Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Hot Necron Love


So what's with all the love for the Necron concept?

For actual 40K gaming, the Necrons are like the Dark Eldar (aka Fetish Elves) - an interesting germ of a little idea that sadly lacks legs when attempts are made to spin their background out to provide a fully-fleshed out army. There's not enough there to provide an interesting and flexible army and everyone paints them boring silver so as a wargames army they are just dull, dull dull. It's no wonder that GW have sort of forgotten them and not bothered to update their Codex since they were first released.

But for our purposes there's just something fantastically awe-inspiring about the background. It's awful in the old-fashioned, Old Testament pretty damn good way.

Reasons for this

- They are impossibly ancient. Shockingly so. This is a race that waged a war of extermination for which the Old Ones essentially bred every other sentient species in the galaxy from primitive forebears and still hadn't really finished messing with the inoffensive arboreal primate species from a dull blue/green Galactic backwater floating third out from it's parent sun when it all went titsup.

(Next time you read some pulp horror and science fiction, note how often things are not just old, but anciently old and how shocking and disturbing this is for the protagonists. It happens all the time, it's virtually a trope. It could of course just be because most of it is written by Americans - as is often said, a Englishman regards 100 miles as a long distance, an American regards 100 years as a long time.)

Impossibly ancient is good. It puts them on a par with the Antarctic city of the Elder Things and the Australian cities of the Great Race.

- It's not that the Necrons want to NOM NOM NOM you, they are just the ancient race that are going to round you up for their God to NOM NOM NOM you. This is Grimdark.

What's more Grimdark is that their Gods are so ravenously hungry that after they've eaten everything else in the Universe, their all-encompassing hunger for energy sources will probably drive them to starting eating their own feet. There is no logical outcome to the activities of the C'tan other than for them to consume every energy source in creation until only one is left having eaten all the others and only has itself left to consume at which point it starts gnawing on it's toes and the universe probably vanishes through a plughole in the fabric of spacetime.

It's one thing to be Grimdark cattle for a NOM NOM NOM God race, it's quite another when the farmer can't even stop himself from eating the lot in one mighty assault of gluttony and in doing so will ultimately and inevitably destroy himself. That's Grimdark Plus.

- You can shoe-horn it into any background and it will fit like a glove. One day, somebody discovers a Necron tomb, next thing you know metal Space Undead are pouring out of tombs, killing all who resist and rounding the rest of humanity up just to provide one infinitesimal amount of a C'tan's required daily calorific intake because all this unpleasantness was planned back when the PC's ancestors were little rodents hiding under leaves.

Cthulhu? Do-able. D&D? Do-able. WFRP? Do-able and very apt. Star Wars? Do-able. Mouseguard? Perhaps not, unless you envisage an ancient race of mouse-sized anthropomorphic Space Undead just waiting to re-emerge into the long-forgotten sunlight. (They could look like little metal fat, mice with mice skull heads - this actually could work bloody well - where's my copy of RISUS gone?)

It's one of the best Cthulhu backgrounds I've seen that doesn't have a single Cthulhu Mythos element to it.

The 40K rumour mill has it that a new Necron codex is due for release. If that happens the old codexes (codecii?) will start appearing on eBay for pennies. Snap one up. Ignore the rules and the army lists, the background will be heavily inspirational for anyone with a love of all things HPL and Mythos.

10 comments:

  1. I've always had a bit of an issue with the Necrons. While I do like the features you talk about above, the general concept was far too transparently an attempt to bring undead over from WFB to 40K, with only the most superficial of reskinning. Perhaps I shouldn't get too hung up on this in a setting that already has Space Elves and Space Orks (and occasionally Space Dwarfs), but it just seemed a copy too far.

    I'm also not fond of the "impossibly old" thing, as it just seemed like absurd one-upmanship.The Imperium is ancient. Well, the Eldar are even older than that. Well, the Necrons are the most ancient of them all, so nyer nyer nyer!

    All that said, in the context of your campaign, they work very well as antagonists. I suppose I'm just in broad agreement with your dislike of them from a 40K perspective, only I've gone on about it for longer!

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  2. I don't have a issue with the transparency of bringing across fantasy races as I actually like that despite the obvious corniness.

    One thing I forgot to mention about the Warhammer World's relationship to the 40K one in the last post is that essentially, 40K, is WFRP rewritten on a much more vast scale - weak Empire of Sigmar that covers pseudo-Germany and pseudo-Central Europe becomes the crumbling Empire of Man that covers the galaxy, the Incursions of Chaos at the poles become the huge Eye of Terror etc.

    (This kind of harks back to the Lensman saga which deliberately made each book a rewrite of the last one only scaled up - battles had even more ships in, ship-destroying superweapons became planet-busting weapons and the secret history behind The Secret Master Plan went back even further into mankind's past that it had in, well, the last volume and it ends up with million ship battles where planets are thrown at other planets to really make a point as to how stupidly large everything has become.)

    So yeah, anything older than the ancient Imperium has to be really really really old in order to fulfill it's role as the pseudo-Tomb Kings of pseudo-Egypt. And I'm a sucker for all things Egyptology.

    Sometimes I wonder about 40K in that if the Imperium is at Deaths door and is about to cave in exactly which of the threats that are immenently about to apply the last rites is it today? Necrons, inevitable devourers of mankind? Chaos, inevitable devourers of mankind? Tyranids, inevitable devourers of mankind? And so on. It's getting like the Championship where a dozen teams can get promoted and they obviously can't promote all 12 of them :)

    I've never understood why GW didn't transplant the Skaven over to 40k but I suppose these days their battlefield roles as trench warfare/flamethrowers/poison gas weapon specialists is covered by the Imperial Guard list.

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  3. It's getting like the Championship where a dozen teams can get promoted and they obviously can't promote all 12 of them
    I think that's sort of what I was trying to get at in my own verbose and inadequate way.

    You have just given me the idea for a massive conversion project; an IG army using Skaven models. Luckily I have neither the money, patience nor the talent to go through with it!

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  4. Yeah, I get "saved" from projects in the same fashion :)

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  5. The only WH40K army codex I kept after the last great divestment of never-to-be-used-again gaming junk was Necrons. They might be blatant Terminator knock-offs, and their army is hopelessly 'one-trick pony', but their fluff (Mars is a Necron tomb world?!? *head asplode at implications*) and artwork is top notch.

    And the Necron/Road Wars link in Gorkamorka is just too apposite to pass without mention.

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  6. And the Necron/Road Wars link in Gorkamorka is just too apposite to pass without mention.

    I've never heard of this! What's that about?

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  7. @Coop: Biologically dead world in the Eastern Fringe complete with archaeotech-filled ancient pyramids (that the human primitives worshipped and sensible Orks didn't go to).

    Gorkamorka = A&A set on a tomb world. ;)

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  8. I always thought the Hrud were supposed to be space skaven. they've been a minor fluff race going back years.

    on a more necron related note, anyone know where i could get differantly coloured plastic rods for necron guns from in the UK?

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  9. Web,

    Ebay items 180463884638, 180463890546, 180463877962 are in the US but only $2 postage.

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  10. actually, the precursor to the "new" necrons came way back in 1990 with the release of the boardgame space crusade. the robot guys called "chaos androids" are identical to the latest release necrons.

    just goes to show that GW can't be bothered to producing anything (post 90's) thats more complicated than a kids boardgame.

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