Bringing Back the Bad Guys, Part 1: Necrons

by Kenton Kilgore

When the 8e Indexes dropped, I had decided that I wasn’t going to purchase the new codices, because I didn’t expect the latter to be much different from the former, and because I don’t play that often.  But I am glad I bought Book of the ‘Bots Version 8, because it’s worth it.  How so?  Let me show you.

I’m not going to review every bit of Codex: Necrons, because that would easily become wearisome, but I’ll touch on things I liked, things I didn’t, and things that I was on the fence about.  Cool by you?  Then let’s do this.

What I Like, and Why

Everything’s either the same price or cheaper (than the Index).  An Overlord with a Staff of Light and a Resurrection Orb (a typical build for this unit) costed 154 points under the Index, 129 points using the codex.  Destroyers with gauss cannons  (a favorite of mine) were 63 points a pop, now they’re 50.  And the bedrock of the army, Warriors, stay the same at 12 points each.

Admittedly, things aren’t as cheap as they were in 7th, when the Overlord described above was 105 points, and the Destroyers were 40.  But at least 1) the Warriors cost the same; and 2) we’re not playing 7th anymore, thank the soul-devouring star gods.

No units that obviously suck (YMMV).  With 8th Edition being so different from 7th, it’s hard to compare units, but none of them look terrible to me.  In fact, several of them seem better.  If you disagree, let me know in the comments.

“Reanimation Protocols/Living Metal.”  Nothing different from the Index, but doesn’t need to be.  For Reanimate, On a 5+, your ‘dead’ Necrons get back up, and you can keep rolling so long as the unit they were with hasn’t been wiped out.  Living Metal simply gives your injured/damaged model +1 Wound at the start of each of your remaining turns.  Sweet!

Dynastic Codes.  Apply one of these, and your Toasters have some fighting style.  I prefer the “Relentless Advance” of the Sautekh, where any unit that Advances treats all ranged weapons as Assault weapons, meaning they can fire at -1 “to hit.”  In addition, a unit that moved (without Advancing) can fire heavy weapons at no penalty.

Stratagems.  It wasn’t until I started using Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus for my Dvergar space dwarf army (which I’ll tell you about some other time) that I really appreciated Stratagems.  You have a big variety to choose from, which can make your army fight much differently from any other army.  And they’re nowhere near as broken as Formations were in 7e.  Speaking of which….

No more Formations.  It was the previous Necron codex that started GW’s regrettable habit of providing 7e armies with lots of Formations that thumbed their noses at the idea of “game balance.”  With many Formations being over-powered and costing no extra points, players would have had to be chumps not to take them.

Full disclosure: I’m as guilty as the next guy.  I used to field the Deathbringer Flight Formation to bring 7 Doom Scythes to a 2000 point game.  Sure, Formations gave one an edge (often, a considerable edge), but they were bad for the game, and I’m glad to see them gone.

Hey, speaking of Scythes…

Scythes will no longer cost you friends.  Under the 7e rules, I had two options I’d let my opponents choose from when I played Necrons.

The first, intended for friendly games, was a “non-asshole” list of lots of infantry, with two Night Scythe transports.  The second, intended for bare-knuckles competition, was an “asshole” list with the aforementioned 7 Doom Scythes.  And yes, I would tell my opponents beforehand exactly which list was what.

Fortunately, Scythes (and Flyers, in general) have been toned down, so they’re not such ballbreakers as they were before.  And they even cost more: 205 for an 8e codex Doom Scythe, as opposed to 160 in 7th.

True, you can still use the Air Wing Detachment to bring heinous amounts of Scythes.  There’s also the Amalgamated Targeting Data Stratagem (at the price of 1 Command Point) that you can use to converge your Doom Scythes’ firepower and inflict mortal wounds on multiple units.  But they’re not going to get you thrown out of gaming stores anymore.

Flayed Ones.  With every edition, the designers keep making Flayed Ones a little bit better.  The problem remains that Flayed Ones are Elites, and the other Elite choices (Deathmarks, Lychguard, Praetorians, Stalkers, and C’Tan Shards) are so much better.  If Flayed Ones ever became Troops, they’d be golden.

There’s more here and there that I liked, but those were the significant ones.

What I don’t Like, and why

Gauss weapons are nothing special against vehicles.  Neither are Scarabs.  In previous editions, a defining characteristic of the Necrons was that taking vehicles against them was stupid, because Scarabs would literally eat them, and gauss weapons, even the gauss rifles carried by Warriors, could nuke tanks.

There isn’t much like that in the latest book.  Yes, Scarabs can wound any target with a Toughness of 4 or higher on a 5+ in assault, but gauss rifles are merely S4, AP -1, which doesn’t make Land Raiders an endangered species.  If I had been one of the game designers, I would have done something (maybe gauss rifles are AP -2, or D2 vs. vehicles?) to make bring back some of how ‘bots used to be a bigger threat to anything on treads (or wheels, or grav-drives, or…well, you get the point).

It’s all the more odd because on page 45 of the codex, in a boxed section on gauss weapons, it says that, “Even the thick armour plating of an Astra Militarum tank is no such proof against such horrendous firepower.”  But that’s not the only instance where a unit doesn’t always do what the fluff says it does.

Another example is the Doom Scythe, which is described on page 59 as:

Doom Scythes are often deployed to sap the resolve of the enemy before the battle proper begins, for their presence induces an almost irrational terror in living creatures.  The Doom Scythe’s primary propulsion system is a scaled up and augmented version of the dimensional repulsor drive employed on Tomb Blades.  On those smaller craft, the whine of the drive is piercing and discomforting.  On a Doom Scythe, the scale and amplitude of the sound is many hundreds of times greater; it resonates deep within the primitive core of living brains, playing havoc with memory, perception and sanity.  Victims collapse into catatonia, slump into slack-jawed vacuity and suffer hallucinations…. Little wonder is it that entire armies of battle-tested veterans have been known to throw down their weapons and flee at a Doom Scythe’s onset, or else gouge out their own eyes in futile attempts to stem the images scratching at their senses.

Yeah, except that the actual army list write up for the Doom Scythe doesn’t have any rule like that.  Not that I’m saying it should: I like them just the way they are.  But if there aren’t going to be any rules that replicate the fearsome sonic assault of a dive-bombing Doom Scythe, why not remove that from the fluff?

Another bit is where The Deceiver is described as being physically weaker than the other C’Tan, including the Nightbringer, so it relied on subterfuge and deception.  Except if you look at the stat lines for the Shards of the Deceiver and the Nightbringer, on page 94, they’re the same.  Their powers are mostly similar, and the Deceiver costs 15 more points (225 to 210).  “Weaker,” huh?

New edition, new book, same cover.  Apparently, it’s not just the Necrons themselves that have Reanimation Protocols: their cover art does, too.  Yes, I’m aware that the other 8e books that have been released have the same art as their 7e versions, but would it kill GW to go with something different?  Then, at least, I’d feel better about buying another Necron codex a mere three years after the previous one.

What I’m “meh” about

Units are copy-and-paste from the Index.  Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, the unit write-ups (stats, weapons, abilities) are word-for word the same as in the Index.  There are also no new units.

So, basically, you’re buying the codex for the:

  • Dynastic Codes;
  • Their Number is Legion, Their Name is Death special rule (Battle-forged Necron Troops control objectives in range even if there are more enemy models in range of the objective);
  • Stratagems;
  • More C’tan powers;
  • Necron unique wargear (“Artefacts of the Aeons”);
  • Warlord Traits and Tactical Objectives.

None of which suck.  Oh, I forgot: with the codex, you also get the way-too-much green artwork, and the fluff.  Speaking of the latter….

The fluff is still derivative crap, but I don’t care so much anymore.  Back in 2011, when the 5e Codex: Necrons was released, I lambasted the “new and improved” background story that is very much in the same vein as what you read in the latest version.

The TL/DR version of my objection to the Necron fluff is that they sound way too much like the Eldar:

  • Ancient race pre-dating mankind?  Check
  • Extremely intelligent, arrogant, and fond of pithy quotes deriding their enemies?  Check.
  • Lost a galaxy-spanning empire and wish to reclaim it?  Check.
  • Use nigh-magical technology far more advanced than other races?  Check.

There are other aspects of the fluff that are nonsensical (like how the all-powerful star gods the C’tan would let themselves be betrayed by their robot slaves that they themselves betrayed by stealing and devouring their souls), but to go on about it would be as tiresome as those folks in Baltimore who still bitch about Irsay moving the Colts to Indianapolis.  It’s more than past time to let it go.


I took the plunge and purchased the codex, despite already owning Index: Xenos 1, and it paid off.  I’m excited to try out my ‘bots and their whiz-bang special rules and Stratagems.  I’ll even reflect some of the current fluff in the backstory of my own army.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to revise my lists….

(Comments? Questions? Let me know below.  And thanks for visiting the new Jungle!)

All images copyright Games Workshop 2018

2 thoughts on “Bringing Back the Bad Guys, Part 1: Necrons”

  1. I used to frequent your website 10+ years ago when I was big into 40k. Since then I have moved on from 40k and into other miniature wargames (primarily WW2 based). I was going through some old bookmarks and remembered this site. It is Still one of the best IMO. I absolutely loved re-reading the Tales of the Tigers. And I love the narratives and backgrounds you write for the battles you play. Keep up the excellent work.

    -Rob Hebrew

    1. Thanks, Rob! Check back soon, because we’re going to have more fiction, background stories, and narrative batreps!

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