White Dwarf 470 – The Tome Celestial: Cities of Sigmar

This week we look at the new Cities of Sigmar Update from November’s White Dwarf magazine giving new rules for Open, Narrative, and Matched Play games. There is also a narrative campaign covering a Dawnbringer Crusade of any Order army set up to play against any Death, Destruction, or Chaos army. We’ll get to that one later.

Cities of Sigmar have always been a kind of odd army, a sort of army of misfits being the remnants of what’s still around from old Warhammer Fantasy Dark Elves, Dwarfs, and Empire with the ability to add in some Stormcast. Competitively the army has had its ups and downs. It relies very heavily on “Same race” synergy, in contrast to the seeming intent of a diverse metropolis. The update comes as a little bit of a surprise, as the army largely works fine as it currently stands. This is opposed to say, Seraphon or Sons of Behemat which required a bit of work to fit in with 3rd edition content.

Empire Swordsmen
Empire Swordsmen. Credit: SRM

Allegiance Abilities

The only allegiance ability this time is some mount traits, shockingly there isn’t even some new Core Battalions. I find the lack of Battalions pretty understandable, as Cities of Sigmar don’t really need to fight to fit their stuff into any Battalion they want. As an army of largely Single digit heroes and troops, Battle Regiments and Warlords are simple to grab. The occasional Behemoth or Artillery piece can fit nicely in a battle regiment as well. In short, they weren’t really hurting to fill them in and I can excuse their absence.

Mount Traits

Regardless of what kind of game you’re playing with your Cities of Sigmar you now have access to a mount trait for your Black Dragon and Griffon. As with any other mount trait you get 1 mount trait as a standard part of your army and can take additional ones in matched play through enhancements. 

The value of this is going to vary from useless to great, depending on which subfaction you’re using. Anvilguard gets mount traits for Dragons, Karibdyss and War Hydras so if you play Anvilguard you may not care. Everyone else is going to be very happy.

Griffons can take a trait called Soaring Guarding and it’s good! The first time it’s killed in a game roll a dice and on a 2+ it instead is removed from the table, heals D3 wounds, and is set back up more than 9” away from all enemy models. Combine with a Heroic Recovery in the next hero phase and maybe some healing spells/prayers and you can get this back up to fighting shape before you know it.

Black Dragons have their own: Foetid Breath which enhances its breath attack making mortal wounds occur on a 5+ instead of a 6. Not bad, if you’re playing Anvilguard it competes well with Jutting Bones and Acidic Blood.

If you’re not playing Anvilguard and have either of these mounts, it’s a straight upgrade. Its also additional incentive to bring Monster Leaders, something that is often neglected in Cities Armies in order to save points (and be able to use Look Out, Sir! and Cover).

What is disappointing is that this is all you get. Depending on what you bring this could mean nothing at all to you, and at best it feels like the Seraphon mount traits: You didn’t have one before so any Mount Trait is still an upgrade. It’s dull, but this army isn’t suffering from lack of options in other areas either.

Open Play

You’re starting to see the pattern by now: one Twist and one Ruse. The Twist is that on a 4-6 both players can call on Reinforcements. At the end of the movement phase a player may bring back a destroyed unit on the board edge, within 6″. Not wild on this, since it lacks a restriction (other than one per turn) it feels like it’d just be exhausting. It’s open play though, balance isn’t a concern. It just doesn’t seem like much fun.

The ruse gives your Stormcast coalition units the Scions of the Storm rules so you can punt them into deep strike. Actually not bad and would be interesting to see added to matched play. Overall these are pretty unexciting and not as adventurous as past ones. Well, they can’t all be winners.

Demigryph Knights. Credit: SRM

Path to Glory

The Path to Glory rules are pretty uneventful here. There aren’t any unique mechanics that make the army play like it’s own “thing”. What it does give is many supplemental options to existing upgrades that flesh things out a bit. To get a truly unique experience they may have to wait for a battletome

Honoured Retinues and Generals Adjutants

Just a clarification that you can choose these roles when mustering an army. So basically every game you can choose who will fill the role, and it won’t be locked when creating an Order of Battle.

Quest: Exceptional Beasts

Exactly the same as the Seraphon Quest from the previous issue. Nominate a mounted Hero, if they kill a unit then they get an applicable mount trait. Not exciting, but Anvilguard lists can get more mileage out of it than the Seraphon did with theirs.

Veteran Abilities

The bulk of the Path to Glory content, there’s a bit of something for everybody here with requirements broad enough to hit as many units as possible. All of these are once per game abilities.

Elite Cavalry – For a mounted unit you can get a +1 to hit and to wound after a charge. A lot of your better mounted units, like Freeguild Outriders are ranged but something like Wild Riders will benefit from this.

A Resounding Welcome – Artillery only, fire twice in the first battle round. Great for your rocket batteries!

Masters of Ambush – Aelf units get to reroll a charge. Excellent for Phoenix guard or Wild Riders.

Stoic Willpower – Duardin units get to ignore a spell once per turn. Excellent combo with your Irondrakes as your opponent will likely try and take them out early.

Swift Like the Wind – Mounted units with ranged weapons can run and shoot. Now this is for the Outriders and Pistoleers.

Heroic Upgrades

All stuff that gets your heroes mounts, as you come to expect at this point. Anointed can get a Phoenix (both flavors), a Sorceress can get a Black Dragon and a Freeguild General can get a Griffon. All pretty expected but the Battlemage is fun. Depending on which realm theyre from they can upgrade to a Battlemage on Griffon (if they’re from Ghur), a Luminark of Hysh with White Battlemage (Hysh) and Celestial Hurricanum (Azyr).


Three full new territories to play around with. The Stormvault which lets you loot a relic on a lucky die roll. It’s an exact copy of the one from the Tome Celestial for Seraphon so nothing new but it’s a fun mechanic. The Settlement Site is straightforward, letting you increase your unit limit by 3 for every 5 Glory spent.

Allied Enclave is the most interesting one by far. You can add 3 units an army that can ally, and if you upgrade it you get to give one of those units the Cities of Sigmar keyword if they’re a HERO. This could actually open up a lot of strategic or interesting flavor options with Idoneth or Fyreslayers.

Matched Play

For your matched play games this update includes a Grand Strategy and 2 Battle Tactics specific to Cities of Sigmar armies. Notably missing though are any Core Battalions, but I guess this is because this is an army that doesn’t actually struggle fitting into any of the normal ones. 

Grand Strategies

Mighty Beachhead – If you choose this as your grand strategy then you complete it by controlling more terrain features than your opponent. What separates this from the General’s Handbook version is that any terrain features that were set up by your opponent count as 3 instead of 1 when determining which player controls more. If you have a highly mobile force then maybe you consider taking this, but really you’ll often have an easier one to score. 

Battle Tactics 

Banners Held High – Pick 2 objective markers more than 12” apart from each other and if you have a banner bearer within 1” of each at the end of the turn you score. This is incredibly cool and thematic, it won’t work too well in every battleplan but what’s nice is you don’t even need to control the objective. At the right time, this is a good one to keep in the back pocket to score. 

Sanctify – Pick a unit of Flagellants that is not within 6” of an objective that is also not wholly or partially within enemy territory and then score if the unit moves within 6” of an objective that is wholly or partially within enemy territory. In short, take a unit of flagellants not on an objective across the table to an objective that’s touching the enemy territory. Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve even seen a unit of flagellants in a Cities of Sigmar army but if you’re taking any then this could be something to score.

Steam Tank. Credit: SRM


Overall I found this Tome Celestial underwhelming. We’re in the thick of it now, this being the 4th one in a row. I don’t expect them all to be truly unique and Cities of Sigmar was already one of the most diverse armies in the game in terms of options. I still feel there were some potential avenues for creativity, like a new mechanic in Path to Glory for going purely with Freeguild, Duardin or Aelves (or for going for a more Cosmopolitan approach). This is all coverage until the battletome hits, so it’s still worth picking up as it’s an upgrade either way.