Thursday, 22 December 2011

Necrautopsy: Part 5

In a similar vein to my dissection of the Annihilation Barge, I’m going to talk about another of the ‘odder’ choices in my army.  Not many Necron players (that I know) think much of the Deathmarks.  They are certainly a strange unit, as many people will look at their short-ranged sniper rifles and ability to Deep Strike in the opponent’s turn (leaving you very vulnerable to attack and unable to spread out) and wonder why these things are in any way ‘good’.  I mean, Deep Striking during the opponent’s turn certainly has novelty value, but the inability to separate the unit or fire before the opponent’s shooting phase is almost inviting the opponent to kill them immediately.  The Rapid Fire rule added to the sniper rifles is cool, but it requires you to be within 12” of the target and no sniper should be that close if he wants to be in any way alive during the next turn.

However, it’s my belief that both of these strange-sounding aspects of the unit can be used to great (and often surprising) effect during the game.  Of course, my experience of this is only based on a few games, so take it for what it is (probably woefully inadequate).  One of the best things about the Deep Strike special rule is that it helps to take away the reliability problem with reserve rolls.  Admittedly it does sort of rely on your opponent rolling well (or, indeed, having reserves in the first place), but the important thing to bear in mind is that there is no limit to the number of Deathmark Squads that can ‘piggyback’ onto an opponent’s reserve roll.  If they get one unit onto the board in turn2, then you can get every Deathmark squad in your army down then as well.  Having that level of control over when your units can arrive opens up many tactical options for co-ordinated attacks and distractions.  It also brings the psychological advantage of disrupting your opponent’s plans for his movement phase.  Usually in a game, you will have decided on what you’re going to do in the movement phase before the opponent’s turn has ended (and, if not, you should have!) and having a couple of units appear out of nowhere can put unexpected pressure on you, increasing the chance of making mistakes.  This is only a good thing.  Sometimes it’s worth the destruction of the entire squad purely for the disruption they can cause to the opponent’s plans just by turning up.

Next up is the Rapid Firing Sniper Rifle.  Again, this is one of those things that can cause people to raise an eyebrow.  Firing two shots per guy is great, but you need to get uncomfortably close to do so and the maximum range on their guns is (like so much else in the Codex) only 24”.  Clearly too short to use then in the traditional sniper nests.  And that’s a common trap I feel gets fallen into when people dismiss then as being unworthy of serious consideration.  They’re crap as sniper, because they’re not really snipers.  When you stop using them as you would a Pathfinder or a Sniper Scout, and just start using them as Immortals with different guns, these guys become an entirely different animal.  They’re pretty much the most resilient sniper(ish) unit out there (with the possible exception of the Vindicare Assassin) and aren’t tied to cover for their survival.  They can march alongside (or ahead, if you want) the rest of your army, levelling a lot of Pinning and Rending shots at anything foolish enough to wander with 12” of them.

Then there is the big draw of the unit; the Marking ability.  Basically, whenever a Deathmark unit deploys you may pick one opposing unit on the field (even in a transport) and, for the rest of the game, any Deathmark shooting will wound them on a 2+ rather than a 4+.  This is kind of a big deal for any gun with the Sniper trait.  Especially nice when deployed against Monstrous Creatures and command choices to rack up as many extra wounds as possible and force pinning tests.  Lovely.  It also adds another psychological trick to the unit.  Against an opponent not used to Deathmarks, it makes them very paranoid about the unit.  It’s one of the additional reasons that they disrupt enemy movements when they Deep Strike out of turn.  Most of my opponents have wanted them dead the moment they turn up.  This marking ability is also one of the reasons why I field Deathmarks in small squads.  The marking ability applies to all Deathmark shooting, not just the squad that marked the unit.  This means that the effectiveness of marking increases exponentially with each unit you deploy and also, even if one of the units get killed the moment it turns up, the marking is still valid for the other unit(s) for the rest of the game.

As you may have noticed, a lot of the things I’ve been saying about these guys involve them getting killed in one way or another.  This is another reason why I tend to field them in small squads.  I also add a Harbinger of the Storm in with each squad as a nice complement to the squad (a decent Assault 4 weapon with 12” range and haywire gives them a little extra bite for suppression and distraction) but even that only bumps the squad up to 120 points.  By keeping them this low, it allows me to be bolder with Deep Striking them, using them as speedbumps or distractions without risking too many points in the process.  Even at the low level I use them, they’re still capable of churning out a nice amount of quality firepower with a great deal of flexibility, although this admittedly lacks range.  I find the marking adds a nice additional tactical element to the game and enjoy deploying the psychological tricks that they can bring to bear.

So; there you have the Deathmarks.  Better than they look on paper.

Well, I think so…

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Necrautopsy: Part 4

Okay, so far in my series of Autopsies, I’ve been talking about very solid, reliable units (and, in two of the cases, units that are compulsory in one way or another).  Just to add a bit of flavour to proceedings, I’m going to briefly address some of the units that are more of a personal choice to add to an army, and choices which many players may disagree with.  Let’s start with the Annihilation Barge.

This vehicle is a bit of an odd one, when it comes down to it.  It slow (or at the very least, not Fast) and short to mid-ranged (24” on all its weapons), which is far from a user-friendly combination.  It’s also Open Topped, which is another black mark against it.  Open Topped is only a (potential) advantage for transports.  On a gunboat, it serves no purpose other than to get it killed.  Add in the fact that all its guns (which it needs to remain stationary in order to use all of, might I add), and the perfectly valid query may be raised: Why are you taking this thing?

Several reasons really.  I’ll start with the least important (or most important, depending on the type of player you are).  It looks really cool.  When I first saw the Barge in the pre-release pictures, I didn’t think too much of it.  Not bad, not great.  But the more I saw of it, the more I liked it, and when it came to my self-imposed challenge of building a new model Necron army for under £100, this thing was top of the list to buy.  Not only for the aesthetics, but also for the fact that it a plastic Overlord included in the kit as well.  So that’s the first reason.

The second reason is durability.  The Quantum Shielding lends this cheap little 90 point vehicle with a great deal of resilience from the off.  Strength 6 torrent fire can’t affect it.  Autocannons can’t penetrate it.  Krak missiles only pen on a 6.  And the living Metal rule allows you to disregard the shaken and stunned results reliably often.  This makes the Annihilation Barge a useful piece of movable cover to chug forward at the head of the army, whilst still emanating the threat of all the S7 shooting it can bring to bear it you wander too close.  I often use them in the way, to provide a cover save to my Canoptek Spyders (which can also repair weapons and immobilisations on the Barges in a nice bit of symbiosis) and I’m fairly confident that they will lengthen the survivability of the Stalker when I get it as well.  I tend to keep them moving until they hit the 24” sweet spot and then set them down and let rip for the rest of the game (or until they die, whichever happens first).  The points cost also helps in this regard, because no-one weeps over losing a 90 point vehicle.

Finally, I love the weaponry.  If you’ve read my previous autopsy (the one on Immortals) then you’ll know that I really enjoy the Tesla mechanic.  Because of this, I always go for the Tesla cannon rather than the Gauss for the vehicle, but again it’s a personal taste thing.  There are certainly times when the AP3 given by the Gauss would’ve been handy though.  Anyway, the Tesla Destructor (the big main gun of the thing) packs a good deal of firepower (4 S7 shots) with all the possibilities that silly Tesla rules bring (up to 12 hits!) making it good enough for vehicle suppression fire (although the AP- makes it of limited use as a dedicated vehicle killer) and it works well as a threat to foot troops with the weight of fire that it can fling out (nearly all of which will be wounding on 2s).  It’s an odd thing, but until AP3, I really don’t care about AP values for infantry killing.  I suppose it’s ingrained with this army and the Dark Eldar ones I run that sheer weight of fire is enough to kill MEQs without worrying about it.  It leads to a more relaxed army formation for me.  If, for example, you’re deploying plasma weapons to kill marines, then providing your target with a cover save is a real problem and cause for concern.  If you’re just piling on the AP- shots though, I couldn’t care less about cover or obscured lines of sight.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, *slap face* back on point.  Not only is the fun Tesla hitting mechanic in action with the Destructor, but there is also arcing to be taken into consideration.  Now this effect is highly unlikely to happen during any one incident, and when it happens it may not have any effect (vehicles, mainly) but that just makes it that much more amusing to me when it kicks off.  It makes you cast your eye for densely packed clusters of infantry or light vehicle to increase the chance of collateral damage flying about.  Which is always fun.  The final point about the Destructor is a point that I hadn’t realised for an embarrassingly long time.  I had played four or so games with the Annihilation Barge and being underwhelmed by it.  I’d got another one, because I thought they’d work better in small hunting packs, but they still didn’t quite bring enough to the field to justify their existence.  Then, during game 5 at my local GW, someone (I think one of the staffers) pointed out that the gun was twin-linked.  This made a large and noticeable improvement in both the improvement of my Barges and the amount I liked them.  After realising that I had been playing them wrong for quite some time, they really started to click and I was able to run them with more confidence that my points weren’t being completely wasted.  I still run two, quite often in a pack to provided cover and support to one another, and haven’t been disappointed with them since.  That said, the downsides I listed earlier are all relevant and I can’t argue against people choosing not to use them for those reasons.

But, dammit, I enjoy my Annihilation Barges!

Even if they can’t be squadronned.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Necrautopsy Part 3

Now that I’ve covered one of the Troops choices in the army, I should probably address the half of the double act; Immortals.  Now, amongst people who have had a look at the codex, the Immortals are the more popular choice and it’s fairly easy to see why.  The have better guns (either bigger Gauss guns or Tesla Carbines) and a better save, allowing them to better shrug off the wealth of AP4 that can be fielded about the place. And they’re only a touch more expensive than the humble Necron Warrior (4pts per guy, or about 33%).  However, it’s not all good.

I don’t really see the point in the bigger Gauss guns at the moment.  The rapid fire weapon type requires the squad to stand still to use it to best effect, massively limiting their use and the extra strength makes it a bit better against troops, wounding on 3s instead of 4s in the case of MEQs.  The AP4 instead of 5 is okay, but there really aren’t that many 4+ saves in the game to make this a major advantage, especially with the preponderance of cover saves in this edition.  When it comes to vehicles, all the extra strength does is allow you a 1 in 6 chance to penetrate armour 10s.  That’s it. In pretty much any other army, the jump from S4 to S5 is a far bigger deal, allowing the unit to have some effect against heavier and heavier vehicles.  Unfortunately, all gauss weapons can have an effect against vehicles regardless of strength, reducing the effectiveness of incremental strength upgrades for vehicle suppression.  For these reasons, I always use the far more fun Tesla Carbines as my gun of choice for these guys.

My reasons for this choice are fairly comprehensive (I think).  Same strength, so you’re not downgrading. They are Assault 1 weapons, allowing to you to move and still cover a good amount of board space with electrical zappyness.  Add in the fun little Tesla rule (any 6s on the to hit roll automatically generate an additional two bonus hits) and these guys tend to average a 100% hit rate when they fire.  They can also assault after they’ve fired, which may not sound like much when you’re dealing with an army as deficient in assault as the Necrons, but there are many opportunities for an assault against a weakened unit, or any unit that is more effective shooting than close assaulting in any given game.  Having that option there, even if it’s better that you don’t use it, is a plus for me.  There are two prospective downsides to the Carbine versus the Gauss Blaster.  It is AP-, which means that, of course, everyone will get their armour saves against the wounds.  However, given the mass of 3+ saves that proliferate in this universe, the lack of an AP value makes no practical difference in the majority of your infantry culling expeditions.  Yeah, those guardsmen with get to use their flack armour, and it’s always nice to see the surprise on the Ork player’s face when he finds out he can use his 6+ save against something at range.  Admittedly, the AP- will hurt a bit when dealing with vehicles.  Any glancing hits you score will be at a -3 penalty on the damage table, rendering them highly, highly unlikely to do anything lasting to vehicles.  But then again, that’s not their role.  The other disadvantage is that in the 12” window, the Gauss Blaster is getting more shots than you.  However, that’s a sacrifice I’m more than willing to make for the far increased mobile ranged effectiveness these guns can offer.

I mainly use Immortals in small five-man squads rather than the full complement of 10.  This is because I normally give them Crypteks to follow them about, creating a relatively durable unit with some funky ranged options with the Harbinger upgrades (I prefer Transmogrification, myself), operating them on an MSU basis.  For my army, the main role of my Immortals is to act as satellite units for my big anvil unit of Warriors, providing point defence against any unit that gets a bit too close, providing cover (one five Immortal squad plus the Cryptek can easily provide cover for the whole 22-man Warrior squad) and also providing sacrificial speed bump services against assault units when necessary.  I like them a lot for that, and they have ably assisted my anvil unit to victory on many occasions (read: 4) through my brief and probably disgracefully unrepresentative career as Robot Zombie Overmind.

That’s my view on Immortals, at least in the context of how I’ve been using them at the moment.  Not as kick-ass units in their own right (which I’m sure they can be), but as a natural partner and complement to other components of my army.  Any of you use them differently?  Leave comments, etc.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Necrautopsy Part 2

Last time I talked about Necron Warriors and using them as an anvil unit (as opposed to the old ‘hammer unit’ idea).  I also said that there was one more thing that I did with them in my 1,500 point army to make them even better in this role.  This added bonus come in the form of the Illuminor Szeras, a special character in the back of the book.  I really like this guy.  Stat-wise he’s not great.  He’s got the same stat-line as an Immortal but with an extra wound and four attacks, which would be nice, but he doesn’t have a power weapon or a strength above four, so those attacks an go hang, frankly.  I normally try to keep him out the fighting wherever possible.  If he’s hanging around with the anvils unit, he normally hides in the middle of them o he can’t get punked out in an assault.

His equipment is alright, but not particularly spectacular.  Nothing special to hit with in close combat, but he does give his squad defensive grenades and necrons, being what they are, need all the help they can get on the receiving end of a charge.  His ranged weapon is pretty cool though.  Like any Harbinger of Destruction (more on the Harbingers later…) he comes with an Eldritch Lance, which is a nice semi tank-buster at 36” range, S8 AP2, Assault 1.  I wouldn’t rely on it to kill a vehicle (you just can’t do that with S8 in 5th Edition), but it does provided a nice added bite to his unit’s shooting.  But at 100 points for him, he’d better bring more to board than an alright shooting attack, some defensive grenades and an extra wound.  Fortunately, he does.

The big deal about the Illuminor is that at the beginning of the game he upgrades one of your basic Warrior or Immortal squads with a random upgrade.  On a 1-2, they get upgraded with an extra toughness, on 3-4 they gain a ballistic skill and a 5-6 grants them an extra strength.  None of these are bad, although some definitely aren’t as good as others.  I’m talking about the strength upgrade here.  Yeah, it’s nice to have, but in an ideal plan, these guys won’t be getting into a fight anyway.  Nevertheless, it’s handy to have as a bonus.  The ballistic skill upgrade is really nice, especially as I always choose my anvil squad for the upgrade and they pack so many guns that the BS5 really gets maximum results.  When shooting at vehicles, you need all the hits you can muster to increase odds of getting that Immobilising glancing hit.  But Toughness 5 is where the Illuminor really shines.  The Warriors become so much work to take down, that in the (admittedly few) games I’ve played at 1,500 points, my opponent didn’t really bother trying to kill them.  When upgraded to toughness 5, small arms won’t cut it anymore.  You need ordnance to shift them.  And even then, half of them will get back up again.  Also, anything that allows more of them to remain standing in an assault to punch back is greatly appreciated at a pinch.

So, that’s my rundown of the Illuminor and my synergistic way of getting the most out of your basic Robot Zombies.  Next up…



Monday, 5 December 2011

Necrautopsy Part 1

Okay, I’ve been playing these guys for a little while now (in broadly the same list) and so I think I can cast some aspersions their character by now.   I’ve had a decent run of wins with this base list and it’s dependable, if not exciting, relying as it does very much on the troops section of the army.  Now, when I say that it’s not exciting, I don’t mean it’s not fun.  I’ve had a good time in all the games I played and enjoyed the army a lot so far.  Now, part of this enjoyment is probably the ‘new army’ factor which probably hasn’t quite worn off yet.  After all, it’s only been a month or so.

Another factor is just the sheer change in gear that these guys present when compared to my usual army of choice, the Dark Eldar.  In many ways, these guys are polar opposites.   This has led to the natural challenge of changing play styles.  Gone are the days of unparalleled manoeuvrability, strict anti-personnel/anti-tank weaponry and staggeringly high initiative stats.  Now I’m commanding shambling hordes of I2 robot zombies.  It’s been a challenge getting used to them, and I don’t think I’ve managed it yet.  Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean I’m going to spare you my ill-thought out drivelling under the guise of rational analysis!

You lucky thing, you.  So then; my impressions, unit by unit.

Necron Warriors:  Very much the core of my army.  Since weighing them up in the book, I’ve pictured them as an anvil.  I tend to picture nearly anything you have a squad of twenty as some kind of anvil, provided they have a decent armour save and/or toughness.  Wyches need not apply.  Same with you, Termagants.  These guys have a few things going for them in the anvil stakes.  The T4, 4+ save is a good start when complimented by the vast numbers you can acquire.  What also helps (and is nigh on necessary for this build) is the ability to add another body to mass, in the form of a Cryptek or a Lord, boosting the maxed number to 21.  This is a big(ish) deal for me, which may appear odd, but let me explain.  The morale test for shooting casualties hinges on losing 25% (or more) of the models in any given unit.  This means that units which don’t divide evenly into four have a bit of an advantage.  More specifically, units of size 5, 9, 13, 17 and 21 have to take a disproportionately large number of casualties before seeing if they bottle.  Now, on a Ld of 10, this is highly unlikely (1 in 12 to be precise), but it’s always better not to take a test at all rather than risk failing it, no matter how unlikely.  A 20-man unit would have to test after taking 5 casualties, but a 21-man unit has to take 6 before the test.  With firing a hell of a lot of guns into the squad, this outcome is unlikely, which is a load off my mind.

This, combined with the 50/50 chance of them getting up again when they’ve been killed (thanks, res-orb!) means that this unit can shrug off a huge amount of firepower.  This doesn’t mean you can get careless with them though.  Cover is essential, as there are many weapons boasting an AP4, which cuts the long-term survival down significantly.  The other major weakness is in combat.  These guys aren’t very good.  This is another reason to go for numbers rather than MSU with these guys.  A lot of these guys will fall down before getting to hit.  You need as many still standing as possible to remain upright so they can try to even the score.  Unlikely, but some chance is always better than none.  This is where the Lord becomes useful, packing his warscythe for a little bit of decent punch and some vitally needed anti-vehicle assault.  Nothing worse that these guys getting tied up by one armoured sentinel with no recourse.

There are also a couple of extra things in my list which make these guys even better.  I tend to pack a (relatively) cheap Phaeron Overlord.  What the Phaeron upgrade does is make the Overlord and whatever unit he is with Relentless.  20 relentless rapid-firing warriors is a scary prospect.  As mediocre as S4 AP5 shooting may be in this day and age, when you’re doubling, tripling or even quadding it up, it can be horrific.  It also helps maximise the Gauss effect on enemy vehicles through sheer weight of numbers.  It can also help you tip assaults in your favour by providing a lot of antipersonnel firepower before stealing a charge.  Sure you’ll strike last, and some of your guys may well be taken down first, but they’ll be getting double the attacks per model and you’ll be stealing that bonus attack from your adversaries.  Given that setup, they can get the drop on nearly any assault unit.  Not quite all, but close.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Don’t want you to get bored.  Yet.

I’ll pick through the rest of the units I’ve been using during a couple of later posts, including one more thing I use to get the most out of my anvil unit.