The Hunt For Wurrshuv - A Battlefleet Gothic Battle Report
"Do we have confirmation?"
Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh stood with his core command staff around the bridge chart table of his flagship. arrayed about it were a swarm of holographic displays showcasing mission reports, intelligence data, local star charts and astronomical maps, as well as the positions and course vectors of the ships in Kais's fleet, K-42.
"We do Kor'O," reported Kais's fleet intelligence officer, "Our long-range probes made the initial detection, and our closest Skether'qan is presently monitoring the group. They do not appear to be aware of our presence as of yet."
Kais studied the images before him, monochrome and many-hued false colour captures depicting a cluster of high-output energy signiatures swarming around the vicinity of a blue planet. The high-res pict captures revealed them to be a small fleet of Ores'la pirates, which the Kor'O's fleet intelligence had identified as belonging to the Ores'la faction that ruled over this region of space, which Kor'vattra fleet K-42 had been tasked with clearing of pirates. Fleet intelligence had also reported that these Ores'la were currently on the back foot, having recently suffered losses to a force of Ar'cea corsairs that were encroaching into the region. It seemed that this area of space was currently in the grip of a power struggle between the various pirate bands that called it home.
On it's own this would provide a golden opportunity for the Tau Empire to move in and clear the marauders out while they were distracted, further securing the empire's borders, but Kais had also been given a secondary objective by the Kor'ar'tol. A well-embedded informant for the Tau had reported that the notorious Ores'la warlord known as Wurrshuv, who had led a devastating assault on the Tau training world of M-88, had supposedly been sighted in the area and may have had dealings with the local Ores'la pirates. Although M-88 and its star system remained fiercely contested and no end to the fighting seemed in sight, Wurrshuv had abandoned the invasion along with many of his core warbands and now remained at large somewhere on the Eastern Fringe. The Ethereals had deemed his capture or elimination a top priority, and while the tip-off remained far from reliable, it was now the mission of K-42 to investigate it.
"What is our closest fleet element?" Kais asked.
"Strike Group 66 Red," replied Kais's second in command, "They have made the most progress in our operation so far, and their planned course will take them well within .4 parsecs of the pictured system. The group has already been vectored to the identified planet. There is, however a problem."
"What is it?"
"The Kor'el in charge of Strike Group 66 Red has reported a serious loading accident aboard their Gal'leath Kor'O. The vessel is apparently undamaged, but approximately 50% of its Manta compliment has been taken out of action."
"How long until the Mantas are fully operational again?"
"Their estimate is approximately 8 decs, Kor'O."
Kais brought up the position of Strike Group 66 and the planet the Ores'la had been sighted around. If the Kor'el's estimate was accurate, then they would not be able to restore their Manta wings before they made contact. Fighting with only half of the strike group's Manta complement was extremely unwise, but if they delayed their progress the Ores'la might escape. Kais did not like it one bit, but looking at the situation there seemed no other choice.
"Inform Strike Group 66 Red that they are cleared to engage Ores'la targets, but be careful out there." Kais said, "And move our own group in to lend assistance if necessary. I don't want to loose anyone I don't have to out here."
A short while ago I discovered a pair of fellow Battlefleet Gothic players in the FLGS I have been frequenting recently. Despite some conflict on rules preference, it was a great turn of events, and this week I was able to organise a game with one of them. Thus began the long awaited combat debut of my Tau fleet that has been my pride and joy since 2011. Naturally I just had to write a battle report about it.
So it was on one fateful Thursday evening that my magnificent Kor'vattra starships found themselves arrayed against a formidable fleet of Orks in a 750 point Cruiser Clash. It was easily the most fun I've ever had playing tabletop games so far, and has reminded me why I fell in love with Battlefleet Gothic 8 years ago. I eagerly look forward to the next game I can get in.
In the meantime, we join the action in a mysterious crimson nebula, where the valiant Tau of Kor'vattra fleet K-42 find themselves engaged in a seemingly ordinary anti-piracy mission to safeguard the Tau Empire from marauding corsairs. Ork ships have been spotted in the area, and rumour has it that the infamous Ork warlord Dregmek Wurrshuv himself might have passed by recently.
But to find out for sure the Tau will need to face their oldest enemies. The Orks are fighting in their home territory, and a nebula can be a very dangerous place for the unwary...
Fleets and Strategy
I anticipate that this is going to be a challenging game for me. 750 points is far less than I've generally planned for in the past, and does not allow for very much. Kor'vattra Tau fleets tend to work better at higher points levels where they can bring enough ships for mutual support, and I run the very serious risk of not having enough protection for my vulnerable flanks. Ork ships in particular can inflict massive damage if they get close, and their broadside firepower could easily see my starships crippled even before they initiate any boarding. Boarding actions are of course the bane of any Tau fleet, and Orks are particularly adept at them.
Taking this into account, my priority with this fleet list is to have as many hulls on the table as possible. To this end I've neglected to take a fleet commander. The high leadership and fleet re-rolls could certainly be invaluable in keeping my ordinance reloaded, but given the circumstances I'd rather spend the points on more ships to ensure there's no holes in my formation that the Orks can exploit. I'll just have to trust in the base standard leadership of my fleet.
Having decided on that, I need to decide what ships I'm actually going to spend those 750 points on. The Kor'vattra fleet's greatest strength lies in it's powerful ordinance capabilities, so my first choice was naturally an Explorer class in the standard Vash'ya configuration to provide maximum attack craft support. The logical follow-on to this was to take the Explorer's full grav-hook compliment in a trio of Orcas to accompany the gigantic carrier.
Adding a second Explorer and some Orcas was very tempting, but it could leave me dangerously vulnerable if the fragile escorts are lost, so I decided to take a Hero class instead. With its healthy 8 hull points and tough forward Deflector this formidable heavy-hitter will be an excellent bodyguard for the Explorer, forming the spearhead of my fleet and giving the Orks something dangerous to think about instead of that slow soft-bellied Explorer. It also gives me some extra attack craft and a powerful missile salvo.
My next choice was a squadron of Defender class starships. Their missile salvos will add to my ordinance strengths, and I can use multiple strength 2 missile waves to neutralise any Ork fighta-bommas that get sent my way which will free up my launch bays for more Manta waves. The Defenders are also no slouches in the gunnery department - with a Firepower 3 railcannon battery each they'll be able to provide some heavy short-range shooting to any Orks that get too close. I wanted to take a full squadron of 6, but alas I didn't have quite enough points left over for it, so I'll have to make do with a squadron of just three instead.
The only remaining question is what to spend the rest of the points on. The Tau fleet restrictions mean I can't take another Hero, nor can I take any more Orcas without more gravitic hooks. The maximum number of extra Defenders I could take is two, but I'm generally hesitant about two-ship escort squadrons (three escorts is already a bit fragile for my tastes). A Messenger class starship could be useful, but more than one is generally overkill in small points games like this and I wouldn't be able to afford anything else if I did take one, which would lead to a considerable amount of wasted points.
That leaves my favourite ship in Battlefleet Gothic, the Merchant class starship. I can comfortably fit one into the list with the remaining points, though nothing else. I would like to have taken another two Orcas with it, but unfortunately I didn't have the points for them, so instead I'll be running the Merchant in the Dal'yth configuration.
The end result of all this is a very well-rounded balanced Tau fleet, which is good because I'm a big proponent of tactical flexibility in tabletop wargaming forces. What's really interesting however is that it is more or less a microcosm of my Tau fleet in its entirety, with a mixture of just about all the ships in the Tau fleet. This will make things particularly interesting for me, because it will allow me to test my theories on Tau naval strategy in miniature.
Thus, my strategy is a smaller scale version of my much rehearsed standard Kor'vattra operating policy. The Explorer will position as far back from the Orks as I can place it, and creep forward at minimum speed in order to keep the Ork ships at a distance for as long as possible. The Hero will deploy ahead of the Explorer, guarding it from harm and providing a clear field of fire for its gravitic launcher. The Defenders will similarly deploy forwards of the Explorer, covering one flank while firing off as many missiles as they can.
The Merchant will advance beside the other two capital ships to cover the vulnerable side arcs of the Hero - if any Ork ships get beside it to escape the heavy forward firepower, the Merchant can hammer them with the equivalent of a Lunar class's broadside, which should be enough to deal with them when combined with some limited broadside shooting and shotgunned ordinance from the Hero. If worst comes to worst the Explorer can also lend its railcannons, which could potentially trap the Ork threat between fire from three directions.
Finally, the Orcas will be my troubleshooters, using their good mobility to intercept any unforeseen threats and their considerable armament to neutralise them before they can cause too much trouble. I anticipate using them to cover the flank my Defenders are not on, thus channelling the Orks into my front arc where my shooting is most effective.
My top priority targets will be the Ork capital ships. Ork cruisers are particularly vulnerable to bomber attacks, and eliminating any Terror Ships first will allow me to secure ordinance supremacy quickly. Neutralising the capital ships first also reduces the boarding threat they pose. The Ork escorts pose less of a threat in this regard, and can be finished off with gunnery if necessary.
Kor'vattra Fleet K-42 Strike Group 66 Red
National Geographic - Gal'leath Explorer class starship (Vash'ya Configuration): 230 pts
Heart of Gold - Il'fannor Merchant class starship (Dal'yth Configuration) with reinforced hull: 120 pts
Sulaco - Lar'shi Hero class starship (Vash'ya Configuration): 180 pts
Delain Squadron - 3 Kir'qath Defender class starships: 135 pts
Sirenia Squadron - 3 Kass'l Orca gunships: 75 pts
TOTAL: 740 pts
|Strike Group 66 Red|
The opposing Ork fleet was comprised of a Terror Ship, a Kill Kroozer, 3 Onslaught attack ships, 3 Savage gunships, 3 Ravager attack ships and a solitary Brute Ramship.
|The Orks of the Crimson Nebula|
Cruiser Clash - The Battle
Celestial Phenomena and Leadership
After rolling to determine the scenario (it ended up being a Cruiser Clash - nice and simple), the next stage of any Battlefleet Gothic game is determining the tabletop and leadership of the ships. While several celestial phenomena were rolled up, we quickly realised that we did not actually possess enough markers for all of it, so instead we were forced to settle on a more spartan table with an average sized planet towards one end and a small asteroid field diagonally opposite it. There may have been a small moon-sized planetoid on the table as well, but my memory fails me here - in any event it never played a role in the game.
Next came the rolls for leadership. This would be a crucial stage of the game for me, as Tau fleets live and die by their ability to pass command checks for Reload Ordinance special orders. Without some good leadership on my carrier and missile boats, I may very well be denied my most powerful weapon. The danger was only compounded by my decision to forgo a fleet commander and the re-rolls that came with them. With much trepidation and bated breath I made my rolls and got...
- Ld 9 for the Heart of Gold
- Ld 7 for the National Geographic
- Ld 7 (again) for the Sulaco
- Ld 8 for Delain Squadron
- Ld 6 for Sirenia Squadron
Wonderful. Clearly all that time spent sitting on display tables and figure cases has had an adverse effect on training and crew readiness levels.
OK, so it's not the end of the world. Ld 7, which is about the average Ld rating in Battlefleet Gothic, isn't totally awful on my carriers. It could certainly be worse, but at the same time it's far from ideal on what I plan to be my main two damage dealers in the game. Ld 8 on my other primary damage dealer is certainly better, and Ld 9 on my gunboat could have its uses. Ld 6, normally the lowest Ld rating in Battlefleet Gothic, isn't great, but fortunately it's also on a squadron of escorts I wasn't really relying on to pass special orders in the first place. All in all, they're not the leadership ratings I would have liked, but I should still be able to work with them.
It was at this point that I discovered, to my horror, that I had in fact packed the wrong two bags of attack craft with me for the game. Rather than a nice even balance of Manta stands and Barracuda stands, I was in fact only left with 4 Manta squadrons to work with. I could have perhaps proxied some more stands, but in the interest of fairness and a desire to show off my fancy Forgeworld ordinance models I decided against it. 4 Mantas will just have to do.
The Orks won the roll for deployment, and my opponent went for the edge closest to them (a common choice as I have found). This put the planet on my right flank, and the asteroids to my left.
My deployment plan was dictated by my strategy and a textbook execution of my Kor'vattra fleet doctrine. I placed my Explorer as far back in the corner opposite the Orks as the deployment parameters would allow, then deployed my Hero ahead of it and slightly to the right in a staggered echelon. My Merchant then went to the left of the Hero between it and the Explorer. I then placed my squadron of Defenders in base contact in a line formation alongside the Hero covering my right flank. I originally wanted to place my Orcas to cover my left flank, but I was too close to the edge of my deployment zone to do so. Instead the Orcas went behind the Defenders facing to my left flank in an echelon formation - they would use their speed to reach the left flank on my first turn, then use their 90 degree standard turn to come about and face the enemy. Taking a page from real life military science, the echelon formation would also allow them to reform into a useful force as quickly and efficiently as possible by simply changing facing.
The Ork deployment was fairly straightforward. From memory the two Ork capital ships deployed towards my right, while a main force comprising the Onslaughts, Ravagers and ramship deployed in the centre and the Savages deployed in a small flanking force on my left.
Tau Turn 1
The Orks might have won the roll off for deployment zones, but I managed to secure first turn, and I planned to use it to maximum effect. Like my deployment, my opening moves were largely a textbook application of my much rehearsed doctrine, with everyone creeping up their minimum move ahead half except for the Orcas which dashed over to cover my left flank and came about as I planned. So far so good.
My cautious movement meant nothing was currently in gunnery range, so my first shooting phase consisted entirely of launching every piece of ordinance I could. Having gained first turn I was in a position to seize the tactical initiative with ordinance, so I went for a launch pattern that was as aggressive as I could make it. The Defenders massed their missiles into an anti-capital ship strength 6 salvo, while the Explorer launched a wave of 4 Mantas (I would have liked to have launched two waves of 4, but like I say I didn't have enough Manta stands for it) along with 4 individual Barracuda squadrons to lock down any ordinance the Orks might send at me. The Hero launched additional fighter cover in addition to its own strength 6 missile attack.
|The Tau unleash an onslaught of ordinance against the Orks!|
Now came the ordinance phase. The Mantas oriented themselves towards the Terror Shp, but were too far out to reach it on one move. The missiles were much more successful, with the Defenders' salvo using its full 40cm move to reach the Kill Kroozer. The Ork turret shooting was ineffective, and the missiles managed to inflict 4 hits on the kroozer. Not bad for a first strike. The Hero's missiles also moved forward, but were unable to reach anything. The Barracuda squadrons raced forwards to put themselves between any Ork interceptors and the rest of my incoming ordinance.
Ork Turn 1
The Orks wisely began to move as much as they could. The Ork capital ships moved forward, continuing around my right flank, while the Savages circled me on my left. The rest of the Ork escorts powered straight ahead.
Despite the Orks moving forward, the shorter range of their guns also meant that they couldn't shoot at anything this turn, but they did have ordinance of their own to launch. The Terror Ship scrambled two squadrons of fighta-bommas, while the Ravagers unleashed three salvos of torpedoes at me. A curious twist of the Ork deployment meant that the Ork centre was very crowded and the torpedoes' trajectory would mean that they would end up hitting a number of their own ships! The torpedoes narrowly missed the Terror Ship, but then proceeded to move through the clustered Ork escorts in the centre group. One of them fired its own turrets at the incoming torpedoes, shooting down one, while the rest missed and hit its squadron mate. By the time the dust settled, one Ork escort was downed by friendly fire while two medium-strength torpedo salvos and one solitary torpedo were heading my way.
The fighta-bommas rocketed to intercept my Mantas. Now, in Battlefleet Gothic ordinance moves in both player's turns (but the ordinance belonging to who has the current turn moves first), so if I could get around the Ork interceptors my Mantas could reach the Ork capital ships. One fighta-bomma squadron was intercepted by my Barracudas, but the other was able to reach the Manta wave, succeeding in removing one stand of Mantas. The surviving three flew straight at the Terror Ship, whose turrets failed to shoot down any of them, and after some very good attack run rolls they managed to cripple it!
The second wave of missiles flew right into the central escort squadron. Sensing imminent danger, the Ork ships went on Brace for Impact orders, and the missiles that weren't shot down by turrets were all countered by some excellent Brace for Impact saves.
Tau Turn 2
This turn will be decisive. If I can't stop the Orks here, they will close to gunnery range, get inside my formation and, worst of all, be able to board me. I need to inflict as much damage on them before that happens, and to do that I'll need to get another wave of ordinance on the table. This means it is absolutely imperative that I pass my command checks for Reload Ordinance special orders. Now, once a command check is failed in Battlefleet Gothic you can't make any more for that turn (except for Brace for Impact, which happens out of sequence from the other orders). Knowing this, I decided it would be best to start with the highest leadership on my ordinance carrying vessels, which would statistically be the most likely to pass and thus give me the best chance of managing to reload all of my ordinance. The highest leadership on my ordinance carrying vessels is 8, on my squadron of Defenders. They make their check and...
... proceed to roll an 11, completely fumbling their orders and preventing any of my ships from going on any special orders this turn except for Brace For Impact. Perfect.
On the upside, at least I am now within gunnery range, so I'll still be able to hurt the Ork ships, but it's still a major setback. Nonetheless, there's nothing that can be done about it. My movement is a repeat of last turn, with everyone moving their minimum distance in order to keep as much distance as possible between my ships and the Orks. This conveniently brings the Orcas almost within striking range of the Savages. If I can just keep them there for a turn I might be able to intercept them all with impunity, as their heavy guns have a considerably shorter range than the Orcas' weapons.
|Ork attack ships close in on the Tau|
My shooting is largely ineffective, still being too far out to do anything beyond some token pot shots from my railcannons, which either miss or are absorbed by shields. With no second wave of ordinance, my Barracudas simply move closer to the Terror Ship to try and bottle up the attack craft from it. With that, my turn is done and I grit my teeth in anticipation of the reckoning to come.
Ork Turn 2
Mercifully for me, the Ork fleet had some setbacks of its own. My missiles from earlier may not have done any damage to the escorts, but Bracing for Impact in the previous game turn meant that they were unable to go on special orders this turn, which meant no Reload Ordinance from the Ravagers and most importantly no All Ahead Full on the ramship, saving me from a potentially devastating ramming attack.
The Ork capital ships continued their long flanking manoeuvre around the right, but the real decisive action was with the escorts. The centre group moved up as best they could, getting dangerously close to my formation, while the Savages made a full move and sped straight past my Orcas to dart among my capital ships. Now I was in real trouble. The escorts were now close enough to do some serious damage, while being in my side arcs meant my own gunnery would be heavily reduced against them in subsequent turns.
With ships now in close range, the Ork shooting was much more effective than my own. The capital ships and centre group of escorts concentrated their fire on the Defenders, but fortunately for me a combination of range, mediocre rolls for Ork firepower and shooting at escorts (and even worse, escorts abeam in the case of the kroozer broadsides) meant that the few hits that did land were absorbed by the Defenders' shields.
The Savages, however, were much more successful. Opening up at near point blank range (or as close to point blank as you can get in space) their heavy gunz left one Defender destroyed and my Merchant crippled -only a timely Brace For Impact order and being abeam of them prevented its complete destruction.
|The Defenders are caught in a storm of fire|
"Get us out of here! All hands prepare for All Ahead full! Concentrate the gravitic drive forward! All power to the engines on my mark! Punch it helm!"
- Kor'el'T'au Shi'Y'eldi'Vash'aun'an
Tau Turn 3
Ouch. This is not looking good for me. While I haven't taken quite as much damage as the Orks have, I now have three very dangerous Ork ships inside my formation, in positions where I can do little to stop them. And this turn it's very likely that more will join them. If that happens and their shooting is as good as the last turn, I'm as good as finished.
Still, all not lost just yet. I might just be able to make it through if I can manage to turn things around on this turn. First of all, I'll need to try reloading my ordinance again. Ld 8 makes the Defenders the logical choice, but their performance last turn has left me deeply, bitterly disappointed in them and the blast markers they're now engulfed in will only make the test more difficult, so I instead try my Explorer first instead.
As luck would have it, a combination of enemy ships being on special orders and a mediocre dice roll mean I succeed, if only narrowly. The Explorer's flight deck crew spring into action and a second wave of Mantas is ready for launch. Next I try the Hero, which also manages to succeed in reloading its ordinance. Now this is more like it! Even the two remaining Defenders manage to redeem themselves by passing their command check and reloading their missiles. The Orcas, on the other hand, understandably fail to go on special orders, but it makes no difference as by this point everything else that can go on special orders has.
|With their ordinance reloaded, the Tau prepare to strike back...|
With my missiles loaded and my attack craft cleared for takeoff, it's now time to start making some moves. The first one is to move the Defenders clear of the blast markers that have sprung up around them to restore their shields. The Hero moves up a little too, but not too far - there are Ork escort ships dead ahead! The Explorer also creeps along its minimum movement distance, while the Merchant moves forwards 10cm and begins to turn away from the Savages bearing down on it. The Orcas also turn and move to my right in an attempt to circle around and engage the Savages.
Now at close range, my shooting is much more decisive. The first target is the ramship - being free to make a ramming attack and at too close a range to miss means it's got to go! My Hero and remaining Defenders open up on it, eventually managing to destroy it. The rest of my shooting accounts for two more escorts from the centre group.
Naturally everything that can launch ordinance does so. A fresh wave of four Mantas escorted by four individual Barracuda squadrons takes off from the Explorer and powers towards the Kill Kroozer, the closer of the two Ork capital ships at this point, but just fails to make it by a whisker. The Defenders unleash a strength 4 missile strike which gets very close to the Terror Ship, but likewise fails to reach it. The Hero's missiles miss both of the Ork capital ships by (billions of) miles, but instead plow straight through the central group of escorts. After turrets and a couple of Brace For Impact orders, the Ravagers are vanquished and the Onslaughts are down to two ships.
"Red 3 your angle of attack's too low, pull up! Pull up! Red 3! Red 3 do you read? Red 3 respond! Klkn..."
- Kor'vre'T'au B'Or'sha'is
Ork Turn 3
This time the shoe was on the other hoof, with the Orks on the back foot, but the fight was far from over. The Savages were at this point largely untouchable, and could still do heavy damage to my capital ships. The surviving Onslaughts could also cause problems if they got close enough, and there were still two Ork capital ships that had almost completely outflanked me.
Having reached very good firing positions the Savages now locked on. The Onslaughts attempted to swing around onto my left flank, which brought one into the asteroid field. The Ork escort promptly failed its command check to navigate the field and was smashed to bits by the asteroids, taking an unfortunate five hits from the impacts in some truly impressive overkill. Its wingman pressed on, while the Ork capital ships continued to circle my right flank.
Once again the Savages concentrated on my Merchant and Defenders. The shots fired at the Merchant failed to score any hits, but the remaining volleys destroyed the last two Defenders with help from the Ork cruisers. The surviving Onslaught failed to accomplish anything of note.
The Orks had succeeded in reloading ordinance on their Terror Ship, which launched a single squadron of fighta-bommas. It was swiftly intercepted by Barracudas before it could do any damage. The missiles fired from the Defenders managed to catch up with the Terror Ship, one being shot down by turret fire while the remaining three inflicted two more hits. The Mantas chased down the Kill Kroozer, crippling it with their attack runs and inflicting a Shields Collapsed critical with a lucky fusion bomb.
Tau Turn 4
At this point the worst is over for me, but I'm not quite out of the woods just yet. First thing's first however, I'll need to reload my ordinance in order to ideally finish off the Ork capital ships as quickly as possible. I'll also need to get my crippled Merchant out of the fight if I want to save it.
Once more I start my command checks with the Explorer, having had good results with it last turn. Once more it successfully reloads its Mantas. The Hero does likewise with its gravitic launcher. The Merchant, as to be expected from Ld 9, aces its command check and immediately goes on All Ahead Full to blast clear of the Savages. It proceeds to move well past them with its movement. The Explorer continues to plod along at half speed, while the Hero moves its full distance, turning half-way through to bring its weapons to bear on the Terror Ship. The Orcas move to keep pace with the Savages.
|The Savages have reached the heart of the Tau fleet...|
Seemingly typical for this game, my shooting is less than stellar, succeeding only in finishing off the remaining Onslaught. My Ordinance fares much better, with the Hero's missiles catching the Terror Ship with a 40cm move and leaving it a burning hulk. The Mantas move towards the Kill Kroozer, but fail to make it.
Ork Turn 4
There is now little that the Orks can do. The Kill Kroozer begins to turn around towards my ships, while the Savages continue on their current heading. Presented with only abeam capital ships to target, their shooting fails to achieve anything this round despite locking on. In the ordinance phase my Mantas catch up with the Kill Kroozer, but a lackluster attack run fails to knock it out. The fusion bomb impacts to inflict a Fire! critical however.
|... but now find themselves cut off!|
"To'Tau'va we're on a collision course! Burn retros! Burn retros! Set gravitic drive to maximum aft! Come on, come on you old Ui't, pull back..."
- Kor'el'T'au Shi'Y'eldi'Vash'aun'an
Tau Turn 5
It is at this final point that I start to feel fairly comfortable. The biggest danger I can see now is my Merchant - the All Ahead Full move last turn might have saved it from the Savages, but it has also put the ship on a collision course with the asteroids! Fortunately a passed command check and a timely Burn Retros special order allows it to come to a complete halt and turn to starboard. The other two capital ships both reload their ordinance, while the Orcas, having finally reacquired the Savages on their scopes, pass the only command check they've been able to make all game and lock on.
It is only then that I am reminded that ships on Lock On special orders cannot turn, leaving the Orcas stuck alongside the Savages rather than facing them directly, preventing them from using their ion cannons. Nonetheless, with some help from the Explorer, their railcannons manage to eliminate one of the Savages. The rest of my shooting is largely wasted, as most of my remaining ships no longer have targets.
The Kill Kroozer is now close enough that my Mantas can reach it in a single move, which they do and dutifully put the Kill Kroozer out of its misery with their attack runs reducing it to a drifting hulk.
|With heavy damage, the Orks prepare for one final gambit|
Ork Turn 5
With nothing else left to loose, the surviving pair of Savages make a last-ditch bid for glory and attempt to ram me. They pass their command check, go on All Ahead Full and rocket towards my Explorer. They make contact and...
... promptly dash themselves to pieces on the side of the Explorer's hull, inflicting no damage in the process.
With that, the Ork fleet is completely destroyed, at the cost of three escort ships and one crippled capital ship. Certainly not inconsiderable losses, but within acceptable limits to be sure. The Tau have secured the system for the moment and made good progress in clearing the region of pirates, but the Orks are now alerted to their presence. Analysis of the wreckage and Ork prisoners reveals no sign of Wurrshuv's presence - it seems that the nefarious Ork warlord has remained one step ahead of the Tau Empire.
Nonetheless, it is a solid victory for the Tau.
What Millitant Learnt
This game was a great opportunity for me to put my entirely theoretical knowledge of Battlefleet Gothic tactics with the Tau to the test, and I feel confident that they have been vindicated. My plan largely worked throughout the game despite several setbacks, and I feel much better about running Kor'vattra Tau in smaller games now than I did before. Ultimately, this game has given me some definitive proof that my Kor'vattra tactics work, and work well.
If I were to fault myself, I think my biggest mistake was failing to properly take movement into account at several key points. As models are in constant motion in Battlefleet Gothic, thinking one or two turns ahead is more critical than ever in order to succeed. It was my failure to properly factor in not only my own ships' movement, but also that of my opponent's, that left my Orcas largely running around like headless chickens for most of the game despite a very good initial deployment and first turn of movement.
I also significantly overestimated the efficacy of shooting, especially at long range. Time and again I expected weapons battery salvoes to inflict heavy damage, both to myself and to the Orks, but a combination of range and target bearings left us both rolling comparatively few dice. The Gunnery Table is a harsh mistress indeed.
On the other hand, ordinance proved just as devastating as I predicted it would be, and this is probably the first game I've played in a long while where I can definitively point to a clear MVP. That MVP, of course, would be my Explorer, which managed to inflict grievous damage on the Ork capital ships despite only being able to launch half as many Mantas as it potentially could - I shudder to think of what a full 8 squadrons of them could do!
I also feel like I made the right decision in prioritising numbers over a fleet commander. The Merchant might not have inflicted that much damage, but it did make an important contribution by drawing fire away from my other more important capital ships. Had it not been there the Savage gunships would have been free to hammer at my Hero or Explorer, damaging the ordinance capability I needed to inflict damage. Numbers really do matter more in smaller games like this.
Despite all that, and despite the results, this was a really close game, and for most of the duration things really could have gone either way. I genuinely was not expecting to do nearly as well as I did against the Ork fleet. In hindsight my opponent was too cautious in their approach - had they been more aggressive, especially with their capital ships, they could have easily won the game, or at the very least inflicted much more damage on me. My failure to reload any ordinance on turn 2 in particular provided a golden opportunity that an aggressive push could have exploited. As it was, keeping the cruisers far out for most of the game played right into my greatest strengths and the Orks' greatest weaknesses.
While I cannot speak for my opponent, if I were to guess the Ork MVP it would almost certainly be the squadron of Savage gunships. I initially paid little attention to them, considering them just another squadron of escorts my Orcas could deal with, an error in judgement that cost me dearly. With my focus elsewhere, the Savages were able to close with my ships unscathed and inflicted massive damage once they got inside my formation. Once there they were also infuriatingly difficult to remove due to a combination of good placement and poor Tau broadside weaponry (being escorts also helped). Savage gunships aren't often regarded very highly amongst the Battlefleet Gothic community, but they are to be underestimated at your own peril.
Well then, I think that about covers everything. The hunt for Wurrshuv continues...
--OPENING UPLINK TO DATABASE - AUTHORIZATION CODE: ****** --
--AUTHORIZATION CODE ACCEPTED. ACCESS GRANTED.--
--TO: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, Aun'O'T'au Ret'Sav'Cyr, T'au Kor'Ar'Tol, ATT Orbital Command--
--AUTHOR: Por'el'T'au Elan'ro'Gal'Hera--
--SUBJECT: Interrogation Report--
I have compiled this preliminary report following the conclusion of three (3) rotaa of interrogations conducted with Ores'la prisoners. The interrogations were performed under the supervision of myself, military intelligence officer Shas'el'T'au Su'Auk'nan, fleet intelligence officer Kor'el'T'au Yen'Ro'Cea and medical specialist Fio'vre'T'au M'yen'Kar'tyr after arriving aboard the Gal'leath class starship T'au'Gal'leath'Kles'ro'Oi'Gal where the Ores'la prisoners were being held. The ship had been serving as part of a strike group designated '66 Red' during a successful engagement with Ores'la pirates, and following the battle's conclusion the derelict hulk of an Ores'la 'Kill Kroozer' capital ship destroyed in the engagement was successfully secured by Shipboard Security Fire Warrior cadres, who were able to recover a number of surviving Ores'la crewmen as captives in addition to recovering a considerable amount of artefacts.
Needless to say the interrogations were long and difficult, but we were eventually able to accomplish information extraction from all of the Ores'la held in captivity. The Ores'la themselves represented a broad cross-section of the capital ship's crew, including standard Ores'la, specimens from the Ores'la leadership castes (known in their parlance as 'Nobs' and 'Bosses') and even a few of the Ores'la specialist castes (our team identified three of the engineer caste known as 'Meks', two of the medical caste known as 'Doks' and one mentally-enhanced specimen referred to by the Ores'la as a 'Weirdboy'). You may rest assured that all necessary precautions were taken to secure the specimens, and that no security breaches occurred during their internment.
The following data represents only a preliminary report. More detailed audio and video transcripts of the interrogations themselves are currently being processed, and will be transmitted once they are complete. In the meantime this report summarises our initial findings.
Part A: Wurrshuv
In regards to our most pressing concern, the current whereabouts of the Ores'la warlord known as 'Wurrshuv', the conclusion of my team is thus: wherever Wurrshuv may currently be, and regardless of whether or not he passed through this region following his departure from M-88, he did not have any direct interactions with this particular band of Ores'la.
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the Ores'la prisoners were largely oblivious to Wurrshuv and his activities, reacting with much confusion to our questions. Almost none had even heard his name before. Only a small handful of the Ores'la leadership captured seemed to be aware of Wurrshuv's existence, but yielded no useful information on his current location or designs. It is possible that the Ores'la warlord in command of the fleet may have had more information relevant to Wurrshuv, but our assets were unfortunately unable to recover him. Whether or not the Ores'la warlord escaped the destruction of his fleet is unknown, but it is likely that he was killed in the fighting.
Despite this lack of factual data, we were nonetheless able to identify some evidence that suggests Wurrshuv may have been connected in some way with these Ores'la. Most notably, analysis of the Ores'la command ship's wreckage suggests that its shield generators had recently been upgraded, and we were able to identify certain subsystems and components that shared considerable resemblance to a number of Wurrshuv's designs captured on M-88. We were even able to identify a few items of originally Tau construction from the wreckage, which would fit with Wurrshuv's Modus Operandi. Whether this is coincidence or not, however, remains to be seen.
Part B: Local Ores'la Force Dispositions
While the interrogations yielded nothing of value regarding Wurrshuv, they proved a much more useful resource on the subject of the Ores'la dispositions through out this area. Based on our initial findings, it would seem that these Ores'la pirates we encountered were merely one small element of a much larger force of Ores'la which has laid claim to this region of space.
As is typical of Ores'la civilisation, this force is comprised of innumerable warbands and pirate factions that have all pledged allegiance to a single powerful warlord who commands them from the top of their primitive and brutal hierarchy. Unfortunately we are yet to ascertain the identity of this warlord, though we can confirm that it is most certainly not Wurrshuv. We are also yet to ascertain the name of this larger force of Ores'la, only the names of the vessels and crew to whom the prisoners belonged. What we can deduce, however, is that this force of Ores'la is extremely dangerous and heavily armed. The small fleet encountered included a number of advanced Ores'la warship designs, most notably multiple capital ships, and analysis of the ships' computers we were able to recover indicates that this Ores'la force boasts many more. Data from the ships' computers even suggests that there are warships of battleship displacement and even an armed Large-scale Material Spatio-anomaly within their arsenal, in addition to numerous asteroid-based assault ships typically employed by Ores'la.
Data recovered from the Ores'la hulks also confirms our own intelligence that these Ores'la are currently embroiled in a larger conflict with a corsair faction of Ar'cea for dominance over this region of space. It would seem that the Ar'cea currently have the upper hand in this struggle, having recently secured a number of victories over the Ores'la. It may be possible to negotiate further with the Ar'cea and convince them to mount a joint attack on the Ores'la, but I remain sceptical of this outcome. The local Ar'cea remain highly elusive, and I suspect that if they wished to extend their hand in peace, they would have approached us already.
This concludes my team's preliminary report. It is our assessment that there is a chance Wurrshuv may have passed through this region and may have had or even still maintain connections of some kind with the local Ores'la pirates, but we currently lack sufficient information to confirm this. Regardless, the Ores'la pirates in this region are sufficiently well-armed, well-motivated and well-organised to pose a significant threat to the empire's security that should be neutralised as soon as possible.
NOTE: The subjects did not survive interrogation.