Relic: Ork vs Space Marines vs Astra Militarum

A quick write up for a 1K match up of Orks (Andy), Space Marines (Paul Smith) and Imperial Guard Astra Militarum (myself, Paul Joyce). The table was randomised, as were starting positions and the mission… relic! Never played it before, and having no fast units I realised I wouldn’t be the first one to the goal either.

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With the might of the Imperium shown in the Militarum armour, the Orks and Marines deployed cautiously in cover at the far edge of the table. A huge Gorkanaut lumbered towards them while across the board the Marines made a beeline for the objective. The relic was hidden amongst the debris pile in the centre of the table, shown in the photo above as the dark scenary piece in the middle.

After a short exchange of gun fire between the Space Marines and Militarum a large explosion from the Ork corner signified a catastrophic self inflicted failure of the shokk-attack gun wielder. Confusion fell upon us as we joked about who gets first blood in a suicide situation.

A Marine Land Speeder, with the help of the nearby Terminator squad made short work in turning the approaching Ork transporter into a rumbling ruin, whose occupants disembarked with haste and charged upon the relic.

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A Razorback and Rhino tank were incinerated in a shower of fragments and flames as the fire power of two Leman Russ’ battle tanks combined with a strategic orbital bombardment. Many Marines, advancing towards the objective in the cover of the vehicles, also experienced the brunt of the explosion.

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The Space Marines countered by sending a Land Speeder through the ruins on the right side of the table to engage a Leman Russ with its deadly melta weapon.

The Space Marine assassin, positioned with a perfect view of the battlefield, made short work in destroying the Militarum Chimera in a single shot. The resulting explosion slaying several of the occupants and a nearby platoon command squad.

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On the left hand flank, the pinned crew from the Chimera found themselves coming under the sights of a large mob of Orks raining down upon them. The dazed unit fired through the cover of the nearby forest, slaying a few, but not enough. The Militarum command squad repositioned and called in a Orbital bombardment directly into the Ork ranks, slaying a dozen in a heavenly flash of light.

At the top of the table, the disembarked Orks, combined with the charging unit and warboss behind them, seized the relic and started to extract it. They quickly found their exit route blocked by the flamer of the Land Speeder, losing many green skins in the process. A tactical squad of Marines reduced a squad of Militarum to bones, while the Terminators fired wildly into the Ork ranks.

The Ork and Marine warlords clashed in a chaotic whirl of power weapons and strength; many infantry joined the fight but the green skin commander took victory and claimed the first ‘Slay the Warlord’ points.

Short lived was the celebrations though, as the Terminators killed off the relic unit and took possession for themselves.

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The Leman Russ vehicles, plagued by the constant threat of the assassin, and realising their luck would run out eventually, turned their battle cannons upon his advantageous lookout spot and dispatched him into oblivion. With parts of the building raining down on them from the assassins position, a platoon command squad broke the battle lines and charged the Marines corner to seized line-breaker.

The Terminators, now in possession of the relic, pushed on behind a central building just as the Militarum command squad called in a perfect air strike nearby, slaying the Ork warboss with a direct and devastating blow.

Unable to stop the tide of approaching Orks, the squad of infantrymen from the Chimera were torn to pieces. The green skins were attempting to get line breaker and their second slay the warlord victory as they charged down the Militarum HQ.

The Gorkanaut, whose weapons had been largely out of range for most of the battle, now fought a bloody battle with the Terminators and the Land Speeder.

Cut off from retreating, the final Terminator was slain by a squad of Cadian Miliatrum; the relic falling to the ground beside the lifeless body of the Terminator.

Unable to retrieve the relic in the dying moments of the game, the Gorkanaut rotated slowly on its base and ripped the advancing Leman Russ to pieces – the crew within instantly slain.

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So the fight ended, with noone in control of the relic objective – points only being scored for traditional line breaker and slaying the warlords.

Space Marines 1VP (First blood)

Astra Militarum 2VP (Slaying the Ork Warlord, Line breaker against the Marines)

Orks 2VP (Slaying the Marines Warlord, Line breaker against the Astra Militarum)

All in all a very cinematic game – and great fun had by all.

Are Necron Nebuloscope’s worth upgrading Tomb Blades with?

Are Necron Nebuloscope’s worth upgrading Tomb Blades with?

A quick break from the recent Tau postings as we look at the Necron Tomb Blades with their twin-linked Tesla carbines. Reading through the Necron codex for the first time I was really interested to see that the Tesla weapons that many Necron’s have cause an additional 2 hits for every 6 they roll To Hit with. Sounds pretty wicked to me!

On reading the specific section on Tomb Blades I learnt you could also boost their BS from 4 to 5 by paying for a piece of wargear called a Nebuloscope; surely this is just military gold. Units that can hit often and reliably, combined with even extra hits. However this upgrade got me wondering…


Are Tomb Blades Nebuloscopes really worth paying for?

A Necron Tomb Blade armed with twin-linked Tesla Carbines
A Necron Tomb Blade armed with twin-linked Tesla Carbines

At first glimpse, a Nebuloscope wargear extra that boosts your ballistic skill from 4 to 5 sounds like an obvious thing to take, I mean who doesn’t want to hit on 2s rather than 3s (that’s an extra 16% of hits per attack).

On second glance though you’d ideally want to be rolling 6s To Hit, as they grant a further 2 hits. So surely being able to use their twin-link re-roll more would lead to more 6s being rolled?

Further to the mathematical and strategical problem Nebuloscopes cost 5 points, which is an additional 25% points on top of the model cost. So are 4 Tomb Blades with Nebuloscopes worth more than 5 Tomb Blades without them?

As I write this I realise it’s getting more and more complicated to answer the question – ‘are Tomb Blades Nebuloscopes worth paying for?’


Calculating Nebuloscopes usefulness

Firing 100 shots from normal Tomb Blades

Without the addition of the BS boosters, 100 shots with BS4 should produce on average of 67 hits on the first role. As they’re weilding twin-linked Tesla carbines, the 33 that missed get re-rolled and produce a further 21 hits. So out of 100 shots, you’d on average get a whopping 88 hits – pretty impressive already.

Now as those 88 hits are fired from Tesla weapons, any To Hit of a 6 produces an additional 2 hits! Awesomeness.

So from 88 hits hitting on a 3+ you’d expect 25% of them to be a 6, which equates to 22 of the dice. So 22 of the hits cause 2 additional hits, bringing our total hits from 100 dice to…

132 hits! Yikes.

Firing 100 shots with the Nebuloscope wargear

Now we’ve boosted our ballistic skill of our Tomb Blades from a 4 to a 5, we’re hitting on 2+. Who doesn’t like going into combat with that statistic behind their fast attack units.

So from 100 shots we’re now landing 83 initial hits onto our enemies. Using the twin-linked weapons we get to re-roll the 17 that missed, producing a further 14 hits. This brings out total initial hits to 97, unsurprisingly higher than our unmodified Tomb Blade units in the above example whom only scored 88 hits.

However from our 97 hits we’d expect only 20% of them to be 6s, lower than the 25% used in the previous example.

This means that from 97 hits we’d see approximately nineteen 6s rolled.

97 plus our additional 19 Tesla 6 rolls cause a total of 135 hits on our foes.


Nebuloscopes – the verdict so far

Without Nebuloscopes your fired to hit ratio is 1:1.32

With the Nebuloscope wargear upgrade your hit ratio improves to 1:1.35

A small, but none-the-less existing advantage. So yeah buy Nebuloscopes for all your Tomb Blades?

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Hold your metal horses commander!

Before you go wielding Tomb Blades with Nebuloscopes in every future confrontation, you have to remember the fact its costing you an additional 5points per model in their unit. So lets re-work those numbers, incorporating the fact that commanders must use their points limit wisely.

2000 points of unmodified Tomb Blades firing

If you took 2000 points of Tomb Blades into battle with you, that would be 100 Tomb Blades. So we know from the above calculations that that would produce 132 hits.

2000 points of Tomb Blades with Nebuloscopes

With the additional wargear purchased for each Blade, we can only afford to take 80 of them now. Boo. This means we can now only land approximately 106 hits on to our enemy!


The real verdict on Necron Nebuloscopes

Taking the cost of the units into account, which of course we must, the ratios are now:

Without Nebuloscopes 1:1.320

With Nebuloscopes 1:1325

Therefore the Nebuloscopes bring an even smaller mathematical improvement to our unit than we first calculated.

My verdict therefore would be to take 25% extra Tomb Blades by not having the wargear upgrade; that means the enemy needs to land an additional 25% of wounds onto your unit before they get wiped out. This reduces the chance of not getting to roll for reanimation protocol (which you don’t get if the squad is wiped out), or the odds of your opponent getting first blood from targeting your Tomb Blades.

Also in the course of a battle the dice averages won’t be statistically close enough to the ‘perfect’ ratios calculated above, further nullifying the benefit of wielding Nebuloscopes.

So ignore the seemingly obvious advantage of the Nebuloscope when kitting out your Tomb Blades, stick with numbers of units over the alluring better ballistic skill. I hope the above article has pointed out their true value.

Let me know if you find this article interesting or helpful

Fields of Failure for Tau Once Again

Concluding from my previous article regarding my experimental 1500 point Tau army, the odds were stacked against me as I faced an experienced player using a deadly Eldar force.

Or so I thought.

When I had played him before he had used a few large squads of infantry, who seemed very tooled up for your standard infantry. Beside these he also brought some smaller squads of equally devastating power. So my plan, which hopefully should be somewhat reflected in my 1500pt Tau army list, was to bring as many multi-shot, anti-infantry weapons that my suited heros could handle.

Unfortunately due to a rather embarrassing communication mishap, which occurred off the table, I wasn’t facing Eldar at all.

In fact, it turned out that instead of facing a 1500 point, infantry heavy, Eldar army I was in fact facing a rather armour-filled Space Marine force.

The game was going to be my first game in excess of a thousand points, it would also be the first time I had faced up against the rock-sturdy Land Raider, a squadron of Space Marine bikers, Whirlwinds or even a Razorback tank.

So how did Tau do?

Well even though I finished 12-4VP down, the game was a lot closer than the score reflects. Out of 4 objectives, my opponent had 1 bike and 1 lonely marine on 2 of the objectives. On the 3rd he had two squads, dancing merely in front of my Riptide who was rather torn when it came to target acquisition.

The Space Marines also, against the odds, won a challenged fight against my Commander (stupid insta-death!) to take ‘Slay the Warlord’.

He claimed first blood in his second turn when I forgot to move my Hammerhead skimmer, robbing it of its jink save.

We both had line-breakers by the end, even if his was acquired in the final turn.

Given an extra turn…

As I said above, Tau actually performed a lot better than the score suggests.

Given another turn, the 7th, my commander squad and surrounding Fire Warriors would have been able to snatch the Space Marine biker leaders final wound. From directly above that combat, my sniper squad would have easily overcome the final Marine standing all alone on their second objective. After that and across the other side of the battlefield, it would have been likely, although not a given, that my Riptide could have stopped the Marines from holding onto their 3rd objective.

Given that scenario, the game would have ended 6 all.

Pathfinders – didn’t work (again!)

I posted the precursor to this article because even though I’m inexperienced with Tau, it seems that there is a flaw in some of their units, or at least in a strategy I’m employing without knowing it.

The Pathfinders, which I hid back in the corner of my deployment as they clutched to the sparse cover, again didn’t seem worth the ~90pts I spent on them. They had 2 turns at full strength. Their first turn was spent running for cover as my opponent had deployed a Whirlwind, scouts and the dreaded Land Raider nearby. They snapped some markerlights but only managed 1 onto the scouts. On their second turn they managed to get 5 out of 8 markerlights on the only target they could spot, the Land Raider. I hoped this would help the nearby Riptide lay down some devastating fire power. Unfortunately before the Riptide could benefit from a BS of 8, it failed to Nova-charge its power-plant and therefore drew his weapons against the easier Whirlwind, whom had started pounding the precious infantry squads with barrages from turn 1.

Sadly in Space Marine turn 2, a perfectly placed Whirlwind strike reduced the Pathfinder squad to little more than a pile of smouldering Tau shoulder pads. From that point on, even though one survived to round 6, they played no beneficial part in the Tau battle strategy.

Maybe my opponent was wise in targeting them early or I badly deployed them. Either way, they brought no noticeable benefit to them team. Not even being a scoring unit, they couldn’t hold onto the nearby objective when the Fire Warriors were blown to pieces.

Deep Striking Stealths and XV8 Crisis Units

I planned to be facing Eldar and lots of infantry, so when Space Marine armour turned up I knew I’d be struggling with the weapons I had brought to the party.

On turn 2, slightly earlier than I had hoped, both my deep striking reserves came down in one hit. Before the game I decided I would deep strike my Stealth Suits and then guide my 2 XV8 Crisis units to the ground with a homing beacon. This would enable me to safely bring them down and avoid the dangerous terrain that littered the battlefield.

Unfortunately between those two units, whom both dropped without any mishap, they had about 26x strength 5 AP5 shots. Great for anti-infantry I’m sure. Not so great for what they faced.

The problem came from the fact that the only useful place for them to deploy near the enemy, was behind the 1 remaining biker, the Marine Warlord. Next to him was a Dreadnaught and the Land Raider. A 4th target, the one remaining Terminator, managed to hide behind a bulk head when I was looking around, saving him from certain death I’m sure. Sadly though, even with all that focused fire-power, the biker Warlord refused to die and was left with his final wound keeping him going.

Rolling two rather abysmal jet pack thrusting moves, both squads were left dangerously close to their opponents. I tried to place the Stealths in cover, while pushing the XV8 (shielded by their drones) up against the board edge. This placement would at least cause the Land Raider to have to turn significantly to bring its weapons to bear down on them.

With bikes, an infantry squad and 2 land speeders coming on as Marine reserves, the deepstriking units didn’t survive to have another go.

Did they make a difference? Yes and no. They nearly wiped out the Warlord, although with him seriously injured my opponent kept him well guarded and hidden from sight until the last turn.

Were they worth it? All together those two deep strike units cost me about 350pts, so for 3 wounds against the Warlord that then forced him underground for the rest of the match, the answer is no. However this was mainly due to my load-out of anti-infantry blast cannons and deep strike strategy. Perhaps I should have acknowledged there were no suitable deep striking locations they would survive in and drop them closer to home.

Would I use them again – yes – but with different armaments.

Sniper Drones – bargain of the year!

One of the new units I was fielding for this game was a squad of 4 sniper drones and 1 marksman controller. Due to their rather high cost on eBay, I customised 4 of my normal drones to be hovering with 4 longer than usual pulse rifles. Even with the super glue accidents that are bound to happen when you glue several miniature gun components together, the sniper drones turned out to by my unit of the match.

Their ability to move, shoot and jet pack away was perfect. I had them split over two levels of a building, with the marksman downstairs and not budging all game. The drones moved from behind cover, fired their weapons and then retreated to the safety of the shadows. Brilliant!

I wish I had remembered to take note of what units killed what, like I had planned to, but I’m fairly sure that these 4 sniper drones (which survived to the end) racked up 5 Terminator kills, 5 biker kills and possibly 10 Marine infantry kills. They probably would have had another few kills if I didn’t misunderstand the rules and brought their rapid firing sniper rifles to target the dreadnought. Strangely enough that round they spilt no Space Marine blood.

They were by far the most dangerous Tau unit on the day. The only thing that probably had more kills on the table by the end of the game was the Whirlwind tank, but that was laying in a crater slowly smoking away… so that doesn’t count.

On top of their performance, they only cost me 73 points! I would take a second squad of them over Pathfinders in a heartbeat.

First outing with the Tau Riptide

The second new unit I was wielding for the first time was the gigantic Riptide. I had it equipped with the ion accelerator, something that made relatively short work of the Whirlwind. However even with it managing nova-charging once, the powerful accelerator didn’t manage a single damaging hit against the 14 strength armour Land Raider.

Ironically the Riptide was better equipped to handle armour than anything else in my list, yet it was mainly facing infantry. I still brought its weapons to rain down on the armour when perhaps I should have equipped it and used the default heavy burst cannon to take on infantry.

I found the anti-armour ion accelerator combined with the smart missile system was a poor combination. Firing on armour meant that the strength 5 missiles were wasted, while firing on mass-infantry meant the ion accelerator wasn’t used to its maximum strength 9 (although the large blast did help at strength 8).

Even after being the target of a few lascannon shots, the only wound the Riptide received was self-inflicted from its nova power-plant. Something that re-assured me when considering it for future games.

Would I take it again? Most probably. Its a fair amount of points, and using the nova-charge is an interesting option to beef up its weapon – however I think next time I’ll be using it with the heavy burst cannons and accompanying twin-linked missile systems to reduce squads to ashes.

Tau Hammerhead Death

So…. it turns out you don’t get jink if you don’t move your skimmers. I knew this before the game. In the midst of battle however I completely forgot to employ this simple tactic. With disruption pods and jink, even in the open the Hammerhead should have been getting a 4+ save, however what I stupidly did dropped that to only a 6+. The gunship failed his first role, immediately and catastrophically causing him to explode in one well placed hit from the Space Marines.

Before destruction the Tau Hammerhead managed to squeeze off a few hits, although I forget who on. Probably infantry as that was all the opponent deployed in front of him. Sadly by the time the Land Raider had moved across the battlefield and into view, (perfect prey for the heavy 3, strength 10, AP1 railgun), all that remained of the Hammerhead was a slain Longstrike commander inside its burning shell.

In hindsight the Hammerhead was probably the only thing that could have defeated the Land Raider, which it would have done with relative ease thanks to Longstrikes tank-hunter ability.

Did I deploy it incorrectly? Yes definitely. I forgot it moves over terrain without any hindrance, so why I deployed it with nothing but open space in front of it was an obvious mistake. It could have easily gained ground on the Land Raider and caused serious issues for it.

Improvements to the 1.5k Tau List

The Commander

After the game I found a great online article reviewing the Tau Commander unit, some advise I wish I had read before this latest match. One point the author makes is to equip the Commander with both the Iridium suit and Vectored Retro-Thrusters. After reading, the Iridium suit seems a must have. If I switched the role of the Commander to one of a more deep-striking anti-armour, the VRF seems a good fit too.

So a Commander with these two systems, combined with stimulants and dual fusion blasters gives the following set-up:

  • 2x Fusion Blasters – meltas with strength 8 AP1 shots,
  • XV8-02 Iridium Battlesuit – boosting the Commanders toughness to 5 (preventing the insta-death I suffered) and a 2+ armour save,
  • Stimulants – granting a 5+ secondary save after armour/cover/invuns,
  • VRF – Gives the Commander Fleet and his whole unit Hit & Run (the ability to leave combat in the Assault phase with 92% reliability)

I definitely think this would have helped, especially if dropping him in as a anti-tank Commander. This combo in fact grants the Commander a 89% save against every unmodified wound. Not bad!

His bodyguards, of which I’d try taking 2, would be equipped with both a blast cannon (or plasma rifle) and a fusion blaster (maybe twin-linked). Hopefully a few shield drones or gun drones would boost the squad as well as taking the first few hits.

Sniper Drones

More of these! Now! These guys were pure gold. They stopped both bikes and Terminators coming close to my HQ, 50% of my infantry and an objective. Perhaps next time I’d take two squads of these, offering overlapping firing arcs.

Riptide

As mentioned above I’d probably leave this big guy with his default heavy blast cannon. I’d probably nova-charge it a few times too, depending on how anti-armour the other guy is looking. Heavy-12 with rending does seem ridiculously good.

The Hammerhead

I wouldn’t deploy and use him so pathetically. You live and learn I suppose. With Longstrike in he would have been golden I’m sure, as long as he didn’t die on turn 1 or 2.

Pathfinders

Hmmm, my current bug-bear with Tau. I think I’ll be dropping these squishy units unless someone can convince me otherwise. The points could be so used much better elsewhere I’m sure.

Fire Warriors

These guys did okay, taking out a terminator and a few scouts, but generally just sat on the objectives and went to ground a few times. Maybe next time I’ll take more squads, or deploy them in a transporter coming on as a reserve.

1.5k Tau Army Round-Up

So there we have it, the big 1.5k under my belt. It was a close game and hopefully some of the above reflects some of the things I’ve learnt. There’s definitely a lot more complexity to 40k since I first played it years ago, so still picking up many of the rules, but I think I’m getting there.

For the Greater Good – long live Tau

 

 

1500 point Tau army – Any good?

So after recently becoming a Tau convert in the 40K Universe, I’m still struggling to get reliable results from this supposedly ‘weapon-savvy’ and ‘hard-hitting’ race. I’ve probably played 4 games with them now, so not many, but I have noticed the following things:

  1. Fire Warriors often get wiped out before they can do anything significant against infantry. Their weapons are great once they’re all raining dual shots down on the enemies, but just before this usually happen they get torn to pieces by 30″+ weapons.
  2. Markerlights don’t seem worth it. I’m usually deploying squads of 8, getting usually 2 or at a max 3 lights down on the enemy. This can obviously be used to improve BS by 3, or both bump BS and get some Ignore Cover weapons in play. Is the gamble of using a 100 points for just only ever helping other units out worth it? They are pretty squishy too, so my opponents quickly takes them out it seems. You could get 3x XV8 Crisis suits tooled up and Deep Striking behind the enemy defences for little over 100 points.
  3. Deep Striking Stealths’ seem to work brilliant, throwing down 12 twin-linked shots for only 4 suits (1 has a C&C Node so doesn’t fire but enables essentially twin-linking the others weapons). However after their initial strike they quickly get picked off. Perhaps I’m just making them too much of a target. Anywhere they jump to for safety they get gunned down or assaulted without fail.
  4. I’ve been using a Commander with a C&C Node as well as the Drone Controller, with 6 Missile Drones in his unit (4 from bodyguards), which works great. However I’ve just read that you can only take 1 C&C Node per army, and I’ve got another on the Stealths’, so that’ll sadly have to go from the Commanders arsenal.

I’m facing an experiences player tomorrow, wielding a new Eldar army for my largest ever game of 1500 points each side. With a few more points than normal I’ve decided to bring in some new toys; namely a Riptide and a Sniper Drone squad.

My Tau line up consists of:

  • HQ squad:
    • 1x Commander with T/L missile pods, cyclic ion blaster, drone controller and a repulsor impact field.
    • 1x XV8 Crisis Bodyguard, 1 missile pod and a T/L plasma rifle,
    • 4x missile drones,
  • 2x Fire Warrior squads, each with:
    • 8x Fire Warriors,
    • 1x Fire Warrior Shas’ui,
  • 1x Pathfinder Squad:
    • 8x Pathfinders,
  • 1x Stealth squad:
    • 4x Stealth Shas’ui with burst cannons. (1x Shas’ui has a C&C Node),
    • 1x Stealth Shas’vre with airbursting frag projector and a homing beacon,
  • 1x Gunship:
    • A Hammerhead gunship with a railgun (and submunition), T/L smart missile system, decoy launchers and a disruption pod.
    • Commander Longstrike,
  • 1x Riptide:
    • 1x Riptide armed with an ion accelerator and a T/L smart missile system,
  • 1x Sniper squad:
    • 4x Sniper Drones,
    • 1x Marksman,
  • 1x Broadside squad:
    • 2x Broadsides armed with T/L heavy rail rifles, T/L plasma rifles and stimulants,
    • 3x Gun Drones,
  • 1xXV8 Crisis squad:
    • 2x XV8 Crisis suits armed with T/L burst cannons and an additional burst cannon for luck!
    • 2x Gun Drones.

And if I’ve done my maths right, my Tau army comes in at 1498 points.

We shall see how this fares up against his seemingly bizarrely strong and hyper-mobile Eldar army. Hopefully I shall post a report tomorrow, although not probably a fan-fiction story like my first Tau game: Tau vs Space Marines vs Chaos match. Maybe Shas’va’el will have to make a return :)

I would be very grateful if other 40k players, not just Tau ones, could point out any obvious strengths of weaknesses I’ve got in my above mentioned army list.

Till tomorrow then…

(The conclusion of this article can be found here – 1500 point Tau game writeup)

Tau Victory on the Plateaus of Ketla’ 5

Tau Victory on the Plateaus of Ketla’ 5

Tau2With a chilling rush of frozen air, the transporter ship doors slid open to reveal a white-out of snow and ice. The Tau XV8 Battlesuits embarked outwards, their night vision sensors peering into the blizzard that engulfed them on all sides. Visual enhancements, laser scanners and thermal mapping arrays built up an overlaid image of their surroundings onto their suits HUD’s. Silently a XV8 signalled the two weary squads of Fire Warriors to disembark from the hovering vessel, they did so without hesitation. The whole cadre was diverted from their homeward bound trip after a month of training exercises in a nearby star system, they were all exhausted, but they never faulted upon their instructions.

A small squad of Pathfinders jumped down from the boarding ramp just as the transporter fired up its ion rockets and disappeared into the snowy wilderness above them.

The sun would be up in a few hours; and they still had to track the missing datacore. Little was known of Ketla Tr’n Five; although orbital sensors had picked up tiny scrambled signals coming from near the datacores position, so the Tau cadre knew they weren’t alone on this frozen rock.

Shortly before sun rise the Tau cadre assembled on the edge of a high windswept plateau, the beacon on the datacore was emanating from only a short distance away, but so was another signal. A spurious second signal was overlaid over the datacore’s beacon. What was that?! A homing beacon? A secondary distress call? In fact the magnetic reading for this entire plateau were significantly higher than they expected; something was not adding up.

With the wind slowly beginning to die down, Shas’va’el , the newly appointed commander of Fire cadre 62X, raised her motorised left arm and ordered her small Pathfinder squad to scale a tall disused thermal vent. From their, with the snow blindness and darkness soon to disappear, they would provide ample information and support to her troops.

That other signal though, it’s frequency was now increasing rapidly. She knew she should know what that could mean, but her mind was numb from the cold and weary from the training exercises.

She altered her internal suits environment settings and also gave herself a boost of stimulant. This mission was regarded as priority 2, so whatever was on that datacore was important.

The readings from her gravitational sensors were increasing now… not by much, but with the stimulants were now clearing her mind and answers would be coming quick enough.

She turned her head and saw the two 8 Tau strong Fire Warrior squads stood ready in the bleakness of the snow. They didn’t speak to each other, mission silence, the Tau way. The squads would stand their for hours in the freezing cold, scanning the horizon and always being ready to engage, awaiting further orders from Shas’va’el. Equally her bodyguard stood beside her, motionless but carefully covering the Pathfinders as they climbed the icy rungs of the ladder up to the roof of the thermal vent.

Shas’va’el’s attention was diverted to a status report coming in from her missile drone when the ground heaved hard…