The Reconquest of Hieros, Part 2: A Farewell To 8th

c. 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: Peace is a lie, there is only the Emperor
‘s Peace

As the crusade to liberate Hieros raged on, the Order of the Blessed Damsel’s forces pressed on against the ring of fortification networks surrounding the cathedral-hive of Lys. In particular, the Sisters focused their ire on a key missile silo under the command of heretic forces. Canoness Solemnas had managed to get into communication with the leaders of other Imperial forces involved in the crusade in orbit, and after a lengthy discussion, it was agreed that the capture of the silo, and more importantly the surface-to-orbit missiles contained therein, would be crucial for bringing more ground forces down to the planet’s surface. The Sisters of the Order accepted the task without hesitation, and upon the next solar dawn, they brought the flaming sword of the Emperor’s wrath down upon the enemy.

The enemy in question consisted of nought but Chaos-worshipping mutant tribes from the planet’s desolated hinterlands,, and mad heretics who had lived most of their lives ignorant of the Emperor’s light. Once, Hieros had been home only to the Emperor’s faithful, t millions of pilgrims, worshippers, and servants of the Ecclesiarchy joined in worship f Him on Earth. In the years since Hieros was subsumed by the Warp, however, the descendents of these faithful had emerged, utterly twisted and fallen from the Emperor’s light. Against the righteous fury of the Adepta Sororitas, such an undisciplined and faithless rabble could not stand, and they were quickly sundered by bolt and flame. Within less than an hour, the silo had been utterly purged of its heretical occupants, and the operation was a success.

Even as Canoness Solemnas and her Sisters set about fortifying the silo, consecrating it with flame and prayer, and awaiting the night’s reinforcements, however, there was still at least one hidden soul still alive in the complex– not one one of the original heretic defenders, but an Astartes infiltrator who had been performing reconnaissance upon the silo, independent of the knowledge of Imperial command. Though the Sisters knew it not, this infiltrator had already sent out an encrypted signal, requesting extraction, and now deliverance was coming for him upon wings of blood…

****

When Games Workshop announced the release of 9th edition of 40k, I couldn’t help but think that their timing was more than a little strange. After all, the world is still in the grip of a worldwide pandemic, and many players are unable to leave their homes, let alone play games with one another or go to their local game stores. Indeed, most of the games I’ve been playing have been through Tabletop Simulator (more on that in a bit). At best, most people are going to furiously collect and paint their armies, and practice on TTS, until the pandemic is cured, the Great Day of Emergence comes at last and war rages across the tabletop once more. In theory, at least.

Anyway, the fact that 8th is just around the corner gave me the prompting I needed to write a batrep of the last handful of games I played before the crisis– back when the escalation league campaign was back in full swing. Note that my notes of both of these battles were incomplete, so there will be plenty of moments in both where I just give generic summaries of what happened rather than blow-by-blow details. Anyway, without further ado, here are two further games from the Reconquest of Hieros.

GAME 1- RESCUE

The first game was a 500 point Rescue mission, with my Sisters defending against an extracting force of Blood Angels. This would be my first time playing against the Blood Angels after their update in Psychic Awakening, so I had very little idea of what to expect. For my list, I took 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
8 Arco-Flagellants
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails

Sacred Rites: Divine Guidance, The Passion

Pre-Game Stratagems: Heroine in the Making

I more or less took a variant of my standard list, with a solid line of storm-bolter armed Sisters and a unit of Arco-Flagellants and a pair of Mortifiers as backup. Additionally, I was allowed by the scenario to take a single Troops choice to act as my sentries. As the rules were not clear on whether I would be able to take any squad upgrades (and thus special weapons) on the sentry squad or not, I erred on the side of caution and just took a further 10 Battle Sisters all armed with bolters. (Note that I ran out of models, and so had to proxy a number of them with Seraphim).

My opponent, meanwhile, took the following.

BLOOD ANGELS EXTRACTION FORCE

BLOOD ANGELS VANGUARD:
Captain Drusus Bello- Angel’s Wing, thunder hammer, storm shield, Artisan of War
7 Death Company- jump packs, boltguns, 2 power axes, 1 thunder hammer
5 Vanguard Veterans- 2 thunder hammers and storm shields, 1 power axe and storm shield, 1 relic blade and storm shield
Sanguinary Ancient Vitrian Mortio- encarmine axe, Standard of Sacrifice

Pre-Game Stratagems: Armoury of Baal

All in all, a very fast, hard hitting force that would be getting up close very quickly. For his Spy, my opponent chose an Infiltrator, figuring that the extra wound would help it survive when it was finally discovered.

Captain Bello, during a time before his storm shield got nerfed.
The Blood Angels, assembled for battle.

DEPLOYMENT

The Blood Angels deployed around their Sanguinary Ancient, while Captain Bello went into reserve to deploy from the air.

I spread my Sentries out to cover as many areas of approach as possible. As per the scenario rules, all of my units were in reserve.

THE GAME

Knowing that speed was of the essence, the Blood Angels surged forwards into the missile base, special dampeners on their jump packs enabling them to close the distance quickly and silently.

Seeing one Sororitas sentry up ahead, the Vanguard Veterans struck swiftly, aiming to eliminate her before she could raise the alarm. Unfortunately, the sentry say the blurring flash of red, and instinctively fired just before she was cleaved in two by a power axe. The rest of her Sisters immediately mobilized upon hearing the shot, as the alarm was raised!
Now knowing of the Blood Angels in their midst, the other sentries all poured fire into the intruders, managing to drop one Vanguard with bolter fire.
Drawn by the sounds of bolter fire, Canoness Solemnas, two squads of Battle Sisters and the Arco-Flagellants, and a Mortifier came hurrying onto the scene. They arrive just as Captain Bello descended from the heavens upon twin jets of flame, looking for a brief moment like the blazing reincarnation of Sanguinius himself.
The Captain was soon joined by the Veterans, who formed up around their Captain, ready to take the fight to the Sororitas. (Note: I cannot remember if the Vanguard flew up first and then Bello deep struck, or if Bello deep struck first and then the Vanguard flew up by aid of some stratagem).
The Death Company, similarly, flew forwards On Wings of Fire, eager to rend and tear their foes as well. Singling out the Arco-Flagellants, the Death Company blasted down three of the murder-cyborgs with accurate bolt pistol fire.
In a wave of red, the Blood Angels crashed into the Sororitas lines. Slamming into a Battle Sister Squad and Avriel, the Vanguard and Captain Bello focused their attacks on the Canoness: despite her deft bladework, Avriel could not fend off the furious assault of the Vanguard, and was cut down by the whrilwind of crackling power blades. One of the Battle Sisters fell as well, crushed by Captain Bello’s hammer. The Death Company, however, found themselves fighting an enemy just as crazed and ferocious as them: counter-attacking, the Arco-Flagellants tore into the Blood Angels, flensing apart five of them with their penitent flails, while the Death Company, lost to the Black Rage, sundered five of the Arco-Flagellants in return.
The Blood Angels would soon discover, however, that a servant of the Emperor is not felled so easily. In what could only be called an act of Divine Intervention, Avriel staggered upright again, gritting her teeth as she bled from a great many wounds, but determined not to fall.
Knowing that to face the Blood Angels at close quarters meant death, the Battle Sisters exercised the Judgement of the Faithful and withdrew from combat. On the left flank, another Mortifier soon arrived, along with Father Gregorius, and the two penance-engines closed in on the embattled Blood Angels.
Meanwhile, yet more Battle Sisters came pouring in from reserve, forming a disciplined firing line around their Canoness. Suddenly, the Sons of Sanguinius were finding themselves surrounded.

A wave of bolter and heavy bolter fire poured into the Vanguard Veterans, cutting them all down. Even Captain Bello was not spared the firestorm, taking two grievous wounds as bolter rounds punched through his ceremonial armour.

Raising her blessed blade, Avriel led her Sisters in a charge against Captain Bello, eager to defeat this heretic in honourable combat.
Alas, the noble Canoness failed to get past the Blood Angel Captain’s storm shield, and in return, she was felled by a brutal blow from his thunder hammer. Further behind, though, the last two of the Death Company were charged by the Mortfiers and crushed utterly by their swinging flails.
Enraged by the defeat of their Canoness, the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel fought on all the more fiercely. Although two more Battle Sisters were swiftly crushed by Captain Bello’s hammer, the remaining Sisters surrounded him with slashing chainswords and combat blades, overwhelming him and finally cutting him down.
With Captain Bello dealth wth, the remaining Sisters set off in pursuit of the sole remaining member of the Blood Angels strike force– the Sanguinary Ancient, Vitrian Moratio.
Although the Sororitas chased after Vitrian, however, firing every gun they had at him, the Sanguinary Ancient stayed out of the Sororitas’ reach as he jetted from objective to objective, his armour protecting him as he tirelessly searched for the missing Infiltrator.
Jumping on top of a bunker, Vitrian effortlessly dispatched the sentry positioned on the ramparts…
…before jetting down near some industrial crates. Sister Konstanze and a Battle Squad attempted to ambush him, but again, Vitrian’s blessed armour shrugged off their bolts.
Finally, in a ruined office building, Vitrian found the lost Infiltrator, who had managed to avoid the worst of the rad-storm by hiding in the building’s sub-level.
Vitrian and the lost Reiver, didn’t have time to attempt to escape before the Sororitas began to converge on their position, the Mortifiers firing their heavy bolters as they ran.
Ducking back into the sub-level, Vitrian and his Primaris brother prepared to make their stand as the Mortifiers converged on their position.
Both Mortifers came crashing through the wall and tearing into the narrow room. Both Vitrian and the Infiltrator fought with the Savage Echoes of Sanguinius’ rage, however, and whle the Infiltrator was badly wounded by the swinging flails of the Mortifiers, Vitrian’s armour stood firm. In reply, his golden axe swung out in a great arc, bisecting one of the Mortifiers in a shower of sparks, oil and gore. Against all odds, the Blood Angels had stood firm!

Upon fighting off the Mortifiers, Vitrian engaged a teleport homer built into his armour, and grabbed a hold of the Reiver. Their mission done, the two Blood Angels were enveloped in a burst of crackling light. Before the Sororitas could close in on them, they were gone, carrying whatever secrets they had extracted back to their waiting strike cruiser.

RESULT: LOSS

Though the battle at the silo had been fierce and brutal, the Blood Angels were nonetheless able to extract the lone Reiver from the complex and escape. Incensed by what she saw as an act of treachery, Canoness Solemnas issued a formal complaint to Imperial command in orbit, demanding that the Blood Angels be made to answer for attacking her Sisters. Alas, for even though the wheels of Imperial justice move slowly at times, another, much more dire issue suddenly arose that demanded the Sisters’ full attention.

Even as the Imperial armies battled their way into Lys, a new threat had emerged from an unexpected quarter. In a sudden and precise aerial deployment, the perfidious Tau attacked the Imperial rearguard, annihilating the Imperial Guard stationed near the Kallimendes space port and occupying it for themselves, effectively cutting the Imperial armies on the central continent off from reinforcement.

As fortune– or more likely, the God-Emperor’s good grace– would have it, the Sisters of the Blessed Damsel were already in a good position to strike at the spaceport when the attack happened. A mere hour before the attack, the Sisters had been approached by Inquisitor Ariadna Zao, a veteran alien-fighter of the Ordo Xenos, just as the Sisters had been preparing for a push into Lys itself. Inquisitor Zao brought with her recently-gained intelligence of what the T’au were planning, and while Canoness Solemnas expressed her doubts and stated her commitment to liberating the shrine-city, Inquisitor Zao was adamant, and ordered the Sisters to redeploy several hundred miles south of their current position. Angry, but unable to argue rank against an Inquisitor, Solemnas complied.

Zao was ultimately proven right, as the Sisters soon found themselves as the closest Imperial forces available to retake the spaceport. Although the Sisters on Hieros’ surface had taken grueling casualties thus far and were in need of reinforcement, Canoness Solemnas nonetheless committed her meager forces to an all-out assault on the dug-in T’au positions: unless they could shift the T’au from the spaceport, the Imperial crusade on Hieros faced certain distaster.

***

GAME 2– MEAT GRINDER

After that hard-fought loss to the Blood Angels, I moved on to my next game– a 750 point Meat Grinder mission against the T’au, with my Sisters as the attackers. Once again, I this would be my first time playing against the T’au after their update in Psychic Awakening, so I had little idea of what to expect…though I knew that charging a T’au defensive position was going to be a painful experience.

For my list, I brought the following:

ORDER OF THE BLESSED DAMSEL

ORDER OF THE VALOROUS HEART BATTALION
Canoness Arviel Solemnas- Wrath of the Emperor, blessed blade, Beacon of Faith
Father Udo Gregorius (Missionary)- bolt pistol, shotgun
Ordo Xenos Inquisitor Ariadna Zao- bolt pistol, force sword, Bio-Corrosive Poisons, Dominate, Esoteric Lore, Inquisitorial Mandate
5 Battle Sisters- 2 flamers, Sister Superior w. combi-melta
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
5 Battle Sisters- 2 storm bolters
Imagifier- Tale of the Stoic, Book of St. Lucius, Heroine in the Making, Indomitable Belief
5 Dominions- 4 storm bolters
7 Seraphim- 2 inferno pistols
6 Retributors- 4 heavy bolters
Mortifier- 2 heavy bolters, 2 penitent flails
Rhino

Sacred Rites: Spirit of the Martyr, Divine Guidance

Pre-Game Stratagems: Open the Reliquaries, Heroine in the Making, Inquisitorial Mandate

For this battle, I really wanted to experiment with the Inquisition rules that had been posted in White Dwarf, and so I brought an Inquisitor along for some psychic and command point-refunding trickery. Going into the battle, though, I found myself wondering if I would have been better served taking more troops instead, given the sheer number of guns that would be pointed at my Sisters from across the board.

My opponent, meanwhile, took the following:

T’AU INTERDICTION CADRE

T’AU BATTALION
Shas’O Ser’o (Commander)- XV85 Enforcer battlesuit, 3 cyclic ion blasters, advanced targeting system, Cross-Linked Stabilizer Jets, Through Unity Devastation
Cadre Fireblade- markerlight, Puretide Engram Neurochip
5 Fire Warriors- Shas’vre w. markerlight
5 Fire Warriors- Shas’vre w. markerlight
5 Fire Warriors- Shas’vre w. markerlight
5 Fire Warriors- Shas’vre w. markerlight

FARSIGHT ENCLAVES PATROL
Commander- XV86 Coldstar battlesuit, Fusion Blades, 2 fusion blasters
5 Breachers
3 Crisis Bodyguards- 4 plasma rifles, Shas’vre with plasma rifle and airbursting fragmentation projector, Iridium battlesuit, and Reactive Countermeasures, Veteran Cadre
6 Shield Drones

Pre-Game Stratagems: Emergency Dispensation, Veteran Cadre

I was quite surprised by the presence of the Farsight Enclaves detachment in my opponent’s list, especially after he told me how they now worked. He was particularly excited to be using Crisis Suits again, and was quite happy that the Psychic Awakening update had made them useful.

DEPLOYMENT:

My opponent spread his Fire Warriors along the trench line in his deployment zone, and placed his Crisis Suits and Commanders behind th rightmost bunker. He was content to sit back and blast away at my Sisters as they came towards him.

Though I forgot to take a picture of my deployment, I had my own Battle Squads spread out in range of my Canoness and Imagifier’s auras, while the Retributors took up the rear. My Dominions and flamer-armed squad both occupied the Rhino on the right flank, and the Seraphim went into reserve.

Before the game began, I got to do a preliminary bombardment against the T’au. Crucially, the enemy warlord took a hit, and after some good rolling on my part, was reduced down to 1 wound!

TURN 1

With her suit having taken terrible damage from the Sosoritas bombardment, Shas’O Sero’O engaged her suit’s Emergency Repair Protocols, the in-built nanites immediately repairing two deep ruptures in the hull. As the Fire Warriors hunkered down behind the starport’s perimeter defences, Ser’o and her bodyguards jumped forwards, alongside her Coldstar-mounted Shas’el, seeking to eliminate the Gue’la’s mobile elements before they could close the distance.

With well-timed precision, the assembled T’au battlesuits opened fire. A kaleidoscope of plasma, fusion and ion blasts rained down upon the Rhino, punching through plating and searing away at its hull. Thanks to the range, however, only minor damage was done to the Rhino, hcih trundled onwards unlrelentingly.

Elsewhere, the Fire Warriors, at the orders of their Fireblade, opened fire on the oncoming Sororitas, and the battlefield was lit up by a wave of flashing blue plasma bolts. Though the majority of these energized bursts splashed against their blessed armour, three Sisters from the rightmost squad were punched off their feet. Nonetheless, the Sisters strode on, relentless and determined as they sung battle-hymns.

In response, the Sosoritas advanced, with the damaged unit of battle Sisters seeking the cover of the nearby ruins. On the right flank, the Morifier advanced up aggressivley, while the flamer-armed Battle Sisters and Dominions both disembarked from the now smoking Rhino.

At Canoness Solemnas’ barked order, the Sororitas return fire. the Retributors’ heavy bolters barked to life, scything down three of the distant Breachers despite their cover. Meanwhile, the Dominions load Blessed Bolts into their storm bolters and unleashed a storm of shots at the Crisis Suits…but the Reactive Countermeasures bult into the Shas’vre’s Iridium armour held strong, and only one wound was dealt to the T’au.

Raising its heayv bolters, the Mortifier blasted down one of the Shield Drones, before thundering into a charge. Although it took some damage from the supporting fire of the Crisis Suits, the Mortifier slammed into the Shield dDrones and ripped them from the air with sevral frenzied swings of its penitent flaisls, tearing all but one of them to pieces before crashing on into the Crisis Suits.

TURN 2

Not wanting to engage the enemy battlesuit at close quarters, the Crisis Team jumped back, while both Ser’o and her Shas’el edged forwards to draw a better shot on the Gue’la vehicles. Behind them, the massed Fire Warriors continued to hold their ground, content to draw the Gue’la into their massed fire as they carried out their Kauyon strategy. The only exception was the mauled unit of Breachers, who moved back into cover to avoid the Sororitas guns.

Once again, volleys of pulse fire rained down on the advancing Sororitas. This time, the fire rained more intensely, with three of the leftmost Sisters getting mowed down by the pulse fire, as well as one of the Retributors. Even as they fell, however, the Sisters clenched the triggers of their guns, blazing away even as they succumbed to their wounds, and two Fire Warriors were felled by vengeful return fire.

Levelling their guns upon the Dominions, the Crisis Suits opened fire and scythed the specialist Sisters down in a volley of plasma. Similarly, the Shas’el turned her Fusion Blades upon the Mortifier and fired, spearing the penance-engine with a superheated blast that annihilated it.

Finally, Commander Ser’O overcharged her ion blasters and fired into the Sororitas Rhino, her shots punching through its reinforced hull….though her weapons overheated in the process, causing significant damage to her suit. Though it had been razed by the deadly energy, however, the Rhino somehow remained standing, heavily damaged but still operational. (NOTE: The Commanderleft the Rhino on 1 wound remaining)

Undaunted, the Sororitas continued their relentless advance, getting closer to the T’au lines as they marched through the firestorm. On the right flank, the flamer-armed Sisters moved up to confront Commander Ser’O, while the scram of jets was heard as the Seraphim descended from the heavens, arriving behind the surprised T’au battlesuits. Taking advantage of their Deadly Descent, the Seraphim fired their inferno and bolt pistols at Commander Ser’O. Acting on its saviour protocols, the last Shield Drone threw itself between Sero’O and one of the melta blasts, while one of the Bodyguards did the same, his suit vaporized in an instant as he died protecting his Shas’O.

Drawing on her psychic abilities, Inquisitor Zao attempted to Dominate the mind of one of the Crisis team…only to find, much to her chagrin, that this T’au’s willpower was stong enough to resist her. Canoness Solemnas had no patience for this witchcraft, and, drawing the Wrath of the Emperor, she calmly blasted down both of the remaining Crisis Suits– the blessed shells of the relic pistol punched through layers of reinforced armour to find the hearts of both pilots, killing both of them instantly. Emboldened by their Canoness, the flamer-armed Sisters squad called upon a Moment of Grace, their squad leader calmly leveling her combi-melta at Shas’O Ser’O and fired. There was a searing white light, and a brief scream, before the T’au commander was vaporized.

Even as the T’au began to lose heart upon the death of their commander, massed bolter fire answered them across the battlefield as the Sororitas fired on the move. Bolter and heavy bolter rounds chewed through four of the nearest squad of Fire Warriors, and the last member of the squad immediately fell back, pulling his wounded bond-mates with him to safety.

Canoness blasts down last 2 Bodyguards; Battle Squad uses Moment of Grace to freem down Ser’o; massed fire kills 4 Fire Warriors, last one flees;

Seeing the distant Coldstar Shas’el, the Seraphim surged forth to charge the Xeno leader. Though one of their number was felled by a timely fusion blast, they nontheless swarmed the enemy leader, dealing a wound to it, though another of their number was sliced in half by the Fusion Blades in reply.

Seraphim and Battle Sisters charge Coldstar, losing 1 Seraph to overwatch; Sisters do 1 wound to Coldstar for 1 dead Seraphim back

TURN 3

Not wanting to stay locked in combat with the Gue’la, the Coldstar Commander engaged her jet pack and flew out of the melee, hiding behind a nearby ruin.

Meanwhile, at the command of the Fireblade, all Fire Warriors, and the remaining Breacher, moved forward to the edge of the perimeter to bring as many of their pulse rifles to bear on the incoming Sororitas as possible.

Once again, the air itself was lit up with furious volleys of pulse fire. One Sister from the leftmost squad was cut down, as were three of the Retributors. Once again, however, the Sisters sought vengeance, firing with their last dying breath as they fell, and their return fire struck true, felling a Fire Warrior with each shot. As the T’au firepower began to falter, the Fireblade took stock of the situation and realized she was left with just three Shas’la from one squad, two from another, and one lone survivor from another. Little by little, the T’au defensive position was being overwhelmed.


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In response, the bloodied remains of the Sororitas assault wave charged onwards, bolstered by the flamer-armed squad sweeping in from the left flank. In the far distance, another Dominion squad arrived on the field to replace those Sisters who had been lost earlier, while the Seraphim engaged their jetpacks to chase after the Coldstar.
As the Sororitas closed the distance, Inquisitor Zao once again unleashed her psychic powers, Smiting down one Fire Warrior, before a rain of bolter and flamer fire descended on the thin Fire Caste line. The Sisters’ aim was true, and one by one the brave Fire Warriors fell, until only one Shas’la and the Fireblade remained, standing defiant amidst the bodies of their bond-mates.
Their defiance did no last long, however, as the Sororitas came charging in towards their position. The last Fire Warrior fell tot he rifle-butts of the Sisters, and the Fireblade was personally cut down by the sweeping blade of Canoness Solemnas.

THE REST OF THE GAME

At this point, the focus of the T’au became one of survival, as they sought to elude the Sororitas onslaught for as long as possible until, hopefully, reinforcements arrived. The scant few Fire Warriors remaining took cover and hid. One Shas’vre was caught out in the open, however, and was quickly Smitten by Inquisitor Zao’s formidable psychic powers.
Meanwhile, as the Coldstar continued to fly away from the main Sororitas battle-line, the Sororitas continued to pursue it. Priming their inferno pistols, they sought to end this xeno’s flight once and for all…but against all odds, the Coldstar managed to duck and weave through their shots, only taking minimal damage. (Note: the Coldstar took a direct hit from an inferno pistol…and only took 1 wound, despite being in half range. I used a command point to reroll the damage…and got the exact same result, with the Coldstar narrowly hanging on to dear life)
Deciding to settle matters up close, the Seraphim charged the Coldstar…and again, failed to bring the enemy battlesuit down, losing one of their number to the fearsome Fusion Blades for their trouble. Afterwards, the Coldstar would then engage its engines and soar away from the melee, rapidly outdistancing the Seraphim.
Even as the Coldstar retreated beyond their reach, the Sororitas continued to hunt down the remaining few Fire Warriors in the spaceport. The last squad, after taking considerable fire, was charged by the remaining Retributors. Though he fought valiantly, the last Fire Warrior would finally be clubbed down after a protracted melee.
The Coldstar, meanwhile, completely circled the enemy deployment zone, taking fire from the reinforcing squad of Dominions and miraculously avoiding further damage. Seeing her force being massacred by the Gue’la, the Coldstar Commander decided to strike a blow before she fell. Flying up behind the Sisters’ lines, she singled out the enemy Missionary, and vaporized him with two well-aimed shots from her Fusion Blades.
In response, Canoness Solemnas strode towards the enemy Commander, declaring a challenge to the enemy leader in the martial traditions of her order. She holstered her pistol, intent on felling this xeno blade to blade.
And then, the enemy Commander was charged by Canoness Solemnas, Inquisitor Zao, and the Imagifier Sister Konstanze. Although the Shas’o fought valiantly, she was outmatched as Avriel’s blessed sword carved through her reinforced armour like paper, hacking her suit apart piece by piece. With the Coldstar now lying disassembled at her feet, Canoness Solemnas raised her blade in victory, dedicating her triumph to the God-Emperor of Mankind.

RESULT: VICTORY

Thoughts: Holy crap those were two really fun games, and they were both really swingy towards the end. In the first game, I knew from experience how much hurt the Blood Angels can dish out in melee, so I was really surprised that I not only managed to stand up to their initial assault, but also then managed to kill 99% of their force in a couple of turns. The fact that most of my units started off in reserve, and thus were able to avoid being charged by the Blood Angels, helped out a lot, but in many areas I simply got lucky (especially with things like my Battle Sisters managing to slap down Captain Bello in close combat)

I thought I had the game in the bag at that moment…that was, until Vitrian Moratio, the hero of heroes, single-handedly turned things around for the Blood Angels. The Sanguinary Ancient became a one-man army, effortlessly jumping form objective to objective, laughing off whatever firepower I could throw his way and staying out of reach of my assault units. In the end, he managed to find the spy, and to add insult to injury, he and the Infiltrator proceeded to demolish my Mortifiers when they finally got into close combat with him. My opponent and I were so impressed with the Sanguinary Ancient’s performance that, at my prompting, my opponent rolled randomly on the Blood Angel naming generator in Psychic Awakening to name him. All in all, this may be the most entertaining loss I have ever suffered.

In my other game against the T’au, I did not expect to win as thoroughly as I did. By rights, my small handful of Battle Sisters should have been blasted off the board by the sheer amount of firepower coming their way…and many were. The problem was, thanks to some really good rolls for Spirit of the Martyr, many of those Sisters then fired back at the T’au gunline, to surprising effect. I think I may have done more damage to my opponent in his hown shooting phase than he did to me. From there, it became a mop up as I began to overrun the T’au lines. Once again, a single, highly mobile hero nearly saved the day for the T’au by staying alive…until he made the mistake of flying his Coldstar too close to my assembled heroes, and getting stabbed down in the process.

All in all, both games were highly entertaining battles that really showcased what their perspective armies can do now thanks to Psychic Awakening. The Blood Angels have gotten some impressive boosts to their close combat ability thanks to the addition of Combat Tactics, while the Farsight Enclaves not only make the T’au much more accurate at close range, but also give Crisis Suits a new lease on life (plus being able to field multiple Commanders again gives the Tau some extra power as well…though maybe I was just lucky that I wasn’t facing a Riptide.) Both were very memorable games, and I am hoping for similarly amazing battlees when 9th edition rolls around.

Some thoughts on the end of 8th, and the beginning of 9th: by the time of writing this, most of the new rules brought on by 9th edition are common knowledge. I am excited for some of them….and apprehensive about others. In particular:

  • I am intrigued by the idea of board sizes, and certain scenarios, being tied to game size, and I approve of it wholeheartedly. In the process of playing the Escalation campaign, my fellow players and I discovered that we often had to reduce the board size for balance purposes, and that some scenarios were fairly balanced for small point levels and others decidedly were not. The fact that they are implementing a wide list of secondary objectives (similar to the ITC format) is also very exciting. Similarly, I am excited for the “Crusade” escalation system, and at some point want to try organizing such a campaign among some other players I know once I get a hold of the rules.
  • Similarly, I like the introduction of more detailed terrain rules, the reduction of overwatch to a stratagem, and the introduction of strategic reserves (I am looking forward to outflanking my Dominions again!) One of 8th edition’s biggest problems was that it’s meta quickly came to favour shooty armies while leaving melee-based armies struggling. The above three rules will not only make shooting less of a dominating factor, but wll also do a lot to help combat units actually make it into combat.
  • One thing I am rapidly discovering about Sisters of Battle is that, even at high points levels, they tend to burn through command points very rapidly. It is for this reason that I am excited, not only for a general increase in command points with the amount tied to the points level of the game, but also for now being able to generate a single command point at the start of each turn (a rule no doubt inspired by how command points were handled in Kill Team).
  • Vehicles (1) being able to move and shoot without penalty, and (2) being ablee to shoot into close combat is an interesting addition, and one that my Sisters of Battle will take full advantage of (my Drukhari, by contrast, will be annoyed that their ability to reliably move and shoot with vehicles won’t be unique any more, and wiill be further annoyed that their units with the FLY keyword will no longer be able to fall back and shoot, but then the Drukhari aren’t the Drukhari unless they are being spiteful about something)
  • By the same token, while I am not a horde player, nor do I generally field units greater than 10, I am nonetheless concerned about the blast weapon rules. As much as I like the idea of flamers becoming reliable weapons again, by the same token, I can’t help but wonder how much more difficult the game will become for Ork, Tyranid, etc players when, say, Imperial tanks can reliably fire 6-12 shots each a turn at them. Between this and the new, restrictive rules to unit coherency, I can’t help but wonder if this edition is being a little too harsh on horde units.

All in all, I am tentatively excited about 9th edition…though realistically, I won’t be able to play it with my own models until the all clear is given for the pandemic. Until then, I will simply be sitting tight, enjoying my life of working at home, playing virtually and getting caught up on my backlog of painting.

*****

Avriel’s battle-plate rattle slightly as she took in lungfuls of air, leaning on the pommel of her sword as she caught her breath. The battle she had just fought had been short, but intense: the T’au battlesuit– an enemy walker easily a head taller than even a penance-walker, with reinforced armoured places and advanced weapon and propulsion systems– had fought faster than anything its size had any right to move, and had demonstrated equally surprising bladework as it came at her with its twin blades of ionized fission, the sheer brightness of the weapons nearly blinding her with their movements. It had not fought with the elusive timidity of the rest of its race, instead seeking to cleave her apart in close quarters, blade to blade. Her armour would have been no protection against those projected jets of sub-molecular heat, and she had been forced to call upon all of her agility to dodge, duck and roll under the T’au construct’s onslaught, the sheer heat of its swings causing her to sweat and nearly pass out under her hefty battle-plate.

In the end, it had taken one, critical strike to bring the T’au leader down. Rolling under its guard she had sprang at the immense construct like a wolf launching itself at the flank of an elk, bringing her blade down in a two-handed reverse grip that drove itself through the Coldstar battlesuit’s chest, its reinforced armour no defence against the blessed edge of her blade. With a sound like thunder, it topple onto its back, and stopped moving, its fusion blades shorting out with a dry hiss. With this last T’au felled, not a single xeno remained alive in the starport. The battle had been won.

Finally catching her breath, she strode over to the fallen behemoth and gripped the pommel of her blade that still stood embedded in its square torso. As she wrenched it free, a panel on the front of the battlesuit suddenly folded outwards with a depressurized hiss. Reacting quickly, Avriel pointed her bolt pistol down at the suit’s torso even as it unfolded to reveal the cockpit within.

Sure enough, there was a T’au within the suit, nestled within a cocoon-like compartment of flickering screens and burnt-out hololith projectors, and a number of other alien devices Avriel could not identify. The T’au was clad in a form-fitting jumpsuit, and Avriel could see the grievous wound deep in its shoulder where her blade had pierced it, a wound that even now seeped blue vitae between its clutching fingers. The T’au’s round, grey noseless face was speckled with blue blood as well, a long scalplock curling down to its shoulder as it looked up at Avriel with a mixture of defiance and resignation. Avriel could see one of its hands had been reaching for a holstered pistol of its own, but it slowly drew its hand away.

“Lhas’rhen,” the alien wheezed, coughing up another fleck of blood. “Lhas’rhen’ra mont’ka.”

“What did it say?” Avriel asked, not taking her eyes off of the wounded T’au, ready to put a bolt in its skull the moment it attempted anything.

“She said ‘finish it,'” came the crystal-clear voice of Inquisitor Zao. The cowled woman was sauntering up calmly next to Avriel, looking infuriatingly nonchalant for someone standing on a battlefield. “She wants you to do what you’re going to do anyway and kill her.”

Avriel’s jaw tightened. Somehow it didn’t surprise her that this Inquisitor knew the T’au’s language. All the same…while “suffer not the alien to live” were words that she lived by, she also lived according to the tenets of the Order– tenets that had been with them since their founding millennia ago on lost Nantus. Tenets of chivalry, and codes of proper martial conduct. Tenets that, even now, in the warp-spawned nightmare of the Great Rift, she could not ignore.

Slowly, Avriel sheathed her sword. “Tell her to return to her masters,” she said, not looking at Zao as her eyes remained locked with the T’au. “Tell her to tell them of what has transpired here. Tell them that Hieros is the Emperor’s world, and so it shall remain.”

Inquisitor Zao raised a surprised eyebrow at Avriel, but nonethess turned down to the T’au and began speaking in the alien’s flowing language. The T’au blinked in surprise when she realized that she wasn’t going to die today, and for a few moments the xeno stared up suspiciously at Avriel. Then, without a word, the T’au pressed a bloodied palm against one of the flickering lights on the interior of the battlesuit.

The hatch of the battlesuit’s compartment slid shut, and the xenos construct began to hum with power. Avriel’s Sisters were suddenly around her, boltguns trained on the battlesuit as it slowly began to power upright, slowly rocking forwards on its reverse-jointed legs, sparks still flying from the terrible rent in its hull. For a moment, Avriel wondered if the T’au wasn’t going to open fire on them all in some last terrible act of spite.

But then, the battlesuit’s jets burst to life with a spear of blue flame. Its vocalizer unit crackled to life, and Avriel heard the pilot say a phrase in its alien tongue. Then, with a shockwave that nearly bowled Avriel off her feet, the Coldstar shot skyward like a bullet, quickly turning into a diminishing blue streak against the sunset sky.

“That was surprising, Canoness Solemnas,” Inquisitor Zao said as she turned to face Avriel, her expression unreadable. “I had expected you to kill the T’au then and there.”

Avriel gave a derisive snort. “The xeno fought gallantly, without brutality or artifice,” she said, as if that should have been obvious. “Besides which, I wanted to send the damned blueskins a message.” She turned and stared warily at Zao. “If you’re going to call me a heretic, Inquisitor, then so be it. I know my faith is true, even if you do not.”

The ghost of an amused smile could be seen on Inquisitor Zao’s lips. “Not at all, Canoness Solemnas,” she said. “As I said, you merely surprise me, that is all.”

The statement annoyed Avriel more than it should have. Wordlessly, she turned to oversee the consolidation of the starport…and then paused. “That last thing she said before she departed,” she asked, turning back to Zao. “What was it?”

Slowly, Zao turned to face her. Even with her face half-hidden behind her cowl, the Inquisitor’s expression visibly hardened, becoming unreadable as granite.

“She said, ‘This world is no-one’s, and if you stay, it will consume you all.”

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