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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-13-15, 02:14 AM Thread Starter
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Default Helsreach-Templars

So I just finished HELSREACH for the first time, and I must say its a kick-butt action ride.

That said however I have a question about some of the tactical decisions made by the Black Templars, specifically the grand strategic ones that left Helsreach with only 100 Astartes defenders.

Early on it is made clear that the BT's showed up in system with 900+ Marines but then for some reason, 800 of them elect to stay up in orbit and 'engage the enemy fleet'

Can someone explain to me what exactly these guys were up to for months on end, and why (considering how wimpy the "4-day" fleet action turned out to be) they couldn't have been put to better use on the ground?

I'm sure there may have been some boarding actions during the fleet battle, but that really cant have been all that common given the nature of space combat so Im forced to conclude that 800 marines spent the whole Armageddon campaign sitting in their cabins or simply looking out the window while Grimaldus and his cronies did the dirty work.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-13-15, 03:08 AM
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Couple of points.

The fleet battle lasted much longer than a handful of days. The fleet would regroup in a nearby system and strike every few after they were forced to abandon the system.

"Every few days, the same story played out. The joint Astartes and Naval fleet would break from the warp close to the planet, and hurl themselves at the ork vessels ringing the embattled world. The engagement would hold for several hours as both sides inflicted horrendous losses on the other, but the Imperials would inevitably be hurled back into a fighting retreat by the immense opposition."

Secondly, there were at least two other marshals on the surface (with I assume at least company's strength in each).

"‘I have already spoken with the other marshals, my brother. We must leave a contingent on the surface. I will lead the orbital crusade. Amalrich and Ricard will lead
the forces in the Ash Wastes. All that remains is a single crusade, to defend one of the hive cities that yet remains ungarrisoned by Astartes.’"

Edit: I just realized the Black Templars probably brought around two thousand marines to the party.

When Helsbrecht meets General Kurov he says that, "‘Aboard our vessels in orbit are Marshals Ricard and Amalrich. We come to offer you our blades, our service, and the lives of over nine hundred warriors in the defence of your world."

Okay, cool beans. So 900 Templars in the system, right? Wrong!

Here's the conversation between Helsbrecht and Grimaldus when Grimaldus is trying to refuse the "honor" of defending Helsreach:

Helsbrecht: Amalrich and Ricard will lead the forces in the Ash Wastes. All that remains is a single crusade, to defend one of the hive cities that yet remains ungarrisoned by Astartes.’

Grimaldus: That is not our duty, my liege. Both Amalrich and Ricard have a host of honours inscribed upon their armour. Each has led greater crusades alone. Neither will relish an exile to a filthy manufactorum hive while a thousand of their brothers wage a glorious war in the heavens. You would shame them.

There's the obvious difference between the 900 warriors Helsbrecht states and the thousand Grimaldus talks about. "Big deal", you say. Grimaldus is just rounding 900 to 1000, right?

No, because this this is already discounting the 100 warriors sent to Helsreach plus the additional marines serving under Marshall Amalrich and Marshall Ricard. If we assume these Marshalls--whom would be shamed to lead the Helsreach campaign--had just the same number of men under them as the sorry fight at Helsreach, that means only 600 men would be in orbit. That's a bit of a far reach to say 600 is 1000, right?

More likely the 900 marines Helsbrecht talks about are the marines he's willing to commit to the surface--"in defence of your world". He will have another thousand marines spread amongst his fleet in the orbital war!


Last edited by hailene; 04-13-15 at 03:24 AM.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-13-15, 04:15 AM Thread Starter
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Ok...I follow the math, but still not understanding the allocation.

If you take the Conquest of Armageddon novels into account the Solemnus Crusade allocated a further 60 Marines to the surface

Still, would not the bulk of the BT forces (600 or 900...whatever) have been more useful on the surface?

Again the only way I see a space marine actually being useful in space is during boarding actions.

Now Im not 100% certain how 40k space battles take place but I have to assume that it does not hinge on boarding, but rather is more of a broadside to broadside type of affair.

Still, it must be said again a top notch book, and Im looking forward to the sequel.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-13-15, 05:19 AM
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Originally Posted by CJ95 View Post
Now Im not 100% certain how 40k space battles take place but I have to assume that it does not hinge on boarding
Even a small number of Space Marines can disable a vessel. Look at the battle of Crythe in Soul Hunter. A few squads of Night Lords Astartes were able to disable a Grand Cruiser in a matter of minutes by destroying its bridge and secondary enginarium.

In the later orbital battle at Crythe, Abaddon's forces (with the extremely powerful Venegeful Spirit involved) outnumbered the Loyalists forces (whom were mostly made of strike cruisers, too). Their firepower in a traditional sense would have annihilated the Loyalists forces.

The difference was the Black Legion vessels were empty of Astartes. The Black Legion had to retreat or risk destruction by being boarded.

Beyond the usefulness of boarding Ork vessels (say, killing key command ships and watching the Orks fall on themselves to find a new leader), it's pretty clear the Orks themselves would be eager to board Imperial vessels. The Astartes on board the ships would be both a sword *and* shield for the fleet.

In The Emperor's Gift an Inquisitor ordered Astartes to board enemy cruisers and battleships to "kill them from within".

Also in Legion we see Space Marines boarding a Expeditionary Fleet flagship and were pretty much unstoppable. They took out the Lord Commander with apparent ease.

And in Battle for the Abyss the most impressively built Furious Abyss was taken out by a comparably small number of Legionaires. Keep in mind two Furious Abyss class vessels ran amok over Armatura, one of the key war-making planets in the 500 Worlds.

Boarding and planetary assaults are what Space Marine vessels were built for.

Last edited by hailene; 04-13-15 at 05:29 AM.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-13-15, 08:48 AM
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To build on Hailene's points, boarding combat is very common in 40k naval combat.

Tyranids board ships via spores, indeed their living ships will grapple with ships like oceanic predators.

Orks board; they love a good fight up close and it's an excellent opportunity to capture and ship and strip it for salvage or add it to the fleet.

For Chaos boarding is their preferred form of naval combat. A comparatively small group of warriors can overwhelm the enemy command and control centers and capture the ship. You don't want to destroy a vessel that's taken millions of hours and massive resources to construct. You want to capture it and by doing so increase your own strength.

Boarding is likely also loyalist Astartes preferred form of void warfare. A Space Marine's greatest strength is his own gene-forged body. They typically faster, stronger, tougher than other opponents. In a boarding action a squad of Space Marines can rampage through enemny decks. All their advantages come into play: they have vacuum sealed, mag-locking armour, they don't care about hull breaches or power/gravity failure. They almost immune to small arms fire. Their weaponry and skills are best utilized up close. They're the ultimate shock troopers and a the ferocity of a boarding action is their natural environment.

As Hailene said the orbital war lasts for the length of the entire Armageddon conflict. The inital holding action only lasts 4 days, that's how long the fleet delays the orks from planetfall. Once that's failed they then resort to hit and run tactics and brief sorties. In becomes a long running orbital battle of attrition.

Helbrecht is noted as a master of void warfare. The Templars are a void borne crusading chapter, they're used to traveling and fighting on starships. Boarding actions are intimately familiar to them, especially given their temperament and preferred tactics.

There are many reasons for launching boarding actions against the ork fleet: 1) A division of firepower, the strike cruiser can duel one vessel whilst the marines board and cripple another. 2) boarding is frequently the fastest way to kill a ship. One swift strike can cripple a ships command centre, power generators, engines or any number of vital systems rendering it useless in a battle. 3) Space Hulks, vast conglomerations of ships, asteriods and whatever else is floating is space, are too big to destroy through firepower. It's too hard and long to try and blow them to bits, you need to kill them from the inside. Orks love Space Hulks and Roks, you need a way to neutralize them. 4) Every ork killed in space in one that doesn't make it to the ground.

It's arguable that in the scale of a war like Armageddon, Space Marines are far more valuable performing their niche tasks like these than they are the ground. In a conventional battle of millions of guardsmen and orks a few hundred space marines will make little distance fighting as regular units on the front lines. They're too few to fight like that.

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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-13-15, 10:25 AM
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Should also be noted that the Black Templars are rumored to be rather severely disregarding the Codex limit of roughly 1000 marines.

From what I remember, their true total numbers is about 7000 marines spread over a wast number of crusades.

from lexicanum:
The Black Templars are also notorious for defying Codex doctrine that states that a chapter may only number 1000 battle brothers. This is partly due to the divided nature of the chapter, being spread out everywhere on separate crusades and no one has thus been able to keep track of their exact numbers. However, it has been estimated that there may be several thousand Black Templars Companies spread out around the galaxy - an almost unstoppable force if gathered at one place and cause for the Inquisition to keep a close eye on the Black Templars.

Last edited by Brother Lucian; 04-13-15 at 10:27 AM.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-13-15, 05:54 PM Thread Starter
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Like I said......what the hell do I know.

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-14-15, 01:37 AM
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A bit off-topic, but the numbers of the Black Templars are unknown. I can only recall atwo sources to offer estimates as to their manpower: their Index Astartes article, from White Dwarf Magazine, and Codex: Black Templars (4th Edition). I quote the IA Article:

[The Black Templars] are rarely assembled as a Chapter, but instead are divided into a number of Crusades at any one time.
There usually numbers three or more Crusades at any one time - their history shows that during the Treachery of Dalmark there were as many as fourteen Crusades fighting across the Segmentum Solar. The size of a Crusade can also vary widely, sometimes as few as fifty to one hundred Marines, sometimes the equivalent of several Companies from a Codex Chapter. ... If certain accounts are taken to be true, then they could even be as strong as five to six thousand Battle-Brethren in total, ...
This information is largely repeated by the Codex.

Now, the latest Black Library fiction is said to do away with this bit of background, but I haven't read Guy Haley's work on the Black Templars, and thus I can't speak as to how it qualifies their manpower.

The latest Codex: Space Marines, which includes a section on the Black Templars, does not make mention of their manpower - other than to point out that they divide themselves into Crusades instead of Companies.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-15-15, 04:59 AM
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Originally Posted by CJ95 View Post
If you take the Conquest of Armageddon
I regret everything. I'm about 1/8th of the way through the book. It pains me.

I'll marshal on. Hope his prose gets better. It's like reading a fanfic written by a highschooler with a thesaurus.

He uses a paragraph when he should be using a sentence...the characters thus far are jokes...and the gratuitous description of the action just draws it out and ruins the pacing.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 04-15-15, 05:45 AM Thread Starter
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Its not the best couple of books ill grant you. Normally I'm one to enjoy a little extra meat in my prose but you're absolutely correct in your analysis of Greens overly wordy descriptions.

That said, personally I enjoyed some of the characters, the Steel Legionaires and Brother Jarold in particular.

Only thing, I never did figure out why they kept calling this their 'last crusade'.
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