Hello folks, Dolch here!
Today I’m going to lay out why I think that simple points changes are not enough to make everyone happy.
I’m going to use examples from the Necron Codex, but that doesn’t mean that the crux of my argument doesn’t apply to all the other armies in the game. Neither am I saying that rules writers at Games Workshop don’t have the will or the tools to do the job properly; instead, I’m saying that it will take time and consistent effort (oh, and a few more revised codexes).
(Note. I’m not a playtester, and I don’t have an early copy of Chapter Approved 2019. At the time of writing, I’ve only seen the Warhammer Community teaser article. This article stems from a series of theoretical discussions I have had over the last few months with a part of my local gaming group who are game designers and developers (both digital and cardboard). Thank you, Reece, for letting me put this out there!)
So, why am I using Necrons? First, it is an army that I own and love. It was my first army for Warhammer 40k, and I’m more than familiar with their rules, history, and weaknesses. Also, Necrons have been doing well on the ITC Tournament scene this year. At the same time, many Necron players have been very vocal about the difficulties of the army. I’m not out to prove anyone wrong here, I’m just using this army as a basis for conversation.
Points changes cannot fix disappointing or rules. Theoretically, you can improve a unit by decreasing the cost. All sorts of things can be improved when you drop the cost per wound or point of damage. Once you go beyond theory however, there are some real hard limits that you run into. Sometimes units are poorly conceptualized, and no amount of points drops will make it do what it is supposed to do. Another example of a hard limit is when further points changes push a unit into a niche that is doesn’t belong.
For the Necrons, Gauss is disappointing. Gauss, as an army rule, used to be terrifying to opponent vehicles. Before the time of ‘everything wounds on a 6’, Gauss actually allowed Necrons to wound everything on a 6! (Er, cause glancing hits… but I won’t dig into the minutiae of long gone rulesets.) A squad of Necron Warriors was terrifying when it would only take 1-2 of them to disable a vehicle. (To give you an idea of what Gauss and the Vehicle Rules were like in 5th edition, imagine if a wound roll of a 6 allowed Gauss Weapons to deal D6 Mortal wounds to vehicles.)
Why is this a problem today? Because the Necron Army was built around the power of old-school Gauss. They don’t have Heavy Weapons options in their infantry squads because Gauss served that role. Tesla weapons are a welcome addition, but they are hardly an anti-armor choice. So today, Necrons can’t get anti-vehicle from their Infantry units, and so you don’t see Gauss-equipped infantry units on the board. Dropping points alone isn’t going to change that equation.
Reanimation Protocols is also a disappointing rule, but for different reasons. Target priority is very simple when playing against Necron Infantry lists… if you start shooting at a unit, you don’t stop until it is dead. This is because Reanimation Protocols will return between 1/3 and 1/2 of the models to the unit each turn, UNLESS the unit is completely wiped out. A unit with 1 warrior left is as dangerous as a unit of 5.
Why is this disappointing? Two reasons:
#1. It leads to uninteresting play decisions for the opponent. The answer is always going to be “Kill the last warrior in that unit.” What if I only have lascannons left to shoot? I guess that warrior is going to eat some lascannon fire, regardless if there is a different option to shoot those lascannons at.
#2. Reanimation Protocols is a rule that rarely gets used against a wise opponent. With the relatively high rate of fire in most armies, even a full-sized 20 warrior unit will be easy to clear off the board. It is tough when your army-wide rule can be completely negated by the actions of your opponent.
Necron have seen points decreases in the past, but I think that Necron Warriors have dropped as low as they are likely too. I don’t think that the rules writers at Games Workshop are interested in having a full Silver Tide army. Reanimation Protocols (in whatever form that takes) is just too good to have THAT many warriors on the table. Here is an example where point drops have reached a theoretical limit.
For Necrons, Flayed Ones are a disappointing unit. They get some good rules (native deep-striking… rerolling failed wound rolls), but like many other dedicated close-combat units, Flayed Ones really struggle to get into combat. Games Workshop has corrected these issues with some recent books (the ability to ignore overwatch, reroll charge rolls, even some Tyranids getting effectively 4+ feel-no-pain against Overwatch when charging). Necrons also don’t have any forward-support characters that go well with Flayed Ones. Necrons also don’t have any Stratagems that go so support this unit either.
There are so many things that Flayed Ones would need in order to be an effective close-combat unit. Flayed Ones are an example of a unit where the rules (or lack of rules) are preventing it from filling the role it is supposed to. Even if Flayed Ones were less expensive than Warriors, I don’t think they would get used as anything other than a deep striking objective holder.
So if dropping the points on a unit isn’t possible, or doesn’t do enough to make that unit ‘good’, what will?
New rules, either in the form of a new datasheet, new stratagems, or army beta rules.
Between books like Vigilus Defiant and Vigilus Ablaze, Psychic Awakening and box sets like Shadowspear many, many units are getting additional rules. White Dwarf has served as an emergency fix, introducing rules like Bolter Drill for Marines. Of course, book FAQ and the BIG FAQ are also sources of new rules.
However, Games Workshop has been clear… Chapter Approved is for points adjustments (and awesome Narrative updates), not for rules changes.
Hopefully, now that the whole cycle of Codexes has come out (along with a second edition of the Space Marines and a revised version of the Chaos Space Marines) we will get a chance to see more re-worked codexes. Ultimately, this is the only hope for some of these units.
How wrong am I? Let me know in the comments below!
What units and rules do you think cannot be fixed with points adjustments?
Until next time,
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