Raid on Lachesis Part V: the Finale

Welcome back to the Raid on Lachesis, a 5-part campaign series in which the Word Bearers descend on an Imperial world and hand out pamphlets. After a horrendous start, Team Chaos actually got some successes under their belt. If they can win both of the battles in this final post, they win the war.

What’s in the series?
Part 1: rules, maps, artwork, lore.
Part 2: The players that fought in the campaign, and their armies.
Part 3: The beginning, in which there are Imperial heroics.
Part 4: The middle, in which Bad Things occur to the Imperium.
This post: The end, in which things end up being closer than expected.

The Surprisingly Crucial Battle of Orbital Communications Post Kappa-2

Nightfall 31st Light Infantry versus Word Bearers, 1000 points

Going into the final two games, the stakes now rested on a knife edge. If Chaos won both games, the Imperial victory margin would dip below 75%, and the third tower would have been destroyed, securing a marginal Chaos victory. If the Imperium won either game, they’d prevent overall victory, although of course in narrative terms, losing the tower containing the planet’s most promising psykers would cost the Imperium a generation of Lachesian Inquisitors, Primaris Psykers, and other important recruits.

[mark: 9.05.48]
Supreme Commander Drusus garrisons the Tower of Focus with his remaining Cobalt Scions. He issues orders to the Nightfall 31st (who had thus far only taken moderate losses and were one of the few Imperial Guard formations left combat effective) to reconnoitre the surrounding region; not to engage the enemy, but instead to discern the direction of their final attack and send word to the garrison.

[mark: 9.23.59]
The Nightfall 31st Light Infantry lose contact with central command when communications signals are jammed by methods unknown.

[mark: 10.6.22; vox officer log; Nightfall 31st; L Company; 2 Platoon]
Investigated Orbital Communication Post Kappa-2 following blackout conditions. Primary enemy force detected; Traitor Astartes confirmed; Platoon strength cultists. Lt. Raan ordered engagement; re-establish communications at all costs. Command given; “Fuck the orders, we get the word out or we die.” Contingency: Runner dispatched for Sitalayi.

Orbital Communications Post Kappa-2

Scouts of the 31st advance up to the abandoned communications post.

Lt Raan sends light armour elements after the scouts.

Meanwhile, the Word Bearers and their mortal followers climb the hill on the far side of the outpost.

Troopers of the 31st encounter Word Bearers Havocs on the far side of the building.

Top left, on the stairs: Primaris Psyker Agustius Ghelt, master of Sitalayi Tower, accompanies the regiment in the hopes of protecting the tower he’s run for so much of his life. He is the first to enter the outpost, and rouses the machine spirits, keen to get communications back up. Immediately after that, jump packs are heard on the far side of the building…

…Word Bearers Raptors descend on Agustius Ghelt and murder him in front of the soldiers of the 31st, who immediately fix bayonets and charge in with Weasel Squadron, dragging the traitors down by weight of numbers.

[mark: 10.6.30]
The Nightfall 31st Light Infantry, still engaged in combat with the Word Bearers, restore functionality to an orbital communications relay as a means of contacting central command. They report a significant enemy movement on the southern approach to Sitayali. The Nightfall 31st withdraw in response to Traitor Astartes assault, and are cut off from reinforcing the Tower of Focus by the enemy advance. Their message, however, enables the Scions to preemptively redeploy most of their units to the tower’s southern approach in anticipation of the main assault.

This redeployment of Imperial forces is strategically decisive; with the traitors’ cruisers having retreated from the planetary defence grid and no longer in low orbit, the Word Bearers and Night Lords are unaware that the Cobalt Scions have redeployed.

[mark: 11.2.05]
Commendations for bravery are awarded to Lieutenant Hakkonen Raan and the survivors of 2 Platoon by their regimental command, citing their “Initiative and grit” as the reason the Nightfall 31st did not suffer horrendous casualties while cut off from friendly support and at the mercy of Traitor Astartes ambushers. No mention is made on any report of Lieutenant Raan’s interpretation of his standing orders.

[mark: 15.4.12; commanding officer log; Lachesis Prime PDF; Unit294-D]
Runner sent from Nightfall 31st L Company 2 Platoon discovered in forest south of Sitalayi. Runner deceased, body mutilated, with Night Lords Traitor Astartes markings gouged into flesh. Body quarantined pending authorised disposal; Men responsible for its discovery detained pending interview.

Harvey: MEN OF NIGHTFALL! DO YOU WANT TO LIVE FOREVER?!? It was a close fought game, but victory went in the end to the Guard – and with it the campaign to the Imperium. Let it never be said that the Space Marines are humanity’s last hope; On Lachesis the war was won by a handful of light infantry who refused to give the enemy a listening post.

Okay, so maybe that’s not ENTIRELY true (at all), but it sure felt that way after the game – and that’s why I adore the Imperial Guard. Their victories are that much more cool to me, because they’re achieved by mere mortals in a setting chock full of demigods, daemons, super-aliens and physics defying macguffins, and their defeats are just a bit more gut wrenching as you just know they were putting fucking everything into that fight, and it wasn’t enough to overcome the inherent advantages their enemy possessed. Good stuff. I can’t wait for the new codex.

Also, as an aside; this battle neatly promoted Lt. Raan to Heroic, meaning I can (with only a hint of shit eating grin) legitimately refer to him as “Hero of the Imperium”. What now, space marines!?!

The Last Battle of Sitalayi

Cobalt Scions versus Word Bearers and Night Lords, 2300ish points. Mission: Field of Glory.

Despite the fact that victory was technically assured, we’d built up to this final game so much that I was really, really keen to keep this stupid tower in Imperial hands. We’d gone into the week resigned to their loss, but now I was so close to keeping one against all odds. That level of emotional investment is the holy grail, but it can also be a poison chalice. Invested people can be salty people when things don’t go their way. Teenage Charlie was regularly a right dickhead in this respect; adult me was torn between my desire for epic victory versus my desire for Jeff and Harvey to have the satisfaction of finishing the campaign on a high note for Chaos after a tough week.

Both the Imperial Guard forces and the Astartes had successfully seen off three previous attempts on the tower, but it’s not exactly a fortress. We set the board up with some bunkers and some semi-broken ancillary industrial amenities showing signs of recent fighting. We imagined Sitalayi itself to be off the table, some way behind this line of defence.

The Word Bearers and Night Lords begin deploying opposite the Cobalt Scions.

Field of Glory made sense as the mission; you score about half your points for controlling objectives, and the other half for having your warlord stride up the battlefield like a badass and/or idiot. That felt appropriately hot-headed for two factions that hate each other so much. Keep moving, keep shooting, keep standing on rocks, pointing, and shouting. Classic 40K.

Hold the line!

Boriel’s Wrath rumbles into view, beginning its advance toward the hated foe.

Facing the unfortunately un-hideable Boriel’s Wrath was, however, two Obliterators, a Hellbrute, and these two squads of Havocs… and they won the roll-off for first turn.

In the opening turn, my sodium containment skills were immediately put to the test when Chaos won the first turn roll-off, then immediately popped the Repulsor Executioner carrying my warlord and his bodyguards. Mercifully the crash was non-lethal for the passengers, but it didn’t stop me shaking a little salt over the table that I wouldn’t get to use my big shiny lego brick. Bo Burnham’s Straight White Male pretty much sums the situation up. Given the headaches that tank had caused them throughout the week, I should have been celebrating for Jeff instead, since that had to have been some pleasing payback.

In disembarking my warlord Drusus from the burning wreck of his transport, however, I made a top-tier fuckup: I failed to do a good job screening him (it’s not the first time I’ve been caught out by the 5” vertical engagement range rules, and in my head, they couldn’t get someone with a half inch of him without also engaging one of the other units too, one of which had Veil of Time cast on them, so would be going first). Harvey’s Warp Talons  wasted no time capitalising on my stupidity, and took the opportunity to assassinate him in turn 2, thus locking the Imperium out of most of their scoring capacity, and me out of most of my dignity.

A very painful mistake.

Just as with the campaign as a whole, this game was now decided with plenty of the last battle left to fight. Harvey had actually forgotten how crucial the warlord was to point scoring in this mission, and had just been going for characterful Night Lords assassination shenanigans, and was disappointed to realise that the game had been decided so early.

It took us a few moments to figure out how best to proceed; we wanted there to be a reason to keep playing – this was our last day on the campaign – and as is so often the case in wargames, one must find one’s own fun when the game is a foregone conclusion. Team Chaos had done good work in exploiting my mistake, and the Tower of Focus would fall, but if we fought on to see how the Scions did, we’d find out more precisely what had happened. Was this a Dunkirk, with a defeat that felt like a victory, or was it a moment of true glory for the dark gods? Of course we also had to figure this out within the context of Chaos losing overall, since the Imperium was locked into a 75% win rate.

We paused the game to talk it through, since we needed to reestablish some stakes. We settled on the idea that with the Imperium’s right flank collapsing, and Drusus out for the count, the Imperium began evacuating the tower, starting with the most promising psykers. The longer I could hold Chaos off, the more of the cream of the crop I’d rescue.

We imagined Sitalayi being evacuated floor by floor, with the psykers imprisoned within starting to panic, despite the reassurances of the guards that everything would be fine.

We also imagined some of those guards setting demolition charges throughout the building as a backup plan…

Back on the battlefield, we got back to it. Lexicanium Tolemias assumed control of the army, and I relaxed significantly. I didn’t have to worry about the objectives any more, I could just try and make the enemy pay for every inch of ground. The Word Bearers and Night Lords came on, and the Scions prepared to sell their lives dearly.

Tolemias’ model suggests an uncommon level of zeal for a Cobalt Scion, so I played in character. He went out in a blaze of glory, running along the roof of a shipping container, jumping off the end with his force staff leaving a contrail of psychic lightning, and lay into the Night Lords below. He’s not a combat character, but he did a surprising amount of damage before being dragged down. His overenthusiasm had served a purpose, at least, in that he’d helped blunt the Night Lords’ advance on my left flank. The problem, however, was Lord Khoura and his mates steaming up my right, largely unchallenged.

Lord Khoura advances… behind some sacrificial friends.

It was here that I ended up committing the last of my reserves: the 5 intercessors of Squad Cassander and Atalus the dreadnought. Khoura and his lackeys advanced under the cover of the heavy guns behind them, and we had to imagine that by now Khairon could almost smell the mounting panic in the tower. Inside, unbeknownst to him, the evacuation continued as the Scions held out.

Going into the last few turns, the Scions had seen off the Night Lords on the left, and finally brought their firepower to bear on Lord Khoura’s advance. Servo turrets, Hellblasters, and the Dreadnought all poured it on. I couldn’t do anything about all the Havocs dominating the midfield, but Lord Khoura’s flank march was burned away.

With the Imperial chain of command having been severed by the Night Lords’ various assassinations of my characters, and the Scions somewhat preoccupied with fighting for their lives, we imagined onlookers from the tower were getting nervous about just how close Khoura’s assault was getting, and wouldn’t necessarily realise that the Scions were starting to turn it around. Rather than risk the tower falling into enemy hands, the masters of the tower put a stop to the evacuation. They probably said something to the remaining inmates like don’t worry, we’ll be right back, before taking off from the shuttle pads and flipping the detonation switch.

As the tower collapsed behind the Scions, we imagined Khairon waiting for the psychic shockwave, and instead being confused by what was instead a mild psychic ripple nowhere near strong enough to light a beacon in the warp.

There comes a time when even the most fanatical servant of the dark gods recognises that the time has come to pack up your toys and go home. The Word Bearers withdrew, and the exhausted Scions were hardly in a position to stop them.

I’ll finish with the longest extract from Jeff’s Crusade journal, written after the final battle…

[Extract from the personal journal of Orcus Khairon, Sorcerer, Graven Star Chapter of the Word Bearers]
Those accursed Scions. Their resilience is irksome in the extreme, and every reason that we couldn’t have the meeting compromised [the rendezvous thwarted by the 31st in the previous game]. They made us pay for every single inch of ground to that tower while the Night Lords pranced and amused themselves in their typical games. Only too late did we realise why they were so ready to spill their blood. The filthy Imperials had evacuated the most promising of the psyker harvest from the tower and simply detonated the rest along with the facility we were coming to despoil. A victory for sure, and one in which our hands drip with Guilliman’s blood, but strategically? A disaster. The fleet is now off course to actually come to this accursed sector as they were amassed for the jump through the moon gate. Now they have to revector themselves and get here at best speed while we escape and hide out in the cold dark of space. Khoura has Changed again, faster now, and his flesh has altered. Apotheosis is fast approaching and I need the bonfire that will bear him to glory. My glory.

Final Thoughts

How was the week for you? What did you learn from it? How was the format, and what if anything would you change?

Cobalt Scions Chapter Icon

Charlie: I had a great time against all three of the armies I faced. Dan is always a joy to fight, Harvey threw delicious spanners in my works, and Jeff… oh, Jeff. Love you, man. Honestly getting to fight against the Word Bearers through a narratively themed series of battles felt so much more alive than isolated games of 40K Crusade. Your army is terrifyingly aggressive, incredibly thematic, and you have so many units that I never have any idea what sort of army build I’ll be facing from game to game. The cinematics and the variety have been a joy to fight against, and I’m still not over the fleshy grossness you’ve painted on the daemonic elements of the force.

My main takeaway is that I get much more invested when there’s an ongoing story, and this makes me start caring about winning in ways that make me wary of my own behaviour. I didn’t start engaging in serious competitive play or anything, but rather than lamenting when something goes wrong for my army, I’d rather be celebrating my opponents’ successes with them (while still trying to achieve a sporting victory, of course). I think broadly that’s what I did, barring one or two wobbles, it’s just something to be mindful about.

Another one of my takeaways, and it’s a grognardy point, is that I might amend the way we enter results on the map to include text as well. It makes it much easier to chronicle afterwards!

Finally: Team Imperium! We did it! You glorious bastards, 5/5 would fight alongside again.

Jeff: Insert Cobra Commander voice: MY PLAN IS IN SHAMBLES! Although ye gods did losing still feel fun. It’s one of the nice things about playing Chaos. You are a pack of arseholes and if things aren’t go your way then you just blame your allies, the weather, that gecko you ate for brunch, whatever. Then decide that the Chaos Gods turned their face from you and work to win back their favour. It’s a whinier version of “Orkses is never defeated in battle”. I loved the contrast in the fights between the guard and the Scions. With the guard you are a superhuman, stride even 1 or 2 of you into melee and they just get blended. The Scions are the same disciplined brick-to-the-bollocks that they’ve always been. You don’t feel like a superhuman. You feel like a barbarian at the gates.

I’m really looking forward to leaning in to this army for a while and becoming more expert in its use. A serious takeaway is: Possessed. Do not fuck with Possessed. Two of those mad gribbly bastards is enough to ruin your entire day. When the new ones are painted… I’ll have 15…

Now to try and slowly light the bonfire that will fuel Khoura’s rise to Daemonhood. Oh, and track down those Nightfallers’ home world as we need to have a long chat with their families… and their little dog too. Hmm? Oh my allies? Well the Red Corsairs abandoned us at the first sign of trouble, the Alpha Legion failed to appear claiming some kind of problem with Nurgle’s Rot and the Night Lords were the normal cackling idiocy that they always were [caveat: none of this is true]. We have been comprehensively let down and they will pay for their lack of faith.

Nightfall 31st Light Infantry

Harvey: What a campaign! The misstep in the final game aside, because murdering the one unit in the opponent’s force that’s responsible for just less than half their victory points throughout the game in turn 2 SURE DOES end that game on turn 2, it turns out… My bad…

Charlie: I can hardly blame you for capitalising on a golden opportunity! The Lords of the Night should not reward such foolishness.

NNNNNNIGHT LORDS! Beyond that I had a fantastic time with both the Nightfallers and the Night Lords. Narratives were forged, both Lieutenant Raan and Lord Icarael made their marks, and I can’t wait to see where their stories go next.

My games with the Imperial Guard were all (bar the first) absolute nail biters; Jeff’s right, those traitor marines really do feel superhuman when they’re charging at you and wiping out squads at a time. To make matters worse the 31st have no heavy armour (relying instead upon their, admittedly jammy, sentinel squadrons, and up-gunned chimeras), so I often felt every bit as undergunned as a primarily recon regiment should – Terrifying, but very thematic and enjoyable. The Nightfallers are on some well earned leave until I figure out where they’re to be ordered to next, or rather when I’ve got a game with them booked.

My stand out point for the Nightfall 31st was undoubtedly Lieutenant Raan. The man picked off no less than two(!!!!) Chaos Space Marine characters over the course of the campaign – taking the last wound off Dan’s Lord Krow with his “lasgun” (Read: Boltgun as far as rules are concerned, thanks James) and, legitimately heroically, taking down the sorcerer Khairon himself with his “power knife” (Read: power sword), to the disbelief of the Cobalt Scion relief force that eventually turned up. He’s a fun character, and currently believes he’s real hot shit. We’ll see how long that lasts…

As for the Night Lords while I played fewer games with them overall, they really made an impression on me as an army. They’ll take some getting used to (my other astartes army are Black Templars, a decidedly different beast), but I love their cheaty shenanigans – they really do play like how they’re represented in the lore. Lord Icarael is also a really interesting character mechanically: where Lords Krow and Khoura are traditional Chaos beefcakes, Icarael is instead built with as many army buffs and auras as I could stuff him with. The result is a character that can’t go toe to toe with a dedicated combat boy, but that can still bully regular units and who acts as a potent force multiplier (perfect for someone who’s supposed to be a bit of a schemer and a strategist as opposed to a frontline combatant).

It was a great week, I can’t wait for more games – which for me is the hallmark of successful ham.

Drew: Nurgle may have only seen fit to give me one game in this campaign, but what a game! Guard are every bit as adorably squishy and ludicrously brave as promised. They were absolute jam when faced with anything of consequence (Like Khoura. Or Havocs. Or some really mean looking cultists.) but everytime they managed to keep it together and beat some unspeakable horror back, I felt like a proud Mama! And then promptly sent them at something else to die.

The campaign was a great way to try out a new army and I ended up having a blast with them. The humble Guard really do give a sense of scale to the powerhouses that call this galaxy home and their struggle is made all the more compelling for it. I enjoyed them so much that I planned a force of the Emperor’s finest all of my own. The brave men and women of Lachesis will be avenged!

Jeff, as always, was a dream to play against and living his maniacal best life. Narrative gaming is my absolute favourite way to play, and the story the other players managed to create before I got there meant that I got to waltz into my one, shiny game and immediately feel invested. The only downside was that I didn’t get to play more, but there’s always next campaign: SEND IN THE NEXT WAVE!

Battlegroup 86

Tom: I had the honour of fighting Jeff in his first game with his new army, and then again the next day for his fourth. The difference was bracing. Having had a chance to get to know his army and learn his stratagems… It came as quite a shock when I fired at his Hellbrute who promptly halved the damage with a -1 Damage strat, then shot back at me in my own turn, nearly killing my, apparently poorly named, Executioner. These Chaos fellows are quite unsporting!

It was also my first time facing a T9 unit in Dan’s Land Raider. That’s a bracing new development that will change a few things. Luckily I happened to have the right tool for the job by way of an Imperial Knight, but a lot of my normally reliable AT guns were looking pretty sad. Dan was also the first person to give the Bullgryns of Bonk Squad a serious beating, the big bully!

Given the starting criteria, I was definitely expecting the Imperium to take a loss here overall, and looking forward to playing my part as the poor Guardman, stoically going down fighting. All I had to do was stand in line, and die fighting. To the Cobalt Scions would fall the pressure of winning or losing the campaign. And yet, after the opening weekend I was four for four, a staggering ratio for someone who usually wins a little less than half my games within our group.

What’s more, it wasn’t just me; the Imperium had won every game in the opening two days. As my exhausted troops were rotated out (i.e. I went back to work in London) I followed along in the group chat enraptured as the Imperium continued to win nearly every game. For my part most of my victories came down to a few key moments, and all of them were Sergeant Drokk’s Bonk Squad. Their ability to tie up major Chaos assault units and just not die was incredible.

The final ignominy in my final game was Sergeant Drokk himself, all alone, facing off against the evil sorcerer Khairon in the despoiled town of Hope Swell. He stoically survived, ignored every CP-burning trick Jeff could throw at him, ignoring waves of gunfire, psychic assault and melee attacks and just… refused to die. This left Khairon horribly exposed when a Leman Russ rumbled up behind him and finished him off, and no CP left to use Dark Pact and supervillain his way out of it.

What’s Next?

The Word Bearers have headed off to prepare for their (severely delayed) invasion, and when they come the Imperium will have had time to prepare. I imagine it’ll involve a mishmash of Battlefleet Gothic, boarding actions, planetstrike missions, and all manner of carnage far grander in scope.

More immediately, the Scions headed off to trail the Night Lords ship they boarded in the hopes it’d lead them to a secret eeevil lair. This was a sort of epilogue consisting of three games, which I haven’t gone into here since it felt a bit like the Tolkien approach to endings. Suffice to say that by the end of this week of carnage, both Drusus and Tolemias had reached the Heroic rank, allowing me to have a chapter master in both name and rule, and also to paint some extra heraldry on Tolemias’ tabard to reflect his promotion to Codicier. Pleasing milestones both.

One week, many games. Credit: Charlie Brassley

Congratulations on consuming five (5) portions of Content

Determined to avoid producing one of the internet’s many unfinished campaign write ups, I wrote this entire series before I published the first article. Consequently, as I write this, I have no idea how many people will actually read and/or enjoyed this (counts) >12,000 word dissertation on battling space mans. Given the length, you may be surprised to hear that I left a lot out, and I remain conflicted on that point. I was keen to avoid banging on about my D&D character at length, and 12K is already a lot of work, but it meant barely touching on the character arcs of figures within the armies.

If time were an unlimited commodity, or if someone were paying me (lol) I unironically think there’s the basis for a novel here. There’s clear goals, the story isn’t too sprawling, and the cast sport a variety of personalities. I’d split perspectives between the ambitious Sorcerer Khairon steadily losing favour as his plan crumbles to dust, and the Cobalt Scions Chapter Master trying to figure out if he’s done right by his men in trusting his headstrong Lexicanium’s visions. Between those posthuman characters, it’d follow a psyker in the Tower of Focus, unknowingly doomed to die in the incomplete evacuation of the final confrontation, and of course, of course, we’d have to get Gaunt’s Ghosts Lite by following the exploits of Lt Raan as he plays with fire in regularly ‘reinterpreting’ his orders.

I considered writing chunks of proper prose instead of the [mark: timestamp: summary] stuff, but ultimately decided it would just make the series too long. But in so doing, did I squeeze all the flavour out? Yes, to an extent. I leave it to you as to whether that was sensible, or a step too far. Campaign logs like this are a lot of work, and one has to compromise somewhere. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what worked, and what you think we should do differently next time. I won’t necessarily do exactly what you asked, but I will read, consider and respond to any such messages, be it in the comments below, in the Goonhammer Discord, or by email at Hell, it’d be great to know if anyone wants us to do more things like this in the future, so get in touch if you think we should. I really hope you enjoyed it.