THE NECRON ARMY
The Necrons are an army that is laughed at by many gamers, being viewed as an army with little or no chance of winning. This is largely due to their limited army list and the general lack of wargear available to the Necrons, who have yet to see a formal codex. While the Necrons are somewhat limited in their unit selection and available equipment, they are by no means limited in terms of usable tactics. Given time, any player can win with the Necrons. Practice and patience are key to winning with any army, and even more so with the Necrons.
The Necron army list gives you very few units to choose from, but each of them serves a purpose and, when used together, the apparent lack of army selection is no longer a problem as the units click play their part in the greater whole. To help you understand how to make the units work together, Ill use this article to explain each unit's uses, and how they can be used with other units.
LORDS OF THE ROBOTIC FORCES
The Necron Lord is the obvious place to start when picking a Necron force. He is the only character available to the Necrons, acting in a dual role as the army's leader and the only model in the army able to perform a dedicated assault against an opponent. Because of his cost, most players only take one. Taking two Lords opens up a wide variety of tactical options for you, but you should only take two if you have 1000 points or more to work with.
The Lord's power weapon (the Staff of Light) gives him tremendous assault capability. This is especially useful against Space Marines and other troops with a good armour saves. The Lord's Strength 5 and three Attacks allow him to take on multiple models that have a decent Toughness as well. If you use your Lord in this role, it might be worth it to give him a 'retinue' made of Warriors, Immortals, or Pariahs, who will shield him from incoming fire and can throw in their own attacks in an assault.
Maybe you want your Lord to act in a more defensive role, preventing assaults from tearing a hole into your battle line. In this case the Gaze of Flame is a wonderful aid, as not only does it deprive your opponent of their extra attacks from charging, it also temporarily reduces their Leadership by -2. The threat of this item can sometimes be enough to make your opponent think twice about assaulting your units. But don't limit yourself to using the Gaze in a defensive role; it is also useful when acting in an offensive role. If you calculate your assaults correctly, you could very possibly break even a Space Marine squad with the -2 Ld and destroy them in a Crossfire.
The next item of wargear for your Lord, and the one that people turn to most, is the most expensive, yet also the most useful. The Veil of Darkness opens up many tactical options for your army. This piece of wargear allows your Lord and any one unit within 6" to move from one part of the battle to another using the Deep Strike rules. You can use this to move troops out of an assault, allowing you to remove your from an assault that isn't going their way. You can also use it to move a unit to an advantageous firing location, or to move between high ground in an effort to catch your opponent's troops wherever they go. With the Veil, there is really nowhere on the battlefield that is safe for your opponent's units. One thing is certain, though: Once you use this item and reveal that you have it, your opponent will start firing everything he can at your Lord. Once again, it's very useful to give him a 'retinue'.
A favorite tactic of mine using the Veil of Darkness involves a little twist on the Crossfire rules. Use the Veil to 'jump' behind an opposing unit, then open fire on it. If you're able to cause enough casualties, you just might be able to cause it to fall back. When the unit does so, you'll be in its fall back corridor, creating a Crossfire that destroys the unit. A word of caution regarding this tactic: Once you do this, you will be in your opponent's units' assault and firing range. Don't try this if you aren't sure your squad can handle the resulting assaults and barrage of firepower.
The Nightmare Shroud is a nice bit of gear, especially if you feel your Lord is in a tight bind. Forcing close enemy units to take a morale test can cause some real problems. For maximum nastiness, pair this piece of wargear with a 'bodyguard' unit of Pariahs. Then you'll be forcing all nearby squads to take a Morale test on a Ld 7, making it even more likely they'll fail!
The Phase Shift is your basic invulnerable saving throw for a character. You can only take one, so if you do, put it with your most important Lord.
The Phylactery allows a Lord to regenerate with up to three wounds instead of the normal one, depending on the results of a die roll. It is no small exaggeration to say that this is a useful piece of wargear to give all of your Lords.
The Warscythe is a wonderful assault weapon that will make a mockery out of any model(s) your Lord assaults in close combat. It allows no saves of any kind and can easily rip apart light
vehicles, and gives you some chance to take out heavier vehicles. However, it also strips your Lord of his ranged weaponry from the Staff of Light, so consider whether this will be a problem for your or not.
The Chronometron is useful if you want your Necrons to make sweeping advances or fall back moves faster that they would normally, but otherwise you should save the 10 points and use it for something else.
Buying a Destroyer Body for your Lord give him some nice bonuses, but isn't cheap. Your Lord becomes Toughness 6 and cannot be Instant Killed by any weapon available to any army. He gains the ability to move like a jet bike as well. But an often overlooked ability granted by this upgrade is the ability for the Lord to join units of Destroyers and fight alongside them. This makes an even tougher unit that put out some nasty firepower and stands a very good chance of withstanding any assaults, and possibly even launching a few of its own.
The Lightning Field is a nasty little trick for your Lord if he's going to assault, and even better if he joins a unit. You might wonder what good a few extra S3 hits would do in an assault, but the results can be quite useful at times, giving you the extra one or two kills to send an opposing unit packing and on their way out.
The Resurrection Orb is great for keeping other Necrons going, but it's also expensive. I would only suggest grabbing one if you give your Lord a Destroyer Body, which will let him move quickly about the battlefield, giving the Orb's abilities to many Necron units. This becomes an expensive model, but the difference it can make on the battlefield is sometimes worth it. If it's too expensive for your tastes, however, I'd suggest investing in another Tomb Spyder.
The Solar Pulse is an item that far too many people question. It is very useful in a Night Fight, removing the night rules for your turn, which will allow your army to bring its full weight of fire to bear on the opposing army. Outside of a Night Fight, the Sonar Pulse is also useful, because for a turn it will force all enemy units to use the night fighting rules if they wish to fire at the Lord and his unit. This can protect them from some major firepower at times.
The first unit people turn to when selecting a Necron force should be the Warriors. They are your only Troops choice, and will form your main battle line. Many first-time Necron players only take two minimal squads of Warriors. They may not seem like much at first glance, but on closer inspection they are a terrific tactical unit! Warriors have the staying power of Space Marines combined with the ability to 'regenerate' if they are taken out by a shooting or close combat attack.
Even though Warriors are not able to take any heavy weapons, they are still useful against heavy vehicles and models with high Toughness and armor save. With enough shots, you will be able to score one or two Glancing Hits on any vehicle, and this will at the very least force it to give up a turn's worth of shooting, and may well destroy the vehicle entirely! Add to that the ability to wound any model on a to-hit roll of 6, and you have some pretty good 'heavy weapons' without paying the extra points for actual heavy weapons. Being rapid fire weapons, it's worth getting your Necrons close to the enemy to open up with double the shots. But can they survive the inevitable assault?
Necron Warriors do not seem all that good in an assault when you look at their
stats. After all, they only have Initiative 2 and no close combat weapons. So
how good can they be? Pretty decent, really. Though they may strike last most of the time,
there are few things that can down a Necron Warrior. You are virtually guaranteed a
chance to strike back, and with Strength 4 you'll be able to hit back hard. You can
even chance assaulting some units with your Warriors, giving you an extra Attack.
This would be a nasty surprise for your opponent, since very few people expect Necrons to
assault. When acting as a retinue for a Necron Lord, the threat to your
opponents units is even greater. The Lord's extra attacks will come in handy,
as will any wargear he might have.
Fire Support Units
Immortals are a wonderful unit, if a bit expensive. They are able to put out more fire on the move than the Warriors, with the benefit of it being S5 with an AP4. Their Toughness 5 lets them take more hits than Warriors, too. As far as tactical roles go, they are effectively toughened Warriors that are able to keep up their firepower on the move. They can be used in an assault role in much the same way as Warriors, in which their extra Toughness will shine through as they take the hits and keep standing.
Immortals make a good retinue for your Necron Lord. Their Toughness allows them
to soak up more firepower, and their heavier guns will allow them to neutralize most
threats to the Lord. The Immortals can also serve to 'soften up' a unit before the
Lord and the Immortals assault, making it easier to break them. This can be very
useful, especially when faced with large groups of Orks or Space Marines.
The Destroyer is the Necrons' answer to attack bikes, with the added bonus of being a jetbike. Destroyers can have many roles in your army. They can act as a mobile reserve, plugging up gaps in your army when any of your units fall to enemy fire or assaults. They're also very useful for setting up Crossfires, quickly darting along the side of the battlefield and then behind your opponent's units.
By far, the most notable role for Destroyers is to hunt down enemy vehicles, as they
have the only really heavy firepower in a Necron force, especially the Heavy
Destroyers with their Heavy
Gauss Cannon. Even the mighty Land Raider can fall prey to a squadron of Destroyers,
with three shots per model. Don't forget that the Gauss Cannons are also useful for
going after troops as well, with their Strength 6 shots. Within just one shooting
phase, a unit of Destroyers backed by a unit of Immortals can destroy almost any unit your
opponent can take.
Hand to Hand Units
Pariahs are a tempting unit to take, since they have many uses. Their phase weapons will go through any armor, they are quite tough, they can fight a round of close combat and expect to come out on top against practically any unit in Warhammer 40,000, and their Soulless abilities can help to disrupt the enemy lines. Pariahs should be used in a group of five in battles up to 1500 points, to save more points for Necrons. These "minimal" squads are easily survivable if you keep them in cover or behind intervening terrain while getting to your opponent's lines. Pariahs will easily return their points value against Space Marines (especially Terminators), Dark Eldar retinues, and some of the nastier close combat units in the game. However, past that, it's a moot point to take them. Tau and Imperial Guard are pretty much easily beatable by the other units in the Necron army (with the exception of the Tau Battlesuits), and will contain numerous weapons that could well tear apart your Pariahs with their firepower before you get a chance to return their points value. These two armies also aren't affected as much by the Pariahs' Soulless abilities, which are a great boon against Space Marine armies and other armies with higher Ld. You can easily get a unit to flee that otherwise wouldn't, especially with assaults. Pariahs are also useful for hunting down enemy psykers with this ability.
Flayed Ones are quite useful for taking on opposing units in assaults, with their two attacks. You'll need to use their abilities of infiltration to get close to the opposing army from the start of the game, however, so they don't have to slog it out on foot or rely on a Lord. If you have Pariahs in your army as well, let them handle the tougher units while the Flayed Ones take on the lighter units, which would be very easy for them to take out in an assault. Flayed Ones are on par with Space Marines as far as stats go, so they are definitely ably to hold their own in a situation. Just remember that they have no ranged weaponry, and so they'll need fire support from the rest of the army.
Wraiths are another specialized close combat unit, able to float directly through terrain. They have many attacks and a high Strength and Initiative, but beyond that don't count them for too much. Wraiths are able to tear up lightly armed and armored troops, but against dedicated assault troops they may fall quickly due to only having one wound. A 3+ invulnerable save can only go so far, but if you keep a Tomb Spyder around they'll be able to heal most of the time, since they will always get the We'll Be Back roll. A Tomb Spyder could also provide you with some Scarab swarms to help deal with a tough unit. Use terrain to block line of sight to your Wraiths until you get close enough to launch an assault, then use the Wraiths' ethereal abilities to move straight through the terrain and attack opposing units. If possible, consolidate back behind terrain after an assault.
Scarabs are pretty useful for two things: wearing down tanks or tying up enemy units. The first they can only do by purchasing disruption fields, which isn't so bad with their three attacks, giving you roughly a one half chance of getting a Glancing Hit on a vehicle. Otherwise, they can tie up pesky units in close combat with their multiple wounds. However, this leads to a possible third option. Scarabs aren't exactly pushovers, and may well be able to assault Imperial Guard, Tau, and possibly even Dark Eldar Warriors with a chance of success! One thing Scarabs are useless at, however, is screening your Necrons. They are far too small, and with them taking double hits from blast weapons they will shortly be worn down by enemy fire. Also, as with Destroyers, Scarabs act as jetbikes. This allows you to move them quickly, getting them in behind your opponent's units. They can then perform Crossfires, taking out any units that fall back to your firepower.
Tomb Spyders are pretty awesome. They can repair close Necrons or create more Scarabs that join them in a unit. To use them as a mobile repair, you'll need to keep them close to your Necron units. When creating Scarabs (which you should only do if there are no damaged Necrons in range), watch out for how many your create - over time, that 1 in 6 chance of a wound will creep up! It's worth the points to invest in a particle projector, as it will give your Tomb Spyder some ranged firepower and a power weapon to use in close combat. The power weapon is great, because it allows your Tomb Spyders to be in the thick of it, fighting alongside your assault units such as Wraiths and Flayed Ones. Remember, though, that if the Tomb Spyder is in base contact with an enemy model, it cannot create a Scarab swarm.
Monoliths are the central beauty of the Necron army, and can be a horrendous harm as well. The Monolith is extremely hard to take out with its Living Armour and AV 14. It allows you to Deep Strike close units back to it, or have units enter the game using it as a Reserves table edge. Its particle whip is murder on vehicles and heavily armoured troops that get too close, and its gauss flux arc will prevent anyone from thinking of getting within 12" of the Monolith (and should they try it once, they'll instantly regret it!). The Monolith should basically be your "mobile command station", moving Necrons about and bringing them in from Reserves while floating slowly about the table. With all these advantages and abilities, how could someone call it a curse? With the high points cost of the Monolith, weighing in at a hefty 235 points, that means far less Necrons for you in your army, and so you are that much easier to force a Phase Out on. This can be helped somewhat by its ability to allow models teleported through it to re-roll failed We'll Be Back rolls, giving you back a few Necrons that you may have otherwise lost. So if you take a Monolith, make sure it's in a game of 1500 points at the bare minimum, and never forget to use all of its abilities during a game.
THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE
The Necrons have a unique problem while trying to complete a mission's objectives. They will 'phase out' if you lose 75% or more of your Necrons, regardless of whether you are winning or losing at that point. This will cause you to lose the mission without any chance of success, even if you're holding three table quarters in a Cleanse mission and your opponent has none.
The most important rule of fighting with Necrons is one I cannot stress
enough. Do not let your Necrons get killed! By this, I mean all of your
models that have Necrons in their rules - Warriors, Lords, Destroyers, and
Flayed Ones. Don't abuse these guys, because if you let 75% of they get
killed, your entire army disappears, including all non-Necron units. And the
more non-Necron units you buy, the fewer of them you have, and so the easier
it is to force your army to Phase Out. Remember this always when creating an
army list or playing a game. Pariahs, C'tan, Monoliths, and such are all
great models with wonderful rules, but they will weaken your army at the
same time they strengthen it. Don't give in to that temptation!
The Tactics used by the Necrons are pretty much straightforward, with a few twists. Your basic battle plan is to use your Warriors, Immortals, Destroyers, and other firepower based units to provide covering fire to your Flayed Ones, Pariahs, and Wraiths. By concentrating firing and assaulting on just one or two parts of your opponent's army at one, you can cause a lot of damage quickly. This is the way to go with Necrons.
But there are some nasty tricks you can use. Necrons are an army that has a lot of ways to get around fast. Scarabs can move quickly, so you can set them up behind enemy units to cause crossfires when you assault. Wraiths move through terrain, and can pounce on an unsuspecting unit. Flayed Ones teamed with a Lord equipped with the Veil of Darkness can teleport practically anywhere, though this can get a bit tricky as they won't be able to move in the turn. All the while, your Monolith can summon new troops and pull other units back toward it. Use this teleportation to your advantage, but don't let your army get too scattered. Keep the elements of your army close together, so that they'll be able to support each other. A scattered army is a defeated army, as each element is surrounded and cut off from the other, then eradicated by overwhelming force. Don't forget, even though you cannot teleport the same unit twice in one turn, that doesn't mean you can't combine teleport methods spread out between two or more turns. For example, you can Deep Strike a unit onto the table, perform an assault or fire at an opposing unit, and then use a Monolith to teleport them to safety in the following turn.
Don't forget to protect your basic Necron units. They are the most important models in your army due to the Phase Out rule. You may consider it to be quite horrible advice, but I believe that you should always think of Scarabs as expendable in the event that you have a chance of losing some Necrons. Scarabs aren't cheap, but their loss will cause less of a blow to your army than the loss of a few Warriors or Immortals, or even a lone Destroyer. Survivability of the Necrons is key to the Necron army; if you fail to protect them, then all of your other brilliant tactics are wasted. Let the movements of your Tomb Spyders and any Lord equipped with a Resurrection Orb be dictated by where their regeneration abilities are most needed, not their fighting abilities. It is far better to lose a single shot from a gauss cannon or Staff of Light than it is to lose three or four Necrons that could have been saved.
Deployment for a Necron army is pretty tricky. I suggest deploying all of your fast units on a flank, behind cover that blocks line of sight. This includes your Destroyers and Scarabs, as well as any Destroyer Lords. This will allow them to run up the side of the battlefield without taking too much damage from enemy firing, until they can get in range to deliver their own return firepower or launch an assault.
Necron Warriors should either be held in reserve, or placed on the table in a rough battle line that can provide support to other units as well as any other part of the line. If you want to hold some units n reserve to call upon (say, with a Monolith), only hold back a few. Deploy the majority of your Warrior squads on the table at the start of the game. Whether in a single long battle line or two groups that can provide support to two different parts of the battlefield, it is better to have their firepower from the start.
Assault units are a bit tricky. If you have a large group of them, I would deploy them relatively close together as far toward the enemy as possible. A small group should wait for supporting fire to whittle down the enemy. Wraiths can either be placed with Pariahs and Flayed Ones, or deployed with your Destroyers and Scarabs to aid them in any assaults they might come into.
If you have a Monolith, it should get a nice centralized position that gives it protection from some form of cover (for hull down), while still allowing it to effectively call in reserve units and fire its weapons. It never hurts to give it a support unit or two.
There are some units or models that will cause you no end of trouble if you aren't careful. But if you have a plan to take them out, they'll be little more than pesky annoyances.
First and foremost are Dreadnoughts and Wraithlords. The simplest answer would be to either avoid them or fire a few heavy gauss cannons at them. Failing that, never forget that your average gauss rifle is a very handy weapon indeed! Fire enough shots at a Wraithlord, and you will bring it down. On average, it will take fifty-four shots to bring down a Wraithlord with gauss rifles. But if you don't want to fire that many shots at it in one turn, remember you don't have to. It moves forward at a not-so-stunning 6" per turn, allowing you to riddle it with shots each turn. Dreadnoughts are much the same. Remember that a crew stunned result is just as good as destroyed for a turn, so if you can't spare the firepower on a Dreadnought and you have it stunned, move along to more dangerous targets.
Vehicles should be handles in the same manner as Dreadnoughts above, but more emphasis can be place on vehicles with multiple weapons or transporting troops. Fire upon these vehicles until you have them at least either shaken or stunned, preferably destroyed or immobilized (when it comes to transports, this isn't much further from destroyed; it also means such a vehicle is incapable of counting in a Cleanse or similar mission).
Assault troops can usually be answered with your own assault troops. But what about power weapon wielding units, or units with heavy close combat weapons such as choppas or chainaxes? These should handled at arm's length, or further! Fire your rifles at them with steady concentration, reducing each unit to ineffectiveness before moving on to the next. Once you have them down to a more manageable size, you can also send in your own assault troops.
Heavy weapon squads should also be prioritized, especially those with multiple shot weapons such as heavy bolters. Fire at them with everything you have until they go down. Do not ignore them, or you will regret it later!
Scarabs are the cheapest models in your entire army, and yet they are still some of the toughest to take down. With multiple wounds and attacks, Scarabs can hold up an enemy squad for at least a turn or two. A 60 point unit of Scarabs has 15 wounds, and is actually quite cheap compared to the rest of your army. These units can, and sometimes should, be used to launch a quick assault on a squad in your opponent's army that presents a major threat to the rest of your army; for example, a squad of Devastators or assault troops, especially as they're fearless. When you feel that a squad is becoming too much of a threat and you can't spare any other units to take care of them, a unit of Scarabs makes a great hold u p.
Teleporting Fire Support
Sometimes you'll want some fire support for your Pariahs, but the closest unit is too far away. This is where your Veil of Darkness comes in. A particularly favorite trick of mine is to move my Pariahs into assault range, then teleport a unit of Warriors or Immortals close to the unit they are assaulting, fire into that unit, and assault. This gives even more of a hit to the unit being assaulted (in addition to the Pariahs' firing), and gives you that much more of a chance to take out a tough unit. Your fire support will also be close enough to help with any counter attacks.
A tactic that also works well with the Necrons is leapfrogging. This involves one unit standing in position and firing its weapons to full effect (remember, gauss rifles are Rapid Fire) while another unit move forward. This should be done with units that are about ten models in size. Spread the units out a little, so that Ordnance weapons don't take out many Necrons at once. Using units such as Immortals will lend you even more firepower, and a Tomb Spyder or a Lord with a Resurrection Orb will help keep the Necrons standing back up, making the advancing fire line even tougher.
Hopefully this article has opened your eyes to a few more tricks you can pull with
your Necrons. Necron armies have long been laughed at as being less than a whole,
with barely a list and very little wargear to support them. Now they
are a fully viable army with plenty of troop types and available
options. Let no one tell you Necrons are an army with no hope; they
may be difficult to win with, but they are by no means unplayable.
Necrons are a very flexible army, with their fair share of tactical options. Used correctly, you can take on any other army and come out on top. And when your opponents begin to show their surprise at losing to a Necron army, the rewards will be all the sweeter when you do.
Back to the Tactica.