New Adventures in TTS, Part 6: Of Flesh And Steel

c. Games Workshop

A chill wind blasted across the world’s dusty plains, causing the flesh-weave cloak that hung from Lazhareq’s shoulders to flutter and writhe as though still alive. The hungry cold had long ago scoured clean the bones of this abandoned human settlement, and now their icy bite stung into what flesh of his was exposed, but such a sensation was barely noticeable to the Master Haemonculus. His face, enclosed as it was in a faintly glowing glass helm that obscured his face utterly, was fixated upon the device clutched in one bony hand. As he watched, pinpricks of ghostlight played across the screen of the device, illuminating myriad life-signs in the distance. Life signs that had been going for far too long without the blessed kiss of pain.

Even then, Lazhareq’s attention was focused upon one prick of ghostlight that glowed more fiercely than the others. He was here. Their quarry was here.

He turned back to his servants, who all stood, stock still and statuesque against the relentless wind, unflinching even as particles of dust lashed across their helms, and airborne fragments of rock and bone tore cuts across their skin. Whether they were one of his many wraithbone constructs, or his Wrack servants, not one of them moved an iota. It wasn’t just fear, or discipline keeping them in place: it was the knowledge that, for a race as restless as theirs, waiting was the ultimate torture.

When they had last run into the mon-keigh scientist known as Cawl on Hod’s Anvil, he had narrowly escaped with his life. Now, Cawl was here again, sifting through the bones of this long-lost settlement to search for long-lost technological knowledge– such was his species’ limited imagination that they could only replicate their past glories, never create anything new. And yet, despite this embarrassing limitation, Cawl was still perhaps the greatest of his race’s minds, a polymath who had been alive for a millennium and whose mastery of gene-science perhaps rivalled that of the Haemonculi. His mind and its many secrets would be a precious thing to sift through once he was properly situated as their guest.

At a silent signal from Lazhareq, the assembled creatures of the Coven strode forward through the wind in a shuffling, relentless advance. By now, Lazhareq knew, Cawl would have detected their presence, and it would have been impolite and unprofessional to keep their quarry waiting…

So, recently, Games Workshop released a new set of rules aimed at balancing out the game as it currently is. Included in this document were sweeping rules changes for Imperial and Chaos Knights, Astra Militarum and Necrons, as well as dramatic points adjustments for the Drukhari and the Adeptus Mechanicus, the two armies with the highest win rate in the game. I might go over some of these points changes at a later date and what they might mean for the Drukhari…but for now, I figured that now is as good a time as any to start posting a bunch of Drukhari batreps from TTS that I’ve been sitting on since forever.

The following game was an Incursion battle fought between my Drukhari and…yes, you guessed it, the Adeptus Mechanicus. I ran the following list:

COVEN OF THE BLACK CIRCLE

CUSTOM COVEN PATROL (Artists of Flesh)
Master Haemonculus Lazhareq the Sculptor- Poisoner’s Ampule, Master Regenerist
10 Haemoxytes- 2 ossefactors
5 Wracks
5 Wracks
5 Grotesques
7 Mandrakes
5 Scourges- 4 blasters
2 Talos- dual macroscalpels, dual haywire blasters
Cronos- spirit vortex, spirit syphon

For this game, I went with a single faction, as I figured that a Raiding Force would be hard to do in a 1000 point game, and also because I was curious enough to try out a mono-faction Drukhari list. As a lot of people in TTS were still apprehensive about facing Drukhari in casual games, however, I decided to go for a Haemonculi Coven list– not as fast or scary in close combat as a Wych Cult list, and not having anywhere near the level of nasty firepower of a pure Kabal list, but still having a lot of durability for weathering enemy fire and standing on objectives. After filling out all of my troops slots with Wracks and a big unit of Haemoxytes, I also threw in a maximum-sized unit of Grotesques, two Talos and a Chronos (since I only have three pain engines in my actual collection). Since I still had more points, I finished off by throwing in a unit each of Mandrakes and Scourges for deep striking firepower threats with which to attack the enemy backfield (plus, I figured that winged Drukhari and a squad of Japanese horror wannabes would be right at home in an army full of demented surgery experiments).

For my subfaction, I went with Artists of Flesh from the custom Coven traits, partly because I expected to have multi-damage weaponry thrown my way, and partly because I thought it would be thematic for my Coven (which, fluffwise, uses a lot of wraithbone parts to become extra durable). My plan was simple: march up the board, and try not to die to the scary AdMech firepower.

Speaking of scary AdMech firepower…

MARS EXPORATOR CONCLAVE

MARS SUPREME COMMAND
Belisarius Cawl (Warlord)

MARS PATROL:
Skitarii Marshal- Exemplar’s Eternity
Techpriest Manipulus- transonic cannon
Techpriest Enginseer
7 Skitarii Vanguard- enhanced data tether, omnispex
5 Skitarii Rangers- transuranic arquebus, enhanced data tether, omnispex
5 Skitarii Rangers- transuranic arquebus, enhanced data tether, omnispex
5 Serberys Raiders
5 Serberys Raiders
Skorpius Disintegrator
Skorpius Disintegrator

While this list is packing a lot of firepower, it was lacking some of the scarier stuff that I had been afraid of facing– ie, no giant blobs of Skitarii, no Ironstriders or deep striking Pteraxii, and most surprisingly of all, Belisarius Cawl, who struck me as a very pricey choice at 1000 points. Still, that was nonetheless a scary amount of firepower staring me down, and those Serberys Raiders were going to be incredible annoying to deal with, as I lacked the means to simply shoot them off the board.

SCENARIO AND DEPLOYMENT:

For the scenario, we randomly rolled Forward Push, with a board full of ruined buildings. Everything of mine that could hid in buildings at the start of the turn; otherwise, I was starting behind cover where possible, with all of my Coven units huddling around to be in 6″ of the Haemonculus and his big friendly toughness boost. The Scourges, though, elected to start the game in reserve.

Similarly, all of the Admech characters hid in a building, surrounded by all of their Skitarii underlings, while the Serberys Raiders deployed on the flanks, ready to make a nuisance of themselves




For secondaries, I chose Linebreaker, Attrition and Assassination. My opponent went for Bring It Down, While We Stand We Fight and Raise The Banners High.

NOTE: For most of this game, I will be failing to mention the AdMech’s Doctrina Imperatives or Canticles of the Omnissiah. This is because I simply could not remember them each turn, and simply entrusted my opponent to keep track of what was what.

THE GAME


We rolled off for the first turn, and I ended up going first. Before hand, though, the Raiders made their pregame move like so

In my turn, all of my stuff moved up as much as possible, my Talos and Chronos moving down the flanks, my Grotesques, Haemoxytes and other Wracks all moving around the Haemonculus in the centre, and another unit of Wracks moving up the far right, hiding behind a building so they could move out and grab an objective next turn

For their part, the Mandrakes disappeared back intot he shadows, but I was now holding a lot of objectives on my side (at this point I realized I should have gone for Dominion as a secondary, oh well)
In shooting, the one Talos that could see targeted the leftmost Skorpius….and whiffed horribly. The Talos then used Never Stationary to move back behind the wall so that it was completely out of line of sight
In the AdMech turn, the Raiders surprised me by moving back instead of moving up to make a play for the objectives. Otherwise, everything remained castled where it was, except for the Skorpius shuffing, in vain, to try to draw line of sight to my units

There was no shooting phase, and so we moved on to my turn once again.
In my turn, my rightmost unit of Wracks left the cover of the building to go grab an objective

In the centre, the Haemoxytes, the Grotesques and the Haemie all advanced up through the ruins, though they still weren’t in a position to reliably charge anyone.

One unit of Wracks meanwhile hung back to hold my home objective

With few reliable areas to land thanks to those darned Raiders, my Mandrakes popped up in the ruins as well, in line of sight and range to the leftmost Serberys Raiders.

Finally, my Scourges came down on the left flank, while the Talos and Chronos both moved up aggressively

In the shooting phase, the Chronos and Mandrakes combined to melt two Raiders and wound another. Again, though, my Talos failed to damage the leftmost Skorpius. The Scourges, to my annoyance, also whiffed, but they then used Never Stationary to fly back and grab an objective.

An overview of the board at the end of the turn (I forgot to mention earlier, but his Vanguard had moved out of the building last turn to grab his home objective)

In his turn, his damaged unit of Raiders moved up to act as a screen for his Skorpius

His other unit, meanwhile, came up to threaten my Wracks on the rightmost objective

In the shooting phase, his leftmost Raiders fired into my Haemoxytes, and killed one, but it was negated thanks to their special rule. the rightmost Raiders, though, managed to kill off two of my Wracks. Then the real firepower was unleashed: his two Skorpius combined their fire into my Chronos and annihilated it with their main cannons and missiles, while their stubbers managed to take 3 wounds off of my Grotesques. And then both units of Rangers, and his Vanguard and characters, all fired into my Haemoxytes, with the Vanguard using Wrath of Mars. When the smoke cleared, the Haemoxytes had been wiped out, and my Haemonculus had taken 3 wounds from arquebus fire.


In the charge phase, his Raiders went into my Wracks, and managed to bring down one of them for no damage in return. My Wracks held, however.

An overview of the board at the end of the turn

In my turn, the Haemonculus healed the injured Grotesque back to full health. The Talos moved towards the Skorpius, while the Scourges moved down to support them. I was hoping to wipe out the screening Raiders this turn so that the Talos would be able to charge the Skorpius unimpeded

The Haemonculus and his Grotesque friends moved up to say hi to the Vanguard

And the Mandrakes moved up to help out the Wracks

In the shooting phase, alas, while the Talos managed to put a few wounds on the Skorpius, the Scourges only killed one Raider

My Mandrakes made up for it this turn, though, with some ridiculously good shooting, wiping out the unit of Rangers sitting on the roof. As an encore, the Haemonculus unleashed the Poisoner’s Ampule on the Rangers, killing one and preventing them from being affected by Cawl’s bubble next turn.


In the charge phase, the Grotesques charged the Vanguard

The Talos were faced with a difficult decision: I couldnt multicharge both the Raider and the Skorpius, as the Raider would then use Mechanica Obliqua to fall back, and the charge would fail. Instead, I had the Talos charge the Skorpius alone. Fortune smile on me, and I rolled a high enough charge to make it into the Skorpius without contacting the Raider. The Talos proceeded to do only 6 wounds to it, though

Finally, the Mandrakes charged the Raiders. In the ensuing combat, three Raiders were torn down for no loss to the Drukhari

Finally, and unsurprisingly, the Grotesques massacred the Vanguard and consolidated into the last Raider, which did no damage

Once again, the Scourges used Never Stationary to move back onto the objective.

A view of the map at the end of the turn

In the Admech turn, the other Skorpius wheeled around to get line of sight on the Grotesques

All of the AdMech characters moved onto the bottom floor, after the Enginseer healed a few wounds off of the leftmost Skorpius

And finally, both units of Raiders fell back out of combat, with one of them moving down to threaten my Wracks sitting on the home objective

In the shooting phase, practically the entire AdMech army fired into the Grotesques. When the dust had cleared, I had lost two Grotesques and lost 2 wounds on another, as I proceeded to make a ridiculous number of 6+ saves and 5+ shrugs. The Skorpius locked up by the Talos also fired into them, but somehow did no damage
Deciding it was better to charge than to be charged, the Admech player threw the Skorpius and all of his characters into the Grotesques, and in turn my Haemonculus heroically intervened into the Manipulus. In the ensuing fight phase, one Grotesque was hacked down, however they swung back, killing the Skitarii Marshal and doing 2 wounds to Cawl. The Manipulus and Enginseer, meanwhile, only managed to do 1 wound to the Haemonculus between them, who did 2 wounds back to the Manipulus

Finally, my Talos then tore the Skorpius to shreds and piled into Cawl


At the start of my turn, the Haemonculus healed my wounded Grotesque, and the Mandrakes advanced up, hoping to get a charge on the Rangers hiding in the building

In the shooting phase, the Mandrakes fired, and managed to kill only 1 of the Rangers thanks to them getting boosted saves from their doctrina imperatives. The Scourges, at least, freemed down the last of the Raiders on the right side
In melee, the Wracks sitting on my home objective charged the other Raiders and wiped them out

The Mandrakes, however…rolled snake eyes for their charge.
In the ongoing combat in the center, Cawl did 2 wounds to the Talos and took 2 wounds in return. The Manipulus and Enginseer combined to do 1 wound to the Haemnonculus, who did 1 wound back to the Manipulus. Finally, the Grotesques did another wound to Cawl and 2 wounds to the Skorpius

Another view of the turn

At this point, my opponent saw the writing on the wall, but resolved to go down swinging. Cawl healed 1 wound off of himself. The Skorpius fell back out of combat, and the Rangers fired down into the Mandrakes, killing 1.
Then, in the big ongoing fight, the Rangers charged into the Grotesques to help out. However, they did no damage, and for their troubles lost 2 of their number, while the Grotesques also did 1 wound to Cawl. The Manipulus finally won his fight, though, smashing down the Haemonculus, and Cawl managed to do another wound to the Talos…before the Talos swung back into him and hacked him to bloody pieces in vengeance for their master.

As a grand finale, I rolled to see if my Master Haemonculus would get back up…and in a horrible anticlimax, I rolled a 1! He stayed dead!
In the end, though, my opponent called it. After tallying up the scores, I had won by a fairly significant margin

And that is why flesh is superior to steel. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

THOUGHTS

While I want to say that this victory came down to my sheer and utter tactical brilliance…realistically, I just got lucky. While the AdMech shooting phase hurt as much as I thought it would (especially with my poor Haemoxytes being obliterated in one turn– ouch!), he simply wasn’t able to kill enough of my stuff as it swarmed forwards and grabbed objectives, and he couldn’t move his own units up to contest without getting into stabbing range. Once my units started swarming his castle around his home objective, it was practically over, as the Mechanicus had nothing that could stand up to my horde of freaks in melee. For what it’s worth, my opponent was a great guy to play against, and took the massacre of his forces in great stride (and has since, apparently, revised his army to include a LOT more Skitarii).

Looking back at this game, I honestly don’t think I made too many mistakes, either, although I now wonder how this game would have played at a higher points level. To date, this has been my only game thus far against the AdMech in their current iteration, and given how they have been a boogeyman of the tournament circuit, I cannot help but wonder how I would fare against a meaner list. Then again, given that both the Drukhari and AdMech have now been severely rebalanced, I wonder how much longer either army will be considered to be a scary contender. I will simply say in closing that the Coven army build was incredibly fun to play, and gave me a very challenging, tactical game.

MVP: A lot of my units did really well in this game, but the MVP would have to be the Mandrakes, whose firepower wiped out whole units of Skitarii and whose combat prowess helped clear away those pesky Serberys Raiders. On the AdMech side, conversely, the Serberys get the honour, as their annoying “fall back from being charged” stratagem had me sweating bullets for much of the game and forced me to focus a lot of my strategy around getting rid of them.

*****

The chemical tang of burning fyceline wafted across the barren landscape as the mon-keigh tanks lay burning where they had been gutted, their hulls torn open by macro scalpels or obliterated by dark matter. All around Lazhareq, his servants were carrying out their grisly duty, harvesting the fallen for raw materials, and dragging those who still lived into stasis oubliettes, to be practiced upon later. In time, Lazhareq knew, even the simplified machine-minds of these altered mon-keigh would know pain and terror again, and they would come to envy those who had died.

But Lazhareq was not concerned with the fates of these lesser creatures at the moment. His faceless gaze was instead fixed upon the mangled heap of torn metal that lay sprawled across the base of the hab unit, leaking blood, oil and other vital fluids into the dust. Its body, once a massive, centauroid agglomeration of pistons, plugs, vials and nodes, had been sheared apart by the macroscalpels of Lazhareq’ own pain-engines, and dying flickers of power sparked from exposed joints and shorn circuitry. The only part of this ruined mass that was recognizably human– a hooded head with pallid, corpse-like skin– looked up at Lazhareq from an odd angle, breathing laboriously as its many life support units began to fail. And yet, Lazhareq did not see the familiar emotion of fear in this creature’s expression: even though this ruined Techpriest was dying, and mere minutes away from being bound away to an eternity of torment, Lazhareq did not see an ounce of terror in the mon-keigh’s one unaugmented eye.

No, if anything, this Techpriest was looking up at him with curiosity…and admittedly, curiosity was an emotion that Lazhareq could appreciate.

“Intrig-g-ging,” Cawl said, his mechanical voice skipping and stuttering as his vocal unit malfunctioned. “I had ant-t-ticipated a 65% probab-b-bility of encountering your kind here on this desolate rock, but I recognize your insig-g-gnia from Hod’s Anvil. It must be s-s-surmised that you followed me here.”

Lazhareq floated further towards Cawl, lifted aloft by the grav-suspensor unit on his back so that his emaciated legs need not touch the ground. “You are a rarity among your kind,” he said. “A brilliant mind that has worked to surpass your species’ physical limitations, one that does not allow itself to be constrained by your rusting empire’s hidebound theocracy. It has made you of interest to us….to me.”

A crackling fluctuation could be heard from Cawl’s ruined vox emitter. It occurred to Lazhareq that the Techpriest was laughing.

“You flatter me, xeno,” Cawl said. “I imagine, however, th-th-that you did not track me down and kill my attendant Skitarii so that we m-m-might discuss gene-science?”

Lazhareq raised a hand, and with a mental pulse, uploaded paralytics into his claw-digits. “Your mind and its secrets are of value,” he said simply. “You are intelligent enough to know that the rest of your existence will be one of pain. Do not resist.”

Cawl chuckled again. “I’m afraid I must d-d-disappoint you, then,” he said. “Your k-k-kind are not the only ones to m-m-master the art of cloning. This ruined shell you are speaking to is b-b-but an inferior copy…a c-c-copy that has served its purpose.”

The moment Cawl said this, there was an overwhelming smell of rot and of burning flesh. As Lazhareq watched, the metal body of Belisarius Cawl began to suddenly heat up, its steel components turning a bright orange as they began to melt under the extreme heat. He felt the backwash of the furnace-like blaze upon his own skin as, before him, Cawl began to fuse, melt, and twist, the flesh of his grey face flesh running like wax down his rebreather. The pain the creature was in must have been incredible, and yet even so, Cawl– or the lesser clone of him, it seemed– remained unbothered.

“This has been a f-f-fascinating encounter, xeno,” the Cawl Inferior said, its voice becoming slurred as its flesh began to unravel. “We shall meet again.”

And with those final words, what was left of the Cawl Inferior finally collapsed in on itself in a superheated slag, fused into an unrecognizable mass of twisted metal and molten flesh. For a few minutes, Lazhareq stared at the molten pile, watching as the fires of its demise began to gutter out and die in the cold wind.

“Disappointing,” he finally said to himself, before turning and hovering away from these ruins back towards the waiting webway portal.

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