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The ‘Bots Are Back, Now With More Metal: Reviewing
the New Codex: Necrons by Kenton Kilgore
What I Like, and Why
(Yes, I still buy physical copies. I just prefer to have an actual, tangible book. That ok with you Millennial whippersnappers?)
So like the other hardcovers, this one has gorgeous artwork (I hope you like green), often spreading across two pages. Big sharp photos of tabletops scenes jammed with miniatures. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s still nice. Sometimes I like to flip through my 1st Edition AD&D books (circa late 1970’s) to see how far we’ve come in gaming book artwork….
Maybe it's just me, but I *still* think this is pretty kick-ass...
(And hey: the silver-and-red Necron army [Novokh Dynasty] on pages 50-53? BITCHIN’. And no, I don’t care if no one says, “Bitchin’” anymore)
Description of units. In the front part of the book (in “The Necron Legions”) are several pages devoted to describing the roles of various ‘bot units: Overlords, Warriors, Immortals, etc. Each unit gets two pages, with a few paragraphs of text, drawings of members of said unit and examples of color schemes and squad markings. Also good are the write-ups and artwork of the various Dynasties, which are sure to inspire new- and veteran players.
Gauss ist gut. Gauss weapons—the ‘flayer carried by the ubiquitous Warriors and the ‘blaster that comes standard with Immortals—not only auto-glance vehicles on a “6”, like they used to, they also wound any Toughness on a “6.” I doubt you’re going up against a lot of T9 or T10 units, but it’s a free bone the game designers throw you, so why not appreciate it?
"Don't hate us just because we're beautiful..."
Cheaper, better, or both. I thought that the army list options from the previous codex were still pretty good under the current, 7th Edition rules, but with the new lists, the Necrons are golden. Or silver. Or bronze. Or however you want to paint your Metal Men.
As they’ve done with all their other hardcover codices, Games Workshop has resorted to lowering the point costs on many units, making units more effective, or both. If you like Special Characters, you will be pleased to learn that all of them are AT LEAST 35 points cheaper, with the exceptions of Anrakyr (who’s only 5 points less expensive) and Szeras, who is actually 10 points pricier.
Imotekh fans, your guy is 35 points cheaper, his stats are better, and
now he’s a Lord of War. Stats for other
SCs either stayed the same or got better: it’s about 50/50. You’ll find that the SCs also lost quite a
bit of wargear, but to me, that’s a feature, not a bug, as it’s fewer toys to
keep track of.
As for the generic portion of the army, Overlords and Destroyer Lords are 10 and 15 points cheaper, respectively. Almost all the Elites (Lychguard, Triarch Praetorians and –Stalkers, Deathmarks) went down in points costs, with little change to what made them good to begin with.
And bless the cold, mechanical hearts of the Flayed Ones: they’re still a poor choice compared to all the other Elite units, but they’re trying really, really hard. They stayed the same cost, but now they cause Fear and wield flayer claws, which are AP 5 and Shred. If they were a Troop choice, maybe one would think better of them.
Speaking of Troops, Warriors and Immortals are the same as they ever were, both in points and armament, but now the minimum squad size on the former is 10, not 5. No biggie. Yes, they both can still take Night Scythes—more about them a little later.
Fast Attack has pretty much stayed the same in abilities and points, but for the most part, they’ve improved. Tomb Blades are 2 points cheaper and you can have up to 10 of them in a unit. Wraiths are +5 points, but are now T5, and you can finagle Reanimation Protocols for them by taking a Canoptek Harvest Formation.
Destroyers (same point cost) and Heavy Destroyers (10 points cheaper) are now Jet Pack Infantry, so they can move out of cover, shoot, and scoot back into cover like some of those mucho-annoying Tau are prone to do. Heavy D’s can be part of a regular D unit or form their own. And if you have some of these models, you’ll want to put them into a Destroyer Cult Formation.
Okay, not all is sunshine and roses here in Toasterland: Lords and Crypteks went up in price, the latter by +40 points AND being much more limited in wargear. The Catacomb Command Barge is +55 points, and the Annihilation Barge is +30 points.
On the other hand, C’Tan Shards are about the same price as they were before (when you add in the cost of the powers you had to take) and their new abilities are all kinds of awesome. Most of the Heavy Support is the same as before, with the addition of the Transcendent C’Tan.
Things got simpler. By now, you’ve probably heard how the Reanimation Protocols special rule is now a less fussy, quasi-Feel No Pain. However, you can use it RP against Instant Death (albeit at a 6+ [normally]). Also be aware that Crypteks and the Reclamation Legion Formation AND the Necron Decurion Detachment (of which I’ll speak more of later) can increase your RP to a maximum of 4+. So what you wind up with, in many cases, is an easier, even better version of “We’ll Be Back” from the first Necron codex.
I mentioned before about less wargear for Special Characters, and you’ll find that applies to other HQ: it’s been a long time since I’ve ever seen a list of options so short (which is ironic, when you consider the supposed technological prowess of the Necrons). For example, Boss ‘Bots get all of two choices for ranged weapons: the gauntlet of fire (a flamer), and the tachyon arrow (a one-shot S10 AP1 no doubt inspired by this scene). Unless, of course, they want to just stick with their staff of light, which comes standard with the generic HQ.
You might find the limited wargear options a bad thing: I’m actually good with it, as I’ve been burned a number of times during a game by forgetting one of the many, many Bat-toys that my Guy-in-Charge was packing.
They brought back popular old wargear (albeit limited use). While we’re on the subject, long-time fan favorites like the resurrection orb and veil of darkness are back, though they’re not as useful as they were before. Speaking of hitting stuff with the Nerf bat…
The Nerfing isn’t too bad. Listen, we all knew that the party that was ‘Scythe spam was going to come to an end. Even I thought minimum-sized Troop and Elite units, each with a Night Scythe, plus three Doom Scythes, was ridiculous. I used to run a list like that, but only against veteran gamers who wanted a challenge and knew exactly what they were getting into.
The good news is that it’s a soft landing: Night Scythes went up 30 points a pop, and they can’t Deep Strike anymore. Their tesla destructors no longer “arc” to hit units adjacent to their target. On the other hand, the units that could take them before still can, as may Triarch Praetorians (!). AND your guys being transported can disembark even if the ‘Scythe moves up to 36". Say WUT?
Why do Jump Infantry get a Transport option? Because with this codex, they can.
As for the Doom Scythe, the “nerfing” takes the form of being 5 points cheaper (hrrm?) and now you have to roll “to hit” with the death ray. The death ray also has a 24" range (instead of 15"-30") and can only target one unit (instead of several). However, it’s still S10 AP1, but it’s also a Lance and a Blast. So…yeah. GW really whacked the Doom Scythe in the knee, didn’t they? </sarcasm>
"Nerfed" so hard that you might be seeing even *more* of these in your immediate future
Nit-picking about Scarabs. Canoptek Scarab bases have gone up 5 points each, and their Save has gone from a 5+ to a 6+. It’s like GW doesn’t love the little guys. More seriously…
“‘Game Balance?’” What is this ‘Game Balance’ you speak of?” Seventh Edition brought us Unbound Armies, but the Necron book is the first to flat-out bribe you to use it, in the form of the Decurion Detachment. If you’ve been playing ‘Bots for a while, odds are very good that you have whatever models you need for the Decurion, and if you have the models, odds are very good that you’d be a chump not to do so.
Why? Because using the Decurion Detachment and the Formations that come with it is, as the saying goes, an offer you can’t refuse. Just taking the Detachment bumps up Reanimation Protocols by 1, to a max of 4+, for all in the Detachment who have it. Models with Living Metal ignore Crew Stunned and Shaken (but still lose Hull Points).
But that’s just the beginning. To form the detachment, you have to take a Reclamation Legion consisting of, at a minimum, 1 Overlord, one unit of Immortals, two units of Warriors, and one unit of Tomb Blades—which, as I said, you probably already own. The Legion can also include up to two squads of Lychguard and three Monoliths (plus more of all the others I mentioned except the Overlord), but you don’t have to.
The Reclamation Legion, bedrock of the Decurion Detachment
After that, you can
Did I forget to mention that there are no limits to which types of these Formations you can bring (with the exception of the Royal Court, which is 0-1 per Reclamation Legion)? So that, yeah, if points and your wallet are willing, you could field the mandatory R. Legion and 40 Doom Scythes.
Of course, few of us are going to be playing 7000+ point battles required by my intentionally-over-the-top example, and if you were, you could field those 40 Scythes anyway (thank you, Apocalypse). My point being that the Decurion Detachment rewards you for playing an Unbound Army.
“Wicked Uncle Kenton,” you might say, “what you’ve described so far doesn’t sound so bad.” That’s because I’ve failed to inform you that each Formation also has happy special rules that you get for free. The Reclamation Legion, for example, gets Move Through Cover, Relentless, and Enhanced Reanimation Protocols (re-roll RP results of “1” for the Overlord and/or any Legion units within 12" of him).
Destroyer Cults get to re-roll failed “to Wound” rolls and Armor Penetration rolls in the Shooting Phase (and they already get to re-roll “1’s” “to hit,” thanks to Preferred Enemy). Deathbringer Flights permit Doom Scythes to add 2 to their Ballistic Skill for fellow ‘Scythe that has already fired their death rays—because if any unit needs help, it’s a bunch of Flyers with BS 4 and S10 weapons. There I go with that sarcasm thing again.
As a Necron fan, I’m chortling at the chance to try some of these Formations out on my opponents (and no, you don’t have to take the Decurion Detachment to use the Formations). But the long-time 40K player in me is appalled. I’ve bitched many, many times (more than he’s wanted to hear) to my friend Patrick about how broken and overly-generous I think the current Eldar codex is. With the new Tome of the Toasters, its Decurion Detachment, and its eight (!) Formations, I have no room to talk.
Yes, the new Necron book kicks some serious ass (at least on paper). No, it’s not unbeatable. But it definitely is a top-tier codex, up there with those for the Orks, Space Marines, and the afore-mentioned Twinkies. And MUCH better than those for Chaos Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and (especially) Tyranids. GW has almost always had issues with balancing power levels for armies: this time, it feels like they’re not even trying.
What I’m “Meh” About
The “fluff.” As in, the backstory for the race. If you read my review of the previous codex, you know that I hated, hated, HATED the reboot that changed the Necrons’ backstory from genocidal mindless slaves of the Lovecraftian C’Tan, to Eldar Wanna-Be’s:
The new book retains this derivative backstory, but at least it’s told better. I can live with that. And anyway, fluff can be easily ignored or fine-tuned to one’s army.
(As an aside, the section “A New Epoch Begins” mentions the “threat” the newly-arriving Tyranids present to the Necrons, prompting the return of their Silent King from self-imposed exile. One, it’s difficult to imagine why the bio-mass consuming ‘Nids would want to go to the effort to attack the mechanical Necrons, save to eat their home planets out from under them. Two, given the power disparity between the Necron and Tyranid codices, it’s hard from a meta-game perspective to take this seriously.)
New units are awesome but expensive. Wicked Uncle Kenton thinks that the Transcendent C’Tan (a Heavy Support choice), the Obelisk (a Lord of War), and the Tesseract Vault (also a Lord of War) have all kinds of character and seem like they would be devastating in a game (the Obelisk and TV’s four tesla spheres fire 20 S7 AP – shots per turn, at 24" range—and being “tesla” weapons, they get +2 hits for every “6” rolled “to hit”).
What's on TV? Some whoop-ass
However, those units I mentioned cost 250, 300, and 550 points respectively, and there are plenty of other expensive Necron vehicles that one would be tempted to field. There’s also the slight matter of the Obelisk and the ‘Vault costing a mere $160 each (US $, as of February 2015), but it’s gauche to talk about money. Methinks one will not be seeing these units, lovely and deadly though they may be, that often.
If you don’t play Necrons, and you face them across the table, you may be reminded of exasperating moments you’ve had competing against Eldar or Space Marines, where it seems like the other side seems to have a special/sneaky/dirty trick for every occasion. Are Necrons beatable? Definitely. Will it be easy? Definitely not.
Posted February 2015. All images are copyright 2015 by Games Workshop and are used for review purposes.
Kenton Kilgore is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. Kenton also wrote Dragontamer's Daughters, a two-part young adult fantast novel based on Navajo culture and belief. Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.
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