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For long I ignored miniature wargaming. I already had Magic the Gathering, an expensive collectible hobby. I did not want another. Then, at some point, my friend forced me to install Dawn of War on my computer.
I had some contact with Warhammer 40k when I briefly played Battlefleet Gothic with one guy. Feeling cheap, I invested into a Dark Eldar fleet, since the ships were expensive point-wise so I needed only few of them. They were also quite versatile. I got my friend to paint them, and the outcome was not very charming. The game was fun, but not very inviting. The setting was somewhat interesting, but I didn’t feel a connection.
Dawn of War changed that. We played it over LAN, and everyone else knew more about the game and the armies and chose the most obvious choices, like Space Marines, Chaos and Eldar. I, wanting to feel unique, chose to learn one army that everyone else ignored; The Necrons. And lo, I was in love. Ranks and ranks of ponderous metallic warriors, silently marching on, killing things with green lightning. Merciless, snakelike Wraiths who cut tiny men into shreds with sleek metallic arms. Simple geometric buildings carved from black metals, pulsing with evil greenish glow. And on the top, the ponderous Monolith, teleporting in the middle of the enemy ranks, spewing death at every corner and rythmically pounding the enemy with huge green explosions. Compared to the fanatical humans, mysterious eldar and idiot orks, the Necrons were truly different.
I studied more. I looked into the background and found it very exciting; The Necrontyr were a race of short-lived people millions of years ago, who declared war against the beautiful and perfect Old Ones because of their jealosy. The Necrontyr found the C’tan, ancient star vampire gods. The Star Gods enslaved the whole race, moving their consciousness into a legion of self-repairing robotic skeletons. When the warp happened, the remaining Star Gods went to sleep, waiting for the galaxy to calm down and repopulate. Now, millenia later, the Necrons are slowly awakening. Most of the current Necrons are just advance scouts, and no-one knows how many Tomb Worlds there are. While the Necrons are old and malfunctioning, the Necron Lords gone mad over the millenia and the Star Gods weak from their slumber, they are still one of the greatest threats to the Imperium of Man and the entire Galaxy. Holy damn the background was awesome.
I bought an army and meticulously glued them together and painted them. And then I joined the 40k-players of my friend circle. And found out that the game itself is god damn stupid.
The game has one rulebook describing the general rules of the game, the setting and the different armies. But since every army has dozens of different units and rules (except Necrons), each army has a book of their own, containing the army-specific rules. These are called Codexes. The problem is that Games Workshop, the company that manufactures the game, wishes to sell miniatures. They employ top of the line sculptors and painters, designing miniatures nonstop. To accomodate the new miniatures, they update the armies. And when they update the armies, they update the rules. And they do it one at a time, with several months between new codex updates. This wouldn’t be a problem, but GW has a tendency to update the more popular armies more often.
In the ten years since Necrons came out, GW has updated the main rule book twice, the Space Marines at least twice, and nearly every other army at least once.
The Necron Codex is old. It contains references to rules that haven’t existed in several years. It was written for the 3rd edition rulebook, when the game was about killing stuff. Now its about controlling objectives, which is catastrophic for the slow and transportless Necrons. When the Necrons came out, the army was very overpowered, and to compensate, the designers added a rule that when enough Necrons have been destroyed, the army phases out and the Necron player loses. Over the years, every other army has slowly increased in power, leaving the Necrons behind. Now not only are they very limited and overpriced, they also have a completely idiotic drawback.
A clever person would ask at this point “Why haven’t they updated the Codex then?” The answer is that because they only do that when the entire miniature line is updated. And that requires new artwork, new sculpts and new paints on the new sculpts. Since the Necrons aren’t as popular as the other armies, the management will rather update them, since profits are more likely gained from popularity. The same clever person would now ask “Well, why won’t they just change the rules? For example, take the drawback away?”
I do not know the answer to that question. I have no idea why GW won’t update the rules.
The internet is full of rage because of this. The Phase Out rule is the major culprit; It forces the Necron players to take the below-average basic troops to combat it. It can theoretically allow a player with a single ork on the board to win against a player with a functioning Monolith and an unharmed Nightbringer. Merely removing it would cause the tournament players to consider the Necrons as a potential army, boosting the sales of the miniatures themselves. Hell, tweaking the army rules, point costs and statlines would elevate them to the same level as the other armies. It wouldn’t even cost much; One designer could do the changes in a few weeks. They wouln’t even need to update the book, just putting the changes to the internet in an errata would be enough.
But no. The army continues to be bad, and become even worse as other codexes are updated. I have one personal anecdote I always use to describe 40k: When the Blood Angels, a Space Marine subsect, came out, I played a game against my friend, who already owned the old miniatures. Over the course of the game he complained to himself that he was making mistakes, he deployed like an idiot, he rolled badly and made stupid maneuvers. I recall playing fairly well, rolling quite well and not making any major mistakes. And I lost that game.
The worst about the situation is that otherwise 40k is a nice game. The rules function well, the miniatures look gorgeous, painting and crafting them is a lot of fun and the setting is quite interesting. An otherwise good hobby and a game is ruined by completely idiotic management. If they would just tweak the rules between codex updates, it would go long way towards making the game better. But no.
Their number is few. Their name is underpowered.