Cities of Sigmar are one of the more interesting factions in Age of Sigmar. A mash up of a lot of old Warhammer Fantasy Models that were originally across 5 or so old armies, depending on how you’re counting, combined into something entirely new. In the lore the mix of races is justified as a diaspora of different races putting aside their differences to fight back against Chaos and whatever other dangers might be out there. While the animosity between races still exists, its a real wonder what a flesh eating daemon can do to help people set aside old grudges.
Now they are branching out and colonizing all of the realms under the banner of Sigmar. Such an action is going to provoke enemies and you better be ready to stand agains them. Will you answer the call?
3.0 did well for Cities, for the most part. They did lose their ability to treat endless spells as being cast in the realm they came from which was an unfortunate setback from some spells like Umbral Spellportal, but the change to +1 to casting Endless Spells is a fair tradeoff.. Similarly, with the abolition of realms your mandatory realm rule is still technically in play but doesn’t do anything anymore. That’s fine, it was more of a debuff anyway. However, many of the other rule changes were beneficial to you.
Heroic Actions will be great to you, Cities of Sigmar can be very CP hungry so the ability to grant your Heroes a free CP each turn can be clutch, as well as Heroic Recovery keeping some of your more delicate heroes from being shot off the board. The combat superstars you have love Finest Hour of course, as any army does.
The new command traits really help some units shine as well. All Out Attack and All Out Defense are really felt in Cities of Sigmar. While any army that can use these appreciates the buff, many of Cities infantry is about mass units so you really feel it when that +1 to hit comes out with 40 shots, or +1 defense on your Phoenix Guard. You’re also one of the best beneficiaries of Unleash Hell. You don’t have to play all ranged but you’d be missing out on some of the best ranged units in the game. In short, you got all the tools added to your toolbox you really wanted and you’ll be able to use them to great effect.
Cities of Sigmar has one of the largest stable of core units (not counting allies and coalitions) second only to Stormcast Eternals. It has a lot of good picks too, it can get overwhelming at times. This gives you unprecedented flexibility in designing your list to suit your playstyle. That said, there are a few “all stars” who make it into almost every list so we’ll cover those here but do not limit yourself to them.
For choosing leaders, often “same race” pairings are key. Cities of Sigmar is best played as a mixed race faction (although some have had great success playing say, all Empire or all Dwarves) as each offers something different to the group. Typically, each leader tends to make their “own guys” better.
As an example, the Runelord is a popular choice for Duardin because his prayers affect Dispossed (the factions keyword for Duardin) and so you absolutely want to bring that guy if you want to use Irondrake or Hammerers. Which you should, they’re awesome! The Irondrakes are one of the best ranged units in the faction, hitting from a fairly comfortable 16″ away and double their attacks when standing still. Put them on an objective and add some chaff to guard them and watch your opponent pick stuff up before they even get close.
On that defensive front, shockingly you want to look to the Aelves. Phoenix Guard are one of the best units in the faction and a blob of 20-30 are a staple in almost every Cities list. Their 2″ spears mean a large blob isn’t wasted and attacking them directly can be a risky proposition. They get a 4+ save with a 4+ ward, and its not too hard to make that a 3+ save with Mystic Shield and/or All Out Defense. Your opponent will need to commit a lot of rend to even dent these guys. Even if they chip a few down, you can ignore battleshock with the help of an Anointed on Frostfire or Flamespyre Phoenix. Which you choose is up to personal taste, though the Frostheart is a bit more tanky and boy is this thing tanky. 4+ save and 4+ ward yet again and it’s a Monster, giving you those wonderful Monstrous rampages. Definitely want one of these watching over your guard.
Finally, looking at humans, Freeguild are really stellar in almost every stripe: Pistoleers, Crossbowmen, Greatswords, Guard and Handgunners all do an admirable job at whatever their role is. Take these guys to fill in any gaps you feel you may have in your list as they tend to be above average for the faction and work well in large groups.
Rounding things off, some other good picks regardless of makeup are the Battlemage, Sorceress and Celestial Hurricanum. Battlemage especially is cheap and has gained newfound versatility in being able to use the realm spells that were abolished in 3.0. Your army has some very good spellcasting, especially in Hallowheart but it’s a staple for any of the subfactions. Take your fair share of wizards, because Mystic Shield at the bare minimum isn’t nothing.
We didn’t even begin to cover the breadth of allies and coalitions you got. You got the entire Stormcast repertoire at your fingertips if you need something bulky, and some armies like Living City can ally in even more options. It’s absolutely overwhelming but don’t be afraid to use it to get some heavy hitting Monsters in there, one of the few things you don’t have a huge stable to pick from.
How to Play
As discussed in the unit section it’s impossible to give a one size fits all assessment to Cities of Sigmar. Which city you pick and your unit composition is going to radically change how you play. You want magic heavy? Shooting? Melee? Combined arms? It’s all here if you find the right synergies to make it work.
And that’s probably the most important piece to Cities of Sigmar: Synergy. With the few broad strokes we can make about the faction, most of your army is mass infantry. You win by by numbers and many of your units have some great unit abilities but subpar stats. They often will not be very effective on their own and collapse to focused attacks if you dont keep them buffed up. As a result Cities of Sigmar tends to favor a “castle” playstyle where you keep your core Heroes and softer ranged guys in the center while the tougher guys go on the outside. The Heroes can keep the units buffed while remaining safely guarded.
This isn’t to say you have to play that way. Again, it’s difficult to draw such broad generalities around a flexible army such as this but one has to start somewhere. The city you choose will have a major impact on what units are best and can be used as a bit of a guide. Cities of Sigmar probably have the most competitively valid options for subfactions, as well. They all sort of nudge you in one of the possible directions you can go with list building and each come with their own command traits, artefacts and spells. It’s an absolutely insane amount of variety out of one book and if you’re someone who finds they like to jump around on armies a lot Cities may just be for you. You can get some radically different playstyles from just swapping subfactions.
One of the top picks is still Hallowheart the magic focused subfaction. You get 6 spells compared to every one else’s 3, and everyone knows 2 spells from it. It’s a good lore too, a solid mix of buffs, damage and healing. If you like throwing fireballs it’s one of the best factions in the game to do that, only truly rivaled by Tzeentch and Lumineth. Tempest Eye is another popular pick as ranged attacks have gotten a lot more popular with Unleash Hell being an option. You can load up on so many missle weapons your opponent needs to think very tactically about how to approach. One other option is Living City which has gained a bit of a resurgence as Sylvaneth monsters are actually quite good now with monstrous rampages being a core part of the game. You don’t have many Monsters in your stock repertoire and the amount of healing you generate can help keep everyone alive.
Ultimately you have to decide how you want to play. It may feel like I’m using a lot of words to say nothing but that’s because when there’s so many viable choices you need to decide what playstyle is most exciting to you. Check the cities, see what looks exciting and examine units that augment the playstyle. No two cities will look alike.
I decided to go with a Tempest Eye list because I think of all the options it gives the best idea of one of the major strengths of Cities of Sigmar: Mass shooting infantry.
Allegiance: Cities of Sigmar - City: Tempest's Eye - Mortal Realm: Aqshy - Grand Strategy: Prized Sorcery - Triumphs: Inspired Leaders Anointed on Frostheart Phoenix (315)* - Artefact: Arcane Tome (Universal Artefact) - Lore of Eagles: Aura of Glory Runelord (100)* - General - Command Trait: Hawk-eyed - Artefact: Seerstone Amulet - Universal Prayer Scripture: Curse Battlemage (115)* - City Role: General's Adjutant - Mortal Realm: Aqshy - Lore of Eagles: Celestial Visions Battleline 30 x Irondrakes (480)* - City Role: Honoured Retinue (Must be 5-20 models) - Reinforced x 2 20 x Hammerers (290)* - Reinforced x 1 10 x Hammerers (145)* 10 x Hammerers (145) Units 20 x Phoenix Guard (350) - Reinforced x 1 Endless Spells & Invocations Emerald Lifeswarm (60) Core Battalions *Warlord Additional Enhancements Artefact Total: 2000 / 2000 Reinforced Units: 4 / 4 Allies: 0 / 400 Wounds: 112 Drops: 8
With a Duardin General we get to take Dispossessed as Battleline so lets go all in on that. We’ll put or max squad of Irondrakes in the back with our General and Battlemage, The Phoenix Guard stay up front to guard everyone else and your Hammerers…hammer! With some clever maneuvering we can get some key buffs from our Heroes to protect them. By making the Annointed a Wizard with the artefact they can get Aura of Glory, improving attacks for themselves and the Phoenix Guard. With the Command Trait for our General and the Spell for our Battlemage we can get 2 additional CP a turn to fuel your “All Out” machine.
Is it perfect? No. There’s a lot of ways to approach the list, but it’s a good start. Where you go is what kind of list you want to see on the field and more than any other faction you can adjust to taste to find a combination that works for you. Good luck in your reclaiming of the realms, you’ll need it!
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