In the skies above Brochunus IV, streaks of flaming wreckage plummeted down through layers of cloud and shook the ground with their impact. The wreckage came from the Diligent Spear, a C3 scouting vessel whose distress call reached the nearest friendly ship several days prior. Of the small contingent of biological crew, none survived the ship’s demise, but the captain knew that would be the case when she ordered the AI to initiate the self-destruct sequence.
The distress call mentioned equipment malfunctions caused by the Antares’ photosphere. It told the story of a routine scouting mission affected by bad luck, too damaged to make the return journey through the gate. The distress call did not come from the C3 crew, but from the ship’s stowaway passenger, a Virai First Instance Architect that had somehow found a way onto the ship. How long the dronescourge infestation had hidden in the depths of the vessel was unclear, but by the time the distress call was transmitted to the comms beacon on the edge of the system, the Diligent Spear was already floating helplessly in the void surrounding the Brochunus star. The crew, sealed in the upper decks, had fought a three day retreat as the Virai consumed the ship piece by piece. Unable to wrest navigation from the defenders, the Virai were nevertheless able to seize communications and send out the forged distress call.
Captain Jerana Laston watched as her crew dwindled, while the Virai numbers grew. She knew that to cede control of the ship would grant the Virai a way out of this system to infect other worlds, and took the only course of action that would assure their destruction. Or so she thought.
As the Diligent Spear lit up the night sky of Brochunus IV, the First Instance, nestled in a hastily constructed protective shell, managed to survive the descent through the atmosphere and the subsequent collision with the surface of the arid planet. Landing near an abandoned industrial facility, the Virai leader began to salvage materials from the local structures and the wreckage. By the time the C3 rescue ship had arrived in orbit, the Virai were on the verge of recovering vital navigation data that might lead them to other Concord systems. The C3, meanwhile, were desperate to recover black box data that could lead them back to the source of the infestation.
It’s been a while since Andy and I have battled each other in the seventh age. I wanted to try something new, so I decided it was time to take my Virai for a spin. 100pts was a bit of a stretch, and I ended up with quite a few army options. I’m looking forward to utilising their reprogram and overclock mechanic to secure objectives quickly, and am confident that if I can close the distance, most of my units can chew through anything Andy can throw at me. With half of our order dice during the first turn, I’m keen to get my architects both onto the field as soon as possible. From turn 2 we have to pass a command test to join the fray, and while the lower command for my regular units might be a problem, I have two instances of Hive Summons to mitigate any problems.
Having never faced the Virai before, my plan is pretty simple. I plan to rush to the centre objective as fast as possible with my Interceptor squad before the bulk of the Virai arrive on the table and opposition will be at its lightest. The M4 Combat drone should then deploy directly behind as much needed support and to draw as much fire as possible. Meanwhile the footslogging Strike Squads will advance on the flank objectives with Support drones for additional firepower being deployed as needed as the situation develops. The hope is that if the data cores can be tested and erased quickly support can then be transferred to support the other more contested objectives. However getting bogged down anywhere will leave me thinly spread out in the open!
Andy’s Interceptor squad made a bold first dash for the central data core, dismounting and bringing out a Plasma Light Support weapon with their compactor drone. Next, the Virai followed with First Instance Architect and Weapon Drone, both opening fire on the dismounted Interceptors, and inflicting 2 pins but no casualties. A reprogram die allowed the Weapon Drone to fire its scavenged Mag Light Support again, inflicting three hits. Incredibly, Andy rolled a triple 1, saving all three shots, but at least adding a third pin.
The M4 Drone, meanwhile, took a pot shot at the First Instance, but the Plasma Cannon failed to penetrate the Architect’s armour despite a massive strike value of 7. Meanwhile, C3 Strike Troopers and Virai Constructor Drones sprinted for data cores and a C3 Strike Support Team with an X-Launcher took cover inside the ruined columns of an ancient temple.
The Virai Weapon Drone opened turn 2 by inflicting two casualties on the Interceptor / Support Team on the central objective. The remaining C3 trooper remained resolute, but with Jamie drawing the next order die the First Instance was able to finish the job, removing the unit before Andy could capture the valuable 2 point data core.
With a C3 Strike Squad already on top of an objective, Andy was able utilise the next order die to secure the first data core and thus 1 victory point. Focusing on the objective, Jamie advanced the Mining Constructor squad onto the closest data core, shooting at the same Strike Squad that had just captured a core on Andy’s left flank. Despite poor accuracy, the Virai inflicted several hits with their mining tools, but the Hyperlight armour prevented any casualties. Still, one pin is not to be sniffed at, especially by the Virai, who lack nostrils with which to sniff.
Another order die for Jamie had the Second Instance Architect attempt to reprogram the Constructor Squad, having to pass a command check to return the Constructors’ order die to the bag. Then Jamie drew another Virai order die – the third in a row! There would be no better time to try and capture the first data core for the Virai, so Jamie had the Constructors take a second action this turn to attempt a rally. Rightly or wrongly, it was agreed that the rally order still required a roll, even without any pins (on a reread of the wording, it seems that without pins no order test is required, so the rally order is automatically successful). The Second Instance was within command range, giving the Constructors an effective command of 9, but Jamie rolled a 10, forcing them down and leaving the Concord still in the lead.
Continuing his ridiculous lucky streak, Jamie managed to pull the next four order dice one after the other, leaving Andy to remark “this is what 40k players feel like” as he watched Jamie take almost his entire turn without being able to respond. Jamie brought on the second Mining Constructor Squad, the Hive Assault Squad, and the Scavenger Constructors, all on the left flank, all sprinting for the closest data core. The STAA probes followed, attempting to paint targets across the field but only succeeding on the X-Launcher team and the injured Strike Squad.
Once Andy finally drew a Concord order die, the C3 Strike Squad on his right flank advanced onto the top of the industrial processor, ready to secure the data core next turn. They fired scattered bursts of fire into the newly arrived Virai Mining Constructor Squad, killing two of the six drones! Another two fell to plasma fire from the first C3D1 drone to join the field. With over half casualties inflicted, the Constructors were forced to take a break test, which they passed despite having no nearby leader, allowing them at least one more turn to soak up enemy fire (albeit with two pins).
Next, the C3 Command Squad joined the fray, but failed to inflict any damage on the Second Instance Architect, whose position in the ruins afforded plenty of cover. Andy then attempted to bring on his second C3D1 drone but in another example of unfavourable dice rolling, managed to fail the order test, leaving the drone off the field.
Since Jamie had already drawn so many order dice, it was no surprise to find that the next order die was Concord. Fearing the Hive Assault Squad, Andy had the C3M4 fire its plasma light support weapon into them, inflicting three casualties from three shots! Ouch! Simultaneously the Plasma Cannon fired again at the First Instance Architect, but thankfully for Jamie, it missed (even with the spotter re-roll).
Despite having very little left in the bag, Jamie drew out the next die, hoping to move the First Instance toward the cluster of Virai units and then reprogram the Hive Assault squad to capture the objective this turn. Unfortunately, carrying one pin, Jamie managed to roll a 10 for its command check, forcing the Virai leader down instead. On the bright side, it meant that the M4’s Plasma Cannon was unable to hit with its second shot due to the forced reroll. It was, however, able to inflict two more casualties on the exposed Hive Assault Squad, removing Jamie’s most devastating close combat unit from the game.
The X-Launcher team fired Suspensor Net ammo into the Scavenger Constructor Squad, who were now closest to the data core. The shot missed, but only scattered 2 inches, still catching the unit and inflicting 2 pins. Things were looking dicey for the Virai.
Next up: Jamie. Out of range to reprogram the Scavenger Squad, the First Instance instead overclocked the Weapon Drone, who went on to fire three speculative shots at the C3M4. Jamie deliberated carefully whether to go for the more vulnerable X-Launcher team, but decided that three attempts to roll a lucky hit and remove the batter drone was a worthwhile endeavour. While he did manage to hit twice, he didn’t roll a 1, so couldn’t remove the batter buddy. With res 13 (down to 11) the M4 Drone looked impregnable until Andy rolled a 10 on his res check, the mag rounds finding a gap in the layers of Hyperlight armour. Jamie rolled a 2 on the damage chart, and the C3M4 ended up with 5 pins, losing an order die and being forced to take a break test. With so many pins, it failed and ended up being removed from the field in the most dramatic moment of the game.
Note: After the game we realised that the C3M4 was heavily armoured, and thus the damage roll should have been at +5, which would have made for a few extra pins and no break test. Andy was very good natured about the loss, even after discovering that the result should have been just a few extra pins.
The first order die of turn 3 was Concord, but Jamie used his first Block! to put it back in the bag, desperate to prevent the Concord from wiping the valuable 3 point data core. This time pulling a Virai order die, Jamie had the Mining Constructor Squad (who had gone down last turn but recovered the order die) capture the data core, granting 1VP to the Virai. Next order die was Concord, but once again Jamie utilised a Block! and drew a Virai die. Two successful blocks with one left! The next order went to the Second Instance Architect, who reprogrammed the Mining Constructor Squad and returned their die to the bag. Next draw . . . Concord again! BLOCK! That was the last one, but it paid off when another Virai die allowed the Mining Constructor Squad to charge the Concord Strike Squad, hoping to destroy them before they could wipe the core.
Jamie was not sticking around to wipe any cores himself, preferring to keep the Concord in their own half whilst simultaneously pursuing the more valuable objectives. Point blank shooting reduced the Virai to only 2 drones, but the ensuing combat redressed the balance and granted a narrow victory to the Virai. Faced with the cutting tools of the insectoid machines, the Strike Squad lost their nerve and were destroyed as they attempted to flee. Seeing his left flank about to crumble, Andy opted to charge the two remaining Constructors with the Strike Command Squad. This seemed odd for a C3 unit with little close combat prowess, until Andy explained that he wanted the proximity to the core to wipe it next turn, which made sense. The counterattack was effective, destroying the remaining two drones in point blank shooting while taking only one casualty in return (thanks to the lower effectiveness of Hyperlight armour at close range).
On the opposite flank, the C3D1 Drone destroyed the second Virai Mining Constructor Squad with ease. Unopposed, the Strike Squad on the industrial processor managed to secure a data core, granting Andy his second victory point and putting him back into the lead.
The X-Launcher fired another suspensor net into the air but it landed woefully off target. Not to be outdone, the Virai Weapon drone took three shots at the C3 Strike Support Team, but failed to hit with even one! With an objective so close by, Jamie advanced the Scavenger Squad onto the nearby data core, firing into the Strike Squad perched on the industrial processor. Thanks to the STAA probes painting the target, enough shots hit to inflict one casualty and a pin. Next, the First Instance moved into range and overclocked the Scavenger Squad, who captured the second objective, leaving the scores level at 2-2 even as the second C3D1 Drone entered the field on the Concord’s left flank.
Both forces were looking bloodied by the conflict, and one decisive move could decide victory for either force!
Numbers were dwindling on both sides. It was looking increasingly likely that the game would not last long enough for the Concord to fight past the Virai to the distant data cores, so Andy used his first two order dice to wipe both of the data cores he had already scored. This meant that the only data core left for the Virai to capture was in the centre of the board. Andy meant to control that objective at all costs.
With that in mind, the X-Launcher team recklessly broke cover and sprinted for the centre of the field, picking up a pin in the process. Upon reaching the objective they appeared very exposed, but success or failure would come down to how quickly the C3D1 Drones could act.
The next order went to Jamie, however, whose Weapon Drone gunned down both X-Launcher crew members, tipping the scales in favour of the Virai. The Concord had now reached their break value, meaning the game would end soon. With only the C3D1 Drones left to act this turn, it was unlikely that the Concord could capture another objective, even if the game continued for another turn. The Virai, on the other hand, with the reprogram shenanigans of either Architect, could potentially read the central data core and secure a victory. To do so would mean relying on the Scavenger Squad, a fairly weak unit with only 4 drones and a res of 6 – an easy target for a plasma wielding Support Drone.
At this point there were 5 Virai dice left in the bag to the Concord’s 2, and as expected the next draw went Jamie’s way. The Scavenger Squad ran onto the data core. Two more draws would be needed to secure the win – one to reprogram, and another to act with the Scavenger Squad a second time.
The next die was Virai. The First Instance, positioned last turn for exactly this eventuality, reprogrammed the Scavenger Squad without even having to move. Next order die: Concord. This was Andy’s last hail mary. The newly arrived C3D1 executed a fire order at effective range, no cover. Rapid fire: -1 to hit. Fire order: +1 to hit. Andy needed 6s, but managed to hit only once. A spotter re-roll yielded no additional hits, but it might yet be enough. One Constructor fell to the incoming fire, adding a pin to the squad. Now Andy only had one die left, and as expected, the next one out of the bag was Virai. It all came down to a final Rally order, but with a single pin on the Scavenger Squad. Within the First Instance’s command radius, the required roll, even with a pin, would still pass on anything but a 10. Sure enough, Jamie rolled a 9, securing the objective and the win by the narrowest of margins.
The Virai did not disappoint. The ability to effectively turn any squad into a MOD2 unit gives them incredible versatility. That said, I think the outcome would have been very different if I hadn’t been so lucky by taking out the C3M4 – I didn’t have any effective counter at range, or so I thought.
With the exception of the Hive Defenders, most infantry are pretty squishy, meaning that the Virai really need to leap from cover to cover if they want to close the distance and bring the rip claws to bear. The Veteran First Instance is a bit of a beast, though it hung about at the back for most of the game – there are not many units that could shrug off a direct hit from a Plasma Cannon. Some of its special rules, such as Follow, Hero and Wound, didn’t even come into effect, leaving a lot of untapped potential. In this game it was a very effective unit mainly because it opened up tactical options elsewhere. Having the Second Instance doing the same thing on the right flank really hammered the point home.
Great game – I felt like I was only one turn away from losing through most of the night.
What a fantastic game that was! It was a classic hard fought battle with both sides suffering early setbacks. The Interceptors were far too fragile to weather that much fire out in the open right from the start and I should’ve been more patient and held them back til the end of the first turn. Losing the Combat drone was also a big setback as it was supposed to attract lots of fire at the very least!
Having to sit there as my much needed Order Dice was blocked 3 times was tough to counter and really piled on the pressure. The early VP’s for the Concord testing an objective on the left flank also didn’t translate into any real benefit as the Strike squad were wiped out before the core could be erased, meaning the Command Squad were needed to stabilise the situation.
The last minute dash for the centre in the dying moments of the game by the X-launcher crew was a heroic but ultimately forlorn gesture, but all the more fun for trying!
All in all it was another gripping game with all the action and cinematic moments I’ve come to expect from playing Beyond the Gates of Antares. In future I either need to hold back a little longer or paint more Batter drones. Oh, and save a few points for Block Army options!