Well yet again Cities of Sigmar makes an appearance in Broken Realms. In Morathi and Teclis we got the new cities of Misthavn, Hal Kuron and Settler’s Gain. Here we get a new city, Excelsis and surprisingly two brand new characters for the city as well. Is it worth it? Let’s take a look.
Excelsis! City of secrets and prophecy, buried in the heartlands of Ghur and sitting pretty next to a shard of Mallus, the World-That-War, this free city has been the setting for more Black Library Age of Sigmar novels than any other, and finally has its own rules in Broken Realms: Kragnos, alongside the agents of Azyr Galen and Doralia ven Denst!
Excelsis is my personal favourite free city. The setting for the Callis and Toll novels and the excellent Spear of Shadows and City of Secrets book, Excelsis is a city of prophecy and secrets, home to no less than three Stormhosts, including the entirely too genocidal Knights Excelsior, the World Eaters of Age of Sigmar.
Excelsis: The Rules
Like the other free cities we’ve seen in the Broken Realms series, you can choose Excelsis to be your army’s home rather than one of the cities in Battletome: Cities of Sigmar. For this, your army must be from Ghur (Excelsis being located on the Coast of Tusks), and gain some of the coolest rules in Age of Sigmar.
Firstly, you gain access to the Riposte command ability, where you can pick an Excelsis unit within 12” of your heroes and for any 6s rolled to save in the combat phase, the attacking unit takes a mortal wound. Neat! Not game ending, but a neat bit of vengeance once you’re struck, and honestly potentially enough to scare away wounded heroes or units from threatening you in the first place. If the balance of models on an objective is so close, I’d be worried that this ability might just tip it back in favour of Excelsis after I’d made all my attacks.
Additionally, once per phase when a friendly unit shoots or fights you can say the attack has been the recipient of the Gift of Prophecy, and roll a D6. On a 1, subtract 1 to hit for that unit that phase. On 2+, you can add one. I adore this; firstly, it’s narrative as hell, but secondly Cities of Sigmar don’t always have super good to-hit scores, and that extra +1 can really swing things around. This isn’t limited by range, either, so just pick the unit you’re relying on and go wild.
Sadly, Excelsis doesn’t have the ‘one in four units may be from a designated Order army’ like Settlers Gain or Tempest Eye. I’m not sure what makes most narrative sense myself, but it’d be cool to see what the designers could come up with.
Oh, and you have to come from Ghur. Bit hard to move a whole city someplace else!
As for command traits, Excelsis generals are masters of intrigue and can pick Cunning Foe, In the Right Place or Darkest Secrets as command traits. Of these, Cunning Foe is great for a combat general on a griffon, giving them retreat and charge and +1 to hit and -1 to be hit, and In the Right Place can let you redeploy D3 units at the start of the first battle round. While D3 can be swingy, the ability for you to deploy exactly where you need to be (or, more importantly, where your opponent doesn’t want you to be) is incredible. Sadly, your city is likely to be out-dropped by everything out there, as Excelsis doesn’t have a battalion, so Cunning Foe is probably the best pick. Darkest Secrets lets you stop a hero using command abilities if you’re within 3” of them which is… situational at best.
Secrets run the city, and thus are the heirlooms of Excelsis mostly about prophecy and luck, at least narratively. Glimmering, fragments of the Spear of Mallus that are used both as currency and as fortune telling tools, allows you to choose the result of a hit, wound, run or charge roll for the bearer and I… am not entirely sure what you’d do with this. If it was a damage roll I’d be all in, but otherwise I’m not sure. Potentially it could be useful to basically pick where you want your general to be or make that long bomb charge, but most Cities heroes don’t really want to be running around out there by themselves.
Rockjaw is by far the worst of the bunch, giving your hero a 8” range shooting attack that deals D3 mortal wounds on a 3+. The ability to use this over and over is nice, but D3 mortal wounds isn’t too flash hot to waste an artefact on. Gryph-feather Charm is probably my favourite, adding 1” to your movement and subtracting 1 to hit rolls targeting the bearer. Stick this on a general with Cunning Foe and you have a character who’ll be potentially ridiculously hard to kill, being -2 to hit on a turn they charge. Now that is something to yeet at your enemy!
Excelsis’ spells are sadly pretty uninspiring, taken largely from previous Lore of Beasts wizards throughout the ages. The Amber Spear is a 12” beam attack dealing a single mortal wound (big woop), Flock of Doom is your generic ‘roll 12 dice for a unit, each 6 is a mortal wound’ (medium woop) and Cower makes you roll 2D6 against an enemy Monster within 12” and if you beat its Bravery the Monster can’t charge. This is pretty much useless; anything you’re really afraid of charging you will likely have a decent leadership (anything from Chaos and Death is almost immediately right out), and it’s just too conditional to be useful. Being within 12” of a monster during your hero phase means you’re danger close to begin with, and then roll a cast with moderate to no bonuses, and then roll over the bravery… This one can be politely ignored.
What’s especially weird about this lore is that Amber Spear already exists… on a Battlemage on Griffon. The Battlemage’s spell is one point harder to cast, but 6” further range and on a 2+ does D3 rather than a single automatic mortal wound. If you take a Battlemage on Griffon from Excelsis, can you cast two different Amber Spears from the same model? Does the identical name mean you can only cast one? Should you replace the existing spell with the new one? I doubt it, because technically this new spell is a different name with ‘the’ in front of it, but it feels a bit cheap and lazy to include this rather than coming up with something neat and new.
Excelsis is my favourite city, and where my Stormhost is based, but if you’re taking it you’re only really doing it for the cool lore. Which is awesome! Just don’t expect to see too many fellow Ghur-ites at top tournament tables
Agents of Azyr
The most wholesome father/daughter duo in all the Mortal Realms, the ven Densts are here to hunt all your scary gribblies, up to and including rogue endless spells. Endless spell hunters (bounty hunters for rogue magic) were one of the coolest things we saw introduced into Age of Sigmar second edition, but sadly it’s taken until almost third edition to see them on the tabletop. Fortunately, the duo doesn’t disappoint!
You can slot these two (who can be taken separately) into Excelsis, or any faction, as they are not faction locked. If so, Gift of Prophecy could be a real power bump, especially for Dorelia.
Galen ven Denst
An agent of Azyr with a kill count higher than many orruk warlords (seriously, ‘hundreds’ is right there in black and white!’), Galen is pretty cool, but probably not worth including for his 115 points. He’s an absolute badass and I’d hate to be on the other end of his blade, but he doesn’t… do much for your army.
With a 4+ save and 5++ ignore wound save he’s reasonably tanky, and his retreat and shoot or charge ability is neat to put him where he needs to be, but once he’s there there’s not much to him. 3 pistol attacks and 6 broadsword attacks are nasty, but you’re only doing damage 1 unless you’re fighting a Wizard or Daemon, and your opponent is going to be smart enough to keep their wizards away. If you are fighting a Wizard or Daemon, all his attacks double in damage, making him especially hilarious against many Chaos armies and, uh, Lumineth.
Finally, if he attacks an endless spell you can roll 2D6 and, if the result is higher than the casting value, the endless spell goes away. I’m not sure how practically useful this is, but it’s an incredible image of a witch hunter staring down a set of Ravenak’s Gnashing Jaws and putting it down with a bullet between the eyes.
Dorelia ven Denst
This is where the spice is. Dorelia shares most of her father’s statistics, including his 115 point price tag and 5++ ignore wound ability, but is oddly 1” slower. Maybe it’s hard lugging such a large crossbow around? Dorelia does double damage when targeting Wizards or Daemons and she can put down endless spells as well.
Where she really shines is her crossbow. 24” range, 3+ to hit, 3+ to wound, -2 Rend, Damage 2 is pretty nifty, even with only one attack, but if she stands still she gains an extra attack and +1 to hit. Targeting Wizards or Daemons she’s hitting on 2s and damage four. While you’re not guaranteed to get that through every time, the mere potential for eight damage per turn from this steampunk sniper is likely more than enough to control the flow of battle and cause your opponent to keep their buff pieces outside of a 24” bubble. As an Ossiarch Bonereapers main player, I am deathly afraid of what she can do to Arkhan the Black; all it takes is one good turn for Dorelia and he’s on the verge of death (again). Use this to your advantage; feel free to psych your opponent out and scare their wizards away!
More choices is always good, and while Excelsis doesn’t necessarily provide the best mechanical reasons to choose this free city, it’s neat that we’re getting to see cities we’ve seen in books finally come to the table. As for the hunters, I can’t wait to see what they’re getting up to in the lore; I hope the duo will see a role in Black Library, and I really hope no Order players near me start getting any funny ideas about sniping my Nagash out of the sky…
Up Next – Hedonites of Slaanesh
With the Essense of Slaanesh released from Morathi’s rise to power, two powerful new daemons take the stage to enact the will of Slaanesh upon the Mortal Realms. Next up we’ll take a closer look at Synessa and Dexcessa, the avatars of Slaanesh!