Horus Heresy: Betrayal (the tome that ignited my imagination and convinced me to get into 30k) has been on my mind of late. I’ve been spending some enjoyable evenings within its pages, initially reading about the Death Guard and their role on Isstvan III. It is easy to forget just how awful and catastrophic that initial act of fratricide was. Of course Isstvan III overshadowed by the Dropsite Massacre on Isstvan V, but the scale is no less mind boggling.
I’m still a little freaked out by the Life-Eater Virus and reading about its ruinous impact on the world of Isstvan III doesn’t get any easier. The population of six billion is extinguished along with one third of the 90,000 astartes in the Choral City. Crysos’ account of bunkering down with his squad mates in a shipping container to wait out the bombardment is harrowing indeed. When the life-eater finds its way in and penetrates an unfortunate Death Guard’s suit, it is apparent that there’s something insidious and utterly, utterly evil about this weapon. Crysos even alludes to it having some kind of sentience:
“Yes I saw it, the Life-Eater, a monster from the Old Time, human evil given form.
Then I believed” – From the testimony of Crysos Morturg
-The Horus Heresy Book One: Betrayal. Alan Bligh and John French
Believed what I wonder? In the reality of the betrayal? In Gods? Was his belief in the Imperial Truth burst in that moment?
As I poured over the missions with their awesome mysterious terrain tables and special rules I realised that, as another edition looms and the heresy creeps ever closer to its conclusion, I still hadn’t played the campaign! Well, my game with Dan and his wolves yesterday marks a firm a step in the right direction, even if our armies weren’t quite in line with the lore…
We chose COUNTER THRUST, one of the Legendary Missions in the Betrayal campaign.
The mission represents an attempt by the Loyalists to break out of a kill zone and do as much damage to the Traitor offensive as possible. So far, so good!
Before the game I spoke with Dan about the scenario, explaining that I was going to take a foot heavy list ! Dan, in deference to the scenario, left his drop pods at home because why would the Wolves be drop podding down to break out of an encirclement? Oh, and the Traitors controlled all of Isstvaan’s space.
I had played Dan’s Wolves on an few occasions before, but this would be the first time since their new rules broke. Dan explained them to me, but all I could hear was “stay well back – these guys will be on top of you and ripping you to shreds before you know it!
Now although the Word Bearers are no slouches in hand to hand, (3D6 Leadership removing the highest) they would be wrecked by Dan’s large groups of feral infantry. My plan was simple: stay out of reach – Withdraw and keep pummelling them at range until they bled out. Dan would receive VPs for every unit of his in the break-out zone (my table half) and I would in turn receive VPs for every Wolf unit languishing in No Man’s Land.
The Gal Vorbak I regarded as my ‘ace in the hole’ and was the only unit with a good chance against his murderous infantry formations.
TABLE SET UP
Appropriately red terrain served to represent the WB frontline, with a large bunker fortification covering the centre of the board. This bastion would prove to be a significant obstacle for the loyalists to push through…
Now for the exciting part: Rolling up on the Mysterious Terrain Table!
The bunker became an ammunition stockpile, with all weapons fired from within granted the shred special rule!
The ruins in Dan’s deployment zone became a Charnel House – Dan would have to pass a leadership check if he wished to move through them.
We then rolled on the Ash and Darkness table. Nightfighting would be in effect for the whole game, certainly a boon for the Wolves, whose acute senses can cut through the worst of conditions…
Space Wolves 2000 points
Speaker of the Dead
Deathsworn in Phobos
Grey slayers x 10
Grey slayers x 10
Grey slayers x 15
Word Bearers 2000 points
Contemptor Cortis Talon – 1 with Kheres w/ DCCW + 1 with x2 DCCW
Contemptor Mortis with twin Kheres
x5 Veterans w/ Rhino
Land Raider Proteus
Disclaimer: I was too busy having fun to make a blow by blow account of what went down. What follows is a bunch of pictures (hopefully in chronological order!) of what unfolded on that fateful day on Isstvan III…
The Word Bearers ready themselves for the Wolves’ assault.
The Wolves surge onwards…
The Word Bearers’ shooting is largely ineffective due to the atrocious visibility…
The Wolves move up, eager to close with the hated foe. The Greyslayers unit in the centre sense terrible evil in the red ruins around them, forcing them to skirt the edges rather than storming straight through…
The Predator slams into reverse whilst the contemptor lurks on the edge of the bunker, ready to spring out…
The Greyslayers on the right flank start to take casualties as lascannon lances and kheres rounds seek them out through the fire and ash…
Garro teleports down in the back lines, firing his paragon bolter into the rear of the predator, shaving a hull point off. The Gal Vorbak emerge from a rend in reality nearby…
Rending buffed bolter fire from the mysterious terrain hammers into the slowly advancing Greyslayers whilst the Phobos rolls by…
Deploy! Out come the Deathsworn and the Speaker of the Dead…
Seeking a target, the Venator shifts position and immobilises the Predator on the Word Bearers left flank…
The Deathsworn surge into the Word Bearer’s tacticals butchering a handful…
Bellowing challenges, the Speaker of the Dead and the WB chaplain trade blows…
Whilst the bloody melee continues, a thunderous explosion erupts behind the Space Wolves’ lines – the WB Vets, toting meltaguns, have destroyed the Venator, killing two more Grey Slayers in the blast… No one expects eh?!
With the WB tacticals dead, the Gal Vorbak enter the fray, eager to murder the hated Garro…
A unit of Grey Slayers, incensed at the loss of their Venator, destroy the Vets Rhino then fall upon the squad, killing them to a man…
After two rounds of ceramite crunching, gear grinding combat, the Space Wolves Contemptor lays the traitor Dreadnought low… Another saga to be written…
The Gal Vorbak prove to be as lethal as they are unnatural, tanking wounds and striking Garro down – only for the hero of the XIVth to get back up again!
The Gal Vorbak strike again, exhibiting the horrific power of the warp. Garro is finally killed, along with a handful of Deathsworn. Rattled by the murderous toll, the Wolves break, only to be run down by the Last of the Serrated Sun. They begin feasting on the dead as a wrecked Predator smoulders behind.
The Wolves were repulsed. They retreat swiftly into the murk to lick their wounds and no doubt seek a weaker point in the traitor lines to better exploit…
A huge thank you to Dan for being such a fun opponent and of course to BIG in Bristol for the fantastic table, terrain and venue.
Thanks for reading.