Cities of Sigmar's Aelves: Knife-Eared and Proud

Carter Kachmarik
August 10, 2023


While we’re still a few weeks away from the official reveal of many rules for the overhauled Cities of Sigmar, through many mystifying sources (let’s say, Mishavn couriers), those warscrolls are now known in Age of Sigmar.  This is an absolutely packed tome, with a ton of warscrolls for any number of playstyles, though one thing I’m most excited for, and likely unmentioned in-depth by other wargamers, is the tremendous increase in power for the Dark Aelves.  As was announced a bit ago, the High & Wood Aelves have been entirely cut from the tome, leaving just the shadowy Umbraneth, but I’m thankful to report they’ve been treated mercifully, if not spectacularly.  There’s a ton of reasons to be hyped for Battletome: Cities of Sigmar, but I’m here to focus on the glass cannon portion of the book: Aelves.

Via The Grand Alliance

The Aelves of Cities of Sigmar are divided into a ton of subsections, but the most noteworthy are the Order Serpentis, Aelves who align themselves with scaly warbeasts, the Scourge Privateers, piratical hordes with tons of skirmishing power, and the Darkling Covens, both the Wizards & servants that make up your rank & file.  Unique to all Aelves are their Aelven Orders, part of the new factionwide mechanic inherent to Cities, which I’ll briefly touch upon.

Orders are tokens you place face-down beside each of your Heroes at the start of the Battle Round, with the ability to reveal them by turning them face-up, during the relevant phase.  This adds a huge amount of depth and prediction to both the army’s gameplay, and its counterplay, and I’m thrilled to see what top minds accomplish with this system of gambits.  For Aelf Orders specifically (Must be Given & Received by an Aelf), you have Strike them Down (Reveal during the Charge Phase to give a unit Strike-First after a successful charge) and Swift Disengage (At the end of any Combat Phase, a unit immediately retreats).  These orders are designed to keep your units fast & furious, helping to supplement the glass cannon nature of their profiles.  While I can’t touch on it here, the Generic Orders also include Counter Charge, which does exactly what you’d imagine.  Keep it in mind as we delve into the rest of their rules!

Via The Grand Alliance

First off, the Order Serpentis, led by a Dreadlord on Black Dragon.  So long as he’s your general, you can take Drakespawn Knights as Battleline, and he has a standard monster-mounted Hero profile, with one important distinction: Full Charge Re-Rolls for himself and any Order Serpentis unit within 12”.  Given this applies passively, you’re able to set up devastating swings with Strike them Down and a double reinforced unit of Drakespawn Knights, or protect your backline shooting with Counter Charge.  Knights have a fantastic 2”/2/3+/4+/-2/2 + 3/1”/3+/4+/-1/1 per model on the Charge, so they’re a prime candidate for massing in a shock cavalry list.  Drakespawn Chariots also assist, dealing either 1 or 3 Mortal Wounds on the charge, with chances to increase those odds, and damage, by charging a unit in combat with Knights.  Curiously, the War Hydra is the odd man out here, being relatively non-synergistic with the rest of the Order Serpentis.  If you’re into Cavalry, scales, and huge early swings, this may be your way to play Cities (with cheap models, too!).

Via The Grand Alliance

Next, the Scourge Privateers, which are your de facto horde portion of Aelfs, with the gruesome combination of the Black Ark Fleetmaster and Black Ark Corsairs.  Cities now has a variety of subfaction choices that assist horde blocks, either letting them Rally in combat, or giving them higher bravery at 10+ models, and these two put in work when it comes down to that.  The Fleetmaster gives Corsairs +1 Attack when he issues All-Out Attack, giving either their Repeaters or Blades a huge leap in output, depending on the phase.  Then, you have the Privateers, which deal 1 Mortal Wound to enemies that roll a 1 to hit them, meaning you can whittle down foes like Zombies in Soulblight.  Sadly, the Kharibdyss & Scourgerunner Chariots don’t benefit from this, and share in the Hydra’s issue of being a bland, non-synergistic unit in an army built on buffs.  Both the Fleetmaster and 10 Corsairs come in at a whopping 90 points apiece, so taking a few blocks of 20 or even 30 isn’t unheard of.

Via Games Workshop

Finally, there’s the Darkling Covens, but be warned, this is less optimistic than my thoughts above!  With the sole exception of exactly 2 units in combination, there’s not really much to see here; Bleakswords do nothing interesting, there’s better ways in the book to generate Mortal Wounds than Executioners, Darkshards are a middling ranged option in a book full of incredible ones, and Dreadspears feel like someone forgot to check what edition we’re in.  The Sorceress on Black Dragon is decent, and borderline certainly, but the actual two winners here are the Sorceress (on foot) and Black Guard.  This stems from Steel and Sorcery, the unique rule for Black Guard, which gives them & any Sorceress (on foot) within 3” a 4+ Ward, making them 4+/4++.  For a unit you can take a 30 block of, with a profile of 2”/2/3+/3+/-1/1, that is one MEAN tarpit.  This couples with the Aelf spell, Tenebrael Blades, which treats units attacked by the target to have a save of “-”, so even AoD won’t protect them from the Black Guard’s innate -1 rend.  It’s a mere 520 points to take a 30 block of Black Guard and an accompanying Sorceress, and most Cities of Sigmar armies are going to consider exactly that, for the midboard.

Via Bartosz Wiezik

There’s more Aelven units I can’t cover in full, such as the Dark Riders, who deny commands on a 5+, the Assassin, a premier hero-killer, or the many, many Human units that synergize with their knife-eared compatriots, but suffice to say there’s tons to be excited for.  The Dark Aelf line is a strange one, being largely from Fantasy, meaning it’s also decently cheap to collect!  I may be getting a side army myself, composed mostly of these fantastic shock troops, and if I do, you’ll be sure to hear about it.

With that, I conclude my coverage of Cities of Sigmar’s Aelves!  Have you played their part of the army before the new book?  What else are you excited about within the new tome?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, so go ahead and leave a comment below!


Related Product