“Emperor preserve us, Asus Prime is the only planet I’ve known that you can smell from space. Penal states, prison nations, cheap labour and, unfortunately, where our target is lurking. Quick in and out – we don’t want to be about when the chain gangs find out there are offworlders in a security blind spot…”
The Asus Prime Kidnapping is a short mission between two small insertion forces on the prison planet of Asus Prime, both trying to collar a person of interest in both their investigations; a middle man for a xenos artifact smuggling ring called Krannich.
The fight takes part in a security blind spot, a loading bay near Krannich’s area of operation. It has been specially selected as a place that is overlooked by the local enforcers and relatively devoid of roving chain gang patrols – the perfect place for a shady meetup.
In the north of the map, Inquisitor Jekt is accompanied by a hardened ganger called Conan the Unkillable. Jekt is a dirty fighter, relying on brute force and underhand tactics to overcome his foes, and Conan is a mercenary with a powerful healing mutation. Inquisitor Jekt had inserted onto the planet with the intention of dragging Krannich off for interrogation to find out how deep this smuggling ring goes.
In the south, Takoda Tedd and Major Farideigh are sneaking in to try and capture Krannich as well. Tedd is a trusted ally of Inquisitor Xerxas who has several interests on Asus Prime and carefully controls and monitors the flow of artifacts on the planet but Krannich is upsetting that balance of power. Tedd is accompanied by Farideigh, an old warden on Asus Prime and now a powerful ally in sneaking past the light sequences and guard patrols to close on their target. They need Krannich alive to find out who instructed him to muscle in on Xerxas’ turf.
In the centre of the arena is Krannich, two of his goons, a loading servitor and a Penal guard watching over the loading area. Krannich believes he is meeting a contact looking to buy a new batch of xenos curios from him. Little does he know that it was a decoy to lure him away from his safety net, and now he has two Inquisitors circling the loading bay, waiting for their time to strike.
It is dawn, and the crimson sun of Asus has begun its slow crawl across the horizon. Owing to the low light and the constant throb of nearby industry, there is a -20 to Awareness tests for hearing, and sight is reduced to 1/5th of a character’s Initiative. Anything over that is a -2 penalty per inch to Awareness tests for sight.
There are also roving chain gangs, albeit some distance away. If/when either of the warbands sound the alarm, they will only have six turns to grab the goods and make it off the board before a horde of angry servo-enhanced chain gangers arrive to butcher everything in sight.
The loading servitor remains (largely) neutral. He’s got a job to do, and by the Omnissiah he’ll do it against all odds. He doesn’t care for the fate of the galaxy, the battle for the Emperor’s soul, or the conflicting ideologies of two radical Inquisitors over the supply and demand of xenos artifacts. All he cares about is getting those damn crates on that damn truck, and he’ll be oblivious to anything otherwise. After all, who on Terra would really need to mess with crates of ore or a knackered loading truck when the fate of billions of souls are at stake?
The game begins, and both players have openly committed to a sneaky approach. With only two characters each, and a good mix of Initiative and Speed orders, the game goes back and forth between the players very quickly. Even with Sneak actions, the players rapidly move forwards to their targets while the guards amble around (using a scatter dice) and the loading servitor carries out his to-do list for the day.
The first event is Major Farideigh taking is upon himself to see to the outlying Penal guard called Zaal. His dust mask and rebreather don’t help him hear the Major noisily clanging his way up the ladder right near their starting corner. By the grace of the Emperor, he walks clean over the Major’s head and stares longingly off into the distance on the other side of the tower.
In the other corner, Conan and Jekt are making great progress. Jekt dives behind the truck, waiting for the patrol of the servitor to grant him the cover he needs to circle round clockwise and approach the meeting point from the east. At this point, the players are still unsure of the servitor’s motivations, so are treating it with due suspicion.
Meanwhile, Farideigh has seen his moment to strike. He leaps up behind Zaal and puts him into a Militarum Death Grip, determined to take him out silently and efficiently. At this point, it’s worth noting that we were at somewhat of a loss of how to deal with this combat using the Inquisitor rules as written, as we felt that the normal unarmed sneak attack wasn’t really appropriate. We borrowed the Grappling rules from Dark Heresy to keep the game flowing – opposed Strength checks (with a bonus to the grappler for getting the jump on Zaal) to either cause damage or break free. It is a tense few turns of Zaal going bluer and bluer in the face…
Meanwhile Jekt is still trying to find an opening between crate runs to make a break for it. Conan, on the other hand, decides the best way to complete this stealth run is by fucking everything up in the biggest, loudest way possible. He piles into the truck and starts looking for the On Button.
There is a quite crumpling sound in the distance as Zaal goes tumbling off the character roster.
During this exchange, Takoda Tedd has been making a beeline for the meeting point. He has ducked and weaved through the guards quite expertly, pushing himself up against a window to eavesdrop anything interesting from inside. One of them hears movement outside, but sees nothing and makes the professional bodyguard decision not to follow up on that line of inquiry.
Jekt reckons he has figured out the servitor’s pattern and is ready to make a dash for it, and Conan has found the keys to the truck underneath the overhead sun visor (damn those critical success 001 rolls).
Jekt dashes behind cover just as the hauler truck roars into life and suddenly lurches forwards. It is at this point that Conan realises his plan extended only to starting the truck, and he plows it through a pile of barrels.
The loading servitor has to accelerate to a jog to place his second crate, but by the Emperor he takes pride in his work. The truck belches smog and noise as Conan cackles hysterically at the wheel. The guards correctly determine that this commotion is probably beyond the work of rats and pile outside to investigate.
As Conan prepares to receive the award for Greatest Distraction Ever, Jekt secretes himself into the shadows to observe the guards and determine the best time to strike.
Conan wedges the throttle open and bails out of the moving truck as it careens through more scenery and off the board. Luckily for him there’s some nice soft concrete blocks and steel barrels to break his fall and he survives the incident without a scratch. A great cracking sound is heard for miles around as you hear the servitor’s heart breaking – how will he ever deliver the final crate now?
During this commotion, Farideigh and Tedd are alerted to the presence of another party. They don’t know who else it could be, but whoever it is has clearly upset the guards and made some kind of distraction. Never one to waste a good thing, Farideigh drops from his tower and moves towards the meeting point. Tedd meanwhile commando rolls in through the window, just in time to come face to face with the guards returning to check in on their boss.
They draw their weapons and Tedd fumbles for his guns, both apparently victims of the element of surprise. Tedd squeezes a few shots off but they explode off the hab walls around his target.
Jekt has found his opportunity to strike. The guards have been distracted by another distraction, and he draws his crackling power sword and moves in to butcher them. These guards, not burdened with an abundance of critical thinking skills are instead apparently expert swordsmen, and avoid all the incoming attacks from the Inquisitor and the gunfighter.
Jekt manoeuvres one of the guards out of the doorway onto level ground to better his chances. The other guard steps in to try and carve up Tedd. A very dejected loading servitor returns to make his final delivery.
In the meantime, Conan has pulled himself together and found a little hidey hole to watch the carnage unfold. He is pretty pleased with himself at this point, and decides to never roll any more actions for the remainder of the game as a little reward to himself for being so great.
Jekt makes short work of the first guard. One blow is all it takes, cleaving him from shoulder to hip in a pretty brutal display of a power sword’s effectiveness.
Tedd catches a sword to the arm which throws his aim off, and he’s unable to cause any significant damage to the guard to stop him raining blows down on him. Farideigh is still to far away to assist, so it looks like Tedd may fall to the hapless NPC guards!
Jekt steps in to combat the second guard, inadvertently saving Tedd’s bacon and freeing him up for more thrilling heroics. The second guard is cut down with ease, and Tedd unleashes a torrent of fire at the imposing silhouette in the doorway. They connect but only stagger the Inquisitor, not causing enough damage to save Tedd from becoming power sword confetti. If only there was another unwitting third party to rescue him!
Jekt is grabbed by the clamps of the disgruntled work force and finds himself locked in mortal combat with the loading machinery. He laughs in the face of such danger, until he sees the damage stats for those power clamps.
Tedd is never one to look a gift horse in the mouth for a third time, and immediately rushes for Krannich. Luckily he is small, lightweight and pliable in his old age, so Tedd tucks him under his arm and makes a break for it.
Unfortunately for Jekt, he is unaware that the mission is slipping away from him clamp by clamp, as he tries to land a finishing blow on the servitor without losing an arm to the angry plant machinery.
Farideigh arrives, although he apparently was here for several turns, just “waiting for the right time to strike”. Tedd is unconvinced. They defenestrate Krannich.
Jekt lands a clean blow on the loading servitor, severing its head completely from its body. He is tired, sweaty and covered in blood and clamp fluid. At least he’s cleared the area single handedly, and can go on to claim the VIP for himself, right?
During this terse exchange, Tedd and Farideigh have exfiltrated the hab and are about to begin their final leg to the board edge. Only a handful of successful Sprint actions are between them and victory…
As Farideigh barrels off with the VIP under one arm, Tedd is ambushed by a fusillade of fire from an unseen gunman on overwatch! Conan had apparently spent the entire game moving a grand total of twenty inches waiting for his time to strike.
Farideigh is inches from the board edge. He only needs two run actions or one non-risky Sprint action to sieze the day. He has decided that discretion is the better part of valour, and Tedd can take care of himself.
Inquisitor Jekt suddenly bears down on him brandishing his big angry power sword, intent on carving Farideigh a few new breathing holes. He only needs to wound Farideigh enough to slow him or knock Krannich from his grasp.
He swings and misses over and over, Farideigh’s survival instincts being too strong to allow himself to be hit by the hissing energy blade. When it comes to Farideigh’s turn, he only needs to pass a single Initiative check to break from combat and seize a victory.
The dice tumble and it comes up a success. Farideigh breaks from combat, crosses the board edge and wins the day.
So it was a victory for Xerxas’ crew, Tedd and Farideigh, although a phyrric one. Tedd is badly injured and left to the devices of Jekt and Conan, although whether they stick around to secure him or flee the now painfully close angry chain gang (2 turns left!) is a story for another time.
Jekt is a new character from one of the players, and this was an opportunity to play test him in the field. He has a host of weird and interesting bits of kit, such as wrist-mounted single shot webbers, caltrops and poison dart launchers to emphasize his dirty fighting style. Many of them were left unused, as the sheer awesomeness of the power sword was too much to contend with. The fact he cut down three NPCs in quick succession only highlighted this, with some points that he might be a bit too overpowered being countered with an understanding that he never really came up against someone his equal – he was an Inquisitor standing in a field of faceless unarmoured goons. What did they expect to happen? Expect to see Jekt pop up again in the future for further road testing.
We were left feeling a little let down by Tedd, whose prowess in the field over many years of service has given him quite the reputation for being the last word in a hollow-point argument, but he was routinely unable to land anything more than glancing blows on even the unarmoured characters.
Conan was another new character as well – he was never injured so we couldn’t test out the strength of his Regeneration mutation, so he’ll likely be popping up again in the future and given a good seeing-to. His gun is strong but he’s not a brilliant shot (low 50s), so we felt it balanced out.
Farideigh was contending Jekt for Most Valuable Player – silently taking out the Penal guard, reaching the hab unnoticed and then snatching the VIP out from underneath Jekt’s nose without firing a shot. There were many times he intended to lay down cover from a smoke grenade or take a few pot shots into close combat to try and save Tedd, but a dud grenade roll and a constantly shifting three-way combat means he never had a safe shot to take.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable match to partake in. Two characters aside made the game fly by, with players always rolling dice with nary a breathing space between characters. It’s a dangerous thing though, with only two characters each, if one is even slightly inconvenienced (like being pinned or stunned for a turn) you are suddenly at a massive disadvantage. Both players managed to make it through to the final turn without any characters suffering though, and we were all genuinely surprised at how well the sneaky tactics worked.
We’ll be seeing Jekt and Conan return in another story, likely to follow up any secondary leads to Krannich and his smuggling ring. Although Farideigh escaped with Krannich, his loyalty lied with Tedd and Tedd’s master. With Tedd’s fate unclear (is he at the mercy of Jekt, the roving chain gang, or did he slip away), Farideigh is at an impasse. Stick with the mission and turn Krannich over to Xerxas, or see if his own master would be interested in such a valuable asset…?