Navigating the Realms: Sigmar’s Cities

The long awaited Cities of Sigmar battletome has finally dropped and it includes warscroll and point updates along with all new allegiance abilities for the seven featured free cities. It is not all good news, however, as many Human, Duardin, and Aelf warscrolls did not make the transition into the new book (but we won’t dwell on that).

All of the cities receive a couple of general abilities, which range from very good to useful. For starters, all endless spells cast by Cities of Sigmar wizards are automatically empowered (extended range and/or effectiveness), regardless of the realm in which your game is being played (very good). Secondly, your Cities general  (as long as it has a wounds characteristic of six or less) can pass off wounds to a selected unit on a 4+ (good). You may also choose a second hero (also must have a wounds characteristic of six or less) to be an adjutant, if the adjutant is near your general in the hero phase you gain a command point on a 4+ (useful). Finally, one in every four units in your list may be chosen from the Stormcast Eternal faction (these units gain the Cities allegiance abilities, and do not count as allies).

A lot of the early hype, at least on the competitive side of things, has revolved around Hallowheart. With multiple ways to buff casting rolls and access to a battalion that maximizes the value of cheap wizards, Hallowheart will be able to complete with, or even outperform, the best casting factions in the game (Tzeentch, Skaven, Legions of Nagash, etc.). I fully expect many endless spell spam Hallowheart armies that take advantage of easy access to buffed up multi-cast wizards to start popping up at tournaments in short order.

An additional obvious winner is Greywater Fastness. It is another city that leverages what it is good at by buffing shooting (specifically artillery units, but infantry shooting also receives some nice bonuses), and takes it to another level by including an excellent battalion that only requires units you would already take in a shooting list (Helstorm Rockets, Helblaster Volley Guns, and Cogsmiths). I think for its points, the Volley Gun is the way forward for Greywater. Being able to take an additional artillery option in the army (five total) and shoot twice (with 3″ extended rage) on the first turn can erase large chunks of enemy models (potentially 27 d6 shots turn one with -1 rend and various buffs that see them hitting on a 2+ rerolling ones).

The weakness of the Volley Gun is the 24″ range (extended to 27″ turn one), but this can be mitigated by including something like the Soulscream Bridge in your list (which is automatically empowered to 24″ thanks to another of the Cities of Sigmar allegiance abilities).

Another city that I think brings a lot to the table, and the one that I want to focus on, is The Living City. In addition to the standard allegiance abilities, a Living City army gains some nifty rules, command traits, artefacts, and spells.

One in every four units in a Living City army can be Sylvaneth units (this is in addition to any Stormcast units added). Along with that, half of your units may be set up in reserve and deploy within 6″ of any table edge and more than 9″ from enemy units at the end of your movement phase (must be set up before the fourth battle round). All Living City units also heal a wound in each of your hero phases. As a sort of drawback, Living City armies must hail from Ghyran (realm of life).

Those rules are all pretty good, but I think it is the unique command ability that really opens a lot of options up for Living City lists. The command ability allows a unit to move in the shooting phase after it has shot (the unit must be wholly within 18″ of a Living City hero and more than 9″ from enemy units). At first glance this seems like a good way to move high value shooting units a little further from harms way, but I think it is a good way to throw a melee unit into the fray after it drops onto the board from reserve. The key to this combo will be finding the best melee unit that also has a shooting attack (bonus points if you make it a hero equipped with the Living City relic that allows the bearer to fight at the beginning of the combat phase).

My first go at a Living City List is as follows:

Realm of Battle – Ghyran (Required)

Stronghold – Living City (For the abilities listed above)

Extra Command Point – Yes (To allow the use of two command abilities turn one)

Leaders –

  • Freeguild General (For command ability to give Handgunners +1 to hit and wound)
  • Freeguild General on Griffon; General (Fast flying melee character to threaten all areas of the board and tanky enough to be useful in missions where only heroes can claim objectives)
    • Artefact – Spear of the Hunt (-1 rend on a melee weapon and allows bearer to fight first)
    • Command Trait – Ironoak Artisan (+1 save and +1 to wound)

Battleline –

  • 30 Freeguild Guard (Cheap battleline)
  • 30 Freeguild Handgunners (Teleport onto board buffed by foot general to clear screens or threaten important units/characters with volume of shots)
  • 6 Demigryph Knights (Support for Griffon, fast melee, 24 wounds with a 3+ save)

Other Units –

  • 6 Stormcast Desolators (Teleport onto board and take advantage of move after shooting command ability to threaten enemy backfield)

This list itself is pretty straightforward. The Griffon, Demigryphs, and Freeguild Guard start on the board, while the General on foot, Handgunners, and Desolators all start in reserve. At six drops I won’t be guaranteed first turn in every matchup, but there will still be quite a few where I get to dictate.

The idea is to use the Freeguild Guard to hold the backfield while the Griffon and Demigrphys move forward and threaten any enemy units that are deployed too far forward or move onto objectives. The Handgunners and General will drop in and, hopefully, clear a path for the Desolators to move through to get into the opponents important backfield units. Deployment of the Desolators will be crucial, as they must be wholly within 18″ of one of the heroes to make use of the command ability. It must also be noted that for the Desolators to move in the shooting phase, they have to shoot first. It is probably necessary to shoot with them before the handgunners, or a shrewd opponent will move models out of range of the 12″ shooting attack of the Desolators to prevent the additional move.

The hammer units in the army all have at least a 3+ save, so there is some staying power. There are also enough threatening melee units that an opponent might feel the need to throw attacks into them instead of the easier to kill Handgunners. (Hopefully most of their shooting units will be tied up in melee, and are therefore forced to shoot the more difficult to kill units or retreat.) This should allow multiple turns of Handgunner shooting.

Some weaknesses of the list include model count (always important in an objective game), no ability to cast or unbind spells, and no defense against mortal wounds. These weaknesses can hopefully be mitigated with a devastating alpha or beta strike. Another big weakness is only having two heroes, so the hero objective missions will be difficult.

I really wanted to make use of the Sylvaneth angle (as I have a large collection) but I just didn’t think any of the units added anything additional to the list. I considered Durthu, Alarielle, and Drycha for the role of teleporting melee unit (they all have shooting attacks) but they all come with inherent weaknesses. Alarielle and Drycha are not able to take artefacts (If I use a character in that spot I want them to be able to fight first) and I don’t think Durthu has enough attacks outside of a Sylvaneth army. Overall I think that the Desolators are a better fit. They have enough wounds and a good enough save, that with good positioning on the charge they should survive against opponents that can fight first.

I do think that Hallowheart is probably the best of the Free Cities, but I think that there are competitive lists to be found within The Living City, and likely all of the cities. I can’t wait to take the book for a real spin soon.

Which city and combos are you looking forward to trying out? Let me know below.

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About Matt S

Matt is a Midwest based gamer that dabbles in many systems (most often 40K, AoS, and Infinity). He enjoys attending and organizing events and travels to as many tournaments as time allows.

5 Responses to “Navigating the Realms: Sigmar’s Cities”

  1. jared swenson October 10, 2019 5:49 am #

    I will definitely be using Greywater Fastness because I have a lot of ‘mecha’ in my army, and fluffwise, even rules wise, that seemed to fit the best. The book is great, but the only thing I am disappointed in is there really is no option to do your own cities. I get you can treat things like Successor Chapters for space marines, but the issue is all the cities come from either Aqshy or Ghyran. I have long fluffed my city to be from Chamon, and the rules can’t support that at all. It’s just something I am finding a little annoying. My army has its own flag and heraldry and colors, but I will be declaring to my opponent it is using the Greywater Fastness rules.

    • Matt S October 10, 2019 3:50 pm #

      Greywater Fastness is really good, so I’m sure you will have a great time playing the army (you will also probably win a lot of games). It would be cool to be able to build your own city, but I don’t think there has been a precedent set within the AoS ruleset to do anything like that just yet.

  2. Reecius October 10, 2019 7:16 am #

    Great review! I have really been enjoying my Greywater Fastness army but want to try out some of the other options, too. Such a good army book although I am very sad about how many units got Squatted. Thankfully we can “counts as” the old units but it stinks to think they’re gone.

    • Matt S October 10, 2019 3:47 pm #

      Greywater does seem really fun, I’m just not sure I want go round up five Volley Guns only to see their points go up next summer. I am also very intrigued by Gyrocopters and Gyrobombers.

      • Reecius October 10, 2019 5:01 pm #

        I still think the Helstorms are where it’s at, honestly. The extra range is amazing.

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