2020/06/20

40k: Esoteric Baneblade Variants

Archivist Quail to Adjunct Elismuir of the Lord General Caskbrane, greetings.

Some years ago, our master commissioned a list of all super-heavy armoured vehicles derived from the Baneblade chassis, and to elaborate on their use in warfare, their spiritual implications, and legends of their origin, for the edification of junior commanders and the greater glory of the Departmento Munitorum. I have scoured the library-stacks of nine worlds and requested information from dozens more. I pray that you will forgive the incomplete state of this work. It is my sincere wish that my position-heir will continue, and perhaps complete, this noble document.
 

Section the First: Armoured Vehicles of Undoubted Provenance

 

Before elucidating the individual vehicles, we should examine the chart above, noting several patterns. Categorization by name is a very dubious art. Individual designations vary across the Imperium. Names are assigned by tradition, by necessity, or regrettably, through ignorance of other patterns.

Vehicles with the suffix -Blade are described as "main battle tanks", balancing speed, armour, and firepower, capable of attacking other vehicles or infantry with equal ease.

Vehicles with the suffix -Hammer are described as "assault tanks", focusing on purely offensive firepower at the expense of accuracy and possibly speed. While a -Blade variant cuts through an enemy formation with elegant maneuvers and coordinated firepower, -Hammer variants smash and overrun.

Vehicles with the suffix -Lord are described as "heavy transports", capable of carrying several squads of infantry. Only one vehicle of unquestioned canonicity exists in this category.

Vehicles with the suffix -Sword are described as "self-propelled artillery" or, with a touch of irreverence, "titan-killers". They carry the heaviest weapons available, focusing on overwhelming single-target firepower at the expense of almost every other factor. In the archives of the Adeptus Mechanicus, these vehicles are sometimes classed as "Ordinatus Minoris", though this designation is not used by the Departmento Munitorum.

Vehicle prefixes are a matter of tradition and taste. Few patterns exist. Of special note is the Fell- prefix, which designates vehicles of unquestioned canonicity but unverifiable details assigned to the Adeptus Astartes.

Baneblade

What praises can I sing which have not already been sung? The motto translated by the ignorant as "undecim doliis infernum", "eleven barrels of hell", describes both the Baneblade's armament and war-spirit. With eleven weapons of various calibres, from the rocket-propelled main cannon to six heavy bolters, the Baneblade is a mobile fortress of destruction.

The morale effect of a Baneblade's advance cannot be understated. In memoir after memoir, soldiers of the Imperium recount with vivid detail how a Baneblade's appearance turned the tide of battle. "As it lumbered forward, we realized that the enemy's positions, which had only a moment before seemed impossible to assault, were as insubstantial as cobwebs; their suppressing fire no more dangerous than light rain. With the Sword of the Righteous leading, we charged from the trenches without waiting for the order to be repeated." So reads an account from the Dneb Wars.

Of all the tanks built on the Baneblade chassis, the true and original Baneblade exemplifies the virtues and minimizes the shortcomings, or apparent shortcomings, of the design. There is no scenario a Baneblade cannot meet, no foe it cannot challenge. It is a microcosm of the Imperium itself. Just as Man's own design reflects the design of the Imperium, so too does the Baneblade.
 

Fellblade

As this vehicle falls outside Departmento Munitorum control, primary records are scarce. Secondary records, though widely distributed, show that this vehicle existed. The great triumphal mural at the Penultimate Cathedral of Scolex Binary shows three Fellblade tanks advancing in close formation. Their domed turrets and twin-barreled weapons, painted in the bright livery of the Adeptus Astartes, are unmistakable.

In the Apochrypha of Derwen, the fragment, "mounting twin accelerator cannons, much like the Fellblade of old" appears. While the identity of the tank's two primary weapons, or their capabilities, cannot be objectively confirmed, a pict-capture of an armour penetration test index in the archives of Mortus Secundus lists "cannon, accelerator, Astartes" as ranked second to none among conventional projectile weapons. Who can say, in this fallen age, how this weqapon performed when the Imperium was young?

"Fell" means both "fierce" and "cruel". Cruelty to enemies can only be exalted, but occasionally, the Fellblade and other tanks of this family are depicted in a way that seems to evoke a mocking pity for their foes. The Verse Logrim states, "The Wynds of thatte Felle Blade / Fell Alike on Friend and Foe", but whether this is an accurate summation of the tank's potency, a poetic reflection on the nature of war, or merely some self-indulgent wordplay, is left for the reader to judge.
 

Stormblade

Some commanders prefer to class this vehicle as a "titan-hunter". However, the most ancient Imperial records indicate it was originally designed as a main battle tank, using its sponson weapons as well as its main Plasma Blastgun to simply evaporate sections of the battlefield. Weapon traversal is not an issue when each blast can reduce a formation of vehicles to molten slag.

Yet the vehicle's rarity in this age make many commanders unwilling to risk its loss on the front line, preferring to use it as a close-range assassin or a mid-range bombard, or screening it with other vehicles. Thus, in the annals of the
Departmento Munitorum, it is no longer classed among other main battle tanks, despite bearing the -Blade suffix.
 

Banehammer

The Banehammer's Tremor Cannon deploys a burrowing shell, which disrupts the earth and hinders the advance of enemy troops. Some commentators hint the Banehammer is favoured by "armchair generals" who, in their quest for cunning stratagems, forget the realities of war. As Lord Solar Macharius once said, "We have not come to inconvenience the enemy but to destroy them."

As conventionally deployed, the Banehammer is largely immobile, remaining where it can best slow advancing waves of enemy infantry. It has been  criticized for encouraging a defensive mindset in Imperial commanders. Some siege regiments refer to the command variant of the Banehammer as the "Coward's Fortress". Though I would hesitate to cast aspersions on commanders long-dead, the Glorybringer, a command Banehammer used by an unnamed regiment, was modified to contain a full banquet hall and advanced holoprojectors, the better to serve a commander confident in the inviolability of their defensive line.

It is still classed as an assault tank, for that was its original role, and one it can still fulfill today. Pinning the enemy in place while carrying troops directly through the gap opened in their lines is commendable, but the Banehammer fails in respects. First, its transport capacity is limited compared to the -Lord series. Second, its main gun creates areas of treacherous ground directly in the path it must traverse; hardly an ideal situation.
 

Doomhammer

The Doomhammer is another "compromise" assault tank. While the Banehammer's weapon is designed to target infantry, the Doomhammer's weapon, the Magma Cannon, is a miniature "titan-killer". It is notable that no classes of Titan, in the declassified Index Titanicus, carry Magma Cannons. The weapon is, I strongly suspect, simply not powerful enough for its ostensible purpose. In records of combat, Titan-kills associated with the Doomhammer are both rare and notable events. Even direct hits are recorded, in contrast to the Shadowsword, where hits that do not kill or damage are taken as a mark of shame.

Charging forward while firing at large targets, the Doomhammer also transports troops into combat, though placing troops within short range of a Titan is rarely wise. Retaliatory fire tends to evaporate both the Doomhammer and its troop compliment.
 

Hellhammer

The Hellhammer is a true assault tank. Identical to the Baneblade in most ways, the Hellhammer mounts a shorter-range Hellhammer Cannon instead of the Mega Battle Cannon, trading accuracy and range for pure destructive power.

In urban environments, shock assaults, or surprise flanking maneuvers, the Hellhammer excels. If caught in the open, it is often unable to return fire, and its sheer bulk and slow speed make it an easy target for tank hunters.

The Baneblade and Hellhammer exemplify the two types of attack tactics open to Imperial commanders; a balanced mix of short and long-range weapons or a focus on power over range. To duel, or to brawl.
 

Fellhammer - "Glaive"

The Apochrypha of Derwen makes only one reference to this vehicle. "The Fellhammer, that is called Glaive, cut through..." It seems to have been a rare and ill-omened vehicle in the armory of the Astartes. According to some commentaries, a section depicting "a lone vehicle" on triumphal mural at the Penultimate Cathedral of Scolex Binary was blacked out and repainted shortly after completion, "at the request of a visiting legate of the Adeptus Astartes". Who this legate was, and why they wished the section removed, will remain forever a mystery.

The Fellhammer, or Glaive as it is sometimes called, seems to have mounted a single weapon of unknown name and terrifying potency. On Wormspine Tertius, the great pilgrimage route still passes through the shattered fields and corroded stones where "the Glaive-Dragon slew the enemies of the Emperor". Despite the uncounted centuries since that battle, no plants grow there, and all life seems to wither and sicken. A commentary by an errant Tech-Adept on the ruins suggests "the air itself burned. Stone, flesh, steel, water; all burned, all ran molten."
Perhaps its well that no weapons of this type are seen today.

Stormhammer

Stormhammer

Another legend from the dawn of the Imperium, the Stormhammer was once a common make of heavy assault tank. Some records say the Stormhammer carried twin Battle Cannons and twin Demolisher Cannons. Other say four Battle Cannons, or two Vanquisher Cannons and two Battle Cannons, or even a pair of Vulcan Megabolters. Perhaps multiple variants once existed, or perhaps the records are incomplete. In any case, all records insist the vehicle carried two main turrets as well as multiple sponson weapons.

Unlike other Baneblade-derived vehicles, the Stormblade was designed to act independently, as a true "land battleship." Perhaps this is why Jeswell, in his famous series of paintings, depicted the Stormhammer at sea. I could find no evidence that the Stormhammer was amphibious, though the campaign records of the Drookian Fen Guard indicate it could perform admirably when fully submerged and fitted with air intake snorkels.
Stormlord

Stormlord

The only unquestionably canonical "heavy transport" Baneblade variant, the Stormlord carries an impressive Vulcan Megabolter and several squads of infantry into battle. It is used as a mobile fortress, and in that role, excels. It has a higher capacity than either the Banehammer or Doomhammer, its primary weapon is unequaled in its role, and it is equally at ease in offensive or defensive modes.

The limited traversal of the tank's primary weapon is a significant issue, though additional sponsons and infantry-fired weapons can provide some support. Devoting an entire Baneblade chassis to infantry transport is, in the view of some commanders, excessive. Lighter transports allow for more flexible deployment, while purpose-built transports, such as the Macharius-derived Gorgon, focus almost entirely on capacity instead of offensive power.
 

Banesword

The Banesword is a direct-firing anti-fortification artillery piece. As such, it earns far less glory than its more mobile predecessors, but a decapitating strike from a Banesword's Quake Cannon can turn the tide of a campaign.

Some commanders favour indirect artillery; the Basilisk, the Bombard, and even orbital strikes can prove more cost-effective than a Banesword, particularly against subterranean targets. But for smashing a fortress' gates or leveling a spire, nothing compares to the Banesword. But its record against Titans and other heavy vehicles is less satisfactory. The tank's rate of fire is superb; its accuracy leaves much to be desired.
  

Fellsword - "Falchion"


The third and final vehicle of the Adeptus Astartes to appear on this list, the Falchion is perhaps the least believable. According to the official chronicler of Six Moon Crusade, it carried two Volcano Cannons. The Verse Logrim states "The Shadowsword struck once, the Falchion twice", lending further support to this claim.

How one vehicle, even one based on the Baneblade, could mount two such weapons and still function surpasses belief, yet a brief sketch in the margins of the Index Eusoveritan shows a weapon unlike any other, labelled "Falkion". The twin Volcanon Cannons were hull mounted, though whether they fired together or separately, or whether the vehicle could move while firing, are unknown.  
 

Shadowsword

The mirror of the Baneblade. A Baneblade charges; the Shadowsword waits. The Baneblade mounts many weapons; the Shadowsword sacrifices weapons for additional targeters and augers. Before firing, the tank must remain almost immobile as the grand capacitors powering the Volcano Cannon rely on the vehicle's engine. A Baneblade protects itself; a Shadosword must be protected while it prepares its one devastating blow.

Some say the Machine Spirits of Shadowswords are the most cunning of all. Tales of tanks "awaking thier cruews" before an ambush, delaying fire until an enemy's void shields flickered, or performing other acts of supernatural awareness are common. Who is to say these are mere legends? As one Shadowsword commander famously put it, "If you would aim at a God-Machine, you had best not miss."
 

Stormsword

A tank of muddled origins, the Stormsword is a reluctant field conversion of a damaged Shadowsword. Many weapons can be mounted on the hull. The armour penetration test index in the archives of Mortus Secundus lists a Stormsword mounting a "Stormhammer Cannon". Other archives say it carries a unique Stormsword cannon. Still others merely list a "Cannon, Unknown". It seems the Stormsword carries, in a fixed hull mount, the largest artillery piece available at the time of field conversion, and is used as an ad-hoc tank hunter, "titan-killer", or fortification bombard.

The Stormsword, therefore, serves as an exemplar of adaptability. As a wounded soldier returns to the field, so does a Shadowsword return as a Stormsword. Perhaps less capable, but with any deficiencies filled by an excess of valour.


Part the Second: Armoured Vehicles of Doubtful Provenance

Magos Godot's Completeness Theorum states that in any consistent formal list, all entries on the list must be populated, for the Omnissiah abhors a vacuum. If a chart of prefixes and suffixes is prepared, many gaps emerge, gaps which both Imperial doctrine and the Laws of Necessity seek to fill.

We can rule out the existence of a "Hell-Lord and "Fell-Lord" as violating the laws of grammar.
 

Doomblade

The Records of the Duros Sector, Volume XI, contain a full account of the so-called "Doomblade" main battle tank. To combat hordes of Orkish Titan-class vehicles, the leaders of the 134th Reclamation Crusade commissioned a field-conversion of a damaged Shadowsword. The Melta Cannon from a Reaver Titan was mounted on the vehicle's hull, to provide a short-range but utterly devastating blast. Initial tests were disastrous. The heat from the weapon, so easily dissapated in the air around a Titan, was injected into the vehicle's hull. Treads melted and crew suffocated. Extra ceramite plating was added to the hull, with the added effect of protecting the Doomblade against enemy melta weapons, but reducing its top speed to a crawl. Though they acquited themselves well in battle, the three Doomblades created did not see action after the 134th Reclamation Crusade. Their eventual fate is unknown.

It is astonishing that nine centuries later, in the Ullanor Sector, the same conversion was attempted, with the same results. The Imperium moves in fixed patterns, as dicated by the will of the God-Emperor. Perhaps Doomblades will become a common sight in Imperial divisions.
Hellblade (aka Firesword)

Hellblade

The Hellblade has a turret-mounted Inferno Cannon, commonly mounted on Warhound Scout Titans, as its primary weapon. Unlike the much-lamented Malcador Infernus, the Hellblade not only carries sufficient fuel to use the weapon continuously, but can pivot its turret to bathe entire sections of a battlefield in flame. It typically carries sponson-mounted heavy flamers as well as four hull-mounted heavy bolters.

Some regiments swear by their Hellhounds, painting them in glorious colours or ritually cleaning them between battles. It seems the vehicle is not common for a simple reason. The loss of a single Hellhound can be easily borne; the loss of a Hellblade raises an inferno which lasts for days.
 

Shadowblade

The Shadowblade main battle tank appears only once, in an untitled painting by Constance Eugoxia IV, found among the battle-treasures of the Mordian 9th Heavy Infantry. The commentary on the painting, of unknown but ancient date, says it depicts a "Shadew-Blade Tanke" mounting "Magnus Las-Cannones Foure". Cross-referencing the painting with various pict-captures of Imperial Knights, it appears the "Magna Lascannons" are drawn from life, and not from fancy.

Astonishingly for a Baneblade-derived vehicle, two of the Magna Lascannons are mounted on the vehicle's sponsons, while the other two are turret mounted, making the Shadowblade a larger and more formidable version of the Leman Russ Executioner.
   

Shadowhammer

The identity of the Shadowhammer Assault Tank is unknown. It is best not to speculate on this gap in Imperial records. Perhaps my successor will identify this vehicle; perhaps it was deliberately expunged. No records of a Stealth Assault Tank exist, if such a thing is even conceivable.
 

Banelord

The Banelord appears to be sanctioned a field conversion of a damaged Stormlord transport. The vehicle's Vulcan Megabolter is replaced with two Heavy Chem Cannons, similar to the Banewolf tank. Troops mounted inside must wear full respirators and other protective gear, for they are expected to charge before the hideously caustic fumes of the Chem Cannons have dissipated.

Though the battle record of Banelord tanks would mark them for regular production, regiments which produce them seem to meet with misfortune soon after, as if the design were somehow ill-fated. Time and time again, a Banelord performs well in battle, then is swiftly captured by treachery or open assault, vanishing from Imperial records.
Doomlord

Doomlord

A fully enclosed transport with an assault ramp, the Doomlord trades firepower for survivability. The Baneblade's engines, normally used to move an artillery piece or enclosed turret, instead ram the Doomlord through all but the heaviest of obstacles. The Doomlord's primary weapon is a twin-linked Punisher cannon normally mounted on the Leman Russ Punisher or fighters of the Imperial Navy. Though still impressive, the weapon lacks the sheer explosive rate of fire of the Vulcan Megabolter, and its limited firing arc means it merely suppresses enemy infantry instead of directly targeting them.
 

Shadowlord

Project Shadowlord was a lone spark of grim amusement in the compilation of this work. The 9th Akrian Siege Regiment attempted to create a "heavy infantry transport" with more firepower than a typical Stormlord. They requisitioned a Gatling Blaster from a Reaver titan and mounted it on a Banehammer chassis. The weapon proved too large, so transport capacity was reduced to a single squad.

A Techpriest Engiseeer assigned to the regiment observed the first test for the official record. "The recoil pushed the tank backwards and to starboard, despite full brakes and hydraulic supports. Firing accuracy was rated "very poor". One shell in fifty fell near the target, with some landing up to nine hundred yards away. Shell casings vented from the vehicle caused severe injuries to three observers. The undamped vibration caused severe damage to virtually every system inside the vehicle and incapacitated several crew members."

At this time, the 9th Akrian Siege Regiment still lists "one Shadowlord transport" among their arsenal. It is unknown if the vehicle's deficiencies were eventually remedied or if they were considered acceptable to the Akrians and their commanders.
 

Doomsword

An archaic vehicle, the Doomsword is said, according to the Review of Valdor and Valdor-Variants, Volume II, to carry two Neutron Lasers. As the notorious feedback effect of a single Neutron Laser has rendered the Valdor Tank Hunter a second-line vehicle, the Doomsword, if any still remain in Imperial service, must be even more ill-favoured.

It may be worth noting that Valdor crews as drilled in the motto "non transi flumina", "never cross the streams". Firing a single Neutron Laser at a target is acceptable; firing two at once risks catastrophic feedback to both vehicles. Perhaps the Doomsword took advantage of the unpredictable effects of coordinated fire; perhaps it suffered because of them.
Golgotha


Hellsword

The Adeptus Mechanicus class the Hellsword as an "Ordinatus Minoris, Golgotha-Pattern", though what that designation means is beyond the scope of this document. The vehicle mounts a single Apocalypse Missile Launcher, and is capable of attacking both Titans, lesser vehicles, infantry, and fortifications.

Mounting such a weapon on a Baneblade instead of a void-shielded fortification seems contrary to Imperial doctrine. Hellswords seem to be field modifications, long-sanctioned but rarely used. The infinite variety of missile and launcher patterns means that no two Hellswords are alike.
 

Part the Third: Armoured Vehicles Which Break All Patterns

Would that all vehicles derived from the Baneblade fit the list above. Alas, it is not so. As the maxim says, "The work of the righteous is never complete".

Skyhammer

An anti-aircraft variant of the Baneblade, the Skyhammer carries a twin Punisher cannon turret with dual sponson-mounted Hydra turrets. In theory, any aircraft passing near a Skyhammer is doomed. In practice, the overlapping fields of fire do not provide additional accuracy, and make the vehicle a clear and distinct target. In emergencies, the Skyhammer can be deployed against infantry, though the weapons are reportedly to be wildly inaccurate.
One Craneblade variant. Many others exist.

Craneblade

A "Baneblade-derived support vehicle" often accompanies superheavy tank regiments. A Baneblade's hull divides treads and engine from other components with thick armoured firewalls; a devastating blast can leave the chassis mostly intact. Fitted with STC-derived components, it can become useful once again, replacing half a dozen Trojan or Atlas support vehicles and catering to the specific needs of a regiment.
Mining Drill

Solomon-Pattern Mining Drill

On some rich and profitable worlds, Baneblade-derived heavy mining vehicles of ancient provenance are known to operate, for STC technology reaches all aspects of Imperial life. Though it may pain an Imperial commander to think of a noble vehicle serving as a menial workhorse, it is comforting to think that the ore for ten thousand vehicles may be mined with the labour of one.
Source Unknown

Trident

A fragmentary pict-capture uncovered during research into the Stormsword depicts a Baneblade-derived vehicle with three Earthshakre cannons. Whether such a vehicle is practical is unknown. Until a formal name is assigned by the Departmento Munitorum, the vehicle has been designated "Trident".
 

Other Vehicles

Who can count the derivations, alterations, and field conversions of Baneblades? Mordian 58th have a Baneblade-derived support vehicle equipped with a field kitchen and medicae facility. There are hints of Baneblades fitted with quad-mortar launch systems, self-contained trench-digging systems, and portable bridges. And, of course, the armories of the Adeptus Mechanicus are filled with esoteric and ancient vehicles. 

I hope this humble document has shed some light on this most noble design, and I beg you will forgive any lapses in judgement or errors in armoured taxonomy.

Your servant,
Archivist Quail

3 comments:

  1. >We can rule out the existence of a "Hell-Lord and "Fell-Lord" as violating the laws of grammar.
    This is brilliant!
    (Also, I so much miss pre-reform German spellings like "Schifffahrt").

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    1. FYI tripple consonants in compound words like "Schifffahrt" is post spelling-reform. Or rather tripple consonants with a following vowel is post-reform. "Schifffracht" would have been always possible.

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    2. You are right, thank you! Damn, I am really forgetting the language.

      Delete