Faction Pack Overview: Cities of Sigmar – Age of Sigmar 4th Edition

Thanks to Games Workshop for sending us these rules and the Skaventide box set for review. Over the coming weeks, we will be having experts provide insight into how they are building and running lists with each faction in Age of Sigmar. For this overview, we’re looking at what stands out for each faction, how much has changed, and how we might approach some key challenges on the tabletop.

Cities of Sigmar started as an odd faction that pushed together elves, dwarves, and humans from the old world. Originally, the faction was heavily focused on specific cities and how they formed a coalition with other order factions. As the second to last battletome to be released in third edition Cities got the Orders mechanic that accompanied a refresh of the human side of the army and continued to focus subfactions on specific Cities. This faction pack leaves out the specific cities and allows a player to choose to represent one of the new (successful) foundings of the Dawnbringers crusade. It feels like a continued evolution of a faction that truly embodies the everywoman in the mortal realms. Now if only Freeguild Cavaliers weren’t such a challenge to paint…..

Army Rules

Orders return and are hugely revamped. I never liked the token system, or anything in a wargame that “hides” information from the players but I understood the thematic way that leaders would issue orders to units close by after looking at the battlefield. Now, there are four orders, three of them active on both turns Each Officar’s Order needs to be used by a hero and only one can be used by each hero in a turn. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use the same order multiple times until you run out of heroes. Orders are:

  • Advance in Formation (Your Movement Phase): You pick a cities unit wholly within 12” and outside of combat. They can move 3”. Bonus – if you select a human unit you can pick another target.
  • Suppressing Fire (Any Shooting Phase): You pick a cities unit wholly within 12”. Each time you shoot in this phase if you target the same enemy unit roll a dice. If the result is equal to or less than the number of models slain by the attacks the enemy has Strike-Last for the rest of the turn. Bonus – None.
  • Strike Them Down (Any Charge Phase): You pick a cities unit wholly within 12” that has already charged. Add 1 to the attacks characteristic of the target’s melee weapons for the rest of the turn. Bonus – If the unit is an Aelf add 1 to hit rolls.
  • Hold the Line (Any Combat Phase): You pick a cities unit wholly within 12” that didn’t charge. The target has Strike-Last and Ward (5+) for the rest of the turn. Bonus – If the unit is a Dwarf subtract 1 to hit rolls.

I love the change to the orders that simplifies them and allows a mixed formation of units. Too many cities armies were just made up of the same models and it felt like we never got a true cosmopolitan coalition of colonizers going on a crusade. From a production meta this allows you to work in a unit or two of dwarves or elves or humans to your current force without committing to go “full elf.”

Cities of Sigmar Wildercorps Hunters. Credit: SRM

Battle Formations

This is another pack that provides only passive abilities. Each one is pretty clearly set up for a certain style of play and none of them are specifically targeted towards humans, elves, or dwarves.

  • Dawnbringer Crusade: Forward Dawners! – Add 2” to the Move Characteristic of cities units in the first battle round.
  • Ironweld Guild Army: Faith and Firepower – Add 3” to range characteristic of ranged weapons used by cities units. 
  • Fortress-City Defenders: Bulwark Zone – Each Cities of Sigmar unit with the “Fortify Position” start in the first battle round in a fortified position. In the first battle round subtract 1 from wound rolls while your units are wholly within friendly territory.
  • Collegiate Arcane Expedition: Eldritch Expertise – Add 1 to casting rolls for friendly cities of sigmar wizards.

 All of these seem fine but there are a lot of fast moving units with ranged weapons that would benefit from the Ironweld Guild Army. +1 to cast as an armywide bonus is great.

Heroic Traits

Any hero can take one of the following, just not Unique heroes, as is standard and doesn’t have to be your General. Once again, all of the abilities are passive.

Master of Ballistics

If a cities unit uses the “All out Attack” command within combat range during the shooting phase they gain +1 to wound rolls in addition to the normal +1 hit rolls. A great way to make all those fusiliers hit harder from across the board. 

Grizzled Veteran

If the unmodified wound roll for an attack is a 1-3 the attack sequence ends. Cities heroes are typically kind of squishy so making one a bit tougher will help, but not the best here. 

Fiery Temper

If this unit charged this turn you can re-roll charge rolls for friendly units wholly within 18” of this unit. Best suited for your cavalry, nothing worse than your hero making an incredibly heroic charge and his buddies just…not following along. 

Treasures of the Cities

Cities of Sigmar Steelhelms. Credit: SRM

Sacred Tome

This unit has Priest (1) if not a priest. If this unit is a priest add 1 to chanting rolls. If this unit is a wizard it cannot use spell abilities and prayer abilities in the same phase. Prayers are powerful abilities and getting to use more Wrath and Ruins in one turn won’t make you mad. 


Each phase you can re-roll 1 hit, or 1 wound, or 1 save roll for the unit. That’s just for the hero itself so whack it on Steam Tank Commander for better cannon fire. 

Brazier of Holy Flame

End of any (every) turn pick a non-hero cities of sigmar infantry unit wholly within 12” of this unit. Return up to D3 slain models. Getting more models back on top of the chance to Rally is just great and can mean the difference of keeping control of an objective or not…

I really like the Glimmering or Brazier of Holy Flame-The glimmering is the kind of ability that feels underpowered but works so well on a unit like a Freeguild Cavalier-Marshal or Steam Tank Commander that gets involved in multiple phases and is a target for shooting and combat.

Spells of the Collegiate Arcane

Elemental Lightning (7 – Unlimited)

Pick a visible unit within 18”. Inflict D3 mortal damage and roll a dice for each other enemy unit within combat rage. On a 4+ inflict D3 mortal damage. Ranged mortals are down this edition and 18″ is just about the longest range you get too, solid to have and be able to cast multiple times. 

Speed of the Twin-Tailed Comet (7)

Pick a friendly unit wholly within 12. If this spell is successful add 1 to the number of dice (max 3) when making charge rolls. In the right build it’s nice to have, good to have up your sleeve for if/when you need it. 

Cindercloud (7)

Pick a visible enemy within 18”. If successful, subtract 1 from attacks characteristic of melee weapons. Effecting hit rolls is more common but being able to simply remove attacks from happening is even better. 

I think that Elemental Lightning is just a great spell to build an entire list around early in the edition while people are still figuring out deployment and movement. Speed of the Twin-Tailed Comet pairs extremely will with Fiery Temper to ensure that your charge happens.

Scriptures of Sigmar

Conner Tolbert

The first value allows the prayer to be used. The second value is for the bonus effect.

Wrath of Ruin (4/8 Unlimited)

Pick an enemy unit within 18”. Roll 6 (Bonus 9) dice and for each 5+ inflict 1 mortal damage. If 3 or more damage points were allocated ignore positive modifiers to save rolls until the start of the next turn. Same as the unlimited spell, ranged mortals are just great and extra effect is fantastic when it happens. 

Unfaltering Aim (4/10)

Pick a friendly cities unit wholly within 12”. Add 1 to shooting attack hit rolls for the rest of the turn. Bonus – Add 1 to wound rolls for shooting attacks as well.

Oath and Steel (5/10)

Add 1 to the roll if your chanter is a dwarf. Pick a unit wholly within 12” Subtract 1 from wound rolls that target your unit. Bonus – Add 1 to save rolls.

These are all strong meat and potato abilities that enhance things you’re already going to do. Unfaltering Aim combined with Master of Ballistics allows you to give +1 to hit and wound to two shooting units. Oath and Steel pairs extremely well with a unit of dwarves receiving the Hold the Line order.

Warscroll Showcase

You know her and love her but Pontifex Zenestra is back and is a Priest (2) with a 4+ ward. With the ability to make two chanting rolls she can quickly build up to the bonus power in a turn or two. She still has a multi-part prayer that works on a 5+ but on a 10+ can pick two effects. First, she can roll a D3 for each enemy wizard or priest and on a 2+ inflict mortal damage equal to the roll. Second, she can give out a 5+ ward to humans. Finally, she can add 2” to human units. 

On the other side of mystical arts is the humble battlemage. With a single power level the battlemage can pick a single spell to get a +1 to cast in that game. I love this ability with elemental lighting and it should be noted that manifestations are considered spells so getting them on the table can be more reliable with this unit. 

Conner Tolbert

Finally, let’s look at the Freeguild Command Corps – a nightmare to opponents of the last edition that stole command points, healed an absurd amount, and made people ask to see the warscroll when they fought. This unit has a 4+ save, 3 health, and 2 control. The six models have four different attack profiles with an enchanted rapier (1 attack, 2/4/2/D6 Crit Mortal) and Sigmarite Great Weapon (4 attacks 3/3/1/D3) that stand out. First, while any Freeguild Marshal and Relic Envoy are wholly within this units combat range they get a 5+ ward. Second, they still can effect a command, but it’s only once per battle (army) to a unit within 12” of this unit. It forces your opponent to spend an additional command point. Finally, you can choose a command (redeploy, rally, covering fire, or countercharge) that a human cities unit can use and then allow another human unit to use the command a second time. Obviously we’re going to save our four precious command points and double countercharge.

Dawnbringer Battle Tactics 

With the opening up of orders getting some faster units (elvish scout units or wildercorps or a gyrocopter) to secure early tactics is going to be pretty easy. There is going to be a temptation to go into a heavy shooting list and hang back but none of the tactics rewards a castle type army. Slay the Tyrants, one of the order battle tactics, specifies that a “Combat Attack” (Melee) must be used to kill the hero.

Onward Dawnbringers

Compared to the third edition book, with the order preplanning mechanic, this feels like a much more accessible book that allows for some mixing and matching of units. Cities has a real diversity of unit types but many of the abilities feel honest, a bonus to hit, a ward when you’re near another unit. 

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