Hello, and welcome to the first part of a series of reports about a campaign of narratively-linked battles played in Aeronautica Imperialis. This is a game that is produced by Games Workshop, and set in their Warhammer 40,000 universe. The game consists of opponents fielding squadrons of futuristic aircraft fighting aerial missions against one another.
My friend Andrew and I have been playing Games Workshop’s games for many, many years, and we both also enjoy aerial combat-themed games, so we decided to get into this one (somewhat to the chagrin of my still-unpainted armies from the other games that I was already working on), and we are enjoying it quite a bit! As our forces have grown, we decided to put together a narrative campaign; that is, play a series of battles that told a story, rather than playing random, independent scenarios. This would allow us to have pilots who survive missions gain skills and notoriety, and would also affect our strategy and decisions. There would be consequences to losing pilots now, so games would no longer be “fight until the last plane is shot down”, but we would need to consider disengaging, rather than throwing away the lives of our pilots needlessly. That might work for the Imperial Guard infantry, but up here in the skies, we have warriors with skills.
So, we looked at the models we had (and then I went and bought some more), and made a list of 10 scenarios we would play, in order, to tell a story. This is the story of the planet Parnassus. It is a mostly desolate planet, with a few Imperial cities and outposts on it. There had been conflict with the ubiquitous war-like Orks here before, but no Ork activity had been seen in months, and it was thought that they had been beaten so badly that they had left, or just crawled off into the desert to die. And this is where our story begins, with my Imperial forces realizing just how wrong they were, as Andrew’s Ork forces emerge from the desert wasteland to mount an assault against Imperial targets on Parnassus.
We invite you to follow us on this journey. Mount up, and join us on the highway.
Mission 1: Ork Assault
The sudden blare of the siren and the cogitator voice calling “Scramble. Scramble.” in its tinny, almost human-sounding voice startled Janek, causing him to splash the lap of his flight suit with the remnants of the lukewarm caf in his mug.
“Emperor’s name!” he shouted, jumping up from the ratty couch he was dozing on. “A drill? Now?”
“Not a drill! We’ve got Orks incoming.” This voice, very human, was the squadron leader, Sagna, who had just stepped into the pilot’s lounge. “Get moving, we’re all going up.”
“But we haven’t seen Ork activity in months!” called Misk from across the room as he jumped up and moved toward the door. Just then, Brud, the newest member of Reaper Squadron, darted down the corridor past the door to the lounge, pausing long enough to look in, raise a clenched fist in front of his chest and shouted “Yes! Finally!”
Sagna watched him run down the hall to the hangar for a second and then shook her head.
Two minutes later, the six Lightning fighters of Reaper Squadron were in the air, speeding toward the approaching force. Janek, in Reaper 2, opened the vox. “What are we expecting?”
Sagna, Reaper 1, replied, “Forward spotters claim four heavies and two fighters. We should have them on auspex shortly”.
“I see them!” Brud called. “Reaper 4 engaging fat, juicy targets,” he followed with, in an affected serious, all-business tone.
“Exercise caution, Reaper 4,” Misk warned from Reaper 6. “They might look like piles of junk with wings, but some of them have heavy firepower. Orks love loud weapons that spray a lot of metal into the air.”
“Ordnance drop!” came a new voice over the vox, this time from Drekkin in Reaper 5. Bombers on the left are releasing bombs!”
“But they’re short of the target,” Brud replied. “They’re not close enough to the nearest building to do any damage. I’m closest, I’ll check it out.” Reaper 4 banked slightly to close on the lumbering bombers on their left flank, and Brud called out again. “They’re not dropping… what? The bombs have pilots? Are those Ork children?” The fat bombs had open cockpits, in which sat small green figures wearing crude hats and goggles, grinning savagely as the worked a long control stick in front of them. Sagna and Janek realized what was happening at the same time, and both tried to shout out a warning, their voices overlapping.
“Get out of there…”
“Grot bombs! Clear the area!”
But it was too late for Reaper 4, as one of the yellow bombs with red fins turned toward Brud’s plane and as it closed with him, detonated, engulfing itself and Reaper 4 in a fireball, which quickly became a fiery comet trailing debris toward the ground.
Seeing what happened to Reaper 4, Reaper 3 pulled hard on her control stick, narrowly avoiding the Grot Bomb hurtling toward her. The guided bomb passed by, its pilot waving a hand in what was most likely rude gestures.
“Emperor’s teeth!” she yelled as she leveled her craft and triggered the twin nose-mounted lascannons at the bomber ahead of her. “Eat las, feck-eating greenskins!” Two beams of powerful, searing light appeared between her and her target, whose paint along the fuselage scorched where the beam grazed it. Small chunks of metal melted and were torn from the side of the lumbering plane, but it appeared that no significant damage had been done. Beside her, Reaper 5 opened up with his multi-lasers. Although less powerful than lascannons, the twin multi-lasers mounted on the nose of the Strike variant of the Lightning fighter unleashed a burst of smaller las-rounds, stitching the nose and side of the closest bomber, blowing off a small piece of the armoured cowling.
“Good hit, Drekkin!” Larit in Reaper 3 whooped. “Finish him off!” Emboldened by the hit and encouragement, Drekkin armed and fired his Skystrike missiles, watching with joy, then horror as they failed to lock the target and streaked past the enormous target looming in front of him.
“This is Reaper 1. Reaper 2 and I will distract the fighters. Everyone else, bring down those bombers! For the Emperor, and Brud!”
“You got it! I’ll deal with this! Reaper 6 bringing you dead Orks!” From the extreme range of his lascannon, Misk targeted a bomber and fired, the beams neatly puncturing a gaping hole in one of the many tail fins jutting up from the back of the massive plane. This might have caused significant damage to another aircraft, but with all the armour and redundant fins on this one, the effect was negligible. “Feckus!” Misk swore. “Can’t I catch a break?” And apparently he couldn’t, as his missiles, too, sailed wide of their target. “Which tech loaded and calibrated these?”, he cried.
As Reapers 1 and 2 took on the Ork fighters, dodging and weaving, trying to line up killing shots while avoiding the immense short range firepower that festooned the front of them, the remaining Reapers overshot their heavy targets, turned 180 degrees, and came in behind them, to shoot them from the vulnerable back sides. In the ensuing furball of close-in dogfighting and maneuvering, more hits were scored against two of the bombers, but at the cost of Reaper 3 as one of the Dakkajets broke away from Janek and brought Larit down. Janek and Sagna both took hits from the crude but powerful Ork fighters as they fought to give the rest of the squadron space to take out the bombers.
That’s when Drekkin found himself with a clear shot. Lined up behind a damaged bomber, he gritted his teeth and pulled the trigger hard, his multi-lasers sending a swarm of of las energy pulses into the back of the heavy aircraft. Holes opened up across the tail and then the wing, and then the engine ignited and exploded, flipping the bomber nose down, then onto its back where it plummeted the rest of the short distance to the ground.
“Yes! That’s one for me, and I’ve got another lined up for two on the day!” Drekkin flew into the space where his victim just was and swerved left to bring his guns to bear on another injured bomber.
“Watch it,” came Misk’s voice over the vox. The Grot bombers on your right are going low and slow. It looks like they’re trying to land.”
“You worry about them! I’m bringing this one down!” Drekkin swooped in, preparing to drill multi-laser fire through the bomber’s starboard engine, when he saw a series of hatches pop along the side of the large aircraft. He hesitated too long wondering whether the plane was falling apart, or the Orks were abandoning it and jumping out, as gunfire erupted from all of the side ports. He felt the impacts on the nose and wings of his Lightning as it shuddered and his control surfaces came apart. Crystal flowers suddenly blossomed on the glass of his canopy as bullets slammed into it.
Misk watched helplessly as Reaper 5 belched one puff of black smoke from its engine, then dipped under the bomber in front of it, flying straight into the ground.
Just then, one of the Grot bombers also hit the ground, bounced slightly, then came to a rest. Just before it stopped, however, the huge cargo door at the back dropped open, and a swarm of ramshackle vehicles launched themselves down the ramp. Even over the jet engine of her own Lightning fighter, Sagna could hear the deep throaty rumble of the 4-wheeled buggies that were pouring out of the large plane.
“It’s not a bombing run, it’s an invasion force! They’re not here just to cause damage, they’re trying to take over! Don’t let any more of them land!”
“We’d better call in support,” Janek suggested. “Then-“
“There is no support!” Sagna cut him off. We’re the only squadron in the sector, and other sectors are getting hit as well!
Misk’s voice cut over both of them: “I’ll be providing my own support, then! Die, you green bastards!”
Las beams shot from his Lightning and drove straight through the closest engine of the nearest bomber, into its fuselage right below the cockpit, and out the other side, where they clipped the other engine. Time seemed to stand still for a long moment as nothing seemed to happen, then the bomber disappeared in a massive explosion of fire and debris.
“Wooooooo! Take that!” he screamed into the vox. “Let’s finish those last two!”
“Negative Reaper 6”, Sagna responded. “Janek and I are heavily damaged, and those last two Dakkas are still on us. We’ve cut the invasion force in half. Let’s leave with our lives and come back to fight again.”
“You heard the flight leader,” Janek cut in, “we disengage, re-arm, refuel, get patched up and see what we can do next. Disengage immediately.”
And with that, all three Lightnings turned and sped back to their airfield, as Orks drove madly around the outskirts of the city of Parnassus Prime, shooting into buildings and any of the meagre security forces that came out to meet them.
“Don’t get comfortable, greenskins,” Sagna mumbled to herself. “We’ll be back to hit you again and knock you back into the wasteland.”
Keep watching this space on the website to see how the story unfolds! As we play games, I will update here with pictures and the story of what happened! Have any predictions? Comment and let us know!