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.
The warband, that had a whopping 60+ fighter profiles has seen many profiles being removed with some new addition, 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 Darkling Covens 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.
The aelves live in secluded areas within the city from where they can 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.
But how swift are the Darkling Covens? Let’s find out.
Fighters in the Darkling Covens 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 Darkling Covens warband is made of 19 different fighters, of which 10 are the leaders.
Sorceress: 125 points
The Sorceress is the main leader of a Darkling Coven, maintaining her leadership role with a mixture of mind control, power and charisma. She is a wizard, so equipped with the usual 3-7″ attack for 3/6 damage at Strength 3 but with low Toughness (3). Her melee attack, however, has 2″ range and allows to keep some distance even in close quarters.
To use her ability, a powerful Quad that does 3 damage on a 2+ for each dice rolled, you need to get up close (3″), but can be really worth. You roll as many dice as the ability’s value, for a potential maximum of 18 damage, and in addition you halve the Toughness of the targeted enemy (rounding up, so a Toughness 5 would become 3). With an average Strength of 3 within the warband, reducing a tough opponent defences can help out considerably.
To ensure her survival, we recommend some Black Guards that block the path of melee fighters.
Black Ark Fleetmaster: 135 points
The Black Ark Fleetmaster shares the same low Toughness (3) and high movement (5″) with most of the warband but provides a great attack profile with 4 attacks at Strength 4 for 2/4 damage.
His main ability works only on the first battle round where, for a Double, his profile is buffed to 7″ Movement and 5 attacks for the entire round.
The reaction that is shared across all other Darkling Covens, has a chance (3+ on a single dice roll) to allocate D6 damage from an enemy disengaging from him.
Assassin: 165 points
Unfortunately the Assassin does not have any cool ability but he adds 1″ Movement and 2 attack to the Black Ark Fleetmaster making him even more dangerous all game around.
- Lordling: 95 points
- Dreadspear: 55 points
- Bleaksword: 55 points
The Lordling is the leader option of both the Dreadspear and the Bleaksword and is the first profile to see Toughness increased to 4, same as the other 2 non-hero profiles. With a decent attack profile (2/4 damage but at Strength 3) is not a bad fighter, but not an exciting leader hero. His ability allows all Dreadspear and Bleaksword within 3″ to increase their Toughness to 6 for the rest of the battle round, but with a so limited range, it’s not that great an ability in most situations.
The Bleaksword has the most balanced profile with 3 attacks for 1/3 damage, while the Dreadspear increases its range to 2″ and damage on critical hit to 4, at the cost of 1 attack less. Both are the cheapest unit in the army, so a great list filler.
- Draich Master: 135 points
- Executioner: 90 points
The Executioners are the more elite infantry unit with 4 attacks at 2/4 damage, one of the highest Toughness in this warband (4) and an ability that for a Double adds half the value of the ability to the damage on critical hits from melee attacks. Forgetful.
The Draich Master is their leader option with Strength increased to 4.
- Guardmaster: 100 points
- Darkshard: 80 points
The Darkshards are the basic shooting unit, with crossbows that can reach 12″ range for 1/3 damage at Strength 3. Their melee attack is nothing noteworthy, but the missile attacks make them worth considering, especially because their ability, for a Triple, increments by half the ability’s value for their next shooting attack (so a Triple 6 grants them 5 attacks, or 6 to the leader).
The Guardmaster is the leader option, with 1 extra attack (3, both ranged and melee), more wounds (but same Toughness 3), and an extra damage on critical hit in melee.
- Captain of the Black Guard: 120 points
- Black Guard: 85 points
The Black Guard are the defensive infantry line with Toughness 4 and a 2″ range melee weapon that allows to attack without being engaged. When next to a Sorceress, for a Double they can ignore 2 damage per hit (to a minimum of 1) that guarantees them more chances of survival against the biggest hitters.
Works only when close to a Sorceress, but they are worth considering even just for the 2″ range, despite having 1 attack less than the Executioner.
Their leader option, the Captain of the Black Guard, has less Strength (3) than the Draich Master, but his 2″ range weapon makes him a valid alternative as a leader.
- Dread Knight: 200 points
- Drakespawn Knight: 165 points
The Drakespawn Knights are the heavy cavalry, with 20 wounds, Toughness 5 and 8″ movement. They have the same 2″ melee range than the Black Guard but more attacks (4 at Strength 3 for 2/4 damage) making them an excellent addition to any army.
They are mounted, so they have some limitations when fighting urban warfare (can’t go through archways or open doors) but they can do some damage after charge: for a Triple, they can do as much damage as the ability’s value when ending a movement within 1″ of the target. This ability will need to be accurately balanced with the 2″ range weapon, so that you don’t get them stuck in fights losing their high movement versatility.
The Dread Knight is their leader option and has only 1″ range melee weapon, but with 5 attacks.
- Dark Rider Herald: 180 points
- Dark Rider: 150 points
The Dark Riders represent instead the light cavalry, with high wounds but Toughness going back to 4. They add a 12″ range shooting attack for 1/3 damage that classifies them as skirmishers, although their best damage is in their 2″ melee attacks (4 at Strength 3 for 1/4 damage).
Their signature ability allows a free disengage action at the cost of a Double.
Their leader option, the Dark Rider Herald has 1 more shooting attack (3) and a bit more damage in melee (2/4). For a potential error, instead of having the free disengage action, shares the same runemark as the Darkshards that increases his missile attack value, but should be rectified in the next Errata.
Black Ark Corsairs
- Black Ark Reaver: 100 points
- Black Ark Corsair with Vicious Blade and Wicked Cutlass: 60 points
- Black Ark Corsair with Vicious Blade and Repeater Handbow: 65 points
The last profile represents the Black Ark Corsairs. They all have the same Double that adds +2″ to the movement and +1 melee attack, but can be used only on the first battle round, Toughness 3 and 5″ movement, but 3 different weapon profiles:
- The Black Ark Corsair with Vicious Blade and Wicked Cutlass is the basic infantry profile with 4 attacks for 1/3 damage.
- The Black Ark Corsair with Vicious Blade and Repeater Handbow loses 1 melee attack to add an 8″ range missile profile for 1/2 damage at Strength 3 that can be useful if you have many of them.
- The Black Ark Reaver, however, is their leader option, with 2/4 damage compared to the melee Corsair but also 1 Strength and 6 wounds less than a Fleetmaster making the latter a better option for a leader.
Abilities for the Darkling Covens Warband
- Merciless Raiders (Double, all Black Ark fighters, including Fleetmaster, Reaver and Corsairs): Add +2″ to the movement and +1 to the melee attacks, but only on the first round.
- Executioner’s Strike (Double, Draich Master and Executioner): Add up to +3 to the damage on critical hits from melee attacks.
- Swift Disengage (Double, Dark Rider): Perform a bonus disengage action.
- Steel and Sorcery (Double, Captain of the Black Guard and Black Guard): Subtract 2 (to a minimum of 1) from damage received while within 3″ of a Sorceress.
- Form Shieldwall (Double, Lordling): +2 Toughness to close-by Dreadspear or Bleaksword fighters.
- Cavalry Charge (Triple, Dread Knight and Drakespawn Knight): At the end of the next move action allocate up to 6 damage to an engaged enemy fighter.
- Volley of Shots (Triple, Guardmaster, Darkshard, Dark Rider Herald): Up to +3 attacks to the next missile attack action (Dark Rider Herald probably an error).
- Vitriolic Spray (Quad, Sorceress): Up to 18 damage to a close-by enemy fighter and halves his Toughness until the end of the battle round.
Reaction for the Darkling Covens 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:
Cut-throat Strike (Everyone)
- When: a visible enemy within 1″ declares a disengage action.
- What: On a roll of 3+ allocate D6 damage to that enemy fighter.
Strategy and Tactics for the Darkling Covens Warband
The Darkling Covens are the left-overs of the Dark Elves still within Cities of Sigmar. As such, they are all models 10+ years old. If you had a Cities of Sigmar army before the latest release, and your main focus was the pirate and darkest side of it, chances are you already have a base for a Warcry warband.
Otherwise it will require hunting through different boxes of units that should also return valid for the Old World upcoming game set in the Warhammer Fantasy setting.
In Warcry, the Darkling are a fast warband (on foot 5″ and mounted 8″ movement), on the fragile side (Toughness 3, except the armoured infantry at 4 and the Drakespawn Knights at 5). They have few ranged options, but a maximum range of 12″ and not the most damaging options either.
Their heaviest hitters are the one with better armour, except the Assassin, a good leader with a great attack profile but extremely slim chances to survive. So, their main tactic is quite clear: swarm the battlefield, get fast in position, harass the enemy from safe distance, and obtain as many objectives as possible.
In order to achieve all of that, speed and numbers are not enough, you need also good abilities. And we start from the warband reaction, the only one shared by all fighters: an attack of opportunity against an enemy disengaging. It activates on a 3+ and does D6 damage, that can be quite interesting to discourage disengaging and running away, but on the other side, most fighters have Toughness and Strength 3, so an opponent would need to be extremely desperate to be forced to disengage.
A mobile warband needs also movement tricks, so let’s look at their relevant abilities. The Black Ark fighters on the first battle round for a Double can add +2″ movement AND +1 to their melee attacks. That is good, and cheap, but then the remaining of the battle they don’t have any other ability except the universal ones like Rush for an extra 1″ of movement or Onslaught for an extra attack (both Doubles).
The Dark Riders can disengage at the cost of a Double. That can be good to get in a better position or avoid being pinned down on your fastest unit. Funny enough, their leader, most likely because of a printing error, does not have access to this ability.
And that’s all there is, the other abilities being mostly defensive: the Black Guard can reduce incoming damage but need to be close to a Sorceress that needs to be close to the front line for maximum efficiency. The Dreadspear and the Bleaksword can increase Toughness and block a door or a pass from melee enemy fighters, however they need a Lordling close-by to issue the Double.
That leaves the offensive abilities, that should help with the overall low Strength of the army. The Executioner’s Double is not even worth discussing. The Drakespawn Knight’s Triple is great if you have a high Triple and you have yet to engage an enemy but still would do at most 6 damage. The Darkshards Triple adds more attacks but we are still talking about a Strength 3 1/3 damage series of attacks…
Even the most offensive spell, the one that can change the tide of the match, has a big drawback. The Sorceress’ Quad can do up to 18 damage AND halve an enemy Toughness so that the rest of the warband can finish off the toughest enemies. However, it has a 3″ range from a fighter with 18 wounds and Toughness 3, that cannot be protected by anything except a literal wall of Dreadspear/Black Guard and hope your opponent does not have 2″ range melee weapons or any missile attack.
In summary, everything in the warband seems underpowered. Playing Darkling Covens would often look like playing in hard mode, and that can be satisfying for experienced players, but, between the age of the models, their availability, and overall rules, they are definitely not recommended for beginners.
Pros and Cons of the Darkling Covens Warband
+ Good fighter profiles variety
– Low Toughness and Strength
– Banal abilities
Some thematic warbands for the Darkling Covens
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.
From a single box: 1 Lordling, 4 Dreadspear, 5 Bleaksword, 5 Darkshards.
Darkling Power: 1 Dread Knight as leader, 1 Sorceress as support hero, 3 Black Guard, 1 Executioner, 2 Darkshard, 3 Bleaksword/Dreadspear. For a more thematic warband the Sorceress could be the Leader and the Knight the support hero.
How to buy a Darkling Covens Warband
The Darkling Covens are part of the Cities of Sigmar range, in particular the aelvish 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 individual blisters that provide you hero options are:
- Assassin for £17
- Black Ark Fleetmaster currently unavailable
- Sorceress for £12
Otherwise, the units (and their leader option) are available in the following boxes:
- Black Ark Corsairs, 10 models including the Black Reaver for £20
- Executioners, 10 models including the Draich Master for £35. The Black Guard comes from the same kit.
- Dreadspears, 10 models including the Lordling for £25. Bleakswords and Darkshards come from the same kit, so a single box can give you a bit of variety.
- Dark Riders, 5 models including the Dark Rider Herald for £27.5
- Drakespawn Knights, 5 models including the Dread Knight for £22.5
Tips on painting a Darkling Covens Warband for Warcry
As mentioned above, Darkling Covens come from the Dark Elves range 10+ years old, so there’s plenty of video tutorials for that army, but not many recent. The closest thing Games Workshop released not long ago is a colour scheme for Har Kuron armies, that are those aelves from Anvilgard that rebelled against the Stormcast and gave the city to Morathi.
Doctor Faust proposes non-Citadel colours, with drybrush and ink colours that can easily be replaced with modern colours if you prefer. As a bonus there’s how to paint over a decal, especially on banners.
Adrien Leloup shows how to paint a Sorceress, while Duncan shows a way to paint the cloaks of Black Ark Corsairs. Finally, if you don’t want the pale skin but something more purplish, Vince Venturella tutorial for Drow skin could be what you are looking for.