+ inload: The Vrag-Rana +

+ The Devil-Dogs of Slav Mundi: The Vrag-Rana +

Survivalists; killers. Sadists. They captured three of the Tenstar Greycores – we heard 'em over the vox while we were holed-up. The Vrags had somehow locked-out the transmit beads.  
Sergeant Warr couldn't take it. Went to put a bullet into the 'caster. When he moved, Vragger sharpshooter spread his head-meat over the rear wall. 
The rest of us stayed put. Sat for the rest of the night, huddled from the dark, listening to the rain and the wind, trying not to hear those poor grey bastards scream out their throats.
Testament of Corpsman Gharrett Atkyn, Elirian 145th 

+ Abstract +

+ The Vrag-Rana were an elite force fielded throughout the Red Hand Dominate by the Chaos forces of the Red Hand Region. Well-trained, equipped, motivated and organised to a level comparable to the Imperial Guard, the force had its roots on the border planet of Slav Mundi, a mist-shrouded world of moors, scrubby badlands and low-built cities of sulking black iron. After the world was claimed by the Crusade, the scattered Vrag-Rana Remnants coalesced around the darkly charismatic Xiah Hesh, to whom they became fanatically loyal. +

+ Presence +

+ The Vrag-Rana were amongst the earliest forces encountered during the Crusade; recorded as active across the Buir’s Reach Corridor in M42.040. They were noted as creating 'stiff opposition' to the Second Army Group. Nevertheless, a staging base for the Crusade was established on Slav-Mundi, which remained in Imperial hands for the remainder of the Crusade. +

+ However, far from destroying their will, the humiliating loss of Slav-Mundi meant that the majority of the remaining Vrag-Rana forces, estimated to be in the region of quarter of a million men, were placeless and bitterly resentful of the Crusade. The loss of their homeworld drove them deep into the waiting arms of Hesh and his sub-ordinates, who deployed these disciplined soldiers to stiffen resistance across the Region. +

+ They were immortalised in Imperial propaganda as by the sobriquet 'vrags' or 'vraggers', and images of their sinister weapons and uniforms were common shorthand for 'the enemy' amongst the Imperial Guard. +

+ Dynamic, aggressive and well-led, they were to become one a dark mirror to the Imperial Guard forces during the Augustine Crusade, present to some extent at all stages of the Crusade and in all theatres; occasionally massing in dedicated kill-brigades, but mostly serving as a hard-core around which local forces rallied. +

+ Origins +

+ Slav Mundi, Vrag-Rana world of origin +
+ Historically speaking, Slavmundan warriors were much in demand as fierce mercenaries throughout – and occasionally beyond – the region. +

+ Sitting outside the Red Hand Region proper, Slav Mundi had suffered terribly under the occupation of a previous Imperial expedition, led by the ill-fated Lord General Mazhan in late M41, which used the feudal planet as a staging post in its assault on the Red Hand Region. +

+ After the withdrawal of the Imperial invaders, a century prior to the Augustine Crusade, the peoples of Slav Mundi entered into a tense non-aggression pact with each other, removing much of the internecine conflict that had blighted Slavmundan history. +

+ The culture became inward-looking and increasingly martial, with nearly forty per cent of its population under arms – an impossibly high proportion that precluded the world being self-sufficient; and necessitated the populace becoming mercenaries, sell-swords and pirates across the Region. The myth of the reaving Vrag Rana – a Slavmundan term meaning 'wound-wreck' as a reference to their origins under the Imperial bootheel – spread and grew across the whole Red Hand region in the century between Mazhan's occupation and the Augustine Invasion. +

+ A Dance in Fleshmarket Square – Second Invasion of Slav-Mundi +

+ By the time the Augustine Crusade approached in M42, Imperial command was expecting to find a divided Feudal-class world, ready to be dominated and exploited as Mazhan had done years before, in what the locals termed the 'first invasion'. Instead, the Imperials came upon a united planet peopled by hardened and professional soldier-mercenaries, armed to the teeth with materiel abandoned years earlier by Mazhan's forces, and reinforced by the booty, plunder and allies of a century of successful freebooting. +

+ Resourceful Vrag-Rana partisans continued to operate 
on Slav-Mundi, late into the crusade +
Fortunately for the Crusade, the modus operandi of the Vrag Rana meant that the vast majority of the Vrag-Rana – now estimated to have numbered at between a quarter and half a million fighting men – were employed elsewhere across the Red Hand Region when Slav Mundi was invaded. Under the defiant leadership of a warlord named O Colmen Corm, the remaining Vrag-Rana battalions forced the Imperial Second Army Group into a grinding siege. +

+ While the majority of the world was subjugated in relatively short order, organised resistance in the outlying cities on Slav Mundi were to last for more than two years (indeed, partisans are now suspected to have been present up to the infamous Night of Ten Thousand Daggers), consuming a disproportionately large amount of the Augustine forces. This led to the planet's sardonic nickname of 'fleshmarket square' amongst the Imperial Guard. +

+ The planet's resistance to Imperial rule was strengthened by the firm grip of O Colmen Corm, a ruthless but extremely capable military supremacist who had gradually consolidated the bulk of Vrag-Rana forces into a dedicated and well-organised elite over the course of two decades. Cold but capable, Corm built a loyal powerbase through rotating the local warbands out as mercenaries, building their skills across a dozen worlds in the Red Hand Region. Instead of fighting each other, Corm had found a way to centralise the Vrag-Rana, and create a genuinely effective and adaptable fighting elite that owed its loyalty to him. +

+ Vrag Rana frontline forces during the Invasion of Slav-Mundi. Note the presence of Kroot mercanery ausxiliary. +

+ It was later to become apparent that Corm himself had fallen under the insidious sway of Xiah Hesh years earlier, while serving as a mercenary himself – and as it became clear Slav Mundi could not stand, Corm ordered his forces to fall back to the Core Worlds of his master's realm; in a last spiteful act against the hated invaders. Over the course of months, more and more Vrag-Rana slipped through the cordons to escape deeper into the Red Hand Region; there to bring their military expertise to Hesh's direct control. As his last bastions came under sustained assault, Corm made it clear that he saw it as the Vrag-Rana exiles' destiny to one day reclaim their world. +

+ Death of Corm +

+ O Colmen Corm was the first of Xiah Hesh's field commanders to be killed. He became a martyr to the Red Hand as Slav Mundi was conquered, his death giving Warmaster Augustine a significant propaganda coup. 'Giving a call to Corm' became a shorthand taunt used by the Imperial forces to intimidate their enemies – though such bravado became ill-advised later in the later stages of the Crusade, as the Vrag-Rana remnant battalions dotted across the Red Hand Region were known to be particularly ruthless in their treatment of captured Imperial soldiery suspected to have used the phrase. +

Corm's death resulted in the collapse of serious resistance on Slav-Mundi, and the homeworld was considered Compliant some two years after invasion. The loss of their world might well have left the Vrag-Rana as scattered groups to be defeated in detail, but for the canny action of Xiah Hesh. + 

+ The orphaned Vrag Rana battalions across the Region were deiberately targetted by Xiah Hesh's agents, and these rudderless groups drawn into his orbit. Given fresh leadership and centralised support, the Vrag Rana were welded into the deadly force the Augustine Crusade met during the Mid-Crusade period. Their discipline, fanatical devotion to Hesh and reliable wargear made them a fearsome foe, well able to meet the Imperial Guard on an equal footing. +

+ Equipment, tactics and organisation +

+ Built on hard-won experience built through lives as soldiers of fortune, Vrag-Rana forces were universally flexible, aggressive and disciplined. They excelled at ship-board and urban fighting, where their practised heavy infantry tactics and ferocious nature complemented one another. +

+ Armoured units were less commonplace, but far from rare. Their own Armour pool was supported and swollen by supplies from within the sector, and supplmented both by Hesh himself and by captured Imperial armour. Even late in the Crusade, the Vrag-Rana could bring to the field entire companies of Armoured and Artillery units; though these became increasingly rag-tag and improvised after the Mid-Crusade period. +

+ Ghekava encountered on Buir's World. +
+ O Colmen Corm's treatise on warfare used the dhasak as the basic unit, consisting of between thirty and fifty men and women under a nominated ghekava; roughly equivalent to an Imperial platoon under a junior officer. He hired out the Vrag-Rana based on anywhere between one and five thousand 'dhasaka'. Comparisons to Imperial organisation break down above this level, owing to the way a command cadre was formed among the Vrag-Rana. 

+ While increasingly large Imperial forces retain their officers and are supplemented by increasingly highly-ranked superiors – so three Imperial platoons will have their lieutenants joined by a Captain or Major – the Vrag-Rana tsermad was a flat rank, translating roughly as 'senior' or specialist. Such specialists were attached to the dhasak, and provided advice, expertise to the group as a whole. Thus a company-sized force might be accompanied by anywhere between ten and a hundred tsermada, depending on their role within their employer's military. +

+ This approach to warfare broke down somewhat after Corm's death, with the Vrag-Rana forced to provide their own leadership in a way that they had not previously. This was to prove both a strength and a weakness throughout their campaign. Supremely self-reliant and resourceful, the Vrag-Rana excelled at small unit tactics – but when confronted with a planetary-warzone or campaign theatre to operate, they struggled to match Imperial expertise and resources; and could be defeated in detail. +

+ Vrag-Rana line troops operating within the Ynwirm system. +
+ In the early stages of the Crusade, Tsermada ranged hugely, from communication and artillery specialists, to miners and siege-workers, and drivers and military liaisons. Vrag-Rana occasionally fought alongside xenos or abhuman forces, and showed few qualms about being asked to do so; fielding tsermada language or culture specialists to ensure the xenos complemented or covered a weakness of the Vrag-Rana themselves. +

+ Kolossan +
+ As the Crusade ground on, changes wrought by Hesh began to see the Kolossan 'Gaghut' elites broaden their purview from their original honorific bodyguard role to becoming more akin to an Imperial officer corps – though the transition was both hesitant and incomplete by the end of the Crusade. +

+ Vrag-Rana forces were generally well-equipped. Each soldier was expected to provide and upkeep his own kit and weaponry, and used the handsome pay to supplment and adapt it as best he or she saw fit – within the scope of their role within the dhasaka, of course. As a general rule, most favoured equipment similar to that of the Imperial guard: las-rifles and flak-equivalent armour. +

+ The underlying reason for this is two-fold: firstly, such equipment was easy to service and maintain. Secondly, it was plentiful on Slav Mundi owing to General Mazhan's earlier occupation. Huge quantities of materiel had been abandoned on the world a century earlier – and it was natural for the feudal-level inhabitants to make good use of it. +

+ Indeed, modern Imperial tacticians suspect that the abandonment of such stores on Slav Mundi directly influenced the cultural development of the populace – presented with arms and armour, it became self-reinforcing for the people of the world to become mercenaries: the Imperium sowed the seeds of what was to become a thorn in its side for the duration of the Crusade. +

+ The Hand of Hesh +

+ Hand of Hesh, applied to pauldron +
+ A note should be made of the 'Hand of Hesh', a symbol that became commonplace amongst the forces the Red Hand Dominate raised against the Crusade, and universal amongst Vrag-Rana forces loyal to Hesh. +

+  The handprint with truncated third finger was a symbol that waved from banners, appeared on individuals' warpaint or armour (often hurriedly applied over the Imperial Aquila borne on salvaged or stolen equipment), and even appeared on non-military trinkets and cultural missives, where it was used as a good luck totem and a symbol of loyalty to the Red Hand region. +

+ Unknown before the fall of Slav-Mundi, the symbol sprang up and spread quickly as a unifying symbol against the Imperial invasion – a visual affirmation of power and resistance, which led to its alternative name of the 'Halt'. +


  1. Excellent figures and background!

    Could you discuss a bit how you did the camo for the troopers? It is particularly good on the guy running with the laspistol.

  2. Standing ovation. This is the way!


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