Battle Report #10: The Reckless Lady

The mood was a surprisingly peaceful one, Merced Tarquan thought to herself as she knelt for her midday vigil. An early spring snowfall was sending flakes spinning down delicately from the heavens, covering the ground around the old manufactoria ruins in a thin patina of hoarfrost. In the background, the eccesiastical choir of St. Kiodrus’ Abbey on Hesperix sang on the vox-caster Merced had set on the nearby table, adding to the air of perfect tranquility in this otherwise desolate place with a pitch-perfect sonata. Even the firing drills of Merced’s Sisters in the distance did nothing to distrub feeling– indeed, the precise, booming cracks of the distant bolter rounds served as a background percussion to what seemed like a perfect symphony, in praise to the God-Emperor and the perfect beauty of His Imperium.

One almost would have forgotten that there was a war going on.

It had been only a little more than two days since that terrible battle at the Cathedral of Saint Letitia, where the Order of the Blessed Damsel had narrowly repulsed an attack by the Praetorian Guard sworn to Arch-Confessor Lestrad. In the aftermath of that terrible battle, after Sister Shylo of the Dialogus had uncovered the texts of St. Letitia, the Canoness Superior had called for a cease-fire with the Praetorian forces, so that the findings in the text could be studied and disseminated. The Praetorian second-in-command– who, apparently, was the sister of the woman who had died leading the first assault– had agreed to the truce, though Merced had been present at the negotiations, and she could not have failed to detect the bitterness in the Praetorian commander’s voice on the vox.

Even so, the Praetorians had been honouring the truce, and, at least for now, the guns had fallen silent as the Dialogi dispersed the truth of the new-found texts to the populace of Apotheca, who by this point had been left shell-shocked and displaced by the civil war that had ravaged their homeworld. The leaders of the two warring factions, Cardinal Boras and Arch-Confessor Lestrad, were already railing bitterly against this, with Boras demanding that the Sororitas attack the Guard and Lestrad no doubt doing the same to the Praetorians. Those two clergymen could complain all they wanted, Merced thought: their petty squabbles were nothing against the holy word of Saint Letitia.

Finishing her vigils, Merced did the sign of the aquila as she stood up from where she knelt. In the distant, the main city district of Neodamme could be seen across the snow-covered flatlands. Canoness Superior Sevrei was nothing if not prudent, and she had had the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel expand their perimeter around the Cathedral of St. Letitia, placing Merced and her commandery directly across from where the Praetorian forces were encamped in the inner city. Merced understood all too well the value of caution, but even so, for the first time in a long time, she held out the hope that this pointless civil war could finally end: it was ridiculous, after all, for loyal servants of the Emperor to be fighting one another when they should have been taking the sword to the hated forces of Chaos instead. Provided, of course, the Praetorians continued to see reason.

As if in response to her thoughts, a sudden sound growled to life from the distant horizon. Merced tensed at the sound. She knew that noise all too well. It was the same, distant sound she had heard two days ago, just before the battle at the Cathedral: it was the sound of tank engines revving up.

She turned off the vox-caster, silencing the choral background music, and flipped on the comm bead of her armour. “Sister Ardanna,” she voxed, “I need an augur scan at five o’clock, immediately.”

She didn’t have to wait long for a response. “I’m getting multiple long-range returns, Canoness,” came Sister Ardanna’s reply from the outpost’s vox-station. “It looks like dozens of vehicles and hundreds of infantry, all headed our way!”

In the distance, Merced could already see the distance clouds of smoke exhaust confirming Ardanna’s scans, as well as the distant, boxy shapes of approaching Leman Russ tanks, all in the red livery of the Praetorian Guard.

Cardinal Lestrad must have finally convinced the Praetorians to attack, she realized. Either that, or the current commander of the Praetorian regiment wasn’t going to let her sister’s death go unavenged.

“So much for the truce,” Merced spat, before opening a wide vox net to her commandery. “Sisters, to arms! Prepare to repel an attack! No matter what, we must hold the Praetorians off!”

****

So, a long while back (before the current COVID-19 crisis, at any rate), I got a rematch in against Michael and his Praetorians. This time around, we were doing a 1500 point game, as Michael was keen to see whether 1500 could become a new standard points level over 2000. I, for one, was also keen to test out the Sisters of Battle further, as this would have been my second ever game with the new Codex (before I joined the escalation league, at any rate)

For the game, we rolled randomly in Chapter Approved and ended up playing The Four Pillars. For my list, I brought the following:

ORDER OF THE BLESSED DAMSEL:

ORDER OF THE ARGENT SHROUD BATTALION:
Canoness Merced Tarquan- Wrath of the Emperor, blessed blade, Beacon of Faith
Missionary- bolt pistol, shotgun
7 Battle Sisters
7 Battle Sisters
6 Battle Sisters
Imagifier- Tale of the Stoic, Indomitable Belief, Heroine in the Making
Dialogus
5 Dominions- 4 storm bolters
5 Dominions- 4 storm bolters
7 Seraphim- 2 inferno pistols
Mortifier- heavy bolters and penitent flails
Mortifier- heavy bolters and penitent flails
Immolator- dual multi-meltas
Immolator- dual multi-meltas

ORDER OF THE VALOROUS HEART SPEARHEAD
Canoness- bolt pistol, power sword, rod of office
Exorcist- Exorcist missile launcher
Exorcist- Exorcist missile launcher
Exorcist- Exorcist missile launcher

The general idea was to bring as much anti-tank as I could in this list, since Michael had intimated that he would be bringing a super-heavy tank to this game. Beyond that, pretty much everything in this list was an experiment: I had already tried out the Valorous Heart, and now wanted to give the Argent Shroud a try (as well as Mortifiers, melta Immolators, and storm bolter Dominions). The general idea was that my tanks would (hopefully) kill his, while my quickly-advancing troops would grab objectives as soon as possible.

Michael, meanwhile, brought the following (note: this list was made before the Astra Militarum got their update in Psychic Awakening):

12th PRAETORIAN REGIMENT

TALLARN SUPREME COMMAND DETACHMENT:
Lady Commissar Cecilia Sharpe- bolt pistol, Blade of Conquest, Grand Strategist
Merlin (Primaris Psyker)- Nightshroud, Psychic Maelstrom
Major Glyn Mawr (Tempestor Prime)- power fist
Banesword “The Reckless Lady”- lascannon and heavy flamer sponsons

TALLARN BATTALION DETACHMENT:
Company Commander- laspistol, chainsword
Tank Commander- turret-mounted Punisher cannon, hull lascannon, sponson multi-meltas, hunter-killer missile
Infantry Squad- lascannon, Sergeant w. power sword
Infantry Squad- lascannon, Sergeant w. power sword
Infantry Squad- lascannon, Sergeant w. power sword
8 Tempestus Scions- 2 plasma guns, Tempestor w. bolt pistol and chainsword
Techpriest Enginseer
Leman Russ- hull heavy bolter
Leman Russ- hull heavy bolter
Leman Russ Demolisher- hull and sponson heavy bolters, heavy stubber

Some pics of his amazing models:

Like last time, Michael was running a large number of tanks, supported by a decent amount of infantry…and of course, a Banesword, all at 1500 points. Definitely not a list to be taken lightly.

DEPLOYMENT:

The Praetorians set up in a spread out deployment, hugging cover where possible, and already within a brisk walking pace of one of the objectives. The Banesword, however would be outflanking thanks to the Tallarn Ambush stratagem.
The Praetorian armour was sligned along one flank, ready to drive forwards in a strong left hook at the Sisters’ lines.
The Sororitas, meanwhile, didn’t have that much cover the claim, and so instead positioned themselves so that they were ready to surge forward at a moment’s notice.

Unfortunately, the Praetorians then seized the initiative…

THE GAME

Going first, the Praetorian armour rumbled to life, their tanks moving up to begin shelling the Sisters.
The leftmost Immolator was caught out in the open, and, between the shelling of three tanks, was quickly blasted down.
A Mortifier joined the Immolator soon after as it was annihilated by a pinpoint lascannon blast. Throughout the rest of the bombardment, a few Battle Sisters were lost to long ranged fire, as, tragically, was an entire squad of storm bolter-armed Dominions.

In response, an Immolator and its attendant Battle Sisters moved up aggressively, as did the Mortifier. Otherwise, the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel advanced in a white and blue line, their tanks angling to get better shots at their Praetorian counterparts. Rockets shrieked through the air, slamming into armour plates and rupturing metal, but while some of the Praetorian tanks took heavy damage, none were incapacitated.

Unperturbed, the Praetorians continued their steadfast, their infantry getting into objectives while their tanks ground forward relentlessly on the left flank. On the right flank, meanwhile, the Sisters thought they had a slight advantage…until a distant rumbling could be heard.

Outflanking onto the battlefield thanks to the Praetorians’ deft manouvers, the Reckless Lady made her grand entrance directly in front of the advance Sororitas armour.
So awed were the Sisters by the spectacle of a super-heavy behemoth outflanking into view that they almost didn’t notice the enemy Scions deep striking near one of their Exorcists, accompanied by the now infamous Major Mawr.
A shot of the battlefield.

Once again, the Praetorian guns roared to life, bolstered in no small part by the mighty quake cannon and secondary weapons of the Reckless Lady. Tthe sole last Mortifier was wrecked as well, and again, Battle Sisters all across the central line fell to random fire being peppered at them. The right flank Immolator drew a particularly intense amount of firepower, but emerged from the rain of shells and las-beams barely intact on 1 wound left, chugging onwards with relentless determination.

On the right flank, meanwhile, a combination of fire from the Reckless Lady and the Scions quickly wrecked one of the Exorcists, while the Lady’s mighty Quake cannon inflicted severe damage on another.
Fixing bayonets, the Scions charged into the Exorcist, hoping to tie up its shooting for a turn.
In response, the Exorcist withdrew from combat, and Canoness Merced and her attendant Sisters moved up to deal with the Scions. Elsewhere, the last Immolator moved up as much as it was able towards one of the objectives.
Meanwhile, the Battle Sisters disembarked from their stricken Immolator and advanced up to grab an objective.
Meanwhile, angelic singing could be heard in the distance as the Seraphim arrived on tongues of flame to aid their Sisters.
Alas, the Deadly Descent of the Seraphim was for nought, as their inferno pistols could not even damage the Reckless Lady, though their bolt pistols still rained death upon the nearby Praetorian infantry.
Emboldened by the Seraphim’s arrival all the same, one Exorcist managed to bring the Demolisher down to 1 wound. Alas the nearby Techpriest would later repair some of that damage.
Another Exorcist angled to get line of sight to the Reckless Lady, while a nearby unit of Battle Sisters held their objective. Armour-piercing rockets struck the Reckless Lady several times, but did little damage.
After hosing them down with bolter fire, the Battle Sisters and their attendant Missionary charged the Scions.
Meanwhile, the Battle Sisters who had disembarked the damaged Immolator advanced forwards, shot, and charged a unit of Praetorian infantry holding the objective. Colonel Sharpe intervened, and while the Sisters lost one to overwatch and one to Sharpe’s blade, they still bludgeoned down the last of the Guardsmen on the objective.
In the Praetorian turn, much return fire lashed out at the newly arriving Seraphim, lasfire and shells taking out four of the angelic Sisters. Elswhere, the last Immolator was finally destroyed, spilling out its occupants.
Determined to end the thread of the Seraphim here and now, the Reckless Lady rumbled forwards, and two Seraphim were crushed under its tracks
Falling out of combat, Sharpe ordered a nearby Infantry squad to fire in two ranks in the proper, Praetorian fashion. Alas, the storm of lasfire bounced off of the Sisters’ blessed armour, and they remained in control of the objective.
The melee ground on as Major Mawr joined the fray. Little by little, however, the Scions were being ovewhelmed.
The Sister’s backfield, with one Imagifier holding up her standard and telling great, inspirational tales of stoic resolve to the nearby Battle Sisters and the Exorcist crew.
Flying away to avoid being crushed under the tremendous bulk of the Reckless Lady, the last Seraphim flew up so that she was face to face with Colonel Sharpe and her attendant Astropath. With searing blasts of light, the brave Colonel was reduced to atoms in moments.
An overview of the battlefield at this point. Canoness Tarquan had joined the fight and cut Mawr down, ending the threat of the Scions. The Battle Sisters from that fight then moved up to go for an objective, before it was too late…
The following turn, however, the last Seraphim met a firing squad and died. The remaining Battle Sisters were then wiped out by a combination of fire from the Reckless Lady and the Punisher.
On the right flank, the Sisters holding that objective soon found themselves exposed to yet more Praetorian armour, and before long they were blasted off the icy plain.
As the battle wound to a close, the last two Exorcists were blasted apart, and the remaining Battle Sisters managed to grab an objective…just in time to see the Reckless Lady rumble towards them, levelling its quake cannon at them. There was a tremendous boom, and the Sisters quickly joined the ranks of martyrs.

Having taken unsustainable losses, the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel bitterly quit the field at that point, leaving the battlefield under the control of the apostates. (I had been reduced to just 4 characters at this point, and promptly conceded).

RESULT: LOSS

THOUGHTS: Well, that didn’t go so well. Looking back at this game, a lot of my loss hinged around the fact that I had mis-deployed, banking on the fact that I would be going first and able to cross the field very rapidly. Unfortunately, when Michael seized the initiative, he was able to catch much of my army flat-footed, and from that point on it was an uphill struggle for my poor Sororitas– one that wasn’t helped by my Exorcists’ seeming inability to wound his tanks, or the sudden arrival of the Reckless Lady spelling doom for my right flank.

In all honesty, I should have ignored the Reckless Lady in this game and instead sent my Seraphim to deal with his tanks on the left flank, or to try to murderize his infantry in the centre. As Michael also pointed out, I really should have deployed more of my stuff in cover, in anticipation of having the initiative seized on me. Unfortunately, aside from my scattered elements on the right flank, my entire army was unable to really advance up for most of the game, especially since my Battle Sisters had to spend several turns dealing with his Scions– a distraction that ultimately left them sitting ducks for Michael’s armour.

Some other thoughts, based on this game:

  • The Argent Shroud is a subfaction that I really need to experiment more with, as I really don’t think I played them to their strengths in this game. One thing I will definitely take next time around are Retributors– the multi-meltas of my heavy weapons girls were sorely missed in this game.
  • Even with the protection of a nearby Imagifier, Battle Sisters on foot just cannot stand up to the heavy firepower that the Imperial Guard can bring to bear. More transports may be needed, I think (or more Sisters to absorb casualties)
  • I think I misused the Dominions in this game: I should have advanced them on foot into cover, and, from there, tried to mow down any Praetorian infantry trying to grab the objectives. Of course, they probably would have been battle cannoned off the board right after, though.

All in all, though, despite this being a pretty decisive loss, it was still a great game to play. Michael, as ever, was a great opponent, and I look forward to facing him again once the current pandemic situation is resolved.

******

The shell hit only a few metres away from Merced, and in an instant, her entire world became the cataclysm of geological upheaval. The snowy ground disappeared underneath her, powdered instantly by the colossal impact of the quake shell, and even as she was flung into the air, the retinal display of her ocular lens showed hundreds of minor stresses and cracks opening up on her armour as the vibration of the shockwave rolled through it. For a few seconds, there was a surreal sensation of being airborne, of the world around her having been reduced to free-floating flecks of white particulate, and of sky and ground having dissolved into a single, grey mass.

And then she hit the ground, the force juddering her armour and causing sharp pain to shoot up her right arm as her wrist broke. She heard, rather than felt, the clumps of earth crashing down against her armour, almost burying her in debris. She fought off the pain as best she could, mouthing the Fede Imperialis as she forced herself to sit up again, to face the batteflield again.

The Banesword was still coming. Churning up a frothy mix of earth and snow from its garguntuan tracks, smoke belching from its exhaust pipes, the mammoth tank was rumbling onwards towards them, its movement causing the ground to vibrate intensely. Nothing had been able to stop it, nothing the Sororitas had thrown at it had even slowed it down. With the inevitable slowness of a glaciar, the super-heavy tank had ground onwards, crushing ruined vehicles and bodies under its treads as it blasted its way through the Sororitas line.

Merced knew in her heart that they had lost here, that the line had been irrevocavly broken. Most of her Sisters had fallen, slain by delude apostates.With a hiss of pain, she forced herself upright, driving her power sword into the earth to prop herself upright as the servos of her battered armour whined.

“Withdraw,” she voxed to the remnants of her commandery. “Fall back towards the Cathedral ruins, sisters! The Canoness Superior needs to know there has been a breakthrough. She needs to prepare for what’s coming!”

“Come with us, Canoness!” came the return vox of Sister Elyse, her commandery’s Imagifier. “We can still make it out together!”

Merced shook her head, knowing that, from where she was standing, Elyse would see the motion. “No, sister. You will need someone to buy you time. Now go!”

And with that, she permanently closed the vox, not wanting to hear the arguments that she knew Elyse would make. Finally standing to her full heigh, Merced left her sword impaled upright in the earth, her other hand hanging limply at her side. Ahead of her, she could see the Praetorian Banesword rumbling to a halt ahead of her, its guns slowly swiveling to track her. Behind its massive bulk, she could barely make out the shapes of yet more Praetorian tanks and infantry advancing.

Merced took one glance back, long enough to see that Elyse and the remnants of her sisters were retreating, if reluctantly. Smiling thinly, Merced then unslung her grenade belt, flicked the pin off of one of them, and broke into a charge at the Banesword, the scream of a prayer on her lips…

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