Age of Sigmar Review: Cities of Sigmar

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It’s been a long and tumultuous road but finally, The Empire has risen again with an actual battletome in Age of Sigmar. The short version is that Cities of Sigmar is a combination of most of the Empire (called Free Guilds in AoS), Dwarves (Dispossessed), Dark Elves (Darkling Covens and Scourge Privateers) and a sprinkle of High Elf (Phoenix Temple) and Wood Elf (Wanderers) to taste. The longer version is a bit more complicated.

After The End Times, Warhammer Fantasy models remained in play but there were no factions, so many units ended up in a disorganized mess. Order was probably the Grand Alliance most rife with this, with what used to be so many different and ideologically opposed races now being clumped under the same banner. As time went on GW started to give support for subfactions but they tended to focus on their new stuff for battletomes, especially in Order. Stormcast and Sylvaneth were getting support but the old Warhammer Fantasy models collected dust. Eventually they did get some “get you by” rules in the General’s Handbook to help shape their identity some what. Empire/Free Guilds put up decent numbers in some local scenes but they weren’t exactly winning tournaments or anything. 

From a fluff perspective it also meant these races didn’t really exist, they were in the background somewhere. Age of Sigmar has an epic larger-than-life heroes feel to it and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Now, they are colonizers trying to restore the world they lost when Chaos and Nagash duked it out and ruined everything. Where Stormcast are Space Marines, the vanguard fighting to reclaim territory lost, Cities of Sigmar are the Imperial Guard: the last few mortal men and women fighting and dying to protect their homes once the super men have moved on. It’s a faction Age of Sigmar was horribly lacking – normal dudes trying to survive in a hostile world.

As a point of contention for some, the Cities of Sigmar book has finally collected these miscellaneous factions together though not before squatting quite a few models first, even some that were beloved by fans. There was also a lot of concern that “souping” these factions together would remove their identity, and people who previously played pure factions were being cheated without soup. Are these concerns founded? Let’s find out. If you don’t care about the nitty gritty of the contents, just skip to the closing thoughts.

Wanderers

Wanderers. Credit: richyp

The Army

As stated above, Cities of Sigmar takes much of the “traditional” fantasy races of Warhammer Fantasy and puts them together into one book. These armies had support in the General’s Handbook 2018 and 2019 but they didn’t get full support (i.e. artefacts, spells and general traits) until now. This means the book has an absolutely staggering number of units, with the result that if you choose to embrace its more soupy nature you will never find yourself lacking for options to pick. It’s because of this I won’t be covering every unit; there’s just too many. Some cities do favor a particular focus, so I will draw attention to those when I think it’s relevant. There were no new units released with the book, not even a terrain piece or endless spells which is odd given the current trend.

In addition to the actual units there are 7 different Free Cities you can pick from, each with their own army abilities, relics and spells. You are required to choose one of these cities, and you cannot mix and match.

Empire Steam Tank

Also you can make this thing Battleline, for some reason. Credit: SRM

Army Abilities

These army abilities apply to all free cities in addition to the rules unique to their city of origin. There are no relics, spells or warlord traits in the army abilities because you have to pick a city and they’re all contained in those entries.

 

  • Strongholds of Order: This basically says you are required to pick a city rather than it being an optional choice like some battletomes. You add that city as a keyword and gain all the benefits of that city. If a character has a city already in their datasheet, they can be added to your list even if the city doesn’t match but gain no benefits, either from their city or the one your list consists of. This is unusual because this kind of thing usually only applies to named characters and the army has no units like this, so it’s probably a future proofing measure.
  • Amplified Sorcery: Some Endless spells are more powerful when the Realms of Battle rules put you inside their respective realms. Usually this means their range is increased or the movement of a predatory spell is enhanced. An example of this is the Umbral Spellportal, which in Ulgu can be placed anywhere on the field instead of 18” apart. This rule means you get the “enhanced” version of the spell no matter where the battle is taking place. While Cities of Sigmar may not have gotten any new endless spells they can certainly make the most of what they have access to.
  • Warriors of the Realms: This is actually a restriction more than an ability. If you use the relics from Malign Sorcery you can usually declare which realm your army is from, but armies from this book are locked in based on their choice of city. All Cities of Sigmar are from either Aqshy or Ghyran, except for Hammerhal which can be from either.
  • Honoured Retinue and The General’s Adjutant: These are separate abilities that go together, they both apply if your general has 6 wounds or less. Honored Retinue lets you nominate a unit with 5-20 models to be your General’s protectors, giving them a 4+ look out sir! Roll to push a successful wound off onto them instead of the general. General’s Adjutant allows you to nominate another model with 6 wounds or less to be his advisor. At the start of your hero phase, if the adjutant is within 3” of the General, gain a CP on a 4+. Combined, these rules seem to encourage a particular flavor, using a Freeguild General or Warden King instead of some dude on a fancy mount or monster. Since it’s already -1 to hit a HERO in the ranged attack phase if he is near another unit and given how precious CP is, you likely will want to take advantage of this almost every time
  • Stormkeeps: These are the Cities of Sigmar so it makes sense his golden boys can show up to help. This rule lets you add 1 Stormcast unit for every 3 non-Stormcast. Instead of allies, they are considered part of the army, they gain the city’s keyword and all army abilities associated with it. This adds even more variety to an already diverse list of options, and Stormcast get a lot of support. Ultimately whether you use this or not is probably dependant on your feelings about Stormcast personally.
A Stormcast Eternal

A Stormcast Eternal. Photo: RichyP

The Cities

The core army abilities are pretty solid but lacking in flavor, don’t worry the individual cities got that covered. Each city has a particular thing and it leans on it pretty damn hard. Every city includes 3-4 additional army abilities, a command ability, 3 command traits, 3 relics, 3 spells (6 spells for Hallowheart) and a battalion. Whew! So which city is right for you? Let’s take a look at what each city does best.

Hammerhal

The only city not locked to a single realm (because it was built on a realmgate and the city spilled out in both directions of it) Hammerhal seems to have a jack of all trades approach. Its abilities don’t directly benefit any particular unit but do benefit the army as a whole.

City of Two Realms: Can be from Aqshy or Shyran, gives you a little more versatility in your relic selection from Malign Sorcery since all the other cities are from one or the other.

Banners Held High: For every unit with a STANDARD BEARER, roll a die, on a 6+ get a free CP. Almost all infantry have Standard bearers as an option so you will probably reap quite a few CP from this.

Magister of Hammerhal: Bit of an odd one, if Aventis Firestrike is your General, get a free CP at the start of the game. Aventis is a Stormcast rather than a Cities of Sigmar character, and a command trait replicates this already so it’s more for fluff purposes.

Pride of Hammerhal: Don’t take morale checks in your territory. Really good, Cities of Sigmar units have OK to downright awful Bravery so this helps your larger units not run at the first sign of danger.

Command Ability: Righteous Purpose: Nominate a unit within 12” of the general to fight again, within enemy territory. Attacking twice is always good, simple but effective.

 

Command Traits:

  • Acadamae Prodige: +1 Attack and a free CP at the start of the game. This is basically if you don’t want to take Aventis but still want that free CP. Not bad.
  • Blood of the Twelve: Reroll wound rolls of 1 for units wholly within 12” of the general. This is extremely nice, rerolling wounds are harder to come by than reroll hits or saves and 12” is a pretty big bubble.
  • Aggressive General: Add 1 to hit rolls for melee weapons when wholly 12” if a general charged this turn. Situational, but effective. Make sure your general’s retinue is with him in case he gets counter-attacked!

Relics:

  • Armor of Mallus: +1 to save for the bearer. Boring, but trusty.
  • Saint’s Blade: Improve rend by 1 and if within 6” of an objective, +1 damage. Really good if you expect to hold the line.
  • Twinstone: Has 2 modes, you pick which one to use in each hero phase
    • Aqshy: Add +1 to hit for melee attacks for units wholly within 12” of the bearer. Solid.
    • Ghyran: Roll a die for each unit wholly within 12”, on a 4+ heal D3 wounds. Unlike a lot of similar powers this does not restore lost units so it’s more for topping off a monster than protecting your infantry.

Spells:

  • Wings of Fire: Casting Value 6, pick a unit the caster can see. Add 1 to run and charge rolls for this unit and it can fly. Holy crap this is good, no range limit and allows you to move a unit to a strategic location faster. Definitely take this.
  • Cindercloud: Casting value 7, -1 to hit for all units wholly within 9” of the caster. A lot of this army is about holding objectives so yet another protective bubble for your fragile dudes is never bad.
  • Twin-tailed comet: Casting Value 7, better smite. D3 mortals to a unit within 18”, D6 to a MONSTER.

Battalion:

  • Hammerhal Lancers: 1 Free guild general on a gryphon, 3-6 Demigryph Knights. This is interesting. While many of Hammerhal’s abilities are conducive to holding back and protecting your territory, these guys are your spear. They get +1 to hit and wound rolls, meaning when they charge they will hopefully blitzkrieg something off the board.

The Living City

The living city favors sneak attacks, and rewards bringing lots of ranged weapons, as it gives you a lot of options for deep striking and then shooting and falling back, protecting your glass cannons. The command traits seem to contrast this by favoring an alpha strike melee approach, allowing the two to complement each other. The army seems aimed at wood elf/wanderer units and its battalion reflects this.

Deep in Thyria: Must be from Ghyran.

The City Wargroves: Similar to the generic Stormcast rule, you can make 1 in 4 units a Sylvaneth unit and they gain full army abilities. Sylvaneth already specialize in deepstriking and moving out of danger so they compliment the army nicely.

Hunters of the Hidden Path: You can set up a unit in deep strike. You’re limited to half the units in your army. They can deep strike in within 6” of any board edge but 9” from an enemy. If they’re not deployed by turn 4, they’re considered dead. This is a great ability for getting into your opponent’s backline. If they don’t guard their board edge well, you’ll be able to walk right in and snag the objective.

Attuned to Nature: Regenerate 1 wound for each unit. Good for monsters but it doesn’t resurrect dead models so pretty wasted on infantry.

Command Ability: Strike then Melt Away: At the end of the shooting phase, pick a unit that shot and is both 18” from a HERO and 9” away from an enemy. You can move again, but can’t run. Absolute troll move, fire a volley at your opponent then duck behind some LOS blocking terrain.

Empire Crossbowmen

Empire Crossbowmen. Credit: SRM

Command Traits:

  • Ironoak Artisan: +1 to save, +1 to wound for all melee attacks. Good stuff.
  • Forest Strider: Can run and charge. Good, but you could easily leave your general stranded with his retinue stuck behind him. There’s also a little niche where units within 12” ignore the deadly terrain rule but that probably won’t come up often enough to make a difference.
  • Druid of the Everspring Circle: Let’s a WIZARD learn all 3 spells from the discipline or allow a non-wizard to learn and cast 1 spell. The Living City has a pretty good spell list so either option is pretty enticing.

Relics:

  • Spear of the Hunt: -1 Rend and lets the holder go first in the fight phase. Combos well with the Forest Strider trait.
  • Deepmire Cloak: Grants the holder immunity to missile attacks if under 6 wounds, or -1 to hit them if 7 or more wounds. Very useful if a character is caught unaware.
  • Wardroth Horn: Once per battle you can use this to grant +1 attack to all units. Save this for when you have a lot of units caught in melee and your opponent will be in for a surprise.

Spells:

  • Lifesurge: Casting Value 6, heal a unit within 18” for d6 wounds. Good for topping off monsters like most healing abilities in this army.
  • Cage of Thorns: Casting Value 7, pick an enemy unit within 18”, half its move rate and it takes d6 mortal wounds if it tries to move until your next hero phase. Good for dealing with your opponent’s nimble units trying to outmaneuver you.
  • Ironoak Skin: Casting value 6, -1 to wound a target unit within 18”. Good stuff, boosts to wound rolls are hard to come by so making it harder to wound your key stuff is very powerful.

Battalion:

  • Viridian Pathfinders: 1 Nomad Prince, 3 Wildwood Rangers, 0-1 Wild Riders. +1 to charge if you just came in from deep strike. Wildwood rangers are pretty scary in melee, and they already have +1 to charge from their hornblowers so you give yourself really good odds of making that charge.

Greywater Fastness

Greywater Fastness is here for the artillery. It’s abilities favor Ironweld Arsenal units, which make up most of your artillery rockets and such. A solid mix of dwarf and human units, though their relics and spells leave something to be desired.

Amidst the Ghoul Mere: Must be from Ghyran.

Rune Lore: Gives a Runelord an additional prayer he can chant that succeeds on a 2+. It adds +1 to hit for ranged attacks from Ironweld arsenal units. Basically makes the stuff you were taking already better.

Home of the Great Ironweld Guilds: Adds +3” to all Ironweld Arsenal units. This probably wont be a game changer since the range of these units is already pretty good. It does let you add one more arsenal unit to your artillery slot, which can be at a premium if you want to take this army to its logical extreme

Command Ability: Salvo Fire:  Lets your smaller shooty units shine a bit. +1 to hit for Irondrakes and Freeguild Handgunners. Feels a bit unnecessary given all the hit mods for ranged attacks in the army.

Command Traits:

  • Seat on the Council: Free CP on a 4+ in the hero phase. More CP is always good, given how precious a resource it is.
  • Drillmaster: Reroll 1s for ranged units within 12” as long as the general isn’t in melee. Pretty good, it’s like the generic command ability but free and affects several units.
  • Ghoul Mere Ranger: Units within 12” can run and shoot. Given how shooting friendly this particular city is, this is a great pick.

Relics:

  • Steam Piston Platemail: +1 to save and +1 to move, if the user doesn’t have a mount. It’s OK. Seems aimed at Dwarves who traditionally have garbage movement stats.
  • Runic Munitions: +1 Damage to a ranged weapon. Heroes tend not to have a lot, if any ranged attacks though so you need the proper character.
  • Mastro Viventi’s  Magnificent Macroscope: Yep you read that right. A Bonus CP and +1 to hit for ranged attacks of the bearer. Has the same issue as the runic munitions where many heroes don’t have ranged attacks, so it has limited application (although at least there’s a CP).

Spells:

  • Descending Ash Cloud: Casting Roll 6, pick an enemy unit within 18”, they have -1 to hit. It’s decent.
  • Eroding Blast: Casting Value 6, pick a terrain piece wholly within 18”, roll a dice for each model within 1” of that terrain piece, on a 5+ it suffers 1 mortal wound. That terrain also gets the deadly scenery rule until your next hero phase. This is situational. If your opponent is trying to hide behind LOS blocking terrain this is a pretty decent way to flush them out but the rolls you need to get to do real damage just aren’t likely to go in your favor.
  • Choking Fumes: Casting value 6. Pick a unit within 15”, for each model within 15” of the caster, roll a die. On a 5+ they suffer one mortal wound. This is like Eroding Blast except for targets you can see. This is probably the better pick of the two because you have some control over how many models can be within range, and against a large horde you’ll probably take a good chunk of them off.

Battalion:

  • Greywater Artillery Company: 1 Cogsmith and 2-4 Rocket Batteries or Volley Guns they get to fire twice in the shooting phase on the first turn. You were probably going to bring these units anyway so might as well benefit from the bonus CP and relic. You might even soften the enemy up before they can get too close.

 

The Phoenicium

For bird lovers. 2 of the army abilities favor the Flamespyre or Frostheart Phoenix so you know what you’re getting into from the outset. Otherwise their army abilities encourage an aggressive, melee style. Burn bright but short like the phoenix who’s image your army bears.

From the Foot of Quagmia Mountain: Must be from Ghyran. Don’t worry, last time we’ll be seeing this one.

Vengeful Revenants: If a Phoenicium unit died this phase the rest of your units gain +1 to hit AND wound rolls. Yikes. Bring lots of minimum sized units to increase the odds of something dying, and keep it going turn after turn.

Blood of the Ur-Phoenix: Increase the wounds of Flamespyre and Frostheart phoenixes by 1. Simple but effective.

Command Ability: Living Idols: If a HERO Flamespyre or Frostheart Phoenix, i.e. the one with an Annoited riding on top, all models within 12” can fight once more when they die. Given the army encourages kamikaze charging the enemy, this basically works into your strategy to squeeze out a bit more damage before they finally die.

 

Command Traits:

  • Seeker of Vengeance: Add 1 to the general’s attacks with melee weapons if a friendly model died this turn. Add 3 instead if 5 died. Awesome, this again plays well into the army’s kamikaze style.
  • One with Fire and Ice: Let’s a WIZARD learn all 3 spells from the discipline or allow a non-wizard to learn and cast 1 spell. Phoenecium has an OK spell list so you likely won’t need to make your wizards better. The Phoenixes gain buffs when spells are cast near them however, so that is a possible benefit, especially for an Annoited riding them.
  • Aura of Serenity: Don’t take battleshock tests within 12”. If you take a lot of minimum sized units Bravery isn’t likely to be an issue anyway. Otherwise it can help make sure you don’t take too many more losses, since you’re likely sacrificing a lot already.

Relics:

  • Amber Armor: Ignore rend of 1. Rend 1 can be pretty rampant in a lot of lists so it’s nice to have that little protection to shut them down.
  • Phoenix Pinion: The bearer can fly and also run and charge in the same turn. Given the army’s emphasis on charging to their doom, very cool.
  • Phoenix Pyre Ashes: On an unmodified save of 6, heal a wound. This is ok but given you have a healing spell you likely will want other options as this can be unreliable.

Spells

  • Amber Tide: Casting Value 6, enemy unit within 18” halves their move value. Really good for messing up enemy cavalry’s day
  • Phoenix Cry: Casting Value 5, subtract 1 from bravery from all enemy units within 18” of the caster. This this can potentially affect several units, it’s pretty good.
  • Golden Mist: Casting Value 6. Heal d3 wounds. Even though you may want to send your troops to their death, your heroes need to survive. This will keep them going a little longer.

Battalion

  • Phoenix Flight: 1-2 Flamespyre and 1-2 Frostheart Phoenixes Heal 1 wound to all units within 12” of any unit in this battalion. You were probably bringing these birds anyway and as stated above, you want your heroes to survive even if your infantry is dying so keeping them topped off is a nice perk.

Anvilguard

This is where a lot of Dark Elves seem to have shown up. They’re pirates now. The army abilities focus heavily on Dragons, Kharbidyss and War Hydras. There’s not a lot going on outside of those, but there is a lot more flexibility in abilities for this army than other options:

On the shores of the Searing Sea: First one of these, the army must be from Aqshy, the realm of fire.

Illicit Dealings: Choose one of these perks:

  • Black Market Bounty: Can take one more relic from the Anvilguard list. The relic list here is great so this is great.
  • Dabblings in Sorcery: Can take one extra Drakeblood Curse
  • Hidden Agents: Receive D3 CP

This is a tricky decision. Anvilguard has some great relics so that’s a given, and bonus CP is always appreciated. In a monster heavy list, you may want another curse.

Drakeblood Curses: Kinda like bonus command traits for your dragons. They can be applied to any Dragons, Kharbidyss and War Hydras. You can also gain one extra from taking the proper illicit dealing or per warscrolls battalion. Like command traits you cannot take the same one twice, and you cannot put two on one model.

  • Acidic Blood:  Roll a die each time you allocate a wound to this model inflicted in melee combat. On a 4+, deal 1 mortal wound to the one who attacked you. Good stuff, make your opponent think twice about engaging your dragon with his melee hero.
  • Jutting Bones:  On a successful charge, roll a die. On a 2+ deal D3 mortal wounds to a unit within 1”. A more offensive version of the above, weaken an enemy unit a little before combat begins proper
  • Fell Gaze: -2 Bravery to enemy units within 12”. Meh. If You have other bravery shenanigans maybe but it can be more effective to just kill them faster. Take this last

Command Ability: Make an Example out of the Weak: Kill a friendly model within 12” of a Hero, all units within 18” do not make battleshock tests. This is used at the beginning of the battleshock phase which means it’s extremely useful. If you know the battleshock phase coming up is going to be a rough one, just stop it now. Losing only one model beats losing several more.

 

Command Traits

  • Blackfang Crimelord: Take 2 Illicit Dealings instead of 1. Now you can get bonus CP AND 2 relics.
  • Slayer of Monsters: +1 attack and wound against MONSTERS. Too niche to be useful compared to alternatives.
  • Secretive Warlock: Let’s a WIZARD learn all 3 spells from the discipline or allow a non-wizard to learn and cast 1 spell. The spell list favors getting close, so giving your melee heroes a spell, so your squishy wizards don’t need to get closer is nice.

Relics

Great stuff here all around:

  • Drakescale Cloak:  5+ FNP, take that Nurgle.
  • Venomfang Blade:  Pick a melee weapon, on an unmodified 6 on the attack roll, deal an additional D3 mortal wounds. Give this to your melee hero with the most attacks to proc more 6s.
  • Asphyxica Censer: At the end of the combat phase, roll a die for each unit within 3”, deal D3 mortal wounds on a 4+. 4+ is pretty reliable and good for cleaning up any straggling units locked into melee.

Spells

  • Sap Strength: Casting Value 6, -1 to hit for an enemy unit within 18”. Basic but reliable. 
  • Shadow Daggers: Casting Value 7, choose an enemy unit within 9” and deal D6 mortal wounds. It’s like a smite shotgun. You have to get close but you will do more damage…maybe. D6 is a bit too swingy and many wizards are delicate. Probably wanna give this to a sorceress on a black dragon.
  • Vitriolic Spray: Casting Value 8, choose an enemy unit within 6” and change its save value to -. Oh man this is…this is really good. A save value of – means they have no save, and no modifiers can help. You have to get uncomfortably close, and it has a high casting value, but get it off and you will melt whatever you directed it at.

Battalion

  • Charrwind Beasthunters: 1 Black Heart Fleetmaster, 3 Black Heart Corsairs, 1-2 scourgerunner Chariots, 0-1 Kharbidyss. This is…confusing. It’s +1 to wound fighting Monsters, that’s it. The entire army encourages a bunch of monsters and then this…? It seems incongruous to the rest of the army’s strength and isn’t even all that great. Just take the Blackfang Crimelord so you can get your bonus CP and relic that way.
Daughters of Khaine Hag Queen

These ladies are still too busy carving out hearts for Khaine, though. Credit: Corrode

Hallowheart

Wizards. Lots of Wizards. Everything about this army basically encourages you to bring as many Wizards as you can fit, from the army abilities to boost casting, down to having the only city with a full list of 6 spells instead of the usual 3. If you like magic, welcome home.

In the Shimmering Abyss: Must be from Aqshy.

Eldritch Attunement: Each time a friendly unit is affected by a spell or endless spell, roll a die and on a 5+ ignore it. So not only are you good with magic you’re good at repelling it. It’s important to note it says you can roll a die, meaning you dont have to worry about fizzling out your own buffs.

Mage of the Whitefire Court: All Wizards can cast an extra spell. Good, since they will have plenty to choose from.

Command Ability: Arcane Channeling: Choose a Wizard and roll a die, deal that many mortal wounds and  then all Wizards within 12” will add that number to their casting rolls. Great for casting those high value spells but it’s also dangerous because the wizard has to survive the process. You could roll a 6 and explode your wizard, making it useless. Using it on a mounted Wizard will help but then you may have to deal with a degrading statline. Make sure the spells you wanna cast are worth the risk.

 

Command Traits

  • Veteran of the Blazing Crusade: Ignore Battleshock tests wholly within 18” of the general. Not bad for humans, since their bravery is crap and 18” is a wide bubble but we can do better.
  • Warden of the Flame: On a 4+ in the hero phase, gain a CP. More CP is still nice.
  • Famed Spell Hunter: Add +3 to unbinding endless spells. Definitely solid since endless spells can be a real hassle. If the General isn’t a Wizard, he can dispel one endless spell per turn as normal.

Relics

  • Aglorazi Prism: -1 to hit the bearer with ranged attacks. Wizards tend to have terrible saves so avoiding getting hit is good. If they are near a unit, as they should be, they have -2 to be hit which can make them pretty damn hard to hit.
  • Pauldron of Living Flame: A copy of the Aspyhxica Censure. At the end of the combat phase, roll a die for each unit within 3” deal D3 mortal wounds on a 4+. 4+ is pretty reliable and good for cleaning up and straggling units locked into melee.
  • Whitefire Tome: Know all the spells for Hallowheart. This is notable because of Hallowhearts 6 spells as opposed to 3 of other armies. And it’s a relic so it doesn’t have to go to your general like other armies with similar command abilities. If the bearer is not a wizard, let them learn one spell from the Hallowheart discipline.

Spells

As stated above this is notable for having 6 spells instead of 3, and its a good discipline to boot. Casting values don’t go above 6 and have solid abilities outside of one dud.

  • Roaming Wildfire: Casting Value 6, smite on steroids. Pick a unit within 18”, deal D3 mortal wounds, and then roll for each enemy unit within 6”. On a 4+ deal D3 wounds to that unit. Absolutely wild if your opponent clumps up together and has such a low cost value you’ll almost always get it off.
  • Sear Wounds:  Casting Value 6, heal D6 wounds on a unit within 18”. Typical of healing spells, good for topping off monsters or healing your mage who took a bad hit during Eldritch channelling.
  • Elemental Cyclone: Casting Value 6, pick an enemy unit within 12”, and roll a die for each model within 12” in that unit. For each 4+, deal a mortal wound. Really good for dealing with hordes, on average it’ll kill half of them. The downside is the range requires you to get uncomfortably close, so make sure your wizard is protected.
  • Warding Brand: Casting Value 6, Pick a friendly unit within 18”, if an enemy unit deals a successful wound against it, roll a die, on a 4+ it deals a mortal wound. Good for making your opponent think twice about charging your units.
  • Crystal Aegis: Casting Value 5, make your Eldritch Attunement a 4+ instead of a 5+. If your opponent has a lot of magic, definitely worth it.
  • Ignite Weapon: Casting Value 6, add +1 to wound rolls for a unit within 18. Simple, effective and unlike a lot of these similar abilities it affects both ranged and melee attacks, giving it a lot of versatility.

Battalions

  • Whitefire Retinue: 3-6 Wizards, this is an auto take. You probably were bringing that many wizards anyway, and it gives +1 to casting and unbinding rolls as long as they are within 6” of another unit from the battalion. What is not to love?

 

Tempest Eye

The last list is probably the closest to what people remember Free Guilds being. It’s very run and gun heavy. The army abilities give bonus movement and shooting, and even the Khadaron Overlords, previous masters of the shooting phase show up to make an appearance.

Atop Titanspear Mountain: As before, must be from Aqshy.

Alert and Forewarned: In the first battle round, gain an additional 3” of movement and +1 to saves. This seems designed for something like Freeguild Pistoleers to get into shooting and charge range from the beginning.

Outriders of the Realms: Add 1 to run rolls for all units, really good for squeezing that extra distance out. Combined with the Rapid Redeploy

Standing Contracts: Similar to the generic stormcast rule, you can make 1 in 4 units a Khadaron Overlords unit and they gain full army abilities. Khadaron Overlords already specialize in shooting so they will compliment your forces greatly.

Command Ability: Rapid Redeploy: Choose a unit within 12” in the shooting phase, that unit can shoot even if it ran. This gives you even wider threat range than before.

Command Traits

Some real winners here, all 3 seem very appealing and serve the sole purpose of ruining someones day on horseback.

  • Aetherguard Captain: add 1 to charge rolls within 12” of the general. Really helps you get in that first turn charge after already moving an additional 3”.
  • Hawkeye: Units within 12” gain +1 to wound rolls for missile weapons. This is a shooter heavy army so you should have no shortage of units to benefit from this.
  • Swift as the Wind: The general can run and charge in the same turn and also fights first in the fight phase. Awesome on a General on a Gryphon to ping pong around the field.

Relics

  • Patrician’s Helm: Don’t take battleshocks within 12” of the bearer. Decent, if you have large groups of Freeguild gunlines (you probably do.)
  • Seerstone Amulet: Another 4+ in the hero phase CP relic, still good.
  • Zephyrite Banner: Reroll charge rolls within 12” of the banner. Amazing, this is an army where you want to charge a lot so guaranteeing that last push matters.

Spells

  • Aura of Glory: Casting Value 7, Add 1 to attack value of melee attacks to units within 12” of the caster. Really good if the wizard is leading the charge.
  • Strike of the Eagles: Casting Value 7, Long bomb smite. Roll 6 dice for an enemy 30” away, for every 4+ deal 1 mortal wound. On average it’ll deal 3 MW and the range means your opponent wont have much to hit back with their own smite.
  • Celestial Visions: Casting Value 7, gain 1 additional command point. Sure.

Battalions

  • Aetherguard Windrunners: 1 Freeguild general on a Gryphon, 3-6 Pistoleers or Outriders, 0-2 Grundstok Gunhaulers This battalion is the essence of what this army is about. The battalion lets these units fall back and shoot and charge. Pistoleers are designed to get into the enemy’s face and shoot them. So being able to fall back, shoot and do it again is incredible. You will absolutely want to take this
Empire Swordsmen

Empire Swordsmen. Credit: SRM

Closing Thoughts

Whew! That was a lot to cover, so let’s put it altogether. In summary, each city falls on a specific gimmick and tends to lean very hard on it. This is a huge contrast to the army’s extremely wide unit selection, so the cities seem to exist to help trim down the choices you have to make it more manageable.

Some of the downsides of the army are the lack of options within each faction. While you have a lot of subfactions, you are required to choose one. Each subfaction has half the usual Command traits, Relics and spells (except for Hallowheart) available to them, and being locked to a specific realm means their malign sorcery relic options are similarly limited. This means you can easily run out of options to choose from as you just take them all, and not all of them are going to be great or fit for your list. Each army only gets one battalion which means you’re being forced into a prescribed list of options. Some cities like the Anvilguard got absolutely shafted.

There was a lot of concern if this would force “soup” lists, usually about whether free guild would continue to exist as a separate army as it has. I think a free guild list is certainly viable, especially if playing Hammerhal or Tempest eye. Dwarves might struggle but it’s certainly possible. Elves (of all shapes) will suffer outside of gimmick lists, but they weren’t seeing a ton of support before. The overall issue, that I will take as a mark against the book is how much it feels like a dumping ground for disparate armies. The tome launched with no new models, including no new endless spells. Sure being able to cast all the generic endless spells as full power is a nice boost but they didn’t even get a terrain feature, which makes the book feel like a concession rather than a new force. It feels like GW is letting you keep your old models, but they have no intention to support it any further. If I turn out to be wrong, I’ll be happy to eat crow on this one.

But is it actually good? Yes! Despite not getting any new toys I think it does a lot overall with the models it has to work with. I think it will be competitive, particularly Tempest Eye who seem the clear winners of the battletome. Everything from the army abilities, the relics, command traits and even its battalion are single mindedly fixated on an army that can run, shoot and charge all with devastating efficiency. It’s Free Peoples on steroids, and now they got friends along for the ride. 

 

 

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