Magos Vettius Thannek and the Helios Exploratory Crusade have returned for another go at the Emperor's Children of Prince Vaspasian the Profligate, and this time both sides are fighting over a priceless Heresy era artefact held on the body of a long dead traitor marine. Recent dust storms on this forgotten desert planet have unearthed evidence of ancient battles and lost technology - this conflict is merely another in a long line, stretching back ten thousand years, on these blood soaked sands. For game two of both Crusade forces, we once again played at 50 power level and rolled up the scenario The Relic!
I shuffled around my forces a bit for this one, taking a battalion featuring Thannek the Tech-Priest Dominus, an Enginseer, the Kataphron Breachers, Skitarii Vanguard and Rangers, two units of Kataphron Destroyers, the Serberys Raiders and the Kastelan Robots. Datasmith Decima got the day off, seeing as how he was probably still being put back together after the ending of the last game. I reasoned with the relic right there in the middle of the battle, I wouldn't need to go digging for Archeotech, so instead I took Reaper and Survivor for my agendas, choosing my warlord to try and keep alive.
The Emperor's Children force was unchanged, a patrol of Deamon Prince Vaspasian, 30 Cultists, 10 Noise Marines, 6 'Bikers', 5 Terminators and a Rhino. The agendas were also unchanged, the army competing for the glory of Reaper and Vaspasian looking to be the Lord of the Warp.
This time we correctly added up the Crusade points, and I gained an additional command point, which I used to put one of the Destroyer units into strategic reserves. The Terminators were also left off the board, and the Noise Marines were in the Rhino (behind the ruin on the right). No re-deployment shenanigans this time, as the bikers stayed in position behind the ruin on the left.
The Emperor's Children claimed first turn and moved up the board, the snake-like 'bikers' zooming up the flank while the cultists marched into the killing fields and the Noise Marines deployed from their transport cagily. Their shooting killed off one of the Breachers, but the main job was to ensure none of the important units were target-able from my Destroyers in their raised position.
The Adeptus Mechanicus forces responded with some aggressive advances coordinated by Magos Thannek. The remaining Breachers rolling up to the relic and the Vanguard marching up to put some radium volleys into the Cultists. The Raiders also lined up a charge on the snake-marines and the Rangers shuffled around in the backfield to protect from a Terminator strike.
Using the Protector Doctrina Imperative the Vanguard cut a vicious swathe through the cultists, while the Breachers claimed the relic (and I remembered to play Acquisition at Any Cost on them.)
Shooting felled two of the snake mutants, one from a shot by the Raider Alpha's Archeo-revolver, but the charge was less successful. Still the unit survived the power fist attacks and held them in place for a round or two.
Turn two and the cultists melted back into the sands, only to be replaced by a Tide of Traitors popping up on the flank! Obviously they had been laying in wait for an ambush, concealed from our sensors by warp magics!
Prince Vaspasian and the Noise Marines made their move as well, encircling the forces of Ryza. Some serious firepower erupted from across the lines to removed the Destroyers from their defensive position, while the Chaos forces lined up to charge the Imperials...
And it didn't go well, the Rhino, Cultists and Noise Marines failing to make the distance, and the Prince only getting in on his 3 inch charge with a reroll. He did butcher the Breachers, and the remaining Raiders were cut down elsewhere, leaving me three units down, but with a bit of an opening. Ignoring the cultists, the Adeptus Mechanicus set up firing lines with the newly arrived Destroyers aiming at the daemon in the centre of the board, though the monster Vaspasian proved resilient, requiring every last available gun to be put down.
The robots, the Fists of Reverence, marched up to the Noise Marines, switching to Conqueror Protocols. They swung with calculated strength, but the quickness of the Emperor's Children meant the marines were able to strike before the robots could complete their program, felling one of them with their drug-fuelled ferocity.
At the end of turn two it looked like the Adeptus Mechanicus had secured the objective and cleared some of this biggest threats, but there was still danger lurking around the corner...
In turn three, the Terminators arrived to harass my backfield once again. Between them and the bikers my objective holding Vanguard were removed, and some wounds went onto the Destroyers as well. Suddenly the two Tech-Priests were looking a little exposed.
The Terminators charged through the ruined wall to cut through the Rangers and make contact with the Destroyers to shut down their long range shooting. Amusingly the servitors piled in and once again killed one of the Terminators.
Those sneaky cultists got in on the action as well, pilling around Kor Ondos the Enginseer. He stood firm against the mob, but they were now within touching distance of that relic!
Things were getting a bit desperate for the Mechanicus once again! The last Kastelan had provided some relief by finishing off the Noise Marines, but it was badly damaged, and I really needed it to both kill the bikers and then have a good go at the cultists in turn 4 and 5 to push them off the relic. I dropped the Destroyers out of combat and made sure to save a command point for overwatch if the Terminators charged them. Finally Thannek joined the fray with the cultists to help his fellow tech-clergyman.
Unfortunately for me, the Rhino was still active and I'd left just enough of a gap for it to charge the Destroyers and let the Terminators saunter in unmolested. The Destroyers were cut down, as was Enginseer Ondos, and finally the Kastelan Robot, after having killed all but the champion of the bikers. Spitefully it exploded, killing the snake champion.
That just left Magos Thannek himself alive, fleeing to try and survive (and get all that experience for doing so)...
Thannek's many legs scuttled as fast as they could as he tried to escape the battlefield. His sensors all registered that he was the only friendly combatant still active, and a glance with his ocular units confirmed that the relic was surely lost to the ruinous powers. A failure, but still valuable knowledge had been obtained, and the Magos knew that his survival and ability to convey this knowledge was now his top priority.
Bolt shells exploded in the sand around him, as his mechanical limbs tore up the edges of his robes in their haste. The blasted ground was not conducive to a quick retreat. The remaining organic section of his mind, under the effect of fear suppressors and shock protectors, wondered if this is what Sek had experienced in their last battle.
A brief warning of dangerously high temperatures flashed in his HUD as he felt the white hot impact of plasma blasts in his back, then only darkness as he fell to the sand.
Another Crusade game an a similar story, though this time I made John work for it. Some unbelievable rolls for the Slaaneshi forces, firstly those failed charges nearly costing him the game, then excellent saves for the Daemon Prince forcing my hand and some serious damage from the melee of the Noise Marines crippling the Robots. Ultimately though the chaos boys were victorious again, and make off with a sweet relic - an armour upgrade that Prince Vaspasian claimed and had modified for his own use. He also gained enough experience to become Blooded, becoming Terrifying to all those around him. On my side luckily their were no ones rolled once more, so everyone got some experience just for playing. The Fists of Reverence, the Kastelan Robots, picked up the reward for Reaper and were Marked for Greatness, so also became Blooded, being upgraded with Enhanced Shielding while being put back together, giving them +1 to their armour save against AP -1 and AP - weapons. A pretty good upgrade for the robots, who are already quite tough to remove!
I enjoyed this game more, we're definitely starting to get to grips with 9th edition and the Crusade rules, though I think we still made some mistakes here and there. I really hope more people are giving Crusade a go - it's a niche that 40k hasn't really had before, and even though it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, I think it's definitely worth it's place in the rulebook and is looking like it might well end up being my 'standard' way to play ahead of matched play eternal war missions. Thanks for reading, and stay safe!