The specimen was magnificent. Datasmith Quadro did not usually refer to his frozen quarry in such emotive terms but this was a special case. He allowed himself a moment of enjoyment and carefully measured doses of dopamine and serotonin were dumped into the remaining organics of his brain. He emitted a soft hiss of data code; in a non-augmented human, the sound would have been a sigh. Quadro gazed at the frozen Xenos monster before him, encased as it was in a block of clear ice, it could have no hope of harming him. Still, looking at the enormous scythe claws and wickedly fanged maw was enough to give even the chosen of the Omnissiah a moment of dread.
Designated Corporaptor Avus, the massive alien had been captured alive in a strategically perfect raid on one of the machine world’s slums. The thing had slain an entire platoon of augmented Skitarii before being brought low by taser goads and specialised shock bullets. Even as it spasmed and fell it had still managed to shear the legs from the nearest cybernetic warrior; its razor claws cut through the armoured metal like it was paper. The few Skitarii that hadn’t been destroyed outright were still being repaired in one of the facility’s many workshops.
Suddenly the facility lighting flickered and was quickly replaced with the dull red glow of the emergency lumens coming to life. Quadro glanced at the unmoving figures of the Skitarii stationed around the chamber, with a silent noospheric command; they formed up around him, targeting lenses and omniscopes sweeping the area for targets. At the same time, he called up vid feeds of the facility’s outlying areas on his retinal display. The images all showed the same red hue of the emergency lights brightening the familiar corridors with their unfamiliar glow. One of the security feeds displayed only static; with a hiss of annoyance, Quadro refreshed the feed only to have the same static fuzz return. With another noospheric blurt, he dispatched a demi-platoon of Skitarii to investigate the damaged sector.
Quadro’s retinal display scrolled with warning text as his external sensors detected a slow rise in the temperature of the chamber. He looked back at the specimen as tiny beads of moisture began to appear on the surface of the enormous ice block. Clearly the power failure had shorted out the refrigerant system of the holding chamber. Just as he was about to send a second squad of Skitarii to assess the condition of the sub-station, Quadro noticed a flicker of movement on one of the vid-monitors. After a moment’s pause he issued a command over the facility main vox network.
“Intruders detected in sector five-beta; all Skitarii initiate defensive protocols, all non-combatants proceed to designated holding areas and await further instructions.” He repeated the message as a spurt of binary and as a complex vocalised algorithm used only by his personal bodyguard before closing the vox.
Quadro replayed the small segment of footage that showed a clawed mutant shambling through one of his sacred corridors. Clearly the spawn had come to reclaim their grandfather.
250 points a side, Kill Team style (we settled on small 3-5 man squads) with no limits on taking individual models rather than whole units. The Frozen Patriarch was placed deep in the Skitarii deployment zone and was worth 4 Victory Points. There were 2 Temperature Control Nodes, that were additional objectives each worth 2 points a piece. In addition to the basics, we agreed on 2 stratagems each from Zone Mortalis; the Skitarii had 2 gun turrets and 2 explosive traps, while the Cult had Mining Tunnels (3 reserve entry points) and the ability to bring back on the Neophytes once during the game (limited to only being able to bring them back once 5 had been removed so they'd come back in reasonable units).
The Brothers Nero, Genestealer Cult (Tabletop Apocalypse, Blazmo)Acolyte Hybrid Leader (Grillo) - Bonesword and Lashwhip
11 Neophyte Hybrids - Seismic Cannon, Heavy Stubber, Flamer
8 Acolyte Hybrids
5 Purestrain Genestealers
Quadro's Defence Force, Skitarii (BERSERKERBLADE, Ed)Cybernetica Datasmith (Quadro) - Power Fist, Gamma Pistol
5 Skitarii Rangers, Arc Rifle, Alpha with Taser Goad
3 Sicarian Ruststalkers - Transonic Blades, Princeps with Dataspike
The Cunning Plan
Well, I had a lot of bodies on the field, so the plan was simple; overwhelm the Skitarii and grab as many objectives as I could. I also held back some powerful units to drop in unexpectedly. These were the Genestealers and small 3 man squad of Acolyte Hybrids which I figured would be enough to deal with the Skitarii in hand to hand. I had a few Neophytes held back too, not to mention the regenerating ones. I was worried about those turrets though - at toughness 6 and 2 wounds with a twin- linked heavy bolted each they'd be rather problematic given the low points cost.
After choosing to hold back a few units, I deployed near the edge of my zone; ready to get up in Ed's grill fast. It was at this point, or maybe a little later that I realised just how far away the Patriarch was - I'd need to do some serious motoring to get all the way over there (probably should've hired a Cult Limo or something!).
Ed laid down his traps; one right in my path and one out the back protecting the Patriarch. He then put down the gun turrets, one in each of the major entrances to his side of the complex. Interestingly, as I didn't have a turret model per-se we ended up using a couple of converted field-guns I had built for a 40k Skaven project that never really got off the ground. It's surprising what you have about the place after years of hobbying!
Ed won the roll-off for first turn, but it wouldn't make that much difference given that there was no way either of us would be able to engage the other round all the corners we'd built into the map. Quadro was deployed right at the back guarding the frozen Patriarch.
Skitarii Turn 1
Ed shuffled forward menacingly.
Cult Turn 1
My turn started with the inevitable shuffle forward. My Neophytes stormed through the doors; ready to sacrifice their lives for their alien overlords. This was even more evident when the first unit took up a position in the line of fire and bravely tried to take down a Sentry Gun with only 4 autoguns. Surprisingly it wasn't entirely futile and they blasted out a hearty 6 hits; resulting in one wound on the comparatively monolithic weapon. The second squad ran proudly town the corridor to the first objective; before setting off Ed's trap. Luckily I'd strung them out a bit and the 2 hits it generated only resulted in one casualty. The Acolytes moved up in support as I prepared to press the attack over the next few turns. I was hoping to land the bulk of the reinforcements at the same time and crush the Skitarii in a deadly pincer manoeuvre ... or something.
Skitarii Turn 2
Ed moved his Ruststalkers a bit, while his Rangers rushed forwards. The Sentry Gun opened up on the first squad of auto-gun toting Neophytes and to my horror, despite being BS2 he rolled 3 hits; deftly cutting the unit down to a man in a second to resounding cries of "Clean-up in aisle 3", mostly from myself. It didn't matter too much, as they were regenerating troops, so I'd get them back at some point.
On the other side of the field, he was hatching an equally cunning plot. Using his Rangers (specifically the Arc Rifle which has Haywire). He cracked the door open that was separating him from my second unit of Neophytes. He then used the other sentry gun to open fire on them; resulting in only one casualty thanks to the intervening scenery. The pressure was beginning to mount.
Cult Turn 2
My turn started with a shocker; my reinforcements arrived (that never happens to me!). I got the unit of Purestrain Genestealers and one small squad of 3 Acolyte Hybrids. I placed the Purestrains in the middle of the field; ready to do as much damage as possible.
I then put the squad of Acolytes right up in Ed's grill. I wasn't sure it would be a good idea, but I had to press the attack and I was banking on the Genestealers doing most of the work for me.
The first unit of Neophytes had 1 remaining man, who dutifully ran screaming from the sentry gun and down an adjoining corridor. He took a pop at the Infiltrators, but we can only assume the last few turns had been too much for him and he blazed away at the ceiling judging by his hit roll. With him out of the way I moved my Acolytes and Grillo forward and charged the sentry gun. I lost one on overwatch, but a plethora of rending attacks destroyed the gun.
The second unit of Neophytes returned fire, scoring a mighty 4 hits with the Seismic Cannon. To my dismay, a combination of cover-saves and feel no pain stopped me from getting any wounds. I also fired the 3 autopistols on my ambushing Acolytes, but once again failed to do anything. An unfortunate pattern was beginning to emerge...
Skitarii Turn 3
It was a veritable clash of the titans this turn. Sensing the danger posed by the Purestrains, Ed pulled his Ruststalkers back and to my surprise charged them. He also moved his Rangers backwards and blasted the 3 Acolytes off the field with ease.
We took a special photo as this was clearly the most important combat in the whole game. Lets just say that my bad luck wasn't over yet. Despite all of their massive stats, and a colossal hit roll, after all of the dice were rolled my Genestealers only managed 2 wounds, one of which was saved on the Skitarii's armour (the other was a rend). The entire squad of Genestealers were then butchered in good measure! with not a single survivor to be seen!
It actually reminded me of a battle where a single squad of my Imperial Guard Veterans fought off a swarm of Genestealers in hand to hand. Sometimes the dice just do what they want and you have to live with it...
To add insult to injury his remaining Sentry Gun opened fire again and killed another Neophyte; meaning my two original units were reduced to 1 man a piece.
Cult Turn 3
After a real turning point in the game (ie my terrible performance in Ed's turn), I needed to really get going if I wanted to cause Ed to even break a sweat. Handily, after all of those Neophyte casualties I had a fresh unit ready to be placed. I chose a corridor behind Ed's Ruststalkers in an attempt to kill some of them (even at T3, with a 4+ save, 2 wounds and "feel no pain" they were just shrugging off everything I could throw at them in the small points cost game). I also moved Grillo forward with his one remaining Acolyte buddy to see if they could take out the Ruststalkers. It was going to be close. At the other end of the map, I ducked my Seismic Cannon behind a corner so he could hang on to the objective as long as possible and to get him out of the sight of the Sentry Gun.
In the shooting phase I opened up with the fresh squad of Neophytes; this time managing to take one of the Ruststalkers out. I had a pop at them with the 2 autopistols on the Acolytes too , but without effect.
I then assaulted them with Grillo's unit; hoping to achieve what the Genestealers couldn't. Ed quickly declared a challenge with the Ruststalker leader, which I gladly accepted. With 5 Bonesword attacks I figured it'd be an easy win. Of course he had a cunning plan to assassinate Grillo with his data spike (the horror! - it hits at I10, and stat wise he is as resilient as an ordinary guardsman!). Luckily he missed. I grabbed a fistful of 5 dice; mentally prepared for victory. I rolled them and didn't get a single hit! my luck just wasn't there today. Grillo died rather spectacularly to Ed's attacks and so did the other acolyte. This was quickly becoming one of "those" games for me. I still had the last of the Acolytes in-between the Ruststalkers and the objective, but considering how things were shaping up I wasn't very hopeful.
Skitarii Turn 4
Despite my lack of combat prowess all battle, I was actually winning as far as objectives were concerned. I still had both of the secondary objectives (worth 2 VP each) while at this stage in the game Ed only had Slay the Warlord from my dismal combat antics last turn. Realising that the game was in it's 4th turn and could end on the 5th, Quadro made a break to secure the Patriarch (worth 4VP, which would win the game for Ed). His Rangers moved forward and the remaining 2 Ruststalkers charged my last 3 Acolytes. To my surprise they fought back for once and actually killed one of the Stalkers; reducing their number down to just one. The Acolytes were still wiped out though, but at least there was a glimmer of hope. The remaining Rust Stalker regrouped a few more inches forward after the combat ... and his intention for the next turn was laughably clear.
Cult Turn 4
"Disengage Opeartion Lightning Bolt!!" anyone still reading get this reference?
Anyway, things seemed to be going pretty bad and all I could do was try and make the loss a bit more marginal. Handily, my final unit of reserves turned up in time to give that Ruststalker something to think about, although I doubted 2 men and a snap-firing heavy stubber would give him too much pause. I also had that other squad of 5 Neophytes left and I moved them into the corridor in an attempt to kill some of the Rangers, they did have a flamer, so I was hopeful that they might stand a chance (one thing I learned in this game is that Skitarii guns go through Neophytes like last week's Chilli on Friday). They popped up round the corner and ready to blaze away.
The shooting phase bore some fruit. The big squad of Neophytes cut 2 of the Skitarii Rangers down and the combined force of autoguns and snapping Heavy Stubber put a wound on that last Ruststalker (at this point I was starting to think they really were like the Terminator or something! y'know they "absolutely will not stop until you are dead").
Skitarii Turn 5/ Cult Turn 5
The Ruststalker charged the unit of Neophytes with the Heavy Stubber; perhaps fearing for his life under the almost withering fire. The combat went pretty much as expected and I suffered 2 casualties; leaving the stubber to fend for himself. The shooting phase had brought fresh horrors and Ed's Rangers gunned down the squad of Neophytes with ease. His Sentry Gun took out the Seismic Cannon (which I had foolishly moved last turn to snap at Ed's Rangers thinking they'd still be there to take the hits. It didn't help that Quadro had claimed the Patriarch; making Ed's win even more solid.
On my turn I did nothing as I only had 2 men left, one of which was still engaged by the last Ruststalker. Needless to say he perished nobly in one-on-one hand to hand combat.
Skitari 5 Victory Points
Cult 2 Victory Points
It was surprisingly hard fought and when the Genestealers arrived I thought I had it in the bag. I think I underestimated just how good the Skitarii guns would be against my forces, but what really hurt me (other than those damn Sentry Guns) was my terrible hand to hand combat rolls. Time and again I failed to get a single wound despite mostly reasonable hit rolls. Writing it up, the game seemed a lot more one-sided than it felt, as although I was taking losses I still had 2 objectives for most of the game and I was very much pressing the attack. I kept expecting "the next unit" to do better and break the back of Ed's force and it just never came.
The first game ended with the Cult being repulsed, but they already had a plan for revenge. The next game would see them attacking the facility's power supply; seeking to free the Patriarch with a less direct attack. One thing was sure, I wanted revenge!