Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Necron Codex Review

Well guys, it's been quite a long time since I posted.  I had a lot of chores with the new house, threw a house-warming party, got a new position at work, worked ridiculous hours at Blizzcon, then got sick after Blizzcon.  In short:  Shit's been really crazy lately and I haven't had time for any minis gaming.  It's alright though, I received the new Necron codex this weekend and this review will hopefully nail all my thoughts on the book.

First, some self-made rankings and numbers:
Overall Power: 7
Internal Balance: 8
External Balance: 7
Creativity: 9
Fluff: 9
The verdict:  A solid 8

What do all of these mean?  Let's cover the obvious one first:  Overall Power.  By this, I mean how powerful I feel the book is.  Personally, it would be on the same level as Dark Eldar or a balance Blood Angels list.  There's a overwhelming weakness of close combat in the book, but isn't that the weakness of Necrons in the first place?  I don't see this as an issue; I see it as adherent to the original army's design.  The book, like the Dark Eldar book, feels very good in my hands.  There's a lot of unique weapons that the Necrons have available that will change the metagame for the better.  From the pseudo AV13 vehicles, to plentiful S7 power weapons with 2d6 armor pen, to teleporting Necron units, to long-range dominance in overwhelming firepower, the book's got options.  The options are all pretty solid, but they're not over the top or completely faceroll compared to the other books out there.

That brings us to our next category:  Internal Balance.  What do I mean by this?  I mean the book's got viable options that can suit many a player's playstyle.  There's CC-heavy options via Wraiths, Flayed Ones and Lychguards, there's great shooting options like Immortals, mass Warriors and Deathmarks, and there's long-range anti-metagame options like the Doomsday Arks and Heavy Destroyers.  When flipping through the book, I didn't see any glaring suck units and a bunch of different options that fulfill my needs.  There's powerful long-range shooting, powerful mid-ranged shooting, and powerful CC options that's suited for building balanced army lists.  If you want to min-max on shooting, you can do that too:  Maybe not in the sense that you can spam out Razorbacks, but in the sense that you can counter-battery most RBs all day long.  There's good units in the book, all of which are fairly competitive in price and function and there's no obvious "bad" choices.  If I was to group units into categories of shooting, CC, long-range firepower..etc, I'm supposed to be presented with viable options everywhere.  In a well-designed book, there shouldn't be a unit that outclasses everything else in its category and that's what I see here.  The HQ choices are solid, not overpowered or weak, but the basic Necron Overlord does leave much to be desired.  I don't mind it though, Mat Ward does give you the option to build your own lord if you want and that's all that matters.  Don't expect the flexibility of the Grand Master though, those kind of special rules lies in the Special Characters (which it should be).

For External Balance, I'm looking specifically at the book vs. the metagame.  How does the book fair against everything else that's out there?  With a good amount of vehicles holding the AV13 flag and Skimmer status, I think the weight of Missile Launchers and Long Fang spam will go down a bit.  Anything less than 6 on a S8 missile is only going to glance and that's not enough to strip away Quantum Shielding.  Combine this with the option to ignore Shaken on a 2+ and 4+ from Stunned because of Living Metal and you've got yourself a metagame changing scenario.  Since most of the Necron craft come with these two special rules as standard, I can see the meta changing to Lascannons.  Guess what?  All those Rifleman + Psybolt Dreads out there will be applying for new jobs.  Especially if you consider the return of the Monolith and the plentiful amount of Destroyers/Heavy Destroyers a Necron player can put on the board (D/HDestroyers in FA slot).  For those players already totting RBs with LasPlas or TLLC, this is good since you guys don't need to change anything, but for everyone else rocking all rockets, there might be some adjustment.  Dark Eldar sees little change in how they play their game and Blood Angels will see very little as well.  Space Wolves might want to man it up with AC/LC Predators like me and Grey Knights might want to look at TLLC Dread variants.  Personally, I'm for anything that'll spice things up a bit.

As for Creativity, this should be a no brainer.  When I examine a book, I look at one's ability to write with the casual, mediocre and hardcore player in mind.  Are the units in the book new, exciting and fun at all levels?  Do they all have a purpose and not feel like trash?  I think Mat Ward did a good job bringing a dead book back to life (literally) and gave it purpose, direction and longevity.  None of the units are particularly dull and there's a lot of interesting new ones.  Sure, one can argue that Necrons are now basically Tomb Kings in space, but I think that's perfectly fine.  It gives them character and personality, not in a sense that Bob the Necron is a good guy at heart, but in a sense that players can relate to Bob if they wanted to.

Lastly, I'll touch upon Fluff.  For the first time in a long time, I think Mat Ward did a good job with the fluff.  The last time he wrote good fluff was back in the 7th Ed. Daemons Army Book for WHFB.  Even though that book was broke as shit, the fluff was spectacular and it's still one of my favorite shitter reads.  You know what I think it is?  Space Marines.  Mat Ward goes all super fanboy when he writes about power armor and you eventually get shit like Draigo carving names on Mortarian's heart.  However, like I said about the book's creativity, Ward was able to steer Necrons in a new and better direction.  There's genuinely a lot of cool stuff in the book and they're all very well explained.  I loved reading about the different weapon systems, and a lot of the whys I had last book have been answered.  Overall, it's very satisfying to read something you thought was going to be atrocious and having it smack you in the face after. It's a very humbling experience.

Stay tuned with Part II of this review, then I'll get down to the nitty gritty.

Wow, 20 minutes after the first post I decided to come back and write more.  That's perfectly fine with me!

I'll break this down into FOC sections, and like always, I'll touch upon what I think is the most interesting.

First, the HQ section.  When I look through the HQ section, I actually get a little bit confused.  I'm happy in a sense that there's a lot of flavor, but I'm disappointed in my competitive choices.  The big guy in this book is Imotekh the Stormlord.  He's pretty good overall, has basic Necron Lord stats with a lot of nifty items.  Comes with 2+/3++ in his cost, D3 wounds respawn but no Res Orb!  Has a bunch of cool special rules like perpetual night fighting and Vect's 4+ seize vs. non-Ork armies but that's about it.  Personally, I expected better.  His fighting stats are mediocre and his army-wide rules are nowhere as game-changing as say... Logan Grimnar or Draigo Kaldor.  Fighting wise, he's not as good as Vect or Mephiston so it's safe to say that's he's pretty mediocre.  For the big guy in the book, I expected better.  However, one can argue that making Night Fighting last for half the game can bring back footslogging lists!  Shit, I would love to see that happen.

The one buy that caught my eye in the book is Nemesor Zahndrekh and Vargard Obyron.  You basically buy both all the time because they're pretty much a package deal.  I mean, you can buy them separate, but it would be like buying a hotdog without the bun.  Anyways, the reason I love these two is because they're fantastic for the price.  For 185 on Nemesor, you get 2+/3++ and a Res Orb.  You do that with your generic Necron Overlord and it comes out to be 180.  See what I mean about the DIY Lord?  Back to the Nemesor:  On top of the wargear, what really makes him tick is his special abilities:  Adaptive Tactics and Counter Tactics.  First, I love the fluff.  Zahndrekh is a great general and these special abilities fit his character perfectly.  Adaptive Tactics allows you to give anyone in your army a USR (CA, Furious Charge, Stealth, Tank Hunters, Hit and Run..etc) every turn.  This means you can give your Warscythe-totting Lychguard S8 with Furious Charge, Wraiths or Flayed Ones Hit and Run or Heavy Destroyers Tank Hunters with S9 AP2.  Outrageous combos are yours to invent.  You throw on the fact that he has Counter Tactics, which at the start of the turn you choose a enemy unit in his LoS and they lose and cannot gain the same set of USRs until next turn.  Your Blood Angels want to charge?  Cool, no FC vs. my T5 Lychguard.  Grey Hunters expecting to Counter-Attack?  Nope.  Dante has gives Hit and Run?  No he doesn't.  The list goes on.  Lastly, he has Phased Reinforcements.  As long as Zahndrekh is on the battlefield, any number of units in reserve coming in from DS can enter the play on the enemy turn just like Deathmarks.  Pretty much, he gives the entire army Ethereal Interception.  All for what?  5 more points than a generic Overlord.  I think this is the biggest hit and miss and one of the reasons why I shot the Internal Balance a full point lower.

Next is Vargard Obyron.  He's the only WS6 in the entrie book and he comes stock with a 2+ armor save.  T5 with 3W and 3A just like most Overlords, but he has Ghostwalk Mantle which is a supped up version of Veil of Darkness.  When he uses it, his entire unit is removed from the TT and placed anywhere via DS just like Veil.  The big kicker here is that unlike Veil, he can use this even if he's locked in combat.  He just peaces out and takes his entire squad to wherever the fighting is the thickest.  The best part about this is that with Vargard's Duty, he does not scatter if he's 6" within Zahndrekh.  In addition, if Zahndrekh is ever in trouble, Obyron will literally appear next to him and pile in whatever combat the Nemesor is in, even if Obryon is in a transport.  That's just freaking outrageous.  To make the fluff even better, Vargard Obyron has Cleaving Counterblow.  If you swing at him and miss, you keep a tally of how many attacks missed him and when it's his time to swing, he swings back with his normal attacks +1 more for each attack missed (up to 6).  Pray you hit him, or else he'll be hitting on 3s wounding with 2s vs. 90% of the game with no armor save.  Oh, and he doesn't count towards your HQ choice if you buy Nemesor Zahndrekh.

Like I said, the other HQ choices are good:  Andrakyr the Traveler can take control of an enemy vehicle within 18" of him on a 3+ and force it to shoot their own allies.  Imagine taking control of a Vindicator and having it pound Dante's squad into dust.  He also comes with Furious Charge and Counter-Attack and gives a unit of Immortals the same USRs.  Orikan the Diviner is pretty fun to mess around with to see if the stars align and the ability to take a Royal Court with you is pretty neat.  For example:  If you buy a big named Lord guy or a DIY Overlord, you can buy a Royal Court with 0-5 Necron Lords (with 1W) and 0-5 Crypteks.  Crypteks are cheap and have cool weapons and abilities and Necron Lords are just beaters.  For example, Crypteks can take Tremorstaves which cause difficult terrain to whoever it hits (Writhing Worldscape anyone?) and provide the unit with defensive nades or a 36" S8 AP2 shot.  The Royal Court can also split off like Wolf Guard and go to other squads to buff up their CC or Shooting.  This flexibility is really nice.

As for troops, there's only two:  Warriors or Immortals.  One is obviously more expensive than the other and you can only take 10 Immortals per squad.  That's cool, because they can put out Rapid Fire S5 AP4 shots whereas the Warriors can only put out S4.  Warriors are now 13ppm but come with a 4+ armor save.  The WBB rule is now a 5+ and Res Orb from the Overlords is the only thing that can make it 4+.  Immortals have a better armor save but the fact that they can't select a Ghost Ark as a dedicated transport means they're going to be bouncing around via Monolith or footslogging across the field.  They can go into a Night Scythe since the thing has a 15-model transport, but AV11 with no Quantum Shielding is meh at best.  Even if you Supersonic 36".  Regardless, they are now Troop choices and that's awesome.  Necron Warriors can go up to 20 and they can take a Ghost Ark to travel around in (if you take 10).  Ghost Arks have Quantum Shielding, Living Metal and 2x Guass Flayer arrays so you can broadside things.  AV13, open-top so Necrons can spew from any angle and Skimmer means this is a good transport for 115 points.  Good, not great because of the points.

Elites have all kinds of cool shit in it and that's always good:  Deathmarks are a interesting shooting solution with Rapid Fire Sniper weapons and Hunters from Hyperspace.  Hunters gives them the ability to mark any non-vehicle target before the game starts and any shooting done vs. it wounds on 2+.  That's pretty strong considering they can come out of nowhere (and on your opponent's turn) with Ethereal Interception and start shooting things up.

Lychguard are your Terminator-like beaters with Warscythes default, S7 power weapons on a T5 3+ armor model.  They cost the same as Terminators and you can buy them up to Hyperphase Swords and Dispersion Shields.  DShields have a 4++ invulnerable and is capable of bouncing shots back at the enemy within 6".  Say you're a Grey Hunter squad and you're ready to launch an assault.  Before the assault, you shoot 2x Meltagun shots at them, hit with 2, wounds with 2, he saves both and 2 of your Grey Hunters gets gibbed because of it.  A pretty good deterrence from assault-based shooting if you're totting melta or plasma weaponry if you ask me.

Triarch Prateorians are pretty interesting, combining Jump Infantry status with T5 3+ armor.  Their Rods of Covenant can shoot out S5 AP2 at 6" and they count as power weapons.  With I2 and only 1A, I can see them as anti-TH/SS Terminators or any exposed MEQ.  A full squad of them can be expensive, but I don't recall seeing any other T5 Jump Infantry in the game so that's definitely interesting.

Next in the Elite slot, we have the C'Tan Shard.  It's a little weaker than before with only S7 T7, but most of the rules is still the same.  4++ stock with Monstrous Creature, Eternal Warrior and ignore difficult terrain and a bunch of buy-up abilities that's very cool.  Since he has BS5, he can buy up a S9 AP2 shot from 24" away, has the ability to take pseudo offensive and defensive grenades + Stealth, or have a Large Blast template centered on him that inflicts S3 no armor saves plus it heals him.  I think for my strategy, I would give him Grand Illusion and Writhing Worldscape.  Grand Illusion allows him to reposition D3 of your units after deployment and Writhing Worldscape makes the entire board count difficult as dangerous terrain for your enemy.  If the terrain is already dangerous, he fails DT tests on 1 and 2.  To make things even funnier, you take this with Orikan the Diviner because of his special ability:  Temporal Snares.  It reads:  During the first game turn, all enemy units that move count as moving through difficult terrain.  In addition, if units are actually moving through DT, they take the lowest D6 result rather than the highest.  Damn, I kinda want to see this game played vs. a Green Tide player.  It's also great vs. vehicles since difficult counts as dangerous on vehicles.

The next two I'll cover really quick because they're pretty straight forward.  Flayed Ones can be taken in units of 20 and have 3 attacks each with Infiltrate.  They're the same cost as Warriors so that's pretty cool.  The Necrons also get a Walker in the form of Triarch Stalker and he has Quantum Shielding and Living Metal with Move Through Cover.  He can act as an additional shooter for the army because he can take a Twin-linked Heavy Gauss Cannon (same as Heavy Destroyers, S9 AP2) and any time he hits a target, all additional units shooting at that target count as twin-linked.  If that's not cool enough, he comes standard with a Heat Ray which is a 24" Heavy 2 S8 AP1 Melta.  He can turn that into a Heavy Flamer too.

Looking at Fast Attack, you have quite a bit of options.  Wraiths are your basic 3++ Jump Infantry who ignore terrain and slice things up with their claws (S6 Rending).  They can also take Whip Coils which act the same way as Lash Whips so things in CC with them will be very sad.  Canoptek Scarabs do what they do best and that's smacking vehicles and applying their Entropic Strike.  On a 4+, the vehicle's armor is permanently reduced by 1 on all sides for the rest of the game.  I can see these guys as an auto-include in every list because they're cheap, hard to get rid of without blast and munch up on mech lists.

Tomb Blades are the Necron's version of Jetbikes and I don't find them that amazing, but that's because I'm comparing them to Destroyers.  Destroyers and Heavy Destroyers in FA is awesome.  T5 with 3+ armor saves Jump Infantry with Preferred Enemy everything.  You can buy up to 5 Destroyers for 40ppm and can upgrade up to 3 of them to Heavy Destroyers for 20 more.  So ideally, you run 3 HDs at 180 for the unit.  Attach a Destroyer Lord with a Warscythe, Res Orb and 2+ armor save and you're pretty much good to go as a lethal flanking unit.

Heavy Support sees the return of the popular Monolith minus the brokeness of last edition.  It trades nigh-invulnerability with the fact that it can suck enemy units into it and have it S-test or be removed from the game.  The Heavy Slot sees versatility in that it has anti-infantry in the form of the Annihilation Barge totting Twin-linked Tesla Destructors and the Doomsday Ark which is strictly anti-everything.  It has Quantum Shielding, Living Metal and carries the deadliest ranged weapon in the game as long as it doesn't move.  As long as the Doomsday Ark remains stationary, it can shoot out a S9 AP1 Large Blast, which honestly is enough to erase any squad of MEQ from the game, Paladin or not.  The effects of it on vehicles such as Razorbacks is self-explanatory.  You can mess around with your enemies by putting some of these on the field and then re-positioning them with Grand Illusion if you have a Shard.

I'm a little disappointed with the Doom Scythe figher-plane looking thing though.  For 175 points, it's a AV11 Fast Skimmer with no Quantum Shielding.  It has really cool fluff, looks like the Alien craft from Independence Day and has awesome weaponry (Death Ray!).  It also comes with Aerial Assault and Supersonic just like the Voidraven, but's not as powerful from far away.  Personally, I think this is a strong indication that there'll be a change made to Flyers next edition to make them more viable.

Alright guys, that's about it.  Like I said, the book is very solid and is very fun to play with.  I think I would rank this book in par with Phil Kelly's Dark Eldar.  That's really saying something.

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