Rogue Trader- The Characters

THE PLAYER CHARACTERS:

 

 

c. Games Workshop

Reginald Callaway Dent (Arch-Militant)

Homeworld: Imperial World (Mordian)

Birthright: In Service To The Throne (Tithed)

Lure of the Void: Duty to the Throne

Trials and Travails: The Hand of War (Hatred: Orks)

Motivation: Devotion (Duty)

 

(Background supplied by player):

Reginald C. Dent enlisted in His service at the age of 16. He served one tour of duty in the Mordian Home Guard, and then was transferred to the Mordian 501st Regiment, wherein he saw action for three and a half years in the defence of the hive world of Starrax against an Ork Waaagh! In the aftermath of this war, the decimated 501st was reassigned to system defence duty. During this time, Dent served in a boarding party aboard the light cruiser HMMS (His Majesty’s Mordian Ship) Triumvirate for nine years, of which a total of almost five were spent within the warp. He participated in five aggressive boarding actions (three against Chaos raiders, one against an Ork Rokk and one against a Eldar cruiser) and defended against fifteen assaults in close proximity to the Mordian system. Eventually, he rose to the rank of Master-sergeant. He became well known for his skill with a lasgun, and often preferred it to the more common boarding shotgun used by boarding party units. He became quite well known for his sharp shooting, even when under fire.
At the age of 22, Dent was transferred to the compliance garrison on Tomak III, an industrial plant not unlike the world Armageddon had been, before the Orks had fallen upon it like the fist of an angry god. It was on the planet’s secondary hive where he served almost a year as a drill sergeant for before making the single biggest mistake of his career.
At roll call one morning, a group of three privates from the Tomak PDF came in looking “slovenly and unkempt,” as he would describe in his incident report. Dent gave the three men a stern dressing down and placed them on KP duty for a week. Out of habit, he later passed by the canteen to check up on his punishment detail. What he saw was two of the men he had sent down there, and some unrelated warrant officer Dent had never seen before. Upon investigation, he discovered that this warrant officer had somehow been assigned in the third private’s stead.
Dent was furious. He stormed into the barracks where his charges were quartered and raised bloody hell, shouting, cussing and demanding all manner of justification for just HOW this private had countermanded his orders. The private in question was belligerent and terse. He told Dent that the Mordian didn’t have the right to give him orders, and the fact that he HAD issued a punishment detail at all was (according to this insolent whelp) grounds enough to have him demoted, should he bring the matter to the local aristocracy.
Dent would have none of it. He bellowed that under his command, his word was law. Only the Inquisition or the Emperor himself would countermand his will.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. The private in question was fourth in line for the planetary governorship– a detail indicated in the man’s paperwork, but something Dent had not considered at any point during these proceedings. It took only one letter, and 72 hours for the full weight of Dent’s mistake to become manifest.

Due to his record, and awards for bravery in the face of the enemy many years prior, the request of the planetary governor to have Dent publicly executed was denied. Instead, Reginald was drummed out of the Guard, given a dishonourable discharge and sent, penniless and alone, into a world he did not know, a disgraced man.

For 5 more years, Dent drifted from port to port, world to world. He took jobs on freighters and civilian transports to make ends meet. It was on a lonely Feast of the Emperor’s Ascension, where he sat drinking in some ale house on some Emperor forsaken space dock above the least relevant colony, seemingly, in the subsector, that he met a man. A man who offered to clear his tab. An offer the drunken, dejected Dent failed to refuse. When he awoke that Feast Day morning he was on a ship he did not recognize surrounded by many of the reprobates he had been drinking among the night before.
He had accepted the Purser’s shilling. He now owed the ship, and his new Captain, service. While most of his hungover cohorts attempted to bargain their way out of their predicament, Reginald C. Dent saw it as a new beginning.
Notes:

-Dent still carries his Guard-issue lasgun, which he has since modified and maintained to excellent quality. Furthermore, he still has and wears his old Iron Guard uniform, which he diligently keeps pressed and spotless.

-In addition to his lasgun, Dent is typically armed with an Ork choppa he took as a trophy from the battlefields of Starrax. It is a crude melee weapon he uses, not only to prove his might in combat, but to put fear into the hearts of Orks as he kills them. He knows that Orks see Humans as weak, and incapable of using Ork weapons. Dent loves the incongruity of his impeccable uniform against the garish axe, slung over his shoulder like a woodcutter`s tool.

 

(Artist unknown)
Cygnet (Astropath Transcendent)

-Homeworld: Voidborn (Eldar Corsair fleet, original world unknown)

-Birthright: Scapegrace

-Lure of the Void: Renegade (Recidivist)

-Trials and Travails: Shiplorn

-Motivation: Exhilaration (New Horizons)

The young woman known Cygnet was found by the Eldar Corsair Prince Celatara when she was only 4 or 5 years old. A foundling left orphaned on her world by a Tyranid attack, Cygnet was found and rescued by Celetara, though the Corsair’s motivations have never been clear– perhaps Celatara was moved by the mon-keigh girl’s plight, perhaps she sought to heal the wound caused by the death of her own family, or perhaps Celatara sensed the raw psychic power that this human possessed. Whatever the reason, Celatara took hold of this young girl and retreated with her back through the webway, and back to the shelter of her flagship.

Over the next few years, the girl– whom Celatara had named Cygnet– grew up among the Corsair fleet, her presence disliked at first by the Eldar, but nonetheless tolerated because of the Corsair Prince’s strict command. At Celatara’s orders, Cygnet was taught the Eldar language, and under the tutelage of the flagship’s Void Dreamer, she was taught to hone, focus and use her psychic abilities, particularly in aid of navigating the ship. Over time, while the Corsairs continued to see Cygnet as a mon-keigh, and thus as inherently inferior, their attitudes towards her warmed somewhat– to them, this was proof, at least, that even the mon-keigh could be “civilized” by being taught Eldar ways. Whether Celatara ever shared their views, however, was unknown.

One day, however, while Cygnet was meditating, she was woken violently by the sensation of the flagship suddenly translating out of warp. The next thing she knew, the ship began to shake as though it were under attack. At that moment, Celatara appeared, grabbed a hold of Cygnet, and told her that it was time for her to rejoin her own people, before pushing her through a teleportation matrix. When the flash of light subsided, Cygnet was standing on the soil of a human colony world, alone and abandoned.

Since then, Cygnet has wandered the worlds of the Kerberus Sector, looking for signs of the Corsair fleet and what happened to it. After one unfortunate and near-fatal run in with the Adeptus Arbites, Cygnet stuck to the more isolated frontier worlds of the sector, always staying to herself…that is, until she met Tiberius Avalon, who saw promise in her precognitive and navigational abilities and took her in as part of his crew. Since then, Cygnet has found a measure of safety aboard the Iron Duchess, although she continues to search for the lost Corsair fleet, hoping to at least learn the fate of her adoptive “family.”

Notes:
-Although she is human, Cygnet sees and thinks of herself as an Eldar. This is mainly because she was, for all intents and purposes, raised by the xenos and taught their language, customs and culture. Because of this, Cygnet always refers to her fellow crew as “mon-keigh,” and only has a passing familiarity with Imperial customs and traditions. She reinforces this self-image of an Eldar by dressing in the cloak and of a Ranger and keeping her ears covered. To the common bystander, her appearance, manner and movements are all those of an Eldar, and only one who is well-studied on that xenos race, or who manages to see her with her hood lowered, would realize that she is in fact human. It is because she appears so alien, and willingly isolates herself from other humans, that her crewmates tend to view her with suspicion if not outright distrust– only the patronage of Captain Avalon ensures that she is tolerated aboard the Iron Duchess.

-Cygnet carries several pieces of Eldar equipment on her person, not the least of which is a cameleoline cloak given to her by a Ranger she encountered in her travels. She also carries a shuriken pistol that she had on her when she was teleported off of Celatara’s ship, and a spirit stone that Celatara gave her when she was still young. Though it is uncertain whether a spirit stone could contain Cygnet’s soul in the event of her death, Cygnet nonetheless uses it as a focus for her psychic powers.

 

(Madame de Fer by HyperBali @DeviantArt)

Brigitte L’Oiseaux (Seneschal)

-Homeworld: Noble Born (Tethys)

-Birthright: In Service to the Throne (Born to Lead)

-Lure of the Void: Duty Bound

-Trials and Travails: Lost Dynasty

-Motivation: Pride

(Background supplied by player):

Brigitte was born the first daughter of the L’Oiseaux dynasty, a prominent noble house upon the Imperial water-world of Tethys, and was marked from birth for leadership. Trained over the course of decades to eventually take command of House L’Oiseaux, she proved further excellence in achieving the seat of Planetary Governor and bringing Tethys further into the grace of Imperial society. Her first term in office saw marked improvements in tithing and trade, severe reduction in open heretical obeisance and the building of strong ties with all echelons of Imperial society. A successful appointment to a second term of leadership promised the elevation of the Tethysan way of life to an unheard-of level of peace and prosperity, if not a true golden age for the once-heretical and backwater planet.

A mere four days after her appointment – not even long enough to complete the extensive celebrations such an occasion would warrant – Tethys found itself engulfed in a tendril of the Gyre and, to all available instruments, vanished into the Warp. It was by fortune alone that Brigitte was off-world at this time, having instead been commisserating with her valued peers of House Chasson upon their orbital seat of Voidthrone. Awakening aboard her sumptuous quarters to find that her hazy images of loss and madness had been more cruel reality than dream, she strove to put things to rights – only to discover that her once-allies of House Chasson had effectively confined her to house arrest under suspicion of cowardice and collusion with unclean forces. Not only had her home, her family, and her very planet been snatched out from under her, but Beauregard, the head of House Chasson, had used the disaster to entrap her for slights imagined in the distant past.

Knowing that to remain on Voidthrone would be to practically accept interrogation and incarceration for manufactured crimes, Brigitte used her peerless guile and charm to manipulate an exit from her gilded cage and locate allies aboard the drifting and world-lorn station: the Iron Duchess. Captain Tiberius Avalon had been a trading partner in the past, and Brigitte successfully leveraged their relationship to earn a berth aboard the vessel and escape from the traitorous House. Now loose in an uncertain universe, Brigitte L’Oiseaux serves as Avalon’s High Factotum, bringing effective diplomacy and real prosperity to the noble Rogue Trader – and, at the same time, working to unite the disparate Tethysan refugees and recover as much as she can of her lost world.

Notes:

-Brigitte is often attended by her two servants– her sommelier, Amadeo, and her handmaiden, Soeur Kathima, both of whom are survivors of Tethys like herself.

-Brigitte fervently believes that Tethys survived the warp storm, and remains pristine and unravaged by the Gyre. It is uncertain, however, if this is faith and optimism on her part, or a madness borne of desperation.

-Brigitte has insisted upon writing her own biography.

 

Techpriest Ivarella by Gray-Skull

Andromeda (Explorator)

-Homeworld: Death World (Mundus Brunnus)

-Birthright: Savant

-Lure of the Void: Renegade (Free Thinker)

-Trials and Travails: Calamity

-Motivation: Renown

The techno-radical known as Magos Andromeda originally came from Mundus Brunnus (or simply “the Brown Planet” to the locals), a death world ravaged by radiation storms, large-scale pollution and a highly toxic atmosphere. Born into an isolated community of scavengers, Andromeda grew up exploring the remains of her world’s previous human civilization, and became fascinated with the archeotech contained within– particularly the still-functioning AI systems that the previous civilization had left behind. It was because of this fascination with technology that she joined the Adeptus Mechanicus, and, later, as a full-fledged Techpriest, returned to Mundus Brunnus as part of an official Explorator mission to recover archeotech from the planet.

Upon her return to her homeworld, however, she found an Ecclesiarchy mission there, converting her people to the Imperial creed. Horrified by what she saw as the blind dogmatism and the fear of invention and innovation that the missionaries preached, Andromeda one day hacked the holo-pulpit the lead missionary was using to deliver a mass, and delivered a manifesto to the assembled congregation, urging her fellow Brunnians study and use the technology that they scavenged, and in particular, urging them not to fear artificial intelligence, declaring that the creation of thinking, self-aware machines like those used by their ancestors would help propel humankind to new heights of invention and technological mastery.

Understandably, the fallout of that incident was catastrophic. The Ecclesiarchy declared her to be a blasphemer, while the Mechanicus eventually too formally accused her of tech-heresy and excommunicated her. Forced to flee, Andromeda found refuge on the Iron Duchess, and has since served as the ship’s resident archeotech expert.

Notes:

-For the most part, Andromeda eschews the typical robes of the Martian Priesthood, preferring instead standard civilian wear. It is only when she absolutely needs to put on the appearance of a Techpriest that she dons her traditional robes, which (unlike in the picture above) are a forest green in colour

-Though she has paid lip service to the creed of the Mechanicus in the past and has, by necessity, had to memorize most of the prayers and rites of her order, Andromeda is at heart an atheist, and does not believe in the Machine God or in machine-spirits– to her, everything can be explained by rational scientific observation. Obviously, however, she has had to keep such heretical views hidden from her more dogmatic Techpriest brethren.

-Andromeda’s two main cyber-implants consist of a mind-impulse unit embedded into her skull (from which dozens of extendable plugs flow out in place of natural hair), and a pair of bionic eyes fixed into place by permanently-attached metal goggles. The eyes were a replacement of necessity as well as convenience, for Andromeda had been partially blinded by the neglect of her parents back on Mundus Brunnus.

 

 

(Artist unknown)

Shas Ka’ra (T’au Fire Warrior)

Homeworld: Fortress World (Vior’la)

Birthright: Child of the Creed (aka Servant of the Greater Good)

Lure of the Void: Hunter (Hunted)

Trials and Travails: The Hand of War (Hatred: Orks)

Motivation: Endurance

Prior to her long exile into Gue’la space, Shas’ui Vior’la Ka’ra was a Fire Warrior who had already served with distinction on many battlefields, including Arkunasha and the battlefiels of the Damocles Crusade. Because of her stellar record, she was eventually chosen to join the expedition of the great hero, Commander Farsight…and years later, she would be one of the many Fire Warriors who renounced the Ethereals and pledged their loyalty to Farsight upon the foundation of the Farsight Enclaves.

In the aftermath of the formation of the Enclaves, however, Ka’ra began to notice troubling things about Farsight– namely that his personality was slowly changing, that he was becoming more aggressive, authoritarian and tyrannical, and that the Enclaves were becoming more insular and militaristic. Never one to hold her tongue, Ka’ra spoke out openly against Farsight, decrying him as having become just as oppressive as the Ethereals, or worse, as having become possessed by whatever malign influence powered the Dawn Blade. In response, she was imprisoned, and, pending a decision of her punishment, was put into cryo-stasis indefinitely.

Fate, however, had other ideas. Some time after she was frozen, Ka’ra’s cryostasis was interrupted when the world she was on came under attack by an unknown enemy. Ejected from her cryo-pod, Ka’ra managed to slip away in the ensuing chaos and steal a shuttle, managing to escape the planet and ultimately flee the Farsight Enclaves. After years of drifting through Imperial space, disguising herself where possible, Ka’ra met Tiberius Avalon, who, upon discerning that she was a T’au, did not report her to the authorities but rather offered her a place on his ship– as a man dealing with xenos technology, he told her, he needed someone who knew what that technology did and how to operate it. And so Shas Ka’ra joined the crew of the Iron Duchess, a renegade to both the Empire and the Enclaves…though she still yearns one day to return to the T’au Empire and be with her people once more.

Notes:

-Before her imprisonment, Ka’ra was often accompanied by her two faithful Gun Drones, Ex and Vee. Their core personalities remain uploaded into Ka’ra’s neural implant, allowing them to converse with her…and annoy her…without the need of physical bodies.

-At some point in her career, Ka’ra lost her entire squad. The loss of her bond-mates took a heavy toll on her, and even before her exile, she acted in isolation as a Mon’at.

-Ka’ra was able to take very little equipment with her when she escaped from the Enclaves, aside from a pulse pistol and ammunition. Bereft of typical T’au armour, she has instead been forced to rely on whatever she could barter or scavenge. She presently wears a suit of battered, second-hand Guard flak armour, and whatever human weapons she uses have been ergonomically altered to suit her four-digited fingers. On human-dominated worlds, she keeps her true nature hidden by concealing her features behind a heavy gas mask. The only part of her facade that she has difficulty with are her feet, as human foot ware is not designed to accommodate cloven T’au feet.

Rogue Trader- The Avalon Dynasty

All photos (c) Games Workshop Ltd

Continuing on with the background of my Rogue Trader campaign, here is the dynasty and the captain that my players will be serving under, and the ship they will be sailing the void on.

 

THE AVALON DYNASTY

ORIGINS

Originally, the Avalon dynasty was a simple merchant cartel from the lunar hives of Calyphia, albeit one with considerable mercantile reach and influence across the sector. For a time, they were the pre-eminent dealers in rare ores, mining equipment, and, above all, brews from Calyphia’s famed wineries. This all changed, however, when the Ork hordes of Waaagh Skargrod rampaged across the Kerberos Sector in M35. Heeding the desperate call to arms by the Imperial Navy, the Avalon cartel contributed ships and armsmen to the fight, and were present at the pivotal Battle of Farside which saw the Ork Waaagh finally destroyed. The Chapter Master of the Ultramarines personally lauded the Avalon clan for their bravery in the battle, and in the aftermath, in recognition for their deeds, the Adeptus Terra granted the Avalons a Warrant of Trade, with a writ to explore the far reaches of the Eastern Fringe, and to bring new worlds into the Emperor’s light.

In the millennia since, the Avalon dynasty enjoyed fame and success in their role as a Rogue Trader house. Their ships plumbed the depths of the Eastern Fringe, bringing twenty-two worlds into compliance (five of which became established Imperial worlds), and more importantly, bringing wealth and splendour back from the lightless realms beyond the Astronomicon. With fame came enemies, however, and before long the Avalons found themselves embroiled in rivalries and trade wars with other Rogue Trader dynasties, particularly the Valkens and the Destraads. Even so, the Avalons’ influence grew to the point that they had the ear of the sector governor, and they had numerous off-world holdings and sources of wealth beyond stately Calyphia.

DISASTER

In M41, however, the dynasty’s good fortune all came crashing down. The dynasty’s flagship, the Grail of Calyphia, a venerable grand cruiser, was lost in the Cairn Expanse, along with several hundred thousand of House Avalon’s loyal retainers and, worst of all, the dynasty’s patriarch, Quintus Avalon. It is not known what caused the destruction of the Grail— whether it was pirates, or xenos, or some other force of destruction– but the wreckage of the grand ship was found drifting amidst the asteroid belts of the depths.

The news of this disaster had barely hit home when an even greater catastrophe struck the whole of the segmentum. In what is now known as the First Tyrannic War, the living tide that was Hive Fleet Behemoth suddenly swept into the Eastern Fringe from beyond the galactic edge, devouring whole worlds and leaving entire systems barren and lifeless in its wake. Though Calyphia was, thankfully, spared the attentions of the Tyranids, much of House Avalon’s offworld holdings and sources of wealth were caught in the path of the Hive Fleet, and lost to that all-consuming tide.

In the wake of this period of calamity, the Avalon dynasty remains one of the prominent Rogue Trader houses in the sector, though it has fallen behind many of its peers in influence, and it is generally regarded as a pale shadow of its former glory. The current head of the dynasty, Catullus Avalon, has primarily concerned himself with restoring his dynasty’s fading wealth– securing trade interests and political alliances with other noble families in the sector, re-establishing lucrative offworld contracts, and safeguarding whatever assets the dynasty has left– all at the expense of any further deep space exploration. His brother Tiberius, however, chafes at this conservative approach, and longs for the Avalon dynasty to stride into the unknown once more.

SIGIL

The sigil of the Avalon dynasty is a goblet, set against a crescent moon. The moon represents the dynasty’s home of Calyphia, while the goblet, historically, represents the Avalons’ origins as wine traders. Symbolically, however, it conveys so many more meanings– power, nobility, wisdom, spirituality, and even the pursuit of pleasure. Below, in High Gothic, is emblazoned the dynasty’s motto, “Let Not The Spirit Fade.”

 

 

Tiberius Avalon

Seen as one of the most renowned trailblazers in the Kerberus Sector by some, and as a charlatan, a scoundrel, and a degenerate by others, Tiberius Avalon is not a man who is afraid of being talked about. The eldest of the remaining children of Quintus Avalon, Tiberius is well into his ninetieth year, and rejuvanat drugs have only succeeded in making him look closer to his fifties. A well built man with a finely trimmed red beard, a neatly ponytailed length of hair, chiseled facial features and laughing blue eyes, Tiberius is a boisterous and passionate man, equally at home on a tavern-chair or at the bench of his spinet as he is on his command throne.

Like all scions of the Avalon dynasty, Tiberius was made to go through service in an Imperial institution before he was allowed anywhere near one of the family’s ships. After a mercifully brief career in the Imperial Navy in which he narrowly avoided a court martial, Tiberius began serving in his family’s fleet, before rapidly rising to command one of the dynasty frigates. Eventually, though, he was granted the venerable light cruiser Iron Duchess, and it was with this ship that he truly won fame, glory, and no small amount of infamy.

In one expedition into the outer edges of the Cairn Expanse, Tiberius is recorded as having discovered twelve new systems, and more importantly, recovering a long-lost STF template that was worth a planetary governor’s ransom in wealth, a feat that made him almost a household name in the sector. Subsequent voyages of the Iron Duchess were no less daring in their scope, and tall tales of him soon began to spread among the backwater drinking-holes and gaudy nobility of the Kerberus Sector alike– tales of how he famously duelled and slew the pirate Kagran Knife-Eyes on the burning bridge of a battleship, of how he outsmarted a host of robotic sentries to open up (and loot) the long-lost tomb of the Xankuthi Fiends, of how he uncovered and thwarted a vile cult of the Dark Powers and single-handedly defeated them all with his bare hands…the tales about Tiberius are wild, fanciful, contradictory, and no doubt in part spread by Tiberius himself. The extent to which they are true is the subject of some drunken debate throughout the sector.

But just as Tiberius is famous, so too is he infamous. In many social circles his name has become associated with scandal, with whispers abounding that there is nothing under the Astronomicon’s light that he has not drunk, smoked, injected or inbibed, and that there has been many a debauched incident in the past that his family’s money has had to make disappear. Similarly, it is whispered that he has had numerous trysts with noteworthy women and men alike across the sector, and that his affairs at this point are beyond counting. If Tiberius is aware of any of these scandalous whispers, however, then he is either unconcerned with them, or indeed, even enjoys being a figure of controversy. To his family, however, and particularly his siblings Catullus and Ophidia, who maintain control of the dynasty, Tiberius’ antics are a persistent and headache-inducing nuisance.

Some, however, have speculated that there is an underlying sadness to Tiberius’ zest, that his hedonism is as much self-destructive as it is decadent, and that his constant seeking out of danger is in truth a suicidal race to oblivion. His closest confidants and crew have admitted that Tiberius has not been the same since his beloved wife Julietta died two decades ago, some say to the poison of a rival dynasty. Others note that the loss of his father with the family flagship, and the loss of most of his dynasty’s holdings and wealth, has put a greater and greater strain on Tiberius as the world he has always known starts to crumble around him.

There are even dark whispers still about Tiberius that suggest that he has been up to ill dealings outside of the prying eyes of the Imperium– that he has been making a fortune in the trade of forbidden xenos artefacts, and worse, that he has actively trading and collaborating with xenos. Though these are all but whispers, they have been enough to cast a dark pall on Tiberius’ reputation, and even worse, have reached the ears of his estranged siblings on Calyphia.

Despite his cavalier attitude and miscreant behaviour, however, Tiberius is not the self-serving, amoral vagabond that some would paint him as. Though he does little to show it, he remains loyal to the Imperium and to the God-Emperor, even if he does have a very relaxed attitude towards Imperial law and Ecclesiarchial tenets. Furthermore, he is fiercely loyal to his family, to his house, and by extension, his crew, and has been known to fight duels, dive into fistfights, perjure himself and even endure strenuous fines to protect those under his command. This, if nothing else, has inspired his crew’s unwavering loyalty to him, through thick and thin, and many of them would follow him into the Maelstrom itself if need be…

 

The Iron Duchess

dauntlessclass250925221.jpg

A Dauntless-class light cruiser, the Iron Duchess has been in the possession of the Avalon dynasty for millennia, sailing the void with a stately grace that echoes her name. Currently under the command of Tiberius Avalon, the Iron Duchess has undertaken no less than one hundred and fifty three voyages throughout the dynasty’s history, and has a legacy of service that makes his command of her a mark of personal pride for Tiberius. The exact history behind the Iron Duchess, however, is unclear, as many of the Avalon family’s records from the 36th Millennium and earlier have been lost, either to war, arson or sabotage. The earliest dynasty record of the Iron Duchess mentions that ship fending off reavers in the Seqorra Belt. Beyond that, the origins of the ship remain a mystery.

That, of course, hasn’t stopped rumours from sprouting about the ship. There are some claims that the Iron Duchess‘ hull was originally wrested from a space hulk– and indeed, some even claim that the space hulk in question was the dreaded Rok of Ages that eventually formed the Hex, with the one hull piece taken by the nascent Avalon dynasty as a prize for their role in the defeat of the Ork armada. Other, more fanciful tales suggest that the ship was built by a long-forgotten forge world, crafted by means long forgotten to even the Mechanicus, and that technological marvels lie unlocked and undiscovered within her hull– or worse, kept secret by the Avalons. Some still claim that the Iron Duchess is in fact a cursed ship, its decks haunted by the lingering ghosts of its first owners and its beams groaning under the weight of the damnation it carries with it. Only the wizened chief archivist of the Avalon dynasty may know the truth, and he has kept stubbornly silent on the matter.

Regardless of her origin, it cannot be denied that the Iron Duchess is a majestic ship for one of her light size. Painted in the wine-dark red, gunmetal silver and blazing brass of her dynasty, the Iron Duchess cuts a regal figure as she glides across the void like a noble lady at a ballroom. Her towers and buttresses are carved in stately, classical lines, more akin to those of some ancient manse rather than a castle or fortress, and at her prow, above her armoured ram, stands her figurehead– a beautiful woman of indeterminate age, holding a goblet in one hand outwards, as though in a toast or in an offering. The voidfarers who have served on the Duchess have noted that her machine spirit is a resolute one, her systems continuing to function even when suffering severe damage. This resolute nature has a downside, however, as often her enginseers struggle to get the ship up to an optimal speed, both in realspace and in warp-space translation. As her crew is often fond of saying, “a lady doesn’t like to be rushed.”

 

Statistics:

Iron Duchess– Dauntless class light cruiser

Crew: 65,000

Components: Jovian pattern class 3, drive, Strelov 2 warp engine, Gellar field, multiple void shield array, command bridge, M1-r life sustainer, voidsmen quarters, m-100 augur array, compartmentalized cargo hold, observation dome

Weapons: port Mars-pattern macrocannon broadside, starboard Mars-pattern macrocannon broadside, Titanforge lance

Complications/Past History: Resolute, Wrested from a Space Hulk

Shuttle Compliment: 2 gun-cutters, 4 Aquila shuttles, 20 Arvus lighters, 2 heavy cargo lifters

 

Officer roster of the good ship Iron Duchess, as of 999.M41

Lord-Captain- Tiberius Avalon

First Officer- Aramis Danton

Enginseer Prime- Magos Nikolaev Gogol

High Factotum- Brigitte L’Oiseaux*

Master-at-Arms- Khan Harzen

Master Helmsman- Terryn Mkrae

Cutter Pilot- Calan Mkrae

Master of Ordnance- Victorix “Boom” Bumhauer

Master of Etherics- Namataj Saru

Master of the Vox- Miko Sekuta

Master of Whispers- Orwell Delaque

Choirmaster Telepathica- Hirom Modrin

Warp Guide- Mistress Kassandra Selethon

Void Dreamer- Cygnet*

Ship’s Confessor- Heloise Bronwyn

Drivesmaster- Gudrun DeCalefax

Omnissiac Congregator- Nexis-Thul-557

Archeotech Specialist- Andromeda*

Chief Bosun- Mari “Mother Mari” Ingenua

Bosun’s Mate- Reginald Callaway Dent*

Purser- Aldous Fenn

Carto-artifex- Ziri Shylo

Ship’s Steward- Jago Strummer

Chief Chirurgeon- Maxim “Maks” Fyodorovich

Avalon Dynasty Barrister- Euphemia Belacourt, ESQ

Captain’s Butler- Mortimer Crane

Infernus Master- “the Pyreman” (real name unknown)

Twistcatcher- “Obadiah the Unseen”

Xenotech Specialist- Ka’ra*

Sommelier to Madame L’Oiseaux- Amadeo

Handmaiden to Madame L’Oiseaux- Souer Kathima

*Player character

 

 

Rogue Trader- The Kerberus Sector and its worlds

(Above image by Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop)

 

So I’ve decided to take the time to write about the sector of space that my upcoming Rogue Trader campaign is going to take place in. While all of the planets and regions listed below are big points of interest, they are not by any means exclusive, and there are dozens of other such planets and locations that my party may yet stumble upon…

THE KERBERUS SECTOR

Located in the Ultima Segmentum to the galactic east of Ultramar, the Kerberus Sector is one of the many regions of Imperial space situated dangerously close to the ever-expanding border of the T’au Empire. Located as it is in one of the further edges of the Segmentum, the Kerberus Sector, for the most part, always been regarded by the Administratum as a backward wildnerness space. Part of this is due to the fact that the light of the Astronomicon shines a little more dimly in this sector, both due to the sheer distance from Terra and also due to the pervasive interference caused by a local warp-storm, the Gyre.

It is perhaps because of both the more limited presence of the Astronomicon and the neglect of the Administratum that Kerberus does, indeed, live up to its reputation as a wilderness. Outside of the more “civilized” worlds such as Kerberus Prime and Calyphia, corruption, piracy, illegal trade and heresy are rife in the sector: on many worlds, Imperial control is limited or even nonexistent, and there are hundreds of asteroid belts, gas clouds and warp-anomalies in which pirates, smugglers and scavengers can hide. To make matters worse, xeno ships have been becoming more and more commonplace throughout the sector in the last millennium, with Ork pirates, Kroot spheres and even Eldar raiders appearing and attacking more and more brazenly. The limited Imperial naval presence in the sector is spread thin, constantly trying to put out a hundred different fires as once…and the looming threat of the T’au simply adds to the stress of the Navy’s strategos. The top naval commander in the sector, Admiral Hallsmark, believes that it is only a matter of time before the T’au attempt to expand into Kerberus, and fears that his limited fleet will be unable to stop them when they do so.

Despite– or perhaps because of– Kerberus’ isolated nature, the space lanes of the sector are a hub of activity. Numerous trade cartels throughout the sector keep commercial traffic active and alive, and no less than three Rogue Trader dynasties call the sector home. The degree to which this trade is legitimate, however, is of a matter of contention, and unsubstantiated reports persist of Kerberan traders engaging in commerce– and in some cases alliances– with alien races. These rumours are of particular concern to the Ordo Xenos, in part because of the potential harm an underground market of alien artefacts and technology could create, and in part because such a market would breed fertile ground for subversion and dissent that could be sown by agents of the T’au.

Kerberus’ proximity to the outermost edges of the Ultima Segmentum– and to the edges of known Imperial space– also make the sector an ideal springboard for exploration voyages, and dozens of ships venture into the void each year to explore the unknown, to seek out long lost worlds and civilizations, to find new worlds to settle, and, perhaps most importantly, to find wealth and plunder. Most of these ships disappear the moment they move beyond known space, but occasionally, these brave explorers will return with tales of wonder…or occasionally, of horror. There are dockside legends of what lurks in the great expanse– of cemetary-worlds populated by the unquiet dead, of abominable intelligences inhabiting an artificial planet, of a sentient black hole that actively seeks soul-matter…though whether these are true stories, or the ravings of madmen, has yet to be determined.

 

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(Image by derbz at DeviantArt-https://www.deviantart.com/derbz/art/Hive-City-Spires-W40K-669482769)

KERBERUS PRIME

The world for which the Kerberus Sector was named, Kerberus (official Imperial classification Ceta Kanis III) is an ash-shrouded cinder of a world whose desolate surface and high temperatures seem to evoke the hellhound for which it was named. Indeed, one Administratum analyst, upon landing on Kerberus and seeing its scorched surface and rivers of molten rock and chemical fluids, famously remarked that “they have finally sent me to Hell.”

A hive world boasting a population in the billions, Kerberus Prime is one of the focal points of industry in the sector, with a populace of workers churning out thousands of machine parts, prefab units, vehicle chassis and arms and munitions on a daily basis. The world’s primary hives exist in spite of the hostile environment surrounding them: estimated to have been colonized perhaps two or three centuries before the Great Crusade, Kerberus is a turbulent world which, due to a comet impact centuries before, is wracked with constant earthquakes, volcanic activity, storms and smog-clouds that have rendered the planetside a barren wasteland. The planet’s two major oceans have been rendered toxic by extreme pollution and chemical saturation over the centuries, and due to the rapidly diminishing state of the world’s polar ice peaks, the planet relies heavily on a massive underground network of water reserves.

Life-forms on Kerberus have evolved to adapt to the harsh climate, and include such monstrosities as Titan Worms, Landcrawlers, sludges, chem-nautilus, and various bacterial and lichen-based species. The most notable lifeforms, however, are drakes, which are focused mainly around volcanic regions. For centuries, the drakes have been the largest threat to the people of Kerberus– massive, thickly-scaled beasts that fly on great wings, the drakes descend from their volcanic homes to regularly attack convoys, factories, and hab-areas. It is for this reason that Kerberus is such a heavily-fortified place, and why the Kerberians are such a hardy folk. On Kerberus, to be caught outside the city walls for a day or two means death, and this is a reality that the Kerberians have had to live with for centuries.

The population of Kerberus is confined to several massive forge-cities, each one situated in the vast mountain ranges ringing the deadly planet. The cities of Kerberus are designed both as self-sufficient factories, and as fortresses to ward the population against the dangerous wildlife. The population of Kerberus is divided into two classes- the workers and serfs who toil day in and day out to survive, and the ruling elite. The workers perform a myriad of jobs, from water and food-maintenance, assembly-line work in the factories, and various other tasks, each of which is absolutely crucial for the greater whole of the population to survive. For the workers, life is hard, as they not only have to fulfill their quotas, but must also hope to survive. Despite this, the Kerberians perform their tasks unflinchingly, and even take a measure of pride in their resolute efficiency.

The elite– or “firedwellers” as they are called, both because they live in the hottest, yet temperature-insulated, parts of the cities, and because of their quick tempers– are the upper class of Kerberus. For centuries, they have been the ones who have organized beast-hunts and have fought against marauding monsters and drakes. For the firedwellers, one cannot advance up the social ladder unless they have proved their valour and fortitude in a hunt: the better a monster-fighter one is, the better their rank. It is for this reason that the planetary governor– or Lord Protector, as the official Kerberian term goes– is one who has ascended to his office by killing a drake. The current Lord Protector of Kerberus, Tyrus Kragorev, also happens to be the Imperial Commander of the Kerberus Sector, although his administration thus far has failed to curtail the growing rate of piracy in the sector, a fact that frustrates both him and the Administratum in equal measure.

As the most industrious and developed world in the sector, Kerberus fulfils an important administrative role as the sector capital. As such, both the Administratum and the Adeptus Mechanicus have a major presence on this world, particularly in Urcanis, the principle hive city., with numerous administrative buildings, shrines and forges making their home there– although it is a recurring joke that the Administratum offices on Kerberus Prime are either secretly abandoned or have long run out of paper, given how slow the Administratum is to act in the Kerberus Sector. The Mechanicus also have a forge complex of their own on Kerberus’ principal moon, Anubis, which serves as the Mechanicus’ administrative and spiritual seat in the sector as well as the closest thing that the Kerberus Sector has to a forge world.

 

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(Artist unknown- from https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/79003/making-a-slow-orbit-around-a-large-gas-giant)

CALYPHIA

A verdant world to the galactic east of the sector, Calyphia enjoys a position both as one of the prime agri-worlds providing food and produce to the rest of the Kerberus Sector, and as one of its main trading hubs. Calyphia is in fact a large moon orbiting Parthenos, a ringed gas giant the colour of faded azure. Colonised millennia ago in the aftermath of the Great Crusade, Calyphia is the result of further millennia of terraforming and bio-modification. The result is a paradise world of soaring blue mountain ranges, fields of lavender grass, dense woodlands and wide open seas, and a sky where the ringed outline of Parthenosis always vaguely visible.

The population of Calyphia is concentrated into a few coastal hive cities, the ornate spires of which are said to glitter against the night sky. Unlike most other planets in the Imperium, they generally enjoy a comfortable standard of living. This is in part due to the offworld trade that regularly brings wealth back to the planet– in addition to regular agri-harvests to meet Imperial tithes, Calyphia is renowned as a trader of luxuries, providing the rest of the sector with fine wines from its vinyards and gemstones mined up from its mountain ranges. To facilitate this trade, the orbital dockyards of Calyphia are some of the largest and most sophisticated in the sector, and as such Calyphia is a frequent stop for ships coming into and out of the sector.

Calyphia is also noteworthy in that it is the home of the Avalon rogue trader dynasty. Originally themselves a free trading guild from Calyphia, the Avalons earned a Warrant of Trade for acts of uncommon heroism against an Ork Waaagh! back in M36, and with that Warrant of Trade became a power in their own right. The voyages of and exploits of the Avalon Dynasty served to increase Calyphia’s already substantial wealth, and soon the presence of the Avalon Dynasty formed a substantial part of the planetary economy. While the Avalons have never once tried to enter into the planetary government, such is their influence that all Calyphians acknowledge that this planet is essentially theirs.

 

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(Artist unknown)

THE HEX

Once called “a symbol of the larcenous virus that infects Kerberus” by Admiral Hallsmark, the Hex is infamous as a hub of smuggling, black market trade, and piracy throughout the sector. Originally an unremarkable listening station dating back to the days of the Great Crusade, the Hex was the site of a major space battle in M35 between Imperial forces and the armada of the Ork warlord Skargut, which saw the Orks defeated and Skargut’s personal space hulk, the Rok of Ages, shattered by a sustained bombardment. In the aftermath of the battle, however, local traders and merchants, seeing an opportunity, lashed together the disparate pieces of the space hulk, turning it into a waystation where they and their fellows could stop, refuel and rest between their long voyages into the void.

Over the centuries, what began as a free-floating structure evolved and expanded, as just about anyone with private interests and a ship tried to set up shop there. Numerous asteroids were hollowed out to form habitats and bases, connected to the structure by intertwining lines of cables, tunnels and supports. Similarly, several ships over the years have been attached to the ever-evolving structure as well, fused or even crashed together in untidy agglomerations that have simply become even more lopsided over the centuries. What began as a simple waystation now resembles a floating molecular structure of steel and rock, with dozens of smaller habitats, docks, outposts and private domains forming an interconnected web of steel around the original waystation at the heart of the Hex, which itself is now gigantic from centuries of expansion. As one helmsman once famously remarked, the Hex had its beginning from the remains of a space hulk, and now seems to have become one once again.

Within the many sub-stations, hollowed out asteroids and free floating structures of the Hex, anything and everything can be found, and anything and everything can be bought. Black market sales of drugs, fenced goods, illegal technology and outlawed medical practices are rife within the Hex, and without the Arbites, port authorities or the Inquisition keeping an eye on anyone, these deals happen freely in the open without fear of repercussion. Illegal trade in xenos artefacts and alien beasts occurs on a daily basis, and while at least one cadre of local scientists and experts have taken it upon themselves to mediate these transactions to limit bio-contamination (as an alien phage breaking out is always bad for business), there are no restrictions, checks or balances involved other than disagreements over price. Even the slave-trade, such as it is in the sector, has found a home in at least one of the habitats, and poor souls are bought and sold, or worse, modified, mind-scrubbed and psycho-conditioned, in the hundreds.

It is not only commercial pursuits that draw ne’er do wells to the Hex. Any and every vice imaginable can be found here, with narcotics, prostitution, pit fights and gambling simply being the most tame examples. Those who come to the Hex come from all walks of life in the sector: pirates and smugglers may find themselves doing business with free merchants or even rogue traders; recidivists take shelter here, staying one step ahead of any bounty hunters sent to retrieve them; free thinkers and heretics publish manifestos and attract followers in the same streets that Imperial missionaries preach their fiery screeds; tech-priests, augmenticists, flesh-artisans, rejuvenators, elixir-chemists and a thousand other experts in a thousand proscribed fields sell their services to any with the money and the time. It is not merely humans who visit the Hex, either– mutants are able to live there free of persecution, and it is not uncommon to see xenos stalking the streets, whether it be Kroot or Tarellian mercenaries, Sslyth bodyguards, Nicassar mystics, or even the odd Eldar Ranger.

It is no secret that the Hex is a focal point for vice, lawlessness and heresy within the sector, and in any other circumstance, the Imperial Navy would have come down like a hammer upon that station years ago. However, the much of the legitimate trade in the sector, for better or worse, goes through the Hex as well, as the station still fulfils an essential role as a vital way-station between most trade routes. Perhaps even more significantly, many planetary governments have economic interests (both legal and not) tied to mercantile traffic through the Hex. It is perhaps for this reason that, in its endless battle against piracy and smuggling, the Imperial Navy has gained no local support, whether it be material or political, for any proposed push against the Hex– something that frustrates Admiral Hallsmark, the commander of Battlefleet Kerberus, to no end.

 

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(Image by QuAuZ at Deviantart)

THE CAIRN EXPANSE

Also known as Ghost Space, the Desolation and Nowhere, the Cairn Expanse is a mostly unexplored cluster of nebulae, asteroid belts and ancient stars to the galactic south-east of the Kerberus Sector. They have remained largely unexplored and unsettled for centuries, in part because most ships that enter that region never come back. The first ship that did come back– the free trader Asterion and her captain Jakov Orsmar– reported finding a system where strange anomalies caused his ship’s systems to go dead for hours on end, and where strange, sinister whispers were picked up on the ship’s vox. An expedition to the only habitable planet in the system found clusters of abandoned, ancient cities, hundreds of cairns dotting the marsh-like landscape, and a perpetual fog that at least thirty men got lost in, never to be found again.

That was but the first of many stories to come out of the Cairn Expanse, a name that came from the description of that first planet that Orsmar discovered. Tales have spread of sprawling city-sized tombs on long-dead worlds, of ancient, undisturbed ruins, and of a black star ringed by hundreds of wrecked and abandoned starships. There are tales of the Expanse being haunted, of ghost-ships that attack without warning and of eery signals that appear and then disappear on vox networks.

To date, no less than fifty ships have disappeared trying to enter the Cairn Expanse, and by comparison, only a handful have ever returned, with nothing to show of their voyage except tales of horror. In recent years, the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition place a quarantine upon the entire region. However, with limited ships at its disposal, the Imperial Navy in the Kerberus Sector has been unable to effectively maintain this quarantine…and the tales of long-abandoned ruins continue to spur foolhardy adventurers into journeying into the Expanse…

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(Artist unknown)

THE GYRE

The Gyre has been a fixture of the Kerberus Sector as far back as any of its denizens remembers– the earliest Imperial records,that survived the Age of Apostasy make mention of the “great, violet wound upon the void,” and some of the oldest voidfarers mutter that the Gyre has been around since the days the Emperor walked among men. A warp storm measuring several thousand light years in width located in the galactic east of the sector, the Gyre takes the form of a swirling, star-shaped vortex of bilious gas-clouds and raging aetheric energy, tendrils of the great warp storm seemingly reaching out in all directions as though grasping at the material universe. In the millennia that the Gyre has existed, it has always remained unusually stable, maintaining its shape and position within the sector, though in those millennia it has never shown any sign of diminishing.

The debilitating effect that the presence of the Gyre has had on the sector is twofold. Firstly, the presence of such a large warp storm has impeded space travel in a significant part of the sector, forcing the adoption of lengthy, circuitous routes to avoid it altogether. The Gyre’s very presence, however, has been known to cause smaller, short-lived warp-squalls to flare up in surrounding regions of space, and to cause instability and turbulence in nearby warp routes. Far more debilitating, however, is the effect that the storm has had on the holy Astronomicon: due both to the intensity with which the Gyre rages and the sheer distance away of Holy Terra, the Astronomicon shines less dimly in many parts of the Kerberus Sector. This has been known to make warp travel and navigation riskier, and many ships have been forced to make use of ancient star-charts and memorized routes rather than relying solely on the Astronomicon.

Despite the many dangers of sailing into a warp storm, and despite the fact that the Inquisition has officially declared the Gyre to be off limits, more than a few brave or foolhardy adventurers have sailed into the storm. Those few that have returned have done so with tales of worlds unseen by human eyes, of pockets of stable space within the Gyre free of the touch of the warp, and of verdant, green worlds ripe for exploration and settlement. More than a few rumours have surfaced of ancient xeno ruins and treasures lying on those worlds. Whether such rumours are true or not, they have not stopped adventurers from sailing forth into the storm, braving the danger (and possible damnation) for fame and wealth…though there are many who argue that whatever lies at the heart of the Gyre cannot have remained untainted by the touch of the Warp…

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(Art by Games Workshop)

THE VANISHING OF TETHYS

Prior to 999.M41, the world of Tethys was a rapidly-rising star on the economic promontory of the Kerberus Sector. An aquatic world located just to the galactic southwest of the Gyre, Tethys was a magnificent jewel of glimmering green seas, continent-sized beds of algae and tangled island chains. For most of its history, it had been considered a backwater, its few landmasses inhabited by an impoverished population and its floating cities ruled by bickering noble families mostly interested in cultivating old grudges and clinging to their petty fiefdoms, and by a line of planetary governors more interested in lining their pockets than in paying their world’s tithes. Production was at an all time low, and even worse, the superstitious, pre-Imperial cults, who worshipped of the ancient, monstrous leviathans that stalked Tethys’ oceans, still practised their heretical rituals behind closed doors.

A timely census by the Administratum, however, eventually revealed the depth of the government’s corruption, and in the ensuing political fallout, the governor of the time was deposed and one of the newer nobility, Brigitte L’Oiseaux, was installed in his place. Under L’Oiseaux’s tenure, Tethys’ tithes were not only met, but also exceeded, its fisheries and kelp farms suddenly feeding much of the sector. At the same time, Tethys’ star ports were opened up even further to offworld trade, and raw materials, vital infrastructural services and offworld luxuries were brought in in exchange for the planet’s growing market of sea-beast hides and aquatic delicacies. Imperial authorities such as the Arbites and the Ecclesiarchy were strengthened and made more visible, and after a vigorous purge, the heretical cults of Tethys were pushed back into the shadows and margins of society, forced now to live in fear of discovery.

Almost overnight, Tethys’ economic woes were reversed, and its people were soon enjoying a standard of living almost unheard of in their long history. Within a few years, Tethys had grown to enjoy such a position of wealth and influence that there was even rumour that the sector capital might be moved there.

And then, seemingly at the height of its grandeur, disaster fell upon Tethys. In one dark night, the oceanic leviathans– each a fabled monster in its own right– went into a frenzy all at once, attacking beyond their territories and devouring or savaging all they came across. Psykers all over the planet began to scream, and many were simply obliterated in eruptions of empyric energy that caused massive destruction and loss of life. Above Tethys, the normally indigo night sky suddenly became the sickly violet of an infected wound, and actinic lightning stabbed across its suddenly turbulent atmosphere. Acid and fire rained from the heavens, and gale force winds tossed floating buildings and settlements into the air like children’s toys. And then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the Warp itself swept over Tethys in an apocalyptic surge, and the planet was simply gone.

News of Tethys’ disappearance was slow to reach the rest of the sector at first, but when it did, it took on a much more horrifying aspect than the simple vanishing of a world. All stellar cartographae in the sector soon confirmed the same thing: the Gyre had expanded. A tendril of the storm, like that of a starfish lazily reaching out, had extended to envelop the Tethys system completely. The news sent ripples of shock throughout the sector government at Kerberus Prime, the shipyards at Calyphia and the naval command at Port Warden. Economies tied by interstellar trade to Tethys went into freefall, and panic and confusion reigned on populated worlds, the Adeptus Arbites desperately trying to maintain order as ordinary citizens screamed that the end times had come. Across the sector, soothsayers and diviners began experiencing visions of destruction, anarchy and death, and the sheer empyric feedback of the warp-event caused dozens of ships to be thrown violently off course as their Navigators and Astropaths suffered seizures or went mad.

In all of its long history, the roiling tides of the Gyre had never before shifted position or expanded. That they had not only done so now, but, in the process, enveloped a major Imperial world, was shocking in the extreme, and hundreds of explanations arose as a result. Some claimed that it was divine punishment for the sins of Tethys and its populace, while others claimed it was the work of xenos, harnessing the warp itself as a weapon against the Imperium. Others still claimed some strange artefact or anomaly on Tethys must have attracted the warp like a magnet, while those knowledgeable of Tethysian lore whispered that perhaps the ancient leviathans, still worshipped in secret by so many on that lost world, might have done this somehow. To many others, however, the fact that a warp storm had just swallowed a major Imperial world spoke of darker, deeper implications, and feared that the eye of the storm now gazed ever more hungrily upon the rest of the sector…

Battle Summary: Drukhari vs Death Guard

(above image by GW, used without permission)

Last weekend, I managed to get my second game in with my Drukhari. I was going up against a Death Guard player who had said ahead of time that he would be bringing an “experimental list.” My only game against the Death Guard thus far had been with my Sisters of Battle, and it had ended horribly due to a combination of Poxwalkers, Typhus, and Mortarion. This time around, I had no idea what to expect, so I brought a list that I hoped would be able to deal with whatever Nurgle’s rotters would throw at me:

FLAYED SKULL BATTALION:
Archon- blaster, Djinn Blade, Hatred Eternal- 93
Archon- blaster, huskblade- 93
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
Sslyth- 27
8 Mandrakes- 128
Razorwing Jetfighter- splinter cannon, disintegrators- 145
Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 148
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 148
Razorwing Jetfighter- disintegrator cannons- 145

CURSED BLADE BATTALION:
Succubus- archite glaive, blast pistol, Stimm Addict, Adrenalight, Serpentin- 60
Succubus- shardnet and impaler, Hypex- 55
5 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Hekatrix w. power sword, Grave Lotus- 64
5 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Hekatrix w. power sword, Splintermind- 64
20 Wyches- 2 shardnets and impalers, Hekatrix w. power sword, Adrenalight- 166
6 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 blasters, 2 grav talons, Painbringer- 154
Raider- disintegrator- 80
Raider- disintegrator- 80

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:
Haemonculus- stinger pistol,, electrocorrosive whip, Diabolic Soothsayer- 81
5 Wracks- 45

Total: 1945

Unfortunately, I had nothing left in my model range to fill this void in points. Potentially, I could have taken a Lhamaean, or even another Sslyth, or even just filled out the numbers of some of my Wych squads/Mandrakes/Reavers. That’s hindsight for you, though).

Total CP: 13 (-1 for Alliance of Agony, -1 for extra relics, +d3 for Diabolic Soothsayer)

The general idea of this list was to keep as many splinter weapons/blasters on hand as possible to deal with Daemon Princes, Bloat Drones, etc, while also having some close combat punch just in case (and, naturally, plenty of mobility). In particular, I wanted to experiment with the Cult of the Cursed Blade and a giant mob of 20 or so Wyches coming out of the webway– I hopefully, they would help deal with the giant unbreakable Poxwalker tarpits I faced the last time around.

My opponent ran the following (from memory):

DEATH GUARD SPEARHEAD:
Daemon Prince- wings, 2 malefic talons, Suppurating Plate, Miasma of Pestilence, Rotten Constitution
3 Deathshroud Terminators
3 Myphilitic Blight Haulers
Plagueburst Crawler- 2 plaguespitters
Plagueburst Crawler- 2 plaguespitters
Plagueburst Crawler- 2 plaguespitters

NURGLE DAEMONS BATTALION (I think…he had just 1 HQ, though, so I don’t think that’s right):
Herald of Nurgle- Curse of the Leper
4 Nurgling Swarms
4 Nurgling Swarms
4 Nurgling Swarms
4 Nurgling Swarms

DEATH GUARD SUPERHEAVY AUXILIARY DETACHMENT:
Mortarion- Plague Wind, Pestilential Vitality

We played one of the ITC missions, on a diagonal deployment on a table with sparse cover. I was, and still am, completely unfamiliar with ITC missions, but for my two special objectives I chose Monster Hunter and Recon (I think) He chose the character-hunting objective and also Recon. I’ll be honest, my memory is hazy, and I was essentially a casual player up against someone prepping for the ITC.

This is only going to be a short-form batrep, partly because my army is still in a partial stage of assembly/painting/renovation, and partly because my opponent needed to be elsewhere in four hours, and I didn’t want to slow the game down by taking pictures. I’ll just instead quickly go over what happened.

DEPLOYMENT:

Before the game, I used my extra command points to give my non-warlord Succubus the Traitor’s Embrace (aka the “kill me and I explode” relic), and my Haemonculus the Helm of Spite so he could counter enemy psykers.

We played on a board with a few hollowed-out buildings on either side, with plenty of no man’s land in between. He set up with his forces spread across his deployment zone, with his Crawlers at the forefront and his Blight Haulers, Mortarion, Daemon Prince and everything else sheltering behind them. I, meanwhile, clustered as many skimmers as possible behind the two buildings, with all of my characters going into Wych Raiders, along with the giant Wych blob and Mandrakes in reserve, and the Wracks in the far corner, out of sight and ready to redeploy via Black Cornucopians if need be. I one serious deployment mistake, however: I one Wych Raider (with exploding Succubus, warlord Archon and Sslyth) far forward on the left flank, along with the Reaver Jebtikes, with both units out of cover and practically staring down the Death Guard’s guns. The reason for this was I was gambling on getting the first turn, zooming forward and assaulting/blastering stuff right from the get go.

Guess what? I didn’t get the first turn, and I didn’t seize the initiative. Ahahaha help.

TURN 1

His Crawlers all move up, as do his Blight Haulers, with one going right into the face of my Reavers, while his Nurglings all scamper around to grab objectives. Mortarion and his Daemon Prince advance close to the middle of his force, with his Deathshroud staying close to Mortarion to tank wounds for him. The psychic phase is largely ineffective, but shooting is painful: exposed out in the open, 4 of my Reavers go down, as does the Raider carrying the Wyches, Sslyth, explosive Succubus and my warlord. No one is hurt, but now almost all of my stuff is out in the open.

My turn, I try to advance my characters for cover, while my Sslyth stands in front of them. My Reavers zoom behind one Crawler, while my Wyches move to assault it next turn. Honestly, on that flank, I pretty much figure its all a lost cause and I’m playing for time. The rest of my army pulls a refused flank manoeuvre, with everything (bar a Ravager and a Venom, which are too far back) flying down the right flank to concentrate fire on a Crawler. I had both my Archon and Haemonculus get out as well, the former to get his reroll 1s bubble in action, the latter to make sure the Helm of Spite was on the board. Shooting sees concentrated fire bring down the Crawler surprisingly quickly– my opponent’s invulnerable and Disgustingly Resilient saves were awful– while random splinter fire kills half a unit of Nurglings (those little blighters are tough!) My Reavers, meanwhile, do 4-odd wounds to the Crawler.

Then, in the assault phase, I commit a blunder: I charged my Reavers into the nearest Plagueburst Crawler, 1) because I figured they wouldn’t survive the next turn, and 2) intending for them to eat overwatch so that the Wyches (and hopefully any surviving Reavers) could tie the big tank up for a turn and deny it its awful shooting. The Crawler’s plaguespitters, however, showed me why this was a bad idea, vaporizing both Reavers in one round of overwatch. I was about to charge in with the Wyches as well when my opponent reminded me that, in 8th edition, units can overwatch as many times as they want as long as they are not locked in combat. I had been working under the assumption that overwatch worked like it did in 7th, where units could only ever overwatch once per phase. Needless to say, this was a rather humbling learning moment for me. The Wyches stayed put, though that gave me no solace considering that I had just wasted the Reavers for nothing.

TURN 2

In the Death Guard turn, his stuff shuffled around, with the Daemon Prince leaping right up in the face of my massed vehicles on the right flank, Morty flying up towards my Ravager in the centre, and the rest of his stuff angling for better lines of fire/grabbing objectives. In the psychic phase, he failed to case Miasma on the Daemon Prince, and miraculously failed Smite, but his Herald did manage to heal a few wounds off of the Crawler that had all to recently spat on the Reavers. Mortarion then cast Pestilential Vigour on the Daemon Prince, but the Helm of Spite denied it, inflicting a few wounds on Mortarion via Perils in the bargain!

In the shooting phase, though, all but 1 of the disembarked Wyches were blasted down, as was the poor Sslyth. The middle Ravager took the lion’s share of the firepower, and despite me using Lightning Reflexes, it was still dropped down to 3 wounds. In the assault phase, the Daemon Prince charged the Razorwing, shrugged off a crapload of overwatch, and proceeded to shred my poor plane before consolidating into a nearby Razorwing. The damn thing was now right in the middle of most of my army…right, I later realized, where my opponent wanted it.

TURN 3

In my turn, the Mandrakes arrived in the opponent’s backfield, while I opened a webway portal and brought my big mob of Wyches in as well. I hoped to use both of these units to clear the backfield of Nurglings. In the proper movement phase, I had no bloody idea what to do with my warlord, as she was surrounded by Crawlers, Mortarion, and the incoming Death Guard, so I hid her, while the exploding Succubus and the last Wych went after Mortarion. The injured Ravager moved more fully out of cover so it could grab a nearby objective. Meanwhile, my big huddle on the right flank…continued to huddle, with my vheicles all circling the Daemon Prince to rapid fire it to death (save for one Venom further back, which zoomed up so that it could shoot at either the Prince or Mortarion). This wound up being a big mistake: instead of using my superior mobility to go out, grab objectives, etc, I was castling in a corner of the board. As it was, my opponent’s more slow-moving army already had control of the board and a sizeable point advantage. As of writing this, I also realize I should have disembarked my other Wych unit + Succubus from their own Raider to go after the Nurglings as well. I really, really wasn’t thinking in this game.

In shooting, almost everything that could fired into the Daemon Prince, and despite its 2+ save, 5+ invulnerable and Disgusting Resilience, brought it down to 1 wound with massed poison and lance fire. What few shots I threw against the nearby Crawler, sadly, did no damage. The damaged Ravager whiffed against Mortarion, as did my warlord. The Mandrakes, however, unleashed their baleblasts at a nearby squad of Nurglings, and managed to kill two bases and leave another hanging on one wound.

In close combat, the Archon charged the Daemon Prince, the last Wych charged Mortarion (and died to his area effect power), the exploding Succubus also charged Mortarion (and took 2 wounds to said power), and the Mandrakes and big mob of Wyches each charged a unit of Nurglings, respectively. Everyone’s charges made it in…except, crucially, for my Mandrakes and my Wyches, both of whom failed even with rerolls! Arrgh! In combat, at least, my Archon finished off the Daemon Prince, using Soul Trap to then boost his stats. The Succubus, predictably, did nothing to Mortarion, was squished in return and exploded…and proceeded to do 1 mortal wound. Annoyed, I used a Command Point to reroll the explosion…and got a 2…one of which was then saved by Mortarion’s Resilience. I had just sacrificed a character and two command points (one for the reroll, one for her relic) for ONE wound on Mortarion. Grumble mutter grumble…

TURN 3

At the top of turn 3, Mortarion flew down to say hi to my bunched-up vehicles and introduce them to his area-effect plague ability. His Blight Haulers moved back to the centre of the board for better line of sight on my stuff, his Crawlers shuffled…and that was mainly it. Oh yes, and his Deathshroud advanced up menacingly on my warlord.

In the psychic phase, the Herald healed up Mortarion, while Mortarion himself managed to cast Plague Wind– I was unable to stop it, and one of my Venoms went crashing down after taking one mortal wound too many, forcing the Kabalites inside to disembark. In the shooting phase, things got even worse: my damaged Ravager went down, as did another of my Venoms, while the Kabalite squad that had previously been forced out was wiped out by missile fire. One Crawler devoted all of its firepower to my nearby warlord…but this time the dice favoured me, as she went on to make save after save with her shadow field, and emerged from the bombardment unscathed. The same could not be said for my big Wych mob, who lost 6 of their number to mortar fire, and another to morale.

In the assault phase, Mortarion assaulted, managing to get in contact with my Haemonculus, Archon, and the other disembarked Kabalite squad. Silence swung out in great arcs, slicing down my Haemonculus and all 5 Kabalites. In return, my Archon swung back, and actually managed to ding a wound off of the big guy in return. His Deathshroud, perhaps wisely, declined to charge my warlord after that display of shadowfieldery.

In my turn, I withdrew my Archon from combat, and disembarked my Succubus and squad of Wyches to go after Nurglings. Speaking of which, my now-reduced Wych blob moved up to charge one Nurgling squad, while my Mandrakes slunk up towards another. All of my vehicles shuffled to get line of sight on various things, and my Archon warlord moved up to charge either the Deathshroud or the Crawler as necessary.

In the shooting phase, my Archon failed to damage the Crawler with her blaster. My Mandrakes, though, did one better, wiping out the Nurglings that they had maimed previously. All the rest of my shooting went into Mortarion, and proceeded to drop the big guy down to 9 wounds! The wound up netting me some points as per Big Game Hunter, so I was quite happy with that.

In the assault phase, the big Wych mob went into one squad of Nurglings, the smaller squad went into another, the Succubus went into a third (that had already taken damage from my first shooting phase), and my Mandrakes went into the Nurgle Herald. Finally, the warlord Archon had a choice of dealing with either the Crawler or the Deathshroud, though my opponent warned me that no matter which I charged, the Archon would be receiving a lot of auto-hits on overwatch. In the end, I figured it was either charge or be charged, and sent the Archon into the Deathshroud. The bodyguards of Mortarion then proceeded to unleash a lot of auto-hits from their poisoned flamers, inflicting some 9 wounds on the Archon, of which she saved all…but one, dropping her shadow field. Crap. Everything, at least, made it charge this time.

In close combat, the Mandrakes sliced the Nurgle Herald into tiny, rotting bits, ending his psychic shenanigans once and for all. The giant Wych mob, in turn, wiped out two bases of Nurglings and left a third hovering on a wound. Hmm, I was expecting a bit more from them. Finally, my small Wych squad did only to wounds to their Nurgling opponents for two wounds in return, while the Succubus did two wounds to another Nurgling unit and took a wound of her own. Hmm, that was underwhelming.

Finally, the Archon swept into the Deathshroud, unleashing 7 strength 4 attacks, rerolling failed to wound rolls and doing d3 damage each…and did absolutely nada, as all of her damage bounced off Cataphractii armour and Disgusting Resilience. In return, the Deathshrouds’ scythes hacked my poor Archon to ribbons. And thus new model curse reared its ugly head.

The only picture I took of the game, showing my Archon’s last moments.

At this point, though, we were running out of time, and my opponent needed to get going. I can’t remember what the final score was, only that I was losing quite decisively, so I called it then and there.

Result: Death Guard victory!

OBSERVATIONS:
-Looking back, I didn’t do too badly in this game, all things considered. I was, at the end of the day, using a soft list in a scenario format that I was horribly unfamiliar and inexperienced with, and yet I still managed to deal a bloody nose to the Death Guard. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the fact that I still played a very lopsided game where I pretty much screwed myself over in deployment.
-I brought my list expecting to deal with Poxwalker hordes (hence the Wych blob). In retrospect, I shoulder really have brought more Kabalites/firepower, as this would have been a huge help in dealing with those damnable Plagueburst Crawlers, and large monsters, and vehicles, etc.
-I was surprised at how aggressive he was in moving forward with his Plagueburst Crawlers. I was expecting him to go for lascannon equivalents, not plaguespitters. Again, I really should have used my mobility to keep my distance.
-Nurglings are freaking tough! My Wyches just couldn’t kill the buggers off when it mattered.

MISTAKES:
-My earlier deployment error was extremely costly, and meant that I lost my Reavers far too early. It also meant that my warlord was on the run for most of the game from the majority of the enemy army (in retrospect I wonder if I wound have been better served by running her out aggressively as a distraction rather than trying to preserve her, but I didn’t rate her chances against Mortarion.) Hugging cover is the number one deployment rule for Dark Eldar, and I’m stunned that I neglected it in this instance.
-As mentioned above, I was an idiot and didn’t take full advantage of my mobility like I should have. Instead, I let the majority of my force get boxed into a corner for two full turns while the enemy army spread out and took those vital objectives. This was massively important, because in ITC missions you score a point for each turn that you have an objective under your control.
-I initially forgot about the Flayed Skull ability to reroll 1s with my splinter rifles/cannons. This was pivotal, as I kept having my vehicles (or my Venoms, at least) hug my Archon’s reroll bubble instead instead of letting them spread out.

WHAT WENT WELL, AT LEAST:
-My firepower was reliable and effective throughout the entire game, with my multiple blasters punching holes in his tanks and my massed splinter fire putting serious hurt on his Daemon Prince and Morty. My Venoms, Kabalites and Ravagers were all just plain fantastic.
-My number 2 Archon did better than my Djinn Blade-wielding warlord, killing off the Daemon Prince and even managing to tank wounds for a round from Mortarion
-My Mandrakes, even though they failed their charge when they arrived, were excellent at clearing away my opponent’s backfield, killing off one unit of Nurglings with baleblasts and stabbing down the Nurgle Herald

UNITS THAT DID NOT DO WELL:
-The Wych horde came down on turn 2….and failed their charge on the Nurglings guarding an objective, as did the Mandrakes. When they did make it into a unit of Nurglings on turn 3, they had taken some losses, and only killed 2 bases and nearly killed a 3rd. Not nearly good enough. I think the whole deepstriking Wych blob experiment has failed.
-My Traitor’s Embrace Succubus was terrible. She charged Mortarion, died horribly…and then rolled a 1 for her explosion damage. I used a command point reroll, got a 2…and then Mortarion saved one of the wounds anyway on Disgustingly Resilient. I had spent two whole command points and a character just to do 1 wound to Mortarion. :bleep:
-As mentioned above, I was an unpracticed, casual player against a guy practicing for ITC. The outcome felt like it was inevitable based ont that factor alone.

RULES LESSONS:
-Up until now, i had always thought that overwatch worked like 7th ed, where you can have a unit charge in, eat up overwatch, and free another unit to charge in without penalty. Instead, as I learned, an enemy unit can overwatch as many times as it likes as long as it’s not locked in combat. This became apparent when I charged the last two Reavers into one of his Plagueburst Crawlers, hoping to eat overwatch so some nearby Wyches could lock it in combat and deny its shooting for a bit. Nope, the Reavers died, and the Wyches soon followed suit.
-When rerolling charges, you must in fact reroll both dice: you cannot choose just to reroll one, unless you are using a command point
-The Helm of Spite must actually be on the table (ie outside of a vehicle) in order to take effect.

MOVING FORWARD:
I’m thinking that for competitive games (ie games where my opponent brings several psykers, Plagueburst Crawlers and Daemon Princes against me), a third Ravager is definitely in order- and potentially, even taking them in a Black Heart Spearhead detachment so that I can make use of Labyrinthine Cunning, Writ of the Dark Muse and Agents of Vect (though I wonder if taking that would immediately turn me into “that guy”). Otherwise, I’m discovering that Reavers are very difficult to use effectively, as despite their high toughness and multiple wounds, they are not hard to kill at all. They really need to hug LOS blocking cover and/or get in the enemy’s faces on turn 1 to be effective– and to do that, ideally, they need to be run with Red Grief, not Cursed Blade.

Speaking of which, my dalliance into the Cult of the Cursed Blade was interesting, and might bear repeating…but not with the giant Wych blob. The one big problem with the Wych blob is that a simple, failed charge roll left them sitting out in the open– which would have been infinitely worse against a shootier opponent like Imperial Guard or T’au. Maybe I will experiment with this unit again at some point, but in the meantime, I will stick to keeping my Wyches in Raiders (which means sticking to Cult of the Red Grief, to make best use of said Raiders. I am starting to see why Red Grief is seen as the “go-to” Wych Cult for a lot of players)

Overall, at the end of the day, I was an unpracticed Drukhari player up against a much more experienced player prepar ing for a major tournament. Based on that factor alone, this was always going to be an uphill battle for me, so I take some solace from that.

Updates: revising a paint scheme, a dark lady, and evil Wraithguard

It’s been a while since I last shared any of my painting/converting updates– as usual, my very busy weekly life has kept me…well, busy. That being said, what progress that I have made has been focused on my Drukhari, particularly in updating my old colour scheme.

Kabalites:

When I first painted up my Kabal of the Revenant Shroud , I wanted something other than the green/turquoise schemes I kept seeing on every other Dark Eldar army out there. I wanted a theme that reflected the Kabal name– something suitably dark and menacing– but not overly so. In the end, I went with a mid-grey colour scheme with ice-blue highlights, going for a look that, to me at least, trod the line between malevolence and barebones functionality– a delinieation that, to me, seemed appropriate for a Kabal that had effectively been living in exile.

Some (admittedly) blurry pics of my old colour scheme can be found here:

And some of my allied Wych Cult:


As you can see, my old colour scheme really was nothing to write home about. I quickly discovered how difficult it was to get grey shaded and hightlighted just right, and ended up with an army that, regrettably, looked like it had just come off of the sprue. To make things worse, back then my carrying case wasn’t the greatest, and so gradual wear and tear resulted in a lot of damage to my poor models.

It was because of this that, when the new Codex: Drukhari dropped, I vowed that I would make my army playable again. Up until then, I had been using the old, horribly outdated Dark Eldar Warriors, and so made a point of buying two large squads of Kabalite Warriors (half of which came pre-primed and assembled from a friend). I was dissatisfied with how my old colour scheme had turned out, and wanted to use these Kabalites as a testbed for a new possible scheme (and/or to see if I could improve the old one)
At first, I tried experimenting with (from left to right), a base of Dark Reaper followed by a lighter grey colour; an attempt at painting ivory (which turned out horribly) and an attempt at doing Incubi Darkness followed by Kabalite Green.

The grey one, I edged with Sotek Green just to see how well the two would work together. I had it in my mind that I wanted to go for a scheme that seemed ancient, or even “spectral,” and I was inspired in no small part by the way the upcoming Nighthaunt minis have been painted for Age of Sigmar.
At some point in this whole process, I decided to base an entire squad in Dark Reaper, and see where I went from there. I think I was trying to do something similar to, or improve upon, my old colour scheme.

More recently, at a paint night at a friend’s house, layered one of these Dark Reaper’d models with Vallejo Sombre Grey (which I think is an equivalent to Russ Grey) and then went over it with a blue wash. The end result looks like this:


I have to say, I actually really like this colour– it evokes shadow and has an almost spectral look to it, while at the same time still is “colourful.”

Later on, I added purple to the plumage of this guy’s helm, just to add in some extra complementary colour. Note that I still need to do the flayed skin tabards of the Kabalites as well.

Here is an entire squad in progress. Later on I intend to add ice-blue highlights to the edge of their armour, just to get a little bit more colour done on them. That, of course, will be a time-consuming effort, and after these six, I have thirty-odd more to go.

The Archon

A while back, I acquired a new Archon model from Raging Heroes, although I had been avoiding painting her since. Given that I was uncertain of how I was going to be repainting my Drukhari, I wanted to be sure that I had a colour scheme in mind before I painted her. Even then, I wanted to be sure that she stood out– after all, she was going to be representing the big bad of my army, and I wanted her colour scheme to be distinctive in some way.

Assembling her wasn’t too much of a hassle…except, however, that the tip of her little arm-blade snapped off when I first tried to transport her. Sadly, despite my best efforts, the tip keeps breaking off every time I try gluing it back on. I fear the damage may be permanent. If that’s the case…well, then I’m going to have to get used to my Archon having a rather stubby arm-weapon thing.

At first, I debated painting the Archon silver or ivory to make her stand out from my grey Kabalites. However, I decided against it: I doubted I could make the details of the model (ie her eerily funerary-looking mask, her segmented armour, etc) stand out that well in silver…and I just find it really difficult to paint ivory. So instead I went for a lighter version of the Kabalite colour scheme, going for a straight base coat of Sombre Grey followed by a blue wash. Here is that initial attempt, shown next to a Kabalite for contrast.

From there, so far, I have darkened the armour slightly with more blue, while using Russ Grey to highlight the model. I’ve also painted her gun, the chains on the model and the skulls dangling from said chains, and most importantly, painted her cloak a regal purple, working up from several successive shades. The end result so far looks like this:

I have to say, I am loving how she looks so far. The grey/blue is turning out just right, and more importantly, is working very well with the purple. I still have to touch up her armour a little, and maybe add some ice-blue highlights to tie her further to the rest of the army. Her base came from a third party supplier (sadly I can’t remember which), and is pretty much supposed to look like an Eldar Craftworld base. I’m debating painting it a dull grey or a sharp bone colour, though a friend has also suggested scratching up the surface a little to make it look like a recent battle-site. Overall, though, I love this model: she has an easy, arrogant grace to her that makes me imagine her sauntering across a battlefield, unconcerned about enemy firepower and commanding the respect and fear of her followers.

 

Grotesques:

Ages ago, I hit upon the idea that my Kabal’s allied Haemonculus, instead of creating Grotesques normally (which is a relative term, depending on how “normal” you consider Groteques to be), and instead harvests and corrupts Wraithguard into horrendously altered wraithbone killing machines. It made sense to me, modelling-wise– Grotesques are roughly on par size-wise with the “standard” Grotesque models, as well as with Crypt Horrors, which I have seen used as the basis for so many Grotesque conversions. The Wraithguard, unlike the hunched, bestial Crypt Horrors, though, have a rigid, fluid look to them that, normally, makes them look like they are striding calmly and silently forward. It would be an image I would be all to happy to ruin with a whole lot of awkard poses and spiky stuff.

For a background reason, I figured that my Haemonculus was less concerned about the torments that could be inflicted on the flesh, and was more interested on experimenting with the immortal, undying soul. Hence, Wraithguard, and more importantly, the spirit stones within– and it was then that I realized that I had hit upon something far more horrifying than Grotesques, for the souls trapped inside the Wraithguard would no doubt be tormented to the point of insanity.

I started off with two Wraithguard, adjusting their poses slightly and replacing some of their arms with those from a Talos sprue (plus a bladevane from a Venom). In many cases, a lot of sawing and pinning had to be done to keep the new arms/hands/implements in place.

From there, I did two more– one, with leftover arms from a sprue of Kromlech mek-arms that I had lying around from when I’d converted my Arco-Flagellants, and the other, with its hands replaced by the blades of Wraithblades swords to create a “mantis”-type construct.

I plan to create possibly up to 10 of these guys to form a terrifying giant unit of death, possibly later with some Taloi backing them up (what Hero calls “the Miserable Meat Mountain,” only in this case with 99% less meat). I don’t know how I’m going to paint them, at the moment, but I may use an exacto knife to carve furrows and cracks into their surfaces to make the Wraithbone look like its fraying under the pressure of its unholy alteration.

At this point, though, I’m just scratching the surface of what I need to get done with my Drukhari. I still need to do my Reavers, half of my Mandrakes, and my Wracks, not to mention painting up my Succubus as well (and possibly redoing the colours of my Wyches). And that’s not even mentioning the possibility of redoing my vehicles, or getting a third Ravager, more Wracks, and assembling my Scourges and Taloi in the future…

Sigh. Whoever said building an army was a leisure activity had no idea what they were talking about…

Batrep #5: From Darkness They Came

(Artist unknown)

Hundreds of miles below the Valkyrie, the surface of planetoid Ixis 37B was a jagged grey tangle of crags, peaks, and canyons, punctuated here and there by the bright orange of a lava flow. It was a low atmosphere rock where little sunlight pierced the perpetual gloom, and little or nothing lived. It wasn’t until you got closer to the surface that you saw stranger sights– rock formations hovering above the ground like strange, floating sculptures, perfectly hemispherical pits stretching for miles across, and strange electromagnetic signals seemingly originating from the planet itself– all of which had attracted the attention of the Adeptus Mechanicus.

Tempestor Stone of the Ironheart Grenadiers pulled his gaze away from the Valkyrie’s viewport to glance at back Alpha Squad. Around him, his Grenadiers were harnessed into their seats, busy doing last-minute weapons checks, saying the odd prayer here and there, and cracking jokes with one another– all standard rituals for a man about to make a drop. 

At least two standard Terran weeks ago, an Adeptus Mechanicus facility in Ixis had unearthed ancient ruins of xenos origin. Only a few days after that, though, the raids had begun: sleek craft, supposedly of Eldar origin, had started to strike at the outpost from the barren wastelands surrounding it, reaping a heavy toll on the Skitarii garrison before disappearing back into the darkness of the moon’s eternal night cycle. The attacks had been incessant, day after day, until the very last Skitarii had been slain. Now the Techpriests were defeneless, and they were calling on the Imperial Guard for help. They were adamant that something that they had found– an artefact of great significance, or so they claimed, though they refused to go into specifics– could not fall into xenos hands.

Task Force D-55’s mission was simple: extract the surviving Techpriests, and more importantly, the whatever-it-was that they had found. Ground assets– in particular, an armoured brigade from the Ironheart 23rd– were already on site, though Marshal Everson had also sent Stone and his Grenadiers in to provide airborne support and extraction if need be, and– as Everson himself had said– “to give those flying pointy-eared whoresons a taste of their own medicine.” Stone smiled at the thought, but it soon disappeared as he recalled the details of the xeno attacks. Whoever these attackers were, they had been capturing Skitarii alive with each raid, mutilating them, and leaving their barely-alive bodies nailed to cliffsides in full view of the Mechanicus outpost. This could only be the grisly handiwork of the Dark Eldar, he knew, which meant that  failure today would mean a fate much worse than death for him and his men.

“Vox reading from the ground, sir!” came an abrupt shout from Bishop, his pilot. “The ground column has sighted and engaged xeno forces at delta nine-five!”

Stone snapped back to reality. “Auspex!” he ordered, bracing himself against the upper walls of the Valkyrie as he strode down the length of the plane towards the cockpit. Looking at the auspex on the main console, he saw returns pinging to life on the circular screen– solid green blocks representing the armoured column sprang up, forming a loose row upon a topographic representation of the valley far below them. A yellow triangle blinked in the middle of the column, representing the asset that the Mechanicus wanted extracted. At the furthest of the valley, meanwhile, multiple white dots of varying size were suddenly appearing. Those dots were converging on the column with alarming speed. 

It was at that moment that the vox crackled to life. The cabin of the Valkyrie was suddenly flooded with a cacophony of screams, shouted orders, and a low, static-laced rumble that could only be the boom of battle cannons. 

“Shut it off,” Stone ordered, “and bring us into drop altitude.” He turned and strode down the other end of the plane to his men. “Weapons ready! We will be dropping in exactly one minute! Our opposition is highly mobile with multiple skimmer assets! Expect intense enemy fire and fierce resistance the moment we hit the ground!”

“So, business as usual?” piped up one Grenadier.

Stone flashed him a rare smile. “Business as usual, Grenadier,” he replied, as he flicked the power cell of his pistol and re-checked his grav-chute, before grabbing a hold of the overhead railing.

In front of him, the side door of the Valkyrie began to rumble open to the endless starlight outside…

 

So, I apologize for the long time it has been since my last batrep: life, as usual, has been fairly busy. A while back, though, I managed to get my first game with the new Dark Eldar in against a friend of mine who had just started on 8th edition himself. For the sake of keeping things simple, we agreed to a 1500 points game, with my Kabal against his Imperial Guard. I brought the following:

 

I took the following:

20180506_133334

A quick note: for those of you who do not like seeing unpainted models…I apologize in advance, but you are going to be seeing a lot of those in this game.

 

KABAL OF THE REVENANT SHROUD RAIDING PARTY:

KABAL OF THE FLAYED SKULL PATROL:

Dracon Khyrus (Archon)- blast pistol, Djin Blade, phantasm grenade launcher, Hatred Eternal
10 Kabalite Warriors- 2 blasters, splinter cannon
-Raider- dark lance, splinter racks
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster
-Venom- dual splinter cannon
Sslyth
-Venom- dual splinter cannon
8 Mandrakes
Ravager- 3 dark lances
Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrators

CULT OF THE RED GRIEF PATROL:

Succubus Karath Deathbrand- blast pistol, Blood Glaive, Adrenalight, Hyper-Swift Reflexes
9 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Grave Lotus, Hekatrix w. agonizer*
-Raider- disintegrator
6 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 heat lances, Painbringer

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:

Haemonculus Vakkan- stinger pistol, electrocorrosive whip, Diabolic Soothsayer
5 Wracks
-Venom- dual splinter cannons

Total Command Points: 7

*Yes, I know the agonizer is technically a bad choice against Imperial Guard, but I made this as an all-comers list.

 

Thoughts: In putting together this list, I wanted to try out the Alliance of Agony stratagem as well as the Raiding Force rules…and to be honest, I also wanted to try a little bit of everything. The general idea of this list was to have a solid core of firepower from my Kabalites and vehicle-mounted weapons, while the Wyches, Reavers, and deep striking Mandrakes would try to force my opponent to deal with multiple close combat threats at once.

 

My Imperial Guard opponent, meanwhile, brought the following:

 

IRONHEART EXPEDITIONARY FORCES:

MILITARUM TEMPESTUS BATTALLION:

Tempestor Prime Stone- hot-shot laspistol, Blade of Conquest, Draconian Disciplinarian
Primaris Psyker- Psychic Barrier, Emperor’s Gaze
7 Scions- 2 meltaguns, Tempestor w. power axe
7 Scions- 2 meltaguns, Tempestor w. power sword
7 Scions- 2 plasma guns, Tempestor w. power sword
Scion Command Squad- flamer, plasma gun, grenade launcher, medi-pack
Techpriest Enginseer
4 Servitors- 2 heavy bolters
-Chimera- hull heavy bolter

CATACHAN SPEARHEAD DETACHMENT:

Lord Commissar- bolt pistol, power sword
10 Veterans- 3 plasma guns, Sergeant w. power fist
-Chimera- hull heavy bolter
Hellhound- hull heavy bolter
Leman Russ- hull lascannon, sponson heavy bolters
Leman Russ- hull lascannon, sponson heavy bolters
Manticore

Total Command Points: 8

I’ll be honest, I was rather intimidated at first by both the sheer number of tanks at his disposal, and by the entire detachment of deep striking Scions that would be pouncing on my army in turn 2. It was at around this point that I began to wonder if I had brought enough blasters or lances for this battle. Still, this game was going to be a test for both of our lists. “Maybe I’m selling myself short,” I thought at the time, “maybe the Imperial Guard’s shooting won’t be so bad.” Ah hah hah hah hah…

 

For the scenario, we settled on The Relic– which we represented with an old pot of paint that my opponent had on hand. We figured that it had to contain some sort of fantastic STC construct, or blackmetal, or maybe the Imperial Guard is just desperately running out of silver paint nowadays.

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DEPLOYMENT:

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From right to left: I placed my Reavers far forward, hoping to advance and then charge on the first turn. Further behind, the Kabalites and Ravager hit behind one rock formation, while my three Venoms (one carrying my other Kabalites, one carrying the Wracks and the third carrying my Archon, Sslyth and Haemonculus) huddled behind the other one, hoping cover would be enough. My Wych Raider and Razorwing saw on the opposite far left flank, and the Mandrakes remained hidden in the shadows.

My opponent, meanwhile, had his tanks and Chimeras strung along in a loose formation, with his Manticore sitting far back on the right while one of his Russes huddled underneath a giant floating rock formation on the left, praying that the weird laws of gravity on this planet didn’t suddenly revert to normal.

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Incidentally I love this particular game board (at Sword and Board in Toronto). My opponent and I both were hazy on how the terrain rules would apply to so many elevated, floating terrain pieces, so we agreed that, because it was obviously a low-gravity world, it would take a full movement phase to get up and down any of the giant floating rocks, no matter how high they were.

I failed to seize the initiative, and so the Guard went first.

 

TURN 1

The Guard began the came with the Techpriest and his attendant Servitors bailing out of their Chimera and going into cover in the rocky outcroppings at the end of his line. The Primaris Psyker also exited his own character, walking on foot behind the tank line. Both Chimeras and the Hellhound both scooted towards the objective, while one of the Russes lumbered forward as well to get better line of sight.

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In the psychic phase, the Primaris cast Psychic Barrier on the advancing Russ, but suffered Perils in the process, losing 3 wounds in the mother of all migraines. In the shooting phase, the Manticore took aim at the Razorwing: I immediately used the Lightning Reflexes stratagem, forcing the Manticore to hit on 6s, but even then, it still hit with a few of its missiles, doing 3 wounds to the Razorwing. The stationary Russ, meanwhile, managed to spot the Ravager and opened fire: once again, I was forced to use Lightning Reflexes, but it availed me little– the sheer number of shots the double-shooting Russ was able to unleash with its battle cannon and secondary weapons did 5 wounds to the Ravager, leaving it teetering just short of its second damage bracket.

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The pain didn’t end there, though. The Russ that had moved managed to draw line of sight to my Archon’s Venom. This time, I opted to conserve command points and not use Lightning Reflexes– which may have turned out to be a bad move.

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The Venom was smashed like an egg by the battle cannon round, sending my Archon, the Sslyth and the Haemonculous all tumbling out in the wreckage, more outraged than hurt.Finally, one of the Chimeras managed to draw line of sight to my Reavers, firing its guns and pinging a wound off of one of them. Overall, that turn could have been worse, but I had just lost First Blood and been given a painful example of how nasty Guard shooting is.

On my turn, my Archon absolutely refused to trek across the battlefield on foot, and ordered the Wracks to vacate their Venom while he and his posse boarded it in turn, before it and most of my other vehicles advanced up onto the ridge. For the rest of the battle, the Wracks would have to make it on foot like the dregs that they were.

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The only exceptions were the Razorwing, which made a long advance around the left flank to be all sneaky and stuff, and the Reavers, who advanced screaming towards the nearest Leman Russ. The Wych Raider also advanced, zooming along the rock formation to hopefully attack the rear of the enemy forces next turn. The Wracks, meanwhile, advanced towards the opening between the two floating rock formations, looking to possibly grab the relic in a few turns.

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In the shooting phase, my force was on an elevated position looking down on the Guard, all packed in their tanks like sardines, and prepared to open them up. I concentrated my fire on the closest Leman Russ…

…and did dismally. Heat lances, dark lances and blasters all fired down at the packed human vehicles, and all either missed or failed to wound. When the dust cleared, despite me firing practically my entire army and spending two command points in the process, I had only done 3 wounds to the foremost Leman Russ, and 2 wounds to the Veterans’ Chimera.

Hm, okay, this was bad.

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In the assault phase, the Reavers tried to redeem themselves by charging the Russ. One of them was battlecannoned out of the sky on the way in, but the rest made their charge, doing one mortal wound to the tank with their grav-talons and another as their bladevanes tore rents into the big tank’s hull. The Russ did nothing back, and the fight dragged on, with the Reavers swarming the Russ and causing sparks to fly as they scraped at it with their bladevanes, jeering at the tank’s crew to come out and play.

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TURN 2

At the start of my opponent’s turn, the Russ, understandably, fell back from combat. At least it would be unable to fire this turn. In the centre, the tanks shuffled somewhat to get better line of sight, while the Veterans and their attendant Lord Commissar disembarked near the relic. At the back, the Techpriest led his Servitors up onto one of the floating rocks to get better line of sight to the Drukharii host.

And then the clouds parted, and it started raining Scions. A plasma toting squad came down right on top of the objective, ready to start freeming some pointy-eared xenos.

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Up on top of the floating ridge, meanwhile, the other two squads, the Stone and his Command Squad all dropped in a cluster in front of my massed vehicles, ready to put the hurt on as well.

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In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker casts Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, but failed to cast Smite. In the shooting phase, though, Stone ordered Elimination Protocols on the Wyches’ Raider; two of the melta-toting Scion Squads then combined their fire and exploded it! One Wych was killed in the ensuing blast, while the Succubus took 2 wounds, and the nearby Kabalite Venom took 3.

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The dust from the explosion had hardly even cleared when the Hellhound let loose with its flame cannon, failing to damage the Venom, before the Manticore fired on it as well, wrecking it with several ICBMs worth of overkill! The Kabalites were forced to disembark onto the ridge, shaken by the loss of their transport.

The pain didn’t end there, though. The Veterans, the plasma Scions, Servitors and both Chimeras combined their fire on the nearby Reaver Jetbikes, forcing me to again use Lightning-Fast Reflexes against the Vets. It didn’t help: even though one Veteran fried himself on overheating plasma, my poor Reavers were mercilessly blasted out of the air in a white-hot storm of plasma and laser fire. As an encore, the Leman Russ in the far corner fired on the Kabalite Raider, doing 7 wounds to it and leaving the fragile skycraft teetering.

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That last round of shooting had been brutal, and I’d taken some painful losss, but I wasn’t out of the fight yet. I moved my Wyches and Succubus along the narrow causeway to go after the Scions, looking for get some payback for the loss of their ride.

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Succubus’ paint scheme was still in progress at this time, like so much else of the army.

The Archon’s Venom moved further up on the causeway, looking to disembark its highborn cargo next turn. The various vehicles also angled for better line of sight, with the Razorwing in particular zooming down along the left flank to get a bead on one of the Leman Russes.

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That wasn’t all. A whispered chorus of hisses was heard as the Mandrakes arrived from Aelindrach, crawling out of the shadows near the Manticore, looking to feast on the mortals cowering within.

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In the shooting phase, Raider-mounted squad of Kabalites, eager to put their splinter racks to use, rapid fired down into the Scions holding the relic…and did 4 wounds, all of which were saved. This, by the way, was with them rerolling 1s thanks to their obsession, and getting exploding 6s thanks to splinter racks. Unbelievable. Their blasters, at least, combined to do 6 wounds to the nearby Hellhound, but failed to kill it. Sighing, the Archon, wondering why he had to do everything himself, calmly drew his blast pistol and exploded the Hellhound, killing 3 of the Scions in the blast! As an encore, the Kabalites who had lost their Venom fired into the Scions as well, killing another 2.

Elsewhere, the Archon’s Venom fired across the chasm at the Servitors, mowing down 2. The Kabalite Raider missed a pot shot at the foremost Leman Russ, but the Ravager was more accurate, zapping 4 wounds off of the ugly human tank…

20180506_162214…before the Razorwing raked it with disintegrator bolts and wrecked it! The Wyches fired their pistols at the Scions, but did no damage. Finally, the Mandrakes unleashed their baleblasts at the Manticore…and, despite their volume of shots, only did 1 mortal wound to the missile tank.

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In the charge phase, the Wyches multi-charged into the massed Scions across the bridge, and amazingly, didn’t lose anyone to overwatch! The Succubus followed suit into the leftmost Scion squad, prompting the Tempestor to heroically intervene. The Mandrakes, meanwhile, charged into the Manticore, losing 1 to a heavy bolter round on the way in. In close combat, the Succubus went to work, slicing and dicing apart 5 Scions from the rightmost squad with her Blood Glaive. The Wyches, however, performed less impressively, only killing 3 Scions from the other squad. In response, the Scions failed to hurt the Wyches, but did manage to jab a bayonet into the Succubus, wounding her despite her 3+ dodge save. Then the Tempestor swung at the Succubus, hitting and wounding twice…

…and crucially, the Succubus failed a save, even with a command point reroll! The hit quickly translated into 3 wounds that the Succubus failed to ignore. My jaw hit the floor as my tricked out Succubus was slain by a humble Tempestor!

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Meanwhile, the Mandrakes unleashed 21 attacks on the Manticore…and did no damage whatsoever. Even more embarassingly, the Manticore hit with its one attack and ran one of the shadow-fiends over! In the morale phase, at least, the last two Scions on the relic ran, as did the last two Scions from the squad that the Succubus had mauled.

 

TURN 3

In the Guard turn, the Manticore wisely withdrew from combat. The Veterans, undaunted by the recent demise of the Scions in front of them, moved up, letting the Lord Commissar behind them grab the relic (at the time I wasn’t sure if characters could grab the relic or not). Everything else stayed and took aim.

In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker once again cast Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, before Smiting he Kabalite Raider, freeming two wounds off of it and leaving it teetering on one. In the shooting phase, one Chimera tried to finish the Raider off, but its shots bounced off of the night shield. It was down to the Leman Russ, since the Raider was the only thing it could draw line sight to, and the big tanks inflicted half a dozen or so battle cannon hits on the Raider and brought it crashing to the ground, forcing the Kabalites to bail out on top of the causeway.

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Further in the backfield, the Veterans turned their guns on the Mandrakes threatening the Manticore, and managed to gun down three of them despite their shadowy forms. The Servitors, meanwhile, fired across the chasm at the smaller unit of Kabalites and managed to blast down two of them. Last but not least, the other Chimera trained its guns on the incoming Wracks and fired, managing to kill one of the freakish things.

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In close combat, Stone swung out with the Blade of Conquest and killed one Wych. In response, though, the Wyches sliced down the remaining four Scions, leaving Stone fighting them on his own. In the morale phase, the Mandrakes held their nerve, but one of the Kabalites from the smaller squad ran for it.

 

In my turn, the Archon and his posse disembarked, and moon-jumped down to the floor ot the chasm to hopefully assault the Veterans, while the Wracks moved up to hopefully do the same. The Venom also dropped down, aiming to shoot the Veterans up and possibly charge them to absorb overwatch.

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The remaining Mandrakes once again moved after the Manticore, while the Ravager dropped down to the floor of the chasm as well, angling to get line of sight on the Leman Russ while the Razorwing circled around to attack it from behind. All of my Kabalites, however, stayed put, as they were in comfortable firing positions against the hapless mon-keigh squatting beneath them.

In the shooting phase, the Venom shredded three Veterans, while the Kabalites…sigh…did nothing. Again. Combined blaster fire, at least, from both squads of Kabalites and the Archon managed to do 7 wounds to the leftmost Chimera, leaving it sitting on 3. The Mandrakes flung balefire at the Manticore but failed to hurt it. Finally, the Ravager fired on the Leman Russ…and hit and wounded with all three shots! I rolled for damage, and my opponent and I both watched in stunned amazement as the Ravager did 16 wounds, wrecking the Russ in one round of shooting! This, sadly, left the poor Razorwing without anything to shoot at, given that the terrain was severely limiting its line of sight.

In the charge phase, the Mandrakes once again charged the Manticore, the Venom charged the Veterans, and the Archon, Haemonculous, Sslyth and Wracks charged the Chimera, all without taking casualties from overwatch. The Mandrakes, sadly, bounced off of the Manticore.

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The Venom, meanwhile, at least managed to slice down one Veteran with its bladevanes, while avoiding any damage from the Sergeant’s power fist.

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The Archon, meanwhile, swung out at the Chimera with his shiny new Djin Blade, and managed to do something like 6 or 7 wounds of overkill, slicing so deeply into the human tank that he hit a fuel line and caused it to explode! The Archon and Haemonculous were both wounded in the explosion, while the loyal Sslyth was vaporized, as were two Wracks, and the nearby Ravager also took a wound, bringing down into its middile damage bracket.

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Elsewhere, the Wyches managed to do 3 unsaved wounds to Stone, leaving the Tempestor hanging on one. For his part, Stone swung back but was unable to hit his agile foes. And with that, the fight dragged on…

 

TURN 4

In the Guard turn, the Manticore again withdrew from combat, as did Stone– despite the bonus granted by shardnets, the Wyches actually lost the roll-off for No Escape, and failed to keep the Tempestor from escaping! Ruh roh.

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The Lord Commissar began to move away from my lines with the relic in tow, while the surviving Chimera moved up to place itself between the Commissar and my many, many guns.

In the psychic phase, the Primaris Psyker once again cast Psychic Barrier on the Veterans, and then followed up by Smiting the Venom, zapping three wounds off of the fragile skimmer. In the shooting phase, though, the Scion Command Squad opened fire on the Wyches, dousing them with flamer fuel, grenades and plasma blasts, wiping the squad out.

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In the rest of his shooting, the Servitors managed to mow down one of my Mandrakes, while the Chimera’s many guns managed to blast down another, leaving just one of the shadow-things standing.

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In close combat, the Psyker joined the fight against my Venom, swinging with his force staff and smashing one wound off of the skimmer and leaving it on one wound. The Veterans, sadly, despite smashing at it with rifle butts, rocks and even fists, were unable to hurt it (despite their Catachan strength bonus), and the Sergeant critically missed with his power fist. The Venom, for its part, failed to inflict any damage with its bladevanes, and the fight dragged on.

Except, that is, until my turn, at which point it simply flew out of combat. My Archon, Haemonculus and Wracks all moved towards the Veterans, and, more importantly, towards the relic, while the Ravager zoomed up around the protective Chimera so that it was now prow-to-face with the Lord Commissar.

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The last Mandrake, as usual, moved after the Manticore to deny it the ability to fire, while the Razorwing zoomed over the rock formation it had been behind to bring its weapons to bear on the centre of the battlefield.

In the shooting phase, the Venom got some vengeance as it perforated three Veterans, despite their protection. The Kabalites then followed suit with their massed splinter rifles…and, with their twenty-odd shots, killed only a single Veteran. To make it even worse, their blasters missed the Chimera completely! The smaller unit of Kabalites also decided to miss the blocky human tank. I decided that these idiots were going to be made an example of after the battle. Once again, the Archon had to show them how it was done, calmly taking aim with his blast pistol and vaporizing the last, piddly Veteran.

Next, the Ravager fired its dark lances at the Lord Commissar, scored two hits…and the Lord Commissar saved both of them on his refractor field!! The Mandrake, unsurprisingly, did no damage to the Manticore. The Razorwing, at least, showed some competence, unleashing a flurry of missiles and disintegrator bolts at the Manticore and doing 4 wounds to the missile tank.

In the charge phase, the Archon charged the Primaris Psyker…and even with a reroll to charges, fell short. The Haemonculus, however, had no such difficulty, making the charge into the started Psyker and felling him with his electrocorrosive whip, no doubt tying him up for his long trip back to the Dark City. The last Mandrake charged the Manticore again, and once again, survived overwatch, did no damage, but denied the missile tank another turn of shooting. Last but by no means least, the Ravager charged the Lord Commissar…and the two completely failed to hurt one another. Crucially, though, the relic was contested.

At this point, my opponent realized that there was no way he could keep hold of the relic, and threw in the towel. And with that, it was a decisive, albeit costly, win for the Drukhari.

Result: Drukhari Victory!

 

Thoughts: Wow that was an intense game. After those first two turns, I thought it was all over, but then slowly but surely, my dice started to behave themselves: my lances and disintegrators started popping enemy tanks, my Wyches went through his Scions like a blender (before dying to the Command Squad and the world’s luckiest Tempestor, anyway), and my massed splinter fire…um…it, um…well, the important thing is, I won.

Looking back, I see that my use Reavers and Mandrakes to tie up his tanks was really what won me the game: it wound up costing me both units in the end, but it did a lot to mitigate his firepower throughout the battle. And it’s a good thing too, given how amazingly some of my units failed– my Kabalites, in particular, were notable for their seeming failure to shoot down any Imperial Guardsmen, and the Wyches were not nearly as amazing as I expected they would be (though they were still quite good). I think ultimately what sealed the win for me was keeping his Scions isolated from the main game, tying up his tanks with my melee units, and successfully gunning down everything he had on the objective. The man of the match for my army, without a doubt, was the Archon, for managing to explode two enemy tanks in a row.

Some learning points from this game:

-I forgot the +1 attack provided by the Wyches’ blades– had I remembered, then I have no doubt that the Wyches would have chewed through the Scions (and Stone!) a lot more quickly.

-Heat lances SUCK! They might be decent against low-toughness vehicles, but against toughness 8 Leman Russes, they actually struggle to wound. In future, I will probably ditch them in favour of more blasters.

-I keep forgetting that I can use consolidate moves to move within 1″ of fresh enemy units and lock them in close combat too. Had I remembered that, I would have done so against the Scion Command Squad, thus denying them the ability to shoot up my poor Wyches.

Overall, though, I think this was a great test run for my Dark Eldar. For future games, I definitely want to try out Scourges as a possible dedicated anti-tank unit, as well as possibly toy with other Obsessions– I honestly found the Flayed Skull obsession more useful for denying cover in this game than for the rerolls to hit with splinter weapons (although that may have just been my atrocious rolling).

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more batreps, and more articles on my Dark Eldar army, in the future!

 

Lord Commissar Brok released his handhold on the Mechanicus container and threw himself to the dust as the Ravager came screaming down at him, the xeno vehicle almost black against the night sky. He narrowly avoided being skewered on the skimmer’s bladed prow, its sharp vanes narrowly slashing over him and lacerating his cloak. He felt the compression wave of the skimmer’s passing press over him, and heard the shriek of its engines as the damnable thing soared past. Spinning around, Brok raised his bolt pistol and fired shot after shot at the Ravager as it flew away; in the gloom, he couldn’t tell if any of his shots hit their mark as the Aeldari craft banked upwards away from him, its engines glowing a malevolent violet in the twilight. It would be coming down for another pass soon.

His vox bead crackled to life. “All forces, pull back!” came Stone’s voice. “We can’t win here! Withdraw to extraction points!”

Brok felt his teeth grind. “Belay that order!” he snapped into the vox as he stood back up, making sure that he was visible to the remaining Ironheart forces. “Stand and fight! You are soldiers of the Imperium, and you will triumph or you will die on your feet!” Swearing that he would execute Stone personally when this battle was over, he turned…

…and realized, for the first time, that he was alone.  Aside from the bodies littering the floor of the canyon and the smoking carcasses of the armoured battalion, he could see no living Guardsmen in the area. Even the Manticore had stopped moving, its missile racks pointing silently to the night sky. He was the last one standing.

He heard movement behind him. He immediately spun, power sword raised for a backhanded slash…

…and stopped when he felt something sharp and cold enter his chest. Opposite him was an eerily beautiful alabaster face, with features that were smooth and pointed, and golden eyes that glinted with amused malice. The Eldar was smiling, perfect teeth gleaming in the moonlight, and as Brok glanced down, he could see that the alien was holding a sword with a hilt embossed with a leering, daemonic visage, and a jagged blade that was lodged halfway through his chest. Brok felt nothing from the wound– nothing, that was, except for a strange, aching cold that was now spreading through his body.

“As you wish, mon-keigh,” the Drukhari sneered. The Commissar didn’t even realize that his own sword had dropped from his numb fingers– fingers that were starting to crack, and crumble into powder like dried parchment. “You get to die on your feet.”

Brok tried to say something, but his throat had become very dry, and nothing came out except a hoarse rattle as his mouth filled with dust. A second later, his skin cracked and sloughed off, crumbling, before his entire body collapsed in a rapidly disintegrating pile of gravedust. 

Sighing, Khyrus flicked the dust away from the blade and sheathed it, before turning to the container that the Commissar had been determinedly trying to drag away. “So, is this the little box that you wanted?” he grumbled, not bothering to hide the irritation from his voice.

“Indeed,” hissed a sibilant voice next to him. The Haemonculus Vakkan slithered up next to him, his multiple finger joints tenting as the freakish thing looked greedily at the container. “The Coven is most grateful for this gift, Dracon Khyrus. We shall do…wondrous things with its contents.”

Khyrus raised an eyebrow. “Not that I care, but…what is in this little container that you needed an entire raiding force to retrieve?”

Vakkan smiled– a ghastly, needle-edged sight. “A bygone relic, from a bygone civilization,” he replied. “A relic from which we will glean many, many secrets.” At the Haemonculus’ motion, the attendant wracks silently broke open the lid of the container and threw it open. Inside, Khyrus could see a mass of silver liquid, shimmering under the starlight in such a way that it seemed to glow with an inner light.

Reaching in, Vakkan dipped a hand into the liquid and pulled it back– the silver liquid now coated Vakkan’s hand, and, as Khyrus watched, seemed to writhe and twist like some living second skin.

“Tell me…what do you know of living metal?”

 

Think of the Children! A response to Warhammer Adventures and the ensuing panic

 

So, as usual, it feels like I’m late in responding to an issue that hundreds of others have already given their two cents on. Life, and horrible writer’s block, prevail again it seems. Anyway, for anyone who hasn’t noticed the latest “controversy” in the world of Warhammer 40,000, Games Workshop has recently unveiled Warhammer Adventures, a pair of book series aimed at “boys and girls aged 8-12,” with what looks like a series each for Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar. The 40k book, Attack of the Necron,  focuses on three children (a “ganger,” an “explorer” and a “Martian”) going off on an adventure together, while the AoS story, City of Lifestone, focuses on an escaped slave, a young clockmaker (I…think) and a young mage…also off on an adventure. In the latter half, it’s pretty standard high fantasy fare. In the case of the former story…I will admit, all I could do was sit back and laugh at some of the character descriptions. The “ganger” child is in fact a deserter from the Imperial Guard, and the “explorer” girl, despite being the child of a Rogue Trader, is also apparently an avowed pacifist. In other words, two characters that really couldn’t survive for long in the 40kverse.

But after my laughter calmed down, I looked and saw the internet collectively losing its minds over these books. I saw some people screaming that GW was trying to indoctrinate kids, that they were introducing them into a universe that is waaaaaay too violent for them to be ready for. Others have been reacting with laughter, wondering aloud how one is going to make a universe full of blood, filth, mass genocide, religious intolerance, and Slaanesh and all things Slaaneshi, kid-friendly. Others still have been terrified that it will be made kid-friendly, that the entire universe is going to be effectively neutered, that a lot of the violence will be downgraded to make it more kid-compatible. And of course, this being the internet, naturally there have also been the usual people declaring this to be all part of the nefarious SJW agenda, because what else could it be?

I’m going to say now: some of the concern I am seeing over this new book line is not unwarranted or unreasonable.  Because of this, as much as I believe in encouraging kids to read, and getting them involved in the hobby, I understand why some people are reticent to do so with Warhammer 40,000. With other IPs such as Star Wars, the violence is fairly diluted, limited to a lot of colourful explosions and fantastic action. But 40k not only depicts grim, horrible violence, it at times revels in it– after all, the “protagonists” of the setting are a xenocidal theocracy engaged in a constant state of total war with everyone and everything, a place where personal freedoms are nil and the lives of its citizens are nasty, brutish and short. The literary arm of 40k has, for the most part, almost always been aimed at adults, with most of the novels (and particularly the more noteworthy titles like the Horus Heresy series) not only diving headfirst into the violence, but also dealing with meaty political/social/religious issues and complex (or sometimes just attempts at complex) character development that might be lost on a reader from the 8-12 age group.

At the same time, however, I firmly believe that kids should be encouraged to read as early as possible, that their ability to handle difficult subjects should be gradually challenged to help prepare them for eventual adulthood, and that literacy, regardless of what form it takes, is something to be promoted. How ready children are for certain subject matter, however, I think varies, depending on the child, on their level of development/education, and most of all, what their parents think. I, for one, were I dad, would hesitate to give my child something from the Horus Heresy series to read, though I might not have these reservations with the Felix and Gotrek series, or, if I thought they were ready for them, maybe the Ciaphas Cain or Gaunt’s Ghosts novels.

In looking through the internet for various thoughts and responses to this new novel line, I found one YouTuber who has had, in my opinion, the most reasonable response to Warhammer Adventures so far. Long story short, he doesn’t think it’s as terrible as the internet is making it out to be. He even cites a Twitter post from Attack of the Necron author Cavan Scott, who, in his Twitter feed, has admitted that he is trying to balance kid-friendly content with the dark themes of 40k– that, even in a kid’s novel, he is trying to do the setting justice.

My own thoughts: a lot of the flak these books are getting are either that you’ll end up introducing kids to the sheer brutality of 40k at too early an age, or, on the flip side, that you’ll be neutering the violence of the universe to make it more kid friendly. I wish to point out that a lot of kids’ literature dives right into mature and often violent themes already, but handles it in a fairly measured, tasteful manner. Harry Potter comes to mind, as does His Dark Materials, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Redwall…hell, even Saturday morning cartoons, past and present, can be surprisingly adult. Batman: The Animated Series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Star Wars: Clone Wars and Rebels all come to mind as shows that are either secretly made for the adults, or are giving their kid audiences a lot more credit than their parents.

In all of the above examples I’ve named, themes of war, oppression, violence, loss, heartbreak, religious/racial intolerance and even politics are all addressed in a surprisingly mature way, but not gratuitously so. They soften the blow of a lot of these topics, but at the same time, not to the degree that they end up treating their readers/audiences like idiots. Personally, I don’t think GW will be so dumb as to, say, throw horrendous decapitations or mutilations into the book, or introduce them to Slaanesh/the Dark Eldar. If they play their cards right, they will hopefully be able to make something kid friendly while still retaining a lot of the dark themes of the universe.

There is, of course, the fear that once these kids grow older and “graduate” into more mainstream 40k, it may come as a shock to them just how much more bleak and pitiless the setting is compared to the children’s books. This is a dilemma for which I see no easy answer: I honestly think a lot of that will depend on, again, how the children’s books themselves are written: otherwise, this is a change that may have to be explained by the parents and/or the managers at hobby centres.

Some people have also been afraid that this will lead to making the entire universe more kid-friendly, dwelling particularly over the fact that very premise of Attack of the Necron breaks away from fluff, since one of the children is essentially an Imperial Guard deserter, and another is a pacifist.  I personally feel, though, that these fears are unwarranted, primarily because GW knows that it’s adults that drive the majority of its sales and constitute it’s longest-running consumer base. I strongly suspect that Warhammer Adventures will remain its own small, isolated little alternate universe that won’t affect the main story whatsoever.

And as mentioned above, I’ve also seen some detractors declare this to be part of an attempt by the “social justice crowd” to diversify WH40k and impose a PC agenda, to ruin Warhammer “just like they did with Marvel and Magic the Gathering, etc etc”…to which I can only scratch my head in puzzlement. Are these complaints over the fact that there are female, and non-white characters in the casts of these two books? Is there some contract, somewhere, that I’m missing that states that all characters in WH40k/AoS have to be white and male (despite 40k being set in a universe with billions upon billions of people and potentially thousands of ethnic groupings, and AoS being…well, a fantasy universe)? While I can agree somewhat with the arguments that this seems like an attempt at PC tokenism, at the same time I fail to see how the inclusion of a few nonwhite/nonmale characters is hurting anyone. Call me naive, but I do not see this as a slippery slope towards degrading or eliminating all characters in the universe who happen to be male and white (just look at half of the new special characters in 40k if you don’t believe me). I see this, quite frankly, as an overreaction, no more, no less, and one that I hope will calm down over time.

The bottom line is, I am all for anything that gets kids reading or interested in reading: I think literacy is an essential thing to foster at a young age. I also happen to know quite a few gamers who are parents, and in almost all cases that I’ve seen, their kids have expressed an interest in their dads’ wargames (sons AND daughters, I should add). So no, I really don’t see the harm in Warhammer Adventures, nor do I think it is going to negatively impact the hobby in any way. Of course, this is all speculation at this point: we may never know until the novels hit the shelves and become available. But even when we do, we should not fret over them, because we are not the target audience. At the end of the day, freaking out that a bunch of children’s books will ruin our hobby comes across as…dare I say it, immature.

Naturally, of course, you may not agree with me, and that is fine: you are welcome to deconstruct my arguments and/or type abuse at me in comments. I’m always happy to hear what any readers of this little blog think.

*P.S. You’ll note that I have been talking mainly about 40k in this article, and not so much about Age of Sigmar. This is because, in my view, the high fantasy setting of Age of Sigmar is a lot less grim and brooding than 40k, and thus, by it’s very nature, is a lot more palatable for the child audience. True, things like the Khorne Bloodbound and Daughters of Khaine still exist, but in my view, Age of Sigmar does not revel in its own grimdarkness to the same extent as 40k. Besides which, high fantasy has been a favoured stomping ground of children’s literature since time immemorial, and honestly, I think Age of Sigmar will have fewer complications as a background setting for a children’s book than 40k will.