All Hail the King
The Necron Overlord is essentially the “default” Necron HQ choice, somewhat in the same way that the Captain is nominally supposed to be such for Space Marines. Be sure to check out the Tactics Corner for more great reviews!
However, there is a big difference between the two: whereas a Captain just just a couple regular Marines stapled together, an Overlord gets some genuinely unique options and abilities to bring to the Necron codex. Foremost amongst these are his melee prowess- with improved Strength, Toughness, Weapon Skill, and Attacks, a Necron Overlord is well-suited to taking the field of combat against other characters.
Overlords can also be equipped with a number of more unique options, although not quite to the same degree that other HQs (such as Crypteks) can. The majority of the time, if you’re taking an Overlord it’s because you’re looking for a tough puncher to anchor your battle line- and unlike other factions, this is a very relevant concern for Necrons, as a bad round of combat can easily see ten or twenty models swept off the field without any benefit of special rules or saves. Preventing this is a major reason to run an Overlord; they also act as one of the few Necron solutions to Monstrous Creatures.
Overlords come stock with only two special rules, the ones common to all Necron HQs- Reanimation Protocols, which we’ve talked about extensively already in other articles, and Independent Character, which if you’re reading this article you surely recognize. Aside from that they are relatively bland to start with- but of course we can fix that with some upgrades. Note that like most Necrons, they are not Fearless and can potentially be Swept, so be very careful about what combats you get into.
Those Wonderful Toys
This is where the Overlord starts to get good; with access to a wide variety of upgrades and a reasonable starting price, we have a certain degree of freedom in how we want to build him, although some upgrades will obviously be more common than others. The stock Overlord has a 3+ armor save and a Staff of Light (12″ S5 AP3 Asssault 3)- not terrible, but we certainly aren’t going to leave him with just that!
Weapons are the first place we should look. We get two add-on options for our Overlord- either a Tachyon Arrow (S10 AP1 one use) or Gauntlet of Fire (a standard flamer.) Since either of these are additions to our normal gear, not replacements, they are not awful, though neither are all that amazing. The Tachyon Arrow is simply too unreliable, even with BS5; we still have to roll to penetrate, deal with their cover save, and then roll on the damage table to actually achieve anything. However, the one random game where someone decides to charge you with a Knight and you slag him on overwatch will be glorious, so just keep on hoping. The Gauntlet is… well, it’s not awful, it’s just kinda boring. It can maybe roast some Guardsmen, it helps a bit on overwatch, nothing special. Melee weapons are where the real gold is, specifically the Warscythe. For 20pts we get a S7 AP2 Armorbane weapon that swings at initiative- specifically, it swings ahead of Power Fists, which is a critical difference. Able to tear apart walkers, MCs, and characters with equal facility, the Warscythe is easily one of the best melee weapons in the game; its only disadvantage is that it won’t Instant Death much of anything that matters, unlike Fists. Beyond paying for the Warscythe, we can swap our Staff of Light out for free for a
Power Hyperphase Sword or a Voidblade, which is AP4, Rending, and Entropic. Both of these are garbage options and I don’t think any human has ever taken them- the Warscythe is a bit more, but it’s infinitely better.
Supporting our melee options are a variety of survivability-related upgrades- the Phylactery, Resurrection Orb, and Phase Shifter, which function very differently than their earlier incarnations. The Phylactery gives us It Will Not Die, which is a decent little bonus but not that impressive (at least not here- it’s a different matter when we’re riding on our hoverboat.) The Phase Shifter is cheaper now (25pts) but only gives a 4++ this time around- still, in combination with RP, it can make it very hard to push a wound through on us during a fight for even the strongest of weapons. The Rez Orb is now a one-shot effect that we use when a model in our unit fails its RP roll and allows us to reroll all RP for the rest of the phase; in a Decurion or with a Cryptek around, it essentially makes the unit immune to damage for a turn. Expensive, and not generally worth it for a one-turn effect, but you could do a lot worse for the points- at the very least, it should pretty much always save the 2+ models needed to “pay for” itself.
And that’s all of the… Yes, what’s that? Mindshackle what? No, I’m sorry, I’m sure I would have remembered if there was an upgrade by that name and I am drawing a complete blank. You’re just going to have to get over this whole “Fear is a real rule that exists in the game” delusion that you seem to have gotten yourself stuck in. Now, if you don’t mind, we’ll continue on?
Overlords also have access to the full swathe of Necron artefacts, most of which are strongly patterned off of one of their standard upgrades. For example, Voidreaper is a Warscythe that pays an extra 10pts for Master-Crafted and Fleshbane- a pretty decent way to handle Wraithknights, it turns out. The Orb of Eternity is a Rez Orb that adds +1 to your RP rolls the turn you use it- usually redundant, since you want to have that 4+ RP anyways if you’re taking an Orb. Some of the others take cues from pieces of wargear from previous editions- the Nightmare Shroud gives the model 2+ armor (the only way to get it anymore, sadly) and a one-shot Morale check for a unit within 18″. Veil of Darkness lets the model and its unit vanish from the field and Deep Strike back on once during the game, a cute trick. Solar Staff is a normal gun that has Blind tagged on and a once-per-game ability to make the enemy fire only Snap Shots at the bearer’s unit for a turn. Last but not least, Gauntlet of the Conflagurator is a S7 AP2 flamer that can only be used once. Nightmare Shroud is going to be one of the more common options for an Overlord, though it is expensive; Voidreaper is also reasonably common. The Veil and Staff are both better-suited to being used by a Cryptek in most cases, although that’s more because of the roles they perform than any mechanical reason why an Overlord couldn’t carry them effectively.
Use the Man
So, given all of that, what purpose does a Necron Overlord serve in our army? Essentially one, at the end of the day: he is the strong point in our line, either defensively or offensively. While normal Necrons are resilient, they are not terribly effective in a close-range firefight; their guns are only Bolters and they can very easily be Swept in an assault. The Overlord’s job is to prevent this, by virtue of cutting down enemy characters and inflicting damage of his own to balance out the few wounds that sneak past our defenses.
Offensively speaking, this almost always involves being loaded into a Night Scythe along with a unit to drop in on a weak point in the enemy’s defenses to hit them hard. Here, the Overlord is the point of our virtual spear, and probably needs to be kitted as heavily as possible because he will have to do work for us. His squad will be laying down some shooty, but they’ll be deep in enemy territory most of the time and will need someone that can ward off the inevitable counterassault.
The Overlord’s role in this situation is more than just reactive, though- with high stats and combat ability, it’s entirely plausible for us to separate from our unit and charge something the turn after the drop, most especially a vehicle or weaker shooting squad (as unlike Marine characters, virtually no weapons can take us out in a single hit, so running straight at a squad of Lascannons isn’t an invitation for Instant Death.) He likely gets the inevitable Warscythe, along with Phase Shifter, and possibly gets one of the wrist-mount guns as well (just for the slight added boost in squad firepower.) Nightmare Shroud is a very high priority here, since it lets us potentially scare a unit off the table and significantly improves our survivability if we have to run off on our own.
Used defensively, on the other hand, the Overlord is more of an anchor for our battle lines. Although his Leadership is no different from our other units (unlike IG/etc), he still provides a similar sort of function- he and his unit are there to charge into combat (or shield other units by getting charged themselves) because he’s the only model in our army that is likely to be able to give us a chance of winning a fight. Used in this sense, the Overlord is essentially there to help blunt the force of an enemy’s hammer- Necrons are extremely good at soaking damage, even from weapons like Power Fists, and so even just a couple points of combat resolutions are enough to tie or win a fight- the other models in his squad are basically just wound markers, there to keep him in the fight and doing damage. Against anything that can’t challenge, this is a virtual guarantee of their doom, as grinding through that many Necrons is just no an option; in a challenge things can be a bit more dicey, but since he swings ahead of Power Fists and typically shrugs off three-quarters of wounds, we’re still in a pretty good position.
The “defensive” Overlord is built a lot like the offensive one, but is more likely to take Voidreaper over the Nightmare Shroud (since we have lots of ablative wounds to soak for us and won’t be going off on our own, but the added killing power is a major bonus) and go with a Phylactery (since, again, we have ablative wounds to soak damage for us while we are rolling to regain.) Wrist guns are unlikely, as are most other options.
It should be noted at this point that the Overlord’s role is most common in a Decurion, where he (and other models) benefit from 4+ Reanimation Protocols; lacking that, we are a lot more likely to look to a Cryptek for our needs, especially one of the named ones. He also typically won’t have a place in heavily-aggressive Necron armies that are running lots of Wraiths, Praetorians, etc- he’s simply too slow and doesn’t really contribute anything we need in this case, where we will instead be looking to a Destroyer Lord or Command Barge. We also probably won’t use him in a heavily-mechanized army (Ghost Arks, etc) because of his inability to join up with any of the embarked units- again, here we look to the Command Barge or other options.
Overlords are rarely the superstars of a list, but are rather staunch, solid contributors. Every once in a while he might go out of control and really wreck some stuff in assault, but most of the time the Overlord’s contribution to a list is more subtle- he disinclines the enemy to go for assaults, he hides our Warlord point in a large and tough unit, and he brings some general utility to the army. They’re not exciting choices, but they can be very functional ones if used right and certainly deserve more appreciation than most of the other “Captain-level” HQs seen in codices.