Tuesday, 30 July 2019

So what's a "City of Sigmar" and why haven't I heard of them? A Brief History

If you're reading this post a short while into the future, chances are you have heard of Cities of Sigmar - they're the horrible gamebreaking point-and-click gunline army, that even after their third errata nerf continues to dominate the competitive meta; with hastily contrast painted cannons and aelf archers taking up 95% of tournament tables. If like me, you're from the past, then read on...

I'll keep this brief, as at the time of writing nobody outside of Lenton has any idea when the new battletome's coming out, or very much about what's in it. Cities of Sigmar (formerly Free Cities), are both mortal inhabited cities, founded by the forces of Order across the Mortal Realms, and an army, currently comprised of no less than 15(!) smaller factions, mainly comprised of models that started life as Empire, Dwarf and High/Dark/Wood Elf Warhammer* units. The army is a converter and narrative player's dream, with the only limitation on what they should look like and where they come from being your imagination (and patience. elaborate paintjobs and conversions are fiddly), as well as a Warhammer Longbeard's, keeping your favourite "good guy" units alive on the table, and at the forefront of the new setting (unless your favourite units were French... vive la Flesh-Eater Courts?).

Free City inhabitants made their proper AoS debut (having previously existed as legacy Warscrolls for old Warhammer factions) in 2016's Grand Alliance: Order, a glossy cover-all compendium of warscrolls for all the Order models at the time. Back then none of the Cities of Sigmar had been founded yet, and they were introduced in a section titled "The Glory of Azyrheim", detailing the mortal forces from Sigmar's capital helping the Stormhosts secure beachheads in the Mortal Realms.

The 15 factions (well 16, we lost Daughters of Khaine to monstergirls) that made up the armies of Azyrheim were drawn from the Dwarf, Empire and assorted elf units that had survived WFB, but hadn't been folded into or reimagined as a new faction for AoS. Each of them got a background page, explaining who they were and what they liked to get up to in their spare time (they've remained largely unchanged since resettling outside of Azyr). The idea of roguish mixed Order armies fighting for a foothold in the Mortal Realms quickly captured the imaginations of of a lot of hobbyists, myself included.

In the summer of 2016 the Season of War global campaign hit, advancing the game's narrative with the forces of Order having settled down and founded Hammerhal, greatest of the Free Cities, and the Seeds of Hope, a trio of cities in the Realm of Life - all up for grabs between the four Grand Alliances over the course of the campaign. The UK fought over the technologically advanced Greywater Fastness, North America the verdant Living City, and Europe and the rest of the world the esoteric Phoenicium. Needless to say the sheer number of available Order factions compared to the other Grand Alliances at the time ensured that the Seeds of Hope survived the campaign, and have become staples of the AoS background since, Hammerhal later fully fleshed out in Warhammer Quest: Shadows Over Hammerhal.

Roughly a year after the global campaign, we got Season of War: Firestom, a narrative expansion, that took map based campaigns to the next level (it had stickers and everything! pick up a copy if you can). As well as campaign rules, Firestorm's rulebook also came with 10 sets of mini allegiance abilities for mixed Grand Alliance armies, and seven of these for different Free Cities! The Seeds of Hope (having survived the global campaign) and Hammerhal were joined by Anvilgard, Tempest's Eye and Hallowheart, a trio of new cities founded in the area of Aqshy Firestorm was set. None of these allegiances did much for competitive play, essentially offering a minor bonus special rule on top of basic Order allegiance in exchange for a limited roster, but we did now have official rules, (however insignificant) for theming armies around one of these seven major cities (or a homebrew city with similar traits, Space Marine rules!).

Since then the Cities of Sigmar have become an ever increasing cornerstone of the AoS setting, featuring in almost every recent battletome, supplement, and Black Library novel (City of Secrets by Nick Horth is a particularly good read, introducing the city of Excelsis in Ghur, and giving a real boots on the ground feel of what life's like for its inhabitants), and only continuing to grow in popularity among painters, converters and narrative players.

What does the future hold for Cities of Sigmar? Right now your guess is as good as mine. The Warhammer Community open day coverage announcing the impending book mentions seven stets of allegiance abilities, and namedrops all seven of the cities from Firestorm, so I think it's relatively safe to infer that those will be what we're getting; and rules for being able able to pick a retinue and personal advisor for your general, which is neat. There's a report of one of the design team on duty confirming battleline Steam Tanks of some sort, so colour me thrilled. The open day article also acknowledges that some models are going to be retired from the range, whether this means a few finecast heroes and all the currently already unavailable Isle of Blood/Spire of Dawn aelf stuff, or entire plastic kits remains to be seen... there have already been fierce debates and people trying to count the (sealed) packs of warscroll cards on display at the open day. Ominous!

If you want to get a feel for Cities of Sigmar and find out more ahead of the battletome, check out this forum post I made giving a quick overview of the seven cities given the spotlight in Firestorm. I'm planning on doing something similar here for the seven allegiances (whatever they may be) covered in the new book. Until then I suppose I'd better find something to write about while I wait for more details to start appearing. Taking suggestions...

*For anyone not in the know, Warhammer was a fairly obscure game Games Workshop put out sometime last century. It's main focus was dogfight-style duels between sets of cardboard rectangles stacked with lead models, with a sliding difficultly scale determined by how flat the pieces of scenery you chose to use were. 

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