Chapter 2: The Cracks Begin
Jaques surveyed the battle-grid on his jetbike's auspex. The orders from Chapter Command were clear: secure a relic suit of artificer armour once lost in the ruins of Bokrir Prime. What was less clear was why the orders had been given in the first place. And, ominously, why Corvex was registering several Mechanicus units closing in on the Second Company's position. Decades later, the conflict would be recognised as part of the early stages of the Moirae Schism, as civil war that engulfed the Adeptus Mechanicus. But in that moment, Jacques could only puzzle over why the warriors of the Machine God were advancing. The Ravenwing Grand Master turned in his saddle to get the attention of Pierre, the pilot of the Dark Shroud Whisper of Caliban. The Dark Shroud's more powerful sensor arrays would give Jacques a better picture of what they faced.
"My Lord," Pierre voxed. "Mechanicus units inbound. They are not responding to our hails, and appear to be communicating on an encrypted channel." Pierre sounded as if he was going to say more, but his co-pilot, Orthniel, cut in.
"Sir, we're detecting their weapons systems charging up. They're moving into battle formations!"
Jacques immediately knew what he had to do. All doubts and confusion about the Mechanicus' presence on Bokrir Prime flew from his mind as he formulated a battle plan.
"Brothers! We are under attack! Strike hard and strike fast, for the Lion, and show these foes the folly of testing the Emperor's finest!"
Battle Report (1000 points, Dark Angels vs Adeptus Mechanicus)
Mission: The Relic
Deployment type: Hammer and Anvil
My army: Jacques (Sammael), 6 Black Knights, 3 Scout Bikes, Dark Shroud, 2 Dark Talons
Opponent's Army: Cawl, Techpriest Engineseer, 2 Onager Dunecrawlers, 2 Ironstriders (auto cannons), 10 Vanguard, 2x 5 Rangers (2 snipers in each squad)
As we began deployment, I quickly realised that I faced a very tough game - as I had no infantry, I couldn't pick up the relic, and instead would have to hope I could kill enough of my opponent's army to have the closest model to the relic at the end of the game. At least that made things simple, if challenging!
We each castled up in opposite corners of the board, with me clustered around the dark shroud in case I didn't get first turn, and with the mechanicus vehicles castled around cawl and bubble wrapped by the vanguard. The rangers set up in a nearby ruin. As I finished deploying first, I got a +1 to my roll, which came in handy as we both rolled 3s. My opponent didn't seize the initiative, so the Ravenwing would be striking first for the Lion.
I raced everything forward, making sure the Dark Talons were in range to open up with their rift cannons. I advanced with the Dark Shroud and Sammael to make sure that the Talons would be in range of their respective buffs. I moved the Black Knights forward, but in hindsight I think I should have advanced with them too and used speed of the raven (with only 4CPs I was reluctant to spend them too early). Frustratingly, almost everything was on top of the relic, but no one could pick it up!
In the shooting phase, the first Dark Talon unloaded its rift cannon on one of the dune crawlers, and its hurricane bolters on the vanguard. Unfortunately the rift cannon did nothing (failed to wound with 2 shots), but the hurricane bolters killed 8 of the 10 vanguard. I knew the dune crawlers were the main threat, so I put all the second dark talon's firepower into the dune crawler, doing 6 wounds.
In other shooting, the black knights took out one of the ranger squads (they were out of range of everything else), and the scout bikers managed to kill a ranger from the other squad.
My opponent dropped 2 command points to keep the vanguard in the fight, and then moved into his turn. After restoring 3 wounds to the dune crawler, he unloaded, blowing one dark talon out of the sky and taking 2 wounds off the second one. The rangers' snipers managed to take 2 wounds off sammael too, but other than that didn't do much - things were looking grim for the mechanicus.
I dropped the surviving dark talon into hover mode before using speed of the raven to slingshot the black knights right in front of the dunecrawlers. Sammael moved forward too, while the scout bikers took off in pursuit of the last 2 vanguard.
In the shooting phase, the black knights overcharged their weapons of the dark ages, one-hitting the as-yet unscathed dune crawler. The dark talon managed to do 5 wounds on the other dune crawler, bringing it down to 3.
In the charge phase, sammael charged to dune crawler, and the black knights multi-assaulted the dune crawler and engineseer. Sammael easily destroyed the dunecrawler, but the crafty mechanicus robot fiends rigged it to blow (my opponent used a stratagem to auto-explode it). The blast killed a black knight and took 3 wounds off sammael, as well as doing 3 wounds to the enginseer and a wound to cawl (not that it mattered as he would just heal himself). The black knights then finished off the enginseer.
My opponent's turn was short and brutal - cawl healed himself, and then shot his laser-thing at the dark talon. In a string of good luck for my opponent, he got 3 shots, hit 3 times, wounded 3 times, and did 7 damage to the dark talon (with 8 wounds left). He then command point rerolled one of his damage rolls, bumping the wounds up the 8 and finishing off the talon. The talon then promptly exploded, doing 3 wounds to the dark shroud, killing another black knight, and taking the last wound off Sammael! Surely an inglorious end for the Master of the 2nd Company. The iron striders then opened up on the scout bikers, leaving only the sergeant alive.
In the assault phase, cawl waded into combat with the black knights (there were 3 left at that point), his axe carving a bloody swathe through them and killing them all.
At that point, all I had left was the dark shroud and the scout bike sergeant. I did briefly think about withdrawing and hiding in the ruins before making a last turn jump onto the relic, but my opponent would have been able to just sit cawl on the relic and, because he had the last turn, just kill me if I tried to jump it. So I decided to honourably concede and live to fight another day - congrats to my opponent to a hard fought (if short) game.
Jacques came to with a gasp of air, his vision kaleidoscoping weirdly through his cracked helmet. His memory came back in flashes - the Dark Talons of Jaeger Squadron decimating the forward lines of the skitarri - the dunecrawlers retaliating by punching high-yield fire through Jaeger One's primary engine - the Black Knights burying a dune crawler under a sea of plasma fire - the Raven Sword lancing through the armour plates of the second dunecrawler before its engine collapsed in on itself, exploding with unimaginable force. The last thing Jacques remembered was the force of the explosion throwing Corvex high into the air, colliding with Jaeger Two. It was only then that Jacques registered how quiet the battlefield was - the Mechanicus forces were long gone. Frantically, Jacques checked the transponder slaved to his armour's power system, before breathing a sigh of relief when he saw the signal was strong; the tracking beacon he had placed on the relic as he charged past was still in place, and the Mechanicus had fallen for his trap. One way or another, Jacques would have his answers...