Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Campaign So Far: Orks and Marines

Filgakk Skullsplitta and his Blitzdreg Boyz made planetfall during one of the frequent meteor storms that punish the interior of the northern continent of Xhorik Prime. After contact was lost with several outlying mining and drilling operational posts, the planetary government of Xhorik Prime assumed it was the usual raids of feral orks and abhuman scavengers that have plagued the interior of the planet since the climate-changing destruction of the ork rok in close orbit at the end of the  Second Xhorik War many years ago. The planetary government dispatched patrols of the Planetary Defense Force (PDF) and also requested assistance from the small, permanent garrison of Red Brotherhood space marines due to their superior mobility and response speed. The Imperium designates Xhorik Prime as a Level II planet of significant strategic importance due to abundant mineral and gas deposits, most notably the rare kleinhaurker ore, which can be refined and combined with other rare metals to create some of the strongest and most durable alloys known to the Imperium. The destruction of the rok left the planet with a low atmosphere of radioactive storms that was impenetrable to surveillance from space or high altitude and garbled most long-distance communication, making scouting operations a requirement for any reliable information.

In the first early skirmishes and encounters the marines mostly drove back the isolated groups of orks, but as the reports were fed back to Commander Kain, captain of the second company and commander of Brotherhood forces on Xhorik, he surmised that these were not just the usual feral ork raiders. Their weapons and vehicles were more sophisticated and their rapid movements were more coordinated. He quickly mustered a larger force of defenders and set out to deny the ork invaders from resupplying at the expense of the Interplanetary Heavy Industries (IHI) mining and drilling camps and to keep them from spreading widely over the continent by driving them back to their landing sites.

Initially, the speed and ferocity of the ork invaders was beyond what even the savvy Commander Kain expected and his forces were driven back as the ork forces captured key supplies of fuel and ammo that allowed them to keep pushing farther across the vast, barren surfaces of the interior of Xhorik toward the population centers on the coast. Kain knew he could not get caught in a war of attrition with the hordes of xenos so he chose to inflict what damage he could and fall back to preserve his limited manpower. The only consolidation for the Imperial forces was that Kain and his men had been able to strike down several of the ork leaders, known as bosses, creating disarray and slowing the ork advance enough that he could regroup his battered forces into a concentrated defensive block that finally routed and drove off one thrust of the ork invasion, but not before some of the cunning ork kommandos made off with a small container of partially-refined, high-grade kleinhaurker, which the devious ork meks would soon put to good use.

Shortly after, a small patrol of Brotherhood marines was able to rescue an officer of the Planetary Defense Force that was shot down over the ruins of one of the many cities of the interior that were destroyed in the Second Xhorik War and turned to frozen desert by the destruction of the ork rok. The rescued officer had more dire news for Commander Kain and the planetary government: Filgakk Skullsplitta had managed to subdue the largest of the feral ork tribes of the Xhorik badlands, the World Wrecka tribe, descendants of the ork invaders of the Second Xhorik War. Although the feral orks lacked vehicles and heavy weapons, they brought additional numbers and a detailed knowledge of the geography and the human positions. From the native orks, Filgakk learned of the massive and rich cities along the coast and he immediately set his sights on this new prize.

Filgakk's quickly massed together a few of his raiding parties into a stronger warband and began driving west toward the coastal cities. From the rescued PDF officer, Kain knew where the ork column was headed and set out to intercept the orks in a ruined city along their path. If he could not destroy the orks, he needed to slow them down long enough to for Imperial reinforcements to respond to his distress signals and he knew if he could kill their leader, the orks might very well turn on each other as various bosses vied for command. But Filgakk had some new tricks to show the humans: mega armor for his best nobz that his meks cobbled together from the kleinharuker and World Wrecka tankbustas that were skilled at hunting large game in the rough terrain of Xhorik Prime. The orks made good use of their new weapons and defeated the marines, driving them from the ruins.

Now that Filgakk had seen the impressive power of armor made from kleinhaurker, he knew he needed more of this alloy to build the devastating war machines that would allow him to crush the human population of this planet. He dispatched a trusted lieutenant to secure additional supplies from the IHI mining operations. Commander Kain decided to take advantage of this splitting of the ork force to achieve two objectives simultaneously with his smaller force: deny the orks the kleinhaurker while using a recently-abandoned IHI communications tower to communicate back to Imperial command on the coast to inform them of the deteriorating situation and request additional help.

The ork objective: the rare kleinhaurker. These crates have already been partially refined to bring the naturally occurring 0.001% purity up to approximately 1 - 10% purity, making it more economical for transport (and making each crate worth a small fortune). But the biggest prize is the canister, which holds the rarest specimens: naturally-occurring, nearly pure kleinhaurker. These raw materials will allow the ork meks to create the powerful war machines that will be needed if the orks want to destroy the main human settlements.

The marine objective: the IHI Communications Tower. These rugged towers are the only reliable source of medium to long range communication in the interior badlands of the northern continent. If they want to stop the ork advance from reaching the population centers of the coast, the marines needs to hold this tower so they can coordinate with the Imperial reserves and  bring in additional forces to where they are needed most.

And thus the stage was set for the next encounter, to be determined in Battle Report number 11 coming this weekend.

(The story of the tyranids, drop troops and other factions will be picked up and told in another post.)