The word Monolith literally means "one stone." In the real world, it refers to geological formations, monuments, and even whole mountains that are made of a single, unbroken stone. Many fictional settings use the word in a similar sense, referring to objects made of a single stone; the implication is that such artifacts were not so much "made" as shaped, suggesting a great deal of dedication or extremely advanced technology on the part of the maker.
In many game settings and works of fiction, artifacts of long-gone civilizations are often Monoliths. The lack of moving parts means that they do not easily break down over time, while simultaneously making them extremely mysterious: without any obvious mechanisms, they must operate on some magic or advanced super-science completely unknown to us.
2001: A Space Odyssey
The iconic monolithic artifact is the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In appearance, they are literal black boxes with dimensions in a ratio of 1:4:9 (and so on, in the higher dimensions). Nobody's really sure who made them or why, but they are extremely powerful: a Monolith on Earth sparked the intelligence of the proto-humans living there, and a Monolith orbiting Saturn served as a portal to other Monoliths in the universe, and later turned Jupiter into a star.
The various armies of Chaos in the Old World will often leave Monoliths lying around. Some of them are gravestones for a fallen Warrior of Chaos, or Spawn-ified hero, some are Herdstones erected by Beastmen. Others a record of victories or ascension to Daemonhood, and all of them can be (and often are) used as foci for Chaos magic, encampments, and temples. One particular one is fought over by a tribe of Ogres and Khornate Warriors for the honor of inscribing their names upon, which appears blank when controlled but flashes the symbols and names every inscribed on it in times of battle.
Nagash, in the End Times event, turned his giant black pyramid made of refined Warpstone into a flying conduit of magic which he uses as a mobile base to survey the Undead Legion and research a cure for the Curse of Aenarion he is afflicted with. This, while not called a Monolith, is much more akin to the Necron version.
In Warhammer 40,000, the Monolith is the Necrons' main tank, capable of teleporting units. AV14 all around, bitch! Unfortunately, the new codex pulled its firepower and versatility down, putting it at about the offensive equivalent of a Leman Russ Battle Tank but with shorter ranges, a deep-strike, and an interesting special ability.
While a very iconic unit, the Monolith has not been competitive for a while, and this will probably remain true in 9th Edition. Except this time around, instead of never being taken because it's a fat blob with puny weapons, it's instead not likely to be taken because the big CP tax it puts on your list.
Now a Lord of War choice instead of heavy support, you will have to form a
3 6 CP superheavy detachment (because you need to pay 6 if you want to take Titanic units in said detachment) to deploy it. Once it's on the board however, it does work. It's now 24 wounds, with a 2+ save (still no quantum shielding though) and a very painful array of guns. Particle Whip has been buffed to S12 AP-3 flat 3 damage (but random shots) and Portal of Exile now autohits in melee. For its 4 corner guns, it now has a choice between the classic Gauss Flux Arc (good for clearing screens, but that's not exactly a Necron weakness) or the new and improved Death Rays for tasty S9 D3+3 damage.
In general, dropping this bad boy on the field will mean a torrent of hurt for anything it can ram into. At least fun to run in casual games, whether anyone ever manages to make it earn its thicc point and CP costs back is an open question.
It went through several versions:
- 3E Necron codex: Indestructible, raped all nearby enemies.
- 5E rules: Even more indestructible, same amount of rape.
- 5E Necron codex: Nerfed to Land Raider levels,
but rapes even harder when in assault rangewith inferior special defenses, weakened weapons, and a loss of its failure-free deep strike.
- 6E rules: The sixth ed. rules regarding skimmers give it a 5+ jink save, completely destroying any concept of the rules being more realistic, as monoliths can now evade lascannons and shit by doing barrel rolls somehow. Hilarious as it was, it was FAQ'd out in September 2012 (Skimmers that are also Heavy lose the jink special rule - monolith is heavy, man). Overall, see 5E Necron codex status.
- 7E rules: Same as the sixth ed. but with slightly higher resistance to exploding and the added benefit of AV 14 be stronger in general with the rule changes. Not being able to use the new Jink rules is a blessing in disguise because it would leave the Particle Whip unable to fire. The monolith overall received no nerfing this edition for once (actually getting a upgrade in a lot of ways) and with a lot of its competition in the other codices receiving some downgrades this could be the sign of the big green pyramid making a comeback.
- 7E Necron Codex: Didn't really change. While the corner cannons inched up to Heavy Bolter status (S5 AP4 Heavy 3), they're still forced to snap-fire for some reason. More significantly, the dimensional vacuum was completely removed because it unfairly frightened deep-striking terminators. However this ability rarely made a real difference since it would only ever kill Marines on a 5+ and had pathetic range so it will probably not be missed much. Mercifully this addition did add some things to quell the sting such as Living Metal now allowing the Monolith to regenerate Hull Points on a 6+ while now completely ignoring Crew Shaken. Monoliths can now be included in three different formations, one eliminates deep-striking mishaps and allows it to summon a unit the turn it lands, the second gives it Move Through Cover. Both of these formations can be included in the Decurion detachment making it ignore Crew Stunned results. The third one allows it to regenerate Warriors and Immortals in its own formation much like the Ghost Arc. Essentially this edition changed up how its damage output works and granted a large increase to defense, basically making it a mirror image to the codex changes to the whole army. Take it as you will.
- 8E Index: Major changes because of major changes to vehicles in 8E. Still vulnerable to anti-tank weapons, but all annoyances are gone – deep strikes perfectly, can move and shoot everything in any direction without penalty, and won't die to a single lucky melta hit. Or three lucky melta hits. It also heals every turn, and its portal of exile works once again, albeit defensively. As for the flaws,
it now has worse BS (which gets even worse as the Monolith takes damage)(the FAQ corrected this, it has BS3+ at full wounds and goes down to 4+ then 5+), and its point cost went way up. Not to mention it cannot immediately disembark units you are intending to teleport onto the field. Making it one big ass target with no bubble wrap. Beware Admech, they will burn this down in one shooting phase. Neutron lasers are not your friends.