Saturday, 23 February 2019

The Hunt for Wurrshuv - Bad Neighbourhood (Battlefleet Gothic battle report)

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

Capital Ships

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

Escorts

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.

Deployment

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.

Initial Deployment


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
Having failed to reload ordinance on the Terror Ship, the ordinance phase was largely uneventful. My Barracudas continued their close blockade of the Terror Ship.

"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.--
--WELCOME ADMIRAL--

--TO: Kor'O'T'au Kais'Y'eldi'Aloh, Aun'O'T'au Ret'Sav'Cyr, T'au Kor'Ar'Tol, ATT Orbital Command--
--SENT: T'au'Gal'leath'Kles'ro'Oi'Gal--
--AUTHOR: Por'el'T'au Elan'ro'Gal'Hera--
--SUBJECT: Interrogation Report--

Tau'fann, 

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.

--UPLINK CLOSED--

Monday, 13 August 2018

Wurrshuv's Revenge - Finale

War Without End - The Conclusion to Wurrshuv's Revenge 




After 14 weeks of thrilling heroics, fiendish villainy and tabletop wargaming action, the first ever Advanced Tau Tactica global campaign has come to an end. For the last three months members of the ATT online forum have been battling for their lives against the relentless onslaught of Orks commanded by Dregmek Wurrshuv, hell bent on conquering the ATT Orbital, slaughtering the Tau and looting everything that isn't nailed down (naturally in the case of things that are nailed down they'd loot the nails too). The conflict has been the largest and destructive and brutal in the history of the ATT Orbital thus far, eclipsing even the infamous daemonic incursion of 2013 in size and bloodshed. As the dust settles, the future is impossible to tell. Reinforcements from both sides have flooded in, and the fighting has spiralled out of control, spilling across the surface of M-88 with no clear winner in sight. The only thing that can be said for certain is that whatever side emerges victorious will do so only at a staggering cost.

When the campaign first began all the way back in May, we honestly had no idea what was going to happen. Right up until about part-way through the first month I had lingering fears that the whole thing would be a complete disaster. Even now there are still areas that I would have liked to see improved (but of course that's just part of the learning experience). But as it transpired the ATT community did an outstanding job of engaging with the campaign, and by all accounts it seems like a good time has been had by all. And if that is true, then I've succeeded in what I set out to do.

And the Final Result is...


... A draw! Over 14 weeks the Tau and Orks have fought each other to a standstill, with neither side being able to completely dislodge the other. The Orks have been halted to the west of their landing site, but in turn the Tau have failed to dislodge them completely from the surface of M-88. The conflict on the planet is now doomed to grow exponentially as both sides rush reinforcements to the warzone and escalate the engagement, and the warfare is likely to rage on for years if not decades. 

Some particularly prophetic seers may have seen this outcome coming some time ago, but it was never a sure thing. There were many opportunities for the Tau to secure at least a minor win, and for a while I had grave fears that the poor hapless Greenskins might be swept from the campaign too soon. Fortunately this was not to be, and instead much of the campaign saw the fate of M-88 hanging in the balance. 

The Road So Far 


From the very outset when I first pitched the idea of what would eventually become Wurrshuv's Revenge to the Powers That Be on Advanced Tau Tactica, I had one ultimate goal in mind - to recapture some of the fund and excitement of the old Games Workshop global winter campaigns that I remembered growing up like The Third War for Armageddon, Eye of Terror and The Fall of Medusa V. Because of this, I had a good idea of the general style of the campaign - a map-based system where the narrative was mostly driven by player input. Instead of some iron-fisted metaplot that railroaded the participants towards a completely pre-programmed outcome, I wanted the players to be largely in charge of their own actions, deciding for themselves what their grand strategy was going to be and what part they wanted to play. After all, one of the best parts of an event like this is that the players' choices and decisions really matter, and it's important that their games and contributions have a real impact. 

At the same time, the scale of the event and the multi-player aspect of it meant that big movements and changes would need to be performed by players en mass. This tied into another aspect of the old GW campaigns that I wanted to recapture - the communication and coordination between players, the banding together and collective plotting and scheming, the back and forth banter between different factions. From the old Eye of Terror and Medusa V online discussions it always seemed like this was a big part of the fun in these campaigns, so I knew this campaign would need to facilitate that as well. Of course, given the general 'hands-off' approach I wanted to take, it would be up to the players themselves to organise themselves and coordinate on strategy.

The GW campaigns were enormous affairs, with some very sophisticated mechanics for determining all these things (especially in the case of Eye of Terror). Naturally I wouldn't have anywhere near the same production budget or resources as GW at the height of its glory, so this meant I had to scale things down somewhat. Most importantly the mechanics needed to be able to be managed by just one person if necessary, as most of the ATT mods have a life outside of the site and could be occupied by other commitments. In the end I worked out a simple mechanic of shifting points around to determine territory control and who was winning the campaign - each territory would have 100 points in it, which shifted between the two sides based on game reports (a win would shift one point over to the side that won), and whichever side held the majority of the points in that territory controlled it. In turn, there were 8 Campaign Points that shifted between the two sides based on who controlled territories, with each territory being worth 1 Campaign Point except for the two 'capital territories' of Wurrshuv's Krunch and Fio Starport, which were worth 2 each. It may not have been the most advanced set of campaign rules ever devised, but it was good enough to capture the rough feel of the GW campaigns and - most crucially - was simple enough that the whole thing could be tracked by just one mathematically challenged media graduate.

With the core mechanics set down, it became a matter of taking the right steps to make everything a reality. Senior contributors on ATT (including site founder Sebastian 'Tael' Stuart himself) chipped in some fantastic artwork and graphics for the project, including an enormous campaign map to fight over. Narrative and background ideas were workshopped out. Eventually April 1st and the annual storytelling event on Advanced Tau Tactica happened, which had already been earmarked as a prologue to the campaign. Once it was finished, I spend the next few weeks relentlessly typing out page after page of campaign lore - over 37 pages in total by my last count (put some army lists and a full-colour hobby section on it and you have a full campaign codex!).

At last the faithful day arrived when the campaign was scheduled to be launched. Right up until the very end I was frantically getting everything finished and ready for posting, and in the end some of the final features had to be added in post-launch. To make matters worse, a technical oversight left the campaign forum with the same problem that Salyut-1 had: no-one could access it! Nonetheless, some quick improvisation allowed everything to get underway, and a decent number of Advanced Tau Tactica members jumped at the call to arms.

As the campaign began however my biggest fear quickly came to pass - there weren't enough Ork players! As I had always dreaded, too many ATT members were either unwilling or unable to join the Ork side, leaving the campaign with no real opposing force for the Tau. I tried several different methods to try and attract more players to the Ork side, but ultimately even with the ability to fight with any non-Tau army the ratio of players between the different factions was far more lop-sided than I would have liked.

I had grave concerns that this would result in a very quick massacre against the Orks, but fortunately salvation came from the Tau players themselves, who obligingly made little to no effort to get organised and co-ordinate their actions for the first portion of the campaign, instead just hammering away at their own individual targets, many of them in the Tau-controlled territories rather than taking the fight into the Ork-held areas. This ultimately proved to be a major influence in the campaign's outcome, and the Tau could have secured an easy win had their players been more aggressive with their early actions. This in turn ended up being reflected in the background, with the in-universe Tau commanders bickering amongst themselves and focusing entirely on tactical engagements against attacking Ork forces while Wurrshuv took direct control of the Greenskin war effort and focused on outmanoeuvring the Tau at the Operational and Strategic levels.




While the turnout was certainly healthy, if one-sided, far fewer games than I initially anticipated ended up being reported in, which influenced how the campaign lore ended up evolving. Initially I had planned to let the players tell most of the story through their games, but I ended up finding myself with very little material to work with each week. This meant I had to change tactics and start inserting more pre-scripted elements into the campaign narrative to keep the action flowing and make sure things didn't get too boring. There were a number of elements that were pre-scripted from the start, most of them being larger scale things like the war in the air and special forces actions that weren't likely to crop up that much in the games of 40k that I expected were most likely to be played. Incidentally, these Strategic and Operational level developments would be slanted in favour of whichever side was currently the underdog in terms of games being reported and territory held, so naturally the Orks ended up coming out on top in most of them! After a week or two of seeing if things would pick up on their own I enacted my contingency plan and put a pre-programmed Ork offensive in motion, which would continue in any territory that didn't see anything else happen in it that week.

Shortly after the first month of the campaign things started to change. After several weeks of acting largely independently the Tau players began to make attempts at getting more organised. The first such effort largely went nowhere, but after consulting with the NPC advisor for the Tau side of the campaign (there was one for the Orks too, but it never really ended up being used) the second one proved much more fruitful and resulted in the Tau immediately going on the offensive. Two Tau players in particular shifted their focus onto the Mo'Hav Plains, and after putting notable effort towards linking their games together I decided to reward them with a bit of extra input into the campaign's storyline, Thus was Operation MONSOON born, and proceeded to burn a path into Ork territory for the rest of the campaign.

At the same time I had been thinking more about the planet M-88 itself and what the world was really like. This was in the middle of winter, which meant that it was pelting with rain where I live. A side effect of all this rainfall was that the fields nearby where I often walked in get these enormous puddles, big enough for waterfowl to swim around and dive in. One day when I was out for a walk I was inspired by how the landscape looked with these giant pond-like puddles. I imagined an entire continent or planet covered with a series of gigantic puddles the size of lakes, connected by rivers and streams, nestled amongst muddy fields and flooded paddies, all brought on by the rain, and armies fighting over them.

I immediately wanted the campaign to be set somewhere like that, but the area of M-88 that was being fought over had already been characterised as a mostly dry realm of Savannah and dusty grassland. The solution that immediately came to mind was simple - a seasonal change in the terrain, with cooler seasonal temperatures bringing massive amounts of rainfall that would transform the landscape into a network of seasonal lakes and waterways. This would become the Lake Season that the second half of the campaign was set in. The idea turned out to be a great way of shaking things up and keeping everything interesting, offering a whole new set of tactical challenges and opportunities to the belligerents. Addressing questions on how the Lake Season worked from a scientific perspective allowed me to work out ideas for a whole ecosystem and biome based around the concept, some of which was extrapolated on in the Campaign background.

Of course 40k was only ever one component of the Wurrshuv's Revenge story. Throughout much of the campaign I made sure to drop hints about the wider context of the war, from small scale special forces actions to larger-level stuff beyond even Apocalypse level 40k - more veteran readers of the Campaign lore may have noticed several references to a number of the old Ork war machines from Epic, for example. This is perhaps best illustrated in how the conflict in space played out. When the campaign started I assumed that most participants would be for whatever reason unable to participate through games of Battlefleet Gothic (or Epic, or Inquisitor, or...), so I decided to make these elements more pre-scripted to keep the action focused on the 40k level since that was the lowest common denominator and I wanted maximum accessibility. I was very pleasantly surprised when one participant did indeed submit a Battlefleet Gothic game report, and while there was little mechanical impact have - like I say I wasn't really expecting Battlefleet Gothic game reports so there were no mechanics in place for them - I readily incorporated it into the campaign narrative as best I could.

In hindsight, I can't help but feel like I mismanaged the space subplot. Since the plan was for the space side of things to be secondary to the ground battle, I generally tended to give the space war less attention and left it as a largely static deadlock for most of the campaign. This certainly left the ground conflict as the centre of things, but it also left the space side of the fighting very uninteresting. The big Ork space offensive towards the end of the campaign was an attempt to rectify that as best I could after realising that I could be putting in lots of pre-programmed events like I had been with the ground narrative.

Nonetheless, things continued to run smoothly, and the escalation represented by Operation MONSOON coincided nicely with the final month of the campaign. To help bring things to a fittingly apocalyptic climax I began to insert other subplots of my own devising in, acting as hooks for players to build their own narratives around. These included things like the destruction of both sides' capital defences (meaning no territory would be safe), Operation IO and the Ork civil war in the north. The aim was to help encourage and inspire players with their own storylines.

In the final days of the campaign there were some very interested elements in the form of a number of mini-campaigns that some players were running. I would have very much liked to see these reach their natural conclusion, but alas they had the rotten luck of being started just as the campaign reached the end of its own operational lifespan. One of the golden rules I learnt from the very best version of the Warhammer 40,000 core rulebook is that when a campaign is set to wrap up, make sure that it does. This is a philosophy I continue to adhere to, and so after an extra week to give people a little extra time to get ready, I drew the event to a close. The way I see it, it's far better to end things on a high note and leave the players with good memories rather than leave things to fizzle out and grow stale.

Which brings us to where we are now, at the end of Wurrshuv's Revenge. It's certainly been an adventure. The Tau put in a phenomenal effort, but ultimately their offensives were too little, too late, and the Orks on M-88 are now here to stay.

What Next 


This doesn't mean everything has to stop now. The Wurrshuv's Revenge event may be at an end, but there's still plenty of room for games set in the aftermath of this unprecedented conflict. Both sides are now firmly entrenched on M-88, and it is likely to take years if not decades for one side to gain a decisive victory. In the absence of Wurrshuv Ork warlords struggle amongst themselves for dominance, with a number of gifted Ork leaders being top contenders for commanding the Greenskin war effort. The Tau may be more organised, but they're still on the back-foot as they struggle to contain the endless streams of Ork reinforcements that are now pouring through the tellyporta arrays constructed in Ork territory. As the conflict escalates it is also likely to spread to other areas of the planet, which in turn means combat in other warzones on M-88. Even if the Tau somehow manage to drive the Orks off the planet, the Greenskins still thoroughly infest the outer regions of the system. 

The campaign may be over, but the war has only just begun... 

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only WAR! 

- Millitant 

Wurrshuv's Revenge - An ATT Campaign 

Finale 




The world of M-88 has been plunged into unending war, the likes of which the Tau of the ATT Orbital have never seen before. Despite enormous effort by the Tau, the tellyporta arrays constructed in Ork-held sectors have been activated, and an unstoppable tide of Greenskin reinforcements, equipment and supplies now pours through them as the unimaginably vast Ork invasion forces massed in the outer reaches of the system travels through the tellyportas in earnest. Already the Ork numbers have grown enough for regions to become permamently Ork-infested, Orkoid life becoming rooted beyond what any orbital attack or weapon of mass destruction can remove. 

The Tau have managed to halt Ork expansion westwards, but they can claim few other victories. While Ork forces continue to batter themselves against the Tau positions, other Ork armies have begun to look elsewhere for conquest and battle, and the Ork hordes have begun spreading north, south and east beyond the theatre of operations that has been fought over for the last three months. The Tau have been quick to respond, and now both sides are engaged in a series of mutual outflanking actions that are likely to see the conflict spread across much of M-88's surface. 

The conflict in space continues to deteriorate for the Tau. Kor'vattra Fleet K-42 has been recalled from the theatre, reassigned to other battles where it is now more urgently needed. In its place a massive force of Tau naval reinforcements has arrived to relieve the embattled Kor'vattra Fleet and supplement Operational Group Or'res'tel'K, which has remained in the system. Despite this influx of reinforcments however Tau naval efforts have met with fewer and fewer successes. All attempts to reopen the two lost reinforcement corridors to M-88 have ended in failure, while more and more Ork warships are beginning to slip into the system's primary biosphere. Though the Tau have mercifully been able to continue intercepting all Ork Roks inbound to M-88, this has become little comfort with the activation of the tellyporta arrays on the surface. 

Having grown bored with the conflict, and feeling cheated at being denied his final vengeance for T'saum'Or'Sha'is, Wurrshuv himself has withdrawn to the tellyporta array at Wurrshuv's Krunch and left M-88, departing the system with many of his followers for fresh warfare in destinations yet unknown. Despite this the situation on the surface remains in the balance. While Wurrshuv may no longer be present, vast swathes of the Ork invasion remain loyal to him and continue to fight on under his instructions, unshakable in the belief that their leader will one day return with even larger Ork hordes. Any manpower that may have been lost by the departure of Wurrshuv's core warbands and chieftains has been offset by the arrival of exponentially greater numbers of Orks. Word has now spread through Greenskin civilisation about the enormous battle growing on M-88, drawing Ork warbands from thousands of light-years towards it like moths to the flame as Ork warriors and warbosses strive to get 'A piece ov da Aktion'. Massive Tau reinforcements have been sent to contain the situation, and much like the Imperial world of Armageddon there is no telling when the conflict may finally come to an end, with all analysts and commentators agreeing that the fighting will take dozens if not hundreds of Tau'cyr to resolve, if indeed such an outcome is still possible... 

Situation Updates - All Sectors 

Plunda Seaz - ORK INFESTED 


The activation of the tellyporta array in the He'Sho Seas sealed the decision by Tau commanders active in the region to withdraw, now facing utterly impossible odds as the Orks infest the He'Sho Seas to the core and begin to expand outwards in all directions from it. The final evacuation was performed within days of the tellyporta array's activation and was a complete success, with the surviving Tau forces managing to defend their landing sites around FFG355Y against enormously fierce Ork counterattacks, enduring relentless bombardment by Ork artillery and air power until the remains of the Tau expeditionary force were fully evacuated along with all remaining wounded and as much materiel as possible. Those bodies of fallen Tau warriors and their allies that could be recovered were also extracted for burial and return to their respective peoples respectively, while any equipment and supplies that could not be taken back were dismantled and destroyed to prevent their capture by the Orks. 

The evacuation took place over several days, with the final Tau rearguards being extracted by mantas at midnight. The action has abandoned the region to the Orks, who now refer to it as the 'Plunda Seaz' for its vast mineral and energy wealth. Despite this, Tau losses during the evacuation were minimal, and the Tau have been able to salvage most of the remains of the air-landing forces sent to the region. Opinions and feelings vary among the surviving Tau air-landing troops who fought in the area. Some have been left embittered by the operation, feeling that their Enclave bretheren and Empire comrades abandoned them during the campaign and blaming the failure of other Tau forces to adequately support them for the eventual loss of the region. Others instead hold a more positive outlook, instead focusing on their tenacity during the campaign and rightly pointing out that they managed to hold the area around FFG355Y for three months straight against virtually everything the Orks could throw at them. Many observers in the wider Tau Empire and Farsight Enclaves agree that this was a herculean task and a worthy achievement to be commendable of.  

Ork Points: 83 
Tau Points: 17 

Mo'vn Plainz - ORK CONTROLLED 



Despite the heroic efforts of Operation MONSOON, the Tau have been unable to prevent the activation of the tellyporta arrays built int the northern and southeastern Mo'Hav Plains. The result has been, much like in the neighbouring He'Sho Seas, an overwhelming influx of Ork reinforcements funnelled into the region and a thousandfold increas in Ork presence throughout the area. Newly arriving Ork armies are also now using the region as a springboard for expanding to other areas, and massive Ork migrations have been detected heading north, south and east from the territory, now referred to by the Orks as the 'Mo'vn Plainz'. The influx of reinforcements has combined with continued Ork counterattacks by armoured forces in the south from Test Range Ekko and Gargant Mobs in the north to effectively blunt the progress of Operation MONSOON for the time being. 

Despite this, the Tau Coalition Command on M-88 considers Operation MONSOON to be a success. Over weeks of fierce combat the Tau offensive has managed to carve a salient comprising hundreds of square Tor'kan into the Ork-held region, now known as the Monsoon Salient, and prevented the Orks from completely infesting the Mo'Hav region. Heavy Tau reinforcements to the area have managed to thwart all Ork attempts to cut off or overrun the salient, and it has now become a bastion of Tau territory within the Ork-held sectors. Although they failed in their objective of recapturing the Mo'Hav Plains, the commanders and warriors who fought as part of Operation MONSOON have been lauded by Tau observers and media channels as Heroes of The Empire for their triumphs and honourable conduct in battle. Shas'el Kiv'rai'ka'nan, for whom the operation had been designated a Trial By Fire, has failed to achieve the rank of Shas'O, but has nonetheless gained an enormous amount of experience alongside his forces during their successful defence of Operation MONSOON's southern flank against Ork counterattacks and raids on Ork logistics and supply lines. 

Ork Points: 72 
Tau Points: 28 

Wurrshuv's Krunch - ORK INFESTED 



After a series of titanic battles near the border of the Krunch region, the Tau Guards Cades and their supporting forces that constituted Operation IO has managed to escape Wurrshuv's Krunch, though only at a considerable cost in lives and resources. Having avoided the border regions contaminated by Tau biological warfare, Operation IO was eventually able to succeed in fighting through the southernmost corner of Da Fang and circling back into the Saal'vesa training grounds from the northern Or'vesa region, before making their way back to Fio Starport. Ork resistance was fierce, and vast numbers of Wurrshuv's finest warriors pursued the Tau incursion at every step. Many of these pursuing forces were ultimately annihilated as the retreating Operation IO ran them into large Tau reinforcements arriving from the starport. Following their escape the Guards Cadres and their supporting elements have been evacuated off-world alongside a number of other Tau formations involved in the conflict (including the Gue'vessa training forces known as the Eastern Tigers and Beasts from The East, both of which having been trapped on the planet outside the theatre of operations for the duration of the campaign), which have since been transported out of the system by the departing Kor'vattra fleet K-42 to other assignments where they are more urgently needed. 

As they withdraw the forces of Operation IO have left behind them an estimated several thousand Tau prisoners in total taken from various warzones in the theatre of operations on M-88, including a large number of ORBIT captives from the earlier Ork victory near the Krunch-Saal'vesa border. These Tau prisoners of war are now condemned to toil in slave labour producing munitions and supplies for the Ork war machine, or be executed in spectacularly brutal and gruesome ways for the entertainment of the Greenskins and as part of Ork propaganda efforts. Continued influxes of massive Ork reinforcements through the tellyporta array at Wurrshuv's Krunch will make any future attempt at rescue operations for these Tau captives extremely difficult at best. 

Wurrshuv may have exited M-88 and its star system, but he has left behind a legacy of violence and destruction that will shadow the planet and the ATT Orbital for generations to come. Ork invaders now swarm across the planet's surface in uncontrollable numbers, while orbital surveillance and Earth Caste ecological surveys have detected growing populations of Feral Orks taking root amongst Orkoid ecosystems in many outlying areas of M-88's landmasses, seeded there from Orkoid spores washed away in the Lake Season rainfall. Despite remaining confused and dismayed at the withdrawal of Operation IO, Wurrshuv himself has taken great pride in being the first warlord to beat the forces the ATT Orbital, and now markets his creations as the weapons and equipment that bested the greatest warriors of the legendary station. Consequently he has found his services in ready demand form many Ork warbosses and warlords across the Eastern Fringe. 

Ork Points: 100 
Tau Points: 0 

Training Ground Saal'vesa - TAU CONTROLLED 



Tau ORBIT forces have managed to successfully break through the encircling Ork cordon around their positions. Acting swiftly in the face of this grave threat, ORBIT commanders identified the weakest link in the closing Ork noose and concentrated their efforts there, targeting the lighter Gretchin Revolutionary Komittee formations to the west. The resulting battle saw the ORBIT cadres decisively smash the rebel Grotz at several key points, routing the Gretchin militias and allowing them to escape towards friendly territory. The ORBIT forces then linked up with a massive wave of Tau reinforcements landed from Fio Starport, which covered their retreat and destroyed the pursuing Ork forces. The ORBIT forces have since been withdrawn from the theatre and reassigned to the ATT Orbital. 

The conflict has left the Tau ORBIT forces with a checkered legacy. While their early successes in the fighting continue to be lauded by many media channels, the ORBIT cadres remain unable to escape the lingering damage suffered to their reputation from their catastrophic defeat near the Saal'vesa/Krunch border. This has been further compounded by the excessive force they have employed in the weeks and months following the defeat, up to the use of wide-scale biological warfare, leaving many to question the stability of the ORBIT commanders in the wake of such a serious loss. Ultimately, for every Tau who associates the ORBIT cadres with triumphs like Blood Ridge and images of Tau walkers standing triumphant over the remains of Ork Stompas, there is another who associates them with the defeat of the border region and images of ORBIT warriors in full retreat past burning wrecks of Tau vehicles and battlesuits, or the horrifying ecological damage wrought from the ORBIT biological warfare attacks. This has left the ORBIT forces as an extremely divisive subject amongst the wider Tau Empire, with supporters amongst the stronger Imperialist elements of the Empire's populace and equally strong critics and detractors from the Empire's Populist segments. Investigations into the actions of the ORBIT cadres have thus far found no cause for Censure, however a small but vocal number of Tau hold lingering suspicions that the ORBIT commanders have only managed to escape more serious repercussions through political connections and favour among the Tau Empire's Imperialist elite. 

Nonetheless, the ORBIT forces have played an important role in the defence of the Saal'vesa training grounds, and their actions have helped to contain the Ork advance westwards and prevent the Empire Sector from being completely overrun. Heavy Tau reinforcements have now secured much of the Saal'vesa region, driving large-scale organised Ork resistance out of the area save for a few isolated pockets along the region's southeastern border. 

Elsewhere in the Saal'vesa training grounds, the Enclave special forces unit known as Covert Ops Team 24-C has finally engaged with the Ork assassin known as Da Predata. After an extended period of observation and covert stalking of the Gue'vessa operatives, Da Predata finally launched a surprise attack on the team which resulted in a series of cat-and-mouse hunts and ambushes that have seen all involved combatants heavily wounded. The operatives of Covert Ops Team 24-C were able to be successfully extracted and are currently recovering in the ATT Orbital's infirmary wing, with a full recovery expected in the immediate future. The whereabouts of Da Preadata are unknown at present, but it is unlikely that the Ork will remain hidden for long... 

Ork Points: 23 
Tau Points: 77 

Training Centre Or'vesa - TAU CONTROLLED 



The takeover of the tellyporta array by the renegade Northern Raiders has plunged Da Fang into chaos. Wurrshuv-loyalist Ork forces have stormed into the Ork settlements and citadels constructed within Da Fang with orders to crush the renegade hordes and bring the Ork salient to heel. The result has seen every settlment, outpost, villiage, fortress and stronghold constructed by the Orks in the region wracked with unimaginably vicious street-fighting between the two Ork factions. Losses on both sides have been extremely heavy, and thus far no side has been able to gain the upper hand with the Northern Raiders' advantages in motivation, force diversity, experience and knowledge of the local terrain being offset by the Wurrshuv loyalists' advantages in heavy weapons, numbers, equipment and logistics support. To strengthen their position the Northern Raiders have activated the tellyporta array within Da Fang under their own control, using it to bring in reinforcements from those Ork invaders in the outer reaches of the system who are sympathetic to the Northern Raiders' cause. 

The only thing the two Ork factions can both agree on is their shared hatred of and continued struggle against the Tau, and thus far all attempts made by the Tau to exploit this rift amongst the Orks has ended in failure, with both sides uniting to repel Tau offensives and incursions into Da Fang with shocking force before resuming their infighting. Thus far the fratricidal Greenskin conflict has remained confined to the northern Or'vesa region, but some Tau analysts are beginning to wonder if it will spread to other areas of the planet as the Orks continue to migrate around the Tau positions to the west. 

The conflict has taken a heavy toll on the Enclave Sector, and the area surrounding Training Centre Or'vesa is now littered with the wreckage of Tau and Ork vehicles and the final resting places of Tau and Ork warriors. One of the few parties who can truly claim to have prospered in this environment is the Snakebite hordes commanded by Old Smashafist, who have thrived in the warzone and consistently outfought their Enclave adversaries. Old Shmashafist has been comfortably able to boast to his peers about his forces claiming the lion's share of Tau kills amongst the Snakebite forces on M-88, and Old Smashafist has since left M-88 with his armies and departed the system for fresh conquests elsewhere. Several other Ork forces from the Northern Raiders have followed this example. 

Ork Points: 35 
Tau Points: 65 

Fio Starport - TAU CONTROLLED 



Vast armies have been landed at Fio Starport, comprising hundreds of thousands of Fire Warriors and auxiliary troops. More arrive now constantly, with exponentially growing numbers of troops and equipment being committed to the conflict as the Tau Empire struggles to contain the situation on M-88. The majority of these reinforcements consist of ground forces, and have reinforced all Tau controlled areas within the theatre of operations against continued Ork attacks, while others have been deployed outside the theatre in an attempt to check the rapidly accelerating expansion of the Ork migrations on the surface. Also included are a full complement of Tau superheavy assets comprising additional Manta squadrons, Moray flights, Tiger Shark AX-1-0s and Scorpionfish missile carriers to supplement the Lionfish heavy gunships and Stingray heavy missile gunships already deployed in numbers on the surface against the growing numbers of Ork Gargants encountered. These assets have been deployed to all sectors, and Tau Mantas and Morays duelling with Ork titans is an increasingly common sight on the front lines. 

These heavy reinforcements have been able to drive back the Ork incursion into the region surrounding Fio Starport, trapping the Greenskins between themselves and the incoming Guards Cadres of Operation IO. The resulting engagement saw the attacking Orks utterly annihilated before the reinforcement formations covered Operation IO's withdrawal to Fio Starport, eliminating the Ork forces in pursuit. Other newly arrived Tau forces have been assigned to seeking out and destroying the marauding bands of Spektas that still remain within the region. In the face of such overwhelming Tau forces the Spekta mobs have begun to withdraw from the region, ravaging outlying Tau outposts and infrastructure in their way in an orgy of looting and mayhem and bringing as much stolen Tau war materiel as they can carry with them as they cross back into Ork-controlled territory. 

In the aftermath of this latest phase of the conflict on M-88, the Tau leadership is struggling to understand the course of events in more depth. Hard questions are being asked about the management of the Tau war effort, and about what the next moves of the Tau forces on the planet should be. The ATT Orbital command staff is also beginning to plan around the developments, relocating training exercises scheduled soon to areas not threatened by Ork expansion. The possibility of using the embattled Orks to hone the fighting skills of Tau military forces assigned to study at the ATT Orbital is also being discussed.

Ork Points: 0 
Tau Points: 100 


Final Ork Campaign Points: 4 
Final Tau Campaign Points: 4 

Campaign Result: Draw 





Campaign Analysis of Ork Invasion Strategy on M-88 

Subsequent studies of the Ork invasion plans used by Wurrshuv indicates a surprisingly sophisticated strategy vastly more advanced than what is typically encountered amongst the Greenskins. Following the initial landing of his Rok invasion transport and the subsequent assault of the Ork Speed Freak vanguard elements (itself an excellent method of both securing the initial Ork landing site and thinning out Wurrshuv's internal rivals), Wurrshuv initially adopted a strategy of carefully massing his forces and supplies until he could confidently attack with overwhelming force. This method proved highly successful in the initial stages of the Ork invasion, allowing Wurrshuv to conquer the He'Sho Seas with relatively little difficulty. 

While effective, this initial approach ran counter the natural instincts of the Ork species, which quickly began to cause dissension among the ranks of Wurrshuv's forces that eventually resulted in the formation of the Northern Raiders, a rift which ultimately never fully recovered. This crisis, however, proved an excellent illustration of Wurrshuv's surprisingly capable problem solving skills. Whether by natural instinct or deliberate design, Wurrshuv allowed the dissident Orks to launch their own attack on a seperate axis from Wurrshuv's own planned route of advance, with the net result of opening a second front against the Tau forces and thus forcing the Tau to spread themselves more thinly on the ground, further enhancing one of the major advantages Wurrshuv's armies had - overwhelming numbers. 

When Wurrshuv's main offensive began, progress was initially slow. Ultimately the overwhelming majority of warbosses and chieftains under Wurrshuv's command were reluctant to use their own initiative when attacking. The result was a considerable window where the Orks could have lost the overall strategic initiative. Acting fast, Wurrshuv's solution was simple. He centralised all Ork command decisions and assumed direct control over the Ork offensives - if his subordinates would not attack without his explicit instructions, then he would give them all the instructions they could ever ask for! 

This enabled the Orks to retain the strategic initiative, an advantage that Wurrshuv ruthlessly exploited. For most of the campaign the Orks were able to force the Tau to fight on their terms, choosing when and where to attack and throwing the Tau defence into chaos. Ultimately Wurrshuv was able to become strongly entrenched within the decision-cycle of the Tau Coalition Command, which proved fatal to the Tau efforts to remove the Orks from M-88. 

While the Tau focused their efforts on tactical actions, Wurrshuv appears to have sought to defeat the Tau at the operational and strategic levels. It is unclear at this time how conscious Wurrshuv's reasoning was towards this decision, but whatever the case may be it appears that Wurrshuv recognised the lack of initiative in many of his subordinates as a tactical liability. However, by rigidly controlling their actions with centralised command, Wurrshuv was able to channel their efforts towards an overall victory by directing efforts in areas that would afford maximum damage, sacrificing a degree of tactical success for greater overall progress at the higher levels of warfare. 

Wurrshuv's offensive plans were, as is characteristic of many aspects of Orks, simple but brutally effective. After initial attacks identified the concentrations of Tau defences and their capabilities, Wurrshuv directed the Ork follow-on forces to where they would do most good, feeding lower quality formations into the more powerful Tau forces to keep them tied down while the top-rated Ork armies attacked more poorly defended areas. This enabled the Orks to circumvent and then cut off and surround the strongest Tau forces and undermine Tau defences to deadly effect. Wurrshuv also took great efforts to utilise his considerable air power and special forces capabilities to good effect, using them to mount deep strikes on the Tau rear echelons, targeting concentrations of reserves and supplies, communication nodes, power grids and other assets to further weaken Tau defensive efforts. In the later stages of the conflict these attacks were also supplemented with air and artillery scattered minefields, believed to be a relatively recent innovation for the Orks. 

On the tactical level Wurrshuv and his forces made excellent use of captured Tau equipment, whether turned directly against its former users or incorporated into Ork designs. Wurrshuv displayed a keen understanding of both Tau technology and Fire Caste combat doctrine, and devised a number of countermeasures to exploit it. The most dramatic example was of course the infamous Beepy Gubbinz electronic defence systems that exploited the widespread use of IFF technology in Tau weapon systems to prevent Ork units from being targeted, but other examples are also widely apparent, such as the use of Traktor-Grappla devices to neutralise the Tau's advantage in weapon range and the use of captured cloaking devices to enhance the infiltration capabilities of Kommando units. 

Finally, Wurrshuv also displayed a significant appreciation for the importance of logistics in an extended war of conquest. It is particularly notable that after securing his initial landing site Wurrshuv's first target was the He'Sho Seas, an area well known to be exceptonally rich in minerals, metal ores and fossil fuels. It is still widely speculated that Wurrshuv or one of his Mek acolytes may have devised some means of detecting this abundance of natural resources while on planetary approach or final descent, allowing the Orks to steer their landing towards it. Though this has still yet to be confirmed, it would fit well with Wurrshuv's affinity for advanced technology and sensor equipment. Likewise, Wurrshuv placed great emphasis on effective supply lines, putting much effort into creating an efficient road network between Ork territory and amassing an unimaginably vast fleet of supply trucks and pack animals alongside the more well-known Tanka and Krawla superheavy logistics transports. In an excellent display of incorporating multiple system redundancies, it is well known in Tau intelligence circles that over 50% of the Ork logistics fleet - including either the entire force of tankas and krawlas or the all conventional transport vehicles - could be destroyed and Wurrshuv's armies would have remained fully supplied at almost all times. 

In conclusion, Wurrshuv's war effort throughout the campaign displayed an exceptional talent for grand strategy and the operational art of warfare, and is a strong testament to the grave danger Wurrshuv poses for the Tau Empire. It is believed by many Tau analysts that Wurrshuv may only be the first Ork to begin adapting to prolonged exposure to the Tau, and as time goes on more Ork warlords may follow his examples. 


Campaign Analysis of Tau Defensive Strategy on M-88

For most of the campaign the Tau defence effort was focused almost entirely at the tactical level. Even after their initial defeat at the Ork landing site and the fall of the He'Sho Seas, it appears from analysis of transcripts and communiques that the majority of Tau commanders active on M-88 continued to underestimate the Ork invaders, thinking them to be incapable of large-scale coordinated actions. This was to ultimately prove a deadly mistake. As a result of this hubris, the Tau made no real effort at planning on the operational and strategic level, believing that a simple string of tactical victories would be sufficient to break the Orks' will to continue fighting. The result was that Tau cadres often found themselves outmanoeuvred by the Orks despite never being defeated themselves in open conventional battle. 

These problems were only further compounded by the command and control structure adopted by the Tau for the campaign, a very confusing system that never made it clear exactly who was in command of what and whom. It appears that this command structure was a major factor in preventing the Tau from capitalising on many of their advantages and seriously inhibited attempts to form a coherent strategy. These communications breakdowns also resulted in the Tau being dangerously slow to adapt to the new technologies used by Wurrshuv's forces, most notably the Ork Beepy Gubbinz countermeasures and cloaking-field equipped Spekta commandos. 

These factors led to the Tau squandering most of their reserves and supply resources in local counterattacks that did little to achieve the Tau's strategic goal of driving the Orks from the surface of M-88. Worse still, the Tau failed to effectively use one of their greatest assets - a high degree of initiative amongst their leadership. Instead the Tau forces adopted an almost entirely defensive posture that effectively ceded strategic initiative over to the Orks and left the Tau reacting to Ork movements rather than making taking their own proactive actions for over half of the conflict. Some Tau commanders realised the folly of this approach early, leading to the ill-fated Tau air-landing offensive into the He'Sho Seas, but a lack of coordination left these attacks almost completely unsupported, stopping them from making much headway in their objectives. 

On the tactical level the Tau proved exceptionally lethal, and many Tau forces found themselves achieving extremely lopsided kill ratios in their favour. Though a number of Tau cadres suffered few or no tactical defeats, the lack of a coherent strategy prevented the Tau from turning this tactical success into operational and strategic gains. In the end, the Tau attempted to defend everywhere, and thus defended nowhere. 

In many ways the Tau can be seen to have acted as an obliging enemy for the invading Orks. The overemphasis the Tau placed on tactical level actions left them open to the operational and strategic level explotations required by Wurrshuv to make the most of the limited personal initiative of his subordinates, and allowed Wurrshuv to easily get inside the decision-cycle of the Tau leadership. All too often the Tau commanders on the ground succumbed to threat overload and doubled down on defensive actions when an offensive would have been more helpful to the strategic goals of the Tau. 

One area where the Tau consistently performed well was in space. Unlike the ground war, the Air Caste naval operations were highly coordinated, with a well-streamlined command structure. The Kor'vattra vessels of fleet K-42 in particular served with distinction, and are directly responsible for ensuring no further Ork roks ever reached the surface of M-88. Initially the Tau fleet was hamstrung by a lack of resources to cover against the twin threats of the Ork roks and Freeboota warships, with Kor'vattra fleet K-42's focus on intercepting Ork roks resulting in a number of Tau reinforcement convoys falling prey to Freeboota commerce raiders. Once additional ships arrived in the form of Operational Group Or'res'tel'K, the situation was soon rectified and the Tau were able to secure command of the system's primary biosphere for most of the campaign, their naval superiority only broken during the final concerted Ork offensive in space. 

After a month of little progress, Tau commanders on the ground began to make drastic changes. The cumbersome command and control structure in place since the conflict's start was replaced with a considerably more streamlined version, and after a number of high-level meetings the Tau began to make coordinated offensives into Ork territory. The results were immediate, giving rise to the success of two major Tau offensives in Operations MONSOON and IO. This ultimately proved the importance of effective coordination and a focus on operational level warfare during extended campaigns, but in the end proved too late to decisively break the solidly entrenched Orks before they could activate more tellyporta arrays, at which point Ork infestation levels in the theatre of operations on M-88 reached critical mass. 





"In the end, victory in war does not come from winning every battle. It comes from winning the right battles." 

- Shas'O'T'au Kais'Ka'Eoro'Da'Anuk, Guards Cadre commander