The Necron Codex – tactical thoughts

Hey everybody!
It’s been almost five months since I wrote a load of stuff about the new Necron Codex, so I thought I’d come back (given my recently reanimated love for the undead space robots) and have some more rambling thoughts about what the book has to offer. I should warn you now – this blog is most assuredly a rambling one, and runs to around 4000 words. So be prepared!

While I still have yet to play a game with the Codex Necrons, I wanted to talk about it here because the book has rarely left my side over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been looking at ways of building an army that is diverse and interesting to play, both with and against. This has actually proven to be more difficult than I’d first imagined, due to the fact that a lot of the Necron models appear to be more expensive than I remember.

Necron Codex

I think, on the whole, that the book for 8th edition is a wonderful addition for the army. I feel that a lot is indeed expensive these days, and while it is perhaps irrelevant to talk about the points costs compared with 7th, it does intrigue me to see just how much more expensive a lot of the units are now. I think I worked out that my first Necron army I fielded in 7th would cost around 100 points more now in 8th…

I suppose this has led me to feel that Necrons are a lot more of an elite army than perhaps I’d been thinking up to this point. While a lot of 8th seems to involve horde armies, the Necron ability to return slain models to surviving units can help to counteract the need for a lot of models on the board at the start of the game. Indeed, it would likely be overpowering to have an army of 60+ models, all of whom can potentially keep coming back when they’ve been killed off! Instead, then, I need to try to focus my game plan on keeping my dudes alive, and actually strategize

When I wrote up this blog last weekend, I was planning a 1200-point list around a bunch of units that I’ve already got painted up (or will have painted in short order), and briefly talked about having to re-evaluate my strategy of throwing myself into the face of the enemy when I play games. This has been a tactic for me for a long time now, and sometimes it does seem to work – going balls-out can have its place, especially when it might not be what an opponent is expecting. I’ve noticed this in particular with my Dark Eldar army, where people will be expecting me to hold back and try to shoot my way out of the battle, whereas I often end up charging with Venoms and throwing wave after wave of Wracks into close combat. (I’ve also talked previously about how this slightly-crazy way of playing games can perhaps be to the detriment of the overall play experience).


I’m not by any means planning to become some sort of power gamer. I’m also not intending to become some sort of tournament player. But I do want to try to get better as a gamer, and see if I can’t up my game a bit in the attempt to make for a better gaming experience overall. So I’ve been turning over this idea in my mind as I’ve been writing and re-writing my ideas for a Necron list, and I think I’ve finally come up with something that should be good – both to play, and to play against. There’s still something of the core of the list I mentioned last time within this one, but it has already begun to morph into something a whole lot more…

So yeah!

List Construction
First off, I want to talk about how I went about building this list, as I feel like this has been a major departure for me. So often with my 8th Edition lists, I’ve started with the premise of, “I need to build a battalion”, and have ended up with having some units in the list that I might not necessarily want to be in there. Or, I’ve tried to forge my army out of as many detachments as I can, in order to gain as many command points as I can. While it’s true that command points and stratagems are a key part of the game now, the cornerstone of any army needs to be just that, the army itself.

So, rather than looking at what unit slots I needed to fill, instead I looked at the units on a case-by-case basis, seeing what they did and looking for synergies, and once I’d collected them all together, looked at how I could fashion that group into a detachment. As it happens, I’ve managed to end up with three detachments, which will net me a total of 10 command points to start the game with. Not bad, considering!

Unit selection
So I decided which units I wanted to take based on what they were up to, and how they could work together, rather than looking at what I needed to fill a certain detachment. However, every list needs to start somewhere, so I took as my starting point the Catacomb Command Barge, a model that I had finished painting just yesterday. The Command Barge has the Wave of Command ability, which lets you add 1 to the hit rolls of nearby infantry (among other things). This ability works extremely well with tesla-wielding infantry, of course – tesla weaponry has the exploding dice rule of turning hit rolls of 6 into three successes, so with the +1 from Wave of Command, tesla will be triggering on 5s as well as 6s. Splendid! Let’s get a max squad of 10 Immortals with tesla carbines in there, right away.

Necron Immortals

So I’ve got some shooting synergies going on here. Let’s look for some more. Hello, Triarch Stalker! This is a unit that I’ve never really thought a great deal about, other than to dismiss it as too expensive. Well, I’m building a list with the idea that all the units are expensive, so it’s not down to how many I can cram into my list anymore. The Stalker has the Targeting Relay rule that allows all friendly Necron units to re-roll hit rolls of 1 when targeting the same model the Stalker has targeted in that phase. Doesn’t matter if the Stalker actually hit the unit, it only needs to target it. Of course, this might be a double-edged sword, as the Stalker may well kill that unit before its rule can have any benefit for the rest of the army.

I’ve already got one built with a heat ray, but have decided to go here for the twin heavy gauss cannon because of the S9 AP-4, which should be really handy overall. The two weapons are the same cost, anyway, so it doesn’t make a great deal of difference.

The Stalker packs a punch, but I wanted to include a few other choice bits in the list during my first sweep through the Codex. The Annihilation Barge is a nice kit that should do some decent work, with a total of eleven tesla shots coming from both the twin tesla destructor and the underslung tesla cannon. While it won’t benefit from Wave of Command, weight of fire should account for at least a few 6s – even from someone like me!

Finally, I’ve included yet more tesla in the form of three Tomb Blades. The models are notoriously fiddly to put together, but I bought a few boxes back in 7th edition and have recently been thinking about them since finding them again. Having two tesla carbines on each of them will give me twelve tesla shots this time, so I’m again hoping for some successes with the exploding dice. I’ve equipped them all with nebuloscopes to allow them to target models in cover as well – I’ve never really had to deal with cover in my meta so far, but the upgrades for tomb blades are really cheap enough that you might as well go for them!

First thoughts
So my first thoughts were as follows: having an HQ slot buffing an infantry squad to get the most out of their shooting, while being a pretty tanky unit in and of itself; a support unit that will allow the rest of the army to re-roll hit rolls of 1, and a couple of fancy units that would take advantage of that while presenting their own kinds of threat – from weight of fire, strength of fire, and sheer speed across the tabletop. So far, everything in the list is posing quite a significant threat – everything is hitting on 3s in the shooting phase except the Barge, which is hitting on 2s, and this collection of units is altogether putting out a startlingly high number of shots: 6 from the Command Barge (assuming we’re in range for the Staff), 2 from the Stalker, 20 from the Immortals, 11 from the Annihilation Barge, and 12 from the Tomb Blades!

But that’s only going to be a core of 792 points, so what else do I want in the army?

Codex Sweep, Round Two
Having built a core of destruction, I next went about looking for units that would have some interesting synergies, but also that would benefit from some use of the stratagems. I have ten command points to play with, and I don’t want to use them all just on the Command Re-Roll.

Returning to the HQ slots, I decided to include an Overlord, to make use of the My Will Be Done rule – basically Wave of Command once again. These two rules don’t stack, so I’ve included another squad of ten Immortals, this time with gauss blasters. Why gauss? Well, I do like variety, and gauss has some AP whereas tesla does not, so it’ll be handy for using against the more resilient units I’m possibly going to be facing. There is a nice 1CP stratagem called The Phaeron’s Will, which allows you to use My Will Be Done on a second infantry unit, so I’ve included a group of five Immortals, and a group of five Lychguard, to give him a choice on who to bestow these riches.


The Lychguard are my favourite kit in the entire Necron range, something I’ve mentioned time and again in my blog. I’m surprised I’ve only included one unit in this army, but they really are quite expensive for including more. I’ve been having vague thoughts about trying out an all-Lychguard elite force sometime in the future, but for now, it remains a dream. Anyway! The reason for choosing the slightly more expensive option of sword-and-board over the meat grinder of the warscythes is that it will allow me to make use of another cool stratagem, the 2CP Dispersion Field Amplification, which gives a 3++ save until the end of the phase, and for every unmodified 6 rolled when making those saves, you bounce the shots back at the attacking unit. This could be a very cool distraction unit, or else a unit that will allow me to move up the board unscathed.

I’ll be bringing a Lord with the unit, who is equipped with a warscythe simply because it’s an awesome weapon, and the Lord himself has The Lord’s Will, who grants a re-roll to wound rolls of 1 for units within 6″. That is actually quite useful for such a cheap model, and works well with the Stalker giving re-rolls to hit rolls of 1. My plan is to have the Lord move around, and to keep everybody else moving around the board rather than remaining static and open for assaults. With a bit of luck, it’ll be a half-decent strategy that will keep my opponent on his or her toes!

Also in this batch of units, I’ve got a trio of Canoptek Wraiths. Some of my favourite models in the army, Wraiths have gotten expensive, even before adding the wargear. But in compensation for that, they have also gotten really quite decent, with a lot going in their favour between the Wraith Form special rule that allows them to fall back and then shoot and charge, not to mention moving across the board unimpeded. They also have a couple of stratagems that work well with Canoptek units, so it’ll be good to try some of these out. They may be expensive, but for what you can do with them, I think they could well be worth it.

I’ve also been looking to cover more bases in this second sweep through the Codex, and so the Lychguard and Wraiths should give me some fairly decent close combat capability to go alongside my shooting. The Overlord and Lord are good utility HQs that work well enough in either phase, and this batch of units is rounded out with a Cryptek, who is equipped with the Canoptek Cloak to enable him to make the best use of his Technomancer abilities, healing those units with Living Metal while aiding others with their Reanimation Protocols. Just a decent enough utility HQ, but also providing another target for my opponent due to his healing powers. Necrons can already be quite an annoying army to play against due to Reanimation Protocols, so by having a unit that makes these even better will help with the psychological warfare, as well as aiding with target saturation.

This second sweep brought me a further 790 points, so it’s time to fill in the final few hundred points to round things out properly.

Third and Final Sweep
Up to this point, we’re approaching 1600 points, and so it’s time to start picking just a couple more units that would be nice to have in the list. It’s time to have a bit of fun, really, as most of my bases are now covered. I could just max out some more troops slots, or fill the remaining points with Lychguard (I’ve done it before!) But I’m still trying to learn the nuances of the army, and trying to work out what I want to play with, and perhaps more importantly, I’m trying to work out how to play Necrons well.

First up in this section are the Deathmarks. I talked a lot about my own utility HQs, but what about everybody else’s? Or – worse yet – psykers? Necrons famously have next to no psychic defense, but if that psyker is a character, they do have snipers that can try to get rid of any Smite shenanigans, hopefully before they get too out of hand. The Hunters from Hyperspace special rule allows them to deepstrike in, and the synaptic disintegrators they are armed with allow them to target characters, doing additional mortal wounds on 6s. They also have the Ethereal Interception rule, which allows them to pop out of reserves behind an enemy unit that has just arrived as such, and then shoot at it. It is slightly better than it was last edition as you can still shoot in your own subsequent shooting phase, though I don’t know if I’ll ever want to make use of this as well.

The Doomsday Ark is a model that I’m very much looking forward to getting finished and down on the table. In terms of my Great Reanimation project to re-paint my Necron force as Thokt Dynasty, I’ve been holding off this one as I want to try and get troops and other core units painted up first, but since doing the Command Barge, I’m definitely in the mood to try and get more vehicles and war machines in my army! The doomsday cannon, when fired from stationary, is S10 AP-5, which feels like it might be overkill, but seriously, the amount of Knights swanning around the game right now mean we need to have something that can give them a run for their money! If it’s not being weighed down by sheer volume of shots, it needs to have something big thrown at it, and the Doomsday Ark definitely fits that bill. It’s also a really cool looking model, so I suppose there is that going for it, as well!

Finally, we have a small Scarab Swarm base to round out the points closer to 2000. Scarabs are just an annoying little unit that have the hilarious Self Destruction strategem for 1CP that allows you to remove the swarm before close combat, and roll a D6 – on a 2+, a unit within 1″ suffers D3 mortal wounds. Spectacular stuff! Could be worth including more Scarabs just for the hilarity factor! Ages ago, I bought a load of Scarabs from a bits seller, so have plenty of them hanging about. They’re a unit that can be fun to build, as you design the look of the base with scarabs scuttling over terrain or space marines…

Necron scarab base

This third tier of units is very much in the vein of just stuff that I’d like to try out, so I’d like to try to keep it flexible enough that I can switch things out as the mood takes me. Of course, there’s nothing to say the rest of the army will survive any future culls, but there are models like the Canoptek Tomb Stalker and the Tesseract Ark that I have and would like to see if I can fit them into the list in the future. But for now, I think I’m going to stick with this list, and with just the Codex models while I truly get to grips with the new book.

Necrons Tesseract Ark

The Fancy Stuff
So that’s the army units that I’ll be using, along with a selection of the stratagems that have caught my eye. What about all the fancy bits?

To start with, I’m sticking with the Sautekh Dynastic Code, which allows me to treat all ranged weapons as Assault weapons if I Advance, and additionally I suffer no penalty for moving and shooting Heavy weapons. That’s why I’ve quite brazenly fitted a transdimensional beamer on one of the Canoptek Wraiths, as I’d like to see what the weapon does, but I don’t have to worry about keeping still. I’ve also got gauss cannons on the Barge and Stalker for the same reason, really.

Sautekh was originally chosen because it seemed like a decent enough code, but also because I was looking at using Orikan the Diviner for my list. I may still include him in the future, but for now I have no other plans for him.

The Sautekh-specific stratagem, Methodical Destruction, allows other units to add 1 to their hit rolls when targeting a unit that has already been wounded this phase. It’s 2CP, so not something you’d consider lightly, but can be quite useful (and again links in nicely with the Stalker’s rule, and the general plan of having a lot of focused fire).

As far as Warlord Traits go, I’ve gone for Hyperlogical Strategist. It’s the Sautekh-specific Trait, and allows for CP refunds on a 5+ (as well as re-rolling a single die once per battle). I’m not overly fussed by this, if I’m honest, and Warlord Traits in general tend to be one of the most likely abilities that I forget during a game. I’d be equally happy with experimenting through all six of the generic Necron traits, as well, as there are some fairly good ones in that bunch – including Immortal Pride, which allows the Warlord to Deny the Witch. Could be interesting! At any rate, my Warlord is probably going to be the Command Barge, just because I’ve always used the Barge in this respect in previous games. Though I could just as easily see myself swapping it to the Overlord on foot.

Finally, relics – or, Artifacts of the Aeons, as they’re known here! I’ve never been amazingly overwhelmed by how powerful these relics are, unfortunately, which often makes it difficult to decide what to take. I’ve previously just gone for Sempiternal Weave to get +1 Toughness and +1 Wound, but I could just as easily go for the Orb of Eternity to get a second round of Reanimation Protocols at +1 for models within 3″ of the bearer. I’m not a fan of the Sautekh-specific relic, the Abyssal Staff, as it changes the Staff of Light from Assault 3 to Assault 1, with mortal wounds available subject to too many confusing conditions. I’d rather just stick with my regular Staff of Light and be done with!

I’ve recently been thinking about re-painting the new plastic Overlord, which would give me access to the Voidreaper, though that Voidscythe is expensive yet fine as it is! So that’ll probably be something for the more distant future.

But there we have it! My new Necron army, finally decided upon!

Necrons Thoky Dynasty

Army Progress
So where am I up to with getting these models done? Well, not quite as near to finished as I’d like, sadly!

I think everything is definitely built, though I’d have to check what I’ve armed the Tomb Blades of yore with. Probably will need to re-do them to be completely correct on the tabletop. The Doomsday Ark is a big issue insofar as it’s in about 20 sub-assemblies, so that couldn’t be fielded right now. But I’m otherwise not too bad on the building side of things. Painting wise, I’ve not gotten very far beyond having the gauss Immortals, the Cryptek and the Command Barge finished, though! I’m about to start work on some tesla Immortals, and have the Annihilation Barge sitting on my desk covered in green spray paint, so will need to do something with that soon.

But the good thing about all of this is, I don’t need to buy any new models just yet!

Looking to the future, I’ve already mentioned the Forge World inclusions I’d like to make – though again, I’ve already got those models. I’m thinking I might make an investment in a second Doomsday Ark, depending on how well the first works for me. Within the many models that are waiting for me to build, I have a second Triarch Stalker as well, which is another model I’m thinking about doubling down on, as I can foresee the Targeting Relay rule making it a high priority for my opponent if it means I’m getting a lot of mileage out of it.

Necron Immortals

Overall, then, I’m really pleased that I’ve finally managed to come up with an army build for the Necrons that I’m actually happy with. It’s been a long process, overall, and I’ve gone through a number of iterations before getting here, but here I finally am! Having spent a lot of time lately reading over the Codex and trying to figure out where I want to go with an army, I think I’m reasonably clear now on what I want to be doing on the table. I’ve gone for bigger blobs of troops in order to maximise on Reanimation Protocols, and have as many buffs and synergies as I can get into the list while still keeping it fun and engaging for me. It should be a really exciting process to finally get the army finished, and I’ll be sure to check in here with both painting updates and news on how well the army performs when I’ve finally started to get some games in with it!

Hopefully I’ll be able to at least play once before Chapter Approved 2018 will no doubt come along and change a lot of the points costs or unit/weapon abilities! At least I can use that as my inspiration…

This blog is definitely running a bit long now, though, so I think I’ll close it up here. Hopefully it’s been interesting, maybe even useful, but you deserve a break now, so go put the kettle on and relax!

12 thoughts on “The Necron Codex – tactical thoughts”

    1. Thanks very much! I still think of Necrons as my first and main army, even though Dark Eldar seem to take over a lot of the time (and, more recently, Tau!) so you can expect to see a lot of the undead soulless robots here on my blog as I go about getting them all painted up!! 🙂

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