The Reconquest of Hieros: Escalation League Week 1

c. Jaime Martinez and Games Workshop

Transmitted To: Canoness Superior Ursula Sevrei, Cathedrum Opus Dei, Apotheca
Transmitted By: Sister Ziriel Shylo, Order of the Inkwell, Astro-Terminus Kappa
Thought For The Day: With flame we shall churn the earth, with prayer we shall make it holy anew

Canoness Superior,

The following chronicle presents a true and accurate log of the campaign to liberate the lost shrine world of Hieros, prosecuted by a full preceptory of the Order of the Blessed Damsel, as well as various other Imperial forces, in early M42. As the God-Emperor is my witness, this chronicle shall illustrate not only the glorious victories won by the Battle Sisters of that illustrious order, but also of their grievous defeats and heroic martyrdoms, their trials and hardships, the notable heroines who led these most holy women in their crusade.

After a few days of warp-translation, transported upon the Aquinas, a venerable cruiser of the Imperial Navy, the Third Preceptory of Canoness Solemnas arrived in orbit of Hieros. Several quick augury scans of the surface showed a planet that had endured much upheaval in its time in the warp: great shrine-cities stood abandoned, ruined by age and by strife. Whole continents had been reduced to crater-pocked ruin, while in other areas of the planet, settlements had been overrun by ripe vegetation. The entire planet was laced with ghostly vox-static from intermittent background radation, and the ship’s astropath struggled to behold the surface, mumbling about how the Warp had left its foul taint upon the planet’s surface. Hieros, once a holy shrine to the God-Emperor, had been despoiled by the Great Enemy.

Canoness Solemnas would not stand for this. At her command, her Sisters prepared to make war on the surface. The Sisters were quick to discover that they were not the only ones here, however: long-range augurs detected the presence of multiple ships of the Adeptus Astartes engaged against vessels belonging to xenos races and to the Arch Enemy, while scattered vox reports on the surface picked up the sites of ongoing battles. Attempts to hail the Astartes, however, were met with silence: either the Emperor’s Angels did not notice the Sororitas, or, for whatever reason, did not deign to respond to her.

As eager as she was to get to grips with the enemy, however, Canoness Solemnas’ wise counsel, the Imagifier Sister Konstanze, cautioned her against leading an invasion blind. Taking Konstanze’s wise words to heart, Avriel Solemnas chose to personally lead a scouting force down to the ruins of one of the shrine-cities, in the hopes of gathering what information they could before returning to the Aquinas to formulate a proper invasion plan.

Little did she or her Sisters know, though, that foul, clawed things would be awaiting her and her Sisters on the planet’s surface…

*****

So, a short while after the Kill Team campaign sort of, kind of ended, one of my LGS started up a new Escalation league campaign. Each week, the expectation was that we would fight at least 3 500-point games against other players in the campaign, and depending on the results of the battle, we would acquire an amount of special “material” with which we could do things like purchase free relic slots, gain extra command points, or gain stat upgrades for our warlords or gain special once-per-game abilities that could be re-purchased later.

Because I was still eager to test them and their shiny new codex out, I eagerly inducted my Sisters of Battle into this campaign.

(Note: this battle report…and all batreps for the next little while…occurred before the current COVID-19 pandemic hit North America, forcing my LGS and several others to close. Please note as well that I will not be writing batreps of ALL of the games I played in the campaign prior to its postponement, just the most memorable ones).

GAME 1- AMBUSH

The first game of the league was an ambush mission against Ivan, a Tyranid player who had faced my Deathwatch back in the Kill Team campaign. For this mission, I ran the following:

ORDER OF THE BLESSED DAMSEL:

ORDER OF THE VALOROUS HEART BATTALION:
Canoness Avriel Solemnas- Wrath of the Emperor, blessed blade, Beacon of Faith
Father Udo Gregorius (Missionary)- bolt pistol, shotgun
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
6 Repentia
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails
Rhino

Sacred Rites: The Passion, Spirit of the Martyr

The general idea was a mobile, aggressive list was able to deliver some serious punch in close combat, while still delivering plenty of firepower. I had a long hard choice about which Order conviction I wanted to use for my Sisters in this campaign (particularly between the Bloody Rose and the Valorous Heart), but ultimately I settled on the Valorous Heart. While they increasingly seem to have become the default choice for Sisters players worldwide, I figured their ability to mitigate damage would be extremely useful for fighting the wide variety of armies I would be up against.

Ivan, meanwhile, bought the following:

HIVE FLEET NEMESIS:

HIVE FLEET KRAKEN PATROL
Vorax (Broodlord)- Resonance Spar, Synaptic Lure, One Step Ahead
16 Genestealers- 4 acid maws
3 Ripper Swarms
Exocrine- Voracious Ammunition

This would be my first time facing the Tyranids after their update in Psychic Awakening, and I had little idea of what I would be up against. I was, however, extremely daunted by the presence of the Exocrine: I had not brought an Exorcist, as I felt it would rather unfair to bring one to a 500 point game, and as a result I had little to nothing that could deal with that Exorcrine at range. Otherwise, my plan was to advance cautiously, try to use my Mortifiers as buffers against his giant Genestealer horde, and try to use my massed firepower to wipe them out (or at least soften them up for a countercharge by my Mortifiers/Repentia).

DEPLOYEMENT

Ivan placed all of his bugs at the far end of the table, looking to completely block off the exit for my poor Sisters of Battle. In particular, he positioned the Exocrine so that it would have line of sight over all of of the crates that I would otherwise be trying to take cover behind, while the Rippers moved up as a screen for the Genestealers.

My Sororitas, meanwhile, kept a close formation, with all of the Battle Sisters staying within the auras of both my Canoness and Missionary. The Moritifers and Rhino (and Repentia inside) stayed at the forefront, hoping to engage the Tyranids as soon as possible.

Before the battle began, Ivan spent a special stratagem to make the game start with Night Fight rules in place. And with that, the game began.

TURN 1

Spotting the Sororitas column advancing up towards them, Vorax sent a mental command pulsing out towards to its brood-kin, urging them to lie in wait before they pounced. Scuttling silently, the Genestealers huddled behind a pair of empty cargo containers, staying out of line of sight of the Sororitas’ guns. The Rippers, however, bounded forward in a carpet of gnashing teeth, mindlessly driven on by their hunger. Only the Exorcine remained motionless, its needle teeth permanently bared as the six eyes of its massive cannon-biomorph swivelled and fixed onto the oncoming Sororitas.

There was a terrible grinding of muscle and bone as the bio-plasmic cannon’s vents suddenly glowed with a baleful blue light. A second later, a roaring ball of blue flame was unleashed at the Rhino, burning several wounds off of its blessed hull and searing away its paint. A second later, a second blast of flame struck the rightmost Sisters squad. One Battle Sister was immolated instantly, while another died shrieking as the seemingly living plasma trailed up towards her, voraciously burning away at flesh and armour alike.

Responding to this sudden xenos attack, Canoness Solemnas ordered her Sisters into a steady advance, not knowing what xenos might be lurking up ahead in the darkness. As the remaining Sisters and the damaged Rhino advanced cautiously, the leftmost Mortifier edged up, positioning itself between the Sisters and any xenos who would dare attack them, while the rightmost one advanced as quickly as possible, looking to hunt down the Broodlord that was known to be in the area.

Seeing the distant Rippers, the assembled Sororitas mouthed prayers of vengeance, and, as one, opened fire. Despite the gloom, the air was nonetheless lit up by the tracers of bolter fire, and in a combined fusillade, the Rippers were all torn to shreds. The leftmost Mortifier also unloaded both of its heavy bolters into the distant Exocrine, but thanks both to the heavy gloom and to the beast’s thick hide, it failed to do anything other than chip away at its carapace.

Driven into a Holy Rage by the presence of so many unclean aliens, the rightmost Mortifier attempted to charge the Broodlord lurking out of sight. Alas, for all of its rage, the clanking war machine fell short of the xeno brood-leader. (Note: even with a command point reroll, the Mortifier still failed its charge)

TURN 2

Seeing that the prey had advanced right into the perfect range to pouce, Vorax sent the signal for its kin to strike. As one, the Genestealers came flooding out of the shadows, surging up towards the Sororitas column in a swift-moving tide of chitin, claws and fangs.

Drawing on the powers of the Warp, Vorax attempted to Smite down the nearby Mortifier. However, the Repentia pilot, broken and sinful even as she was, was still Pure of Will, and the power of the Hive Mind washed harmlessly against the Sororitas walker. Hissing, Vorax channeled yet more power through its Resonance Spar, and placed a Synaptic Lure upon the central-most squad of Sororitas, an impossible to resist psychic beacon for its kin to home in on.

Once again, the terrible weapon-organism mounted on the Exocrine’s back charged up power, before unleashing hell yet again. The leftmost squad of Sisters, despite taking cover, were struck by a great ball of plasma, and four of the Sisters were incinerated in that terrible blast, leaving one survivor.

Swivelling around, the Exocrine then unleashed a second blast of plasma against the leftmost Mortifier, blasting three deep burns into the hull of the penitent walker. The Repentia attached to the device screamed in rage and pain as her flesh blistered and burned, but the Mortifier remained standing.

And then, surging forward with impossible speed, the Genestealers charged, the chitinous horde attacking the Rhino, the central and leftmost Sisters squads, and the Mortifier, all at once. Such was the blinding speed of the Tyranid attack that they darted casually through all of the Sororitas’ defensive fire, and then before anyone knew it, the Sororitas column was being overwhelmed by a tide of claws, talons and teeth.

Screams filled the air as both squads of Battle Sisters were torn apart by the Genestealers in the blink of an eye, while the damaged Mortifier was also torn down, its leg actuators casually sliced open and its screaming pilot torn to pieces. Only the Rhino survived the Tyranid onslaught, even as the Genstealers tore several great gouts from its hull.

Charging into the fray to aid her Sisters, Canoness Solemnas swung out with her blessed blade, only for the Genestealers to dodge each and every one of her blows: the Canoness could only shout prayers of vengeance as she watched her Sisters being torn apart.

Meanwhile, Vorax charged the Mortifier that had attempted to attack it, easily evading the machine’s overwatch before slamming into it. Bio-monstrosity and walker collided in a tremendous clash, but the Mortifier caught Vorax by surprise, Counter Attacking with its whirling flails and raining a tremendous number of blows down on the leader-beast, crushing bone and tearing open chitin as it dealt four grievous wounds to the Broodlord. This merely served to enrage Vorax, however: shrieking as brackish ichor bled freely from its wounds, it caught the Mortifier’s arms in each of its claws and tore them off in a welter of sparks, before spearing another set of claws through the pilot’s torso. Even as the pilot spasmed and died, however, she set off the Mortifier’s auto-destruct rune: the Mortifier instantly detonated with a terrible fireball, wounding the Broodlord even further and leaving it burned, bleeding, and close to death.

At this point, the Sororitas were reeling from the Tyranid onslaught, but they were not beaten– not yet, and not by a long shot. The Rhino backed up away from the razor-sharp claws of the Genestealers, and its doors swung open, allowing the Repentia to come charging out to meet the Genestealers with chainswords buzzing. Further to the right, the three remaining Battle Sisters moved up to the edge of the ruins, bringing their guns to bear on the wounded Vorax.

Trusting in the Emperor to guide their aim, the Battle Sisters fired at Vorax. Their bolts struck true, blasting through the alien’s foul body and sending it crumpling to the ground. From a distance, though, none of the Sisters could confirm that they saw the Broodlord’s dead body… (Note: Ivan at that point was forced to roll to see if his warlord for the campaign was killed. Thankfully for him, he did not roll a 1, which meant that Vorax would be returning for future battles).

With screams of rage frothing from their lips, the Repentia charged into the Genestealers, driven into a fanatical fury by the sermons of the nearby Father Gregorius. Chainswords rose and fell, scything through clawed arms and cleaving apart chitinous bodies in sprays of ichor, and no less than 11 Genestealers fell to the Repentia’s onslaught. Such was the terrible fury of the Repentia that the Genestealers seemed to break at that moment, with many disappearing back into the shadows while others still were slaughtered where they as the Repentias surged on. At the end of it all, only one Genestealer remained, hissing in fury.

TURNS 3-5

Despite the loss of Vorax and the guiding will of the Hive Mind, the Exocrine retained one instinctive desire: to destroy the prey-creatures. Once again, it charged up its bio-plasma cannon: Canoness Solemnas’ screams for the Repentia to take cover fell on deaf ears as the Repentia were struck by a ball of plasma, five of their number vaporized as they found redemption in death. Another ball of plasma struck the Sisters who had killed Vorax, and within seconds, the three of them were incinerated as well…though one Sister, even as she was consumed by corrosive bio-plasma, still managed to turn, aim her bolter, and fire a long-range shot that killed the last Genestealer.

Knowing that it was imperative that they escape this ambush, Canoness Solemnas ordered the last Repentia and Father Gregorius into the Rhino, before joining them. Gunning its engines, the Rhino drove as fast as it could for the end of the street…but in its damaged state, it could not go nearly as fast as was needed, especially with the Exocrine now fixing its sight on it…

With a tremendous growl, the Exocrine leveled its bio cannon and fired again. The already damaged tank was finished off by the blast of bio-plasma, the front of the tank melted to an unrecognizable slag. Extricating himself from the wreckage, Father Gregorius, knowing that they had to escape and warn the rest of the Order about the ambush, ran off towards the edge of the battle grid, dragging the screaming and frothing Repentia in tow. Meanwhile, Canoness Solemnas pulled herself from the wreckage, and, staring down the beast that had killed so many of her Sisters, drew her blade and advanced upon it. Dodging its bio-blasts, Avriel charged into it and began to slash into it relentlessly, spinning to avoid its stomping feet and taking a few more pot-shots with her pistol.

After blasting a couple of chunks out of the beast with her relic pistol, Avriel charged the Exocrine, dodging its streaming bio-plasma as she darted in, hacking deeply into its legs. The beast roared in pain, and tried to stomp Avriel flat, but the nimble Canoness managed to dodge out out of the way. Of the next few minutes, Avriel attacked the Exorcine with fury, her blade slicing deeply into its flesh and her pistol bursting great chunks out of its shell. After four minutes of continue melee, the Exorcine was stained almost black from the sheer amount of ichor it was bleeding, hacked almost unto death by the furious human.

Alas, at that point Avriel heard the sound of dozens of scuttling hooves in the distance, and realized that yet more hordes of Tyranids were on their way. SHe took a glance back at the field, and at all of her dead Sisters, and realized that even killing the beast was futile at this point. Trusting that the Exorcine was too wounded to give chase, Avriel ran off to the edge of the battlefield. A deep shame burned in her at having to leave her Sisters to be devoured by the xenos, and she swore that she would be avenged upon these monsters…

RESULT: LOSS


After the disastrous ambush in the outskirts of the shrine city, Canoness Solemnas was forced to vox for reinforcements. Knowing that the city itself might likely be crawling with xenos, Avriel decided to order the bulk of her preceptory to land in the frozen hinterlands to the west of the city and try to set up a base of operations from there. Within hours, a good portion of the preceptory’s strength had been transported planetside, and at Canoness Solmnnas’ direction, they began to conduct a careful advance towards the shrine-city. It was not known how or why the Tyranids were on Hieros, but Canoness Solemnas cared not: such was her hatred for them that she cared only to hunt them down and avenge the losses of her Sisters in the earlier ambush.

As the Preceptory’s advance guard pressed carefully through the frozen outskirts of the city’s ruins, however, their long range auspex received surprising returns bearing the unique codifiers of the Adepta Sororitas. In the distance, past the snowfall, marching power-armoured figures could be seen, bearing the livery of the Order of the Valorous Heart. Even more surprisingly, these other Sisters were marching behind an angelic, golden figure, borne aloft on wings of light. The hearts of the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel lit up at the sight: not only were their fellow Sororitas here, but they were being led by none other than Saint Celestine herself!

Overjoyed at the presence of her Sisters, Avriel voxed the Valorous Heart, but was perplexed to receive no response. A second later, however, their answer came in the form of withering bolter fire from the Valorous Heart. As the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel took cover, they could now see the golden, angelic form for what it truly was: while its form was that of Saint Celestine, it was surrounded by a swirling nimbus of unlight, and unholy runes crackled upon its fiery blade. Outrageously, some daemon of the Arch-Enemy was masquerading as the Living Saint, and in so doing had somehow bewitched the Sisters of the Valorous Heart! Enraged, Avriel ordered her Sisters to engage the other Sororitas, to destroy the foul daemon and to liberate their fellow Sisters from its control…

GAME 2- RETRIEVAL MISSION

After that defeat, I nonetheless managed to acquire a free orbital bombardment card, as per the escalation league rules, so…well, there was that at least. So the next game was against Noel, another Sisters of Battle player. Neither of us had done a Sisters vs Sisters matchup before, and we were both very curious to see how this game would play out.

For my list, I brought the following:

ORDER OF THE VALOROUS HEART BATTALION:
Canoness Avriel Solemnas- Wrath of the Emperor, blessed blade, Beacon of Faith
Missionary- bolt pistol, shotgun
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
Sister Konstanze Lorr (Imagifier)- Tale of the Stoic, Heroine in the Making, Indomitable Belief
8 Arco-Flagellants
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails

Sacred Rites: Divine Guidance, Spirit of the Martyr

Pre-Game Stratagems: Heroine in the Making, Battle Rites

Pretty much the same list as before, with the exception that I had trade the Repentia for some Arco-Flagellants and an Imagifier. In particular, I was very curious to try out Tale of the Stoic in conjunction with the Valorous Heart subfaction trait.

Noel, meanwhile, brought the following:

ORDER OF THE VALOROUS HEART BATTALION:
Saint Celestine- Beacon of Faith
Canoness Theresa- Wrath of the Emperor, blessed blade
6 Battle Sisters- 2 flamers, Sister Superior w. combi-melta
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
5 Battle Sisters- heavy bolter
2 Geminae Superiae
Penitent Engine- 2 heavy flamers, 2 penitent buzz-blades

Sacred Rites: Spirit of the Martyr

The list was fairly similar to mine…except that the escalation league strictly forbade named characters until the fourth round or so, something that Noel hadn’t noticed when he had looked at the league rules. As this was a friendly game, however, I was fine with him using Celestine, figuring it would be an interesting challenge to take down one of the Sisters’ most potent characters with Sisters.

DEPLOYMENT

Two battle Sisters were lost to the orbital bombardment.

TURN 1

The Order of the Blessed Damsel initiated a general advance, with their Moritiiers speeding up the flanks while their infantry marched forward resolutely.

One Mortifier on the left moved up aggressively towards enemy Battle Sisters, though its heavy bolters failed to pierce their armour. Elsewhere, massed bolter fire managed to fell another Sister from the heavy bolter squad, but otherwise the the Order of the Valorous Heart suffered no losses.
In response, the Battle Sisters moved up, hit the Mortifier with a well-aimed meltagun shot, and blasted it sky high. Elsewhere, massed return fire from the Valorous Heart Sisters killed three Arco-Flagellants, and 2 Battle Sisters from the rightmost squad.
The False Saint, meanwhile, advanced up towards the Blessed Damsel’s main battle-line, accompanied by her faithful Geminae. Gripped by Holy Rage, Celestine charged both Sister Konstanze and the leftmost squad of Sisters, her Ardent Blade effortlessly chopping the Imagifier down as well as one Battle Sister.

TURN 2

As the Battle Sisters disengaged from combat with the false saint, the Arco-Flagellants sprinted towards her, kill-commands reverberating through their pacifier helms as they charged up busszaws, electro-whips and hydraulic claws to slay this apparent heretic. Elsewhere, the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel all moved up into firing range, as the firefight between them and the Sisters of the Valorous Heart intensified.

The Sisters who had disengaged from the fight against Celestine exercised their Divine Judgement and blasted down two of their opposite number, while Avriel personally drew the Wrath of the Emperor and executed the Geminae with two well-placed shots. Elsewhere, the rest of the Sisters and the last Mortifier poured shot after shot into the Penitent Engine, but despite the use of blessed bolts, they only managed to deal four wounds to the Engine, leaving the crazed thing still standing.

Screaming in incoherent rage, the Arco-Flagellants charged into Celestine, taking one wound to the flames of the Ardent Blade. Saws, flails, and claws tore through her blessed armour, and with a deathly shriek, the thing that had been masquerading as the Saint dissipated in a burst of light, leaving the battle completely.
(Note: through some very lucky rolling, the Arco Flagellants managed to kill Celestine in one go. Noel then rolled to resurrect Celestine…and rolled a 1. He then used a command point to reroll the dice…and got another 1! As this is the nightmare of every Sisters of Battle player, he had my deepest sympathies, and to his credit he took it in stride)

Meanwhile, the Mortifier charged into the Penitent Engine, and there was a great crash of metal on metal as the two Ministorum walkers collided. Counter-attacking, the Penitent Engine carved deeply into the Mortifier, shearing through its armour and sawing it, and its pilot in twain. Even as the Mortifier came apart in a shower of sparks and blood, however, its auto-destruct was triggered, and both it and the Penitent Engine were annihilated in a spectacular fireball.

Seemingly undaunted by the loss of the False Saint, the Sisters of the Valorous Heart contininued their advance, trading fire for fire. The leftmost squad of Sisters fired their storm bolters into their opposite number, shredding two of them, while the rightmost Sisters of the Blessed Damsel also took two casualties. Striding towards the middle Sisters on the objective, Mother Theresa blasted down one of them with her own relic bolt pistol.

Deciding to take out the enemy leader personally, Mother Theresa charged Avriel. Sparks erupted as their blades clashed again and again, with Theresa managing to deal a grievous wound to Avriel. In exchange, however, Avriel moved too fast for Theresa to follow, getting two slashes past her opponent’s defenses and cutting her down instantly!
Elsewhere, the last two Valorous Heart Sisters in the centre charged their counterparts, but neither pair could hurt the other.
The state of the field, at the end of turn 2.


TURN 3

With the enemy leader having been dealt with, Avriel stalked towards one enemy squad holding an objective, and blasted one of them down with her relic pistol.
Elsewhere, Father Gregorius and the Arco-Flagellants moved up to deal with the Sisters locked in combat…
What little other firepower that could be brought to bear did no damage to the Sisters of the Valorous Heart. At this stage, the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel contented themselves with holding objectives.
Charging in, Avriel managed to kill only one of the enemy Sisters squad, though she took no damage back in return. The Arco-Flagellants, meanwhile, descended on the Sisters fighting in the centre, and two both of them them limb from bloody limb.


Having sustained unacceptable losses, the Sisters of the Valorous Heart finally broke into a retreat, ceding the battlefield to their rival Order. Perhaps at this point, whatever control the False Saint had been exerting on them had faded, or perhaps they realized the heresy inherent in fighting fellow Sororitas. Regardless of the cause, this minor war of faith had ended. (At this point, Noel conceded)

RESULT: VICTORY!

With the destruction of the false saint, the Sisters of the Valorous Heart were ultimately driven back after several more minutes of intense fighting. Though it still could not be determined if the other Sororitas had been corrupted, or had merely been beguiled by the daemon, Canoness Solemnas nonetheless did not order her forces to give chase: enough Sororitas blood had been spilled this day. Consolidating their forces, the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel set up a forward base camp on the city outskirts, and, under while maintaining a heavy vigil, held a mass under Father Gregorius of the Ecclesiarchy. While the Sisters were still in low spirits after having had to battle their fellow Sororitas, Father Gregorius preached that this day was the beginning of a long road to liberating Hieros– a road that would be long, and wrought with hardship and sorrow, but at the end of which was grace. His sermon did much to lift the Sisters’ spirits, and on the morrow they set about their task with renewed purpose.

That purpose would come to face yet another test, however, as they pushed into the city’s outskirts. As the first armoured columns moved into the abandoned streets, the air was filled with the screams of shellfire, and the first transports went up in gouts of flame. As the Sisters took cover, the roar of dozens of guttural voices could be heard, and suddenly a great wave of Orks came pouring out of the ruins up ahead, the concealed artillery of the Greenskins now revealed in the upper levels of hab-blocks. Disgusted that the Orks would dare defile a holy city with their presence, Canoness Solemnas gave the order to counter-attack, and battle was soon joined….

GAME 3: THE SCOURING

My final game of that week was against Andy and his Orks. I was a good friend of Andy’s, and had previously played against his Imperial Guard in the final battle of the Hod’s Anvil campaign. This time, he was fielding his Orks for the first time in a long time. (Note: this battle took place before Psychic Awakening: Saga of the Beast was released with all of the updates for the Orks).

I brought the following:

ORDER OF THE BLESSED DAMSEL

ORDER OF THE VALOROUS HEART BATTALION:
Canoness Avriel Solemnas- Wrath of the Emperor, blessed blade, Beacon of Faith
Father Udo Gregorius (Missionary)- bolt pistol, shotgun
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
Sister Konstanze Lorr (Imagifier)- Tale of the Stoic, Heroine in the Making, Indomitable Belief
7 Seraphim- 2 inferno pistols
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails

Sacred Rites: Spirit of the Martyr, Divine Guidance

Pre-Game Stratagems: Heroine in the Making

Andy, meanwhile, took the following:

WAAAGH! FIXZITT

DEATHSKULLS SPEARHEAD:
Big Mek Wuzzat FixxZitt- Headwoppa’s Killchoppa, kustom force field, Follow Me Ladz!
28 Ork Boyz- 8 shootas, 2 big shootas, Nob w. power klaw
Deffdread- 2 big shootas, 2 dread klaws
2 Big Gunz- kannons
2 Big Gunz- kannons

Since the campaign organizer was fine with the use of Legendary units, Andy was bringing both a (then)-defunct Big Mek with a kustom force field, and several batteries of Big Gunz. My main concern, of course, was the giant mob of Orks Boyz: at 500 points, that one unit outnumbered almost my entire army, and I was doubtful I had enough firepower to deal with all of those Orks.

DEPLOYMENT:

The Ork Boyz and Deffdread all clustered around the Big Mek and his kustom force field.
The Big Gunz were positioned on the flanks for enfilading fire into the Sisters.
In response, the Sisters deployed in a stalward battle-line around their heroes, with the Mortifiers all positioned on the left flank and the Seraphim in reserve.

TURN 1

At Avriel’s shouted command, the Sisters advanced as one, moving into bolter range of the Ork horde. As vast as the green tide was, they knew that if they were to win this day, they would have to thin the greenskins’ ranks as much as possible. Sister Konstanze strode fearlessly amongst them, the reliquary of St. Germaine held high, while on the left flank, the Mortifiers loped forward, the Repentia within eager to meet their ends to this vast green tide.

As one, the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel raised their bolters and opened fire. Tracers lit the air, but the Ork Big Mek, Wuzzat Fixzitt, merely cackled as the rain of shells pattered off of his kustom force field: only two of his Boyz were unlucky enough to be blasted down by the bolters. Both Mortifiers, sensing a worthy opponent in the Deffdread, turned their heavy bolters on the looming brute and let rip. High-calibre bolts thudded against the reinforced armour plates of the Ork walker, punching two deep holes in its hull. Not enough, sadly, to slow the clanking beast.

Seeing the Sisters moving up to meet them, the Orks decided it would be rude to not respond in kind: the Orks surged forward in a green tide, accompanied by the clanking Deffdread. The Grots, however, stayed comfortably out of bolter range of the Sisters, and snickered as they readied their kannons to fire.

And with that, the air was torn apart by howling shells and crisscrossing bullets as the Orks unleashed a firestorm of their own. The centre most squad of Sisters was pounded by Orkish artillery, and four of the Sisters went down, either sundered by shell fire or struck by Ork bullets. One Sister from the rightmost squad also went down to yet more shell fire.

Despite these losses, however, the faith of the Sisters remained strong, and they continued their resolute advance…

TURN 2

Undaunted by their losses, the Sororitas pressed on, edging up to get into rapid fire range of the approaching Ork horde. Flanking them, one Mortifier moved up to confront the Deffdread, while the other surged ahead of the Sororitas battle line, stomping forwards in a frenzied charge towards the green tide. The hearts of the Sisters were lifted up as they saw figures descend on the right flank on burning wings of flame. The Seraphim had arrived, and their Deadly Descent was heralded by searing blasts of melta fire that melted one Kannon and its crew to slag in an instant!

Loading their storm bolters with Blessed Bolts, the leftmost Battle Sister squad fired into the Deffdread, and their blessed ammunition found its mark, blasting four deep holes into the hull of the Ork war machine. As the Deffdread reeled, Avriel drew the Wrath of the Emperor and fired, a single blessed shell sinking through the Deffdread’s armour plates and annihilating the pilot within, sending the Deffdread toppling back in a smoking heap.

The rest of the Sororitas’ firepower, however, was a lot less impressive, as despite the stern fire discipline being imposed by Canoness Solemnas, only a handful of Orks from the large mob fell to the combined fire of the other two Battle Sister squads and the Mortifiers– the kustom force field being thrown up by Fixzitt was simply far too potent.

Screaming litanies of devotion to the God-Emperor, the nearest Mortifier hurled itself into a charge into the Ork mob, shrugging off the barrage of overwatch that met its charge. The Mortifier swung its penitent flails left and right in a great frenzy, but such were its wild, uncoordinated swings that only three Orks were felled. Invigorated by the sudden combat, the Orks swarmed in, mobbing the Mortifier and hacking into it with rusty axes and cleavers. Within moments, the Mortifier went down, its pilot hacked to death and its great metallic limbs torn apart.

Trampling onwards over the remains of the Mortifier, the Orks surged on towards the Sororitas battle-line, while behind them, the Grots once again took aim with their Kannons. For the second time in a row, the air was torn apart with the whistling of shells as the Orks answered the Imperial firestorm with one of their own. One of the Kannons was swivelled around to face the newly-arrived Seraphim, and one of the angelic warriors was blasted apart by the direct impact of a shell. Yet more Kannon fire targeted the surviving Mortifier, anti-armour shells slamming into its chassis and dealing three wounds to the walker, causing it to stagger. The Orks, meanwhile, focused their shootas on the leftmost squad of Sisters, and despite their blessed armour, three of them went down to the rain of fire.

And then, with an almighty shout of WAAAAAGH!, the Orks charged forwards in an avalanche of green muscle that slammed into two of the Battle Sister squads, the Mortifier, and Avriel herself. Although a handful of Orks fell to overwatch, it was all for nought: the last survivor of the middle squad went down to swinging choppas, as did the last two Sisters from the rightmost squad. The Mortifier was confronted personally by the Nob, whose power klaw tore the screaming pilot of the walker out of her harness and crushed her to a pulp. This triggered a dead woman’s switch, and the Mortifier exploded, killing two more Orks. Finally, Avriel, now surrounded by howling greenskins, was forced to defend against multiple foes at once. She gritted her teeth as a choppa slammed down between the armour plates of her shoulder, and she managed to kill the offending Orks in return, but she now stood alone, surrounded by a mob of roaring aliens that slowly closed in around her…


TURN 3

Knowing that she could not best the entire Ork horde by herself, Avriel exercised the Judgement of the Faithful and withdrew from combat, blade raised to ward off any Orks from rushing her. The remnants of the rightmost squad of Battle Sisters formed up alongside her and Udo, and, together, they presented one last, defiant firing line against the vast Ork tide, while Sister Konstanze moved further back to claim one of the objectives. The Seraphim, meanwhile, flew into the ruin on the right, setting down on one of the objectives as well.

Trusting in the God-Emperor to guide their arm, the Sisters all opened fire on the Ork horde, bolter shells exploding into green flesh and bursting them apart like rotting fruit. Around 8 or so of the greenskins fell to the massed fusillade, but despite this, the Orks’ fighting spirit showed no sign of wavering.

Further to the right, the Seraphim fired their meltas and fused another Kannon and its crew to molten slag, leaving their control over the objective uncontested.

Yelling for his ladz to finish the girly umies off, Fixxzitt moved up towards Konstanze and the objective she stood on, drawing his Headchoppa as he prepared to deal with this ‘umie banna-wava the proper way.

The remnants of the Ork Boyz, meanwhile, eagerly closed the distance with Avriel and her remaining Sisters, while further on the left flank, the Grots started to drag their Kannonz forwards towards one of the nearby objectives.

With a roar of gunfire and of the Orks shouting “Dakka dakka dakka” enthusiastically, the Greenskins poured fire into the last of the Sisters, gunning down one of them, before launching themselves at the Sisters, Avriel and Udo. A roared command from FixxZitt to “Get Stuck In Ladz!” the Orks attacked with a redoubled ferocity, swinging their choppas again and again into their Umie opponents. This time, however, the Emperor saw fit to smile upon his devoted faithful: for all of the ferocity of the Ork attack, only one Sister fell to the avalanche of green muscle. The Nob, eager to earn some glory by killing the Umie boss, swung his power klaw at Avriel and crushed down on her armour, dealing two wounds to the Canoness, but Avriel, bloodied but unbowed, swung back, her blessed blade relieving four Greenskins of their heads in return.

FixxZitt, meanwhile, didn’t have time to notice his Boyz’ incompetence as he swung his Headchoppa down at Sister Konstanze. To FixZitt’s surprise, however, there was a dull clang of metal on metal as his choppa rebounded harmlessly from Konstanze’s armour. Continuing to calmly recite the Tale of St. Germaine, Konstanze swung back, using her reliquary as a club and dealing a wound back to the stunned FixZitt.

TURN 4

At this point, almost all of the remaining Sororitas were stuck in melee, with only the Seraphim remaining unengaged, holding a vital objective. With Avriel badly wounded, however, the Sisters would have to rely on their faith to survive this battle.

After blasting down a pair of Orks with the Wrath of the Emperor, Avriel swung out, but managed to kill only one Ork as fatigue and blood loss began to slow her down. Her Sisters, despite being emboldened by Father Gregorius’ fiery rhetoric, failed to kill any Greenskins themselves. In exchange, however, the Emperor once again smiled upon his followers, and the Orks’ choppas once again failed to get past their armour. The Nob, meanwhile, again tried to finish Avriel off, but each strike was either deflected by her crackling sword or warded off by her rosarius.

Finally, FixZitt and Konstanze continued to duel. This time, the Big Mek managed to slash his axe across his opponent’s side, dealing two grievous wounds to her. Ignoring the injury, however, Konstanze again clubbed at FixZitt with her banner, smashing another wound into him in return.

As the Gretchin managed to drag their kannons onto an objective, the melee continued. One more Sister from the engaged squad fell, leaving only one bloody, battered survivor, but her nerve held. Once again, meanwhile, the Ork Nob swung at Avriel…and once again, found his blows warded off by her impressive blade-work and by her crackling rosarius. In reply, Avriel managed to cut down another two Greenskins. Further back, Konstanze and Fixxzitt continued their duel, with neither combatant managing to land a telling blow on the other.

At this point, the chants and prayers of an approaching Sororitas relief column could be heard in the distance. Frustrated at his Boyz’ inability to kill these last few, seemingly unbreakable, Umies, Fixxzitt called a retreat, leaving the Sisters of Battle firmly in control of most of the battlefield objectives. (Translation: we called it there, as the store was closing. At this point, though, I Andy controlled one objective, but I controlled the vital objective).

RESULT: VICTORY!

Thoughts: Well that was certainly an intense first week for an escalation campaign (one might say it escalated quickly…heh heh…no? Oh, fine) It’s hard coming up with an apt summary of three games’ worth of mistakes, successes and weird tactical oddities, so I will just put it all down in point form below.

  • In the first game, my biggest and costliest mistake was not using Purity of Faith to deny Synaptic Lure. Getting this power off ultimately allowed Ivan to make a massive multi-charge with his Genestealers, despite me positioning one of my Mortifiers to block them, and it ultimately ended with most of my force being destroyed by them in one turn. I’m honestly impressed that I managed to claw my way back from that disaster with my Repentias’ devastating charge, but unfortunately by that point the damage had been done.
  • I also had no counter to Ivan’s Exocrine. That monster was able to comfortably stay at range and inflict significant losses on me with its bio-plasma cannon (and the mortal wounds inflicted by its Voracious Ammunition made it even nastier!) Although Avriel managed to kill it almost to death by the end of the game, by that point it and the Genestealers had already killed off most of my force.
  • Ultimately, if I were to re-fight that game, I would have been more cautious about the Genestealers, tried to use LOS-blocking terrain more, and advanced both of my Mortifiers directly in front of the Genestealers: while I would undoubtedly have lost both walkers, it would have prevented the Genestealers from pulling off a massive multi-charge like they did. Alternatively, I would have brought an Exorcist to deal with the Exocrine, because if Ivan was going to bring a massive gun-beast at 500 points, it would only be fair for me to bring one of mine.
  • In the second game, I got absurdly lucky when Noel rolled a 1 twice to bring back Celestine. Had she lived, then she would most likely have gone on to carve up a good chunk of my force, and the game would probably have been a lot closer than it had been. Ultimately, though, once he lost Celestine and his Canoness, the writing was pretty much on the wall.
  • The only other thing I can say is that this was an interesting example of a Sisters vs Sisters game, with both armies being fairly resilient and both armies getting into mid-range firefights with each other. There was plenty of Faith being used back and forth across the game as well, which did a lot to keep some units on both sides alive in this game.
  • In the final game, again, I got absurdly lucky, as Andy’s dice abandoned him in the crucial final moments of the game as his Boyz failed to kill my Canoness or last Battle Sisters. With my Seraphim camping on a vital objective, his inability to shift the last of my Battle Sisters prevented him from going after them. That being said, this game highlighted the strength of the Orks at 500 points, namely their ability to bring a crazy number of bodies at a low points level (in other games, Andy also made judicious use of the Green Tide stratagem to simply bring in a fresh wave of Orks at opportune moments).
  • Again, if I were to replay this game, then instead of charging my one Mortifier into the Orks all by itself, I would have either (1) hung back with both Mortifiers to present a possible counter-charge, or (2) positioned the Mortifier directly in front of the Ork mob so that they would either have to charge it or move around it– either way it would block them from charging my Battle Sisters for a turn, and give me time to pump more shots into the Boyz.
  • Ultimately, in all three games, I learned more and more about the Sisters’ playstyle in the new codex, particularly how vital it is to keep my squads in range of aura buffs, how useful a sacred rite Spirit of the Martyr is, and above all, how wonderful Repentia and storm bolters are (with storm bolters, in particular, my small number of Sisters ended up pumping out an absurd number of shots, and were able to seriously threaten vehicles and characters with Blessed Bolts).

With two wins and a loss thus far, I waited to see how I would fare in round 2 of the league….

****


After almost an hour of intense battle, the Orks were finally driven back. Though the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel had suffered intense losses, their determination and courage held the line long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Canoness Solemnas had personally fought as though possessed by the Emperor’s indomitable spirit, fighting alone amidst a tide of Orks despite her numerous wounds. Against such faith and fury, the Orks could not stand.

In the aftermath of the battle, the remnants of the Ork horde were burned so that their spores would not spread, and the dead were given their last rites. The first forays onto Hieros had been bloody, and already many good Sisters had been martyred in this expedition. Despite these setbacks, however, Canoness Solemnas was determined not to stop. The campaign had just begun, and she would reclaim Hieros for the God-Emperor, or she would perish trying…

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