Necrons! Tough little buggers to get rid of, and in this first installment in the new codex review series we’ll talk about the hows and whys of their special rules that make them so hard to get rid of as well as the miscellany of other things that don’t fit elsewhere in the codex. As always, you can check the Tactics Corner for more reviews and info.
The Necron codex, as most anyone who has played it can tell you, is arguably the most resilient book of 7th edition- fighting against a Necron army can feel rather hopeless, as even the strongest guns in the game will often patter off their basic troopers with no effect. This is largely because of the defining feature of the army, the Reanimation Protocols rule- other factors (such as Quantum Shielding and such) contribute as well, but far and away the most important part is the good ol’ “Feel No Necrons” rule, as I like to call it. Their vehicles instead benefit from Living Metal and Quantum Shielding in various combinations, both of them also solid defensive options.
They’ll Be Back
The basics of Reanimation Protocols are quite simple- like Feel No Pain, it functions as another layer of defenses beyond saving throws, allowing you one last chance to potentially negate a wound before it is ticked off of the model’s total. Straight out of the box this chance is just a simple 5+ on d6, the same as FNP, but even that alone is a very strong ability- Necrons simply shrug off one third of all wounds they take the majority of the time, regardless of circumstances. This means that all Necrons are a lot tougher than they look just glancing at their stats- and make no mistake, many Necrons have pretty strong defensive stats to start with.
Now, Feel No Necrons does have some limitations. It can’t ever be rolled against Str D/Destroyer weapons- these attacks are simply too devastating for them to recover from. They are also, thankfully, somewhat rare- you may see them on an Imperial Knight or Wraithknight, but rarely will they show up elsewhere. Second, against attacks that cause Instant Death (either by virtue of a high Strength value or due to a special rule) the model has a -1 penalty to its Reanimation roll. However, astute readers will note that this is still strictly better than Feel No Pain, which cannot roll at all against Instant Death attacks. Reanimation Protocols is also capped at a maximum of 4+ no matter how many bonuses you have to it- and make no mistake, Necrons have lots of ways to improve RP rolls, making this limitation a very good thing or they could get out of hand very quickly. However, this hard cap does not apply to rerolls; so you’re free to take an armor save, reroll that armor save, then roll your Rez Protocols, and then reroll that as well should you have the ability. (Yeah, when we said Necrons were tough? We weren’t kidding.) One last point to note: unlike older versions, Resurrection Protocols only applies against attacks which cause wounds; it won’t help you at all if you are removed as a casualty without suffering any wounds from an enemy’s Stomp, your own Deep Strike mishap, or some sort of special attack or psychic power. As with Destroyer attacks such circumstances are rare, but it still pays to be wary of them.
So, what does all of that text mean in practice? It means that Necrons are right bastards to take off the field. Every single attack you make has to get through at least one- and more likely two- layers of defenses with a Necron. That one-in-three chance may not seem like a lot, but it adds up quickly- imagine some derpy little Necron Warriors standing in a bunch of trees. Easy peasy, yeah? So you decide to shoot them with your fancy AP4 guns, which cut right through their shoddy not-blessed-by-the-Emperor armor saves. You roll up a bucket full of dice and come up with seven wounds- yeah, take that, robits! Then the Necron player proceeds to roll a bunch of 5+s, then do it again, and you end up looking at 2-3 models falling over from what you though was a pretty lethal barrage. And that’s with no bonuses, no rerolls, and a poor position. If they were part of a Decurion (+1 to Reanimation rolls) and were standing in a ruin (4+ cover) and decided to Go to Ground (+1 cover)? You’d be looking at killing maybe one model. One sad, sorry little 13pt model. With something like a dozen shots.
It gets even worse when you look at things like Ignore Cover weapons or psychic powers. A Tau player that is used to simply removing whole squads when they focus Markerlights on them is in for a rude surprise against Necrons when a significant number of models simply stand back up, brush themselves off, and get ready to go in for the charge. Psychic Shriek/Scream and other “no saves” type powers will likewise find themselves significantly less effective against space robits, most especially basic troop units.
This, then, is the main strength of Necrons: no matter what you do to them, they get a chance to ignore it. In this respect they resemble Daemons or other units that have abundant invulnerable saves- while it may not be the most reliable of defenses, a Necron player rolling hot can walk through an incredible firestorm of guns and come out the other side unscathed. That extra chance to stay in the game every time won’t always come through, but when it is it’s clutch.
Deal With It
Resurrection Protocols, for all its strengths, isn’t infallible. As already mentioned, Instant Death attacks will noticeably penalize it and Str D attacks or those that don’t deal wounds will ignore it entirely; both of these can be useful in getting rid of a particularly-problematic Necron unit, although they tend to be infeasible for killing the army as a whole. A better way to cope is simply to drown them in bullets for their basic troopers- although Necrons are tough, they aren’t infinitely tough and if you force them to take saves, they will die eventually. The sort of “high-value” weapons that are often preferred against more elite armies lose a lot of their value when fighting Necrons because of their ability to just roll a 5 and ignore them, something few other forces can do.
There is also another way to remove models as casualties without regard for Resurrection Protocols that all armies have access to- morale checks. Necrons that fail a morale check are just as S.O.L. as anyone else (bar Space Marines, of course) and if they’re near a board edge it will kill them just as surely. In melee combat their low Initiative value makes them doubly doomed should this happen, as Sweeping Advance cares not for your fancy mechanical tricks. Though their high Leadership values across the board make both of these potentially unreliable, even Ld10 fails often enough to be noticeable, so make sure they’re rolling those checks.
Riding Eternal, Shiny and Green
Of course, Necron vehicles don’t suffer wounds, so them having Resurrection Protocols would be fairly silly- instead, they get a combination of one or both of their vehicle-relevant abilities, namely Living Metal and Quantum Shielding.
Living Metal lets the vehicle ignore all Shaken Results (and Stunned results if it is part of a Decurion formation) and also functions as a weak version of It Will Not Die for heavy/superheavy vehicles, restoring a lost hull point on a 6+. While neither of these are exceptionally impressive, they are definitely handy when they work- it means that penetrating hits aren’t automatically going to render a tank useless for a turn, making the option Jink or not a little bit more thoughtful.
Quantum Shielding is a little more interesting; it occurs exclusively on the Necron land vehicles (including skimmers and walkers) with AV11/11/11 and grants them a bonus of +2 to their front/side armor so long as they have not suffered an unsaved penetrating hit, at which point they revert to their normal armor values. This adds another layer to the decision of whether to Jink or not, as there is a HUGE difference between AV13 and AV11 in terms of inflicting damage. Note that weapons or effects that cause a damage result but not a penetrating hit (such as Grav weapons or dangerous terrain) will not break Quantum Shielding, but due to the sequential nature of 7th Edition’s shooting attacks it is possible to drop the Shield with one gun (say, a Lascannon) and then roll against the weaker AV with subsequent shots by the same unit.
The Nature of the King
We would also be amiss if we didn’t take a moment to discuss the Necron warlord traits table, arguably the first one in 7E that was legitimately a competitor for the Strategic table for most armies. Although it’s hardly perfect, the Necron table has several very strong results on it that mesh well with the army and no truly garbage results (although some of them are less useful than we might like in many cases.)
Enduring Will grants the model the Eternal Warrior rule; it is arguably the weakest of the traits due to its purely reactive nature and limited applicability. However, since it can prevent us from losing our Warlord to a single failed Look Out Sir roll in bad circumstances- and the fact that Necron characters are, generally speaking, quite resilient- make it at least passable.
Eternal Madness gives us the Zealot rule, meaning Fearless and Hatred for all models in Warlord’s unit. This is surprisingly powerful- as noted before, failed morale checks can be a big problem for Necrons despite their high Leadership values and rerolling misses on the first turn of combat can be very helpful either on a large block of troops or on a combat specialist, turning the tide of a battle that might otherwise be a bit too close for our liking.
Immortal Hubris gives us a 12″ bubble of rerolling morale, pinning, and Fear checks for our units- as above, morale is a significant concern for many Necron armies because of its ability to bypass their normal defenses, so this is a very welcome sight. The fact that it is strictly superior for to similar results on other tables is just gravy for us.
Hyperlogical Strategist, sadly, is inferior to its Strategic Counterpart; +/-1 to reserve rolls and to Seize the Initiative is certainly a nice bonus (especially in an army wiht good flyers and several reserve units), but an 86% success rate is marginally inferior to the 89% that a simple reroll would get us (and it’s even more noticeable if the enemy has the ability to penalize our rolls somehow.) With all that said, though, it’s usually a pretty minor thing, so we can’t complain much.
Implacable Conqueror is a little bit awkward, though not strictly bad; it gives us Crusader and Relentless within 12″ of our warlord, both decent abilities. However, with no heavy weapons to speak of it’s definitely worse than it would be for other armies, and all the more so because it duplicates one of the Decurion’s bonuses. The trick here is that Crusader is actually the better of the two abilities despite usually being lackluster- 2d6 and pick the highest for Running is suprisingly useful for endgame objective grabs and a bonus d3 to Sweep makes it easier to escape from a bad combat (or kill the enemy in a good one.)
Honorable Combatant is the other “weak” result on the chart- it forces us to issue/accept challenges and lets us reroll all failed to-hit rolls in one. If the enemy ever refuses one of our duels, it gives us Hatred for the rest of the game. None of this is horrible, but like Enduring Will it is a benefit that only applies to the Warlord themself, making it a bit on the weak side overall- still, it easily beats out the bad traits on most other trees, so we can call it a win.