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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-21-16, 07:26 AM Thread Starter
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Default How to attack a Hive CIty

Been re-reading Battle of Helreach, and while its an awesome book, I still cannot get my head around the idea of the feasibility of assaulting something as large and complex as a Hive city.

Supposedly the attacking force was in the 'millions', but by contrast a Hive supposedly has populations in the multiple billions.
True not everyone is a soldier, but the harsh realities of daily life in a hive complete with gang-wars and constant warfare and such would mean the at by in large most citizens would be armed, and tougher than your average joe.

(they live on a planet whose sole purpose is to make weapons....Im sure arming the populace isn't too much of a problem.)

Secondly....complexity. Take the worst instances of brutal house to house fighting and multiply it by a zillion.....consider the fact that sniper holes are not only in the buildings around you, but (due the the multilayer nature of a hive) ....the buildings hanging from the ceiling above you and from below as well.

The orks were 10,000 to 1...and attempting an offensive battle into the best defensive terrain imaginable.

Thirdly....looking at the map included with the story:

We can see that indeed the entire battle takes place on only one level of a hive tower that stretches to the clouds. Say they actually captured that level....What next? One down....a thousand to go?

In the end I will admit that the actual story....and most stories involving Hive cities does not match up with the map provided. The author portrays Helsreach as a single level, open-air city with a wall around it as opposed to the enclosed towers in 40k artwork.

In fact I have never seen any author attempt to write about a Hive city battle with the traditional enclosed spire design.

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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-22-16, 09:19 PM
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Its written by someone with no combat experiance who has no idea what fighting in built-up areas entails. But, he maybe read a lot of books on the subject. Still, its SF so you can push boundaries!


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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-23-16, 02:41 AM
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Admittedly I haven't read the book myself, but I've often thought about this (and other situations like it) so here is my two cents.

Hive Cities do not normally manufacture weapons. At least to my knowledge, but maybe this one does. Hive Cities are a form of control on the populace as a whole. It is much easier to control people when they're forced to live inside of the hellish hive you've built for them, than if they were scattered in numerous cities (of similar sizes as our own). Controlling that many people would be hellish on an authoritarian system like the Imperium. Hive Gangers certainly would get their hands on weapons but these would likely revolve around the stubber variety with a relative handful getting a hold of more advanced technology such as lasguns, laspistols, and maybe the leader has a bolt pistol or something.

I'm not certain either that the average Imperial citizen in a Hive, no matter how wretched that place is, would be tougher than another other Imperial citizen or indeed even anyone today. Hive Worlds are also formed by necessity, often times massive over-industrialization, rampant pollution, and ecological meltdown have forced the hand of the planet to consolidate into Hives. This means that while the planet can usually sustain life, its often not a very high quality of life. This probably wouldn't effect the Upper Hivers since they would be the ruling class and would have better access to medical care, or probably just have filters in their spires. The average Imperial citizen is probably weaker than an average person today, they likely have a lower IQ (since authoritarian regimes do not usually like intelligent subjects -- see Tsarist Russia), and are generally unhappy with their lot.

In my opinion the above reasons would give me the impression that the Orks would have a major upper hand against Imperial citizens -- no matter how many of them were thrown at the Orks. It is believed that the boltgun was designed specifically with the Ork in mind since it usually takes a few bolt rounds to the chest to actually kill an Ork -- results may vary obviously. Stubber guns would have to unload a simply massive amount of ammunition into the Orks to break them. Orks are tougher than humans in general and I beleive probably even tougher than Hivers. Let us even assume that the Gangers are tougher than bricks, have weapons, and actually WANT to fight for their tyrannical upper hiver lords -- they still would not stand up to a organized (by Ork standards) assault.

To comment on your second point -- the complexity of Hive invasions. All of that is a good point. Hive Cities would be downright nightmares to try and navigate through -- most of them were originally well-designed but over successive generations of incompetent leadership are probably very ad-hoc structures that could likely (and probably do) collapse in on themselves regularly. In this case I believe the Orks would be banking on their sheer terror-factor. Normal humans are written into the Warhammer 40k universe as the very bottom of the food chain or close to it. Orks rampaging through your Hive city would be pretty terrifying and would make any kind of coherent, military-styled defense almost impossible. Once command and communication broke down it wouldn't take long for the Orks to simply divide the defenders and cut them to pieces. This is especially true if these militia are really Hivers who've been thrown guns and put into some ad-hoc system of command under the PDF. You can imagine this being even harder with Gangers involved as they simply don't follow orders.

The last point of the Levels -- another good one. I think the point is, if they took that first (I'm assuming its the level on elevation with the natural ground of the planet) level, I imagine they wouldn't necessary need to take any other level. They've broken the logistics chain from the upper and lower levels, and from the planet at large. There is a possibly that the Upper Hivers could have food imported by air -- but most planets probably don't have the planes and material to do this. So for the Orks, assuming they don't just go all Orky and randomly invade stuff, can just sit back and starve the Hivers out, forcing them to make suicidal assaults to try and break out. Hive Worlds are notoriously dependent upon food imports, as their populations FAR exceed their domestic food production.

That is my two cents. Hope it helps to shed some new perspective on the matter.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-31-16, 09:51 PM
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I'll try to answer what I can.

Originally Posted by CJ95 View Post
Supposedly the attacking force was in the 'millions', but by contrast a Hive supposedly has populations in the multiple billions.
There were millions of Orks outside of one hive city sometime in the first day of the invasion...this is while the Imperial Navy was still fighting over the planet and the orbital defenses were still destroying most of the approaching Ork ships.

God knows how many Orks eventually landed on the planet. But it is the largest Ork invasion of an Imperial hundreds of millions at the bare minimum, probably.

Originally Posted by CJ95 View Post
True not everyone is a soldier, but the harsh realities of daily life in a hive complete with gang-wars and constant warfare and such would mean the at by in large most citizens would be armed, and tougher than your average joe.
From the parts that we do manage to see of Helsreach in the novel (admittedly not a ton), it seems like the hive is relatively civilized. I can imagine that there's been some pretty serious heavy-handed martial law on the city after the second war. From the scenes dealing with citizens (non-militia civies), they're an armless lot that shys from fighting.

The galaxy is a big place. Apparently Helsreach doesn't have the same sort of day to day brutality we've seen in other hives.

Also shooting up a shopclerk is very different than fighting an 8 foot green killing machine.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-01-17, 03:26 AM
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The battle of Vervunhive (Gaunt's Ghosts "Necropolis") talks a lot about the defenses of a minor sized hive (probably only 500 million max).

I know that roughly 15% (at max) of the population was a part of the hive's PDF / Adeptus Arbites (75 Million) plus whatever Imperial Guard forces were stationed there.

I know that the void shields that the hive had prevented anything that the chaos forces attacking had, that said they did not have any planetary bombardment weaponry.

Once the enemy forces got inside, it was basically the equivalent of Stalingrad to the extreme.

Originally Posted by neilbatte
if you squint the Sigmar stuff doesn't all look like the love children from a Necron and Blood Angel orgy.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-13-20, 11:46 AM
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All of your points are very interesting, and it has been at the front of my thoughts for a few weeks, as I am writing a novelisation for my new chapter, based around the 34th Millennium.

Firstly, void relay networks and hive cities. I would assume certain primary hive cities on a hive world would have access to some form of shielding from orbital bombardment, and could withstand a certain level of ordnance from surface weaponry. However, how would these shields operate? The central thermal core of a hive city supplies power to the rest of the hive, so a shield network covering the immense size of a hive city ( even a moderate-sized one with a population between 1 and 3 billion) would be a massive drain on resources during a major siege.

Secondly, infiltrators. Say a chaos horde attempts an invasion of a hive city, but cannot rely on hundreds of millions of soldiers or daemons to do it. How would they break through? Could it have been planned for some time? Grow a cult in the underhive, get people of influence within its ranks, and when the time comes sabotage structural weak-points, like cannon emplacements, shield generators, food stores and the like. How would they sabotage them? render them useless, or direct detonation of armouries?

Thirdly, if they did sabotage such key weak points, what would the impact be? I would expect the detonation within an armoury would be cataclysmic, especially near a macrocannon emplacement. The tonnage of explosives meant to defend against capital class ships would core entire neighbourhoods, and bring spires down around them. What disorder would follow? Could major gates be forced open by agents of Chaos from within?

Finally, multiple level- assault. could this be done by jump troops breaching a hole in the defence network? Berserkers forcing a hole through, massed firepower through a small gap in the defences? Again, it depends on the city, its defences and how it responds to such an invasion. Would it be better to strike at the spires first and work your way down, or form en masse at the gates and punch through the walls with high-calibre weapons. Again, the best way to consider it would be similar to the War for Stalingrad in terms of real warfare.

I would read through the Iron Warriors story regarding the siege of the Shardenhold- a city built upside-down in a cave system by a warsmith loyal to the Emperor. The way he defends it is quite something, I would definitely read it.
The writers of the Siege of Terra have been doing excellent work approaching some of these questions, but I guess with all written lore it is best to focus on the micro-level, then expand to the macro size. Work out what the target is, the end result, and then marry the two together according to the major hitters and the sizes of forces present.

Well that's my two cents anyways
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-20-20, 02:29 AM
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If it was built by man (or xenos), it can be destroyed by man (or xenos), and with substantially less effort, too.

Last edited by carlmorris; 07-28-20 at 09:48 AM.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 07-10-20, 06:40 PM
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Food supply

A Hive needs a constant stream of imported food to prevent mass starvation

Cut that off and the hive destroys itself due to starvation and mass uprisings
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