However, not all the battles fought had been resolved in favour of the Imperium. Members of the 11th legion under Malibron had failed to capture the communications centres of Gedren V, and the Primarch now resolved to regain the honour by directing his forces towards Gedren Prime from his capital ship.
Now the Imperium's invasion entered its final and most vital phase; The compliance of the capital, Gedren Prime. Although the defenders had been subjected to massive assault over the previous weeks, the stronghold there remained heavily defended. Corax, with advice from his Brother Primarchs, ordered the assault to begin. A spearhead of veterans from each legion would launch from orbit and attempt to hold key points of the Gedren defense line in the capital. Once that was achieved, it would allow the massed units of Imperial Army and other Legion reserves to deploy on the planet. If they could succeed, victory would be assured.
This was a massive, apocalypse, planetstike game! The forces of the defenders, controlled by Laurie, Steve and Will (Shroudfilm, H-Gate and Titus Pullo of TGC forum) would face a multitude of Imperial invaders, who each had a 500pt force. This included the War Hounds, White Scars, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Ultramarines and of course the 11th Legion! All in all there was something around 4000pts of Gedrenite units on the board, with more coming in as reserve.
The results of the previous games would have an impact on this one: We would have increased artillery support from my own previous game, The Gedrenites would not have clone reinforcement thanks to Lucius's Blood Angels, and a Shadowsword would not be present on the table thank to WL Mjolnir's Space Wolves. However, the defenders still had their communications node intact, allowing orders to be directed to any unit on the board, and outside of their usual range.
Before any of the attacking units and planetstrike began, the tabletop looked something like this - Please click for a larger picture (but ignore the White Scars!)
Victory in the game would be decided by the capture of four key points, denoted by the Bastions on each end of the board, and two parts of the fortress wall which had quad cannon fixtures on them.
Before the game began, there was a firestorm although this was largely ineffectual, destroying a couple of basilisks and no doubt making the defenders pull their helmets down over their heads! The basilisks had been identified as a key target in the initial assault, as their massive 240" range and indirect fire could prove troublesome!
As the game began, a set of extremely poor reserve rolls by all commanders present meant that the Imperial units landed piecemeal. This was down in part to the presence of a commander of the fleet on the table and the continued action of the Gedrenite fleet against the Imperial invaders.
On the Eastern flank the Wolf Guard landed enitrely unsupported, and the entirety of the Gedrenite force there under the command of Steve turned their guns on the attackers.....
White Scar jetbikes raced into the city, deftly avoiding anti-aircraft fire, although once again they were left rather exposed and in the sights of many of the defenders manning the ramparts..
The situation on the Western flank was looking far better for the Imperials - drop pods of both the White Scars and the Blood Angels arrived, the marines inside racing out of the pods firing while once again the defenders manning the fortress walls unleashed everything they had at them. One of the Fief Lords, Nils Macon, directed his forces from within his chimera (seen at the bottom of the photo)
The defenders turn saw an absolute torrent of firepower fall onto the smattering of Astartes scattering throughout the battlefield. The Wolf Guard on the Eastern flank were killed to a man, battlecannon shells, lascannon shots and finally ranked lasgun fire mowing them down. The White Scars and Blood Angels lead by Eli on the Western flank fared little better - barely a handful survived. Only a War Hound assault squad, which had landed off target and right in the corner of the board (seemingly forgotten about by the defenders!) survived and carefully scouted around a building, keen to keep themselves out of sight of the enemy.
The unit then jumped forward and landed behind a Gedrenite artillery piece, the Sergeant's power fist punching through the thin rear armour of the tank. Unfortunately they must have hit an ammo store, and the vehicle exploded taking several of the squad with it!
The second and third turns saw a lot more Imperial units arrive. The War Hound terminators and Blood Angel assault unit arrived on the left flank in support of the handful of Blood Angels and Captain Eli who somehow still survived, although he was grievously wounded. Many of the White Scar bike and attack bike units also arrived, their anti-tank weaponry and melta-bombs proving to be the bane of many of the Gedrenite reinforcements.
The attack on Gedren Prime was supported by none other than the Khan himself! Jag'hati was teleported down onto the field of battle, and set to destroying some of the defending armour.
The War Hound terminators were taking torrential fire from the defenders in the Western-most bastion, as well as several heavy weapons teams and a basilisk. Nevertheless they began the grim task of knocking down the fortification, although it took some time to get through its armour. The Blood Angel assault marines (who had lost several of their number to a basilisk shell) jumped in to assault the heavy weapons teams. They had killed around half of them when Captain Eli noticed Fief Lord Nils Macon had left his Chimera and was directing nearby troops. Despite being completely unsupported, and badly wounded, he charged into the commander and his unit! Managing to hack his way through the commanders bodyguard he reached Macon himself, but it was all in vain and the scheming tyrant killed him, skewering him through both his hearts! (Somewhat amusingly Titus Pollo wrote this in the battle report, and power-emoted the captains death!)
In the photo below, eventually the Terminators would get to the infantry squad within, and supported by the remains of Blood Angel and War Hound units there would extol a bloody revenge on the infantry platoon within..
The battle hung on a knife edge, but up above in orbit an event occurred which would swing things in favour of the assault. The titanic ship battles which were taking place above the battle for Gedren Prime had resulted in the destruction of a Capital ship. A massive component of the ships hull landed miles away from the warzone, the megaton explosion which resulted knocking many of the battlefield combatants to their feet. Furthermore, bits of wreckage landed amongst the battlefield, destroying portions of the wall and entire units! The battlefield was beginning to look somewhat less pristine than it had done previously...
The Eastern flank was still looking very tenuous for the Imperials. Although further Imperial Fist and 11th Legions drop pods had arrived, Sevruk and his blood crazed assault unit jetted down from orbit to assist this flank. They charged straight into combat amongst the ogryns lead by a Psyker, and massacred them all, the Psyker's refractor field no defense against the frenzied swinging of chain axes (it was the case of a fistful of dice all needing to land 5+!) But as the blood-letting finished, the disciplined fire of the defenders ripped into the War Hounds, slaying all but one of them and Captain Sevruk (looking at the photo below, the one survivor obviously tripped over the remains of a Wofl Guard which saved him!) You can also see members of the 11th Legion who have successfully destroyed a Leman Russ.
Realising that their deaths would be certain amongst the large number of defenders on that flank, the surviving assault trooper and Sevruk gunned their jetpacks and leapt up onto the barricades. There they made short work of the lascannon teams who had killed several of their number last turn.
By this point in the battle, the number of troops on the table had been drastically reduced. Here, the remaining units of Gedrenites muster behind the walls in an attempt to push the War Hounds and lone Space Wolf from the objectives.
The two surviving War Hounds then jetted over to the quad cannon and used it to destroy the weapon of a nearby Chimera. This was one of the most cinematic moments in the game - you can imagine how the fight against the Ogryns must have looked, the survivers emerging dazed from the melee and then getting mown down by the defenders guns. Undaunted they rocketed off with their jetpacks (no doubt smashing through the walls!) and flung some defenders from the battlements, then sprinted onto the next tower and used the quad gun to blow the turret from a nearby Chimera! These marines definately deserved a commendation :)
Gradually the battlefield became silent.. on the Western flank, only a single terminator and assault trooper remained, although they had finally managed to take their objective.
There were still some defenders holding the fort in the centre, but all but one of the strongpoints was now in the hands of the invading Imperials..
So, the battle was over! I have to say this was the most fun (and longest) I have ever had with a game of planetstrike. Laurie and Will acted as great GMs, giving the Imperials a bit of extra support at the beginning when it looked like they would be thrashed, and the game was very close and hard fought! All in all it was a real battle of attrition, by the end of the game there were just a few isolated pockets of fighters still slugging it out, and the battlefield was a mess :)
Although Gedren Prime had fallen, the conflict was far from over and events would conspire which would ensure yet more blood would be spilt on these worlds...
Corax looked on in shocked disbelief as the Heart of Balethimor split in two. The titanic battle had raged in space above Gedren Prime even as the Imperial troops fought for control of the capital, blasted wreckage of ships on both sides left slowly tumbling as they vented their atmospheres to the void. But even as the Imperial Fleet had prevailed, the tactical prowess of Corax proving too much for the defending vessels, the last Gedrenite ship had used it last vestiges of power to ram the capital ship of the 11th Legion.
Now the bridge of the Raven Guard's battle barge looked on in stunned silence as the ship burnt up in the atmosphere, secondary explosions wripping it to pieces as gravity finished what the final suicidal act of the Gedrenites had begun. Several thousand Astartes of the 11th Legion had been stationed on that ship. Not only those marines, but the progenitor of that Legion - Malibron.
Even as Jag'hait Khan contacted his brother Primarch to let him know that the capital had been successfully captured, Corax was ordering rescue crews into position. But the inscrutable, raven-haired Primarch spoke in grim and measured tones as he gave this order, his stony visage revealing nothing of the storm which raged within. Surely, nothing, not even a Primarch, could have survived that scale of destruction?