After the failures on the unnamed desert planet, the Helios Exploratory Crusade has moved on to the nearby jungle world of Goros, acting on the ancient distress signal of a crashed pre-heresy satellite, previously been lost to deep space. In a billion to one chance, the weakened transmission from the fallen relic was picked up by the fleet's sensors, and they made planet-fall within a standard terran week. But as they located the archeotech satellite, the forces of Ryza were themselves being watched. The local Deathskull Orks noticed the new arrivals, and saw their chance at grabbing some loot! As the Mechanicus prepared the rituals to appease the machine spirit of the satellite, the Iron Waaagh clambered into their transports and revved their engines!
I recently played my third Crusade game, against Tony of the Narrative Wargamer Podcast (which of course I recently was a guest on). We played at 55 power level, so he could use his full initial order of battle, but we decided to play an Incursion mission (normally up to 50 power level) to keep it a little bit simpler. We rolled up The Ritual, which is an interesting asymmetric mission where the defender has to perform a ritual with their warlord, while the attacker has to kill the warlord, in addition to scoring points for holding 2 or more objective and more than your opponent. We also decided, since we were on a jungle planet, that we would use the Theatre of War: Forest World rules from Saga of the Beast. This adds a couple of special rules to allow infantry and swarms to be untargetable if they are more than 12 inches away, providing they didn't shoot or advance, and a chance for high strength weapons to fell trees and cause mortal wounds on their targets. There is also a stratagem to let units fade away into the undergrowth, but neither of us used it. We decided that narratively the AdMech would be defending, performing a ritual to appease the machine spirits of some archeotech, while the Orks would be attacking, drawn by the opportunity of loot.
My force came to 54 power, and contained both my units who had gained battle honours: Sec Decima the Datasmith (the Laurels of Command) and his charges, the Kastelan Robots the Fists of Reverence (Improved Shielding). Alongside them was Magos Vettius Thannek, the Tech-priest Dominus as the warlord, the Vanguard, the Breachers, a unit of Destroyers, the Dunecrawler, the Serberys Raiders, the Pteraxii Sterylizors and a new addition - a unit of 5 Sicarian Ruststalkers. I did not expect great things from them, based on their track record, but it was a narrative game so I was willing to give them a go. I picked Priority Target and Survivor as my Agendas, reasoning my force would be looking to destroy the heretical Ork vehicles and Thannek would need to survive to successfully complete the ritual.
Tony took his appropriately blue and looted Deathskulls Ork army, Zaggdreg's Iron Waaagh! Aside from Zaggdreg Ironhide himself (a Mega armoured Big Mek with the warlord trait Follow Me Ladz! and upgraded to be Da Kleverest Boss), he had a Big Mek with Kustom Force Field, 3 Meganobz, two units of 10 Boyz in Trukks, a unit of 17 Boyz, who along with the characters were piled into a Gunwagon (upgraded with the ZagZap kustom job) and a Megatrakk Scrapjet. Zaggdreg's initial crusade goal was to destroy 10 vehicles with 11+ wounds and loot them by also winning the game. As such he also took the Agenda Priority Target, and added Breakthrough to that, since they were trying to stop the AdMech completing the ritual and running off with da loot! This was his first Crusade game (and first game of 9th edition!) so no extra Battle Honours or anything in the list. Tony also took a load of photos of the game and I looted some of them off him.
Deployment, I put the Sterylizors flying through the sky above, and the Orks decided to deploy the Meganobz in the Tellyporta, as well as putting the Scrapjet into strategic reserves. With the Laurels of Command this gave me a pretty big headstart on CP. The rest of the Orks all deployed in their wagons, while the AdMech forces spread along the lines taking up firing positions, Thannek positioned on the objective ready to perform the ritual. The Orks won the first turn, so the Raiders used their pre-game move to run back from the front! Also, we decided that the large forest terrain would be obscuring for this game as well as dense, and the thorny spine things would could as barricades. Combined with the Theatre of War rules, this meant the table was actually not nearly as open as it might look.
First turn and not a lot of activity from the Orks, mostly advancing up into positions behind the trees or in the dense cover. Token shooting phase was ineffective. No points scored, onto turn one for the AdMech.
Mechanicus turn one, the close ranged units move up to engage on the Ork strong flank with the Trukk and Gunwagon full of boyz, while the Destroyers line up their shots on the lone Trukk on the left. I score points for holding 2+ objectives, more than the Orks, and at the end of the turn for completing the ritual action with Thannek, putting me into a solid 30-0 lead at the start.
Both Deathskull Trukks prove surprisingly resilient to my shooting, the left one surviving the Plasma Specialist (but not super charged) Destroyers - even with the assistance of a falling tree. The one on the right soaked up the Neutron laser and the Heavy Arc rifles, and eventually fell to the Vanguard, who I had planned on not shooting to keep them hidden in the forests.
Emergency Disembarking onto the far side of the forest, the Orks were safe from the Robots and Breachers, but the Ruststalkers were able to get in. To my complete surprise, they butchered the whole mob! Their transonic weapons apparently were well tuned in to Ork flesh.
Ork turn two, and it was krumpin' time! Zaggdreg and his boyz got out of the Gunwagon and lined up multiple charges. On the left of the battlefield the Boyz got out of the Trukk and looked menacingly at the Serberys Raiders in the woods. The Meganobz also materialised in my backfield, putting more pressure on the right flank. The green and blue wave was about to crash onto the AdMech lines.
Shooting was mostly irrelevant, apart from the ZagZap on the Gunwagon, which fired twice, failing to wound once, and dealing 3 mortal wounds on the Kastelans at the second attempt. (It automatically hits at strength 2D6, it a 9+ is rolled it's 3 mortal wounds instead.) Then the charges...
The Boyz surrounded the Raiders, piled in to the Breachers and the Robots, with the Datasmith heroically intervening. The Gunwagon and the boss himself rammed into the Robots as well. Sadly for the Deathskulls, the Meganobz failed to reach the Breachers. Attacking first, Zaggdreg smashed his powerklaw into the Kastelan Robots (who had switched to Conqueror Protocols) and did a total of one wound. Very unfortunate. The Boyz didn't fare much better, failing to do much to the Breachers or across the board, kill the Raiders. In retaliation the Fists of Reverence smashed the Big Mek to the ground. In his last act of the battle, Zaggdreg yelled "Orkz is never beaten!" and attacked once more, this time doing even worse and failing to wound at all. It was a very disappointing turn for the Orks, a sea of ones and twos putting them in a very bad position.
AdMech turn two, more points were scored, the Magos continued his ritual, and guns were brought to bare on the unengaged Orks. The Serberys unit performed a Desperate Breakout manoeuvre to escape the Boyz, allowing the Vanguard to light them up, reducing them to a single model after their morale. The Onager and the Destroyers targeted the Meganobz, surprisingly leaving one still standing.
One of the Destroyers wasn't in range though, so instead finished off the Trukk that the Pteraxii Sterylizors had dropped in to deal with, making them feel a bit foolish. In melee the robots continued to strip wounds off the Gunwagon, while the Ruststalkers charged into the big mob of Boyz on the right and made it a much smaller mob.
Turn three and it was looking a bit desperate for the Orks, but they continued pushing toward the enemy Warlord. The Scrapjet came in this turn and took a big chunk out of the Pteraxii in shooting and melee, marking another forgettable appearance for them. The remaining Big Mek fixed up the Gunwagon a bit, while it fired the ZagZap into combat, reducing one of the robots to one wound (it had also been repaired in my previous turn). The remaining Meganob managed to make it into melee with the Onager, but the bad luck continued as he only managed to strip a single wound off it. Elsewhere the boyz on the right flank were finally killed off by the Breachers/Ruststalkers. Hilariously the Onager also managed to deal a wound back on the Meganob, thanks to the Ryza specific Canticle in effect - improving the AP of all melee weapons by 1. The Robots also finished off the Gunwagon, piled into the Big Mek to attack again, and somehow failed to kill him.
Again getting points for holding objectives and completing the ritual putting me waaaay in the lead, it looked like mopping up time. The Raiders finished the last Ork on the left jungle objective with an Archeo-revolver shot to the head, while the Vanguard moved up and blasted the Meganob, then charging in to finish him off with the help of their rad-saturation and the Canticle in effect. The Big Mek fell in combat to the last Ruststalker, leaving onto the Scrapjet facing down the entire AdMech force.
The Scrapjet pilot however, Flyboy Tanksplitta, was going to have his moment of glory, regardless if any of his allies were conscious enough to see it. He moved into position, shot up the Onager with his rokkits...
Charged the robots, staying more than an inch away from the uninjured one, then caused mortal wounds with Spiked Ram. No longer within one inch of an enemy, the Unstoppable Momentum stratagem was played, allowing him to charge again...
Skidding all over the jungle, the Scrapjet ended up in melee with the Onager, and between dealing mortal wounds again and a strong roll for the Nose Drill...
The Onager was destroyed, earning Flyboy Tanksplitta some valuable experience points for Priority Target, and putting him in melee of my warlord!
Of course that also put him in the middle of all my guns, and the Scrapjet was blown to pieces, leaving no Ork units on the board and a resounding victory for the Helios Crusade.
Magos Vettius Thannek gazed upon the smouldering wreck of the xenos vehicle with what might pass as disgust. It had been an affront to the Omnissiah, and it's tortured machine spirit needed to be freed. Sadly he was well aware that the Orks would undoubtedly build it back, though he would like to think he at least gave them a challenge. Still, they had got what they had come here for, the ancient knowledge contained within the satellite, a fragment of sacred STC code, a find of immense value. They would leave this world knowing the lives lost and the damage sustained was not in vain.
Thannek transmitted these thoughts to his cohort through the noosphere, and in return, received congratulatory binharic chatter from his Skitarii, confirmation chimes from his servitors, and a litany of praise for the Omnissiah from the fleet in high orbit. Though indecipherable to biological ears, it represented a raucous round of applause for their leader.
That was another fun Crusade game, though a bit one sided thanks to some poor luck from the Ork side early on. We rolled up the various results of the game, thanks to being the winning leader Thannek got a free Battle Trait - becoming an Inspiring Hero - giving him a 6 inch bubble of +1 leadership to allies, and a 6 inch Heroic Intervention range. He also levelled up to Blooded, thanks to completing the Survivor Agenda, so I gave him my second Crusade Relic - the Conversion Field - a 4+ invulnerable save that can bounce back damage as mortal wounds in melee on 6s. I chose to put the Marked for Greatness XP on the Ruststalkers since they surprised me with their competency, though it wasn't enough for them to upgrade. For the Orks, unsurprisingly the Scrapjet was Marked for Greatness, and having got a Priority Target, it was upgraded with a Fleshbane Nose Drill for +1 damage. It also was so badly wrecked that it gained a Battle Scar - Weakened Armour, meaning it would take a mortal wound every time it's hit by a strength 8+ weapon!
I really enjoyed this mission and the little tweak with the Forest World rules, it felt a lot like some of the older one-off or campaign narrative games I've played, with asymmetric objectives, fun special rules and a pretty clearly defined narrative to the scenario. I think even without the Crusade admin, this mission would be a good one for someone looking for a bit of a break from the somewhat samey matched play missions, and I suspect the same could be said for many of the other Crusade missions. I do not like to disparage how others play the game, but I think if you are only playing the standard 2000 point matched play scenarios, you are missing out a bit on some of the cool stuff 9th edition has to offer. Hope you enjoyed this one, and stay safe out there.