This is a topic I've touched upon in several of my earlier posts in one way or another, and I figured it was about time I sat down and set out what I really mean by the concept of synergy, and how i think it should be taken into account when deciding what units to take in our armies.
Normally when I plan out a new army i sit there with my shiny new copy of the codex and no clue about what works best on the tabletop (mainly because for a long time i was just a collector, not a gamer). Consequently I would always take as many options as possible to make the units look better, not really considering what worked well together and what didn't.
In the last year however, I've started playing the game again, and I'm starting to have more of an idea about how to create a unit that makes sense on the tabletop. To give you an idea of what I mean, my Cobra Guard marines were the pride and joy of my collection, a colour scheme i really liked, and i'd actually made a decent amount of progress in painting them. In my first game, they were annihilated. And I really mean annihilated, I had one guy left on the table at the end of the game. Notwithstanding some poor dice rolling, and my opponent's skill, I left the table thinking 'that shouldn't have happened, why wasn't I able to make much of a dent in my opponent's army?' Ok so it was sisters of battle, so their power armour would account for some of that, but not all of it.
I'm going to highlight one unit that I think underperformed badly, and it was entirely my fault as to why they did so. That unit was my devastators. A squad of five marines, with one multi melta, one lascannon, one missile launcher and one plasma cannon. Looks great sat on the shelf, there's a nice variety of guns in lots of different poses. On the tabletop however it suffers heavily from a lack of synergy - with itself. What I mean by that is that the intended targets and the way the heavy weapons work are different. Without a doubt the lascannon and the multi melta are both anti-tank weapons, but the lascannon works best at range where there's little that can shoot back at it, whilst the multi melta needs to be up close and personal to really do its thing. Then you've got the plasma cannon, which should be aiming for heavy infantry, and the missile launcher, which is a light vehicle/light infantry killer and there's three different target groups at two different range brackets, which means whatever you're shooting at, you're wasting probably three quarters of the potential of the unit. I've since redistributed those heavy weapons into my tactical squads in various ways and re-tasked my devastators to carry four heavy bolters.
So that's my example done and out of the way, now let's look at how synergy influenced the creation of my latest army list, for my (sometime in the future) Necron project.
First principles therefore, what are the necrons best at? Besides coming back from the dead I mean when you think you've killed them. Well they certainly aren't a close combat army so this army needs to be focused mainly on shooting. If there's one thing I've learned though it's that a shooting army will end up in combat with something at some point, so I could also use one or two units capable of holding their own when things get messy, if only to delay my opponent's best units.
My first port of call therefore was a unit of lychguard, these guys are high toughness and have a great armour save. All that's missing is a decent initiative and they'd be beasts. Of course if you're up against an unwieldy opponent that's fine, but pretty much anyone striking at their own initiative is going to be hitting before you. So here's where the first synergistic choice comes in. The necron codex does provide an answer to this problem however, in the form of the canoptek wraiths, which have the option of making their opponents striking at initiative 1. So what we end up with there is two units when combined being able to take on the best of an enemy unit without thinking twice.
Another of my favourite synergistic units in the necron codex is the triarch stalker, which can make your other units count as being twin linked against a particular target. Obviously this is inherently synergistic as it enhances the efficiency of your other units.
So we've got a couple of choices already, but no troops, and no hq yet.
Troops then, and this is where is personally feel the necron codex is let down slightly. There are two troops options, the basic necron warrior unit, with gauss flayers, and the immortals, with the larger gauss blasters. I genuinely can't imagine here why anyone would choose warriors, they're not significantly cheaper than immortals, but they are less resilient. Three units later and I'm done with troops, giving me plenty of firepower to be enhanced by the stalker, two with gauss blasters and one with tesla carbines.
One thing I'm lacking at the moment is some high AP weaponry, and I've got an unusual idea for this one, so my HQ choice is a necron overlord with a staff of light, accompanied by four necron lords all similarly equipped. This unit can kick out a large quantity of marine killing firepower, and with sempiternal weaves they're extremely survivable.
The army does lack a bit of anti vehicle firepower at the moment, so that needs addressing, and as a result I've gone for a couple of destroyers, and a doom scythe. Just to fill out the rest of my collection, I've added in some triarch praetorians for some high armour value killing power, and some tomb blades for mobile firepower.
So there it is, a blend of weaponry to suit all opponents, and some units to enhance the abilities of others.