"Salve. Colonel general Károly von Pflanzer-Nádas, commander of the Imperial and Royal Astro-Ungarian LXXXIII. Army Corps, noble servant of the Duarchy and officer of His Divine Majesty's Astra Militarum?"
"Correct, protasekretius. Explain this ill-uniformed commotion at once! What is this armed rabble you have dragged in?"
"As per the filed request of general Kaspar Klausner-Varešanin of the Imperial and Royal Astro-Ungarian 973rd infantry division, under your august command no less, in the fullness of time this entire regiment of replacements has been transported and assigned to your Corps, colonel general. You are called upon to sign this reinforcement acquisition form in quadruplicate and imprint your signet ring in hot wax on each parchment copy to satisfy Departmento Munitorum protocol, colonel general."
"Replacements! Those are clearly offworlders, and filthy ones at that, protasekretius. Is this a form of joke?"
"The Departmento Munitorum do not administer wit, colonel general. That is outside our jurisdiction and permit. And strictly against Adeptus regulations, for the record. Last notary in the armaments requisition bureau to voice an ill-opportune quip of blasphemous nature was sentenced to death by a thousand paper cuts at the hands of his colleagues, though I am informed that the execution of said sentence required closer to seven thousand administered cuts by paper edges to achieve the desired lethal outcome. Nevertheless, justice was served, for thus perish the wicked. Thus to your question the answer is a negative, colonel general. These are your assigned reinforcements."
"But check their homeworld, man! Are my Corps to become some ad hoc jumbled-together mess of forces from all over the Segmentum? Things are surely not yet that dire. Protasekretius, I refuse to believe that this tanned and slovenly riffraff could possibly have hailed from my dear Astro-Ungaria."
"Objection duly noted, colonel general. The documentation states without doubt that this force, the 44th regiment of infantry, originates from your planet of Strayah-Ungaria, colonel general."
"Surely you mean Astro-Ungaria, protasekretius?"
"Strayah-Ungaria it is, being a legitimate variant spelling, colonel general."
"I am aghast, protasekretius! You offend the honour of my homeworld. If you were a man of action I would challenge you to a duel on the spot. Or drink you under the table. Indeed!"
"Take heed, colonel general! The writing do not lie, for it stands here in black on white, as true as the Emperor's holy light, colonel general. It is an indisputable fact, colonel general. The Departmento Munitorum cannot object to every misspelt name, wording error and quaint variant spelling out of dialect and individual excentricity produced by the milling herd of plebs and august nobles, colonel general. Unforgiving penalties may apply to such writing mistakes for us Imperial servants within the Adeptus Administratum, yes! Yet the herd of semi-illiterate subjects which it is our responsibility to administer can not be scrutinized and penalized thusly, colonel general."
"And as to the topic of misspelling in particular and indecent paperwork in general, then by the God-Emperor of Holy Terra as my hallowed witness do I swear that you Strayah-Ungarians have proven a poorly organized asset to the Imperium, with sloppy spelling and wild variations in naming conventions all over the desk! Your scattershot misnamings and filing havoc are almost as bad as your casualty rate, by the Emperor's teeth! This is the truth and pardon the spittle, colonel general. If your ilk kept your writ in as fine an order as you do your starched uniforms and waxed moustaches, then by the saints would there be rigour and order in the buraeux whenever your parchments show up in the tray, colonel general!"
"Yes. Quill. Sign! Colonel general. Signet ring. Seal! Colonel general."
"In that case I will grudgingly sign, seal and file a formal complaint, protasekretius."
"Complaint denied, colonel general. Proper equipment for undertaking a ritual procedure of formal complaint is not present in our field cabinet and can not be retrieved in time within the next eighteen Terran hours due to fuel shortages and signal breakdowns, colonel general. Your complaint will as such expire unanswered, and thus no ink will be shed over it as per the statutes of the Parchment Savings Decree of 912.M41, paragraph § 47, colonel general."
"Enough of this rigmarole! Begone from my sight you maggot-suckling scrivener! Hand me the papers and let us be done with it, protasekretius."
"In His name."
"The hell it is! As to you, colonel Jezza Joe, fate would have it that you are to serve and die alongside the Emperor's finest soldiery here on the Ligurian front. Indeed. We are the Duarch's very own Astro-Ungarian Imperial Guardsmen of the LXXXIII. Army Corps. Consider it an honour, colonel. Pray often, wash regularly, carry yourself with upright dignity and obey your superiors without question at all times. Welcome, colonel. Ave Imperator!"
"G'day mate. From Strayah with love like a fething wocker, cur'nt gen. For the Empie!"
- Anecdote from Marija Svoboda's autobiography Through Eyes of Aide-de-Camp, literary work approved by planetary censors in 942.M41 and published in Low Gothic on Astro-Ungaria by Printing House Ginzkey of Hive Zweidorf
- - -
Heavy Weapon Horse
In the grim darkness of the far future, ignorance informs imagination.
Behold! The Imperium of Man. The defender of our species. An empire of a million worlds and countless voidholms, the Imperium of Holy Terra and Mars stretches thin across the galaxy. Besieged by aliens and monsters, it is beset from within by rebels and worse. For ten thousand years has this rotting edifice of human limitations endured, in the name of a silent Emperor.
For all the resilience and rebounding might of the beleaguered Imperium, the true state of human affairs in the Age of Imperium is not to be sought amid heroics and brilliant deeds, nor among miracles and lives of bottomless faith. Nay, instead let us brush aside the propaganda and the stories Imperials tell themselves, to look instead with open eyes on what the Imperium is, and what it can never become.
The Age of Imperium for humanity is characterized first and foremost by wasted potential. The golden pinnacles of cunning knowledge and plenty that was the Dark Age of Technology came crashing down in a calamity that nigh on wiped the human species from the stars. Its scattered remnants for the large part persisted as utter savages among the ruins, in the shape of cannibal tribes ferociously raiding each other and looting the scraps left over from the failed promises of better times. Man slew man, and woman harrowed woman, and child strangled child during the fathomless desperation of Old Night. And all was fell.
The Imperium began as a promise of rebirth, an iron fist crushing all opposition to both establish cruel unity and grasp for a better future. Yet the renaissance brought about by the Emperor of Man and His all-conquering Legions was but a gasp of a few centuries. Dazzling were their conquests, and impressive was their restoration of human fortunes across the Milky Way galaxy. Yet for all the shining works, recovered knowledge and real hope of the early Imperium, this ruthless colossus of war and subjugation sowed the seeds of human doom. Granted, the gargantuan civil war of the Horus Heresy destroyed much precious tech-lore and scarred the Imperium forever, yet even the fratricidal rage and maniac killing during the Horus Heresy paled in comparison to the smaller wars of greater consequence that the infighting Legions had already waged during the Great Crusade.
For the early Imperium did not only bring feral survivors and scavengers into the Terran fold, but it did also brook no competition. In the long run, the worst crimes of the Great Crusade was the brutal annihilation of all alternative sources of human regrowth, gathering all future paths for humanity across the stars to converge on the one road leading from Terra unto damnation. Such advanced human civilizations as the Interex, the Olamic Quietude, the Diasporex and the Auretian Technocracy were all stamped out by His Legionnaires. The seeds of these interstellar cultures were never allowed to grow and spread and shape the fate of mankind across the galaxy in competing power blocs. Thus was the destiny of all humanity bound to that of resurgent Terra by strangling her daughters in the cradle.
The immense physical might and quantity of forces available to the High Lords of Holy Terra should not be allowed to mislead us from the real state of affairs of mankind, for the truth of the matter is that the children of Old Earth during the Age of Imperium has sunk into an irreversible death spiral, where quests for knowledge mean only digging up the technological fossils of brighter ancestors, and never the toil and ingenuity of innovation and discovery. In this morass of ever-worsening demechanization, suffocating bureaucracy, frothing fanaticism and schreeching inefficiency, dysfunctionality is king, and the worsening of all mankind is his command.
Here, in a fortified madhouse straddling the stars, the last strong guardian of humanity is also its insane captor and hostage-taker. Here, in a demented cosmic realm worshipping human primacy, human power in the Milky Way galaxy has undergone a baleful decline through fivehundred generations of wasted development on a million worlds and innumerable voidholms, all under the aegis of the Adeptus Terra. Here, in the monstrous tyranny and bane of innovation and scientific rediscovery known as the Imperium of Man, will you be able to find every self-deprecating absurdity imaginable to mortals, as the fundamental mood of the human species has soured to a dull bitterness spiked with hatred, even as its faculties has boiled over in a fever pitch of savage zealotry and self-righteous bloodletting.
And so blessed machines designed by clever ancients will fail, and eventually no one will remain who can repair or build the lost machines anew. Where machines fail, flesh and will must pick up the slack. Where machines break down, men and beasts must heave and pull for all that they are worth. The Imperium can never become a pinnacle of human achievement and genius invention in the fields of science and technology, for it has shunned that which makes man truly great in the world, clinging instead to parochial superstition and the wreckage of bygone makers.
One example of this demechanization and reliance on throwing bodies on a problem can be glimpsed on the planet of Astro-Ungaria, where a peculiar solution to a lack of mobile heavy firepower has seen parody become reality, in the form of heavy weapon horse teams.
Let us glance on Astro-Ungaria, a civilized human world of majestic rivers, great mountain ranges and an endless tide of squabbling tribes and sects. Predominantly of a Catholodox persuasion within the Cult Imperialis, this world of misery and splendour is ruled by the mediocre potentate titled the Duarch, a Planetary Governor of an ancient dynasty who reigns over the Imperial and Royal domains of Astro-Ungaria for the sake of the dear homeworld and Holy Terra alike. The Duarchy is characterized by internal strife held together by ancestral loyalty to the ruling house, and faith in His Divine Majesty. All of the Astro-Ungarian military is chronically underfunded, and has gained a reputation for widespread incompetence, constant shortages, stulted leadership and screeching dysfunctionality, all of which is barely held together by a mass of manpower, solid infantry marksmanship and excellent artillery.
The aristocratic officers of the Astro-Ungarian military are renowned for their splendid banquets and parties, with fine chocolates and waltzes accompanying wonderful dresses and uniforms seen gliding over polished dance floors. Indeed, a great many Astro-Ungarian officers tend to act like characters out of operettas, putting great stock in their lineage and standing among peers as well as in their physical appearance and pleasant conduct at social events, while paying less attention to the operational arts of militaria. Do you suppose that the Astro-Ungarians will be as brave in war as they are licentious in peace? A sinspeech whisper joke that refuse to die continues to claim that Astro-Ungarian colonels will be more concerned with winning the next card game than the next battle on the frontline. Likewise, other banned jokes remark upon the ability of officers to always acquire fine liquour, no matter the dire straits of shortage or encirclement by the foe. The officer's mess cannot be allowed to disgrace the honour of the homeworld, even when Astro-Ungarian soldiers have to dig up old mass graves to scavenge uniforms off the rotting corpses of their fallen comrades.
The logistical malperformance and organizational chaos of most Astro-Ungarian regiments within the Imperial Guard tend to be matched by their wasteful and rigid approach to war, carried aloft at bayonet point by an unbreakably optimistic spirit, faith in the offensive and the dreams of grand sweeping battle plans hatched by a noble general staff that does not possess the equipment and trained forces necessary to carry out their overly ambitious visions of glorious offensives. Indeed, the Astro-Ungarian Planetary Defence Force and Imperial Guard could very well have been strong armies, if given sufficient funding and vastly increased mechanized forces. Instead, the haphazard force structure of Astro-Ungarian units tend to revolve around massed infantry, a love of cavalry and a good artillery corps which often end up carrying the rest of the Astro-Ungarian army on its back.
The better trained soldiers of the Death Korps of Krieg have repeatedly concluded that fighting alongside Astro-Ungaria is akin to being chained to a corpse. It is an overly harsh judgement, but nevertheless an exaggeration built upon truth. The corruption, ineptitude and lacklustre performance of Astro-Ungarian regiments within the Astra Militarum has been repeatedly noted by the Departmento Munitorum, yet ultimately Astro-Ungaria provides plenty of loyal and valiant manpower, while the shoddy combat record of its Imperial Guard forces is nothing out of the ordinary compared to a majority of Imperial worlds and voidholms, once the facade of Imperial invincibility is seen for what it is. And so the farce that is Astro-Ungaria at war continues to waltz on, to the tune of great bombardment.
The underfunded nature of Astro-Ungaria's soldiery means that they will be fine for parades, with military orchestras of the highest calibre, yet their more sophisticated equipment will always be sorely lacking. One example of an attempted solution can be seen in the crude arrangement known as the heavy weapon horse teams, which combines a love of horses with an undying military optimism ill suited for the reality of advanced warfare.
The phenomenon of heavy weapon horse is not just that of one or more pack-horses carrying a disassembled piece of heavy weaponry. It is instead a seemingly logical evolution of pack horses carrying around heavy weapons, which grants mobility in the field and makes away with the trouble of unloading and assembling the heavy weapon by instead attaching it fully assembled to the horse, to be fired virtually on the move if so desired. The use of heavy weapon horse teams originated in cavalry heavy stubber units after the Age of Apostasy in order to make up for a lack of light vehicles, but has long since spread to a fair number of infantry and dragoon regiments.
There is something to be said for horses, no matter their innumerable drawbacks compared to machines. The horse is an organic walker adapted for rough terrain. Such equine transport requires no fuel, and in lush landscapes the beasts of burden may prove self-feeding. Even so, the tradition of using horses as hooved weapon platforms amounts to a maladaptation, even a blunder, yet such crude fixes through rudimentary means are only growing more common across His astral dominion.
The horses used for carrying heavy weapons will usually be immensely strong Ungarian draft horses, descended from small breeds favoured by feral steppe nomads during the Age of Strife. The Ungarian draft horse is not a gorgeous and agile Viepizzaner breed by any means, but a stout workhorse favoured by agri-serfs and robotniks in mountainous regions. No matter the continent and region from which they hail, all Astro-Ungarians take pride in their horses, and their regiment tend to sport a great number of horses for logistic duties.
Heavy weapon horse teams will invariably sport spare horses to allow for shifts of rest by switching over the heavy weapons between horses, and likewise there will be pack-horses to carry ammunition and spare parts. A lack of horses for spares and ammunition transport will result in officers arranging for conscripts and press-ganged menial civilian thralls to pick up the burden usually shouldered by strong horses, thus producing the sight of flocks of human porters lugging around heavy weapons adapted for equines to carry.
Hard to hide, heavy weapon horses are trained to lie down on command, and they are likewise drilled to walk into a hail of fire when prodded. It is rarely worthwhile to armour the horses, given the heavy loads that they already carry, and thus the fine beasts will be completely exposed to all the lethal dangers of the battlefield. Heavy weapon horses are trained to be accustomed to the noise of battle, and they often turn deaf from the din, and sometimes they turn more or less blind by flashes from energy weapons. Crafty crew may occasionally fashion blinders and dampeners for the eyes and ears of their horses, yet such kit for creature comfort is not regulation standard within the Guard.
Some Astro-Ungarian units sport strange, alien mounts and draft animals, all of which are used alongside horses for heavy weapon carrying duties. Aside from horses, other Terran-derived beasts of burden include mules and camels.
Many Astro-Ungarian regiments have seen their Sentinel scout units replaced by unwieldy heavy weapon horse, in a dysfunctional cutback which makes sense on paper. After all, both cavalry and Sentinel walkers are used as scouts since horses are fast, right? And the Sentinel is armed with a heavy weapon, correct? Thus, a horse with a heavy weapon equals the function of a Sentinel in an Imperial Guard order of battle, but has the advantage of being much cheaper, being able to replenish its own numbers to some extent and being able to feed off many kinds of vegetation for refueling. Therefore, a heavy weapon horse can fill a Sentinel's role, according to certain myopic bean-counters in the Deptartmento Munitorum, who will wave off the problem of the heavy weaponry burden considerably slowing down the horse.
Occasionally, heavy bolters with their short barrels will shoot off the reins of the carrying horse, to speak nothing of bloody accidents involving heavy bolters and scared horses throwing their heads into the line of fire.
Horse mortars, on the other hand, tend to sport flimsy support legs to save the horse from the worst excesses of recoil, but the tight requirements for ease of mass manufacture and the ever-worsening Imperial tendency for retardation of equipment quality means that mortar horses will invariably suffer horrendous back injuries, unless the crew take rare pity on their loyal beast and goes through the trouble of unloading the mortar to be fired on the ground instead of from horseback. Such kindness is extremely hard to find amid the traumatized cruelty that reigns supreme across all human cultures in the Age of Imperium, for evil begets evil. A rare few mortar horses will be fortunate enough to have bionics implanted into their spines and legs, yet such enchancements through technology is usually seen as an unnecessary extravagant lavishment upon a mass of meat that will soon be consumed in the flames of war anyway, just like the rank and file soldiers who will soon need to be replaced due to heavy attrition. Better be frugal instead.
The use of heavy weapon horse teams in the field have proven an inefficient employment of resources, yet even flawed approaches may sometimes yield results no matter how underperforming, and sometimes the weakness of a doctrine may be hidden among the titanic casualties in offensives that cost hundreds of millions of lives. What is one more waste of life and material amid a mountain of corpses and vehicle wrecks? And with so many outlandish regiments with wildly varying combat doctrines and equipment, why should the heavy weapon horse be singled out as particularly problematic when other regiments charge into battle wielding dual swords?
Ultimately, heavy weapon horse teams have for the most part proven a debilitating and atavistic part of warfare across the Milky Way galaxy. Sometimes, such as in forested terrain with the element of surprise being on the Imperial side, heavy weapon horse has bitten hard and kicked well, yet more often than not their contribution to battle may be found in the rotting cadavers of equines, the scrap remains of equipment and the torn corpses of soldiers strewn across battlefields under strange skies. Yet to their callous overlords and dominas, Imperial subjects and horses are nothing but faceless numbers in a broken equation of increased input to feed the meatgrinder. It may be abominable, yes, but who will even care?
And so ever-more primitive solutions will be found for problems caused by the senility and sclerosis of a demented interstellar civilization that amounts to a sinking ship. Where machines have decreased, the increased use of warm bodies must compensate for the loss of mechanical capabilities. Thus the heavy weapon horse phenomenon is just one of endless other examples of technological regression and debasement of knowledge, that slowly grinds away all the wonder that ancient man ever achieved across the stars in his time of power and wisdom. Eventually, his degenerate descendants will succumb to their retrograde ways, for the etiolation of technology has robbed mankind of any chance whatsoever to survive the overwhelming tide of horrors about to drag our species into oblivion.
Man may be a creature of unbounded potential, yet the cosmic dominion that he has fashioned in the name of an undying god has effectively drained all potential dry, leaving nothing but a crumbling husk where once ancient man boldly reached for the stars and stood on the cusp of unlocking the secrets of creation self. All that is left, is inept rage.
And so the heinous cruelty that man is capable of in the Age of Imperium is matched only by the dilapidation of knowledge and technology, upon which all of man's future hopes rest.
Such is the depravity of our species, on the brink of doom.
Such is the fate of mankind, in a time beyond salvation.
Such is the end that awaits us all.
It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only shortcoming.
- - -
Astro-Ungarian Heavy Weapon Horse Teams
Inspired by this photograph
of a pack-horse from an Austro-Hungarian cavalry machine gun detachment, my brother proposed that my friend JAB could have heavy weapons all mounted on horses. And not just as pack-horses
to move the heavy weaponry around to then unpack and assemble on the ground, no. But as mobile tactical horse heavy weapon teams. After ordering 28mm historical pack-horses, drilling and pinning a lot, the result turned out ludicrous with the bulky Warhammer 40'000 Imperial Guard lascannon and autocannon on the obviously very strong workhorses.
Still, my plan for the mortar team was to have a pack-horse standing to the side, with a mortar assembled on the ground. The impact of a mortar recoil right into a horse's back was too crazy for me to wrap my head around. Yet my brother persevered, and insisted that I just mount the mortar on top of the horse, and perhaps add a pair of flimsy metal support legs or hindleg bionics as a cheap and shoddy excuse for animal maltreatment of the highest order. Hesitant to go all the way, at first I did drill holes into the pack-horse to have a tall air mine launcher (luftminenwerfer
) standing on the ground, straddling the horse without actually punching into its back with the full force of mortar recoil. Alas, my brother found my faith lacking, and finally convinced me to go all the way. Thus his vision for the painful mortar horse became a miniature reality at last, although he thought the addition of a second pair of support legs was too advanced and costly to fit his cheap bonkers parody idea.
The legged mortar piece itself took some work, but was great fun to build. Note all the rivets and small details scattered about it, ready to fall off as you handle the model in games in the future. This was staunchly prevented by carefully smearing super glue in a thin layer over and around all such exposed and vulnerable details, taking care not to let super glue build up lumps. The tool used was a lot of tiny strips of ripped newspaper. Take note of this method of reinforcing by super glue for your own handsculpted details on converted miniatures, but do avoid it for sculpts intended for casting.
As to the bases of the heavy weapon horse teams, I sacrificed a lot of green stuff to hide the moulded bases of the metal horses. In many otherwise excellent historical miniature armies out there, the moulded bases are clearly visible around feet and hooves, despite flock, sand and modelling grass trying to hide them. Even when hobbyists have gone to the trouble to fill out the edges of the moulded base with modelling putty or filler, many other hobbyists can often spot the mound that just so happens to be placed under the feet or hooves, all across the army. In order to combat such an impression of artificiality, I applied green stuff generously over the base to create a random spread of lumps. Hopefully it will work out fine after painting.
I barely tinkered with the poses of the crewmen. The old Cadian heavy weapon teams have some decent but limiting poses for arms. I pondered cutting up arms and hands and remodelling many of the limbs for a more lifelike impression of a heavy wepon team at work, but ultimately I decided against it for the sake of speed. My friend JAB hopes to use his Astro-Ungarians for a tournament in the autumn of 2023, so better go for mass over individual quality. All crewmen were pinned onto their bases, since nothing must be allowed to go missing should the model be dropped by accident in the future. Make it durable like a Dwarf! I mean Squat. I mean Kin. Despite the model in question being a mere frail manling, and not a stout and rotund creature approaching a perfect sphere in bodily proportions.
Flora and fauna was sculpted onto the bases to fill out the empty space. The lifeforms were made slightly alien, but nothing fancy. Again, the aim was speed, not complex layers upon layers of details. The tendril plants were made by twisting thin wire, pinning the foot into the base and shaping the loose branches. The entire organism was then covered with super glue and dosed with baking powder. Details were sculpted, such as the drip ends on the tendrils. These were then given a strengthening cover with super glue applied with bits of paper to ensure they may never fall off the model no matter the wear and tear.
Great thanks to Anzu
on Chaos Dwarfs Online for gifting us with a wealth of Imperial Guard bits to help the Astro-Ungarian army project along! The heavy weapon horse conversions have been slowly cooking over months, and has allowed for destressing amid many tasks.