It's strange to think that the Baneblade is an almost quaint sight in games today. With Games Workshop adding bigger and bigger guns, war walkers and even mini-titans to the tabletop, the venerable old Eleven Barrels of Hell Mobile really doesn't see all that special. True, it'll punch holes in massed infantry formations like there's no tomorrow and something with that many heavy bolters is nothing to be taken lightly. At the same time though, it lacks some of the sheer indomitably the old girl once possessed, and it's only through old stories you really get a true impression of how unstoppable they once were. Three guesses as to what today's article is about, and the first two don't count.
Back during the days of the Fifth Edition - having become too ashamed of their lore to field Ultramarines and with the Cadre undergoing a mass repainting - I was one of those left drifting between armies. Only occasionally engaging in games or joining in light escapades, my participation usually boiled down to how fun a scenario was or when the next Apocalypse game would be. These were few and far between however, so I was often caught out of the loop when it came to new events, or even many new releases. As such, you can imagine my stunned surprise when I strolled in and saw shelf after shelf of plastic, newly released, Baneblades just waiting to be bought. At this time, Super Heavies and flyers were near legendary creatures of resin and burning money, and to see one so freely available to purchase was a complete game-changer. Naturally, at a cheap price comparible only to about a dozen or so square meals, I nabbed one immediately. Oh, not so much out of the sheer power of the tank itself, glorious thought it was, but the opportunity which was bring provided.
To help celebrate the release of this grand mobile fortress, the local Games Workshop was effectively attempting to recreate the M41 version of the Battle of Kursk. Everyone, anyone, even those who had been out of the hobby for years, were being encouraged to bring any vehicle they had to the shop on Sunday to engage in a pitched battle on an unimaginable scale. Better yet, this was a true chance for heroics. Many of the big tanks were being listed, fully named and displayed on a scoreboard ready to list their kills and, more importantly, the tank which slew them. Well, this wasn't something to be missed, and I rushed home to begin working on the new Super Heavy. Already late in the day, this ended up taking most of the night. Working like a man possessed I went the extra mile to throw together something special with no end of new enhancements or custom additions. Adding everything from turning the main Baneblade gun into a Kelly's Heroes style fake extended barrel to turning the fuel tanks into beer kegs, the monster was finally glue, primed and painted up with a basic colour scheme sometime around 3AM. It was an eyesore to be sure, little more than a grubby grey hull with individually painted silver rivets and a few colourful gold plates, but that only enhanced the effectiveness of my plan.
Stumbling into the shop six hours later, running on little more than caffine and sheer willpower, I walked up to the manager, presented the tank and asked it be added to the scoreboard. Even early on there were already a fair number there, with plenty of grandiloquent and glorious names from the Vaul's Wrath to Imperator Vult, Hand of the Aun, the Wraith Slayer and (gotta love this one) 'Enuff Dakka. With seemingly no end to these you can imagine the manager's reaction when I asked "Leeroy" be added in my place. It took him a few times to actually accept it as well, but it would pay off.
You see, there's power to names. Really, even ditching all that usual sorcery and daemonology gibberish, it can be used to cause someone to underestimate their foe, gain knowledge of a man's character, or be the source of no end of puns. In this case, it was there to inspire fear in any player facing down this tank. How so? Name a weapon the Soul Reaver, the Ultimate Nulifier or the Void Wraith, and anyone they're facing will know you're about to throw something of immense power at them. Name it something ridiculous though, and they'll dread having its name carved on their tombstone. While Leeroy might seem tame by those standards, it was just about dumb enough to get a rise out of people without breaking the store rules. If it had not, chances are Chaos would have been facing down the Arse Bandit commanded by Lord Commissar Biggus Dickus.
Within a few hours, each side (one consisting of Tau Empire, Imperial Guard, and Orks, the other just about everyone else) took to a single massive game board and started blasting away at one another. With well over fifty vehicles on either side ranging from light APCs to the near unstoppable forces of Chaos itself, we were set for one of the biggest fights in the game. On the one hand, this presented no end of targets for the newly finished Baneblades to annihilate, but on the other, everyone was gunning for them, hungering to be the first person to down a new Super Heavy. Unfortunately, after managing to down two Predators in the opening volley and immobilise a Land Raider, that meant muggins here was suddenly made top priority by one specific person.
Without warning on the second turn. as it was basking in the glow of two fresh kills, the air being the Leeroy shimmered with green energy. Then, to my mounting dread, a trio of Monoliths promptly dropped out of the skies right behind its rear plating, every gun they had leveled right at its rather exposed armour. I was given just enough time to react in surprise before the guy started rolling dice, determined to nail the tank from the outset, and scoring no end of fives and sixes. The first volley alone took of both lascannon turrets and two hull points, and it wasn't long before the third ripped through its engine block, blowing the tank sky high. That would have been the end of it for Leeroy, should have been the end of it, were it not for one sight problem - the Monolith player had kind of jumped the gun. Most of his side was still in the movement phase or redeploying their forces, just trying to get into proper range of their own guns or overtake the wrecks of their first wave. Few of them, despite this success, were not willing to have over half their side out of range for a full turn just to kill a single enemy vehicle.
As time was rewound, fate smiled upon the Baneblade and Leeroy abruptly popped back into existence. The enemy tanks moved in, engaging their opposing side with a fresh wave of autocannon rounds, lascannon beams and stranger things still, and the Monoliths fired again. Apparently fate had opted to issue the Monoliths a yellow card though, as every single shot they fired missed for that turn. It actually became so bad that, half-way through, the guy asked to switch out his dice out of growing paranoia that he'd picked up someone's rigged set. Naturally, this left him with his arse hanging in the wind once his turn was over, with an army of enemy tanks behind him and a slightly singed Baneblade in front. "You dun goofed" doesn't quite cover it, does it?
Now, to be fair, the Monoliths actually got rather lucky given what followed. Being armoured necrodermis excrement houses on par with a Land Raider, most players were willing to forgo the obvious target in favour of something they could actually hurt. This left only a couple of curious Battle Wagons and a Hammerhead to chip in, the latter of who promptly ripped the ancient war machine in twain. Because, no matter the edition, railguns still rule the battlefield. With only two enemy vehicles left behind them, I opted to risk it with Leeroy and pulled a full 180, pulling his forwards armour directly in their path and leveling both lascannons right at them. While certainly a bold move, it didn't quite pay off as one would hope, with one missing entirely and the other just managing to immobilise the enemy vehicle and little else. What followed after that, however, was almost surreal in how the dice seemed to be stacked up. The Monoliths would fire, do little to no damage and just keep sitting there. Then Leeroy would fire back, perhaps score a couple of irritating hits, but little else. Even with his rear armour presented to the entire enemy force, nothing seemed to hit the Baneblade, let alone cause any serious damage short of shaking the crew.
While largely tied up with the Monoliths for a good three turns, the Baneblade was nevertheless racking up more than a few solid kills thanks to having a turret. Even with its sponsors pointed towards the two offending metal boxes, the main gun was pointed directly at the force behind them and blasting away. Even limited to a template weapon, the sheer stopping power of each shot and the surprising population of open topped vehicles who had rolled into the game only to get gunned down. However, on the fourth turn, the Monolith actually managed to score some damage, and successfully destroyed the turret autocannon. Watching the player cheering, celebrating managing just to knock out one weapon after firing volley after volley of shots into a tank parked ten paces from his squadron was funny enough in of itself, but what followed only eclipsed that. As if enraged by this simple act, each lascannon turret fired at a separate Monolith, and promptly tapped into the power of Satan himself.
The lascannons both rolled to hit - Each got a six.
They rolled to penetrate - Six again.
They rolled on the table - Another. Six. On both dice.
Having gone the better part of two years without regular games, either I was burning up all my luck in just a few hours, or the Emperor himself was guiding Leeroy's shots in this game. Whatever the case, the opposing side was promptly treated to the sight of two of the strongest enemy tanks of that Edition exploding in twin mushroom clouds, and the Void Dragon's Wrath and Nightbringer's Fury exited the game without a single kill. Between this, the sudden resurrection, apparent immortality and the eight other tanks Leeroy had totaled, some were joking the Baneblade was one spare Imperial Priest away from becoming a Living Saint.
The remainder of the battle was, sadly, rather less than eventful. It mostly consisted of Leeroy turning around and nailing any tank foolish enough to present their side armour to his guns until, three hours later, things came to an eventual if inconclusive end. Each side still had a substantial number of tanks with it, but with more than a few big guns left it was eventually deemed a drew, and the actual chart itself largely ignored thanks to the Baneblades dominating it. Ridiculous as it had been though, save for that one damaged autocannon and some burned paintwork, Leeroy emerged completely unscathed from the
Sadly that was the most eventful engagement of that entire Edition with the tank, as most others either devolved into landslide victories or just crippling defeats. Save for one engagement where it helped to take on the amassed forces of the Ultramarines and Blood Angels, the only story worthy of rivaling this one would be Leeroy's last ride. But that's a tale for another time...