The ‘Bots Are Back: the 9e Necrons

Every time Games Workshop comes out with a new edition, they release new minis and codexes for two armies to get everyone excited. Ninth Edition is no different, and this time out, GW has published army books for Space Marines, as well as for Necrons. So, let’s take a look at the latest Tome of the Toasters, shall we?

Weighting in at a trim 120 pages, the new Codex: Necrons is still too long to do a thorough examination, so I’ll just cover what jumped out at me from the rules sections. But just so you know, if you liked the Post-C’Tan-Sassy-and-Liberated-Robot fluff, and the Heavy-On-The-Spectral-Green art from previous versions, you’ll find more of the same in the latest.

What I Like, and Why

As a long-time Necron player, the biggest thing that I enjoy about the new book is that it upgraded a lot of familiar units. If you were wondering how your ‘Bots were going to keep up with the 2-Wound UberMarines that 9th Edition has brought us, fret not.

Perhaps the biggest change is that Necrons are no longer locked into the role of a short-range shooty army and can, at least on paper, field a decent close-combat force, thanks to lots of new hack-and-slash units. I don’t think that they’re ready to go roboto-a-orko with a horde of Greenskins, but they should be able to mix it up with most Space Marines.

The captain of this new, in-your-face approach to playing Necrons is the Skorpekh Lord, the three-legged, Assault-Phase version of what used to be called a Destroyer Lord (renamed in 9th Edition to Lokhust Lord).

A sentient collection of kitchen cutlery, pointy garden implements, and industrial power saws, the Skorpekh Lord’s sole purpose in mechanical unlife is to ginsu enemy units. With WS 2+, S6, T6, W6, A4 and happy, stabby weapons called “flensing claws” and “hyperphase harvesters,” you can be sure that Android Scissorhands will do just that.

While we’re discussing HQ units: I’m not a fan of named characters, but if you are, you’ll find that almost all of them have improved, either with more Attacks, increased Strength, reduction in Power Ratings, or even faster Movement (which doesn’t sound like much, but Necron <INFANTRY> tend to be slow-pokes).

Imotekh the Stormlord, for example, has +1″ Move, +1 Attack, and is -2 Power Rating as compared to his 8e version. Illuminor Szeras gains 2″ of Movement, 2 points each of Strength and Toughness, and 2 Wounds.

The non-named HQ units—Lords, Overlords, and Lokhust (formerly Destroyer) Lords also got a smidge better. Crypteks have gone from a single, generic HQ choice to four specialized versions: Technomancer, Psychomancer, Chronomancer, and Plasmancer (all of which sound like the names of 1980’s prog-rock albums).

Warriors and Immortals are still your only Troop units, but the former get another weapon option, the gauss reaper: 12″ range, Assault 2, S5, AP -2, D1. But it’s in the Elites category that Necrons really come into their own, starting with our old pals the Flayed Ones, upgraded to finally be worthwhile taking, with improved rules, and 1 PR cheaper.

Also improved are Triarch Stalkers (+2 W, -1 PR) and -Praetorians (+1 A, -2 PR), the latter of whom have been moved from Elites to Fast Attack. They’re not the only ones switching categories: Canoptek Spyders (who have picked up +2 W and +2 A) have moved to Elites, freeing up valuable Heavy Support slots.

Transcendent C’Tan have also become Elite, the C’Tan Shard of the Void Dragon has joined the party, and C’Tan in general have been strengthened, notably by the addition of various powers you can choose.

Fast Attack has kept the goodness that were Tomb Blades and Canoptek Wraiths, and have added a happy unit called Ophidian Destroyers. OD’s are like a cross between Wraiths and Flayed Ones, fast and stabby, able to tunnel up into the enemy’s deployment zone to cause problems.

Moving on to Heavy Support, the Annihilation Barge and Doomsday Ark are better, and the Canoptek Doomstalker is an impressive addition, with its doomsday blaster able to lay down up to 6 S10 AP -5 D d6 shots at 48″.

If you still have chums who are willing to play against your Doom Scythes, you will soon lose them, because this Flyer’s weaponry is even nastier than before. Night Scythes are still solid choices, too, if you prefer not to be unfriended on social media.

Competitive players will be pleased to learn that not only have the Necrons mostly dodged the Great 9e Points Hike, many of their units are actually cheaper than before. It’s a good time to be a Toaster.

Finally, the Necrons have some hoopy special rules, one of which is Dimensional Translocation, which allows you to disregard the Reserves rules in the Core Rules book, and deep strike into opponent territory on any turn. Not all of these special rules are good, though, which I’ll discuss next.

What I Don’t Like, and Why

The first such rule that I’m less than thrilled about is Reanimation Protocols. The 8e rules were pretty straightforward: roll a d6 for each fallen ‘Bot, and on a 5+, they got back up.

The 9e rules are more complicated, with the upshot being that it’s harder to get back multi-wound models, which are quite a few of them: characters, of course, as well as Lychguard, Destroyers of each variety (Skorpekh-, Ophydian-, and Lokhust basic and Heavy), Praetorians, Wraiths. Swell. On the upside, now most Canoptek units now benefit from Reanimation, but I think most Necron players preferred the old rules.

Speaking of rules from previous editions: once upon a time, gauss weapons (like the common ‘flayer toted by your typical Warrior) used to be great for taking out vehicles. This was probably because the Necrons had fewer heavy-hitting units, and needed all the help they could get.

Now that the model range has expanded so greatly, with lots of high-strength firepower, methinks you’re never again going to see gauss weapons having any extra oomph versus tanks and the like. A shame, because while the ‘Droids don’t need it now, but it did give them extra character.

In a similar vein, Canoptek Scarabs used to be nigh-mandatory for zipping across the field and literally munching on enemy vehicles: a Swarm of them could easily take out a Leman Russ. A few editions ago, they lost their ability to eat tanks, and since then have been mostly good for tying up enemy shooty units until heavier hitters (like an accompanying Canoptek Spyder) can arrive to finish the job.

Under 8e, Scarabs’ feeder mandibles wounded anything with T 4+ on a 5 or higher; now, they wound anything on a 6. Uh…yay?

I hope you don’t have more than one of them, because the Monolith has moved from Heavy Support to the Lord of War. It has picked up 4 more Wounds, and its gauss flux arcs are a bangier 30″ range Rapid Fire 3 instead of 24″ Heavy 3. The particle whip is now 36″ Heavy d6 S12 AP -3 D3 Blast, a serious upgrade. But the fact that now it’s a Lord requires you to spend 3 Command Points to bring it, in addition to the 19 PR or 360 points sticker price.

What I’m “Meh” About

Option overload. When 8th Edition came out, the game became much simpler, but Ninth has increased the complexity. When fielding a Necron army, you have available to you Dynastic Codes (special bonuses to how your army fights); Stratagems (5 pages’ worth); Relics and Arkana (goodies for your HQ); Warlord Traits; C’Tan Powers (if you’re bringing along any of the big guys); and Command Protocols.

Command Protocols are a series of benefits that kick in during pre-determined times turns (which you choose after deployment, but before deciding who goes first). Examples are giving models in a unit a 1″ bonus to their Move; re-rolling one of the dice for Reanimation Protocols; or each time a model rolls a 6 to wound for a shooting attack they make, the AP improves by 1.

In addition, there are also Chapter Approved rules (if you’re doing Matched Play), or Crusade rules if you’re going Narrative. All this is good stuff, but man, it’s a lot to keep track of. I hope you scored well on your Wonderlic test. What happened to just moving your dudes and rolling some dice?

New units. The new codex adds to the Necron forces:

  • Six new HQ (Royal Warden, Skorpekh Lord, Technomancer, Psychomancer, Chronomancer, and Plasmancer);
  • Six Elite (Canoptek Reanimator, Hexmark Destroyer, Cryptothralls, Skorpekh Destroyers, Canoptek Plasmacyte, and C’Tan Shard of the Void Dragon);
  • One Fast Attack (Ophydian Destroyers);
  • One Heavy Support (Canoptek Doomstalker); and,
  • Two Lords of War (the Silent King, Convergence of Dominion)

I don’t want to go back to the 2nd Edition days when the army literally had five unit choices—Lord, Immortals, Warriors, Scarabs, and Destroyers—but I also don’t want to see it bloat like the Space Marines have.

Already, some of the units are repetitive: do we really Ophydians AND Wraiths? I think the range is good right now, but you can be sure that more will be coming in the next iteration: GW exists to sell models, you know.

What else? Deathmarks have lost their Ethereal Interception that let them pop in during the other guy’s Movement Phase and shoot at enemy units that arrived from reserves. On the other hand, their signature weapon, the synaptic disintegrator, has improved to 36″ range, Heavy 1, S5, AP -2, D1, and still picks out characters. Given all that, I don’t see much need to keep them in reserve: I think I’ll start them on the board and play sniper.

Canoptek Wraiths are cheaper in Power Rating and points, but their stat line has changed. They used to be WS and BS 3+; now they’re 4+ in each; and Strength is down from 6 to 4. They have gained an Attack and their Save went from 4+ to 3+. As I say, “meh.”

What we used to call Destroyers—those floaty guys with the gauss cannons—are now Lokhust (which my eyes always want to read as “Low-Cost”) Destroyers and have become Heavy Support, which already has several good units. They have, however, picked up a snazzy weapon option called the enmitic exterminator, which kicks out 36″ range, Heavy 3d3, S 7, AP -1, D 1 Blast shots, which isn’t sad.


The new codex makes Necrons considerably deadlier, but considerably more difficult to play, what with all the special rules and options to remember in the heat of the game. And hey—at least the hated Phase Out shows no sign of ever returning, for which we ‘Bot players are grateful.

Given my very busy life (including a budding side career as a sci-fi/fantasy author) and all this COVID crap, I’m not sure when I’m next going to play my Necrons, but I’m looking forward to it.

When I’m not playing or blogging about 40K, I’m writing killer SF/F  for young adults, and adults who are still young.  This Wasted Land, mylatest novel, isn’t your typical teenage love story.  It’s more like: Boy meets Girl –> Evil Witch takes Boy –> Girl goes to get Boy back.


I’m also the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog.  My first novel was Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons.  With Jungle Guide Patrick Eibel, I created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

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