|This article relies on references to primary sources. (September 2008)|
In the fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000, the Necrons are a race and a playable army in the tabletop miniatures wargame. They are an ancient race of skeleton-like robots who are awakening from an aeons-long slumber and fighting to reclaim the galaxy from the younger races.
Tabletop game mechanics
Necrons are characterized by strong ranged firepower and tough armor. They are known primarily for their trademark "gauss" and "reanimation" abilities. As robots made of "living metal", many Necron units possess the ability to reassemble themselves after being slain and fight on. In addition the "gauss" weapons carried by their troops have the potential to damage vehicles, making Necron troops pose a legitimate threat to enemy armor. Being machines Necrons possess maximum leadership across all units but are also extremely slow in melee. Necron armies often prefer to use overwhelming fire power as opposed to melee, though they do have several units capable of it. While fragile, Necron ground vehicles possess powerful shields that boost their armor, but are lost upon being penetrated. Being soulless, the Necrons have no psykers (though they do have some "spellcaster-like" units), which makes them somewhat more vulnerable to psychic attacks.
The Necrons first appeared as usable units for Warhammer 40,000 as Necron Raiders. The rules for these were first published in White Dwarf Issue 216 towards the end of the lifespan of the second edition of Warhammer 40,000. At the time, only Necron Warriors and Scarabs were given game rules and the warriors were armed with Gauss-Flayer Guns. This was quickly followed up with an expanded army list in the following month's issue of the same magazine. The Necron Lord and Necron Destroyer were part of this slightly-expanded army list. At the time, the lord was armed with the Staff of Light while the destroyers were armed with Gauss-Cannons. The issue of White Dwarf also had the Necrons' first major appearance in a battle report in the article entitled Massacre at Sanctuary 101, a battle between the Necrons and the Sisters of Battle. This particular altercation soon made its way into the background material as one of the first times the Imperium officially encountered the Necrons. The first Necron miniatures, all metal, were also released during this time. In fact, a free Necron Warrior was included with issue 217 of White Dwarf.
In the release of the third edition of Warhammer 40,000 in 1998, the Necrons had no usable army list. The first, full-fledged Necron army list for the new edition of the game was printed in the March 1999 issue of White Dwarf. This first army list was very restrictive, with the Necrons having mostly one choice per force organization category. The Necron Lord, Necron Immortals and Necron Warriors were the only available HQ, Elites and Troops choices respectively. This early army list had two units for the Fast Attack selections, Necron Destroyers and Scarabs. The latter were different from their current counterparts in that the original Scarabs were controlled individually and were not swarms on a single base as they are today. The Necron Immortal metal miniature was released at the same time as the publication of the army list. In a later issue of White Dwarf, Games Workshop further expanded the Necron army list by providing different equipment choices (wargear) for the Necron Lord. Along with the Gaze of Flame and Scourge of Light upgrades, this was the first time that the Veil of Darkness wargear was added to the Necron Lord's available options.
The Necrons received their first, full sourcebook with the release of Codex: Necrons in August 2002. The book featured a wealth of background information expanding upon the origins of the Necron race and expanded the scope of the Warhammer 40,000 history by several million years more. A full army list was also introduced in the sourcebook, with heavily revamped rules for existing units and the introduction of new ones. New units introduced in the codex were Flayed Ones, Pariahs, Wraiths, Heavy Destroyers, the Necron Monolith and the C'tan. New miniatures were produced and released alongside with the release of the codex. Necrons received their first plastic miniatures kit in the form of the Necron Warriors boxed set, which contained enough parts to make twelve Necron Warriors and three Scarab bases with four Scarabs each. The boxed set was a first for Games Workshop, as it was the first time that transparent, coloured parts were included in a boxed set along with the standard polystyrene parts. The transparent, green rods in this case were meant to be used as part of the Necrons' gauss weaponry. The Necron Destroyer model was also revamped and made into a plastic kit. Whereas the old, metal version was essentially a Necron Warrior riding a flying platform, the new Necron Destroyer plastic kit featured a Necron Immortal torso mounted and merged with a floating platform. The other miniatures released for the army were metal, such as the Flayed Ones, Immortals, Pariahs, Wraiths and the Necron Lord. Two more miniatures soon followed suit - the massive Necron Monolith, the largest miniature kit produced by Games Workshop at the time, and the Necron Destroyer Lord, a Necron Lord mounted on a Destroyer body.
Eons before the rise of the Imperium, the Necrons, then known as the Necrontyr, were once creatures of flesh and blood. Escaping from their harsh homeworld, the Necrontyr began to colonize the stars, building a massive galaxy spanning empire. As their empire grew however their people became more and more fractious, with many wars being fought against those wishing to gain independence. As time ground on the Triarchs, the rulers of the Empire, sought a means to unify their people once more. They decided that only an external threat could such a thing. To that end they waged war upon the Old Ones, the only race strong enough to hold the Necrons together as a common foe.
The Old Ones' refusal to share the secrets of Immortality had long garnered the hatred of the short lived Necrontyr, and was used as an excuse to wage war. To this end all rebel dynasties were given the chance to share in the spoils of the war and be cleared of their crimes by rejoining the empire. The two empires battled across the galaxy, the Necrontyr using their unrivaled mastery of science and technology, and the Old Ones their mastery of the Warp. So strange and powerful were the weapons used by both sides during the war that it appeared as if the gods were fighting one another, earning it the name "The War In Heaven".
Despite their power the Necrontyr's defeat was a forgone conclusion, their very advantage being countered by the Old Ones' Webway, which granted them an insurmountable advantage of speed. It was not long before the Necrontyr were pushed back to the corners of the galaxy by the old ones. With defeat imminent the empire was gripped by another wave of secessionist wars. It was then that the godlike beings known as the C'tan approached the Necrontyr, offering them a means to achieve unity, immortality, and a tactical advantage over the Old Ones: they would transfer their minds into robot bodies. The Necrontyr's leaders hastily accepted, not realizing until after that they had lost their souls, which the C'tan devoured.
Together, the C'tan and the newly transformed necrons defeated the Old Ones. driving the survivors from the galaxy. As the Old Ones were defeated the Silent King, head of the Triarchs and ruler of the Necrons struck at the C'Tan. Using his peoples most advanced technology the C'Tan were each shattered into hundreds of pieces and imprisoned, revenge for what they had done to his people. Though successful, the rebellion inflicted catastrophic casualties on the Necrons. The Silent King realized that in their current state the Necrons would be unable to face the Eldar, creations of the Old Ones who had survived their creators destruction and were poised to dominate the galaxy. So he decided upon a plan, to entomb his people in stasis and slumber until a later time and awaken to rule once more.
Sixty million years later In the 41st millennium, the Necrons begin to awaken. Due to equipment malfunctions, most of the slumbering Necron suffer serious mental damage and awaken as near mindless drones. Only the aristocracy, who were given more robust care upon entombment, survive with their minds intact.
- "Necron Raiders - Background". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 217: 27–31. February 1998.
- "Necron Rules". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 217: 32–34. February 1998.
- "A Desperate Mission - Scenario: Imperial Guard vs. Necrons". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 217: 35–36. February 1998.
- "Necron Onslaught". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 218: 24–27. March 1998.
- "The Valley of Death - Necrons Background". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 218: 73. March 1998.
- "Massacre at Sanctuary 101 - Battle Report: Sisters of Battle vs. Necrons". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 218: 28–37. March 1998.
- "New Releases - Necrons". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 218: 122–123. March 1998.
- "New Releases - Necrons". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 230: 114. March 1999.
- "Chapter Approved: Necrons". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) 239: 73–75. December 1999.
- "Index Xenos: Resurgent Evil - The awakening of the Necrontyr". White Dwarf (UK ed.) (Games Workshop) 271. August 2002.
- Chambers, Andy; Haines, Pete, McNeill, Graham, and Hoare, Andy (2002). Codex: Necrons (3rd ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-190-7.
- "Chapter Approved: Codex: Necrons designers' notes". White Dwarf (UK ed.) (Games Workshop) 271. August 2002.
- "Necron Awakening: A look at the Warhammer 40,000 Necron miniatures released this month". White Dwarf (UK ed.) (Games Workshop) 271. August 2002.
- "Turn One: New Releases - Necrons". White Dwarf (US) (US ed.) (Games Workshop) 271: 4. August 2002.
-  @ the Unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Encyclopedia