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Between a Rok and an 'Ard Place

In the wake of the positive reactions to my first battle report, and as promised in my last post, I have here the tale of Nerd Thunder III. To the wild and reckless joy of my inner nerd,* photos of this game have already been featured on Games Workshop’s official blog, for which I must thank Mr Dan Harden, who dropped by our table armed only with a camera and an excellent sense of humour. 

[All due credit and respect for the original background stock in this
image goes to Humblebeez. Many thanks!]

A quick recap: our 8.5k-a-side game was set in the opening weeks of the Third War for Armageddon, on the outskirts of Helsreach Hive. The pugilists? Maisey and Jeff as the Imperial forces, with Mark and myself as little green space fungi.

To find out just how messy it got, hit the jump.

As well-read gamers will know, Ork Warlord Ghazgull Thraka led the biggest gathering of warbands and tribes ever seen in the History of Da Ooniverse and Everyfing Wot’s Innit (it’s a short book by human terms, and has a lot of pict... erm... glyphs, but it’s the Ork equivalent of A Brief History of Time, in that it’s the most-bought and least-read book available to them. Admittedly, only one Ork bought it, but the accolade still stands [unlike Mekboyz, Bookboyz have never been a very widespread subset of Oddboyz]).

I digress.

The Siege of Helsreach kicked off with the infamous mek Orkimedes designing submersibles that emerged from the poisoned waters of the Tempest Ocean and captured Helsreach’s docks in short order. The Orks were contained only by the efforts of hive gang militias, whilst more conventional Imperial defence lines protected the Hive’s northern approaches. Our game was fought on those defence lines, at the point where they were starting to crumble.

Whilst the Imperial line broke in places, there were spots of intense resistance; a lone detachment of White Hands Astartes had thus far held Helsreach Bridge for thirty-two hours. Chapter Master Spektre led the defence himself, but even so, casualties were taken, and by the early hours of the morning, ammunition was running out. Just before dawn, Spektre was informed that Imperial forces to their left and right had been routed. The White Hands would have to fall back or get surrounded.

Falling back whilst under constant assault from the front proved challenging, however. One last attempt to break away from the bridge was made at sunrise when a detachment of Imperial Guard came out from the Hive to cover the White Hands’ retreat.

A detachment of Imperial Guard under Colonel Whitman occupy
the ruined hab blocks to the south of the bridge to cover the
White Hands' withdrawal.

Unfortunately, just as the Guardsmen got into position, black plumes of exhaust smoke rose up from the ruins to their right. As warned by High Command, they were already surrounded. A Deathskulls warband comprised of battlewagons and numerous walkers rumbled into position.

Worse, a tribe of Bad Moons were coming up in the wake of the last assault to the front. In the distance, the White Hands could see the smokestack of a greenskin Titan, supported by a mob of heavily-armoured tanks, dreads, and ramshackle helicopters.

Escape had become impossible. Being a famously fatalistic lot, the White Hands prepared to make their stand. They drove one of their Rhinos to the end of the bridge and abandoned it, giving themselves some shelter from the heavy guns approaching them, and fired off a salvo of krak missiles and incendiary rockets, all of which bounced harmlessly off the battlewagons’ armour.

To clarify: Maisey's first turn sucked more than a shokk attack
gun's snotling vacuum. He had 4,000 points' worth of models
on the board, and caused not one casualty amongst the Orks.

If death had been probable before, it now seemed definite. The Orks continued their advance, eschewing firepower in favour of raw speed.

As it clanked towards the bridge, the Stompa’s guns took aim. Seeing what was about to happen, the marines on the bridge scrambled for cover seconds before the titan’s super-gatler unleashed an astonishing eleven rounds of shooting (history doesn’t record exactly how many shots Mark got off, but once we hit the eleventh round of 2D6 shots, we decided to stop rolling, as it was getting silly). The bridge disappeared behind a cloud of pulverised concrete and dust as the gatler’s gunner gleefully sprayed bullets up and down the length of the bridge. Most of the marines were well-protected by the cover, but by the end, seven mangled bodies lay on the rockcrete.

After the smoke and dust dissipated, the White Hands stood up and dusted themselves off, only to see a salvo of enormous rockets streak overhead, flying down the length of the bridge and obliterating their Whirlwind.

Spektre had nothing that could deal with titan-class units, and radioed back to the Guard, asking if they had anything. Colonel Whitman informed him that he’d dispatch a unit of veterans in a Valkyrie to try and fly past the Stompa and hit it in the rear. The flyer took off and began its flight, to the total disinterest of the Ork commanders.

Something that did get the attention of the Ork commanders was the start of game turn two. Contrails streaked through the sky, and Thunderhawk landers bearing the insignia of the Blood Angels roared in from orbit. Having learned of the White Hands’ plight, Captain Tycho was committing the Blood Angels’ 3rd Company to a rescue mission.

Blood Angels units land near the Orks' forward base.

Not that you can tell from the back, but said forward base
looked a lot like a garage. It's almost as if their vehicles are
the only thing the Orks care about.

The drop pod assault on the Orks’ base was a success: all the Orks on or near the garage were slaughtered in the crossfire. On the other end of the battlefield, the Guardsmen rejoiced as a pair of Thunderhawk Landers swooped down and dropped off reinforcements either side of them, ready to face the Deathskulls’ advance.

Jeff positioned the tanks in pairs - one behind the other
and back to back - to represent their deployment by
Thunderhawk Lander.

Apparently, though, the only thing more offensive to an Ork than a still-breathing pansie (that’s ‘Eldar’ to everyone else) is some ’umie ’ard boyz nicking the Mek’s garage. Horrified by the prospect of not being able to kustomise their vehicles, four trukkboyz mobs rushed in to brutalise the Blood Angels who’d swept the Orks from the garage minutes before.

The Blood Angels were quickly buried beneath a heap of choppas, muscular green limbs, and bad language. Occasional glimpses of red armour revealed that they were still alive, but very much on the back foot.

Nearby, the Bad Moon deff dreads charging towards the bridge turned around and ran at the Blood Angels dreadnoughts that had dropped in next to the garage, initiating what would prove to be an extremely destructive five-way walker brawl. If nothing else, the Blood Angels had stemmed the flow of Orks rushing the White Hands.

That said, the Ork advance hadn’t stopped, and the lead vehicle – some sort of ramshackle super-heavy tank – was getting dangerously close. Rather than letting the Orks engage on their own terms, the White Hands terminators and dreadnought charged off the bridge and destroyed it, only to discover the hulking vehicle had been transporting Warboss Tuffluck and his nobs. The terminators were soon set upon by the overgrown Orks, whilst the dreadnought, standing in the middle of the road, was knocked on its feet and flattened by the deffrolla of the battlewagon behind the Kill Tank, leaving only a handful of Tactical Marines guarding the northern end of the bridge.

Just as the Orks appeared to be gaining the upper hand around their beloved garage, Captain Tycho – commanding the battle at a distance inside his Razorback – committed the last of his reserves. Assault Marines and Vanguard Veterans streaked out of the skies, slamming into the Orks assailing their battle brothers and, once again, swinging the fight for the garage in the Space Marines’ favour.

On the left, the Valkyrie dispatched by Whitman flew over the river, gunning down a lone boy known to the Orks as ‘Pigless’; he’d been trying and failing to keep up with Chief Red Axe, who was cheerfully charging towards three heavily-armed squads of Astartes with only two boar-mounted mates and a big stick.

As no-one cared about Pigless, least of all Chief Red Axe, the Ork commanders remained uninterested in the Valkyrie.

On the Hiveward side of the battlefield, the Imperial Guard were taking losses from the Deathskull warband, but with the Blood Angels’ assistance, they were still putting up a good fight; moreover, the Valkyrie was now in striking distance of the Stompa. For the first time since the start of the battle, Chapter Master Spektre dared to hope.

It was short-lived.

With a roar of engines and smoke-belching exhausts, an entirely fresh clan of Orks riding red vehicles swarmed into the battlefield from the left, having driven down the dried riverbed. The guardsmen in the nearest building could only look on in horror as trukks, wagons, buggies and bikes of all shapes and sizes zipped past the windows, flowing around the building like floodwater. Moments later, a battlewagon smashed straight through the wall, forcing them back.

Colonel Whitman signalled Spektre and Tycho: there was no way they could hold against such overwhelming numbers.

The Imperial Guard went into full retreat, whilst the White Hands and Blood Angels survivors started to fight their way towards Helsreach. None of them would get very far with the Stompa chasing them, however. The survival of the White Hands now depended on the Valkyrie strike.

The Stompa, now only fifty metres away from the bridge, was clearly captained by a madman. Using its lifta-droppa, it picked up the White Hands’ Vindicator and started playing with it like a kitten plays with a ball of wool, dropping it on the Space Marines beneath, picking it up again, rolling it around some more, dropping it, picking it up again... no-one had the heart to open the crew hatches and check on the pilots once the tank stopped flying around.

Everywhere the Space Marines looked, there was carnage. The Blood Angels withdrawing from the garage could do little to prevent their last dreadnought getting pinned between two ork walkers; the deff dread sawed through its waist, and the megadread grabbed the torso in its giant claws, lifting it up and throwing it at the deff dread. Loud-hailers built into the megadread’s body emitted peals of crackling, distorted laughter whilst the deff dread picked itself up and rolled the dreadnought’s body back at the megadread. On the other end of the bridge, Chapter Master Spektre withdrew his lightning claws from the mangled armour of a meganob’s body, and looked up at the Deathskulls deff dread running towards him. He signalled the Ghost, his Land Raider Redeemer, to open its boarding ramp.

A few hundred metres away, the Valkyrie banked round and hovered behind the Stompa. Cables dropped down from its side doors, and ten guardsmen rappelled down onto the desert floor, three of them hefting meltaguns. Sergeant Aldman issued no orders; after a decade of fighting together, each member of the squad knew what was expected of them. The riflemen formed a cordon, taking snap shots at any Ork stragglers close enough to attack them, whilst the specialists closed on the back of the Stompa and opened fire.

Three super-heated beams of burning fuel melted straight into the ankles and rear armour plating of the titan; it lurched to a halt as white-hot metal ran off its back like oil. The veterans made a run back for the rappelling lines, hearing something inside the Stompa banging loudly on the fused metal plating. Aldman looked back to see Warboss Nazgit punch the back hatch off his own Stompa and jump out, accompanied by nineteen of his best mates, who fell out of the titan like grain from a split sack.

Ordering his men to get up the lines as fast as they could, Aldman tossed all three of his frag grenades at the charging warboss, knowing it would do little more than slow the giant down, and revved his chainsword. Four of his men were ascending the rappelling lines on their harnesses when Nazgit’s mob hit. Ducking beneath a swinging choppa, Aldman radioed his last order: for the Valkyrie to get back to Whitman and do what it could to evacuate any other survivors. Moments later, Nazgit’s klaw punched him into the baked earth with such force that his pulverised body was almost buried.

The veterans’ sacrifice was not in vain; the White Hands had been given a reprieve from the Stompa’s relentless advance. With the attack from the north slackening momentarily, the White Hands poured all their efforts into carving a path south, back towards Helsreach. The losses had been heavy, and valuable ground was lost to them, but the combined efforts of Tycho and the Imperial Guard had succeeded in preventing total disaster.


On a less, erm, fictional note... the game really had hung in the balance all the way through until turn 4. The arrival of the Evil Sunz quickly spelled the end for the Imperial Guard, and the Space Marines suddenly had nothing left to give. They’d inflicted spectacular losses on the Orks, and the bridge was still in Imperial Hands (thanks to the Stompa having been semi-immobilised), but sadly, the rest of the table (and with it, the other two objectives) was overrun with toothy nutjobs.

I say ‘sadly,’ but obviously, it was awesome. Gork and Mork would’ve been proper chuffed.

If you want to see a few more pictures of the game, along with some extra anecdotal titbits, PVP has them.

Anyway, I hope this has been entertaining. Personally, I really enjoy fleshing out the game’s events into a story as I play. To what extent do you do the same? Tell us in the comments!


*'Inner nerd’? Who am I kidding? My Inner Nerd has been an extrovert for a long time now. Not that this means I collar random strangers and tell them all about little men in a droning tone of voice. Please. The tone of my voice isn’t ‘droning’ at all.


  1. Consider this slice of awesomeness promo'd mate. Brought back happy memories and an echo of bone deep fatigue!


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