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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Monday, March 5, 2012

Necron Codex Review Part 1: Overview and Rules

Howdy, folks, and welcome to the Necron codex review done by myself, Kirby & Chumbalaya in a group effort. I know this has been a little while in coming, arriving well after many people have already posted their own reviews, but there is a reason (other than laziness and apathy) for that: we actually wanted this to be good and reasonably accurate.

Of course, almost certainly there will be aspects of the book that haven't been picked up on yet, but giving a new book enough time to be properly evaluated and played with a bit is pretty critical to putting together a good assessment of what it can and can't do; I and other people have already posted up some basic thoughts, but having spent more time playing with and against it, as well as seeing it in action and how it builds lists, I think we're finally getting a good grip on things.

So here is the first part of the review; later parts will, in their turn, cover each of the FoC slots (with the larger ones broken up into multiple parts for convenience) as well as a final look back and thoughts on the kind of lists that the codex is capable of fielding.

What Are the Necrons
One question that comes up more for Necrons than most armies is "what the heck are they and how do I fight them, anyways?" A lot of this stems from the fact that Necrons were a terrible and unpopular army for a long time, much as Dark Eldar were until their re-release. As a result, not only do few people have experience fighting them, but they have changed so significantly that even those who do remember them misunderstand the fundamental nature of the army.

So, in short: the new Necrons are a high-resilience mid-range shooting army with a lot of tricks up their sleeve. They are capable of bringing both foot and mechanized units to the table effectively and their vehicles tend to share their basic qualities (good volume of shooting, very tough). Unlike some other armies like GK and DE, Necrons can bring a variety of weapon profiles as needed and they have a decent amount of flexibility in picking different types of builds. All Necron units are low initiative, although they have some ways of compensating for this, and though they have Leadership 10 on virtually everything, Fearless is rare and they have no ATSKNF or Stubborn equivalent, so they are vulnerable to being killed in melee. Many of their models- especially their vehicles- tend to be pricey, although generally quite worth it, which can sometimes prevent you from fielding large numbers of units.

Like Sisters of Battle, Necrons have an almost-MEQ statline that can be very deceptive; basic Warriors have 4+ armor, which can make Heavy Bolters and other such guns more relevant if they're caught in the open, but T4 otherwise makes them nearly as tough as Marines against a number of guns. Remember, though, failing 50% more saves compared to a Marine can hurt a lot- coming back from the dead will make up the difference, but only if your unit is still on the table. Many Necrons, though, have notably different statlines- T4/3+ on Immortals makes them much more "classic," and most of the Elite and HQ Necrons are T5/3+, making them on par with Terminators against most guns, even before resurrection is counted in. Also like SoB, they make good use of their discount compared to Marines, since they can shoot just as well (better, even, when you consider the bonuses of Gauss and Tesla) but don't have to pay for being generalists.

Army Special Rules
Necrons, as with most codices these days, come with a whole parcel of special rules that aren't present in any other army. We'll talk about both the ones listed in the army section as well as the wargear section here, for simplicity's sake.

Resurrection Protocols
This is far and away the most important part of understanding Necrons and it contributes the most to their army character. As the replacement for the We'll Be Back rule of the previous edition, RP is vastly superior in almost every possible way, though you will still see plenty of whining from the old-timers.

RP's mechanic is relatively simple- when a Necron model (bar some unusual exceptions) dies, you put a counter by the unit it was part of. At the end of every phase, you roll a die for every counter and each 5+ result brings one model back to life, placed in coherency with the unit; failures are removed afterwards. You can't make your RP roll if all the models unit are destroyed (since there are no models to place in coherency with- characters won't count for this purpose), if it's falling back, or if there isn't room to place the model on the table without coming within 1" of an enemy. (If you're in close combat you'll still pile in immediately after, though.)

It can be tempting to think of Resurrection Protocols like Feel No Pain, but the two abilities have a lot of important differences that change how they function. RP is primarily useful against shooting, since the models will still be removed as casualties before returning; with FNP, the wound is negated entirely and doesn't count for combat resolution and the model will get to make its strikes, etc. FNP can be negated by a variety of weapon types- RP cannot, bar the failure of a morale check. Thus, while RP will add significantly (if a bit randomly) to the survivability of a unit, you will have to conceptualize its protection in a different way than with FNP models.

The restrictions on RP mean that focusing fire is key to dealing with Necrons- inflicting a few casualties for a morale check is just not a very good plan, as it allows them maximum possibility to return models to play each time. Aim for whole squads and wipe them out- good advice anyways, but something that should definitely be noted.

Everliving, rather than being its own ability, is really just a special case for Resurrection Protocols. Models with Everliving, when killed, get a special counter of their own that is placed on the table where they died and will make the die roll at the end of the phase exactly as with RP, except that they don't care about whether they have a unit still alive/unbroken- they always get to roll. If they succeed, they are returned to play within 3" of the counter and may attach to any unit in the area that they could be a part of- this may or may not be their original unit. Everliving models always come back with a single wound unless wargear states otherwise.

The key differences to note are the lack of qualifications and the differing placement- Everliving models MUST come back within 3" of where they died, unlike RP models who can be returned anywhere within coherency. Especially in close combat you must be careful that your Everliving models aren't overrun by the enemy in such a way that you are prevented from placing them back on the table should they resurrect.

(An aside: there is some debate whether Necron models can come back from effects such as Sweeping Advance and Jaws of the World Wolf that remove them from play without using the "as a casualty" terminology. Although the Necron FAQ gives us little insight into this problem, the Sisters of Battle FAQ with regard to St. Celestine, who has a very similarly-worded ability, implies that doing so is entirely possible.)

Entropic Strike
Although nominally a rule universal to Necrons, the reality is that only a small few units- Scarabs and Crypteks- have any real access to it. Other places where it can be taken (Praetorians, C'tan) are rather bad and are unlikely to see significant play, and thus can be mostly ignored. However, even with this limited access, Entropic Strike is still a very powerful and game-changing ability and thus is worth explaining.

Entropic strike has two "modes," one against vehicles and one against other models. Against non-vehicle models, it is simple- if you fail an armor save (and the wound isn't negated), you lose your armor save for the rest of the game. Obviously this only has any functionality against multiwound models, as anyone else who fails a save will be dead, but especially against some of the buff-er characters and monstrous creatures this can be quite debilitating- Draigo, for example, or a Trygon. While actually getting a wound through on these targets may be difficult, once you've done so they should collapse quite easily.

Against vehicles, on the other hand, Entropic Strike is absolutely devastating. Every hit scored will reduce all the vehicle's armor values by one IMMEDIATELY, before penetration rolls are made, if you get a 4+ on d6. This means a swarm of Scarabs, with their multitude of attacks, will wreak havoc on stationary or slow-moving tanks and even Dreadnoughts will quickly find themselves reduced to near-helplessness. This ability to punish tanks that don't move is a major strength of the Necron list and is well worth considering both when building a Necron list and when fighting them.

Living Metal
Found only on vehicles, Living Metal gives the tank near-immunity to suppression of all kinds, although in a very unique way. All Shaken results are ignored on a 2+ and Stunned on a 4+; this die is rolled immediately upon application, so unlike GK, the enemy will always know the status of your tanks during their shooting phase, rather than waiting to see what the dice come up on psychic tests. On the upside, however, there is no defense against it and it comes effectively free on all their vehicles.

As an overall inclusion it might be considered worse than Fortitude, but on the other hand Necron tanks are often much tougher than their GK counterparts and thus should see fewer damage results going through. Living Metal is golden for helping keep those expensive tanks active in the face of enemy firepower; as with Resurrection Protocols on the infantry, it forces the enemy to dedicate heavy shooting to disable a vehicle rather than simply aiming to get a glancing hit through and then move on.

Quantum Shielding
Quantum Shielding is the other half of the Necron tank equation; although not present on all vehicles the way Living Metal is, it is very common and can be the basis for an entire army if you so choose. It adds +2 to the side and front (but NOT rear) armor of such a vehicle, making it 13/13/11 in all such cases; though it is somewhat mitigated by such vehicles being Open-Topped, many of them are cheap enough that you can bring a whole horde of very resilient targets.

The bonus from Quantum Shielding is lost if a penetrating hit goes through and isn't negated by a cover (or other) save, so the toughness is temporary, but even so it is a major boon to the army list. Note that immobilizing a vehicle directly (such as by failing a Dangerous Terrain test) does NOT affect Quantum Shielding.

The effects of a mass of AV13 vehicles on the meta remain to be seen, but their ability to shrug away S7 and S8 firepower like water off a duck's back may end up significantly shifting the way many people build lists- quite a few armies (GK, SW, SM, BA) can be heavily reliant on such guns to do most of their anti-tank jobs, and denying them good targets can be a big deal. Meltaguns at close range will still cut you to pieces, however, so it is doubly imperative that you manage your range to the enemy carefully to both deny charges and to keep back Melta.

The new weapon type, Tesla guns tend to have good strength (5-7) and are always AP-, and thus suffer a penalty on the vehicle damage table, making them unsuitable for killing most tanks. However, as a compensation they are generally multishot weapons (though not always) and, when a '6' is rolled on the to-hit dice, they score three hits rather than one.

This makes Tesla shooting potentially very swingy- occasionally, you will throw down four dice and get six or twelve hits going through, which can be ridiculous. For those not interested in doing the math themselves, it should be noted that BS4 Tesla (i.e. almost all of it) averages one hit per shot fired; BS4 twin-linked (the other common type) averages 1.3 hits per shot fired.

Tesla guns are excellent anti-infantry torrent thanks to their high strength and many hits scored and can scour Marines and weaker units quite easily, stripping away key models as they are forced to take saves. Against tanks the many shots and good strength can be useful, but only as a way of silencing them temporarily for the most part. It should also be noted that all Tesla weapons are 24" range- hardly terrible, but given the middling speed of Necron units it can sometimes be problematic.

Returning from their previous codex to make another appearance, Gauss accounts for the other common type of gun (alongside Tesla.) Gauss weapons vary more in profile, from S4 all the way up to S9 and AP5 all the way down to AP2, so far fewer generalizations can be made about them.

The "autowound on a 6" rule of the old Gauss has been lost, although that is almost 100% irrelevant- that one time you shoot your Warriors at a Wraithlord you may be annoyed, but that aside it will never come up. However, they do still glance vehicles any time they get a 6 on a penetration roll (unless the shot would otherwise penetrate anyways)- not an overwhelming ability, but quite useful. Even basic Necron infantry can add suppression shooting should the need arise, although it's a little inefficient. However, the ability to shut down tanks regardless of their size should not be underestimated- even Land Raiders worry when you have the capacity to inflict four or six glances each turn on them consistently.

Necrons, as an army, are drastically different from anything else we've seen so far. Non-MEQ statlines and AV13 mean different guns are required to deal with them, and unlike many of the other xenos races they are actually more resilient than Marines, not less.

Their shooting is also something that most armies should consider very worrisome- the sheer volume of fire can give even the toughest enemies pause, and the mix of different weapons available to them gives them options that more limited forces may not have.

Next time around we'll start looking at the different FoC slots, starting with HQ units.

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