Thursday, October 3, 2019

REVIEW: Cities of Sigmar

One of the most anticipated Battletomes is finally here, the Cities of Sigmar! This gigantic tome combines all of the remaining units from the Grand Alliance Order book that are staying in AoS into one place all while expanding the lore on the cities of the Mortal Realms. The gaming options in here are staggering, so let's take a look!

I really, really love this cover. It's just so awesome and properly conveys how cool the Free Guild can be. It's also a nice companion to the Stormcast cover which has a similar pose and composition. I have to imagine that was done on purpose. The only critique of this art I have is that it would have been cool to see some of the non-human races included on it too. This would help convey how mixed the cities are. That's a really small gripe though and I honestly just think this is some awesome artwork.

The book opens up with an overview of what the Cities of Sigmar are. If you've been with the game for awhile and have following along with the lore then you'll probably be familiar with a lot of this. The current cities were founded after the closing of the Realmgate Wars. They were almost always centered around a Stormkeep and grew outward from there. The first cities were the Seeds of Hope in Ghyran; The Living City, Greywater Fastness, and the Phoenecium. Around the same time the largest city, Hammerhal, was raised in Aqshy and Ghyran. It actually spans the two realms, with the Stormrift Realmgate linking the twin cities. It also goes over who there used to be large cities and empires in the Age of Myth, but almost all of them were wiped out by the Chaos incursion. Other cities get some mentions in here, like Lethis and Excelsis, but this book really only focuses on the ones from the Seeds of Hope and Firestorm campaigns. That means we're only looking at Ghyran and Aqshy here.

After the general overview there's a timeline detailing some of the major events of the cities. Again, if you're familiar with the lore a lot of this will be familiar to you, but for newer players it's a treasure trove of details. Even for more veteran hobbyists it takes some familiar events and expands on them more.

The real meat of the lore section is when it delves into each of the seven major cities on their own. Both Hammerhal and the Living City get a full two page spread, while the others get a page each. There's lots of great stuff here. It takes the foundations that were laid in Firestorm and really expands on them. You get a good sense of each city as well as how they fight and live day to day. I think the real masterstroke here is including a short story for each city written by non-other than Josh Reynolds. Hammerhal, the Living City, and Hallowheart each get two pages, while all of the other cities get one. Each story shows you a little snippet of the city at war. I flipped to the Greywater Fastness story first, since that's my favorite city, but I think I actually liked the Hallowheart story the most. Seeing as how the Black Library authors have done so much to flesh out the smaller details of the Mortal Realms, with Reynolds having done the majority of that, it's nice seeing him included in an official Battletome.

After this we move onto what would normally be the unit entries. There are so many units here though that they wisely decided to break it down by faction instead. The Collegiate Arcane, Free Guild, Darkling Covens, and Order Serpentis all get a full two pages while everything else gets one page. There is a good amount of fleshing out here as well. For example, it hammers home how integral the Dispossessed are to the construction and maintenance of the cities, and how the Wanderers are now traversing the realms attempting the repair the damage done to the magical ley lines. My favorite is probably the Order Serpentis, which gets a really cool backstory. They used to be part of a massive empire in Ulgu called the Narkath empire, and every one of their knights rode a Black Dragon. They were every bit as cruel as the former Dark Elves were, but were tolerated by Sigmar due to their effectiveness in battle and the protection afforded to them by Malerion. When the Age of Chaos dawned however, their empire crumbled surprisingly fast. Most of the Order Serpentis decided to stand defiant and die in the face of Chaos, but a few more pragmatic aelves decided it was best to retreat to Azyr and fight another day. Now they're beastmasters supreme, and even create their own beasts, such as the Drakespawn. The majority of their knights now ride these beasts since most of the Black Dragons were killed with the fall of their empire. They now feign loyalty to Sigmar while they secretly strive to rebuild their empire of old. It's just so cool, and every faction gets a treatment like this. It's a great expansion from the paragraph or two they all had in the Grand Alliance Order book.

The painting section has some cool scenic photos, but the best part to me are the example models for each city. Generally, you'll see a human, aelf, and duardin in the colors of each city.

There's a paint guide section too which breaks down how to paint each city too. There are even some guides for freehanding the more complex city symbols like the Living City. In my opinion the Living City and Greywater Fastness have the coolest symbols.

Now onto the rules section. Every Cities of Sigmar army has a couple of allegiance abilities, regardless of what city they hail from. Amplified Sorceries allows any Endless Spells cast by a Cities wizard to have the Empowered ability on its warscroll that it usually only gains if its within a certain realm. This immediately make all of the generic Endless Spells a lot better. This applies to any wizard with the Cities of Sigmar keyword, not just Battle Wizards. You also have to pick a city for your army to be from, either Hammerhal, the Living City, Greywater Fastness, Phoenicium, Anvilguard, Hallowheart, or Tempest's Eye. You are also only allowed to pick realm artifacts from the realm your city is located in, which means it will only ever be either Aqshy or Ghyran. In the case of Hammerhal you can pick which of those two you want.

Honored Retinue allows generals with 6 or less wounds to pick a unit to essentially act as a bodyguard if they're close enough. If your general suffers any wounds they can bounce them to the bodyguard units on a 4+ instead. They can also pick an Adjutant, which is another hero. In your hero phase if they're close enough to your general then you get an additional command point on a 4+. Lastly, You can take Stormcast units as part of your army without them being allies. You can only have one Stormcast unit for every four Cities units, they then gain the Cities keyword. This means if you take a Knight-Incantor for instance they would gain the Amplified Sorceries ability too. I really like this rule since it make the cities feel like what's been described in the lore with most of them playing host to a Stormkeep.

Once we move on from there we go into each individual city, which gets its own additional battle traits, and three command traits, artifacts, and spells each. This means there are seven unique allegiances within Cities of Sigmar! This will be a ton to go over so I'll just kind of quickly go through it, focusing primarily on the battle traits. Hammerhal has Banners Held High, which has you roll a dice for each banner on your army, and on a six you gain a command point. You also get an extra command point in the first turn if Aventis is your general, so a few ways to gain command points there. You're immune to battleshock if you're wholly within your territory, but there's also a command ability that lets you pick a unit wholly within enemy territory at the end of the combat phase and have them fight again. So you're rewarded for playing both defensively and offensively. There are some good options amongst the artifacts and traits, including yet another way to get an additional command point. For the spells I like Cindercloud which makes the enemy -1 to hit against all friendly units wholly within 9" of the caster.

The Living City grants you the ability to take Sylvaneth units in the same way as Stormcast. I really like this since it lets you scratch the Sylvaneth itch if you like the models but don't want to do a whole army. You can also keep up to half of the army off the board and bring them in from the table edges in the movement phases. Their command ability lets you move a unit after it's shot, allowing you to move into range, then back up again to potentially stay out of charge range. Lots of movement abilities there, which is only fitting for a city that most closely aligns itself with the Wanderers. Each unit from the city can also heal one wound a turn, so taking some multi-wound models wouldn't be a bad idea. Spear of the Hunt is probably the standout artifact. It allows your hero to fight at the start of the combat phase if they charged before the normal sequence of activation. It also improves the weapon's rend by one.

Greywater Fastness is all about its guns, and as such can include one extra artillery piece in a pitched battle, as well as adding 3" onto all Ironweld missile weapons. Their Runelords also have an additional prayer that adds +1 to the hit roll for Ironweld Arsenal War Machines. They also have a command ability that adds +1 to hit rolls for handgunners or Irondrakes. This is my favorite city since I really like the Ironweld Arsenal units. You can get a whole lot of dakka out of this force. The Drillmaster command traits lets you re-roll ones to hit that are within range of the general. If you combine this with the Runelord Prayer and a Lord-Ordinator you can get Hellblaster guns to hit on a 2+ re-rolling ones. That's pretty reliable.

The Phoenicium gives several buffs to your Phoenixes, including an extra wound and a command ability that allows them to attack before they're removed as a casualty. They also have an ability that gives your models +1 to hit and wound if any Phoenicium units have been destroyed in the same phase. The Golden Mist spell lets you heal D3 wounds to all Phoenicium units wholly within a bubble of your general, making those Phoenixes even more durable if you group them up.

Anvilguard definitely has a Dark Elf feel to them. Their command ability allows you to kill a model near you to make all units wholly within a certain distance of your general immune to battleshock. You also get to pick one of three Illicit Dealings before the game starts, an additional artifact of power, an additional Drakeblood Curse, or an additional D3 command points. Oh yeah, one of your Hydras, Kharibdysses, or Dragons gets a trait called a Drakeblood curse. I like Jutting Bones which does D3 mortal wounds on the charge on a 2+. Basically impact hits. Vitriolic Spray is an amazing spell that goes off on an 8, but allows you to pick an enemy unit within 6" of the caster and it makes their save '-' until your next hero phase. This would be amazing on a Sorceress on Black Dragon. The other two spells are pretty good too.

Hallowheart is the most magical of the cities, with each unit being able to ignore the effects of a spell or endless spell on a 5+. Their wizards also get to cast one extra spell each turn. Their command ability lets you pick a friendly wizard and roll a dice. You take that many mortal wounds on the model, but all friendly wizards within range of him get to add that number to their casting rolls for the turn. You run the risk of killing your lower wound models, but some of the larger, mounted wizards should be fine doing it. To better reflect how attuned they are to all that's magical they also have six spells to pick from instead of just three. Wizards also know two of these spells instead of just one, and there's even an artifact that lets your wizard know all of the spells. Elemental Cyclone will be good for dealing with hordes, doing a mortal wound to all models in an enemy unit within range on a 4+. There's also a spell that lets you give a friendly unit +1 to wound. You can definitely make a magical powerhouse out of this city. They may even give Tzeentch and Nagash a run for their money.

The final city is Tempest's Eye, which is all about moving fast and flying where possible. All of their units can move an extra 3" in the first battle round, and add one to their save roll for that round too. They also add one to the run rolls for the entire game. Similar to the Living City they can take Kharadron Overlords units in the same way they take Sylvaneth. Their command ability allows a unit to shoot and run, which will come in hand since Pistoliers are battleline in a Tempest's Eye army. The Swift as the Wind command trait allows your general to run and charge, and they get to fight at the start of the combat phase! That's a pretty good ability.

After this lengthy Allegiance Abilities section we get a narrative battleplan that sees one of Sigmar's cities besieged. The Defender must get word of the siege out through enemy lines. It seems pretty fun and has you secretly pick three units to be the bearers of the message. You have to get them off a specific table edge to win. This is followed by the Path to Glory section, which is appropriately large for such a massive selection of units.

The warscrolls start out with the battalions. We get seven of these, one for each city. The Hammerhal one for example consists of a general on a Griffon and several units of demigryphs and gives you +1 to hit and wound rolls for units that charged if they're within range of the general, which is pretty good. I also really like the Greywater Fastness Battalion which is a Cogsmith and several Hellblasters and/or Helstorm Rockets. This lets the artillery shoot twice in the first turn if they're within range of the Cogsmith. Each battalions focuses on the units that are representative of that city, so Wanderers for the Living City, Privateers for Anvilguard, and so on.

Now I'm not going to even try and cover all of the units in this book. There are a grand total of 54 unique warscolls in this Battletome. Anything that was in the Grand Alliance Order book that hasn't gotten its own Battletome is here with the exception of the units that went Last Chance to Buy after this book was announced. Of the previous factions the Free Guild, Collegiate Arcane, Ironweld Arsenal, Darkling Covens, Order Serpentis, Wanderers, Shadowblades, Scourge Privateers, Phoenix Temple, and Dispossessed are all in here, minus a couple of units here and there. The scope to build interesting and unique armies with this book is staggering. With seven allegiance ability sets to pick from and 54 warscrolls to apply them to you could very well make army lists from this for the rest of your life and still come up with something new each time. The heroes still generally only buff their own faction with command abilities, so a Free Guild hero only buffs and interacts with Free Guild units for example, but there's nothing stopping you from mixing and matching factions. Every warscroll here has been changed in some way from what their rules were previously, so I definitely recommend you go check them all out in the App if you're interested. There are a ton of "Battleline If" options in here. Almost all of the Wanderer options become battleline if your general is Wanderer for example. This will really let you theme your army around a specific faction if you want. This is a huge boon to veteran gamers who came over from the world-that-was and probably have large existing collections. There are some really cool battleline if options too, like Steam Tanks if you have a Steam Tank Commander as your general, or Hydras and Kharibdyss' if you're Anvilguard.

This is a really exciting book to me. I love how much it fleshes out the cities within the mortal realms and the more "normal" armies that fight for Order. The inclusion of short stories by Josh "Age of" Reynolds for each city was brilliant. The opportunities in here for gaming and army building are insane as well. All you have to do is look at Chris Peach's army to see the potential. You could convert and customize so many things within here. I would honestly probably recommend this book to most AoS fans. The cities are such an important part of the lore for the setting, and I would be surprised if you couldn't find something in this book that excited you for a painting or army project. I already have several ideas bouncing around. I'm most excited about doing an Ironweld Arsenal heavy army based out of Greywater Fastness, but I could see myself doing an Order Serpentis army from Anvilguard or even a more mixed army from one of the Shyishian cities and just pick an allegiance ability set that fits them. If there's one thing I wanted from this book that I didn't get it would've been to get rules for some of the other famous cities like Lethis, Glymmsforge, and Excelsis. It's a small gripe though, and like I said, you can easily represent them using the rules that are here.

Until next time,

Tyler M

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