Army Planning: Cities of Sigmar, Unliving City

I recently wrote about building some themed undead armies for Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar.  Following a bit more thought, I’m really interested in pursuing one of these forces later in the year.  I really thought that the Vampire Coast would be the first army that I’d find myself doing from that post but, actually, it’s the Cursed City-themed army that has me a lot more interested. 

I love the idea of a Vampire-controlled city in Shyish, the Realm of Death. Combining Soulblight and Cities of Sigmar kits, this army would be fielded as Soulblight Gravelords, though with a definite vibe reminiscent of the old Empire from the World That Was.

So, the first step on from my previous musings would be to nail down an actual list for the army.  Some units will be taken directly from the previous post, whilst others will be removed.  The idea of Aetherwings as Fellbats, for example, didn’t really pan out for me.  It’s a nice idea, but it’s not really specific enough.  It’s just a straight proxy rather than a real conversion.  I’m not against straight proxies, but this isn’t even a particularly good proxy, y’know? 

No, I’ll be focusing on units where I can have some fun with a few different kits and come up with something that looks pretty cool and fits into the setting.  That bit is important.  I want the army to look like it fits the setting.  It needs to look like Soulblight.  It needs to look like Cities of Sigmar.  It needs to blend. 

The List

So, then… a list.  These are very much just some thoughts at the moment.  The details like the Lineage, along with artifacts, command trains, core battalions, and the like, aren’t final, or even really started.  Here’s what I have so far as an idea: 

Allegiance: Soulblight Gravelords
– Lineage: Kastelai Dynasty

Leaders
Neferata, Mortarch of Blood (365)
Wight King on Skeletal Steed (130)
 General
Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon (435)
 Deathlance
Mannfred von Carstein, Mortarch of Night (380)

Battleline
5 x Blood Knights (195)
10 x Grave Guard (140)
 Great Wight Blades
10 x Grave Guard (140)
 Great Wight Blades
20 x Deadwalker Zombies (115)

Units
5 x Black Knights (100)

Total: 2000 / 2000
Reinforced Units: 0 / 4
Allies: 0 / 400
Wounds: 110
Drops: 9

I’m not sure about the Wight King being the general, but I need it to make the Battleline work. The only unit that needs no conversion work are the Deadwalker Zombies. The new kit already looks like the unit is made up of dead citizens of Sigmar’s assorted cities. Also, the kit isn’t the most conversion/kitbash-friendly one out there. The rest of the rank and file, though? Let’s lash at it!

The Conversions: Units

The Grave Guard are the core of the army. These will be a mix of parts from the Grave Guard kit, along with bits from the Freeguild Greatswords and, possibly, the Freeguild Guard kits. Let’s start by looking at these kits. As we nip through these, you can (and should) click on the sprue image for a closer look.

Grave Guard

Freeguild Greatswords

Freeguild Guard

Looking at the kits, the Greatswords and the Grave Guard are going to work reasonably well together. It really helps that these kits both have separate parts for their legs and torsos. This will make mixing and matching a lot easier than it could have been. Generally, I’ll be using the weapons from the Greatswords. In some cases, I’ll use the whole arm and will just have to paint the hands to resemble bone, whilst in other cases I will chop the weapon from the arm and attach it to a Grave Guard arm. I could happily see one unit using the Grave Guard banner and the other using the Greatswords one.

The point of picking up the Freeguild unit is not so much for straight conversion as it is for bits.  Heads, weapons, and shields are the order of the day here, along with command bits like the banner and the drum.  I like the drum.  I could use bodies and torsos as well, but this will just need a bit more work as the legs and torsos are given as a single part that I’ll need to take a saw to.  Or clippers if I don’t care about being able to us both halves of the body. 

Thanks to the compatibility between the Grave Guard and Greatswords kits, these should be relatively straightforward conversions.  It shouldn’t be too tricky to end up with something that fits the theme really well.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the mounted units, shall we?  Riding into battle, we will have a unit each of Blood Knights and Black Knights.  The Black Knights will relatively straightforward, but the Blood Knights will be a little more complex.  The plan for the Black Knights is to mix in parts from the Greatsword and Freeguild Guard kits that I presented above.  Let’s take a look at the Black Knight kit: 

Black Knights

Okay, so… Black Knights. I’ll be using the horses as-is.  They look great and I want them to look undead.  There’s not a whole lot I can easily do to them to set them apart.  Fair enough.  I will likely use the legs from the Black Knights as well.  They need to fit around the horses and I know these legs do that.  This means that, really, I need to differentiate them with weapons, torsos and the like.  I think I’ll mix in some torsos from the Freeguild kits and perhaps some weapons as well.  The halberds might look good.  I know that the models are listed as being armed with lances, but there’s only one option for the unit anyway, so I’m not overly worried about WYSIWYG presentation, y’know?  These guys will be a touch harder to get right than the Grave Guard, but it should be pretty doable. 

The Blood Knights… well, they’re going to be a pretty expensive unit.  There’s no getting around that if I want to stick to my plan for them.  The plan is to mash them together with the Demigryph Knights kit.  Again, let’s start by looking at both kits and their sprues for an idea of exactly what we’re working with: 

Blood Knights

Demigryph Knights

This is the unit the inspired the army, so I really want to do it right.  The idea, as with much of the army, was taken from this image from the Mortal Realms podcast blog:

Image taken from Mortal Realms podcast

I love the idea of these Vampiric knights riding into battle on vicious demigryphs.  So cool!  Now, I mentioned expense.  With three demigryphs to a box, I’m going to need two boxes to actually get anywhere with this conversion.  I could potentially recoup that a little bit if I doubled up and did two units that would be pretty much the reverse of each other.  One unit would be the Blood Knights riding on the Demigryphs whilst the other would use the Demigryph Knights – with Blood Knight bits – riding on the Blood Knight steeds.  The ‘main’ unit would be the ones riding the demigryphs, but I’d have the option of using another 5.  Yeah, this sounds sensible…  I could swap out the zombies and Black Knights when I feel like using them.

The conversions are mostly simple.  The torsos aren’t as ‘clean’ a match as the Grave Guard and Greatswords were and I will likely have to take a razor saw to then if I really want to preserve the parts for a second unit as I described above. 

The Conversions: Characters

Now, let’s take a look at the characters for the army. I’ve got a few of them, and most are biggies:

  • Wight King
  • Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon
  • Neferata
  • Mannfred Von Carstein

Let’s begin with the General; the Wight King on Skeletal Steed. This particular miniature is, I believe, only currently available in the Start Collecting set. This isn’t actually a problem; we are going to need every miniature in that set, so buying it is going to be pretty cost effective. Again, let’s start with a look at his Sprue:

Gorgeous. That said, it’s a little disappointing that the Wight King’s legs are sculpted onto the steed. This limits our choices somewhat. It gives us two different ways that we can go with this conversion.

The first is to move the torso, weapon and head onto the leftover Demigryph from the Blood Knight conversions. This is what my original plan was, and its what I am most likely to do.

The other option, like my second Blood Knight unit above, is the invert the conversion, using Demigryph Knight parts to create a Freeguild-themed general on top of the Wight King’s mount. At this point, I really wish that there was an entry somewhere in the Soulblight Gravelord book for a Vampire Lord on horseback. There used to be so many of these minis back in the days of Warhammer’s Vampire Counts army, so it’s disappointing to see them seemingly disappear altogether. I suppose I can make a second Wight King for the sake of it.

Next up, let’s look to the other generic character in the list, the Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon. I do not intend to buy a zombie dragon kit for this. Someone at the local club has been building their Flesheater Courts army and has the Vampire Lord from the zombie dragon kit going spare. That’ll do nicely for a start. The other kit I’m going to need is the Freeguild General on Griffon. Let’s look at the kit:

As with the Demigryph Knights, this conversion is directly inspired by the work shown on the Mortal Realms podcast’s blog:

Image taken from Mortal Realms podcast

I mean, this is going to be pretty simple. The intention is to field the Griffon as a Zombie Dragon. He’ll be largely intact with a dark paint scheme. I might add some Spirit Host bits to his base for emphasis, and something coming out of his mouth for the breath weapon. Will I use the single or double-headed variant? I don’t know.

Other than that, it’s really just a matter of sticking the Vampire on top. As usual, I could mix in some Freeguild parts to help with theming, but this really really one of the simpler conversions in this army.

I have the option as well of fielding this chap as Prince Vhordrai. I might actually do this. He seems a lot better than the generic Vampire Lord. If I do this, I would need to make a slight adjustment to the list, dropping the 20 zombies and replacing them with 10 skeletons. As with the zombies, I would likely use the current skeletons, as presented in the Cursed City set, unchanged. I don’t have to commit to this decision and can quite happily field either unit, depending on how I feel at the time.

Right, on to the biggies. On to the Mortarchs. I love the idea of fielding these guys. I’ve long loved Warhammer Fantasy’s Lahmian bloodline, so I’m totally pumped for making Neferata. Mannfred was never my favourite Von Carstein but he’s always been a true badass. To do these miniatures I will need another 2 kits. Namely, the Mortarch kit and the High Elf Phoenix. I’d also at this point grab a box of Spirit Hosts in order to give me some cool, spectres that can be surrounding the Phoenix and, indeed, the previously-discussed Griffon/Dragon. Let’s take a look at their sprues and see what we’re going to do:

Mortarchs (Mannfred and Neferata)

Flamespyre Phoenix

Spirit Host

Fundamentally, these are just cracking models. I’m probably going to ruin them. Oh, dear. I was initially only planning to do Neferata, but I’m really reluctant to buy a pricey Mortarch box to only use a handful of bits. At NoRerolls, we use every bit of the kit! Well, maybe not the Arkhan bits. For now. We’ll see.

Neferata! Yes, I went on a slight mental meander there… I’m going to refer back to one of the images that really inspired this army, the original Neferata/Phoenix conversion from the Mortal Realms podcast:

Image taken from Mortal Realms podcast

The trickiest thing with this mini will be cutting down or, better, repositioning Neferata’s flowing robes. This will be a challenge for someone like me with zero sculpting ability. That said, I know that these skills aren’t naturally ingrained, so I’ll look at it as a chance to learn. In terms of basing, I’m not the biggest fan of flight stands so, as in the image above, I’ll look to mount the Phoenix on a piece of terrain. Most likely, I’ll use the belltower from the Warcry terrain set:

Image taken from The Cambridge Warlords

That’s a great piece of terrain, and it will give me abundant height to use, and will make sure the base is interesting. I need to find some street accessories for adding to larger bases, as well. The Warcry Terrain might also be handy for the bases of both Mannfred and the Zombie Dragon.

For Mannfred, the converted miniature will be a lot closer to the stock one. I’ll be keeping Mannfred’s Dread Abyssal largely intact. It’s Mannfred himself that will see some changes. Simply, we’ll be dipping back into bits from the Demigryph Knights, Greatswords and Empire General to make. I’m actually pretty tempted to give him Ghal Maraz. Just for the lulz, really. That’s a good reason, innit?

Resources

Right, so… kits. Yeah… This is where things get tricky. This is were things get pricey. It’s all fun and games until you need to settle the bill, isn’t it?

The kits required, at a minimum, to do this army would be:

Soulblight Kits:

  • 1x Start Collecting: Soulblight Gravelords (20 Grave Guard, 5 Black Knights, Wight King on Skeletal Steed)
  • 1x Blood Knights
  • 1x Mortarch Kit (Neferata/Mannfred/Arkhan)
  • Something to use for the vampire lord to be mounted on the Griffon
  • 1x Deadwalker Zombies (or 1x Deathrattle Skeletons if using Prince Vhordrai variant list)

Cities of Sigmar Kits:

  • 2x Freeguild Greatswords (possibly more)
  • 2x Freeguild Demigryph Knights
  • 1x Freeguild Guard (for bits, optional)
  • 1x Freeguild General on Griffon
  • 1x Flamespyre Phoenix

Other Kits:

  • 1x Spirit Hosts (for bits, optional)
  • Terrain for basing and Neferata’s flight stand

Yikes. That adds up. At the best prices I can find, that’s still around £320, not including the terrain or the rider for the Griffon. According to Age of Miniatures, that’s a pretty typical sort of cost. The army consists of 54 miniatures, or 44 if going for the Vhordrai variant. Actually, for me, it would bring the cost below 300 if I were using the Vhordrai variant as I have the 10 Skeletons from Cursed city that I could use. This is also all before Games Workshop’s imminent price rises.

Scope for Expansion

Beyond the initial list, there’s a lot of scope for expansion with this army. There are more units that I would covert, but also some units that I’d include without any changes. Namely, these units that will go unconverted are:

  • Anything from the Cursed City boxed set
  • Dire Wolves
  • Kritza, the Rat Prince
  • Lady Annika, the Thirsting Blade

That said, let’s consider some units I’d love to convert and include at some point, if I were to further expand the force…

First, even though it’s now in the Nighthaunt book rather than the Soulblight one, I’d love a Black Coach. I always felt that the Black coach was such an iconic model in the Vampire Counts range. it was such a great centrepiece model and one which also delivered ruleswise. It was imposing, and I’m a bit disappointed that there’s not really an equivalent for the model in today’s Vampire (Soulblight) army.

I could use the standard model, of course. it’s great. It could easily be painted in such a way as to fit the solid Soulblight, rather than the ethereal Nighthaunt. I’ve also seen some really nice 3D printed options, such as one by Highlands Miniatures. Here are both:

They’re both great, but I actually think I’d stick with the original, all things considered. In terms of kitbashing, there’s also the possibility of using the existing Cities of Sigmar range; namely the Celestial Hurricanum/Luminark of Hysh kit. This gives a suitable carriage miniature, complete with an ornate display on the top that would suitably represent the buffing effects of the warscroll:

It could be used as a Black Coach, but looking again at the original model, I really think I’d just stick with Games Workshop’s standard offering. That said, I really like the idea of using this miniature for something. Some other options are to use it as a Corpse Cart or a Mortis Engine. Of the two, I’d rather use it as a Mortis Engine because it’s more of a centrepiece. I think I’d need to add something to give it a bit more height, but I’m not sure what this would be at the moment. Perhaps a spiral of spirit host bits to lift the realm mappy… thing? The wizard would also need either replaced or converted for a more lich-like look.

On the topic of the Mortis Engine, I really like the Mortis Engine kit. There are three variants in this kit, including the Mortis Engine, Bloodseeker Palanquin, and Coven Throne:

There are two things to consider with these kits. First, the models themselves look great. They’re not the best tie-in with our theme, though. The question then comes up whether we look to use the bits to add to a Cities of Sigmar kit, or whether we use these as the base model and attempt to add Cities parts to make them fit better. Or both? We could certainly try to double up. Perhaps we could build a Bloodseeker Palanquin, adding some Cities parts to the vampires thereon, and add Mortis Engine parts to a Celestial Hurricanum to make a very thematic Mortis Engine. Again, we like to use all parts of the Buffalo. I love the idea of this army, and there are so many opportunities for fun, cool things.

Conclusion and Colours

I think there’s a definite direction laid out here, but what I haven’t really mentioned is a colour scheme. I don’t know what I’d go with. I could see the beasts being quite dark, but I want the cloth, robes, banners and the like to be pretty vibrant. I love the colourful uniforms of (most of) the old Empire provinces. Here’s a great page of examples:

Middenland, Carroburg, Talabheim, and the Stir River Patrol have long been among my favourites. I’d likely go with a nice bright blue, red, or green. To be honest, red is the most likely to really die in with the Vampire theme, but then it might be nice to change it up somewhat. I’ve also already got a very red army in the form of m’Squigs. Will have a ponder.

Well, if you’ve stuck it out for the full 3,000+ words of this post, well done! Thanks! I appreciate it. I love the idea of this army and I’m generally a big believer in kitbashing. I think this will be a lot of fun, and something that I’d like to make a start on once I clear a current project from the slate.

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