Cities of Sigmar Shieldbands, and their division in 7 different cities with abilities and reactions, has been completely changed with the launch of the updated range for the Age of Sigmar army. The rules are available from Warhammer Community website under the Warcry FAQ section and in White Dwarf 495.
The warband, that had a whopping 60+ fighter profiles has seen many profiles being removed with some new additions, but more importantly, has been split in 3 distinct warbands, one for each major race populating the cities: the Humans of the Castelite Hosts, the aelves of the Darkling Covens and the Dispossessed Duardin.
Background and Lore of the Castelite Hosts Warband
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.
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 nexuses 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.
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 Steelhelm, 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.
But how does a Castelite formation work in skirmish clashes? Let’s find out.
Fighters in the Castelite Hosts Warband
Note: if you haven’t read the basic rules for Warcry before reading this article, it might be helpful to know that the game’s abilities are activated by using 6 dice that you roll at the start of your turn.
If two of the dice show the same value, they can be used to activate a Double ability. If three show the same value, they can be used for a Triple ability, and so on.
So, when this article refers to an ability being a Double, a Triple or a Quad, it refers to this system. It might sound a bit confusing, but takes no time to get used to when you start playing
The Castelite Hosts warband is made of 22 different fighters, of which 13 are leaders.
- Freeguild Marshal with Duelling Pistols: 150 points
- Freeguild Marshal with Shield: 155 points
- Freeguild Marshal with Heirloom Weapon: 155 points
The Freeguild Marshal is the main foot hero of this army and comes with 2 different profiles, each with his own ability but they all start with 20 wounds and 4″ movement (the warband average).
The Freeguild Marshal with Duelling Pistols is the only one with a ranged profile, up to 7″ for 2/4 damage at Strength 4. In melee he is even weaker with 1/3 damage so the main discriminant would be made by his ability that for a Triple adds +1 damage to critical hits of ranged attacks of nearby Fusiliers. Too little and too expensive to be noteworthy.
The Freeguild Marshal with Shield increases Toughness to 5 and has a more balanced melee profile with 4 attacks at Strength 4 for 2/4 damage. His ability is the same one of the Steelhelm’s leader: for a Double it increases the Toughness of friendly Castelite fighters within 3″ by 2. On paper is good, but the average Toughness of a melee fighter in this warband is already 4 so the main use is to protect the Support guys that should not be too close to the front lines.
The Freeguild Marshal with Heirloom Weapon is the heaviest hitter of the bunch, with less attacks (3) but greater Strength and damage (5 and 3/5). His ability is also the most interesting adding +1 to melee attacks of friendly fighters within 6″ for the mere cost of a Double. As he is a good profile to stay up close to the enemy, that is definitely a useful ability.
There’s no ability shared by the entire warband, but everyone can use the reaction Castelite Wall that can be triggered when attacked (melee or ranged) and in close proximity of specific fighters. It gives +1 Toughness when near a Steelhelm (or the Marshal with Shield), allows to allocate 2 damage for each miss of the attacking fighter when near a Fusilier (or the Marshal with Pistols) or both if near a Fusil-Major.
Freeguild Cavalier-Marshal: 255 points
The Freeguild Cavalier-Marshal is the same profile, but more expensive, more wounds, Mounted and with 9″ movement. He builds up from the Marshal with Shield, with the same Toughness but more Strength (5) and damage on critical hit.
His ability, for a Double, allows another Cavalier within 6″ to activate immediately after him, bypassing your opponent. Cavaliers are expensive, and if you want to use few of them, the Cavalier Arch-Knight has the same ability but is cheaper because of a weaker profile. If you don’t care about a leader without abilities, he is a strong fighter profile that can also be played without other riders.
Freeguild Command Corps
- Freeguild Command Corps Arch-Knight: 120 points
- Freeguild Command Corps Whisperblade: 80 points
- Freeguild Command Corps Great Herald: 105 points
- Freeguild Command Corps War Surgeon: 60 points
- Freeguild Command Corps Soul Shepherd: 70 points
- Freeguild Command Corps Mascot Gargoylian: 50 points
The Freeguild Command Corps could have been easily a Warcry warband on its own has they have one leader and many support guys that may be useful in various circumstances.
The Arch-Knight is the leader with access to the same Double that adds +1 melee attacks as the Marshal with Heirloom Weapon. As such the two should be compared and the Arch-Knight for a cheaper price loses damage (2/4) and 5 wounds (15). If you have points to spare, better the Marshal.
The Whisperblade is the assassin with low Strength pointing all to their critical hits for 5 damage! They are cheap, but with Toughness 3 also easily dispatched. Their ability is the first of this kind: for a Quad you roll 3 dice and for each 4+ you remove a wild dice from the opponent’s pool. It’s a bit expensive but we will see later there are better ways to obtain more wild dice than your opponent.
The Great Herald has a similar profile as the Arch-Knight but with Strength 4. His ability for a Triple, allows all friendly Castelite within 6″ a bonus move, but they have to end closer to the Herald. This can be tricky to use as the Herald would already need to be in the right position and distance to then call reinforcements, but if used correctly is a great ability.
The War Surgeon is your doctor, able for a Double to remove D6 damage from a friendly fighter within 3″. This brings him dangerously close to the front line considering it has a Steelhelm melee attack but also 12 wounds on Toughness 3.
The Soul Shepherd instead has five 7″ ranged attacks that basically do 1 damage on a 5 or 6 but the reason you take him is his ability to modify the wild dice. For a Triple, you roll as many dice as the number of your Castelite fighters being taken down or injured, and for each 4+ you get an extra wild dice. This becomes extremely powerful to control who starts in the last rounds as you can use the wild dice to win the initiative.
The Mascot Gargoylian is what the name says: the cheapest fighter in the warband with the same attacks as a Steelhelm (3 at Strength 3 for 1/3 damage) but less Toughness (3). And he is a Beast.
Alchemite Warforger: 125 points
The Alchemite Warforger is an extremely cool wizard using Chamon magic (Metal) and as all wizards he has a 3-7″ ranged attack that can really hurt (3/6 damage) but luckily has low Strength (3). In melee he also defends himself with 2/3 damage still at Strength 3 while Toughness 4 with 18 wounds should let him survive long enough.
On the downside, his ability is not that interesting: for a Triple you pick a single fighter within 6″ that only for his next melee attack action has +2 damage on critical hits… Even for a Double wouldn’t be our first option. The way it’s worded protects from those reactions that transform critical hits in normal hits.
Battlemage: 120 points
The Battlemage has the same ranged profile as the Warforger but in melee adds a 2″ range weapon that provides him a bit of safety net considering the low Toughness (3).
But the reason you take him is his Quad, that gives +1 attack to every Castelite fighter within 6″. Both ranged and melee! Now, that’s an ability that can justify having this fighter enrolled! If combined with the Freeguild Marshal with Heirloom Weapon, that’s +2 attacks on a 6″ area at the cost of 6 dice.
Fusil-Major on Ogor Warhulk: 245 points
The Fusil-Major on Ogor Warhulk is a veritable moving fortress and almost the most expensive fighter in the warband. 35 wounds with Toughness 6 means it will not go down that easily, and the 4″ movement with 24″ range weapon mean that he can cover quite a bit of terrain. While the ranged attack has “only” 2 attacks at Strength 4 for 2/4 damage, in melee it can be disastrous with 3 attacks at Strength 6 for 3/4 damage. It is expensive, but it covers a portion of the battlefield by itself.
His runemarks allow him to activate both the Double Castelite Formation that provides +2 Toughness to all friendly fighters within 3″ of him, and the Triple Take Aim! that gives +1 damage on critical hit to all other Fusilier ranged attacks.
In addition, when activating the reaction Castelite Wall within 3″ of the Fusil-Major, it provides both the +1 Toughness and the 2 damage for each miss of the attacker.
- Prophet: 95 points
- Flagellant: 60 points
The Flagellants are simple light infantry with low Toughness (3) but more attacks than their armoured counterpart for a similar price, but no other ability.
The basic Flagellant has 4 attacks at Strength 3 for 1/3 damage, while their leader option, the Prophet, does 2/4 damage and has 5 wounds more.
The Flagellant, but not the Prophet, is also the first fighter we discuss here that can use the warband Quad For the Dawn! (that is restricted to non-hero fighters only). This one adds +2 to both the Move and the Attack characteristic until the end of the activation.
- Freeguild Cavalier Arch-Knight: 205 points
- Freeguild Cavalier: 165 points
These are the cavalry of this warband with 9″ movement, Toughness 5 and high wounds. The Freeguild Cavalier has 3 attacks at Strength 4 for 2/4 damage, while their leader option, the Freeguild Cavalier Arch-Knight has 1 extra damage on critical hits, 4 wounds and the same ability as the Cavalier-Marshal to activate another Cavalier within 6″ immediately after at the cost of a Double.
They are expensive profiles and their ability really works when you have at least 2 or 3 models, so maybe the Arch-Knight is a more affordable option. In reality, 1 Cavalier can fit any warband, but 2 can be a bit of an overstretch and there’s better abilities allocated to on-foot heroes.
- Fusil-Sergeant: 140 points
- Freeguild Fusilier: 120 points
The Freeguild Fusiliers represent your shooting line, that thanks to their pavise (the huge shield in front of them) reach Toughness 5 and they are not even hindered in the movement maintaining 4″. They are expensive but worth as they have two 6-15″ ranged attacks at Strength 4 for 2/4 damage that can become 2/5 if the Fusil-Sergeant, their leader option, activates the Triple ability Take Aim!.
Apart from that, the Sergeant has 1 more melee attack (forgettable profile for both) and 2 more wounds for a slightly increased cost. The Triple ability is not worth taking the Sergeant as your main leader, but his survivability as a combination of high Toughness and high range may work.
- Sergeant-At-Arms: 100 points
- Battle Priest: 65 points
- Freeguild Steelhelm: 60 points
The last fighters of this warband all come from the same kit. The Freeguild Steelhelm represent the base infantry, and as such they behave, with 3 attacks at Strength 3 for 1/3 damage and Toughness 4, plus the ability to provide +2 Toughness to all other friendly fighters close-by for a Double (or +1 to those using a reaction while in close proximity).
The Sergeant-At-Arms is the main leader of this unit with 1 extra attack and damage on normal hit (2/3) while the Battle Priest is another leader option available to the warband, with no ability (doesn’t have the Bulwark runemark) and 1 extra Strength. He is the cheapest leader, but neither is worth your main spot.
Abilities for the Castelite Hosts Warband
- For Sigmar, Charge! (Double, Cavalier Marshal and Cavalier Arch-Knight): Activate another Cavalier within 6″ that has not yet been activated this round and activate him immediately after.
- Castelite Formation (Double, Marshal with Shield, Sergeant-At-Arms): Increase by 2 the Toughness of all friendly fighters within 3″.
- Rousing Speech (Double, Marshal with Heirloom Weapon and Command Corps Arch Knight): Add 1 the melee attack characteristic of friendly fighters within 6″.
- You Won’t Even Miss It (Double, War Surgeon): Heal D6 damage from a friendly fighter within 3″.
- Take Aim! (Triple, Marshal with Duelling Pistols and Fusilier-Sergeant): Add 1 to the damage on critical hits for ranged attacks from any Fusilier or Marshal with Pistols within 6″.
- To Me, Warriors! (Triple, Great Herald): Every friendly fighter within 6″ can make a bonus move action that must end closer to this fighter.
- Tune of the Corpus Somni (Triple, Soul Shepherd): Roll a dice for each wounded or killed friendly Castelite and for each 4+ add a wild dice to your pool.
- Blazing Weapons (Triple, Alchemite Warforger): Add 2 to the damage of critical hits from the next melee attack action of a friendly fighter within 6″.
- Sinister Spymaster (Quad, Whisperblade): Roll 3 dice and for each 4+ your opponent must discard one of their saved wild dice.
- For the Dawn! (Quad, Everyone except leaders): Add 2 to movement and attack characteristic.
- Enchant Weapons (Quad, Battlemage): Add 1 to the attacks of friendly fighters within 6″.
Reaction for the Castelite Hosts Warband
Introduced in the new season of Warcry, Reactions are things that can be done in certain circumstances, but always during the enemy turn. They cost one action, so they can be used only by fighters that have not activated yet or are waiting. There are 3 universal reactions and one specific to each warband:
Castelite Wall (Everyone)
- When: During an enemy attack action but before hit rolls if within 3″ of another friendly fighter with the Bulwark or Elite runemark.
- What: If the close-by fighter has the Bulwark runemark increase the Toughness of the reacting fighter by 1. If it has the Elite runemark, for each miss allocate 2 damage to the attacking character. If it has both, apply both effects.
Note: Bulwark runemark is associated to fighters with shields (Marshal with Shield, all Steelhelm, Fusil-Major), while Elite runemark to fighters with firearms (Marshal with Pistols, all Fusiliers, Fusil-Major).
Strategy and Tactics for the Castelite Hosts Warband
If you had a Cities of Sigmar army for Age of Sigmar, chances are that you don’t have anything available today to do a Castelite Host warband for Warcry. The only surviving kits are the Battlemage and the Flagellants, both quite dated. You may have enough duardin or aelves for another Warcry warband.
With this premise in place, consider a Castelite Host is an investment most likely in a main game army, as there’s no easy-to-pick boxes that contain enough for a single warband, although the Freeguild Command Corps is a good one to start from. If you like the new humans, they are guaranteed to stay for a long time.
The warband itself is extremely well balanced with leaders that each have their own ability, so that picking the right one is not just a matter to check the highest stats, and fighters that cover almost every role: shooters, cheap but tough infantry, high movement units.
The only heavy hitter is the Fusil-Major that is a hybrid role that covers both the strongest fighter and the longest range opening up many options when using them. But there’s no other heavy hitters, and the damage is mostly dependent on many smaller attacks.
Attacks that can be increased for a Double (melee only) by the Marshal with Heirloom Weapon, and for a Quad (melee and ranged) by a Battlemage. And if you are scared to not have enough dice, the Soul Shepherd can provide extra wild dice in the late game when your warband will start getting hit.
Except few heroes, mostly support ones, the warband Toughness is above average, starting from 4, but with Fusiliers at 5, and the Steelhelm able to add +2 to any friendly fighter nearby at the cost of a Double. That really helps to reduce the impact of those profiles with many attacks but low Strength forcing them to hit only on a 5+.
But does not protect from the critical hits, and being humans, they are just above “squishy-level” as amount of wounds. However, it can become an interesting deterrent using the warband reaction with basic profiles like the Steelhelm when near Fusiliers to allocate damage for each miss. High Toughness means the enemy with low Strength will miss more often, more attacks they have, more chances to score a critical but also many more to miss… Their call, but a Steelhelm on average would be doing 2 damage per action, if an enemy misses them twice, that’s already double what they would have done by attacking.
So they have damage, some ranged (Fusiliers at Strength 4 and 15″ range) and some melee (mostly on leaders like the Arch-Knight at Strength 5) and they have ways to reduce the incoming damage or force the opponent to calculate carefully who they are going to attack. But this is also a game with objectives and treasures, who is going to pick them up?
The average movement 4″ is absolutely average and in line with most warbands. What you need is an outsider, one that can exceed that at the occurrence, and those are the different Cavaliers. They are expensive profiles and they are Mounted (no climbing!), but 9″ can really make the difference in certain situations. And they hit better than a Steelhelm that’s always a bonus. But you can’t afford too many of them, therefore making the leader ability, that allows an immediate second activation of a Cavalier after them, a bit risky.
And we get to the final point in this warband: the abilities. There’s 11 abilities in the warband, most of which within the Freeguild Command Corps unit. Interestingly, apart the reaction, there’s no ability anyone can use. Even the warband’s Quad, is limited to non-hero fighters. This means that when you are choosing your warband leader, and any other support hero, the ability may count more than their stats.
For example, adding +1 damage to Critical hits for ranged units at the cost of a Triple is good if you have many ranged units, but adding +1 to melee attacks or +2 Toughness can be more universal useful. It depends how you want to build your army, but if you are going to have only a couple of Fusiliers, then all those Leaders who buff them may be redundant.
Stealing wild dice to the enemy may be tempting, but it costs a Quad, creating additional ones instead costs a Triple and comes with a profile with ranged attacks (Soul Shepherd) instead of a melee one with Toughness 3 (Whisperblade).
Whichever direction you go, your leader will need to synergize with the bulk of your army, i.e. a Cavalier-Marshal or Cavalier Arch-Knight if you are pointing heavily on cavalry, a Marshal with Pistols if you are shifting towards Fusiliers, and so on.
Our favourite is the Marshal with Heirloom Weapon combined with a Battlemage. Either ability adds +1 attack, the most expensive covers the ranged options as well. And are generic enough that allow you to pick any other fighter, including a mix.
The Fusil-Major is for sure the best fighter, but again comes with an ability (the Triple Take Aim!) that can be pretty useless most of the game and another one that is mostly defensive, but he is expensive, so you’ll have to choose his companions carefully.
Whichever direction you go, playing this warband will most likely be a blast. The choice of leader is an important one, so think that careful and plan accordingly, but consider a Freeguild Command Corps box while you figure out how to develop your warband. With a Steelhelm and a Fusilier box, you have plenty of configuration options to try out before venturing with Cavaliers and the Marshal (or Flagellants if you want cheap multi-attack guys).
Pros and Cons of the Castelite Hosts Warband
+ Many abilities spread across single fighters
+ Balanced profiles
+ Strong ranged options and high movement
– As a new Age of Sigmar army, it can be expensive moneywise
– No heavy hitters
Some thematic warbands for the Castelite Hosts
Just for fun here we present few thematic warbands, meant more for fun or narrative context than for competitive play. Note that in narrative play you need to complete a quest that allows you to recruit a Hero before being able to add him to your roster.
Command Corps Galore: all Freeguild Command Corps (Arch-Knight, Whisperblade, Great Herald, War Surgeon, Soul Shepherd, Mascot Gargoylian), 2 Steelhelm, 3 Fusiliers.
A bit of everything: Freeguild Marshal with Heirloom Weapon, Battlemage, Freeguild Command Corps Soul Shepherd, 1 Freeguild Cavalier, 2 Freeguild Steelhelm, 3 Freeguild Fusiliers (for more bodies replace 1 Fusilier with 2 Steelhelm or 2 Flagellants).
How to buy a Castelite Hosts Warband
The Castelite Hosts are part of the Cities of Sigmar range, in particular the human side. As any Age of Sigmar army, there’s no easy to collect Warcry box, but you would most likely need to start a Cities of Sigmar army or invest in boxes with multiple models.
The closest thing to a Warcry warband is the Freeguild Command Corps box that contains 6 miniatures, of which one is a leader, all with their own abilities and that could be half of your Warcry warband for £32.5.
The individual blisters that provide you alternative hero options are:
- Freeguild Marshal and Relic Envoy (all 3 options for the Marshal come from this same box) for £27.5
- Alchemite Warforger for £22.5
- Battlemage for £27.5 (a box contains 4 different models with multiple assembly options)
- Freeguild Cavalier-Marshal for £35
- Fusil-Major on Ogor Warhulk for £32.5
Otherwise, the units (and their leader option) are available in the following boxes:
- Flagellants, 10 models including the Prophet for £20
- Freeguild Cavaliers, 5 models including the Arch-Knight for £40
- Freeguild Fusiliers, 10 models including the Fusil-Sergeant for £35
- Freeguild Steelhelm, 10 models including the Sergeant-At-Arms and the Battle Priest for £32.5
Tips on painting a Castelite Hosts Warband for Warcry
The best thing about a Cities of Sigmar warband is that there’s so much lore and configurable options for existing cities that you can basically take any of the existing colour schemas to fit your warband within that city, or create your own and say they are an outpost from anywhere in the Mortal Realms.
In the main boxes there’s already transfer sheets allowing you to use the heraldic symbols of the main cities and avoid free hand painting, but GW has also you covered with a series of videos dedicated to the main elements of those cities, for example Hammerhal Aqsha, Hammerhal Ghyra, Greywater Fastness, Settler’s Gain and Lethis to name few.