Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Operation: Stormwalker (Warhammer 40,000 Narrative Battle Report)

So here we are, just a little experiment. One of the odd things I keep hearing people complain about is how hard it is to write about in-game events and to turn them into a single story. Some games are mere landslide victories, others are boring to read about while more still simply aren't suited to any kind of story; or at least so they claim. Well, to show a possibly easier path, this is an alternative way of approaching things, presenting it as a kind of Imperial Armour document giving a general overview of the war. One part to emphasise the stakes and importance of the world, another for the battle, and a final paragraph to wrap up the whole thing. The general idea behind these is also to only show one side of the story, so you're left with two accounts of the conflict, history and outcome, with each side offering something fresh. It's an old idea admittedly, but a fun one which a few at my local Games Workshop have done for some time.

This is going to be a little less eloquent as usual as it's going to be hammered out in a single evening, just to prove that this sort of thing need not be time consuming and that there is an easy way to focus upon lore in your games, even single ones with a very easy victory. So, without further ado here's the conflict, and I hope you enjoy reading.

Confirming Identity....

Identity confirmed. Access Level: Alphus Majoris, Litinarch Sub-Sector

Welcome Lord Inquisitor Dante.

Seeking file: Segmentum Obscurus... Forge World Conflicts... Necron Conflicts... Adeptus Astartes Iron Hands... Stronos Heresy...

File located. Uploading all known reports and compiled data on the Ixius War - Operation: Stormwalker.

Relevant History & Founding Data: 
Founded in early M34, Ixius was among the outlying worlds planned as part of the Ossterman advancement decreed by the High-Lords of Terra. Intended to assist in better reinforcing multiple sectors against rebel elements, it established a multitude of new Fortress worlds with Ixius, Valgar IV, and Chaeroneia supplying the necessary tanks and munitions. Initial founding efforts proved to be successful, and within 10.9 standard years Ixius itself entered initial stages of production. Beyond its supply of Leman Russ variants and Vanquisher pattern Mecharius Heavy Tanks centuries on, the world itself proved of little interest to outsiders. Save for some minor indications of habitation by a xenos race millennia before the Imperium's rise to power, the world was unremarkable, and the Magi governing the world proved to be exemplary in meeting production demands.

Late into M40 efforts by Magos Tarkan discovered that a number of major energy sources emanating from the planet's heart could be harvested by Imperial machinery. Using technologically arcane means, the Mechanicus constructed a number of modified Augustgrad pattern energy siphons across the world, harvesting this energy from the core. Despite some minor voices of displeasure among the Mechanicus hierarchy, few objected to this move as it quickly allowed the world to more than triple its prior output over the course of a decade. However, Mechanicus forces began to detect unknown sensor readings and new disturbances below the planet's surface, emanating from the same source of this energy. Powerful and matching no known frequency, they seemed to originate from the metal core of the world itself. Several expeditions were mounted to explore this deep region, but few returned and those who did were unsuccessful in their efforts.

The last of these was made almost a thousand years later. With the impeding threat of a Thirteenth Black Crusade by the damnable traitor Ezekiel Abaddon, Magos Belleran sought to uncover this source and further augment their powers. Using a substantial amount of the Forge World's resources, Belleran was able to bypass many of the failings which had ruined his predecessors, and successfully reached the core within one year. A few scant minutes following their arrival however, all contact was lost with the expedition. Sixteen hours later, Belleran returned, accompanied not by his Skitarii battalions but a vanguard of  silver xenos automata.

Taking the Ixian forces by surprise, the Necrontyr forces devastated the main site used to guide the forces towards the core, and then the nearby Factorum Majoris. While few in number, they were capable of quickly penetrating its defences, and carving their way through to its very heart before reaching its Augustgrad siphons. Upon its destruction, they disappeared, only to arise again supported by flying heavy weapons platforms (Category: Destroyers, Heavy Destroyers) as they targeted another Factorum, seeking to destroy its siphon. Worse still, Belleran was actively assisting them. Shackled by some unknown xenotech, the Magos was able to sway over a third of the Forge World's Skitarii to his banner, turning them against the Imperium. Using his knowledge of the world, the Necrons were able to inflict several crippling defeats on veteran units, slowly pushing them back to a handful of strongholds across the planet.

Despite their successes, the Necron forces constantly prioritized the Augustgrad siphons over all other objectives, forgoing even mounting assaults upon retreating forces in favour of shutting these machines down. Many have since theorized that the energy drawn from Ixius' core had been taken from the Tomb complex itself, rendering much of this Dynasty's legion inert; a detail supported by the xenos' limited numbers during the war's opening stages. As a scant hundred or so Necrontyr had been enough to cripple the world, the Tech Priests quietly dreaded the thought of combating a fully armed and supported force of such monstrosities.

It was only the surprising arrival of Clan Company Raukaan In-Exile under the command of Iron Father Romulus, which staved off total defeat. Having entered orbit with the intention of forming an alliance with Ixius, the astartes initially attempted to decapitate the Necron hierarchy with a series of orbital bombardments. Upon discovering their survival second effort was then mounted, attempting to split the xenos force and annihilate them with massed firepower while weakened, only to be disrupted by rebel Skitarii elements. The Iron Hands proceeded to mount succeeding in delaying the xenos' advance but failed to inflict substantial casualties on any attacking force. Upon losing two of their Ancients during a failed push towards the Tomb complex itself, Romulus was eventually pressed to pull back to a more defensive footing.

Dubbed Operation: Stormwalker, Romulus' plan was based upon older Legiones Astartes tactics, intended to draw out the enemy forces before crippling them with a single strike. Regrouping with the shattered remnants of the Skitarii War Cohorts guarding Factorum Majoris Pacificum, the Iron Hands began reinforcing a its shattered ferrocrete battlements with their armoured elements. Dividing their remaining Tactical Squads into small combat units, each outfitted with a lascannon, they were then sent to the uppermost spires, tasked with sniping the heavy armour as they came into range.

Once each was in position Romulus gave the command to slowly increase the Augustgrad siphon's output, forcing it to draw upon more and more energy. Even as its ancient machine spirit raged against this treatment as it was pushed into dangerously high levels, Whips of emerald energy cascaded from the machine as it glowed red from overexertion, klaxons warning that immediate shutdown was required even as serfs and Tech-Priests alike retreated from the machine. Yet, in the face of it, a few stayed at their posts fighting to keep it operational at this heightened state, desperate to ensure Romulus' success. It worked. As the orange glow of Ixus' sunrise penetrated the thick choking clouds of smog, scouts picked up the massed, regimented movement of a Necrontyr attack force, with their gaudily clad skeletal king at their forefront. Win or lose, the fate of the world was to be decided in this one conflict.

The Battle is Joined:
In the little time they had, Mechanicus forces had spent the day solidifying their defensive network. While gaping holes had been left in the outermost bastion walls, each large enough to freely drive a Leman Russ through at full speed, the remaining battlements were reinforced. Outlying windows were made into patchwork firing slits and the crumbling platforms secured and then extended, turning each one into minor castle unto itself. Beyond it, entire buildings had been demolished and the battlefield beyond swept clean. The ruins of Skitarii vehicles and bodies were swept away, pushed back into the ruined storage hangers beyond or fed into the great engines of the forges for renewal. Every fragmented wall was destroyed, every corpse retrieved and every loose stone swept away until the forty meters beyond the walls were a barren killing ground bereft of cover.

It was an obvious ploy and the Necrons knew this, but they needed to press forwards whereas Romulus merely needed to wait and goad them into advancing. As he knelt behind the derelict building which had once been a habitation block, watching the positions of his units and their requests for firing confirmation, he sized up each Necron force. While outnumbering his, it lacked the same armoured elements of his own defenders. Two units of their standard infantry, a single force of their Immortals, the flying attack platforms sighted before in several squadrons, and the xenos king himself surrounded by shielded guards. While small by the standards of the Astra Militarum and Skitarii, he had seen them decimating their foes by the hundreds.

Without taking his eyes off of the display, the Iron Father reached out, waving two of the awaiting Razorbacks forwards into the southern breach in their defences. While the remaining four were secured behind armoured walls, these two were needed to goad their foe into action. Slewing to a halt, the two waited just long enough to pick out the the silhouettes of enemy infantry awaiting between buildings before opening fire. Their twin assault cannons chewed through the broken steel and crumbling ferrocrete alike, before two eight heavy bolts cut down into the warriors themselves, felling three in a shower of sparks. At this signal, the lascannon teams took aim before loosing their own searing crimson beams into the Necron lines, probing the enemy attacking forces. Several more infantry were clain, reduced to bubbling silver even as one of the massive Heavy Destroyers took a hit to the chest, veering out of sight as it left smoke in its wake.

The skeletal rictus expression of their leader betrayed no emotion as his troops were cut down, fixing his pale gaze upon the black clad angels before him. At some unspoken command the hovering Destroyers began to advance, moving out into the open and firing as they came, cutting into the buildings and forcing humanity's champions into cover. Among their number, unseen before now, a scepter wielding Destroyer moved at their head, charging into the open and making for the centre of the Iron Hands's lines. Then, in their wake, their leader advanced with his bodyguard, making for the southernmost gap and the Razorbacks which occupied it. An unprecedented move to be sure. Romulus had hoped that a show of force would drive them towards the massive gap at the centre of their lines, just as the Destroyers had, forcing them into the guns of three Predator Annihilators. The waiting enfilade would have been enough to overcome even their inhuman durability, but instead the Iron Father was now risking splitting his forces against foes on two fronts. Worse still, the bulk of the Destroyers were targeting the northernmost units, forcing the two squads and their Razorbacks into a pitch firefight across the buildings. Rather than a single concentrated strike, they were now forced to divert their focus to multiple units at once, each capable of breaking their line if permitted to close the gap fully.

Pulling back from their position, the Razorbacks began to slowly retreat, assault cannons opening fire upon the Necron leader and his cohort as they advanced, each round deflecting from the massive shields they bore. Several lascannons from the upper tiers joined them, succeeding in only slaying a single bodyguard while the rest concentrated their efforts upon their foremost targets. Several Destroyers met their end as well, as the remainder of the units ignored the northern contingent to focus upon the Destroyer leader. Two of his own unit fell to their guns, before a third joined them as the Predators advanced, firing as they came. Freed from their suppressing fire though, several Destroyer took movements to pick out Iron Hands and slew them before they could fall back into cover. Merely half the enemy army was engaging now, leaving the remainder behind them, ready to advance into any breach they forced. Among them, Romulus could see the grey skinned figure of Belleran, moving spasmodically as his bionics fought to resist the controlling xenos influence.

As the gaps closed, each side unleashed the full force of their weapons upon the other, and soon bolter shells and gauss beams streaked between buildings. Each chipping away at the others' iron clad defences, trying to force their luck to run out or overcome them with sheer number of blasts. It was clear who was winning. Having foregone their own defences in the name of a rapid victory, the open ground was filling with slowly dissipating Necron bodies. Durable as they were, one shell in every two dozen would find its mark, punching through their defences and ending the unlife of a metal born warrior. In return the Iron Hands had perhaps lost one astartes for every four Destroyers, and as the Destroyer champion charged forwards, fighting to engage a concealed Razorback with his staff, another two of his bodyguard met their end alongside him.

Towards the south of the battlefield meanwhile, the Necron leader and his Lychguards advanced into the Iron Hands' lines. Almost unimpeded by the hails of gunfire being poured into their number, a mere three Lychguard had been lost in their advance, The remaining five were more than capable of finishing the job, and as their two targeted Razorbacks retreated further, they passed into the Iron Hands defensive formation. It was then that Romulus made his move. Born of desperation, he gathered each of the Tactical Squads close by, co-ordinating with their mental implants and devising a firing solution on the enemy. Mere meters from the tomb's elite it was an almost suicidal act, but one needed to end this threat before it could cripple their flank. Nine astartes opened fire on full auto with their bolters, with the two lascannon wielding marines trying and failing to hit their foe on the move. Peppering their foe with a barrage of explosive rounds, dispersing them across the field, several bolts tore through at weak points, felling two more bodyguards even as the Razorbacks brought yet another of their number low. Apparently astonished at this turn, the Necron leader faltered mid charge before the Iron Father.

Towards the center of their lines meanwhile, the Destroyers had finally engaged the tanks. For all the Iron Hands' efforts, two Razorbacks lay on their sides, reduced to a smoldering wreck by the Destroyers while a third slumped amid a ruin, robbed of its turret. Its carnage had been bought with the lives of its guards, protecting it even as it had faced the full firepower of a battle company. There were non left to finish the job. All three Predators fired upon the Destroyer, tearing chunks from its body before a lascannon blast from the northern defences ended its threat once and for all. The remaining Destroyers, those who had clung to the protection of the ruins, were little more than a fragmented collection of depleted squads riddled with gunfire. The bulk of the Necron army stood unmoving, awaiting in the ruins even as their leader quickly found himself cut off from all escape.

One final burst from several assault cannons bore his Lychguard to the ground, slowly fading into nothingness. Romulus knew they would return. In the short time they had fought the Necrons, he had seen them arise form mortal wounds which would have annihilated any other being, or fading into nothingness only to return in full strength once more. With their leader at his mercy, he was not one to let this opportunity slip through his grasp. As the xenos king charged one final time, the Iron Father unhooked an arcane device from a lost age from his belt before hurling it at the automata. It bounced against its metallic ribcage before unleashing a cyan burst of sheer blinding light, surrounding the Necron lord in a semi-sphere of energy. For a moment it stood there, pinned in place by its power, before the weapon took effect. With the secret to their creation long lost to the Imperium, chrono grenades were a valued relic revered by those who carried them. The antithesis of a stasis grenade, their role was to accelerate time, allowing thousands of years to past in seconds for those trapped within. Even the Iron Hands themselves held but six in total, reserved for the worst of foes.

Within the energy the Necron began to shudder, vibrating at some unseen speed before it began to fade. Its silvered body first began to tarnish, rapidly blackening before giving away to the brown decay. The ice blue of its eyes began to flicker and die, the intricate circuitry forged by alien gods withering inside its metal skull even as the gold plating which befitted its rank cracked apart. Then, it began to die. Its body crumbled away, falling into nothingness, save for a few slivered flakes of decaying metal as the grenade deactivated, born away by the industrial breeze. The Necrons would return again, but not with this same warrior king to guide them. Yet it was only a partial victory, with Belleran still guiding the xenos forces the war would continue for years yet.

With their leadership decapitated, the Necron forces seemed to take on a new approach to war. As opposed to the sudden strikes and defined targets of the initial battles, they began to meaninglessly assault all in sight, rampaging across the surface of Ixus. Belleran continued to preach to the Skitarii, turning them upon one another in growing orgies of violence until the forge world's once proud armies were little more than a fragment of their former selves.

It would take a full year of bloody fighting and the direct intervention of the Ordo Xenos to end the Necron threat, sealing it within their own tombs. Ixus itself would never fully recover from the onslaught, as the forge world was placed under full Inquisitorial investigation following their activities and source of power. This act denied Clan Raukaan In-Exile the resources and allies it so desperately needed, and Romulus has never fully forgiven he Ordo Xenos as a result.


  1. A pretty good job for a first effort I think, I do have some minor criticisms though:

    It's written from an Imperial perspective, which is perfectly fine, however you sometimes jump to third person from the Necron perspective and it's a little odd, take this part for example: "It was an obvious ploy and the Necrons knew this, but they needed to press forwards..." Given that this is first presented to be an inquisitorial report it seems a little odd they'd give mention of something they couldn't confirm, and this switch in perspective isn't really done before or after this point.
    if you wanted to keep the Imperial perspective it could easily be changed to something like this: "Though the ploy was obvious, it was also effective as Romulus had left the Xenos no option other than to press forward..."

    The next issue is the general flow, as I mentioned it's initially presented as an inquisitorial report, however after giving the relevant history and founding date, it switches to a different third person running narration, whereas usually reports just record what happens (also using past tense rather than present). There is an easy fix though, if you add in any other mention of this Inquisitor Dante examining the event after the relevant history and founding date (ie when the Necrons first appear) then you don't have to change anything you've already written, since in context it then becomes Dante's third person perspective on what happened (in essence he becomes the one giving the running narration).

    Next up, I'm not so sure of the Necron Lord aging to death, since necrodermis is self-repairing and I can't help but doubt that time would affect it like that. What I'd suggest instead is to have his mind destroyed by the rapid aging, similar to the fluff of the pre-Ward Flayed Ones (though even more so, naturally Romulus could just easily kill him after the grenade's effect expires). It still gets the same idea across, the Lord is no longer a threat, and depending on how you write it he could be even worse than useless (for example he might have suffered the equivalent of a severe lobotomy, being made into a vegetable) since the entire Tomb World would be waiting on his commands, and if he really was dead command might just shift to the next Necron in power (if he's driven insane from the grenade then that also would explain their new behaviour after he's hit by it). Another thing to mention is that their minds are supposed to be transferred back to their tomb world(s) if their bodies die anyway, and this would stop him being a threat when/if he's brought back.

    There's also minor spelling mistakes, for example "feel" instead of "fell", "waiting" instead of "wailing", not to mention "Razroback" but we all make minor mistakes and it's not enough to detract from the work.

    I do like the little touches you put in on top of the work as a whole, for example the Stronos Heresy (ultimately that's where GW's plot for them is going) and fixing which hand is the bionic hand in image #3.
    While it's definitely not a criticism (I do like the extra effort), I'd just like to say though seeing a marine shoot lefty just looks weird since nobody models them like that, or even draws them like that (and it didn't occur to me that was the case until now).

    This is the second time I'm submitting this comment because I'm not sure if the first one went through (the usual message never appeared and the comment box disappeared), if it did then feel free to ignore this one as it's just a copy-paste of the first.

    1. Well, glad you thought it wasn't too bad in all honesty. I'll admit, it's the first time that i've done this in several years, so it seemed certain this was going to be a disaster. That said, there are reasons for most of the points you brought up, albeit not so much the typos and errors. That part was just a result of exhaustion from the prior week and a desire to get it all done in one sitting.

      Anyway, to answer your points in turn - There's actually a good reason that this is so Imperial focused, as it's merely half of the full story. You see, the idea was to have two halves of a full battle report to help cover the event, each from the perspective of their own side, or expanding upon certain points. So, for example, the introduction for the Necron Dynasty was going to be shorter, but that's because the Necron player wanted to focus upon events following this battle instead. With luck - assuming he actually sends this to me given he's already a week late, the second half will show the full picture.

      This intention to have the two crossover was part of why it does occasionally cross over into the Necron side, detailing their own thoughts and whatnot. These bits were intended to help bridge the gap between each account, and encourage people to read both. This might be a little out of place admittedly given the introduction, but given how often Imperial Armour started with in-universe details before moving onto a more standard narrative arc in certain books, it seemed forgivable in this situation. Don't get me wrong, you are right that a single narrator would have strengthened the tale considerably, but it was a difficult point to work into the tale without a having to excuse a lot of questionable political points between the Ordos and Mechanicus.

      As for the Necron Lord's death, believe it or not but that death was actually requested. The original plan was to actually have him mentally burn out and gradually go insane, but the Necron player requested the alternative for a few reasons. For starters, part of his army's background does involve failed or weakening necrodermis which has been robbed of its potency. A few books early on - notably Nightbringer - featured this as an early plot point and he apparently ran with it. It's a major driving force within his army's background, to the point where the original leaders of the Dynasty are having to contend with a sizable Destroyer Cult wanting to cut loose at every turn. Many of the models look warped or distorted in a few ways because of this, and part of his history noted that they have openly attached other Tomb Worlds to steal raw materials to overcome their own curse. This death actually plays into the ending he outlined involving the faction, ranging from the "death" of a relatively minor lord being used as a catalyst to play into the Destroyer Lord's own ambitions, and to convince the Imperium to waste a potent resource on a flawed countermeasure. Okay, it's a bit more complex than that, but i'm just going from a brief outline here.

      Still, I do thank you for taking the time to give such a detailed answer and offer your own thoughts on this retelling. It's always heartening to see such responses from you.