This is the first Chapter mission of the Crown of Bones Inquisitor campaign, the first plot-driven instalment of the five-part story. This is the second game played in the campaign so far, as we kicked off with the Dust-up at Distro-19 annex mission last week.
Chapter missions are higher stakes – you have to spend a Resource (in-campaign currency) to ‘buy in’, with higher Resource rewards for finding evidence and completing objectives. Failing to secure any leads in Chapter missions means your warband might not be able to attend later Chapter missions. These warbands might need to do some Annex missions on the side to keep up with the others…
In this scenario, two warbands stumble into each other while exploring the ghost ship Ius Soli. Both are looking for a lead to the Crown of Bones, and according to our source at House Dacien, there is a cargo manifest somewhere on the ship with coordinates of exactly where to find it.
Setting the scene
The Ius Soli, meaning ‘Right of Soil’, is a corpse barge adrift in the outer reaches of the system. It was once carrying the bodies of guardsmen from warzones across the galaxy to their eventual resting point. It went missing during the Dacien Cataclysm and mysteriously reappeared some months ago, adrift and unresponsive to hails. House Dacien have dispatched a vessel to destroy the Ius Soli, but our two warbands have beaten them to the punch. They have to find what they can and evacuate before the corpse barge and anyone left on board are destroyed.
The ship itself is derelict. The miracle of grav-plating is still functional, and there is enough atmosphere left inside its silent halls to sustain our warbands without penalty. However, it is pitch black inside, so warbands will be relying on hand-held flashlights in the absence of any bionic vision.
Pitch black: Vision is restricted to 1/10th of Initiative. Characters can be equipped with flashlights for free, but have to be held in a spare hand or attached to a weapon beforehand. They provide a vision cone of about 18″ and we use little blast markers bluetacked to bases to indicate when a flashlight is active on a character.
Deathly silent: All hearing distances are doubled. That means someone can hear a door open or close from 20″ away…
Some power conduits are also severely damaged in a chamber at the north end of the board (represented with little dark red cotton wool clouds), and electro-magnetic energy is pulsing wildly in there.
Damaged power conduit: Anything passing through is effectively hit with a Haywire grenade, electrical and energy items ceasing to function until they reboot during the recovery phase (25% chance) or a character fixes it.
The cargo bay is also wrapped in a network of maintenance shafts and access tunnels, represented by the space hulk tiles around the periphery. These are broken up with pressure doors and access vents, the latter allowing characters to move between the cargo bay and the maintenance tunnels. These access vents have purple arrow tokens on eithe rside to show they can be traversed.
The warbands would be fighting over five objective markers, each representing a piece of evidence that helps paint a picture of what happened. Some are specific to their location, such as number 5 being the cargo manifest terminal on the upper walkway. Others are more general, such as number 2 being all tarpaulin-covered crates in the cargo bay, not just the ones the marker is on.
The warbands needed to gather at least 3 pieces of evidence to consider their investigation a success, and would be rewarded with 2 Resources. There is also a bonus resource for claiming the cargo manifest at number 5, as it is particularly important to the Crown of Bones investigation.
Finally, there are 5 ‘blip’ tokens on the map (thank you, Space Hulk board game!). The combination of twisted metal, warp residue and pulsing power conduits has obscured any attempts to scan the vessel, and warbands are relying on short-range auspexes. These blips are the auspex reading the strange environmental conditions as life signs wandering about the cargo hold, but surely nothing could be alive here any more… right?
The blips move a little bit at the end of each turn (at my whimsy) and when they get within view of a character I flip them over. Some are simply ghost readings and are removed from play, others might be a little more hungry…
Crowblade’s warband makes another appearance after successfully infiltrating a stevedore gang at Distro-19. This time they have a direct lead to the Crown of Bones, so Crowblade is bringing in his big guns. He’s bringing along his chief advisor Karith Once-Touched, who has been tasked with finding the shipping manifest and avoiding combat. His other new hire is Mulbrak Thrice-Bound, a fearsome shadowy daemonhost. Schipka is brought along too, rounding the warband out to four.
Interrogator Amourah’s warband is new to the campaign, but her exploits go back almost a decade of Inquisitor games. She represents the hardline puritan Inquisitor Alexandus, and they are indisputably the most heavily armed and armoured warband on the board in any circumstance. This is nearly always necessary, as they are bad at making friends and great at getting caught in crossfire.
Amouah herself sports an inferno pistol and retractible power blade, joined by Imperial Guard veteran Sergeant Jackson and cybernetically-reconstructed explosives specialist Bill ‘Tin Man’ Teller. Jackson wears a suit of motor-actuated carapace armour and equipped with a fearsome wrist-mounted hellgun, while Tin Man carries a combat shotgun and a smorgasbord of explosives.
After Crowblade’s warband ingratiated themselve so well among the stevedores of Distro-19, they gained enough insider knowledge to get the jump on the Ius Soli and got to deploy first.
They split their forces in two. Crowblade and Karith deploy in the maintenance tunnels near an access vent which comes out right next to objective 5. Their hope is to move in quickly and grab the cargo manifest while the other team “run interference”.
The other team is Mulbrak Thrice-Bound and Schipka, the surprisingly charming pit fighter who won the hearts and minds of the labourers at Distro-19. They had been tasked with investigating the cargo bay and dealing with any of the the auspex ghosts, should they turn out to be a little more material than just glitches on a scanner.
Interrogator Amourah’s warband deploy together inside the shuttle bay, having squeeze through an off-screen hatch to get there.
Both warbands begin advancing cautiously into the cargo bay, flashlights dancing through the racking and throwing unnerving shapes against the walls. Amourah’s team all have bionic eyes but no low-light vision, so they still relied on their personal light sources to see where they were going.
One by one they sneak towards the shuttle bay entrance, keeping their flashlights low and peering through the gloom. They strain their ears to pick up on the faintest sound of danger.
Schipka on the other hand, whacks his torch on maximum and marches into the cargo bay. Mulbrak slinks past him and slithers around to the right, pulling himself forwards on his massive claws.
Amourah sweeps the floor, walls and ceiling with her flashlight, checking for any signs of life. Bullet casings and blood stains lead to a scattering of bodies in the centre of the room – uniformed guards in the colours of House Dacien.
She doesn’t have time to investigate further as she spots the tell-tale twinkling of another flashlight across the cargo bay. She flicks the power button on her flashlight, moving into the vaulted room without making a sound. The rest of her team follow suit, wordlessly and well-practiced.
She wasn’t expecting company, but at least she’ll be able to keep an eye on them without giving her own position away.
In the maintenance tunnels to the south, Karith and Crowblade push through the hanging cables and pipes that crowd the headspace of the maintenance tunnels. His auspex reads movement in the room ahead, but he needs to press forward.
He knows from his crude deck plan that this room has a ladder to an access vent, which should bring him out near the cargo manifest terminal. Whatever lies ahead has to be dealt with.
Off in the distance behind them, Crowblade hears the gutwrenching sound of a pressure door opening. Something else is in these tunnels, and it has them surrounded. He has to punch through whatever lies in front of them quickly. He telepathically gives the order for Karith to advance ahead of him, who does so gleefully.
The pressure door slides back, and Karith nervously passes his flashlight around the room. Hissing pipes and swaying chains, but no sign of life. He lets out a sigh of relief – just a ghost on the auspex.
Crowblade wastes no time finding the access ladder, keen not to hang around to meet an auspex glitch can open pressure doors.
Mulbrak Thrice-Bound continues moving silently around the cargo bay, keeping close to the gantry overhead. He saw a trio of lights flicker and die across the room, and his nose is filled with the scent of blood. He has a target, and his orders are straightforward. Seek and destroy.
On the north side, Amourah’s uncanny sense pick up a figure in the darkness. She has an almost sixth sense for finding people, part of what makes her such a valuable asset to her Inquisitor. In game terms, we treat this as a Wyrd ability for the Detection psychic power, even though she’s not psychic.
She picks up subtle air movements, the shuffle of feet, the sound of teeth tearing at flesh. Something is feasting on the bodies in here. She draws her inferno pistol and sneaks towards the stairs that lead up to the walkway.
Jackson is not quite operating at her level of discretion however, and his servo-actuated armour rings out through the darkness. A bestial hiss replies from the blackness, and something stumbles forwards into sight. The first blip is revealed!
An emaciated figure clad in tattered ratings’ overalls clambers over the bodies towards Jackson. A sharpened blade is gripped in one hand and its eyes are a solid red. Blood and filth cake its mouth and hands.
This was perhaps once a crew member, touched by the warp after the vessel’s disappearance and driven to cannibalism and madness. Jackson felt brief pity for the wretched creature and began spooling up his hellgun.
His pity evaporated in the half-second it took the warp-touched malignant to cross the deck towards him. In a flash of steel the flensing blade scraped along his stomach, deflected by his armour.
He swung wildly with his hellgun, so shocked by the creature’s speed, but it ducked and weaved under his clumsy rebuke. Another glint in the dark, this time the blade finding its mark and piercing his bicep. A glancing blow, but only just. Next time it might not be so glancing.
He threw an intentionally heavy swing, opening up space to compose himself. The crewman was too close for his hellgun, but he always kept something for close encounters. In one swift motion, Jackson parried the incoming blade with a knife of his own. The sound of steel on steel echoes across the cargo bay.
Meanwhile, Schipka is calmly scooby-dooing his way through the cargo bay, stubbornly keeping his flashlight on and making no attempts to conceal his presence. Off in the distance he hears the sound of combat, metal on metal, and bestial hissing and screeching. He sweeps his flashlight round to settle on another emaciated crewman with a terrible hunger in his bloodshot eyes.
His two braincells whirred. His left hand is his prize possession – an implant claw. In his right hand is his flashlight. Drawing his pistol means putting down his flashlight, which means no light, which means no pistol. Think, Schipka, think!
He looked back at his claw again. Of course! It’s so simple!
With an excited bellow, Schipka charges into combat.
Schipka and the other pit fighters have a non-traditional approach to combat drugs. They have six different types in a roulette injector, designed by crowds who were bored of predictability in their pit fights. When they activate, every pit fighter on the board rolls a D6 to see what combat drug they get injected into them.
There was a cheer from the players as ‘hallucinogen’ was rolled, followed by mild disappointment as the ‘frenzies for one turn’ result followed. Schipka obediently charged into combat, and in a single action tore the face of the crewman clean off, killing him instantly. Another cheer from the players!
Interrogator Amourah spots a creature cloaked in billowing shadow on the edge of her vision – little more than two huge claws dragging a horrific tooth-filled maw. She lines up a shot with her inferno pistol but the deadly beam burns a hole clean through the floor where the creature stands, somehow missing a straight shot.
Mulbrak flattens himself behind some crates, leaving a billowing outline of where he once stood. Another screeching melta blast hits the floor. Taking his opportunity, he concentrates hard, drawing in malefic energies and attempting to manifest Curse of Charybdis. In a shocking display of dice rolls the warp ebbs away time and time again, leaving him wide open and with a splitting headache.
This time Amourah takes no chances. She whips her flashlight out, aims squarely at the daemonhost and opens up.
By now, Crowblade and Karith had negotiated the access vent and expertly positioned themselves within striking distance of their objective. Sounds of battle raged in the cargo bay.
He could see Schipka tearing the face off some unfortunate soul, his erratic flashlight movement showing the battle like some gruesome slideshow. There was clearly some more fighting going on elsewhere but he was blind to it, and the daemonsword in his hand egged him onwards to his goal.
And then another light appeared, this time illuminating Mulbrak. A melta beam strikes the daemonhost square in the chest, flooring him and consuming the area he stood in thick black mist. He couldn’t make out the target, but they were on the walkway, and they weren’t aware of him.
He telepathically ordered Karith to see to the terminal. He would deal with this problem himself.
While Amourah is distracted by Mulbrak, Crowblade sprints forwards. The daemonblade in his hand springs to life, crackling with pink-blue fire. The sword arcs towards the flat-footed Amourah, biting deep into her side.
She staggers backwards, failing to find her footing on the cat walk grating. She raises her pistol at her assailant, but it is too late. The blade gouges several inches from her skull, exposing the bionic components beneath.
She falls. Flames lick from the wound, her bionics sparking and failing. The light from her one good eye drifts away.
Crowblade rolls her over with the ball of his foot, checking for identifying marks. No obvious insignias, but he doesn’t recognise the uniform. An Imperial agent no doubt – well equipped and well connected – but just an Imperial agent. Their master is sure to reveal themselves after this incident, and Crowblade will be waiting. Yes. Just as planned…
He hears an excited yell from the catwalk behind him. “Master, I have it!”.
On the main deck, Jackson’s dance with the crewman continues. The crazed creature can barely penetrate the veteran’s heavy armour, but Jackson can never get far enough from combat to bring his hellgun to bear.
The stalemate was about to break however, necessarily in his favour, as the final blip moved through the shuttle bay access vent and revealed itself to be a third crazed crewman.
(By this point, the game had been going on for about three hours. Jackson moved about 12″ from his starting location and failed to make any successful attacks or roll more than two actions to break from combat. It’s very difficult to make that agonisingly funny poor performance sound thrilling.)
(By contrast, Tin Man had succeeded in rolling a single action every turn. He hadn’t been forgotten in this battle report, there just really wasn’t anything to report.)
Tin Man had been
hiding behind studying a stack of stasis containers – evidence number 2. Fragments of bone littered the cargo bay deck, and corpses had been torn from their stasis. Only a handful of corpses seemed to have been eaten however – dozens, maybe hundreds, were missing.
Schipka dropped the ragged face of the crewman on the floor, rather pleased with how that went. The sounds of fighting echoed around him, but none of it seemed directed at him. He figured he’d use the opportunity to do a bit of sleuthing, which for a character with a Sagacity of 25 seemed like a long shot.
In an incredible series of dice rolls (008 and 003) he Sherlocked the shit out of his situation. He clocked the nearby stasis containers with missing bodies (evidence 2) and noticed strange battle damage on the walls and floor, almost like a whirlwind or large beast was thrashing around. These deep gouges lead towards the airlock, which had sealed over the drag marks, like whatever it was had been sucked out into the void. (Evidence 1).
Landing his flashlight on a pile of bodies in the middle of the room, he saw some dressed in Navigator colours, and some other rough-looking types. A particularly important body, dressed in Navigator robes, lay next to an empty container.
Sadly, or hilariously, depending on your viewpoint, this was the Sagacity test he chose to fail. He recognised the type of container from Distro-19, and despite it being empty and sat next to an important-looking Navigator dressed in House Dacien colours, he figured the box was the important part. Boss will be so proud.
Tin Man stepped out from behind the stasis containers. To his left, Jackson was fighting off two warp-touched crewmen. Up on the cat walk ahead was flashes of melta fire and the sounds of swords clashing. To his right, a flashlight bearing down on him.
He had faith in his team – they could handle a few bilge rats, and he wasn’t going to help anyone by shooting into combat. He levelled his shotgun at the incoming flashlight and fired. He thought he made out the silhuoette of a figure illuminated by the shot, they seemed to go down. He didn’t have time to check.
A hoarse screen sounded from behind him. He turned just in time to duck under a wicked blade aimed at his neck. One of the crewmen had peeled off the assault on Jackson and lunged at him!
Tin man found an opening and backed away down an aisle, putting a few rounds into the crewman as he went. The crewman enraged rather than hurt, so Tin Man readied another salvo.
The air around him grew cold. Despite it being pitch black, it somehow got darker. Loud rattly breathing was suddenly the only thing he could hear. He turned and saw the void itself stare back.
Having apparently saved up all his action rolls for this part of the game, he shoulder-barged the raving crewman out the way and ducked round the corner to the next aisle of racking, confident the two creatures would cancel each other out.
Mulbrak made one more failed attempt at manifesting Curse of Charybdis before abandoning that plan and going with something a little more hands-on: Warp Strength.
The crewman had other ideas. Although he immediately lost sight of Tin Man in the darkness, he found himself standing next to an extremely meaty-looking pit fighter rolling around on the floor. He sliced at him, the pit fighter deftly rolling out the way and pulling himself to his feet.
With an almighty crash, the newly hulked-out Mulbrak’s clumsy attempt to climb the storage racking ended with the aisle smashing apart, exposing a path to Tin Man.
Horror-movie style, the crewman with the ripped-apart face suddenly sat up. He had finally passed his True Grit check to get back in the fight. He pulled himself to his feet and found himself mere yards away from the person who tore his face off.
(And yes, Jackson was still fruitlessly wrestling with someone who couldn’t hurt him)
It was finally Tin Man’s time to shine. He was sick of this mire of mutants and monsters, and had a belt full of explosive solutions. The plan was simple: prime and throw a grenade, then retreat as fast as possible for all remaining actions.
The dice were rolled. He primed a grenade.
Mulbrak, now with a Strength of over 120, leapt forwards and smashed the par-boiled grenade clean from Tin Man’s grasp. It exploded harmlessly somewhere in the racking behind everyone, much to every player’s disappointment.
Jackson receives a garbled message relayed from their gun-cutter – the House Dacien kill team was almost here, they needed to finish up and withdraw.
With renewed vigour, he breaks from the terrifying emaciated lunatic with the rusty knife, and heads towards the stairs to find the Interrogator. He spools up his hellgun and fires wildly into the dark after the crewman, missing every shot.
Back on the catwalk, Karith hands over the data-slate to Crowblade, along with his findings. (Evidence 5) The cargo manifest contains largely unremarkable details of warzones these bodies have been collected from, but the last entry is particularly juicy.
A flight path of Novator Hypatos’ shuttle that started at a colony near Distro-19 on Gehanna. It ended docked in this very cargo bay some months ago. With some time, they could figure out exact coordinates and get closer to the Crown of Bones.
Crowblade took the dataslate and sent a message to Karith’s mind that he was pleased with his work. With another thought, he informed Schipka and Mulbrak that they had everything they needed – it was time to leave.
Tin Man received the withdraw orders from Jackson too, and decided it was time to stop playing about with the baby bombs.
As Mulbrak bore down on him, its awful maw ringed with teeth, he heaved a demolition charge straight down its gullet.
With a comedy belch of smoke, Mulbrak toppled over. He collapsed into the racking, engulfed by black smoke.
He had been saved by his Impervious trait, racking up a terrifying amount of damage but surviving a direct hit without permanent damage. Tin Man didn’t know or care however, as he had booked it across the cargo bay to meet up with Jackson on the stairs.
Karith and Crowblade left the board without fuss. They had what they came for, and Crowblade was confident that the other two would find their own way back to their shuttle.
Jackson and Tin Man met up on the stairs, pausing only to fill a screeching crewman that had been persuing them full of hellgun rounds. It felt good to finally hit something with that gun.
They grabbed Interrogator Amourah and evacuated back to their gun-cutter.
The last players on the pitch were Mulbrak and Schipka, who still stubbornly had his flashlight on. There were (somehow) still two crewmen left, but the pair made short work of them.
Schipka squared off against his old nemesis Faceless Guy, and in a statistically pleasing manner hit him square in the head again with his claw, crushing what remained like a paper cup.
The roided-up Mulbrak bore down on the final crewman, who had suffered shotgun blasts and stab wounds and yet still had barely a scratch on him. Mulbrak dragged himself up to the crewman, who had been busy duelling Schipka at the time, and pulled his arm clean from his socket.
With that surprisingly violent turn, the game was called to a close as our warbands fled the field.
With Amourah’s warband only getting a single piece of evidence, they failed their objective and lose 1 Resource from their buy-in. Not only that, but Amourah’s serious head injury needs serious medical attention which they’ll have to shell out another Resource for. Things are looking a little sparse on the ground for her warband…
Compared to Crowblade’s warband, who come out with +2 Resources overall. They lose 1 for the buy-in, but gained 2 for completing their objective (gaining 3 pieces of evidence) and an additional one for securing the bonus Resource.
Crowblade is victorius, and goes into the next game with incredible advantage.
What a game! It had tension, investigation, knocking lots of scenery over, everything!
I’m very pleased with the board setup, it’s something I’ve spent a lot of lockdown hours on, and it’s finally paying off. I think I’ll definitely build more ‘filler’ walls – long pieces of foamboard with junk stuck onto them – to take the place of the more useful MDF wall pieces. It massively extends the amount of blocks I can use in construction and costs me next to nothing. It’ll also be helpful when I want to start creating individual buildings with this kit to help have some aesthetic differences.
I really liked using the space hulk tiles to have a secondary area to sneak around in. It’s a shame it didn’t get used very much, but I put that down to the third player being unavaible to play on the day. I think with a third party we’d have seen a lot more making use of all the crawlspaces.
I think we’re also seeing a shift in how some warbands are playing. We’re so used to playing one-off games, or scenarios that are only loosely linked by story, that other elements like persistent injury and ammunition has never come up. Tin Man burned through a lot of his expensive explosives, and Crowblade’s player felt guilty for immediately murdering Amourah by setting her head on fire.
All told it was an excellent game with plenty of laughs and dramatic moments. It’ll be great to see how these characters and relationships evolve over the course of the campaign.
See you next week!