Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fictional Histories: Stewart Boughtflower

Fictional Histories is a Fine Art project that seeks to analyze the world of tabletop gaming and looks to use the voice of the hobby to tell the stories of the men and women who engage in the hobby community. This work was among 4 others that were displayed at the Gatewood Gallery in May of 2017. 

This is the second post of those 4 pieces that features an interview with fellow blogger Stewart Boughtflower [aka. Zzzzzz] whose in-depth approach to storytelling and narrative expansion has been a key influence on the Jornath campaign. In this diorama, I attempted to capture the drama of the Battle of the Cudlip Line, a mighty apocalypse game featured on Mr. Boughtflower's blog Devos IV, in which Imperial troops sought to break through Traitor forces to gain control of the Colil Promethium Refinery. For the diorama, I thought to look at the mixture of traitor forces after their defeat in the engagement, part of what makes Devos IV particularly compelling is the immense history and character of the forces involved in the fighting. I thought to show a cross section of the rebels regrouping in scattered pockets at the edges of the refinery complex. 

Stewart Boughtflower.

“What tabletop games do you play and how often?”

40K, used to be max 3 times a year, now haven't played for over two years. I've been playing the same MERP/RM campaign since 1986; this went through a renaissance in the Mid noughties where we were playing once a month for a couple of years. Again, due to the same reason (children) this hasn't happened for a few years either.

“What is the most memorable thing to happen to you during a tabletop game?”

In living memory, there was a game with Col Corbane and Admiral Drax which involved most of my collection.  I got four consecutive blog posts out of that one.  But just seeing over forty Leman Russ and two Warhounds on the table (along with the rest) was absolutely fabulous.

“Can you tell me more about the lore, setting and context of the game you were playing during that memorable event?”

There was an attack on the Cudlip Lines defence network, this was supposed to be a diversion by 17 Korps to divert attention from 18 Corps attack on the Colill Promethium refinery.  One of 17 Korps Divisional Commanders, a Vostroyan General whose name began in with a P, identified the Schwerepunkt and committed the Corbainians to an assault.  The Neighbouring Division (my precious DKK) had to support them or they'd have been wiped out.   In the event, with the late arrival of the Warhounds, the attack succeeded and the Vostroyan General whose name began with P was promoted and sent to another warzone whilst the Corbainians had lost so much that they had to be withdrawn from the ORBAT.

“Can you tell me about the character/s you were playing or that participated in that event”

I had the thrusting knob end of 902 Division of 17 Korps of 72 Army Group on the table - DKK 19 Armd Regt, Armageddon 22nd Armd Regt, Saranian 5th Inf Regt - the armoured heart of 17 Korps.

“What does tabletop gaming mean to you?”

It's a social thing - I only play with people who bring their armies to Devos IV in order to be a part of it. The RPG group has remained largely unchanged since the 1990s.

“What do you think the upswing in the number of people playing tabletop games, both in person and online means, in social terms?”

There's been an upswing ?  Who knew ?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Jornath: The Decent of Corporis

The sleek black and gray armatures of the Sons of Medusa Strike Cruiser "Concise Absolution" slid by the decimated Suetonius Station. Its pulsing proximity lights, and the twinkling glow from the interior viewing portals matching the fires raging across the stations' breadth. The display of both placed into dramatic relief as the planet of Jornath slid once more into view. The fires and even large explosions ripping across the war zone could be seen now raging across the majority of the western hemispheres' largest continent.  There, their brother Astartes were earning glory, and favor in the service of the God-Emperor and of the Omnissiah.

Aboard this mighty vessel was a full company from the War Clan Mageara, now with many of its members enhanced with Belsarius Cawl's Primaris Gene Manipulations. The Sons of Medusa are known for their linkage with the Omnissiah's followers, and indeed it is this pact which has drawn the emerald-clad marines to the planet. With Chaos threats highly active in the Eastern Fringe, and amongst the southern sectors in the Segmentum Tempestus it has become vital that those worlds capable of being secured and used as bases for resupplying the defense of the Emperor's domain are brought into favorable conditions to support industry.

The company was expected to join the vicious fighting around Fort Behras or perhaps reinforce Skitarii and militia units at Usamiljen Heights.  It surprised everyone within the Admiralty and Tactica Command Jornath, when Brother-Captain Calces Corporis announced a deployment of his Marines into the Rok landing sites outside of Kula Hive. These sites had seen diminished xenos activity since the launching of the Ork's summer offensive last year.  Captain Corporis' reasoning was carefully calculated as is typical for a son of Ferrus Manus, the Orks had largely been concentrated into a handful of major conflict zones, but were still being supplied in their efforts from Mek factories in the captured city of Bolasku, and from inside the Rok landing area. The Mek's were a particularly favored target for the Sons of Medusa, any alien that pollutes the Imperium with blasphemous technologies should be purged first, thereby denying its ilk use of the equipment and sparing the spirits of untold thousands of machines from torment at the hands of the Ork techno-torturers.

So it was that battle was joined with the Ork warleader known as Kill-Mek Oilymaw and his Kult of Speed, several kilometers behind the xenos' frontlines. The mission was simple...

"Purge the Weak!" snarled Captain Corporis, as he leaped from the low flying Thunderhawk. The sound of xenos heavy weapons fire shrieking through the air. 

The thunder of roaring engines and stomping walkers echoed around the slum city.  "Squad Pugno, regroup with the strike force after you've finished preparing the containers for demolition, Squad Rubro and Aerea prepare for motorized contacts from six-zero." A chime of silent affirmations quickly came from the Strike Force Vox-Net

"Charges Set Brother Sergeant" spoke Auternus. "Good, prepare to detonate the charges on my signal! Squad bounding cover back to the main landing zone. Move!" shouted Sergeant Pugno, as the hydraulic hiss-slap of a Killa-Kan's legs grew louder. 

"Brothers, adjust ranging to within 75 meters, remember to aim for the axle and engine block." said Sergeant Aerea calmly to his squad. A gretchin wearing a plastic bag and wielding some type of slug throwing rifle appeared from behind the Mek Workshops' perimeter wall. A stalker bolter round from his squad turned the runt into a cloud of black mist. "Round telemetry reports exact distance at 68 meters brother Sergeant" spoke Brother Neglev.  "Adjust" stated Aerea

Pugno sprinted across the marshy ground to the hilltop where the strike force, stood awaiting the arrival of his Marines. Heavy slugs from an Ork Buggy further in the compound chewed up the ground around them as they ran. Just as he was about to order the squad to return fire, a bulky ramshackle Ork Trukk smashed through the scrap metal perimeter walls blocking the vehicles' fire. 

"Engage!" Yelled Captain Corporis, as the Trukk barrelled straight at their lines. The hail of Hellblaster plasma and bolter fire sending all manner of metal shards flying off the machine in an incandescent flare of white-hot explosions. The resultant husk grinding into the soft ground, a steaming pile of liquidated scrap, the occupants still attempting to disentangle themselves from the wreckage, as the rest of the greenskin force reached the wall. 

"Squad, turn and engage the enemy!" Pugno screamed into his vox-link, as the trukk was torn asunder by the rest of the strike force. Heavy weapons fire from the main ork body answered the Astartes, and the battle was joined in earnest.  Turning back to inspect the container storage and main gate, he saw the shape of the killa kan already firing away with a hull mounted stubber.

Looking past the haze of smoke from the wreckage through the optic on his Bolt Rifle, Sergeant Aerea eyed a massive shape amidst the throng of other Orks. "Priority Target located Brother-Captain".     "Affirmative neutralize the Warriors first and then we shall slay the warboss"

"The weak approach! Prepare for close contact" snarled Sergeant Rubro, venting heat build up in his hellblaster, as the Orks pulled themselves from the wrecked vehicle and began charging their position.

"Task force! Prepare to receive a charge. DENY THE ALIEN" said Captain Corporis, striding forward and thumbing the activation rune on his power sword. The bulk of the greenskin infantry had arrived now dozens of alien warriors scurried around the wall and began their advance at the Astartes lines. 

"Fire at the Kan!" ordered Pugno, triggering the detonation charges. The massive explosion stumbling the walker, shrapnel sheering off the massive hydraulic claw from the machine. Bolter fire laced across the gap, blowing great steaming holes into the body. Fire quickly licked up out of the crew cab, a handful of snotlings scrambling out from a side hatch. Such diminutive creatures were hardly worth the ammo spent, but Pugno was in no mood and the greenskin runts were soon turned to a pile of black gore from the squads bolter fire. 

Aerea parried the thick cleaver with a flick of his wrist, sending the Ork wide to his left. The impulsivity of the greenskins made their attacks predictable and easy to counter but their weight of numbers and the raw power of the beasts made them deadly. Aerea knew to respect the foe, to understand its capabilites, and then to kill it. He smiled as the hilt of his blade slammed into the ribcage of the now exposed Ork boy, a fountain of black ichor spraying out. 

The majority of the lesser aliens dead or dying on the field Captain Corporis leveled his sword at the Ork Warboss, and turned on his external vox hailer "Time to die beast!".    Big Mek Oilymaw, only bellowed a thunderous warcry and ran headlong at the Captain.  The mighty axe of the alien, smashing against the broad edge of Corporis' blade with such force that a shower of blazing sparks rained down. "Youz gunna pay fer what u done to me Boyz!" screamed Oilymaw, pushing back and preparing for another blow. Corporis charged forward, hoping to get inside the Ork's guard and was met with a heavy green fist to the breastplate for his troubles. 

"Die you filth!" shouted Rubro, stamping onto the Nob's broken face, until the skull finally gave way. Barely taking a moment to breathe, he looked up at the encroaching Ork machinery.  "Keep those abominations away from the Captain at any cost!"  flipping the venting valve closed on his Hellblaster, he fired a superheated charge of plasma towards the perimeter wall.

Pugno looked to the location of the Ork buggy that had engaged them earlier, as he and his squad moved forward to survey the damage to the Kan and shipping containers. Squad Aes was already ontop of the warmachine, the greenskin on the mounted gun frantically firing at the Interceptors as their used their jump packs to find an advantage on the foe.  

leaping to his feet Captain Corporis barely parried Oilymaw's axe blow. The impact sending him scrabbling to the side. As he caught himself he dove forward, his blade just missing the ork's gut, and leaving a fuming cut on the Mek's left flank. It screamed in pain but did not recoil, instead throwing his axe the side and using both hands to lift Corporis into the air. Oilymaw slammed his head into the Captains face visor and threw him to the ground.  Corporis' vision swam, he could barely see through the broken vision lenses.  The hulking shape of the warboss approaching him, having just recovered its axe was broken and distorted.  Hatred filled Corporis, he gripped a frag grenade and rolled it at the space between them.  

"Recover the Captain!" shouted Aerea over the strike force vox frequency.  As a frag grenade detonated in front of the warboss.  It let out a furious bellow of anger and pain, just as Aerea and Rubro moved to block its path from the wounded Corporis.   

"Dat was a propah good fight dat wuz" breathed Oilymaw heavily. 
"Next time iz gunna ave loadz more gubbinz and boyz fer you lot tah tangle wiv"

"There won't be a next time alien" spoke Aerea, leveling his bolt pistol at the beast.

"Dats where yah wrong youz beakie git. Iz an ork. an Orksies can always come back fer annuver go!!"

A cataclysmic explosion ripped through the Mek workshop behind them. The concussive shockwave was almost enough to knock the Astartes to the ground with its raw power. Aerea shielded his visor on instinct from the furious onslaught of grit, razor sharp bits of metal and falling debris. He lowered his hand, and Oilmaw had gone, disappeared into the fog of smoke and ash...

Imperial Victory.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Jornath : The Battle of Saine Yeltsville.

“Where iz Badbrag? i kalled 'em hours ago!” Warboss Domechoppa screams, slamming the head of his grot attendant into the wall. “Dis noise ‘as ta stop! I've not slept ‘n days.” As the looped music the Jornath Guard has been bombarding the Ork encampment with starts again.
The door slams open as large grease covered Ork steps forward, “Wot's up boss?”
Domechoppa’s eyes glow red as he turns towards the mek, “If ya were not so smart. I would bash ya into pieces. But for now, I need yer ta give me someth'n ta stop dis noise.”
The mek gives a toothy smile as he turns back to the door, “Don't worry boss i've got jus da fing for dis. Tomorrow we WAAAGH!”
Krspang. Krspang. Krspang. Krspang. went Tallin's helmet as he drove his head into the wall again and again, to relieve the mind-numbing boredom and the headache the loud hailers had given him.
"I thought they said the Orks would come at us within a few hours of this garbage.." complained Mustermann Eckhard to him. He didn't justify it with a response, it didn't matter anyway it was mostly rhetorical, and besides the most he could do is file a complaint with the company commander, which would result in a lengthy even more dull lecture about duty, moral and patriotism. Thus, when the crackling pops heralding the restarting of the single bombastic marching song, Tallin merely gave the soldier a hateful sidelong glance and returned to trying to relief his head pain through persistent frontal assault.
But then he heard it, just over the drone of the loud hailers, the sound of slapping footsteps outside the bolstered ruin. Suddenly forgetting his headache, Tallin rose from the ground and moved to the far side of the abandoned dental office his platoon command team had positioned itself in.
"Who is running?" he said to Mustermann Riccar, moving quickly to the sandbagged windows. Riccar, groggily shook himself awake from atop his slump on the team's heavy bolter, slurring a
"surrywhaddid ya say sah?" out of his mouth as he woke.

As Tallin made it to the window, he could see into the dugout below him just in time to watch the last man of Squad 2 impaled on the blade of a Blood Axe warrior.
"Oh throne..." he whispered, horrifyingly realizing the platoons' position was totally compromised.
"Whats the matter sir?" asked Eckard walking behind him. Tallin turned, and in his head knew to tell the man to warn the rest of the company, knew to barricade the doors and coordinate a defense. But the words caught in his throat, and instead he was overcome by fear, thoughts of his little girl, his sickly mother in St. Yeltsville. He was a Baker by Terra, not a real soldier!
Seeing the look on Tallin's face, Eckard peered around him into the forward defenses, seeing the bodies of their comrades he started at the sight and immediately ran to the vox. Eckard barely got the word out before a half dozen Ork warriors smashed the wooden door down and breached the "command center" of F Platoon, Riccar was actually able to kill one with his bolter before a Choppa bifurcated him.
At the last, it mattered not to Tactica Command Jornath that a conscript platoon had been obliterated, only that the Orks had finally reacted to the stratagem proposed by Captain Vorodivo of the Mortifactors. In fact many in regional command at the Indigo Sparrow FOB, were tense with excitement, after all, to lose so many men so quickly could only be an indication of Xenos specialist troops, and by transference, an alien warlord. Perhaps if enough men and guns could be brought to bear quickly, a harsh blow could be laden upon the foul greenskins.

Saine Yeltsville, is the name for the suburban areas that lie at the foot of the Keystone defensive position in the north known as both H-906 or Fort Behras. As the Ork Warboss Krump rallied his Blood Axes in the north and made speed towards the Fortress, other smaller greenskin warbands tested Imperial troops by hitting the less guarded eastern suburbs. In the early stages of this fighting, Imperial citizenry was very much in the midst of the combat, which limited the fighting capabilities of guard units who were simultaneously concerned with evacuating non-combatants and holding ground. It was after the formation of 1st Army Group (1AG) several weeks into the outbreak of the Summer Offensive that military coordination could be properly brought to bear to oust these smaller greenskin warbands out of Saine Yeltsville.  Loose defensive lines were set up a few kilometers outside of the suburban areas proper, the units comprising these lines where typically militia from the suburbs, bolstered by a few companies from the KCC in particularly vital strategic positions. 

The fighting along this eastern line was particularly static, with light skirmishing accompanying a daily artillery duel. For much of the time, the Ork warbosses and meks were quite happy to build up their warbands, with vehicles and strengthen their warriors with weekly firefights. While Imperial commanders were equally happy to allow the Eastern positions to rest in this static battle of attrition, as in the north Krump's forces smashed aside Astartes and armored formations alike on their warpath to the Fortress. 

When the Orks of Krump washed into the northern and western approaches to the Fortress, threatening to totally surround the vital position, Tactica Command's attentions were drawn back into the eastern lines. Eager to have a secure flank to work with, which would hopefully allow them to sweep up and back around from behind Krumps' Warband, High Command began to order the militia forward, into the teeth of the Ork defenses. Seeing disaster in the making Captain Vorodivo, the leader of the Mortifactor presence on the planet, suggested an alternative stratagem to sending thousands of militia headlong across no man's land. Playing on the Orks short temperedness, and the devout mentalities of the PDF, he suggested the deployment of hundreds of loud hailers, to blare out prayers. Instigating the alien to attack over open ground rather than the PDF.    

The 8-hour long engagement was hard fought, with thousands of casualties on both sides. Imperial force commanders looked to hold the greenskins at bay by organizing into ranks, platoons of lasgun armed troopers, and supporting them with massed artillery fire. As forward platoons were hacked to pieces by the Orks that survived the barrage, the alien would be slowed down and open to fire from the platoon directly behind. A costly, yet effective tactic. 

Imperial ground commanders looked to utilize large, more classical Jornathi formations. With a rigid organization of troops in blocks, firing in volleys at close range they were able to quickly adapt to pressures. The downside would come late in the day as Ork mekanized forces arrived.

The lines of Row houses and shops proved to be a vital high ground in many spots on the battlefield. These positions were often the objective of the more veteran soldiers from the KCC.  It was not uncommon for these buildings to change hands a half dozen times. 

Mining trolleys were retrofitted by tech-adepts from the Usamiljen Heights Mechanicus Outpost. The machines provided some much needed long range supporting fire to the defenders. The majority were overrun and destroyed before they could be brought to bear against the Ork armored reserves, however. 

Saine Yeltsville Cohort's armored vehicles, a mixture of Leman Russ and refitted refinery tractors. pushed forward into the midst of the alien's onslaught, their commanders annihilating the light armored transports and dreadnaughts of the Ork's early assault.  
Infantry accompanying these armored forces would dismount in the midst of the enemy, using flame and lasgun to cleanse the xenos filth from Jornath's surface.  

It was late in the day, when Ork specialist troops and additional formations of Ork dreadnaughts, slammed against the beleaguered guardsmen. Overwhelming the armored forces and KCC units holding many of the row houses. 

At the onset of dusk, the Ork Warlord presented himself, as the last of the blasphemous alien walkers stomped through the burning wreckages of Leman Russ and the misshapen hulks of broken greenskin vehicles. His surviving warriors wrestling control of the row housing for the final time that day, a great cry of vengeance was issued forth among the defenders, who surged forward and plunged their bayonets into the foul alien warboss laying him low.

While the Ork host had been largely obliterated, those that remained were specialist units or heavy combat walkers in decent positions on high ground. In comparison to the Imperial forces' mostly unsupported Infantry platoons. Ground force commanders, seeing the enemy on the high ground and the alien leader at the best severely wounded, opted to preserve their fighting forces and withdrew from the field into Saine Yeltsville proper.

The Strategic analysis was determined as largely inconclusive. Imperial troops had maintained decent fighting strength but had given up vital ground to the Orks, without being able to yield much more than heaps of expendable light infantry or scrap vehicles alongside an unconfirmed kill of a greenskin warboss. It was a devastating conclusion for Tactica Command, who now had to come face-to-face with a very real possibility of the total encirclement of Fort Behras, by multiple xenos formations