This article will detail the Cities of Sigmar army starting from its lore, describing the main units and their roles, how the army plays and finally our personal opinion of the army.
For a complete run-down of the different armies available in Age of Sigmar, consult our Age of Sigmar army overview article.
In this article we will refer often to Matched Play and other technical terms like allegiance abilities, command points, army roles in building a list, core battalions, Endless Spells/Invocations, etc. We assume the reader will be knowledgeable with those terms, otherwise please refer to the relevant guides for more details.
Overview of Cities of Sigmar Army
The Cities of Sigmar represent the common humans and mortal races that walk on the realms and build civilizations. Everything else should be seen with their eyes: those of tiny beings overwhelmed by all other dangerous and violent creations always ready to rip them apart, poison their minds and ravage their bodies and souls.
The Dawnbringer Crusades are those expeditions commanded by Sigmar to reclaim lost territory, and are mostly composed of humans, but it is not unusual to find Ogor allies or divisions of duardin or aelves.
The first battletome was born as a homage to these denizens of the Mortal Realms and regrouped all surviving miniatures from the Empire, High Elves, Dark Elves, Wood Elves and Dwarves armies from Warhammer Fantasy. The very first new miniatures for Age of Sigmar were the heroes of Cursed City boardgame and the ven Denst family of hunters from the Order of Azyr (2021).
While the first army had rules linked to the most important cities spread between the battletome and various other publications including White Dwarf magazines, now everything is consolidated in a single third edition battletome and, in line with the most recent books, cities are just sub-factions that provide an extra rule to further customise your army, rather than coming with a full set of battle traits, artefacts, etc.
At the end of 2023, the range was modernized with many new sculpts, all humans with the exception of a giant Ogor ridden by a human commander. As a consequence, many older sculpts, mainly from the Empire, High and Wood Elves range, were sunset forever. Here is the full list of warscrolls retired:
- Freeguild general on foot
- Freeguild Crossbowmen/Freeguild Handgunners
- Freeguild Guard
- Hellblaster Volley Gun/Helstorm Rocket Battery
- Freeguild Pistoliers/Freeguild Outriders
- Freeguild Greatswords
- Demigryph Knights
- Flamespyre Phoenix/Frostheart Phoenix (and their Anointed)
- Phoenix Guard
- Wildwood Rangers/Eternal Guard
- Sisters of the Thorn/Wild Riders
- Nomad Prince
- Shadow Warriors/Sisters of the Watch
The army is now much lighter, but feels also much more divided with humans, aelves and duardin now being 3 sub-groups within the same faction that work completely distinct from each other. Not to say you can’t create small power pairs from each race to combine in your force, but there’s no synergy between them, so you would need to maximise their efficiency by using the appropriate leaders.
Lore of Cities of Sigmar Army
At the beginning of the Mortal Realms, civilization thrived under the leadership of Sigmar’s pantheon. All gods collaborated and taught the mortals many things ushering a golden age. But Chaos planted its poisoned seeds within mortal minds and eventually managed to take a grip on this new universe.
And so, the Age of Chaos dawned, with the mortals being chased to the brink of extinction from all realms except Azyr, Realm of Heavens, where Sigmar retreated bringing as many as he could before closing the gates and leaving everyone else to fence off for themselves.
Centuries later, Sigmar deployed the Stormcast Eternals, warriors forged from the best mortal souls who died fighting against Chaos, to retake that was lost. A new era started and where before there was only desolation and everything was under control of the Ruinous Powers, now there’s a spark of hope. Civilizations started reappearing in all realms and new metropolises grew from tiny outposts thanks to the blood and sacrifice of the many mortals that flocked under Sigmar’s banner.
It was this way that the first cities were born, crown jewel Hammerhal, a city built around a realmgate between Asquy, Realm of Fire and Ghyran, Realm of Life. The Twin Tailed City, so called from Sigmar’s recognisable symbol, sprawls across the two realms with each synergizing with the other. While Aqshy’s fire helps the industrial process and to keep at bay the overgrowing flora population in the Realm of Life, water, blessed and not, from Ghyran flows in the Realm of Fire to protect and feed its citizens.
While the first outposts were secured by the Stormcast Eternals, it is now time for the humans to expand their dominion and extend towards the wilderness, creating new fortified settlements across the ley lines on nexus of immense power. The Dawnbringer Crusades were established for this exact purpose. Re-organised so that Freeguild military divisions would form the military backbone of these expeditions, they are a tax requested to all cities, independently on how well established they are.
As the Cults Unberogen say: the Great Wheel turns! Generation after generation, uncountable denizens of the cities of Sigmar are sent to the slaughter for the slim chance to secure a new important centre. Sons and daughters are lost forever to the grinding turn of the Wheel, but such is the life in the Mortal Realms if there will ever be hope to retake from the Chaos forces what once was a paradise.
Those enrolled are given the Coin Malleus, a symbol that characterises their “willingness” to leave everything behind the “safety” of Sigmar cities in exchange for a plot of land should the crusade be successful. While recruitment efforts can vary from city to city, from zealous citizens to criminals otherwise sentenced to death, the only constant is that most of these ventures will fail as many are the perils besieging them at every corner.
While the cities are protected by all its denizens, independently from race and creed, the crusades are mostly composed by humans. These are usually guided by experienced Marshals and know very well that the first line of defence is a shooting one. That’s why the Fusiliers and the cannons of the Ironweld Arsenal are so important components of a Castelite formation. And the most experienced of them can be found shooting from atop a hulking Ogor in an unlikely combination of firepower and brute strength.
The strong backbone of the Freeguild are the Steelhelms, while the Wildercorps Hunters are the scouts at the fore of the expedition and the cavalry forms the anvil. In such tight formation, the crusaders have some hope to reach destination and succeed in their mission. And where hope is not enough, humans can also employ all sort of magic experts from Battlemages to Alchemite Warforgers.
It is not unusual to see regiments of aelves join the crusades, but they are mostly common appearance in the cities of Sigmar where they have built secluded areas to perform their trade. Their mysterious, and in some ways shady, habits are tolerated by Sigmar’s forces because of the common enemy and their value in battle.
The Sorceress command their Darkling Covens with a mixture of magical prowess and political influence, formed mainly by Dreadspear phalanxes and Bleakswords infantry. The Black Guard are the most trained fighters, able to compete in the gladiatorial arenas against Morathi agents. Next to them we can find the secretive Executioners, armed with draich two-handed blades with their face hidden behind skull masks.
But the cities navy is formed mostly by the Scourge Privateers who sail the treacherous waters of all realms on top of the fast wolfships or the hulking shell of some tamed or mind-controlled monsters in giant floating fortresses known as Black Arks. These pirates can be seen taming all sorts of sea beasts, ready to be unleashed in battle against their numerous enemies.
The Order Serpentis is all is left of the ancient empire of Narkath, from which they learned to ride the dangerous saurians known as Drakespawn and the Black Dragons that are a rare sight, but can be controlled by the best Dreadlords, the military leaders of the order.
The Shadowblades are an independent group of assassins often employed as skirmishers or private killers.
Where the aelves bring magic expertise and humans the manpower, the duardin are better known as the craftsmen that build the cities and fortifications. Sturdy and stubborn, they are equally efficient with a hammer crafting some extremely resilient engine or smashing enemies’ skulls.
The Dispossessed are all is left of the Khazalid Empire that once occupied a vast network of mountains. Their leaders are elderly Warden Kings and Queens, as age is extremely revered in duardin culture. Their infantry is famous for their toughness, be it simple Longbeards or elite Hammerers.
If there’s a need for more action, the Ironbreakers, clad in enchanted gromril armour, are veritable walking tanks, while the Irondrakes wield mini-cannons able to fell even the toughest troggoth.
The Ironweld Arsenal provides the war machines that support duardin and Castelite formations alike, with Steam Tanks vaporising anything opposing them and Gyrobombers and Gyrocopters representing the flying scouts, able to identify enemy threats or bombard them from atop.
Army rules for the Cities of Sigmar
But how does a Cities of Sigmar army play on a tabletop? First let’s go through their main rules.
Cities of Sigmar have a whooping 11 sub-factions, combining those from the previous tome and other publications with some brand-new. Compared to previous iterations, now sub-factions provide only an extra bonus, but the list of enhancements is shared across the entire army.
Before going on specific sub-factions let’s analyse the main battle trait of this army: Orders. These are a new mechanic that enables your heroes to really pull their weight on the battlefield. Here are some characteristics:
- Each hero can receive only 1 Order.
- Orders are kept secret from your opponent.
- The same order cannot be assigned more than 3 times in the same battle round.
- A unit cannot receive the same order more than once in the same phase.
- All unused orders are lost at the end of the battle round.
- Orders are not commands and do not prevent issuing or receiving commands.
There are four types of Orders, the receiving unit has to be within 3″ of the issuing hero:
- Cities of Sigmar Orders can be assigned to any hero:
- Advance in Formation: start of your movement phase. Friendly Cities units add 3″ to their move. Castelite units with the Fortified position ability that end the move within 3″ of the hero still benefit from their fortified ability even if they moved.
- Counter-charge: end of enemy charge phase. A unit outside 3″ from all enemies can attempt a charge and if successful adds +1 to the rend.
- Human Orders can be assigned only to human heroes and affect only human units:
- Return Fire: when a unit is targeted by enemy shooting within 3″ of the hero. One unit can immediately shoot.
- Suppressing Fire: start of your shooting phase. A unit that uses all its missile attacks against the same target can then roll 2D6 and add the number of slain models. If the result surpasses the Bravery of the target unit, the strike-last effect is applied until the end of the turn.
- Engage the Foe: start of your charge phase. A unit outside 3″ of all enemy units that has not yet fought can add +1 to the attacks in the next combat phase.
- Duardin Orders can be assigned only to duardin heroes and affect only duardin units:
- Form Shieldwall: start of enemy combat phase. A unit with more than 5 models obtains strike-last effect but also a 5+ ward.
- Grim Last Stand: start of your combat phase. Each time a model from that unit is slain, on a 5+ allocates 1 mortal wound to an enemy unit within 3″ of the model.
- Aelf Orders can be assigned only to aelf heroes and affect only aelf units:
- Strike Them Down: start of the charge phase. If this unit charges, it obtains strike-first effect.
- Swift Disengage: end of combat phase. A unit within 3″ of enemy units can immediately retreat.
This is the core of the army. Before going into the enhancements here is the list of subfactions available:
- Hammerhal Asqua, the side on Aqshy, realm of Fire, of the Twin Tailed City. A single hero can receive 2 different orders instead of 1. If Aventis Firestrike is part of the army and alive, you get 1 additional command point.
- Tempest’s Eye, nested on top of the Titanspear Mountain in Aqshy. Friendly units (including Kharadron Overlords allies) can retreat and still shoot.
- Hallowheart, a mining city full of magic built within the Shimmering Abyss in Aqshy. Wizards can roll 3D6 to cast a spell, but, if the unmodified result is 10+, they receive D3 damage.
- Hammerhal Ghyra, the side on Ghyran, realm of Life, of the Twin Tailed City. You can reinforce an extra unit and Human units with 10 or more models have Bravery 10.
- The Living City, deep within Ghyran, Sylvaneth and locals fight side by side. You can set a unit in reserve for each already deployed (including allied Sylvaneth units). Those can be deployed at the end of your movement phase within 6″ from an edge and 9″ away from enemy units.
- Greywater Fastness, an industrial centre famous for its gun foundries within Ghyran. You can use 3 times the All-out Attack in your shooting phase and the first 2 times a command point is not spent.
- Lethis, grim worshippers of forgotten gods hailing from Shysh, realm of Death. Human heroes that are not wizards become Priests. Human and allied Stormcast Eternal priests know a prayer that removes the Ward save from a target unit.
- Vindicarum, extremely zealous city located in Chamon, realm of Metal. Units can receive the Rally command when within 3″ of enemy units and if Flagellant units receive it, they return slain models on a 5+ instead of a 6.
- Excelsis, at the centre of many disasters occurring in Ghur, realm of Beasts, more recently barely escaped an attack from Kragnos himself. Friendly monsters get 1 more wound, while Cavaliers immediately after fighting roll a dice for each model and for each 4+ they do an extra mortal wound.
- Settler’s Gain, a city in Hysh, realm of Light, where the locals are trained by the Lumineth. Wizards obtain +1 to cast and if the general is within 3″ of an allied Lumineth Realm-lords hero, they get an additional command point at the start of each hero phase.
- Misthåvn, a city made of ships lashed to one another and den of pirates in Ulgu, realm of Shadows. Up to 3 different units more than 12″ from all enemy units can make a D6″ move (roll separately) at the end of your hero phase. If mounted, they can move 2D6″. This movement can end within 3″ of an enemy unit.
We start the list of enhancements with the command traits, split between Humans, like Master of Ballistics that provides an extra +1 to wound when the general issue the All-out Attack command to a Castelite unit in the shooting phase, Duardin, like Insurmountable Resilience which heals back wounds to the general at the end of the combat phase for each 3+, and Aelves like Unparalleled Duellist that allocates 1 mortal wound for each hit from the enemy unit melee attacks that misses.
The artefacts of power are equally split with Human heroes having options like Mastro Vivetti’s Magnificent Macroscope that gives +3″ range to missile attacks of friendly units within 12″, Duardin heroes being able to choose the Book of Grudges that gives all Duardin a +1 to hit against a target enemy unit, and Aelf wizard heroes being able to pick the Anklet of Epiphany, which gives +6″ range to spells cast while on a terrain feature or contesting an objective.
There’s two spell lore, one for humans (Lore of the Collegiate Arcane) and one for Aelves (Lore of Dark Sorcery) plus the Rune lore for Duardin priests, all explained in the wizards and priests section.
For simplicity, we kept the usual distinction based on the battlefield role, but we subdivided in humans, duardin and aelves each section. There is also a summary list in the Tactics section.
Units and their roles in the Cities of Sigmar Army
Heroes in Cities of Sigmar
Heroes can perform Heroic Actions, in addition to the other abilities they can perform. You do it in the hero phase and you can only do one heroic action. Here is the list:
- Heroic Leadership: on a 4+ (or 2+ if your general has been slain) get a command point only that hero can use.
- Heroic Willpower: one non-Wizard hero can attempt to dispel or unbind a spell for that phase like he was a wizard.
- Their Finest Hour: can be used only once by each hero to improve save and wound rolls by 1 for that turn.
- Heroic Recovery: a disengaged hero can heal D3 wounds if he rolls less or equal to his bravery with 2D6.
Tahlia Vedra, Lioness of the Parch is the newest centrepiece of the army and a majestic one at it. She has a decent melee profile and counts as a general for a Hammerhal Aqsha army (she is locked in this sub-faction). However the buffs she provides are not restricted: when within 3″ of an enemy, she can issue the command Rally to Human units within 3″ of enemy units returning models on a 4+ instead of a 6 and can be given 2 orders instead of 1.
If you are counting, Hammerhal Aqsha subfaction already provides this buff, so with Tahlia you would have 2 extra orders to give each turn. The downside of this unit is a monstrous rampage that requires an enemy charging monster ending within 3″ of this model and the 4+ save/6+ ward that is not bad but not the best.
The Freeguild Marshal on Griffon is the old Karl Franz model from Warhammer Fantasy. With 14″ flying movement is a mobile hammer, pity for his 4+ save and no innate ward. Once per battle can be given 2 orders and if you choose Counter-charge and the lance as a weapon loadout, he will now charge in the enemy phase and if successful the lance will bring him to rend -3 and 3 damage each hit. When he roars, he can pick two units instead of 1.
The Freeguild Marshal and Relic Envoy is a support piece whose main ability is either to perform an extra heroic action, or to allow a single unit to not spend a command point when they receive a command. In addition, his own heroic action allows up to 3 friendly Human units to count double when contesting an objective if he can score equal or less than their Bravery score with 2D6.
Normally is pretty hard and you would go for the free command (average Human Bravery is 5 plus 1 for the standard bearer) but in Hammerhal Ghyra humans have Bravery 10 as long as they have more than 10 models in the unit.
The Freeguild Cavalier-Marshal is the leader of your Cavalry. If you interested in that aspect of the army, there’s no one better than him as he can provide nearby Cavaliers a +3 charge the turn he activates Their Finest Hour heroic action. Combined with the fact that when he charges he has the strike-first effect and that a unit of Cavaliers can attack right after him, that’s quite a starting punch in the combat phase.
In Excelsis the Cavaliers also do mortal wounds after fighting (on a 4+) so if you are interested in a cavalry-based army that could be a great option for a devastating charge, even better if using the order Counter-charge in the enemy charge phase joining a unit of Cavaliers already engaged.
The Fusil-Major on Ogor Warhulk represents the only new miniature with a non-human model. In game is a sharpshooter that can swing in melee with a good 3+ save and when fortified (can’t move in the same phase) ignores also rend from shooting attacks received.
His main support ability increases the shooting range of a Castelite unit by D6″ for that shooting phase.
The Steam Tank Commander is the hero version of the Steam Tank, an iconic old Empire piece. It has a wide range of shooting attacks and even the possibility of increasing them by adding More Pressure! at the risk of some mortal wounds.
The commander provides more attacks, but also unlocks normal Steam Tanks as battleline and is able to issue twice the same command to Steam Tanks (e.g. All-out Attack for himself and a Steam Tank) at the cost of a single command point. He is a fun piece, with a 2+ save but no warscroll protection from mortal wounds. At the right cost point can figure in many lists.
Galen Ven Denst and Doralia Ven Denst are two agents of Azyr protagonists of their own Black Library series of novels. You need to take them both although they are separate units, making them less interesting as a duo than taken individually for their double damage on wizards and daemons and ability to dispel endless spells by attacking them.
Haskel Hexbane is the leader of the Hexbane’s Hunters, a Warhammer Underworld warband specialised in hunting hero wizards and doing mortal wounds to Death, Demon or Wizards at the end of the combat.
The Warden King is the leader of the Dispossessed, also an iconic character from Warhammer Fantasy. If he is chosen as a general, he will issue a grudge against a single enemy unit so that all unmodified hit rolls of 6 from melee attacks of friendly Duardin automatically wound.
He can also fight followed immediately after by another unit, and in that case it forms a good power pair with the Ironbreakers after issuing them the Form Shieldwall order so that they still get the 4+ ward bonus, but they ignore the strike-last effect as they are selected to fight out of sequence.
The Cogsmith is a shooting hero whose only role is to issue commands to any Gyrocopter or Gyrobomber on the battlefield. And that’s it… Too little for him to ever be useful.
The Dreadlord on Black Dragon is a hero from the Order Serpentis. He is a melee character with a shooting attack that depends on the number of models in the enemy unit, and a plethora of weapon loadouts. The shield in particular makes him always save on a 6 independently from the enemy modifier (so he basically still has a chance against rend -3 or higher). Apart from this, his most important trait is the ability to re-roll charge rolls of friendly Order Serpentis units within 12″.
The Assassin is a Shadowblade hero specialised in warfare. He has decent attacks that allocate D3 mortal wounds on unmodified 6s to hit, receives strike-first effect the turn he charges and is invisible from enemy unit further than 12″ as long as he is close-by an Aelf unit with 3 or more models.
The Black Ark Fleetmaster is a Scourge Privateers hero. When attacking him, every unmodified hit roll of 1 is automatic 2 mortal wounds to the attacking unit and when he issues All-out Attack to a Scourge Privateers unit, it adds +1 attack in addition to the +1 to hit. Works both in the shooting and combat phase, and creates a nice power pair with the Black Ark Corsairs.
Wizards and Priests in Cities of Sigmar
The Human wizards have access to the Lore of the Collegiate Arcane, however only the Battlemage on foot can choose freely from it. All other wizards in this section can only choose the one mentioned in their warscroll. This lore has some classic options like the Fireball for some horde-thinning magic, Mystifying Miasma that affects enemy unit movement, and Pall of Doom that stops an enemy unit from receiving or issuing commands until your next hero phase.
If you want to give your wizards an extra advantage, Hallowheart and Settler’s Gain are great options.
The Alchemite Warforger is the latest wizard to join the fray, hailing from Chamon, realm of Metal. He has an ability that provides +1 to cast or +1 to save to Human units within 12″ (but he can’t cast anymore that phase). His signature spell provides mortal wounds on unmodified hit roll of 6, that works also on shooting attacks, making him a great addition in a castle formation with Fusiliers.
The first FAQ released for Cities established that the bonus to cast or save can only be used by a single Warforger per turn. He is a single caster, but as an extra spell from the Human lore he can only choose one that does mortal wounds to an enemy unit based on their save characteristic.
The Battlemage is your standard wizard with a kit highly customizable that reflects the various trinkets he can equip including one that provides a 5+ ward. He is the only kit that is able to choose freely from the Lore of the Collegiate Arcane.
The Battlemage on Griffon is also a single caster with a monster table that degrades the more wounds he has taken. His signature spell is not too impressive for D3 mortal wounds to all units passing through a straight line, but from the Human lore he has access to the spell Wildform that allows a Human unit to charge from 18″ distance with 3D6. Apart from this, he is a big pass, but the normal Battlemage can also learn this spell.
The Battlemage on Celestial Hurricanum is another single caster on top of an extremely interesting device that gives +1 to hit (melee and ranged) to all Human units within 9″ and that does mortal wounds to an enemy unit each of your hero phases. You roll as many dice as the current battle round and for each 2+ you allocate D3 mortal wounds. Can’t be split, but on turn 3, if it is still alive with 4+ save and no ward, it has a chance to do 3D3 damage and so on (since the FAQ works only on your hero phase).
The wizard on top adds a spell that does D3 mortal wounds to all units within 6″ of the targeted unit or he can choose a spell from the Human lore that gives Bravery 10 to all units “blessed by the Twin Tailed Comet”.
The Battlemage on Luminark of Hysh is an alternative assembly option from the same kit with a shooting attack that attacks in a straight line (with the potential to damage your own units protecting him) and a 6+ ward on a 9″ bubble for Human units.
The wizard on top does some mortal wounds or can pick a spell from his lore that gives ethereal to a Human unit (ignore all modifiers to save rolls).
They are both behemoths but not monsters, being war machines, so if you really want to ally a Lord-Ordinator, they also get +1 to hit from him.
Pontifex Zenestra, Matriarch of the Great Wheel is the only Human priest (unless you are using a Lethis army). There’s no prayer scripture available to her, but she compensates with a single prayer with multiple effects of which you can choose two instead of one if Zenestra is not within her territory. These effects vary from a 5+ ward or a 2″ move to Human units to a battlefield-wide D3 damage to enemy wizards and priests on a 2+. In addition she can dispel like a Wizard (once per turn) and allocate D3 mortal wounds to all enemy units within 3″ of her at the start of the combat phase and after she fights.
She is an incredibly potent unit for the Human side, especially to build a Fusilier castle with that juicy 5+ ward, with the only drawback being her crew which automatically does not qualify her for the immunity to shooting attacks. However, the 4+ ward after-save and the possibility she is given a Return Fire command that enables the Fusiliers behind her to shoot in the enemy shooting phase, will guarantee her high survivability.
The only Duardin priest has access to the Rune Lore with 3 great prayers, one to buff shooting attacks, one for defence and the Rune of Wrath and Ruin that has a chance to do mortal wounds (roll 6 dice, 1 for each 5+) and if 3 or more wounds are allocated, the targeted unit ignores all positive modifiers to the save roll until your next hero phase.
The Runelord can unbind spells like a wizard (once per phase) and has a prayer that improves by 1 the rend in melee of a friendly duardin unit. As he is the only way to access the Rune Lore, Cities of Sigmar focussing on duardin may have to include one in their army.
There’s only two Aelf wizards, and they have access to the Lore of Dark Sorcery that includes options like Tenebrael Blades that targets a friendly Aelf unit that ignores the save roll of units attacked in melee. Funny enough, they are not considered mortal wounds, they are still normal wounds that can’t be saved, so wouldn’t activate abilities working only on mortal wounds.
The Sorceress on foot is the main wizard of the Darkling Covens with the ability to slain a friendly model nearby in exchange for a +2 to cast and a spell that does mortal wounds and gives a -1 to hit to the targeted enemy unit. When accompanied by a Black Guard unit, she receives a 4+ ward. And don’t forget the artefact Anklet of Epiphany that extends her spell range by 6″.
The Sorceress on Black Dragon suffers the fact to be on top of a big monster that makes her expensive, with melee attacks ok at best, a shooting attack that works only against multi-model units all while remaining a single caster and not even obtaining the 4+ ward from the Black Guard unit.
Monsters in Cities of Sigmar
Monsters can perform special abilities called Monstrous Rampages at the end of the Charge phase. Each action can be performed only once per phase therefore only up to 4 monsters can perform one at a time. Here is the current list:
- Roar: on a 3+ an engaged enemy unit cannot issue or receive orders in the following combat phase.
- Stomp: on a 2+ do D3 mortal wounds to an engaged unit that is not a monster.
- Titanic Duel: + 1 to hit rolls against another engaged Monster.
- Smash to Rubble: on a 3+ demolish a close-by terrain feature, disabling its scenery rules.
From the Human side we have Tahlia Vedra and both the Battlemage and the Freeguild Marshal on Griffon, while the remaining Behemoths are War Machines.
The Duardin have no monsters and the Aelves have both the Sorceress and the Dreadlord on Black Dragon, plus the two units below.
The War Hydra has a weak melee profile and a shooting attack useful only against multi-model units, but at least can regenerate 5 wounds at the end of each combat phase.
The Kharibdyss is the other assemble option of the War Hydra. It’s most important characteristic is the ability to shut off the use of Rally and Inspiring Presence in a 12″ bubble.
Battlelines in Cities of Sigmar
The Freeguild Steelhelms are the basic Human battleline and their role is that of a cheap anvil. At the end of the movement if no enemy unit is contesting an objective and the Battle Priest is still alive, he can consecrate it providing a 6+ ward to any friendly unit contesting the same until the end of the battle or until the opponent takes over the control.
When receiving the All-out Attack or All-out Defence command ability, another Steelhelm unit wholly within 12″ can receive the same command for free.
The Longbeards are a solid battleline option with the choice between 3+ save (instead of 4+) with the shield or rend -2 with their double-handed axes. They also give an extra chance to fleeing duardin to hold their position after a battleshock test (on a 4+)
The Ironbreakers are probably the best duardin unit with a 3+ save and the ability to get a 4+ ward through the Form Shieldwall order. They are an anvil unit, so don’t expect much damage from them, but if accompanying a Warden King they can ignore the strike-last effect applied by the order if selected immediately after the king to fight.
The Bleakswords are a cheap Darkling Coven battleline with exploding 6s to hit (each unmodified roll of 6 makes 2 separate wound rolls) that can become interesting if a Sorceress casts Tenebrael Blades to them so that they ignore the save characteristic of the opponent unit.
The Dreadspears are the other Darkling Coven battleline. Apart from the 2″ range of their weapon, there’s nothing else going on here.
Conditional Battlelines in Cities of Sigmar
The Flagellants become battleline if the army includes Pontifex Zenestra. Their main role is to slowly grind your opponent as every Flagellant that dies on a 5+ does a mortal wound to an enemy unit within 3″. They don’t have a great save, but Vindicarum allows them to Rally even in combat on a 5+ and Tahlia can rally any human in combat on a 4+, making a big unit of them an extreme nuisance.
The Freeguild Cavaliers become battleline if the general is Freeguild (most of the Human leaders). They shine in an Excelsis army and should be properly led by a Freeguild Cavalier-Marshal. They have the same +1 damage and rend on their weapons when charging and in Excelsis they do mortal wounds after they fight. They are a great unit, but on the expensive side.
One unit of Freeguild Fusiliers can become battleline for each unit of Freeguild Steelhelms in the same list. They are some of the most deadly unit in the book, in particular because they receive buffs from everything making them extremely hard to remove.
Their main rule (Fortified position) means that if they don’t move they have better shots (2 at 24″ range instead of 1 at 12″ range), however they can cheat using the order Advance in Formation that maintains the bonus even if they moved as long as they remain within 3″ of the issuing hero. They also ignore rend when shot at in this formation.
You don’t need it, but a Fusil-Major can give them +D6″ range, otherwise a hero equipped with the Magnificent Macroscope gives +3″ to all Humans in range. A general with the command trait Master of Ballistics when giving All-out Attack to them, provides a +1 bonus to hit and to wound. And remember that in Greywater Fastness the first 2 commands are free.
From the third battle round they can, once per battle, re-roll all their hit rolls. An Alchemite Warforger can ensure they give mortal wounds on an unmodified 6 to hit. Zenestra can give them a 5+ ward, but there’s few other tricks to receive wards, including the Steelhelms and the Luminark. Finally add to this that there are multiple ways to return slain models, including Rally them in combat should they end up at the wrong end of a charge and survive.
It’s a lot of meat on the fire, but 30 Fusiliers can statistically do 37 damage to a 4+ save unit, that is in line with some of the most powerful troops in the game, with the difference those hit only in the combat phase and the Fusiliers can shoot even in the enemy phase should an opponent miscalculate the order Return Fire.
Point changes will see their value increase/decrease in time, but at release they are the most efficient unit in the army.
One Wildercorps Hunters unit can be given the battlefield role for each unit of Freeguild Steelhelms already in the list. They are a skirmish unit coming from Warcry, whose main role is to harass from safe distance (18″ range with a post-deployment normal move). Indeed, while in cover or 12″ away from enemies they are invisible and their shooting attacks rend improves while they are in cover.
The Steam Tank becomes battleline (and loses the Behemoth role) if the general is a Steam Tank Commander. For the rest it does the same thing as the hero version with damage after charge and the ability to pump his shooting attacks (or run and shoot and/or charge).
One unit of Irondrakes can be selected as battleline for each unit of Ironbreakers in the army. As the Fusiliers, they also get a bonus when shooting without having moved, but differently from them, there’s no trick to avoid this penalty, they have only 15″ range and can’t be buffed the same way. Why choosing Irondrakes over Fusiliers at the current point cost?
The Black Guard are unlocked battleline by a Darkling Covens general (either Sorceress), however they obtain a 4+ ward only while around a Sorceress on foot making them a decent power pair with the 2″ range halberd allowing up to the third rank to join the fight.
One unit of Darkshards can be battleline for each unit of Bleakswords or Dreaspears already in list. They are a 16″ shooting unit but without rend and nothing else interesting going on.
The Drakespawn Knights become battleline if the general is Order Serpentis (the Dreadlord). They have some good melee attacks, especially when charging where the lances become -2 rend and 2 damage. Being a 10″ movement cavalry they are an interesting option in an Aelf army.
The Black Ark Corsairs are unlocked battleline by a general Scourge Privateers (the Black Ark Fleetmaster) that can give them +1 attack when issuing the All-out Attack command, bringing them, when armed with paired blades, at 4 attacks apiece 3+/4+. Pity for the absence of rend, but a Sorceress could give them Tenebrael Blades allowing them to ignore the save characteristic of their opponent. A simple (and cheap) unit of 20 can then statistically punch high save elite units as well as the most efficient units in game.
Other units in Cities of Sigmar
The Celestial Hurricanum and the Luminark of Hysh are the base version of the same models discussed in the hero section, without the Battlemage on top (so unable to cast spells). While the Hurricanum is a great model even without the wizard, the Luminark is probably better without the mage for the 6+ ward bubble.
The Freeguild Command Corps is an assortment of support guys that would have well figured as a Warcry warband. There’s no hero so at least they don’t take that spot, but they are still Single meaning they can’t be reinforced. They can provide a 4+ ward to a Freeguild Marshal and Relic Envoy close-by.
In addition, depending on which models are still alive, they can provide a series of buffs like healing or returning slain models to 3 Human units, +1 to run and charge rolls, D3″ extra movement when retreating, preventing a model from fleeing after a failed Battleshock on a 4+ and once per turn prevent an enemy unit from issuing a command (on a 4+, the point is spent anyways).
They are an interesting support unit in a castle formation, but then you are putting a lot of eggs in the same basket.
The Ironweld Great Cannon is an artillery piece with 3 different shooting profiles of which 2 can only be chosen if is Fortified (can’t move but then ignores rend from received shooting attacks). The 3 attacks have different uses, for a whopping rend -4! to a grapeshot of 5 attacks. At the right cost the Great Cannon can be a great addition to any army. And is also an integral part of the army Core Battalion.
The Hammerers retrieved their command group (champion, standard bearer and musician) in the first Cities FAQ making them a much more viable unit (can now issue commands to itself). They can provide a 4+ ward to their assigned Warden King within 3″ but they are also the heaviest duardin hitters.
The Gyrocopters can be fielded in a unit of 1 or 3 so that one becomes the squadron leader. They are a flying skirmish unit with some shooting attacks, a once per game ability to do mortal wounds when moving over an enemy unit, a 3+ save and some decent melee attacks.
The Gyrobomber is a single model unit with a similar role and stats as the above but they can always do mortal wounds when moving over an enemy unit. Both could become interesting at the right price cost.
The Executioners are a Darkling Coven unit specialised in mortal wounds on an unmodified 6 to hit. However, with their 4+ save and excessive price cost, they may not be the most efficient Aelf unit.
The Drakespawn Chariot is an Order Serpentis unit that can be fielded in units of 1 or 3 models. He has some shooting attacks and damage on charge that becomes better if their target is engaged with a Drakespawn Knights unit. Not much else.
On the other hand, the Scourgerunner Chariots are Scourge Privateers and can also be fielded in 1 or 3 models units that have more shooting attacks extremely damaging against monsters giving them a specific role although extremely niche.
The Dark Riders are one of the few sculpt whose alternative assembly option belongs to a different army (Doomfire Warlocks from Daughters of Khaine). They are a fast cavalry, losing a bit of shooting attacks because of this but they can retreat and still shoot and/or charge and they get a +1 to hit bonus anytime they retreat. Their other ability, on a 5+ to prevent a command from being issued, can easily be bypassed as the range counts the issuing unit, not the receiving unit.
Endless Spells, Terrain and Start Collecting in a Cities of Sigmar Army
Cities of Sigmar had 2 Start Collecting, one centred on the aelvish side dedicated to the now fallen city of Anvilgard, and one for the duardin called Greywater Fastness. Both have since been retired, and no Vanguard box has yet be released. The Army Set with which they have been launched may still be available at independent retailers or Games Workshop brick and mortar shops.
Cities does not have Endless Spells or faction terrain either.
Tactics and Final Verdict on the Cities of Sigmar Army
Cities of Sigmar is a complex book and you may scratch your head often while going through it. While power pairs are possible, the easiest way to tackle this army is to consider it as 3 different armies not unlike Orruk Warclans. Despite having a single Battle Trait, it’s full of keywords that prevent some races to access certain abilities.
For easiness, we recap here the different unit options you have available, divided by race (keyword) and battlefield role with in brackets additional roles:
- Tahlia Vedra (monster, behemoth)
- Pontifex Zenestra (priest)
- Freeguild Marshal and Relic Envoy
- Freeguild Marshal on Griffon (monster, behemoth)
- Freeguild Cavalier-Marshal
- Alchemite Warforger (wizard)
- Battlemage (wizard)
- Battlemage on Griffon (wizard, monster, behemoth)
- Battlemage on Celestial Hurricanum (wizard, behemoth)
- Battlemage on Luminark of Hysh (wizard, behemoth)
- Fusil-Major on Ogor Warhulk
- Steam Tank Commander (behemoth)
- Haskel Hexbane & Hexbane’s Hunters
- Galen Ven Denst & Doralia Ven Denst
- Flagellants (if army includes Pontifex Zenestra)
- Freeguild Steelhelms
- Freeguild Cavaliers (if general is Freeguild)
- Freeguild Fusiliers (1 for each unit of Freeguild Steelhelms)
- Steam Tank (if general Steam Tank Commander, otherwise behemoth)
- Wildercorps Hunters (1 for each unit of Freeguild Steelhelms)
- Celestial Hurricanum (behemoth)
- Luminark of Hysh (behemoth)
- Freeguild Command Corps
- Ironweld Great Cannon (artillery)
- Warden King
- Runelord (priest)
- Irondrakes (1 for each unit of Ironbreakers)
- Sorceress (wizard)
- Sorceress on Black Dragon (wizard, monster, behemoth)
- Dreadlord on Black Dragon (monster, behemoth)
- Black Ark Fleetmaster
- War Hydra (behemoth)
- Kharibdyss (behemoth)
- Black Guard (if general Darkling Covens)
- Darkshards (1 for each unit of Bleakswords or Dreaspears)
- Drakespawn Knights (if general Order Serpentis)
- Black Ark Corsairs (if general Scourge Privateers)
- Drakespawn Chariots
- Dark Riders
- Scourgerunner Chariots
As a summary, Cities of Sigmar is not an army for the faint of heart. There’s many options (but much less than in the past) with many potential power pairs, but the most difficult trait are the orders. They require to strategically plan in advance the entire battle round so that you know which order is the most appropriate for that hero at a later stage in the round, and remembering the choice made.
Some options are obvious, but some others will require a lot of thinking time, and in competitive games the clock is never on your side, especially if you don’t have an elite army but one with many models to move. And you will forget the decisions made several minutes earlier, forcing you to re-check the tokens face down on the battlefield and cursing cause it’s the wrong one.
If it was not the main battle trait, it could be just part of the learning curve, but as it is, it’s definitely not an army for beginners.
We have talked a lot about a castle army and how well certain human units fits within this model. A castle army is one that is deployed around a central piece, usually a terrain feature to obtain the benefit of cover, or a particular hero or objective, in a tight formation so that overlapping bonuses affect multiple units and is difficult for the opponent to reach the second line and damage the most dangerous units.
Most castle units move little or not at all, and shoot their way through the battle ensuring that the objectives are controlled by units irrelevant to the castle, usually units with high mobility or anvils that can survive left alone for a while on an objective. And that’s how human cities are most likely being designed: Zenestra in the middle, with Fusiliers and Cannons protected by Steelhelms with the occasional Cavaliers on the side to cover the flanks. In reality we can expect more Fusiliers than we would like and Wildcorps Hunters to move around the most isolated corners.
This leaves little to duardin and aelves with the former being an attrition army that slowly gets in position with little losses and the second rapidly chasing the top enemy units and eliminating them before they can get in position. Either gameplay, for how fun can be, is underpowered by the overall human shooting power projection. While some occasional power pairs, like a Warden King and a unit of Ironbreakers, or a Black Ark Fleetmaster, a Sorceress and a unit of Black Ark Corsairs, can appear to give some diversity to the existing range, it is highly unlikely that we will see these mixed lists in top competitive matches as most buffs are class-restricted.
In addition, duardin and aelves are the left overs of those models from Warhammer Fantasy brought to Age of Sigmar, and with the return of the Old World, surely will be more relevant there than here with the high chance to some day be retired and never replaced like the Wood and High Elves from this same range. If you would want to start a Cities army we would recommend to focus entirely on the human side, that should also receive some expansions in the not so distant future, and ignore the others. If you already have a duardin/aelf based army, cherish it and use it as much as you can and prepare to convert it for the Old World.
Playing humans will require some skill, but can be lots of fun. Hopefully we will see soon the first competitive statistics showing how well Cities can do in the overall meta.
If you are interested in the competitive standpoint, when we talk about statistics, a tremendous effort is done by Rob from the Honest Wargamer, Ziggy and Tsports Network! in the AoS Stat Centre with precious information, constantly kept up to date.
Really good informative material is also collected by Dan from AoS Shorts.