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Sabbat Worlds Crusade

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Targetdrone.gif This article is about the Military campaign; for the background book by Dan Abnett, see The Sabbat Worlds Crusade (Background Book).
Sabbat Worlds Crusade
Khan Group.jpg
A stellar map of the Khan Group, showing several objective worlds in the path of Warmaster Macaroth's advance toward the Cabal Systems.[1x]
Date 755-790s.M41
Location Sabbat Worlds
Outcome Imperial victory
Imperium Forces of Chaos
Warmaster Slaydo(KIA)
Marshal Macaroth
Lord General Militant Hechtor Dravere(KIA)
Lord Militant Cybon
Lord Militant Vichres(KIA)
Lord General Bulledin
Lord General Lugo
Lord General Barthol Van Voytz
Lord General Urienz
General Jater Elbeth(MIA)
General Dilen Belfry
General Andreas Carnhide
Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt
Admiral Kristor
Admiral Shaever
Vice Admiral Alber Vander Trake(KIA)
Saint Sabbat
Archon Nadzybar(KIA)
Archon Urlock Gaur
Magister Araek Etogaur(KIA)
Magister Heritor Asphodel(KIA)
Magister Qux
Magister Enok Innokenti(KIA)
Magister Shebol Red-Hand(KIA)
Magister Anakwanar Sek
Magister Kuvelo(KIA)
Magister Sholen Skara(KIA)
Magister Rusheck Vakkim(KIA)
See Order of Battle See Order of Battle
Very Heavy Very Heavy

The Sabbat Worlds Crusade was the Imperial effort to liberate the sector of the same name in the Segmentum Pacificus, began officially in 755.M41.[1b]


The sector began to suffer sustained Chaos persecution in the years following 600.M41, and the situation worsened for the Imperial residents and military forces, until, by the year 740, the entire sector could no longer be considered under Imperial governance, and the Civitas Imperialis was formally suspended.[1a]

The task of retaking of the sector was eventually given to Lord Militant Slaydo, who had petitioned the High Lords of Terra for the mission at the successful conclusion of the Khulan Wars in 754.M41. Slaydo had always been a passionate admirer of Saint Sabbat, and considered it disgraceful that the Imperium had so passively accepted the loss of the worlds conquered by her. He had been drawing up theoretical approaches for the reconquest of the Sabbat Worlds as early as 737.M41. After the Khulan Wars were concluded, the High Lords of Terra rewarded Slaydo with a promotion to Warmaster and a formal charter to re-take the Sabbat Worlds.[1b]

Whatever jealousy Slaydo's fellow general officers felt at his elevation was balanced by their trepidation at being charged with such a monumental undertaking themselves. The Sabbat Worlds were comprised of over a hundred inhabited planets, covering a vast area of space; the Chaos forces that occupied them were legion in number, and had been fortifying their holdings for almost a century.[1b]

Slaydo himself did not underestimate the task before him; aged a hundred and fifty years old at the start of the Crusade, he confided to his closest aides and officers that he only feared – presciently, as it turned out – that he would not live to see its completion.[1b][2]

Opening Gambits: 754 - 756

From Slaydo ++ To All Militant Commanders ++ The Signal Is Given ++ The Signal Is Advance ++ Effective Immediate ++ May The Emperor Protect Us ++
Despatch via Astropath, the 266th day of 755.M41[1d]

Slaydo began assembling his forces and planning the campaign that year, although he did not declare the Crusade begun until the 266th day of 755.[1c] He assembled almost one billion Imperial Guard soldiers, elements from six Chapters of Adeptus Astartes and significant Adeptus Mechanicus forces, including Titans.[1e]

Operation Redrake

Main article: Operation Redrake

The initial attack upon the Sabbat sector was named after the Serrian Redrake, a multi-headed serpent that could attack several targets at once with deadly effect.[1e]

The objectives of Operation Redrake were[1e]:

  1. To secure a foothold in the sector to use as a main base
  2. To take the enemy completely by surprise
  3. To prevent enemy counterattack on the Imperial fleet elements
  4. To provide a swift and impressive victory for morale purposes

Several worlds in the Newfound Trailing Group were attacked at the same time; Formal Prime, Onscard, Long Halent and Indrid.[1e] Onscard and Long Halent fell swiftly, but Formal Prime was not liberated until the White Scars Space Marines were deployed. Indrid held out well into the year 756 and the campaign there was ended with tactical use of orbital bombardment.[1f]

A brief period of reorganisation occupied the Imperial forces after the conclusion of the operation, during which time Chaos forces began to mass in response.[1f]

The Bloody Path to Balhaut: 756 - 764

Slaydo's particular genius as a commander was his ability to coordinate massive, varied forces in a fluid pattern that left few gaps or weaknesses. The next phase of the Crusade sprang directly from the successful conclusion of Operation Redrake, launching assaults into the Newfound Trailing group from the four bases established during Redrake.[1g]

Nevertheless, the road to the Crusade's next major watershed, the victory at Balhaut, was both longer and bloodier than Slaydo ever expected. Between 756 and 761.M41, he was forced to revise his predicted date for the liberation of Balhaut no fewer than thirty-seven times.[1g]

The Chaos enemy facing the second phase of the Crusade fell roughly into three categories[1g]:

  1. Entrenched planetary forces, often numbering in the millions;
  2. The counter-attack forces marshaled by Archon Nadzybar, which were both highly mobile and unpredictable (in the last months of 756, no fewer than eight significant fleet engagements took place between Gotthrone, Hisk, and Halina); and
  3. Mobile, opportunistic warbands, often scraped together from the enemy forces in retreat from Redrake, which regularly assaulted supply bases and transport convoys behind Imperial positions.

Operation Newfound

An artist's rendition of a Chaos 'Woe Machine' battling Space Marines on Ashek II.[1k]
Main article: Operation Newfound

The liberation of the entire Newfound Trailing Group now became the priority for the Crusade. Almost immediately the combatant forces became involved in several bloody, stalemated encounters. Ashek II was taken after almost a year by the heavy deployment of Titan Legions, whilst the situation at Ambold Eleven was only saved by a timely and valourous intervention by the Iron Snakes Space Marines. Increasingly, it seemed, an overwhelming concentration of Imperial arms was required in each combat zone in order to ensure victory. This was proven at battlefields like that of Sverren, where Guard, Titan, Navy Wing and Marine presences were required.[Needs Citation]Naval forces regularly distinguished themselves by their close cooperation with other arms, for example, whilst the later stages of the campaign became bogged down, the initial assault on Ambold Eleven featured a swift and precise naval assault followed by a successful staged troop drop directly in the face of the enemy.[1h]

The peculiarities of fighting in a zone that had been infested by Chaos for a considerable length of time also served to slow Imperial progress. The first example of this was the peculiar series of events surrounding the securing of Fornax Aleph, where first the Imperial population, and then the occupying Guard force, led by Lord General Jater Elbeth, disappeared without trace. A reinforcement detail of the Iron Snakes fought a bloody battle against a daemonic incursion. Although the re-colonisation of Fornax Aleph has been proceeding smoothly since then, no explanation has been found for the disappearance of the earlier inhabitants or Elbeth's force.[1i]

The last major world taken in Operation Newfound, Cociaminus, would prove to be a long-standing irritant. The initial pacification of the planet went well, with armour engagements being the most notable actions. However, Chaos partisan movements were never fully exterminated, with the result that heretic insurgents would continue to plague the Imperial forces for years. It has been projected by the Holy Munitorum that upwards of eight million Imperial Guardsmen may have died on Cociaminus between the years 760 and 773, making it the bloodiest location in the whole Crusade.[1j]

Defending the Midline

A fierce Chaos counter-attack erupted in 760, led by Archon Nadzybar himself, and ripped right into the Imperial midline, almost re-taking the world of Sverren and initiating struggles in many other theatres. Sverren was hard-pressed for over a year, when Imperial force build-up finally pushed the Chaos armies off the planet. The defence of Sverren was led by General Bulledin during this time, and only afterwards was it found that he was facing off against Chaos troops led by both Nadzybar and Sholen Skara.[1l]

The Chaos counter-attack was defeated after sixteen months of warfare, with the final battle of the campaign being a defeat for Chaos on Valens 160.[1l]

Advance on Balhaut

Slaydo's cherished goal since the start of the Crusade was now within reach, if somewhat later than the Warmaster had wanted. Despite repeated urging by Lord Militants Cybon and Dravere to ignore Balhaut and instead prosecute an advance into the Nubila Reach, Slaydo put his plan to conquer Balhaut into action in late 763.[1m]

A key world in the sector, sitting in a confluence of many spacelanes and considered a seat of power by Archon Nadzybar, Slaydo was determined to bring the Chaos leader to a pitched battle on the world. For his part, Nadzybar wanted to draw the Imperial forces into a trap around the world of Fabia, and began to assemble his Magisters' forces. Picking up on this, Slaydo ordered false force dispersals and intelligence leaks that would indicate that he was taking the bait. Both sides engaged in troop build-ups throughout much of the following year. In 765, Nadzybar massed his forces on Balhaut, his staging world for the attack through Fabia. It was then that a surprise assault by the Imperial forces fell on him.[1n]

Balhaut: 765

Main article: Battle of Balhaut

Warmaster Slaydo led the assault on Balhaut personally. Orbital superiority was achieved inside 21 hours, and the Imperial forces landed on 9 separate areas of the planet, engaging Chaos forces swiftly and directly. The amount of troops landed would not be exceeded during the Crusade until the assault on Morlond, years later.[1o]

Saint Sabbat during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade

The fiercest fighting took place in the cities of the planet. Balopolis was a particularly bloody struggle, during which Imperial officers took extremely high casualties. The initial commander, General Curell, was wounded and taken from the field after about two days of fighting. In the next ten hours, two successive Imperial commanders were both killed, and command fell to the senior surviving officer, Commander Macaroth. Upon receiving this news, Slaydo field-promoted Macaroth to Marshal. Macaroth proved immediately capable at such a command and eventually turned the battlefront completely around, making an impending Imperial loss into a remarkable victory.[1o][1p]

The worst fighting Slaydo reserved for himself. Facing him were four Chaos armies, led by Nadzybar, Heritor Asphodel, Khul Kolesh and Sholen Skara. Bottled up in the Oligarchy palace, they ferociously held the Imperial assault forces off for ten days.[1q]

The initial breakthrough was made by the White Scars Space Marines, who broke through the defences and killed Magister Kolesh, scattering his forces.[1q] Following up on this, Astartes of the Silver Guard, led by their Chapter Master, broke into Asphodel's lines. The Heritor's woe machines were then systematically engaged and destroyed by several Imperial Guard armour and artillery regiments. The Silver Guard continued to lead the spearhead push, backed up by several Imperial Guard infantry regiments. The final Chaos position was eventually blown open by the Hyrkan 8th, allowing Warmaster Slaydo to lead a force of eight regiments directly into the Oligarchy High Palace. The combat inside the compound was brutal, and it is suspected Slaydo was wounded early on in the fighting but concealed it from his retinue. The Warmaster eventually met his fate at the 18th hour of the tenth day of the assault, clashing with Archon Nadzybar personally in a close-quarter battle that lasted somewhere between six and eleven minutes. Mortally wounded twice over, Slaydo continued to fight, eventually delivering a death-strike to the Chaos warlord. The death of Nadzybar destroyed the morale of the remaining Chaos forces, rendering them easy prey for the Imperials. The entire planet was soon reclaimed.[1r]


Magisters Skara and Asphodel escaped the destruction of the Chaos armies on Balhaut, and would pose future threats. A significant amount of the main Chaos force escaped and scattered all over the nearby systems, causing much hardship and damage as they retreated. Many worlds were sacked or even destroyed outright as a result, such as Tanith.[Needs Citation]

On his deathbed, Slaydo named Macaroth as his successor to Warmaster, upsetting many of his Lords Militant, who regarded Macaroth as too young and too junior an officer to ascend to the position. A period of political in-fighting amongst the highest echelons of the Imperial Crusade force would take place over much of the next year.[Needs Citation]

The Cabal Salient: 765-773

Main article: Cabal Salient

Macaroth began his tenure as Warmaster by setting a strategic goal which made Slaydo's seem modest by comparison: the Crusade armies now began a massive spinward advance, with the ultimate goal of closing on the Cabal systems. Several of Macaroth's critics opined that he was overreaching himself in an effort to prove his worth to the rest of the High Command, yet he quickly demonstrated a deftness with coordinating multiple battlefronts and a striking talent for outmaneuvering the Chaos forces.[Needs Citation]

The Salient

Instead of staging large, overwhelming assaults, Macaroth favoured smaller, multiple, simultaneous engagements, handing out command of minor theatres to lower-ranked Guard officers. Many officers would distinguish themselves as a result, such as Lord General Noches Sturm at Grimoyr. Macaroth also favoured mobility and veteran forces, moving the most experienced and effective units from warzone to warzone as required, instead of assigning them to garrison duties after successful actions. This eventually built up a cadre of elite Imperial Guard regiments who had likely seen action on eight or more worlds.[Needs Citation]

The Astartes also distinguished themselves under their new commander. Most notably, the Iron Snakes, cut off from supply on the world of Presarius, fought for 9 days without ammunition or support, successfully exterminating their mutant enemy. The action was thought so impressive that, upon their return to their staging area, Chapter Master Veegum of the Silver Guard ordered his own marines to bow to the Iron Snakes warriors.[Needs Citation]

However, the Chaos forces scored victories of their own. in 767, Magister Qux of the Eyeless not only defeated the Imperial force sent to wrest the world of Parthenope from him, he followed up on it by crushing the associated fleet element. The remains of the vessels destroyed formed the Antioch Debris Field.[Needs Citation]

Perhaps worse in the long term, the Forge World Urdesh fell to Chaos forces between the years of 766 and 772, equipping the Chaos forces with considerable amounts of Urdeshi-pattern arms and armour.[Needs Citation]

However, Macaroth's tactic of multiple engagement did see the spectacular fall of many of the Chaos commanders, one after another. Early in 768, Sholen Skara was captured upon the world of Sapiencia. He was turned over to agents of the Inquisition. Later that year, Rusheck Vakkim was hunted down by forces commanded by General Urienz and finally perished in a brutal gun-battle on the world of Nyzon II. And then in 769, Heritor Asphodel was cut down in battle with a mixed Imperial commando team on the planet Verghast. These deaths marked the end of the hold-out Chaos forces left after Balhaut, and the collapse of their forces encouraged the Crusade to stretch out into the Cabal Systems in a long salient.[Needs Citation]

The New Archon

Unfortunately for the Imperials, their big push into the Cabal Systems coincided with the rise of the new overall Chaos commander: Archon Urlock Gaur. While the Crusade achieved several victories in 770, by 771 it had met resistance so stiff that the entire Crusade front was halted.[1][3]

First appearing on the fringes of the Khan Group, Gaur led his forces, including the fearsome Blood Pact, into a quick counter-offensive. Macaroth's strategy had taken so many worlds so quickly that the Crusade forces now occupied an extended salient, vulnerable to attack on three sides. Gaur's counter-offensive forced the Warmaster to hastily redeploy his forces to protect his flanks and supply lines. Several battles over lines of communication and supply would take place over the next two years.[1][3]

Eventually, the situation stabilised with the Crusade salient being secure on two fronts; only the coreward side was hard-pressed. Macaroth decided to gamble on being able to prosecute his forward lunge into the Cabal Systems and secure his flank at the same time, despite the objections of many of his command staff.[Needs Citation]

Retasking his forces into 9 Army Groups, Macaroth continued to advance the Crusade in the face of stiff resistance; however, Gaur had been waiting for just such an extension, and unleashed Magisters Enok Innokenti and Anakwanar Sek and their forces in two massive counter-assaults across the breadth of the Crusade push. His plan was to bisect the Imperial force and decapitate it.[Needs Citation]

The Battle of Orestes

Gaur unleashed large numbers of traitor forces in the Battle of Orestes, a Forge World and homeworld to the Legio Tempestus Titan Legion. After having their sensors blinded by the Dark Mechanicus, traitor forces landed throughout Orestes with enough Titan engines that they outnumbered the Tempestus' 22 machines seven-to-1. After desperately holding the line, the Imperial forces on Orestes were saved by the Legio Invicta under Princeps Pietor Gearhart. After the battle, tensions erupted over theology regarding the Emperor's incarnation of the Omnissiah, with the Tempestus nearly coming to blows with the Invictia. Open warfare was only averted by the emergence of more Chaos forces on the planet.[4]

Ibram Gaunt leads an attack during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade[5]

The Khan Group: 773-775

By the end of 773, the forces of Sek and Innokenti had all but severed the neck of the Imperial thrust, their attacks splitting the Khan Group in two. Imperial losses were huge, with multiple planets perishing in the embrace of Chaos. The impact of the Blood Pact in particular was keenly felt by both Imperial soldiery and the unfortunate citizens who came into contact with them.[Needs Citation]

However, the Imperial forces were able to pull themselves together in the face of the Chaos onrush, and three theatres in particular would prove instrumental in the continued survival of the Crusade; Enothis, Khan III and Herodor. Lord Militant Humel was able to turn an impending defeat into victory for the Imperial forces on Enothis with a full commitment to the use of Navy Wings. Where Guard armour had failed to turn the tide, concentrated airpower eventually prevailed, driving Anakwanar Sek off-planet and stalling his rampage. The Chaos reinforcements for both Sek and Innokenti were isolated in the main Khan system by forces under General Bulledin, who was able to finally pin down and slay Magister Shebol Red-Hand. With the death of their leader, the main Chaos armies went static and were eventually eliminated after a campaign lasting 22 months.[Needs Citation]

It was on Herodor that the most miraculous event took place. Precisely what happened there is unclear, but it appears that, with the Imperial forces under the command of General Lugo being heavily assaulted by a force led by Enok Innokenti himself, a young woman appeared who claimed to be the reincarnated Saint Sabbat. Whilst the truth of this claim is hotly questioned, it appears that the woman, along with elements of an Imperial Guard regiment (the Tanith First and Only) that she seemed to deputise as her personal bodyguard force, routed the Chaos army opposing them and slew Magister Innokenti.

Suddenly, the Chaos counter-strike was not only halted, it was shocked and demoralised. With only Ankawanar Sek's forces still maintaining solid cohesion, the newly christened Crusade Second Front is beginning to power through its opposition and shore up the Crusade flank. With the fall of the fortress-world Morlond to Macaroth's own forces, the Sabbat Worlds Crusade looks to be on the cusp of succeeding in driving the Chaos forces out of the sector.[Needs Citation]

However, at this critical juncture, Macaroth has redeployed several of his most experienced subordinates, including Lord General Cybon and Marshal Blackwood, to seemingly unimportant theatres at the rear or the flank of the Crusade advance. His reasons for doing so are not clear; his critics have said that he is pushing members of the "old guard" aside to give his own favourites the chance to win glory; however it is equally possible that the Warmaster is anticipating another flanking attack of the kind that had such disastrous effect in the Cabal Systems and the Khan Group, and is sending his best subordinates to where they will do the most good. After all, Anakwanar Sek is still at large, possibly the most gifted strategist on the Archenemy's side. There are even troubling intelligence reports that Sek is building his own army to rival the Blood Pact, the Sons of Sek.[Needs Citation]

Macaroth's next major objective seems to be to wrest Urdesh from the grip of Chaos, denying the Archenemy their largest source of armoured vehicles and other major industrial assets.[Needs Citation]

Forces Involved

Notable battles

See Also

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