Long ago, during the age of myth called 2nd Edition, I started a Cities of Sigmar army. The Cities had just got their battletome not too long ago, I had just got my Legions of Nagash/Tomb Kings army to a pretty solid state and I wanted a bit of a change of pace. I had a list of a number of requirements for whatever new army I would start, and Cities of Sigmar met them all:
- A different play style and aesthetic from Legions of Nagash.
- Something that I could build and paint "as intended" without constantly having to think about proxying or hunting down out of production models.
- Something elite, because I was burnt out on skeleton hordes.
- A chance to actually paint people with the skin still on.
These considerations eventually made me settle on a concept that I believe was mentioned on Warhammer Weekly at some point: A modern day combined arms force in the mortal realms. That means tanks and infantry supported by aircraft and artillery. Cities of Sigmar has access to all the units necessary to serve that theme: Steam Tanks, Gyrocopters, Handgunners, Helstorm Rockets...
Pictured: The Mortal Realms, probably. (Source)
Of course, when you translate your initial theme into an actual list that, ideally, wins games sometimes, you have to be willing to make some concessions.
Right of the bat, even in 2nd edition, Steam Tanks were always going to be a bit of a pet choice. Not exactly bad bad, but definitely not good either. Since I knew I wanted a bunch of tanks, though, I decided that the rest of the army would be where I compromize the theme for viability. Handgunners would still be my backbone unit, but I would also take a unit of Greatswords along eventually to have an actual hammer. A Hurricanum would be added for that sweet +1 to hit aura, even though it does not really fit the war machine theme. Even though the Cities of Sigmar artillery looks cool, it was mechanically just not worth it, so Helstorms and Helblasters are out. A Knight-Azyros is a cheap, fast support hero that should probably go in the list, even though it's really too mystical to fit the theme.
I decided to first get a bunch of Steam Tanks ready for the tabletop, since those are what I was most excited about in the army, followed by a Gyrocopter and Knight-Azyros conversion. At some point, the Broken Realms campaign started and brought with it a box with two Hurricanums and the ven Densts.
It may not look like much, but it's an honest 1300 or so points.
Then 3rd edition rolled around and brought with it a bunch of changes. Suddenly, a lot of the units I had previously planned to include as a compromise for the sake of viability were actually not at all good anymore. With buff stacking removed, the Hurricanum had limited value in combination with Steam Tanks (who have two sources of +1 to hit on their warscroll). The Knight-Azyros basically stopped working with Cities armies alltogether. What's worse, some of the units were part of the core theme of the army also started to become pretty unviable: Handgunners lost much of their damage potential and were suddenly no longer the only unit with the ability to shoot in the charge phase. Gyrocopters lost a lot of their horde killing potential and could no longer be taken in squads of three. Steam Tanks got worse, while other, smilar units (monsters) got a lot better.
So I decided that if my Cities army was going to be bad anyway, I would at least include all and only the models that I am excited about. However, for me that meant finding a new theme, as well. In concrete terms, it would mean that artillery is back on the menu in terms of Helstorm rockets. And it would mean that Handgunners are probably out for now, because while I love these little weirdos and their puffy sleeves, their current models are just not up to par. At the same time, I want to include more magical stuff, like the Luminark, since I found that I liked those weird baroque buff wagons a lot more than I originally thought, as well as more witch hunters, which also seem to be on the horizon.
However, where my previous plan had a clear theme, this new collection of units was kind of lacking unity. What do wizards, tanks, helicopters, rocket artillery and witch hunters have in common, after all? The old "modern combined arms" list could get by without any real fluff, because the theme was (at least for me) strong and evident enough. But I felt like the new army would need to have a bit more thought put into it. It would need a theme that would make you go "Ah, I get it now" after hearing about it and seeing the models.
Finally, after a bunch of deliberation, I have decided that the overarching theme of this army will be "alchemy". How exactly that works as a unifying theme for this army might not be 100% clear to you at this point, but making it clear is going to be the purpose of this blog! In the future, I hope to post a collection of lore posts, "behind the scenes" stuff on the real-life inspiration for the lore and modelling/painting content about my newly-named City of Sigmar of Schwarzerden on here. I hope it will be of interest for some of you!