid horde completely, and to do that, they had to draw out their vital hives nodes– the leader-beasts that directed the all-consuming swarm– and kill them. Not an easy task, against a foe as cunning as the hive mind, the all-encompassing intelligence that learned and adapted with every single engagement.
And that was precisely why she was here, sitting amongst the ruins of an old tavern, with a vigilant squad of Deathwatch to keep her company. She was drawing the Tyranids into a trap, and using herself as bait.
“Inquisitor.” She glanced at the speaker coming up behind her– Carius, a towering Intercessor originally from the Sons of the Phoenix, who had been delegated command of her Deathwatch detail. “Long range auspex scans indicate the horde will be closing on our position soon. At this point, however, we must not discount the possibility that there may be lurker-beasts in the immediate vicinity as well. My brothers and I have taken every precaution possible.”
Ariadna nodded, knowing full well that there could be a Lictor stalking her at this very moment. “Very good, Brother Carius. Inform me when the Tyranids come within visual range.” Not that she would need to be told, she knew– she could already hear the rumble of the endless tide in the distance, like an avalance of chitin and bone rumbling ever closer. She could almost hear the shrieks of them on the wind. Almost certainly, her psychic senses were feeling numb and cold from the all-consuming shadow that the Hive Mind cast into the Warp, a cold that was growing more and more intense with each passing second.
Carius cocked his head to the side. “Once again, Inquisitor, I must protest against this action,” he said. “There is no need for you to risk yourself so needlessly.”
Ariadna smiled, and stepped away from the windowsill. “That is kind of you to say, Brother Carius,” she said, “but you could not be more wrong. There is every need.”
“Contact!” came a shout from another of the Deathwatch in the vox. Turning, Ariadna could see them now: dozens of sprinting xeno-beasts, hunched forms layered in chitinous hide, arms extending into talons or into mouth-like gun-appendages, mouths shrieking with countless needle-fangs. Amongst them strode larger creatures, crested heads denoting alpha-beasts that roared their primacy amongst the lessers of their pack. It was a sea of claws, of hooved feet, of fangs and of tendril-maws….and this was just the vanguard.
Ariadna met their arrival with a steely glare. Slowly and deliberately, she drew her force sword, its blade crackling with a blue light as she raised in in preparation for the slaughter to come.
“Astartes of the Deathwatch,” she said, “kill them. In the Emperor’s name, kill them all.”
So as an initial disclaimer, I apologize for the time it has taken me to write of the conclusion of this campaign. A lot of things happened all at once: aside from an extremely busy couple of months at work, the momentum of the Inverius campaign itself, tragically, petered off at the end, with attendance sadly waning in the final stages. The fact that the LGS had started to run a 40k escalation campaign (more on that later) I think did a lot to leech away interest, and thanks to COVID-19 (more on that later), the campaign organizer doubts it will ever be finished. A sad end, I think, to an otherwise good Kill Team campaign.
In the third round, we had another set of paired missions to do. In the first, the Xenos side was attempting to assassinate the Leaders of the Truce side– each leader essentially used a relevant profile from the faction in question, armed with the equivalent of a bolt pistol, but only having one melee attack. In my case, Inquisitor Zao was going to be using the stats of a Deathwatch Sergeant (and to be fair, she IS in power armour). The objective was simple: keep her alive until the end of the game.
I went in feeling fairly confident about my odds…until I discovered that I was up against my old bane, the Tyranids. Worse, they were being commanded by Rich, who was probably one of the better Tyranid players in the league.
For my Kill Team, I brought the following:
Inquisitor Ariadna Zao (Deathwatch Sergeant)
Brother Carius (Intercessor Sergeant)- bolt rifle, auspex, Leader
Brother Gaudric (Vanguard Veteran)- jump pack, thunder hammer, storm shield, Zealot
Brother Ranulf (Reiver Sergeant)- heavy bolt pistol, combat knife, Combat
Brother Ka’shan (Veteran Gunner)- Infernus heavy bolter, Heavy
Brother Siddarja (Veteran)- combi-plasma
Brother Rukaan (Veteran Gunner) frag cannon
For this list, i was trying a few new things (like the Reiver and the Intercessor Leader). Otherwise, my core strategy remained simple: form a wall of bodies around the Inquisitor, shoot the Tyranids as they came at me, and try to survive.
Rich, meanwhile, brought the following:
HIVE FLEET KRAKEN:
Tyranid Warrior- devourer, 2 boneswords, Comms
Tyranid Warrior- barbed strangler, 2 boneswords, Heavy
That….was a lot of models. Admittedly, I was quite daunted by the prospect of having to deal with such a vast Tyranid horde (the majority of which were nothing but cheap, expendable Gaunts). Hopefully I would have enough shooting and close combat power to deal with them all.
The Tyranids spread out in a line across the ruins, hoping to stay out of line of sight where possible.
With the sting of that catastrophic defeat still heavy on my mind (and with me still cursing fate for those ridiculous dice rolls), I went on to the second game of the round.
In the next battle, the roles were reversed: I had to go forth and assassinate the supreme leader of one of the enemy players’ faction. In this instance, I found myself up against Rob and his Space Wolves once again.
As Rob had only brought 100 points of Wolves to play with, we settled on that as our points limit. I took the following:
Watch-Sergeant Cervantes- xenophase blade, storm shield, Leader
Brother Marius (Blackshield)- power maul, storm shield, Combat
Brother Ka’shan (Veteran Gunner)- infernus heavy bolter, Heavy
Brother Siddarja (Veteran)- combi-plasma, Sniper
Brother Lysades (Veteran Gunner)- frag cannon
My original Kill Team roster, returned for this final battle, albeit sadly against Brother Astartes rather than against the hated Tyranids. I was expecting to have to deal with Primaris Marines, and was confident that my Kill Team’s mixture of armour-piercing and high-damage weapons could deal with them.
Instead of Primaris Marines, however, Rob brought something a bit tankier for his Wolves…
Terminator Sergeant- storm bolter, power axe, Leader
Terminator Gunner- assault cannon, power fist, Heavy
Terminator- thunder hammer, storm shield, Combat
While I had encountered (and used) Terminators before in Kill Team, I had never before had to deal with an entire team of them. It would be an interesting experience, to say the least.
SCENARIO AND DEPLOYMENT
For this scenario, the Truce side had one objective, and one objective only: kill the enemy Leader. If, by the end of the random game length, the enemy leader was alive, then it would be a Chaos/Tyranid/etc victory. No pressure, of course.
Additionally, the Leader in this game would be representing the overall leader of that Kill Team’s faction, and as such would be given an extra wound to represent the fact that he was a mini-HQ. However, as the Tyranid/Chaos/etc side had lost the Med-Bay in Round 3, they were penalized by having their Leader be afflicted with -1 wound…so, as a result, I would merely be having to assassinate a regular, 2-wound Terminator.
(I apologize in advance, as I forgot to take pictures of half the battle)
The Deathwatch started off aggressively, with Siddarja and Ka’shan moved up to bring their weapons to bear on the Terminators, while Cervantes and Marius moved up, ready to counter-charge any Wolves that got to close. In response, the thunder hammer Terminator stomped forward to confront the Deathwatch, keeping a wall between himself and the enemy guns, while the Leader and the assault-cannon armed Terminator both retreated from the Deathwatch advance, taking cover around the corner of a building.
Muzzle flares sparked to life as the frag cannon opened up on the assault cannon Terminator, wounding but not killing him with a direct hit. In response, the assault cannon whirled to life, scything down Brother Ka’shan before he could fire his infernus heavy bolter.
Seeking retribution, Siddarja fired at long range at the Terminator, but missed, while the enemy Sergeant fired his storm bolter up at Lysades to no effect.
Hefting his thunder hammer, the Combat Terminator charged headlong into Marius, colliding with him with the force of an avalanche. Drawing his xenophase blade, Cervantes charged in to aid his Brother. Meanwhile, the other two Terminators moved out of line of sight of Lysades and his frag cannon. Siddarja tried to intercept them, moving dangerously close to the melee to get a bead on the Terminator Gunner.
Overcharging his combi-plasma, Siddarja fired on the enemy Gunner. His shots struck true, blasting through the Space Wolf’s thick plate and felling him. Next to him, in the melee, the Combat Terminator swung his thunder hammer in a wide arc, battering aside Marius’ shield and hitting the Blackshiekd with enough force to shatter his breastplate and hurl him against the wall. Roaring in vengeance, Cervantes drove his crackling xenophase blade through the Terminator’s shoulder, wounding him. Even as this happened, Marius slowly and painfully staggered back up, spitting blood and, with a hoarse rasp, asking the Space Wolf if that was all he had.
(Note: Marius took two unsaved wounds, meaning Rob was going to be rolling three times for flesh wounds thanks to the damage 3 of his thunder hammer. By some miracle, however, he failed to beat a 4 on those 3 rolls, which meant that, against all odds, Marius had survived. Just like in my first game of the campaign, Marius was proving to be almost unkillable!)
At that point, though, Cervantes motioned a signal to Marius, and the two disengaged, giving Lysades a clear shot to the Terminator they were fighting. Siddarja, for his part, climbed up onto the top of the nearby ruin, running at a steady advance along the top so that he could get line of sight to the Space Wolf leader.
In response, the Combat Terminator wisely withdrew behind the wall of the ruin before Lysades could shoot him, while the Space Wolf Leader, similarly, retreated, moving behind another ruin out of line of sight from Siddarja. Though the Wolves were known for their ferocity, that ferocity went hand in hand with cunning, and they were not so foolish as to stand and be shot at by the Ordo Xenos’ hunters.
Even as this melee went on, Lysades jumped down from his perch and advanced up the south end of the battlefield, while Siddarja similarly advanced up the north, the two of them hoping to catch the wily Space Wolf leader in a crossfire. Time was running out, and it was imperative that they stop the renegade Wolves before they detonated the hive’s main reactor…
(Random game length was rolled. The dice roll came up a 4, which meant I now had potentially one more turn to kill the Space Wolf Leader…)
It was do or die at this point for Lysades. Planting his feet on the ground, he loaded a solid shot into his frag cannon and fired. For a moment, the world around him seemed to go silent…before the thunderous crack of the frag cannon split the air. A second later, the enemy Terminator burst apart in a squall of armour shards, blood and bone, obliterated by a direct hit! At the last possible second, the Deathwatch had found their mark.
Even as the enemy died, the last Terminator gave a great howl of vengeance, and fought on with hammer and shield…that was, before Sergeant Cervantes’ xenophase blade swung in, slicing through his shield, armour and flesh alike as though they were paper, and removing the renegade’s head cleanly from his shoulders.
And with that, the fight was over. Though loyal Astartes blood had to be spilled this day, the Deathwatch’s mission had been successful.
RESULT: DEATHWATCH VICTORY!
Thoughts: Well, those were two battles of extremes to say the least. The first battle was an unfavourable matchup where my poor tactics and even poorer dice rolls cost me the game. The other was a much more favourable matchup where my dice were superbly lucky where it counted.
In the first game, I am going to flat out admit that I played poorly: in standing still and waiting for the Tyranids to come towards me, I pretty much allowed Rich to dictate the ebb and flow of the game and forced me to play a reactive battle. Rich’s cunnning use of movement and LOS-blocking terrain meant that I was barely able to get any shots off against his forces, and for much of the game my shooty units were locked in combat against cheap Gaunts (who, I should add, I was seemingly unable to kill!)
I goofed heavily right from the very outset where I tried to engage in that shootout with the frag cannon against the Tyranid Warrior: Rich later admitted to me that he was very afraid that I would use my frag cannon to mow down his Gaunts, something that I really should have considered. Beyond that, my luck was beyond atrocious, as both my Vanguard and Reiver whiffed horribly when they launched their countercharges (despite using Death To The Alien in both instances) and were slaughtered. After that, my poor Deathwatch started to fold as I failed armour save after armour save, before Inquisitor Zao herself finally snuffed it. It was a game where my poor tactics, poor luck and frustration all got the better of me, and all credit should go to Rich, who played to his army’s strengths and effectively managed to systematically kill my team piece by piece, and he definitely deserved that win.
I was much more confident with my second game, since I had brought a number of high-AP, high-damage weapons that were perfect for dealing with Terminators, but even then, the game was a lot more close than I thought it was going to be: Rob’s clever use of movment and LOS-blocking terrain meant that I couldn’t bring my weapons to bear on him when I really wanted to. I came very close to losing the game in the end– only the random game length gave me the extra turn I needed to close in on his Terminator Sergeant and finish him off with a well-aimed frag round. This, combined with Marius taking a thunder hammer to the head and getting right back up, meant that my dice were more than making up for the last game. Even though his three Terminators died to a man, Rob took it all in stride, and was a great guy to play against…though once again, sadly, my Deathwatched proved much better at killing other Space Marines than they did at killing Tyranids.
So, what were my thoughts and learning experiences, overall, from this campaign?
- Deathwatch have a plethora of great Elite units that I want to use more of in future games– Terminator Gunners, Vanguard Vets, and the various types of Primaris Marines, for instance. The sheer variety of what I can field in a Deathwatch Kill team, and the sheer variety of weapon combinations, means they are a faction with a lot of options that I am still eager to try out, and a lot of tactical flexibility.
- In spite of this, Deathwatch are also a very unforgiving faction, as a single mistake or loss early on can set you back for the rest of the game (as I found out to my cost, again and again). It’s possible I may need more practice with the boys in black, though, but overall I would say they are a fairly challenging Kill Team to win with, and definitely not a faction I would recommend to a relative beginner.
- By contrast, the multiple games I faced against the Tyranids reaffirmed why the Bugs are apparently one of the toughest factions in the game. Their close combat units move blindingly fast, and they can hug cover/LOS blocking terrain fairly easily. If Tyranid Warriors are in the list, then not only do they provide potent shooting but are also very difficult to kill in the bargain. And as my last game proved, getting swamped by Gaunts can lock almost an entire Kill Team in place if you are not careful. That being said, I am determined to get even with the Bugs– next time I may field Drukhari, or perhaps even the new Sisters of Battle, against them…
Overall, with some wins, and some losses, I had plenty of fun in this campaign, and am glad that the organizer took the time and effort to run it (even if it kind of petered out at the end). I hope, however, that this isn’t the last Kill Team campaign he runs, though I’m already trying to think of what I would run next time, especially since, in addition to the Sororitas and Drukhari, I also have a themed Imperial Guard team in the works….
Cervantes’ black battle-plate was stained with gore. It was not the ichor of a xenos monstrosity, he thought distastefully, but that of a fellow Astartes, a man who, up until recently, he would have called brother. Necessity had forced his hand, as had the unrelenting eye of the Inquisition…as well as whatever madness it was that had overtaken the Space Wolves.
Madness. That was the only word he could use to describe it. When they had cornered the Space Wolf leader, he and two Terminator-clad bodyguards of his were affixing melta charges to one of the main thermal generators of the central hive. The Space Wolf– one Hrothgar of the Wendol– had declared his intent to destroy the hive, and to eradicate the Tyranids– as well as the interceding Aeldari and T’au– in the bargain. The fact that he was also going to kill millions of non-combatants seemed lost on him, despite the fact that the Space Wolves were renowned for their concern for civilian life.
Cervantes had tried to reason with Hrothgar, to make him see the madness of his actions. The Space Wolf had spat every entreaty back in his face, declaring him to be a mindless puppet of not only the Inquisition, but also of the Aeldari who were manipulating Inquisitor Zao.
“They are using you!” Hrothgar had roared. “They are USING you!”
Not for the first time, Cervantes wondered if that was true as he walked up the embarkation ranp towards his team’s Corvus Blackstar. In the distance, he could see T’au dropships ascending into low orbit. Their Commander, clad in the blocky crimson armour of his particular Sept, flashed Cervantes the hunter-salute of this kind– a gesture that Cervantes did not deign to answer– before climbing into his vessel and blasting skyward. The Aeldari had already departed, retreating back into their webway portals with nary a word. With the Tyranids defeated, the xenos had no further interest in Inverius…for now, at least.
Not that it was much of a victory: billions were dead, the city and its infrastructure were in ruins, and Imperial strategos were calculating that it would be decades before all of the damage could be fully repaired. It had been a costly battle, one where the Deathwatch had lost many battle brothers…and where their honour itself had been deeply stained by unconscionable deeds.
As he strode up the ramp, Cervantes spotted a medicae-bed mounted on a hovering repulsor unit being pushed by several black-clad Inquisitorial agents up towards a waiting gun-cutter. Wordlessly, Cervantes quickened his pace to intercept the medicae unit. On it, Inquisitor Zao, lay, shorn of her armour and affixed to several bronze devices that pumped her frail body full of life-preserving alchemy. She had suffered several deep puncture wounds from Tyranid talons, and half of her face was covered in bandages from where it had been brutally scarred by acid. That she was still alive at all was impressive, for an unaugmented human.
“I will be forwarding my full report to the Ordo Xenos,” Cervantes said as he approached her, “as well as to my Watch-Fortress. I will not be excluding anything– not your alliance with the xenos, nor of how you pitted us against the Wolves.” It took some effort to keep some anger from his voice, but he would have been lying if he had said he wasn’t relishing this act of defiance.
The Inquisitor turned weakly towards Cervantes, her flesh pale, her one grey eye looking up rheumily at him. “I expect…no less…Sergeant,” she barely managed to croak. “I…do not fear…judgement. Not from you…nor anyone else. My actions…saved Inverius.”
Cervantes bit down a retort. As much as Zao’s arrogance enraged him, he knew, with a deep discomfort, that she may also have been right. That was what made this whole situation even more infurating. If he was absolutely honest with himself, he had had to make many similarly difficult choices what felt like a lifetime ago on Rynn’s World.
“It is for others to decide your guilt, not me, Inquisitor,” Cervantes responded. He let out a deep exhalation in the end. “Everything you did…your alliance with the xenos, your stand against the Wolves…if it was not heresy, then it bordered on it.” He gestured out to the ruins of Inverius. “Was it really worth all of this?”
For a moment, Cervantes thought he saw the barest hint of a smile in the corner of Zao’s mouth. “It has to be, Sergeant. For the Inquisition…to do what it must…it has to be.” Her face became a little more sombre. “For what it is worth…I am sorry. I never wished to force you….or your brothers…into dishonour. I am sorry…for that.”
Even in her half-dead state, and even after everything she had done, Cervantes could tell that Zao was being completely honest with him. He gave her a slow nod. “So am I.”
Zao seemed like she was going to say something more, but then her staff pushed her onwards towards her waiting gun-cutter. Cervantes stood motionless as the Inquisitor disappeared from view, before the nimble ship lifted off and jetted up into the ochre-coloured sky.
He became conscious of his brothers standing next to him at that moment. “Where to now, Brother-Sergeant?” Siddarja asked.
“Now?” Cervantes turned to face her squad. “Wherever the Watch sends us next. The Great Devourer continues to spread across the stars, the advance of the T’au continues unabated, and the Orks are spreading like a green wildfire– they say Thraka is finally returning for the first time since Armageddon.”
Wordlessly, Cervantes strode towards the Corvus, followed closely by his brothers. “The threat of the xeno has never been more active, my brothers…and no matter what, we will be there to fight it, for this is our eternal watch.”