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NINO: Necrons in Name Only (Part III)

NOTE: This review was written when Codex: Necrons was first released in 2011, during the 5th Edition rules.  Many of the objections raised in this and subsequent articles were addressed under the 6th Edition rules; please see this addendum to this series (October 2013).  You can find the review for the 2015 version of Codex: Necrons here.

Having discussed the fluff and the infantry units, let’s finish up our look at the new Necron army by examining the vehicles and special characters, as well as a few odds ‘n’ ends and bric-a-brac….

“Quick, Robin: To the ‘Botmobiles!”
We’ll backtrack a smidge to page 39 (between the Praetorians and the C’tan) and take the Triarch Stalker for a test drive.  The Stalker (an Elite unit) is the Necron equivalent of a Space Marine Dreadnought, minus the option for Drop Pods.  Like many of the new Necro-rides, this one is AV 11 and open-topped, but comes standard with the happy quantum shielding that’s going to treat the front and sides as AV 13 until the first penetrating hit.  The Stalker has a nifty Targeting Relay ability that’s sort of like markerlights for Necrons, and that’s not sad. 

True to traditional Necron character, the Stalker’s main armament, the heat ray, is relatively short-ranged (24" in focused beam mode).  The Stalker is meant to kill tanks, though you can nuke infantry if you can swap out the heat ray (I love the War of the Worlds reference) for a particle shredder.  Alternatively, you can pay 15 more points for a twin-linked gauss cannon, giving you an extra 12" of range in addition to your re-roll.  Me, I’d stick with the heat ray, as ‘bots need all the anti-tank they can get (sorry, ‘shredder), and the ray has an extra shot over the cannon in addition to being a melta weapon.

Now onto the old workhorse, the Monolith.  The Mono used to give many Necron opponents the willies, notably for its refusal to lie down and die already thanks to the previous, much more badass version of the Living Metal rule.  As noted, however, Living Metal has been nerfed—because, of course, it was really frickin’ good, and…well, I’ve whined enough about the game designers purged most of what was good out of the older units and charged fewer points for them….

Players used to use the Monolith as mobile shield in front of their advancing Warriors, or to Deep Strike in amidst the enemy and cause havoc, zapping here and there with gauss flux arcs and the particle whip.  Monoliths were especially handy for teleporting Necron units out of close combat, but that’s not doable anymore.  So how to use the Monolith now?




Well, you can still use it as moveable cover, but it’s not as tough as it used to be against all those melta weapons that are flooding the 5e battlefields.  You can still Deep Strike it in close, but it no longer shoves aside enemy troops within 1", as it used to, so there's the prospect of a Deep Strike mishap.  Flux arcs have double the range they used to, with a steady 3 shots each instead of d6; the particle whip is pretty much the same.  The “new” Monolith does have the happy Portal of Exile feature that can suck in and kill nearby troops, but this is more of a side benefit than a main feature….  The Monolith doesn’t suck, but there are better uses of points and a Heavy Support slot.

…Such as the Doomsday Ark, which is basically a floating cannon.  It’s an AV 11, open-topped skimmer with quantum shielding with some side-firing gauss flayer arrays that you’ll probably never use.  Why not?  Because you’re going to park the Ark in your deployment zone and zap vehicles and frickin-frackin’ anything else you want with its 72" range, S9 AP 1 Large Blast boomstick.  If you move the Ark, it’s aptly-named doomsday cannon goes down to 24" range, S7 AP4, Dinky Blast.  But you’re not going to do that, because pivoting doesn’t count as moving for vehicles.  Find some clear lines of fire and have a party.  And you might want to bring more than one, because it will become your opponent’s top priority tout de suite.

Next up is the Annihilation Barge, an AV 11, open-topped skimmer with quantum shielding (sound familiar?).  It comes with tesla weapons, which you can use against infantry (if you don’t mind the lack of AP) and light vehicles.  In function and price, it’s the Necron equivalent of a Land Speeder, but it’s not Fast, it’s Heavy Support (creating some tough choices for you), and you can only have one per slot.  I suppose it’s fine for small games, but in bigger battles, I’d want something beefier on my side.




On second thought, the Annihilation Barge looks plenty beefy at this resolution

The Doom Scythe is another Heavy Support choice, and though being another AV 11 vehicle, it is neither open-topped nor has quantum shielding.  It is, however, a Fast skimmer, is made of Living Metal, Deep Strikes, and even has the Aerial Assault and Supersonic abilities, able to fire all its weapons at cruising speed and can move flat out at 36".  And what weapons does it have?  A twin-linked tesla destructor (similar to the Annihilation Barge), which isn’t sad: 24" range, S 7 AP – Assault 4, with the “tesla” ability to score two more hits for each “6” rolled—and it can hit adjacent units, even those in close combat.  And that’s not even its best weapon: the death ray (love that name!) has a range of 15"-30" (12" +3d6") at S10 AP 1, in a line attack that hits any and all units under said line. 

My only beef with the Doom Scythe is that the accompanying fluff for it goes on and on about how the sound of its engines will drive opposing troops mad, or at least make them run off, but there is no special rule associated with this.  So there is, for example, no Morale check for enemies whenever a Scythe passes overhead or within a certain range of them.  Don’t get me wrong—I think the Scythe is fine as it is.  It just seems like sloppy game design or writing to describe an ability that the unit doesn’t actually display on the table.


The Night Scythe is the transport version of the Doom Scythe, available to Warriors, Immortals, Deathmarks and Lychguards.  It trades in the death ray (love that name!) for transport capability, but instead of physically carrying its troops inside itself, the Night Scythe uses a teleporter to “beam” troops onto the field.  Unique among transports (at least for now), the Scythe can carry jump infantry and jetbikes.  Hmm….

The Catacomb Command Barge is a dedicated transport for your Overlord, and would you be surprised to hear that it’s an AV 11 open-topped skimmer with quantum shielding?  It’s also Fast and has Living Metal.  It’s armed with a tesla cannon, giving your HQ a hefty gun.  More fun is the Sweep Attack, where you get to take close-combat swings with, say, your Overlord’s warscythe, during the Movement Phase. 

So let’s review: you move 12", swinging three times at a unit (let’s call it Unit A) that you buzz over, and the Overlord may disembark.  The Barge shoots its S6 tesla cannon at a different unit (Unit B), and the Overlord charges either Units A, B, or C.  Of course, you’d want to be careful about throwing your Overlord into close combat, even if he does have a warscythe….

Also, the Overlord can negate “Immobilized” or “Weapon Destroyed” results on the Barge by giving up a Wound.  All this for 80 points: what’s not to like?

Ghost Arks are the Rhinos of the Necron army, and they’re—yeah, you guessed it: AV 11, open-topped skimmers with quantum shielding and Living Metal.  Like the Doomsday version, the Ghost Ark has two sets of gauss arrays—5 gauss flayers per array—that can fire at targets to the side of the Ark.  The Ghost Ark can also put 1-3 fallen Warriors back into the fight each round.  For 15 points less, I prefer the Night Scythe for a transport, which is much faster, “carries” more dudes, and has great firepower.  But what do I know?

“Well, Isn’t That Special?”
All right, having gotten through the vehicles, let’s move along to the next part of Rulebook: Robots and talk special characters (SC).  I’ve whined enough about the fluff for them, so we’ll keep the discussion strictly related to the rules, mkay?

May I just say at the outset how happy I am that GW did not encourage people to take SCs and rename them as their own?  I call it the “Wanna-Be License,” and it’s in other books, notably the current Space Marine codex.  I’m not a fan of special characters anyway—they’re often underpriced for all the superpowers they bring to the table—and I have a nigh-irrational dislike of using them in an army under a pseudonym.  If you’re going to field Imotekh, just say he’s Imotekh, and not “Fussy Phaeron C4PO,” ok.  Yes, I know it’s a weird pet peeve, but it’s mine and I’m fond of it….

Speaking of Imotekh the Stormlord, he is, as they say in American football, a beast.  His stats are the same as for a generic Overlord (+ a sempiternal weave), which is unusual: almost always, an SC’s stats are much better than those of a typical HQ figure for that army.  Where Immy stands apart are his funky special powers, the best of which is Lord of the Storm, which grants you Night Fighting and drops lightning bolts on the other army.  I also like that they ingrained some fluff into Immy’s rules by saying that although he’s a tactical genius against almost everyone else (able to seize the initiative on a 4+), he’s confounded by Orks (cannot attempt to seize init against them). 




"Why, yes, I am, in fact, dripping with awesome.  Thank you for noticing."

He’s way underpriced, of course.  If you upgrade an Overlord to a Phaeron, then give him a gauntlet of fire, phylactery, ‘weave, phase shifter, which Imotekh has, you come to 210 points, only 15 less than Immy.  So you’re getting his Bloodscarabs, Staff of the Destroyer, and special powers for a huge discount.     

Illuminor Szeras is an amped-up Cryptek with an eldritch lance and gaze of flame.  For +55 points, you get an extra Wound, 3 more Attacks, Armor Save 3, and Mechanical Augementation, making Szeras the Fabius Bile of the Necron milieu. I know I promised not to harp on the fluff, but the background for Szeras mentions that he prefers to fight and capture Eldar, and it would have been nice to have that reflected in his rules.  Alas, it is not.

Stat-wise, Orikan the Diviner starts off the game similar to a Cryptek—and thus, not that notable—until he Hulks out and becomes an actual close-combat badass, with WS 5, S 7 T 7, 4 Wounds and Attacks, and I 4.  Alas, it probably isn’t going to last long.  Unlike most other Necrons, this is actually a ‘bot you want to get up in people’s faces sooner rather than later.  Attach him to some Lychguard in a Night Scythe and you have some serious hitting power (which you will pay handsomely for: Orky is 165 points by his lonesome, almost as much as a minimal Lych squad).




I can't see this guy without thinking of that yell...

Every time I see “Orikan” I think of Orkin, and every time I see “Trazyn the Infinite” I think Tarzan.  But that’s neither here nor there.  He’s basically a Phaeron with mindshackle scarabs + some funky powers for which, you’ll only seemingly pay 30 points.  I say “seemingly” because curiously, the book doesn’t say what weapon(s) he’s armed with. 

My favorite power of his is Empathic Obliterator: say he and his pals are charged by 29 Ork Boyz and a Nob.  If Trazyn kills one Boy, you roll for the other 28 and on a 4+, they’re wounded and have to take an Armor Save (the Nob, having different stats, is exempt).  So in this instance, about 14 Boyz would be wounded and about an additional 12 killed, not counting what Trazyn’s posse does.  BTW, the Traz-man counts as a scoring unit for holding objectives.  All this and a way to cheat death (Surrogate Hosts) for 30 more points.  See why I say SCs are underpriced?

You don’t have to take Nemesor Zahndrekh (In German, wouldn’t “Zahndreck” be “tooth dirt?”) and Vargard Obyron together, but if you do shell out the 345 points (!) you get some good stuff.  Zahnny is an Overlord with a bunch of expensive wargear: if you equip a standard Overlord thusly, it comes to 180 points, a mere 5 less than what the Nemmer will cost you.  For your 5 extra points, you get to give a unit in your army a special rule (Counterattack, Furious Charge, or a few others—but no, not Feel No Pain); take away a special rule from an enemy unit (again, there’s a list of what’s allowed, and FNP is not on it); and letting your army plop into battle like Deathmarks do.  If you roll scatter dice for Deep Strike the way I do, that last ability is definitely not something you’ll want to use.

Obie is Nork Deddog for Necrons: whenever his master is in trouble, Vargard Obyron bamfs to his side and kicks booty.  His Ghostwalk Mantle is like the old-school Veil of Darkness, able to pull him (and his squad) off the table, even if he’s already in a scrap, and reappear by Deep Strike elsewhere (no deviating if he’s coming to Zahndrekh’s aid).  Like most Necrons, he’s only I2, but unlike most others, he hits back pretty hard: WS 6, 3 Attacks + up to 6 more (thanks to Cleaving Counterblow), all with a warscythe.

Finally, we have Anrakyr the Traveller.  For a mere 45 more points than you would pay for an Overlord (whose stats are identical to Anikan’s) with a tachyon arrow and a warscythe (which he has), you get Furious Charge for your guy; you can give one unit of Immortals Furious Charge and Counterattack; and you’re 66% likely (3+ on d6) to be able to shoot with one of your opponent’s vehicles within 18".  Pay 45 points for the ability to fire a battle cannon at a bunch of guys—or a multi-melta into the back end of a tank?  And do that every turn, possibly?  In addition to the other abilities?  Oh, hells yes.

Modeling and Painting the New Necrons
Ever since 3rd Edition, the ‘bots have had an ancient-Egyptian undead look to them, and the new models go further in that direction.  Some folks have snarked on the Internet that the Necrons are now “Tomb Kings in Space,” but I’m not upset by that.  It is, however, a lost opportunity for the figure designers to take the Necrons in a different direction, perhaps making them look more like robots and less like skeletons: decades of sci-fi films and television shows have provided plenty of inspiration.  Ah, well.    

 For as far back as I can remember, codices have had a section where they show you painted versions of the models, and this one is no exception.  Time was, particularly back in the 3e era, that this section would tell you how to paint said models in the various styles shown, but lately that’s gone away.  Ordinarily, I think that’s a shame, because there have been many times when I’ve wondered how the GW painters did a certain model, or what specific paints they used.  I’m not pressed about it this time, as the ‘bots shown are pretty much all Boltgun Metal or some variation thereof.  Seeing some Necrons in non-metallic colors would have been interesting, but probably too much to hope for.

Conclusion
The previous Necron codex established a distinctive tone and playing style that made Necrons an interesting and challenging army, both for the users and their opponents.  The rule changes with the 5th Edition undercut the Necrons’ biggest strengths and made them no longer competitive.  The new codex needed to address the Necrons’ weaknesses; it largely failed to do so. 

Instead, it further eroded the characteristics established in the previous codex; that is, what is meant to be a “Necron.”  It did so by making Warriors (the foundation of previous Necron armies) less resilient.  Gauss blasters and cannons—already neutered by the current vehicle damage tables—became less powerful, so that Immortals and Destroyers were not as effective as they used to be.  Necrons were known for being an infantry-heavy force, and still can be, but now many new vehicles, including new transports have been introduced.  This has made Necrons less distinctive and more like all the other transport-heavy armies in 5th Edition.

Worst of all, the new codex has taken an appallingly wrong turn with the “fluff,” or background information of the army.  Necrons used to be scary and worthy of respect; now, some of the characters described are almost comical.  By assigning more “human” characteristics to the Necrons, the writers have made them easier to understand, even to empathize with: the ‘bots have undergone the Twilight treatment.  While some expanding and building of the fluff would have been fine, Games Workshop has horribly, horribly erred.   

This is not to say that the whole book is rubbish: several units are very good, welcome additions to the army.  The new models do not stray from previous themes, but are still well done.  But taken as a whole, the new codex is a crushing disappointment, especially compared with the superb Codex: Dark Eldar.  That book addressed the fundamental flaws that made Dark Eldar non-competitive and basically unplayable under the current rules, added units that filled in gaps, and expanded the fluff while maintaining the original character and spirit of the army.  Codex: Necrons mostly fails—often wretchedly—to do that.     


For you long-time Necron players and gaming purists, the best way to consider this codex is to simply forget your previous notions of what Necrons ought to be and how they ought to be played.  Those Necrons are dead, and they may never return.  For better or worse—much worse, in my opinion—the new Necrons are here.  And seeing as how it took 9 years for a new codex to come along, it looks like we’ll be stuck with them for a long time.  

NINO (Necrons in Name Only), Part I
NINO (Necrons in Name Only), Part II
Necrons Renewed: An Overdue Addendum


Posted December 2011.  Necron  images copyright GW 2011.  Used for review purposes.

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Fighting Tigers:
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Other Pages:
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