Can a 10 year old assemble a Necron Overlord?
When the fine folks at Warhammer Community sent me an advance notice that I would be receiving a copy of the new Warhammer 40k: Indomitus box set, I had mixed emotions. You see, I’ve not been keeping up with about the last half of 8th edition’s life cycle, developments, and story arc. Lately I’ve been focused more on role-playing games in my hobby time and recovering from an addiction to GW plastic that started back around the time that Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower was released, heralding a new Golden Age for the company. I was also reticent to get stuck in with a hobby project right now, and having downsized my collection substantially I was also having visions of being buried in models like I was during peak Kill Team. Maybe collecting all of the factions wasn’t such a great idea? So when it arrived and I took a deep breath before opening it, thinking “even comped, I feel like I can’t afford this”.
But there was a factor I didn’t weigh. My ten year old son, River, was with me when I opened the box. His eyes lit up. He was super excited – he’s played a few 1000 point games of 40k, Kill Team, and Age of Sigmar. And we’ve read the kids 40k chapter books. So he knew what was up. But it was always a case of playing with daddy’s games, they were never his own. So in a moment of fatherliness I told him he could have the whole thing if he would assemble the 61 push fit models, paint them, and learn to play by reading the rulebook on his own. I basically gave him a $250 summer project- and also one of the hottest gaming releases of the season.
This turned out to be a great idea. He set right to building everything and being an experienced Gunpla builder, he had no trouble with the Marines. The Necrons were quite a bit more challenging, as some of Citadel’s push fit models are. There were stress marks on some of the plastic, I had to rearrange some gear, and the Skorpekh Lord was almost mangled but within a week he had built his first Warhammer box set. He chose Dark Angels for the Marines (my petitioning for Space Wolves fell on deaf ears) and did an absolutely terrible job of basecoating them but after some gentle correction – more Caliban Green, less Moot Green – he had a five man squad of the new Assault Intercessors ready to march.
Now, part of this whole concept in my mind was also to see how a ten year old boy would handle GW’s latest and greatest product. After all, I wasn’t much older than that when I picked up my first box of beaky Imperial Space Marines in 1987 and the Rogue Trader rulebook shortly thereafter when I realized that I had to have it to actually do anything with the models. But more than that even, I wanted to give him a sense of ownership over the whole thing, I wanted Indomitus to be his set, his entry point into the hobby beyond playing with my collection. It seems to be working- he’s excited and ready to hit the Necrons now and, as I dreaded, he is looking at the GW Web site to see what he wants next.
Now, taking off the dad hat and putting on the critic hat since this is actually a review, I have mixed feelings about this box. The impact is mighty- you are getting two 1000-ish point forces of 61 all new models and a limited edition 9th edition rulebook at a $250 price point. Like with all Warhammer box sets, the value is actually tremendous despite the MSRP. And it is actually enough to play with, featuring a Primaris Space Marine army focused on melee (chainswords all over the place) and a Necron horde with 20 brand new Warriors and some excellent new units never before seen in the faction.
I love the Necron models- the Warriors in particular have needed an update for a while- but the Primaris side leaves me somewhat cold. The Assault Intercessors have extremely animated “dodge roll” poses and I find them somewhat obnoxious. Some of the other models, such as the Bladeguard Veterans, feel maybe a little too much like Stormcast Eternals. The new bikes are great, the new Judicar character is awesome, but everything feels like a compromise between the hard-edged modern tac gear look of the recent Primaris models and the older uber-gothic style of the past. It’s intended to be an elite, focused force but if close combat isn’t your thing, you’re going to need some Intercessors or other units soon. I just don’t feel the same “oomph” as I did with the Primaris introduction in Dark Imperium.
As for the rulebook, of course it rules. It’s a beautiful book with industry-best graphic design and layout. The rules are excellently written and clearer than ever before. I called 8th edition the best 40k to date back in 2017, and what we have with 9th certainly doesn’t rock the boat which is maybe good, bad, necessary, or all three. I’m a little disappointed, given GW’s recent successes with Kill Team, Adeptus Titanicus, and Warcry that the rules aren’t more innovative and progressive. It’s all quite dogmatic. My daughter, who doesn’t like Warhammer at all, was watching us play and she made a great observation – “so you are rolling to see if something might happen, rolling to see if it actually does, and then to see if it actually doesn’t”. It’s a lot of the same-old-same old at the core, especially for more casual Open War players like myself. But you know, 40k is the miniatures game most like American football – it wouldn’t do to make it three downs instead of four so I suppose it also wouldn’t go over well if all those die rolls were condensed into a more modern process.
I don’t really get much into the advanced rules, campaign stuff, fussing over point values, and all that but that is where Indomitus appears to makes the biggest strides. The new Crusade mode reflects concepts from Age of Sigmar and other games with progressive army construction tied to narrative progression and campaign performance. If that’s your thing, 9th edition might feel like more of an advancement. If River gets hardcore into it, we may very well wind up exploring some of the more advanced options as he becomes more familiar with all of the elements and depth they offer.
I’m glad we aren’t starting from scratch, however. It should be clearly stated here that this box is more like one of the campaign boxes that GW has released over the past few years than a proper starter set like Dark Imperium was. It’s not an all-in, get you going product. There are no dice, no painting guides, no quick start rules, none of those wonderful whippy stick rulers. It’s sprues, bases, a rulebook, and a booklet with storyline and datasheets that reference Codexes you may or may not own. Although River was able to get right to it with this set, he also had previous experience and expectations. Someone completely new to the hobby might be overwhelmed by this set. I assume that GW will follow this 9th edition launch box, as it is more properly characterized, with more newbie-friendly entry points. Hopefully with more pushfit Necron warriors because I want like 100 of them.
So here it is, 9th edition presented along with a fine showcase of new models that you can use to play the new version of this perennial game. Despite wishing for more innovation in the rules I’m coming away from Indomitus more excited than I expected to be. Indeed, watching my son get excited about 40k has gotten me more excited about it. His spirit hasn’t been broken by bad manners around the game table, internet forums, fan complaining, and escalating price points and he’s not a critic like his dad just yet. He’s just thrilled to have Space Marines and Necrons to hobby up and send into battle and it’s something we can do together. There is joy once again in the grimdark.