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Warhammer 40,000 Crusade – Escape from Pankallis – Ultramarines Debriefing Part One

Sprues & Brews recently attended the first ever Warhammer 40,000 Crusade Event at Warhammer World, “Escape From Pankallis” – you can check out our full review of the event which will be posted to the website later in the week (and make sure you listen to this week’s podcast too!).

We had such a great time at the event that I wanted to provide a little bit of a debriefing from the perspective of my own Crusade Force, a fresh 50 Power Level Ultramarines army lead by Captain Telorian of the 2nd Company that I took with me to the event. What follows is part review and part recounting of the events that transpired over the course of the weekend!

+++ Incoming transmission +++
...processing...
Idendity Ref. Adeptus Astartes. Ultramarines. 2nd Company
Message Source. Strike Cruiser "Blade of Talassar"
Sender ID. Captain Telorian. 2nd Company "Ward-Captain of Talassar"
...decrypting....

...This is Ward-Captain Telorian of the 2nd Company, Ultramarines....
...We acknowledge receipt of your petition for aid (Ref.ID Gamma-Epsilon-007)...
...Strike Cruiser "Blade of Talassar" has been diverted to the received coordinates...
...The Empyrean is beset with storms but we make good speed and with the Emperor's blessing will arrive in system in a matter of days...
...You must have faith in the Emperor, in the Primarch and in yourself...
...His Angels of Death are coming and they will put an end to machinations of the foul xenos...
...The Emperor Protects..."

+++ Transmission ends +++
+++ Incoming transmission +++
...processing...
Identity Ref. Adeptus Astartes. Ultramarines. 2nd Company
Message Source. Furor Spaceport. Archaon IV. Pankallis Subsector.
Sender ID. Librarian Icarius. 2nd Company. Assigned to Strike Force Telorian.
Date. 0 869 969.M41

...decrypting...

The situation in the Pankallis subsector has degraded, xenos insurrections now widespread across multiple systems. Recommend full quarantine procedure and system wide blockade. Astropathic relay has been rendered almost inoperable. The Strike Cruiser's compliments of Astropaths are all but spent, many having been executued. Even as I record this message I can feel the presence of the Great Devourer, like a great shadow across my mind, it clouds my thoughts - Emperor be with me. I have lost contact with Captain Telorian, who as I record this message battles at the Spaceport to prevent the escape of the Devourer's agents. He has changed recently, more unpredictable yet determined. I do not know what ails him, alas we have no more time to ponder. We now know the enemies intention but, Emperor willing, the 2nd will see it prevented. What follows is a report of Strike Force Telorian's mission in Pankallis.

We arrived at Warhammer World early on the morning of the 13th, not quite sure what to expect this being Games Workshop’s first ever Crusade Event. We were greeted at Bugmans Bar by the Events team who were all dressed as Imperial Medicae staff at which point we immediately realised we were in for a unique experience!

During registration we were each handed a really cool ‘Crusade’ binder which contained some narrative information about the current situation in the Pankallis Subsector and a whole heap of gaming content that would be used throughout the weekend. This included handy reference pages describing how to set up and play a Crusade mission, what steps to follow post game as you update your Crusade cards and even some unique ‘event-only’ Stratagems that we’d be able to use in our games.

We also received a deck of Agenda cards that we could pick from and use in our games too. Over the course of the weekend we were also able to unlock and add additional pages to the binder, such as mission briefings, unlocked intelligence reports and unique relics. The folder and its contents were all of high quality and included Games Workshop artwork and event specific lore and gaming content – a really useful item to use during the event and a great souviner to take home as well, I’m sure it will see more use in future in our own Crusade games.

One last thing we received alongside the Crusade binder and Agenda cards was a unique deck of event-specific trading cards. Each deck contained a bunch of useful little buffs that could be handed out to your units during a game. Cards like “Master of the Warp” could be used to allow a unit to attempt to Deny the Witch for example whereas “Combat Stims” could be given to a unit to allow them to add +1 damage to their attacks for a turn. Before each game you would select two cards and randomly draw 5 more, with each spent card having to be discarded for the rest of the event.

During and immediately after a mission you would have opportunities to trade cards from your hand with that of your opponent. Not all players had the same set of cards, and as you’ll find out later in the post, not all cards were beneficial. Amongst the numerous buffs each player also received a handful of “Burn the Hive” cards. It was not immediately apparent what purpose these cards would serve but we were informed by the helpful Events team (posing as Medicae staff) that they were important and should be used and traded wisely. Intriguing…

+++ Tranmission continues +++

Strike Cruiser "Blade of Talassar" arrived in system on 0 869 969.M41 after having received a petition for aid from the acting Commander of the Archaon IV PDF. The situation in the Pankallis subsector had deteriated to an extent far exceeding our initial analysis, with Archaon IV defence forces engaged in planet wide efforts to quell multiple uprisings. Amongst the chaos of communications across the PDF Comm Networks we detected an unusual message emanating from a manufactorum district at the southern pole. The message revealed the existance of a cluster of laboratories located in what initially appeared to be a promethium processing facility. I was certain that the key to understanding the situation across the Pankallis subsector would be found at this location, a view shared by the Captain himself. Plans were quickly drawn up to deploy the Strike Force to the main complex with a mission objective to infiltrate the complex and retreive the artifact. As the "Blade of Talassar" maneuvered into low orbit above the laboratorium complex we detected the arrival of an Astartes Strike Cruiser in system. The Blood Angels Strike Cruiser "Lamanet of Baal" broadcast ident signals and their intention to deploy to the planet's surface. No other details were provided and our requests for intelligence sharing were met with silence from the IXth. The decision was taken to proceed with the mission as planned, Captain Telorian would attempt to make contact with the Blood Angels Commander once he reached the complex itself.

Following successful drop assault, the 2nd Company Strike Force made good speed to the target coordinates at the primary complex unit. Upon arrival the Blood Angels forces were sighted and orders were given to hold at the perimeter whilst efforts were made to contact them. The events that followed were both surprising and alarming in equal message. We received no incoming comms requests from the Blood Angels and our own requests remained unanswered. Instead we found ourselves under sudden attack, with squads of Black and Gold armoured Astartes assault units rushing towards our position and opening fire. Credit must go to Squad Sergeant Cassus and venerable Brother Agrippa who recovered quickly from the unexpected show of aggression and were able to reluctantly, but competently, lay down suppressive fire patterns. I made multiple attempts to reach out with my mind, to divine any explanation for what may have caused the Blood Angels to react in such a way however before I could glean any answer I was interupted by Captain Telorian. He had quickly assessed the evolving situation and directed myself and Squad Tarkus to proceed in line with initial objectives - to locate the artifact whilst he dealt with the madness of the IXth.

As is the case with many engagements involving the Astartes, the resulting battle was a brutal and bloody affair. Vesperin and his Veteran squad suffered most, them being at the forefront of the engagement with the Blood Angels when Brother Brutus's fuel tanks were ruptured. I myself can recall little else of the battle, having been rendered unconcious from the very same explosion. We were however victorious and the artifact, a cryo-crate containing several vials of an unknown subtance was secured. Captain Telorian began to issue orders and make plans to vacate the laboratorium complex and reach the extraction coordinates.

My first opponent for the day was Andy who had brought along a lovely looking Blood Angels First Born Crusade force. As you’d expect from a Blood Angels army it had a healthy amount of Sanguinary Gaurd and Jump Pack equiped Death Company who were able to quickly launch themselves forward towards my defensive gun line. The mission itself saw both sides attempt to gain control of four objectives, each on or inside a building representing the possible location of a secret laboratory. Over the course of the game objective markers were removed from play until finally only one remained, indicating the location of the secret laboratory itself and the artifact we sought. Victory points were awarded during each turn for holding the remaining objective markers with varying amounts of points awarded depending on the turn number. Overall a simple and thematic mission which did a great job of telling the story of two forces battling across a science facility to reach the artifact first.

It was also quite a brutal mission for both the Ultramarines and Blood Angels, with a few casualties on both sides. The Bladeguard Veteran Squad “Vesperin” suffered their first battle scar of the weekend and from this point on would be unable to score any objectives (having rolled the “Fatigued” result after failing their “Out of Action” test). At the end of the game Andy and I traded some of our special cards and I receieved some grenades and an auspex scanner to add to my deck. We both went to the front desk to hand in our score card and receive our special mission rewards! The Ultramarines had won the game and succeeded in securing the artifact and so I was given a unique relic to give to one of my characters. I equipped the “Vials of Unknown Ooze” on my Librarian, Icarius, whose job it would be to analyse the strange substance and learn more of the situation unfolding in the Pankallis subsector…

It was at this point that ‘strange’ things started to happen and a handful of players we’re invited to a ‘secret’ meeting. Those that remained in the hall started looking around nervously towards each other, asking questions and seeking answers, but none were forthcoming. Several minutes later the chosen players returned to the hall, all struggling to hide big grins. Fellow Sprues & Brews team members Matt and Andy were of those chosen, but try as I might I could not extract any information from them as we enjoyed lunch together in the canteen…hmm.

Following lunch we were treated to another cool pre-recorded mission briefing from Commander Bick Nayton, handed our next mission briefing card to add to our Crusade binder and then set off to meet our next opponent.

+++ Tranmission continues +++

I recall being stirred from unconciousness by the sound of battle. The screams of the neverborn echoed around the complex and my skull throbbed and ached under their psychic assault. I learnt that the traitors had struck soon after our battle with the IXth, infiltrating our position whilst Telorian worked to recover myself and Squad Vesperin from the demolished laboratorium. The Thousand Sons had made off with the cryo-crate of vials and sought to escape the complex. Telorian was barking commands to Heavy Intercessor Squad Tarkus, tasking them with reclaiming the materials. Squad Cassus and Gavian were fighting their own battles on the far side of the complex, seeking to extract additional information from the laboratorium's many data consoles whilst trying to fend off attacks from the multitude of daemonic and traitor Astartes units operating across the battlescape. Telorian, supported by Vesperin's squad, moved forward to engage with the blasphemous Thousand Sons Lord, barking challenge and oaths at the foul creature whilst I sought to aid Brother Brutus and Agrippa as they attempted to shield our Captain's left flank. We failed in our attempt to prevent the traitors from escaping with the vials, the foul warp-magic proving too much for my weakened mind to withstand. Our mission was not all in vain though, as Squad Gavian and Cassus were able to extract some interesting information from the main cogitator system prior to our extraction.

My second opponent for the day was another Andy, this time leading a terrific Thousand Sons Crusade force containing a great mix of Daemons and Rubric Marines. The mission itself had an interesting deployment map, with Andy (the Defender for this mission) deploying his force in a small corridor that ran diagonally across the battlefield. I was able to deploy my forces either side of this corridor should I wish to. The mission itself revolved around a single objective marker representing the cache of vials that we recovered during the first mission and was initially held by one of Andy’s Rubric Marines squads. The marker moved with the squad and the aim was to try and recover it or to prevent it from falling into the hands of your opponent. If the unit holding the objective was destroyed by another Troops unit then that unit gained control, otherwise the objective was dropped on the ground and could be picked up by another Troops unit later in the game. Additional victory points were awarded for destryoing more units than your opponent.

This was a great game full of great moments despite Andy’s Crusade Force having the upper hand for most of it. There was a great duel between Captain Telorian of the Ultramarines and the Tzeentch Daemon Prince, who battled each other over multiple turns as the opposing forces clashed in close range fire fights and combats around them. Librarian Icarius tried his best to protect his allies from the multitude of psychic attacks directed at the Ultramarines wilst my Redemptor Dreadnoughts, Brother Agrippa and Brother Brutus fought side by side to hold back a massive Tzeentch Mutalith and some Rubric Terminators from overwhelming the hardpressed Captan and his Bladeguard Veteran retinue. Alas, the Ultramarines were cut down to a man, with Captain Telorian picking up his first Battle Scar of the weekend, “Deep Scars”, which would prevent him from performing Heroic Interventions and Actions for the remainder of the event. Squad Gavian also picked up a Battle Scar, “Battle Weary”, which would limit the amount of experience they would earn over the course of the weekend. On the plus side however, Brother Agrippa was able to gain a rank and I was lucky enough to roll a +1 strength weapon enhancement which I decided to put on his Icarus Rocket Pod!

In addition to the the objectives as stated in the mission briefing itself, this was the first mission of the weekend to include “Data Terminals” and allow the use of the unique event Agenda “Data Heist”. Scattered about the battlefield were several data terminals which could be held just like other objective markers. A terminal held in this way could be hacked following a successful “Terminal Hacking Action”, rewarding the player with an “Investigation Point”. These points did not contribute to victory in the mission itself but could be traded in at the front desk for event rewards over the course of the weekend. These rewards took the form of “Intel Report” cards which could be added to your Crusade binder, providing more narrative and background for the events transpiring across the Pankallis Subsector. They also included additional rewards such as free Battle Honours, upgrades and items too. This was a great addition to the event, spicing up missions by giving players multiple different objectives to aim for during their games and allowing them to immerse themselves in this unique campaign! From this point on all missions included data terminals and allowed the use of the event specific agenda, giving players an opportunity to collect as many points as they needed to unlock the different rewards and reveal the ongoing story.

After a short break it was on to the final mission of the day and after the customary Bick Nayton briefing we headed to our next game…or did we?

At this point the event team called foward different groups of people to which were issued secret missions. After being called forward I was issued with fresh intelligence from High Command with new orders to destroy as many Troops units as possible over the remainder of my games. It got me wondering what other intelligence had been passed to different players and how that would impact the event from this point on.

+++ Tranmission continues +++

Back aboard the "Blade of Talassar" our forces re-armed and prepared for our next deployment.  The Thousand Sons may have escaped with the cryo-crate container but we had still managed to collect some useful data to begin further analysis on the situation aflicting the Pankallis Subsector.  Almost imediately after we arrived back on board we were informed that fresh intelligence had arrived with the Master of Signals indicating a large build up of Greenskins on the onskirts of regions main residential hab block.  With PDF forces already stretched dealing with the increasing number of rebellions in other regions and with Imperial Forces in the Pankallis Subsector itself too preoccupied with similar issues on other worlds it was decided that the Ultramarines were best placed to deal with this new xenos threat.  The 2nd Company Strike Force would deploy via drop assault in the midst of the Greenskins scrap-camp and attempt to cleanse the area of as many Greenskin as possible.  

Why had the Greenskins appeared so suddenly and why at this location?  Had they been drawn to the conflict aflicting the Pankallis Subsector or was there something we had missed in our earlier analysis of the situation?  Upon approach to the Greenskin position it was noted that a smaller detachment of Greenskins had separated from the main group.  Heat signatures and auspex readouts suggesting one of the xenos leader caste and its followers had taken up position within the boundary of a Mechanicus relay station.  Whatever the Greenskins were up to it had to be stopped.

My last game of the day was against “Phil the Warboss” who had brought along a great looking Ork Crusade force, a proper green tide with over 60 Beast Snagga Boyz! The mission we were playing meant that Phil had to deploy his Warlord (a mighty Warboss) deep within his deployment zone. Phil’s objective was to peform as many “Analyse the Vials” actions as he could with his Warlord over the course of the game to collect victory points. As the Attacker I had to attempt to prevent Phil from doing this by battling through the hordes of Greenskins to reach and then slay his Warlord. There were other objective markers scattered about the battlefield but the majority of the victory points came from these two objectives. I also had to keep in mind my secret mission (destroying Troops units) and also had to attempt to collect as many Intelligence Points as I could as well.

Phil was a great opponent and this was one of my favourite games of the weekend (although in truth I thoroughly enjoyed them all!). In true Ork fashion Phil quickly decided that his Warboss “dint fink diz si’ens stuff was a gud idea, wot wiv the beakies so close to ma boyz an all dat!” and abandoned his primary objective so that his Warboss could get stuck in! After a short exchange of bolt rounds and slugga shots between the two battle lines the game soon descended into a large melee between both forces down the centre of the board. Redemptor Dreadnoughts found themselves surrounded by a tide of green, soaking blow after blow from the numerous ork infantry about their feet. They took some serious damage from the Beast Snagga Boyz as they smashed and swiped at the greenskins about them. Captain Talorian and his Bladeguard retinue traded blows with a unit of Squighog Boyz whilst Heavy Intercessor Squad Tarkus fought againts a large unit of Storm Boyz who crashed down next to them smashed into combat.

The highlight of the game though had to be how the mighty Warboss met his end. He managed to push and shove his way to the front line so that he could start beating up my Redemptor Dreadnought Brother Brutus, who only just managed to survive the furious assault from the hulking xenos before recovering to land some savage blows of his own. Before Brother Agrippa had a chance to follow up his on counterpart’s attack Phil decided now would be a good time for his Warboss to neck the contents of one of those strange vials. Phil had also managed to collect one of these relics from his first game it seemed. The relic itself had a random effect, on use you rolled a dice. On a 4-6 you healed that man wounds, very nice, however on a 1-3 you instead took that many mortal wounds. Phil’s Warboss only have 2 wounds left, but being certain to face destruction at the hands of the second Redemptor Dreadnought decided to take the chance and drink it. Phil rolled a 2, the Warboss was slain…“er boss, I don’t fink ya spos’d to do dat!”. With the Warboss slain victory went to the Ultarmarines!

The majority of my units managed to survive their out of action tests this game and I was happy to see that a couple had in fact ranked up! Brother Brutus received an upgrade to his locomotion system, granting an additional +2″ movement and Squad Vesperin, the Bladeguard Veterans unit rolled “Veteran Warriors”, allowing them to re-roll 1’s to hit with their attacks. In addition, upon reporting the results of our game to the front desk I was handed a unique reward for winning this mission as the Attacker.

A unit of my choice could be granted a Battle Trait of my choice so I decided to reward my Bladeguard Unit further with a Battle Trait from Codex Space Marines, “Bladesmen Honours” meaning they now had a Weapon Skill of 2+. On top of this the reward allowed me to improve my Warlord and so the battle hardened Captain Telorian now boasted a toughness characteristic of 5…perhaps this unusual reward could be somewhat related to the events that transpired next…

With the game over and results handed in we proceeded to trade our event cards as was the process following each mission. I dug out some Leadership buff cards from my hand that I thought Phil’s Orks would appreciate and prepared to offer them to my opponent in exchange for some of his…but what was this!?

Phil had handed me an “Infected” card! It seems the Greenskins had themselves been compromised by the Genestealer Cult operating in the subsector and had drawn the noble Ultramarines into a trap! I now realised the importance of the aforementioned “Burn the Hive” cards and lamented my poor judgement in not selecting them into my hand pre-game! No sooner had Phil stopped laughing at me did a bunch of the Events team approach to quietly welcome me into their secret cult. I was handed a bunch of unique ‘cult members only’ Stratagem cards and a handful of “Infected” trading card to add to my deck. I was told of the cult’s secret plan to infect as many of the players as possible and given instructions to infect as many of my remaining opponents as I could. Do not draw attention to yourself, keep the cult’s purpose secret they told me. This was awesome! No sooner had I finished the indoctrination process did fellow Sprues & Brews members Matt and Andy approach…”Welcome brother” they proclaimed. It seems Matt and Andy were ‘First Generation’ Cult members and had been scheming all morning to secretly infect other players. They told me that between them and the other first generation members they believed over half the participants in the hall had been infected! This was all so entertaining and I was already looking forward to joining in the fun!

What a way to end my first day!

Be sure to come back later in the week to find out how Captain Telorian’s 2nd Company Ultramarines Strike Force fared during day two of the “Escape from Pankallis” Crusade Event!

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