So, in keeping with the theme of other strategy articles I've decided to post on one of my all-time favorite masters the Viktorias. I also anticipate utilizing this information for a future project I hope to do...
The Viktorias are a very hard hitting combination that not many models would be able to survive against if they were charged by them. They can bypass a lot of the average defenses while pushing some of the highest damage from melee in the game. They also sport some of the best mobility in the game - if there's a target they need to get to there isn't a lot that can stand in their way.
On the other side of that coin they are a very vulnerable duo. Their defenses only mitigate so much, and with the equivalent of the average master's wounds split between two models they become susceptible to a quick death. They are also resource intensive, demanding many soulstones to stay alive and cards to make their attacks effective. When one twin uses up resources to gain an advantage the other one may be suffering because of it. They also are very involved with their activation order. Many say that they are the definitive glass cannons of the game. I think of them more like a house of cards - when one gives way it doesn't take long for the game to crumble if not handled correctly.
I'm going to go over the individual nuances of each of the pair, along with some notable synergies, mainstay crew members and general activation strategies.
From this point I'll often refer to them by Ashes or Blood.
Viktoria of Ashes
The lady of the hour that makes it all work, Viktoria of Ashes is what I would consider the support half of the twins. There may be several different play styles involved with her, but every one of them revolve around getting her better half into position to attack.
Front of Card Stats
Ashes sports an average walk and a very high charge range of 8. She has an average defense and a slightly higher WP. She has an abysmally low wound count of 7, making her susceptible to death from one enemy activation. She also sports a ridiculously low stone cache of 1, but more than likely it's because she comes with a free badass henchman.
Blood lines is an incredible ability that plays an important role in how the twins work. It gives Melee Expert to other Sister models in LOS regardless of range. You'll more than likely be using this strictly for Viktoria of Blood, as the other Sister models in the game are lackluster in melee.
Fate's Chosen is a defensive buff that's passive. As long as you have three or less cards in your hand you gain positive twists to all Df/WP duels. This can be a frustrating measure for your opponent, as you don't have to do anything outside of managing your cards to benefit from it. There's a very strong, subtle strategy you'll need to become aware of throughout your games in order to capitalize on this defense. These positives, while never a guarantee, can stretch your resource management out for some extra mileage as theoretically you'll need to use less of your control cards to increase your chances of succeeding in duels. There's still the chance of flipping two aces when you're defending, so never ever think of this as a guarantee you'll live through attacks. The best thing this defense is for is actually as a deterrent for enemy models to spend their resources. By flipping better cards you can increase your duel totals to the point where it's requiring your opponent to cheat higher cards - and sometimes it will be worth it for them to do so. But in doing this you're making the decision harder and you may walk away with duels that they decided to save their resources on. If I only flipped one card that required the opponent to cheat in an 8 or higher they'd more than likely try to make that work, but the positive may bump that up to needing a 10 or higher and people may be more reluctant on releasing a face card they may need for other actions.
Fates Entwined is an ability that doesn't occur too often but can be really good when it's needed. This ability allows all sisters to be healed when Ashes heals. There's only a small amount of Sister models in the game, all of which can't be spammed so you're limited to its use in general. On top of that you're more than likely not putting them all in your list at once, and if you are then perhaps in a later section I'll discuss why I wouldn't (lol). However this can be a game-saver if done at the right time. The biggest issue with this is more than likely if either Viktoria gets hit they're knocking on Heaven's door anyway and a solitary heal probably won't save them.
Back of Card Stats
So, onto attack actions! Ashes sports a melee option and a shooting option. Her Masamune Nihonto is a high melee attack with a range of 2. It sports an awesome damage track starting at weak damage 3 with a built in Mask. For an additional Mask she gets her Whirlwind trigger, which allows the attack to generate additional attacks on every model in range except the target. This trigger is amazing, but I will elaborate more on this in Blood's entry.
She also has a Clockwork Pistol, which sports a good long range and a decent Shoot value, along with an average damage track. It's a good option to keep in mind, but Ashes' AP will be strapped and I can't remember the last time I ever actually shot her gun. I always thought it was interesting how in the fluff her character is defined by the fact that out of the twins she's the one who uses a gun, but they made her gun lackluster.
Her tactical actions run the range of useful to useless...
Her first (0) action The Setting Sun gives her a condition based on being within 2" of another Sister model, and it gives an aura for each Sister increasing their Df by 1. Remember, this requires that another Sister be in range for any Sister to benefit from it so she doesn't just get the bonus if she's on her own. The Viktorias require that the player be conscious of each sisters' positioning in order to benefit from their buffs, and this one exemplifies that. If you plan on being bunched together then make sure to pop this buff because it, along with defensive measures like Fate's Chosen, are what makes them survive when it all works together.
Her other (0) action is East and West, which gives Ashes a condition that lets her get positives to attack flips when not within 6" of another Sister. This is the important one to remember should you lose your Sisters in battle. You can't benefit from The Setting Sun when Ashes is left all on her own, so more than likely this will be your go-to (0).
These two (0) actions create what's been referred to as a "Dead Zone" in terms of her abilities. If a fellow sister is about 4" away from Ashes, then she can not benefit from either ability and is left with no (0) action being useful. Just remember you either want them really far or really close to benefit, but also don't let their positioning dictate what is actually best for them during the game. These benefits are a deal-breaker if they don't have it up, so don't compromise a valuable position just so you can get a bump up in defense.
Lastly her other tactical action is a (2) called Dragon's Bite. I've previously gone over why this isn't a great ability when I briefly went over Outcast Masters, so if you're interested in finding more about this ability visit the link. It needs an 8 to cast and targets an enemy model. All Sisters within 6" of the target get placed in base contact, then get a 1AP Melee action which receives a positive flip on damage. It looks good on paper, but it's highly impractical to get set up and uses the majority of her AP. Avoid this, please... but feel free to experiment with it and tell me if you can prove me wrong (I'd gladly love to hear about making it work consistently). She just has so many better options for her AP that are much more effective at doing the same thing - killing stuff in melee.
These are where you start to see how Viktoria of Ashes operates, and how although she sports an impressive array of melee abilities you'll more than likely operate in a support capacity.
First there's Sisters in Fury, which gives her a (1) Tactical action that costs 6 to cast. If successful all Sisters (and the model who casted it) gain a condition that adds +2 damage to melee attacks. This is, by far, the must-have upgrade. For 1 AP, regardless of range or LOS, both Viktorias increase their already great melee damage profiles up by almost double. Each Viktoria will have a minimum 5 damage! Absolutely incredible, and all for a moderate card.
Then there's Sisters in Spirit, which for 1AP you can place another Sister within 6" in base contact with this model. This is used for movement shenanigans and getting your sisters in position for an attack.
There's Synchronized Slaying, which grants Accomplice to the model and gives a 1AP action Sisters in Battle, a buff similar to Sisters in Fury that gives positive flips to attack flips. The buff is very nice, and when possible I utilize it, but I mainly use this upgrade for Accomplice as it allows you to chain an important model immediately after you cast your buff spells and use Sisters in Spirit to place Viktoria of Blood.
Howling Wolf Tattoo is an upgrade I've never used. It lets models that are Mercenaries and in LOS use Flurry/Rapid Fire abilities without discarding a card - a useful ability but one that isn't worth the upgrade slot to me. You can also discard the upgrade to make a model within 8" gain the Sister characteristic until the end of the turn - again, doesn't seem worth it and makes the upgrade even more situational.
All of these upgrades can actually go on other Sister models, with Sisters in Fury being the only exception that limits it to either Viktoria. Typically I put the same three upgrades on Ashes regardless of what I'm playing, which is Sisters in Spirit, Sisters in Fury and Synchronized Slaying. This combination allows me to have several options when activating. I can move once, cast Sisters in Fury for the +2 damage, then teleport Blood in base contact using Sisters in Spirit and chain activate her fully loaded! If you don't have to move or teleport you can throw in Sisters in Battle to gain a positive flip, or just attack for a minimum 5 damage before chain activating.
Notable Generic Upgrades
The only upgrade that comes to mind that would be beneficial for the Viktorias' play style would be Survivalist. This allows you to gain Hard to Kill and gives positive flips to healing flips, something that she may do in the game. Hard to Kill will increase her survival, a weak element for her, with a possibility of bouncing back with a heal somewhere. Her main issue with this is that she has no natural way of healing on her own, so for one precious upgrade slot you're more than likely just adding in an additional AP needed to kill her. Granted, that's a decent improvement well worth consideration, I just tend to find I have no space to sacrifice for the upgrade myself. It depends on your play style and how you plan on using Ashes, I just tend to double down on the fact that I am sending the Viktorias to their doom and the only hope I have is killing enemy models before they attack me. There are other ways of protecting them, this option just limits other options while adding an additional layer of protection.
Other upgrades like Oathkeeper carry the usual benefits that have been exhausted before, it's just that it'll run into the same issue as Survivalist being simply there's just no room.
Viktoria of Blood
Awwww man, this chick is my muse! I absolutely love the carnage she brings, I just live for the destruction.
Viktoria of Blood is what players learn to fear, and also what players try to kill first.
Front of Card Stats
Viktoria of Blood is a free Henchman that you only have access to with Viktoria of Ashes. She sports an average walk and the awesome charge range of 8. She has a Df 6 and WP 5 with the same abysmal wound count as her sister.
She also has Fates Entwined like Ashes, meaning when she heals all other Sisters heal as well.
The Uninvited simply means she can only be hired if Ashes is the leader, so no funny business with Leve!
Fate's Pariah is the exact opposite to Ashes' Fate's Chosen, giving her a bonus positive flip to Df/WP when you have four or more cards in hand. This means that only one sister will benefit from positives at any time, so you have to plan your card management accordingly. This also means that at the beginning of the turn you're more than likely giving the benefit to Blood as you will have more cards in hand, and as the game goes on the benefit will transfer to Ashes.
Into the Fray is unique to Blood and gives her a 1/2/3 healing flip the first time she kills a model during her activation. Couple this with Fates Entwined and now Ashes gains a way to heal outside of changing her crew composition. Remember this ability! It can be a life-saver when done right, and it may change your activation order or AP spending as you can reliably kill models with Blood.
Also, off topic, isn't Viktoria of Blood a Doppleganger in the fluff? I wonder why she doesn't have the Mimic characteristic...
Back of Card Stats
Alright, this is where it gets fun...
So she has one attack action, Paired Masamune Nihonto. This attack sports a high melee value of 7 with a built in Mask and a range of 2". The damage track is impressive at 3/4/6 and gains an innate positive flip to the attack flip. Her trigger Whirlwind is the stuff of legend in her hands and requires an additional Mask. As mentioned in her twin's entry it allows her to make additional attacks against all enemy models in her range. With the built in positive this trigger becomes dangerous, with her additional abilities and upgrades this becomes just plain incredible.
Her first tactical action is a (0) called The Falling Star, which just like her sister's ability The Setting Sun, gives her a buff while another sister is within 2". But instead of granting a bonus to defense it grants a bonus to Melee and increases it by 1. Very, very handy when needed as it elevates Blood's melee to 8, a number that damn near guarantees a hit.
Her other (0), The Lonely Path, grants a condition that gives a positive flip to damage while not within 6" of another Sister. This is what I mainly try to use with Blood as it takes her already stellar damage output into the stratosphere. Not only do you have an incredible damage track, but with this up you're getting a positive to both attack and damage. If you hit severe damage (while buffed from Sisters in Fury) you're doing 8 damage in one swing, and a Red Joker would do 11! You're killing something for sure with that.
And lastly her (2) action Flight of the Dragons. It's like Ashes' Dragon's Bite except the opposite - needing an 8, it targets an enemy within 6" and all Sister models within 2" perform a (1) Ml attack that receives a positive to damage then all Sisters can push 6" in any direction. I don't recommend it, especially when those same 2AP could have been used for 2 Whirlwind attacks, that just hit everyone in 2" of her anyway for a minimum of 5 damage twice to three times at least, doing way more damage than other sisters would have done with this ability. Avoid at all costs, just swing away with Blood instead.
Although her only named upgrade is Sisters in Fury she does have an upgrade I dedicate solely to Blood, and that is Mark of Shez'uul. This pricy upgrade is really priceless, as it grants the Tattoo of Shez'uul: damage dealt by the model's Ml attacks ignore armor, Hard to Wound, Incorporeal and Hard to Kill! This... is... bonkers!
So, on top of the stellar damage profile, and the innate positive to her attack, and her (0) to give a positive to damage, and her high Ml number, and her Melee Expert gained from Ashes, and her ability to heal when killing, she gets the ability to ignore almost every relevant defensive measure the average model has... while being able to get free attacks on everyone around her.
This upgrade elevates her to one of the best assassin characters in the game! Put it on her every time. Don't think about it.
Notable Generic Upgrades
So Viktoria of Blood actually has quite a few candidates for her second upgrade slot, and each of them are very viable choices.
Firstly there's Oathkeeper, the great generic upgrade that grants the user Fast on demand. This is notable for Blood as it just gives her an extra AP for another attack to Whirlwind with. Or it gives her the option to walk once before charging in, extending her threat range. Either way it's an option that gives her flexibility in doing what she does best - getting stuck right in with melee. This option is a staple among the community, and I admit to having used it quite often myself.
The other notable option I've used to great success is Tally Sheet, which grants the model the ability to draw a card every time she kills a model. On most models this isn't too great an option, but with Blood it becomes an entirely different beast. Blood tends to swirl in the middle of an enemy crew and kill A LOT of models. Blood also benefits from having more than four cards to get a positive to her Defense and Willpower, so more cards mean keeping that benefit longer while having more options in her hand to cheat with (or at the very least, get crappy cards out of your deck). There's a subtle power in being able to cycle through your deck, and Tally Sheet opens that up. The argument against using it is whether you believe that Oathkeeper's flexibility outweighs Tally Sheet's, but I believe that the latter is better personally especially when you consider other options of gaining fast (discussed in a little bit...).
There's also Scramble, which is pricy but gives Viktoria Unimpeded and increases her Walk/Charge ranges by 1. When I first began using the Viks this upgrade was a staple, as it really increased her threat range significantly and enough so that you can reach out and touch the opponent on turn 1. Through the years though I've discovered that it gets outshined by her other options and isn't always necessary. It is a good option to think of though, especially if you have a board filled with Severe terrain as it can absolutely cripple your ability to effectively trap as many models as possible in her Whirlwind.
Another option that has recently cropped up in Book 4 is The Bigger They Are. This 1ss upgrade incrases her melee damage by 1 when attacking non-masters with upgrades, elevating her possible minimum damage to 6. Very situational, but the chances are you'll be running into models with upgrades often so it's still got a use. I don't find it absolutely necessary, but if you know your matchup ahead of time - say, against Sandeep using his Oxfordian Mages - then it could be very good.
With all this incredible melee potential there are a few caveats for the twins...
They are very susceptible to being killed before they do anything. Although they can increase their defenses or even gain positives one or two hits coming in can kill them instantly. Blast damage will also ruin their day as it bypasses their defenses and the average damage from blasts will be enough to get their wounds down to around half or so. They can still be shot off the table with ease so protecting them on the way in is a high priority.
Their order of activation is picky, you have to recognize when it's best to activate the Viks or when to hold them back, because once you do you are going all-in. If you have any support models that need to go first then you're leaving the Viks vulnerable for an additional activation, and that could be all it takes to kill one.
They tend to need to activate first in a turn so you need to know what the most effective attack will be. After that both of them are going to be first priorities for the enemy and you'll likely spend all your resources trying to keep them alive.
They are also susceptible to placement effects like that of Lilith's. If they are taken out of range or LOS then a lot of their abilities become negated and they're easier to kill that way.
One notable weakness is conditions, especially Burning and Paralyze. If you Paralyze Blood then their effectiveness goes down to almost nothing, and if you stack enough Burning on them they can die very easily. They don't have natural ways of removing conditions so you'd need to build around that if needed.
Lastly they are very largely dependent on the enemy crew being relatively close together. They will have a hard time hunting down every element of a crew that is widely stretched out. If they are even remotely close together then they won't have as much of a problem, but Blood likes to get right in the middle of a crew to Whirlwind on every one of them - every model that's outside of that range is one that can kill her after she attacks.
So we've gone over individual abilities for the twins and we know what they're capable of as well as any pitfalls they have. How do you build a crew around that?
Their main goal is to kill stuff in melee. Couple this with the fact that they are very squishy means they need protection from ranged attacks on the way in that won't get in the way. Outside of this parameter they are a largely independent unit. Their only synergy with other models would be involving the Sister characteristic, which not many models have. crew composition will mainly be about filling in any gaps they have.
And what gaps do they have, exactly? Well, to start with, notice how we have not once mentioned anything scheme marker related - this is because they have absolutely nothing that helps with these. So that is one gap that must be filled.
Another gap would be ranged attacks, whether they're Cast actions or Shooting. Ashes comes with a gun, but she will almost never have the AP to pop a shot off if you use her in a support role. There is so much more of a benefit concentrating on buffs than with her base attacks. So ranged roles will be another gap that you may be interested in filling.
Resource management can be a godsend in this crew, so anything that cycles cards, stones, AP, etc. is more than welcome.
Denial is yet another layer they don't excel in, and this includes items that provide slow, or debuffs like negative flips, Horror duels, Manipulative, etc. Although this isn't always an important role to have to include it's something that they do not innately do.
Sustaining is an area they need help with as well. The Viktorias aren't concerned about staying power so much as removal power. If you need models to hold some ground in a particular area then the Viktorias aren't always the best option considering their squishiness.
A big one I have found over my experience is their model count, and this is in the context of strategies like Reconnoiter/Interference. These strategies proved to be a big weakness for the Viks, as they want to go the shortest route toward the enemy which often puts them in that 6" diameter dead zone in the middle. The fact that they're not summoners doesn't help with model count either. In the other vein of this issue is the fact that they will often be out-activated. You may get a model for free with Viktoria of Blood but using Chain activations cancel that out. Hopefully you've killed enough models on turn two where it won't impact your game significantly.
So, with all these things in mind, what type of models do I use to alleviate these issues?
Man, I feel annoyed that I always go to this model for any crew I build. She's just such a solid piece that fills so many roles it's hard not to include her.
In the Viktoria crew I feel like she's their sister from another mister. A lot of the gaps that I've mentioned get assistance with her.
- This is the main reason why I put her in the list when I first started this crew. Her large base provides a place for the Viktorias to hide behind during their initial trek toward the enemy. Placing Ashes directly behind Hannah near base to base closes off a chunk of attack vectors that could hit Ashes with ranged attacks.
- There's also a little known strategy to protect Blood after she attacks. If you can keep Blood alive through one activation after she goes nuts, and you have Ancient Tomes, then you can use the ability to Bury Blood to protect her from any further attacks. You can use this offensively as well for protection - bury a model that threatens Blood but wasn't in her range, or bury models that you can't handle immediately through defensive triggers like Lilith, and if possible you can walk her giant base over the bury marker so they can't unbury at the end of the turn and have to unbury in their deployment zone (something I've always wanted to do!)
- Ranged Attacks
- Her Make a New Entry can be seen as a ranged attack with the proper spell to copy, it also provides an attack vector targeting WP
- Resource Management
- She gives you a 7th control card, that alone warrants her use. This directly helps Blood by increasing the size of your hand and therefor your defensive bonus' duration.
- Her Counterspell Aura and Netherflux Aura provide an additional layer of defense for abilities like Lure and lengthen her life span. Armor denies models' ability to be efficient with their attacks unless they are specialized for it.
- Armor 1 was mentioned, but she can also use stones to damage prevent on the way in. I generally put Hannah out in front as a target then stone when hit to negate their attacks. Armor and damage prevention can make a very frustrated opponent.
This is an incredible amount of utility all coming from one model that's modestly priced.
Granted, not all of Hannah's abilities directly work with the Viks. For instance her ability to copy Cast actions does not get played from the Viks, you'd have to include other elements in your list to copy.
Her main use is her ability to sustain damage and block LOS to the Viktorias. Keep her out in front to attract fire - every shot or attack directed at Hannah, a model who can take it, is one less attack on a Viktoria, a model who can't take it. Walk the Viktorias behind her to make sure they can't get engaged by enemies and limit the amount of shots that get through. Once you're in range of charging a juicy target you just have Ashes walk around Hannah and teleport in Blood, let the bodies hit the floor....
Student of Conflict
So I have been having a back and forth between which totem I prefer for this crew. For the last year I had been using the Malifaux Child, but initially I started with the Student and now I'm back on with her.
The Student of Conflict, although a generic totem, has the Sister characteristic as well as Sisters in Spirit - the placement ability. This alone would be enough of a use to warrant her inclusion, but she is a pricy totem at 4ss. What makes her more worth it?
Her ability to hand out Fast for a (2) action, that's what. Once you are able to give Fast to a model a lot of options that were previously unavailable suddenly become viable.
Her main issues, beside her cost, is activation timing. Since it takes up all her AP to give fast and it's only a 4" range she has some limits on who and when she can cast it. You either have to prepare for it by going to where you anticipate models will need Fast or you cast it on models who've activated to benefit from it later. In the case of the Viktorias she almost never gets to cast Fast on them since they always activate first. This limits her ability to other crew members who may not get nearly as much mileage as Blood would with the extra AP. There's also the fact that it's a dead activation - if you plan on utilizing it early then it's an activation where nothing will happen besides buffing, and that can get models killed.
In the end though I came back around to her because her use is so powerful during the all-important second turn for the Viktorias. She can be teleported by Ashes on turn one to move forward approximately 6". After Blood activates and gets within range the Student gives Fast to Blood for the next turn. This interaction essentially negates the need for Blood herself to have Oathkeeper attached, although it is a little more intensive in terms of planning. The good news is that it can happen every turn if possible so it's like 5 little Oathkeepers!
Outside of that she is useful to get more mobility out of the Viktorias. With her ability to teleport them she can get them out of a pinch if needed. I've once used Ashes and the Student to have Ashes cast Sisters in Fury, charge, chain activate the Student and then had her teleport Ashes back to where she started to score for Turf War.
Whether all of this is worth the 4ss will be up to you though...
This is the totem I've used most with the Viktorias. One of the reasons why is that I needed activation control, and for 2ss you get another model. His use is a bit more limited, as his Just Like You ability can only perform Sisters in Battle or Sisters in Fury. Freeing up an AP would be worth it, but just like the Student you run into activation timing issues - in important turns I'd rather just have Ashes spend the AP for the buff so I can activate Blood and kill things early in the turn rather than wait an activation for the Child to do it. There was also the risk of not hitting the card when you flip, due to the -3 to Cast you need to hit a 9. I'd still do it with the built in positive and Focus, but when you miss it you'll have to spend a high card to hit the target number.
Outside of casting Ashes' buff he adds a small amount of healing to the crew. Hannah is able to copy this ability in a pinch, but would need a Ram or spend a stone to get it going. It widens options though, and healing on Hannah or the Viks can extend their mileage significantly, especially when you consider that every Sister heals at the same time.
I also managed to use him as an occasional road block to block charge lanes, but that's not really an ability or anything.
I've only recent discovered how great this little guy is for Outcasts, and man is he a work horse for me now.
The Winged Plague is one of our more recent additions from Book 3 to the faction and he's an in-theme model for Hamelin. It turns out he's great for any crew and is possibly Outcasts' best scheme runner available in-faction. The reason is because they are highly mobile with Walk 6 and Flight, but they're also pretty survivable with Armor 1 for 4ss. They also get positive flips on attacks if you DON'T have a condition on you, which is often, and they can put Blight on you if necessary (but it isn't if you aren't using Hamelin). The upside to putting Blight on outside of a Hamelin crew is an additional push effect but it's not something you'll likely need most of the time. There is a valid tactic when you are picking a scheme that requires a model to interact to remove a condition outside of melee and you use the push to prevent them from doing so, so don't discount it.
This little guy is great for a Viktoria crew especially due to their lack of scheme marker abilities. This forces you to recruit independent scheme runners dedicated solely to scoring VP for schemes like Claim Jump or Leave Your Mark. They aren't the best scheme runners in the game by far (like Necropunks) but they are capable enough and are the best answer Outcasts have. I usually hire two in a crew and leave it as is for scheme running dedication - two fast model activations for 8ss isn't bad at all.
Previously people used Void Wretches in this spot but I actually don't like them at all, but feel free to try them out in this role instead.
This guy is in here more as a direct synergy with Hannah within the context of the crew more so than the Viktorias themselves. With this beast you add yet another credible melee threat to focus efforts on outside of the already looming threat of the Viktorias. He also ticks off a lot of boxes that Hannah does:
- He has a 40mm base, another way to block LOS to the Viks
- Ranged Attacks
- He has access to a 12" range Sh attack that can actually get up to Sh7 - it also attacks WP
- He's able to ignore damage reduction rather than just simply armor. This makes him a credible threat against models who reduce damage outside of armor, like the Riders or Sandeep
- He also has another trigger for positive damage flips, helping with Hard to Wound
- Freikorps suit denies quite a bit more than people may realize
- Armor 2 can pose a serious problem for models who can't ignore armor
Hannah can also copy his (0) ability to either give herself +1 melee damage or a slight version of Black Blood, making her an even bigger threat than before. Putting his base in contact with Hannah as protection on the way in gives you even more wiggle room by closing off more attack vectors to your twins. There's also the fact that you have to choose your evil with them; either attack the Freikorps element which has high armor and Counterspell and get wrecked by Ashes and Blood, or try to ignore the Freikorps and possibly be able to damage or kill the Viks but get wrecked by two models who can do minimum damage 3 and other shenanigans. Doing this definitely adds some melee presence.
Sue is just one of those generally great models that I tend to think about including a lot (I have a few of those). In the Viktoria crew he's an important tech piece, one that you can confidently substitute or build around and find a use against any opponent but works especially well against quite a few matchups. His ability to add negative flips to Ca attacks targeting him and models within a short distance can provide a further layer of denial when facing factions like Arcanists. If needed he can swap that out for a short aura that adds a ton of burning onto enemies, which is great when you need to control the center in Turf War. On top of that you also get a very good ranged attack. On top of that you also get a bit of staying power with Hard to Kill and 8 wounds. On top of that you also get a bit of card cycling by hurting yourself to draw a card, which is super powerful when done with Hannah in the crew and eventually also Tally Sheet from Blood. Oh my goodness, on top of that you can also put the upgrade Return Fire on him to make it where if he gets a Crow in a Df/WP duel then he gets to do a ranged attack back - a ranged attack that can be used in melee as well as out of it and has a minimum damage of 3. This guy is serious bang-for-your-buck at 8ss, similar to how Johan is one of the best models for the 6ss tier, and is often hired out of faction because of it.
So this section is for a general outline of how the Viks can typically operate within an activation or so, depending on what you need.
So this is a well known combo that has slight variations but does the same thing: shoot Viktoria of Blood far up the board and let her loose. A tooled up Blood can wipe almost anything off the board in a single activation and Ashes is there to do it.
It starts with Viktoria of Ashes casting Sisters in Fury to get the damage buff, then she walks up 5" and casts Sisters in Spirit on Blood to move her around 6" forward from where she started. Ashes then chain activates into Blood, who then uses Fast (gained either from Oathkeeper or previously from the Student) to get three AP. If needed she can walk 5" then charge 8" with a 2" melee range, making a 15" which is pretty darn threatening, especially considering the 6" or so from where she teleported adding up to 21". She can definitely reach out and touch someone.
Blood also uses her (0) to get positives to damage, has the innate positive to attacks and a Ml7. Simply buy the Mask and make sure to hit the target. The Whirlwind trigger depends on damaging, so unless you flip the Black Joker you're probably going to hit and damage everything within 2" of her. When figuring out the best placement for her charge you should keep in mind the biggest threats to Blood and the crew and prioritize that target while trying to catch as many other models in range as possible. It's not uncommon to kill absolutely everything you had range to. It won't even matter if you have negative flips as she can cancel them out, and negatives on damage still result in 5 damage which is most models' severe damage range. Melee expert (while in LOS of Ashes) adds yet another assurance you're going to kill stuff. If you didn't have to walk first then you've got 4 attacks that can all Whirlwind. With 4 attacks you're able to reliably kill masters regardless of stone prevention, at the very least draining resources. If you have Tally Sheet on her you're drawing cards every time you kill something and thus helping kill more things in Whirlwind or defending her from retaliation.
This is the main way to operate the Viks every activation. If both your Viks are alive then you're able to kill something that turn for sure, the difficult part of this is proper target acquisition and positioning.
I've briefly discussed this before but protecting them on the way in is a key strategy you'll need to learn. If you're walking them out in front like any other model then you're going to be putting yourself in harm's way as a typical model may be enough to kill or seriously wound the twins. Any attack that uses your resources is enough to throw them off balance, as it could be a resource you need to hit models, cast spells, or prevent important damage. You definitely don't want to have to spend a stone for prevention from an attack coming from a lowly minion.
I typically use at least Hannah for this protection, but you can use any similarly large-based model with damage mitigation. In the first turn it's important that Hannah moves up before the Viks to provide screening and scout the way forward. Afterward the Viks, namely Blood, can go directly behind Hannah touching her base. This means that enemy models will have to get very creative to get a bead on Blood. Surely they may be able to get her in engagement, but luckily as long as Ashes is freed up then Blood can be teleported out of harm's way. The main downside to this tactic may be blast damage, but luckily most of those come from Moderate to Severe damage and Hannah can ensure the damage flip is negative to help mitigate that and in the worst case you can use a stone to damage prevent on Blood. The damage that gets through can hopefully later be healed once Blood kills someone.
Sue can also be used to place his aura to help deny Cast attacks, in which case he should be the first activation to get the most mileage out of the defensive measure.
The main idea is putting out viable targets for the opponent to attack rather than trying to attack the Viks themselves. Then when you present these targets that appear juicy you use your resources to prevent as much damage coming through. After the first turn or even two the protections won't matter as much as the Viks should be doing their thing, then your protection elements join the fray.
All of the options presented under "protection" roles also double as reliable damage dealers - from Hannah causing Horror duels in melee and possibly gaining a buff from the Strongarm, to the Strongarm or Sue having minimum 3 damage. So once they're done escorting the Viks it's not like they won't have anything to do.
This is an important section to go over with most (or maybe all) masters, but doubly so for the twins. Due to their Glass Cannon nature they find it very important to activate before the opponent does in order to ensure their Alpha Strike capabilities.
However during the first turn it's important to do the opposite. You actually want the Viktorias to activate last during the first turn. This helps you get a lay of the land and anticipate where the fight is going to take place and identify clumps of models that are potential Blood Bomb targets.
Another reason you activate them last is to see if there's potential for a first turn Blood Bomb. This is extremely situational as I've learned over my experience with them. It's very tempting with a 21" threat range, and using the bomb in the first turn has secured me several of my fastest victories along with more defeats. It's probably one of the biggest debates I have in my head during a game on whether or not to unleash the bomb early. With the right positioning the opponent may not be able to recover from it if it's successful, but the downside is that Blood is guaranteed to be out on her own with no support from retaliation and you'll be gambling on gaining initiative on turn two or surviving. The upside is that you'll be Alpha Striking hard. Due to being at the end of the turn most models won't be in a position to retaliate on turn one, then you kill a handful and gain an advantage as those models died before doing absolutely anything in the game. If you happen to win the next initiative you're in a great place, although slightly worse in terms of support as Ashes would have to walk twice to possibly be in range to Sisters in Spirit/Chain activate Blood. If you're too far for some reason (like difficult terrain) then you're in a bad place.
The turn one bomb is risky as all get out, and I've lost more than I've won doing that strategy. Be able to recognize whether the cost is worth the benefit, as you'll more than likely lose Blood afterward. It is particularly powerful against opponents who haven't seen it before or aren't aware of it, but it's a trick that only works once - hence why all the strategy I've developed in terms of protection. I suggest before trying it to try to talk yourself out of it, it's generally not a great idea (but fun to do so have at it!)
Outside of that in a typical turn you're probably going to want to win initiative and activate the Ashes first to cast Sisters in Fury. With your remaining two AP you should be thinking about Viktoria of Blood - where does she need to go, does she need an additional positive on attacks from Sisters in Battle, where is she going to end up after chain activating and will it be further than 6" away. If your options for Blood (outside of Sisters in Fury) aren't exactly necessary then you can use Ashes to soften up targets herself using her melee or even ranged attacks.
There will be times where it may not be necessary for them to activate first. If you feel very confident in the Viks surviving an activation they can delay their actions for something else to go first if it's just as or more important. Maybe you need to wait for more models to get stuck in or bunched up, or your most important target isn't quite in range, or you need to reposition Ashes before she activates using the Student, or the Student wants to hand out Fast, it's fine to delay. The reason why I usually don't is because of their fragility and sometimes you get surprised with an opponent's move you didn't anticipate and that's all it takes for you to lose a Vik or two. Just like the turn one bomb, make sure to weigh your options. Does delaying help you score or provide a move that will help you? Will the Viks survive delaying another activation? If so, do it. Activating first isn't a hard and fast rule, but with experience you'll see it's a good guide to go by.
What to do if one of your Viks is dead
So, something you may not have anticipated happened, or the inevitable death of Blood has occurred, what do you do now?
Well, you're not all helpless fellow gamer! There's still plenty you can do with your leftovers.
First off, if Ashes is by herself, she still has the ability to Chain activate other models. So now she can be a lesser version of Blood while having another close model clean up some enemies.
She can also still be teleported by Student or vice versa, she can still shoot but more importantly can hit quite hard on her own. She'll still want to cast Sisters in Fury every activation that she can, because that increase of 2 damage is worth more than an additional attack at her base damage (2AP of attacks with minimum 5 damage rather than 3 attacks with minimum 3 damage). She still has a (0) for positive flips on attacking that's useful, or her other one that increases her defense.
Blood on her own is still capable but you'll have to keep in mind her limitations. You can use the Student to help protect her by teleporting Blood into a better spot. I've found that I actually do this first then hold out on Blood's activation until later unless she's in danger of dying soon. Blood can have a bit off staying power with her defensive positive flips and good cards from the beginning of the turn or Tally Sheet. But mainly I'd concentrate on getting the most mileage out of her by killing at least a model or two for her remaining activations. Don't forget you'll lose your Melee Expert now that Ashes is gone.
Both are still quite capable on their own, just know that it's only a matter of time before the other one dies if you're still evened up on the table in terms of models your opponent has.
So, at the end of this, what do I include in my list for Viktoria?
This is my current iteration:
- Viktoria of Ashes (6ss Cache)
- Sisters in Fury
- Sisters in Spirit
- Synchronized Slaying
- Viktoria of Blood
- Mark of Shez'uul
- Tally Sheet
- Student of Conflict
- Strongarm Suit
- 2x The Winged Plague
I've gone over the reasons why these models are in the list so this is more of a complete visualization of what I will typically take to the table. An 8 model count isn't bad, along with a healthy cache of 6ss. I wish I could make it a full 7ss cache because Ashes, Blood and Hannah all compete for these on top of using it for initiative flips. Typically Hannah will use a few in the first turn at most, then Blood uses up to 3 for attacking in turn two and the remaining one or two are held on for super important moments so it's definitely stretching.
I also included a Friekorpsmann as a backup scheme runner should the Winged Plagues not be enough, he also provides Reference the Field Guide for Hannah to copy if she needs a suit, perhaps for a Tome to trigger the Horror Duel on her melee attack. I debated whether I should use Big Jake in his place instead to help with strategies like Reconnoiter/Interference as well as his ability to push models around and come back on turn 5, but I don't have his model yet.
The idea of the list is exactly as I've described over the post. The Winged Plagues will run up to position for schemes like Claim Jump, Hannah and the Strongarm form an armored barrier for the Viks to hide behind, then the Sisters (including the Student) either stay behind them or in the rare cases throw out a Vik Bomb early. Turn two if I win initiative there should be an opportunity for me to bomb their crew and take out a lot of models before they do anything, if not I should be relatively safe for one activation for me to Bomb them immediately afterward. If anything attacks Hannah/Strongarm in turn two then I won't care as much, being that they will now have an immediate threat of Blood in their face. More than likely Blood will die and hopefully after taking out more than her share in return, and from that point it's cleanup with the Strongarm, Hannah and Ashes/Student. I should be putting out plenty of threats for them to keep their eye off my scheme runners (including the Freikorpsmann) for me to score VP.
My biggest issue with the list is actually not having the room to give Hannah her upgrade Ancient Tomes. I've recently come around to liking the upgrade to use instead of actually attacking with melee and with the Friekorpsmann she has a way of getting the needed suit outside of using a stone. There's the added benefit of being able to protect Blood with it if needed or forcing a model to unbury in their deployment zone, but I just don't have the points for it. Maybe if I downgraded the Strongarm for Sue I'd use the leftover points for Ancient Tomes, but I'm afraid of spending the stones and never using the attack like I've done in the past. Also the Strongarm has more staying power and synergizes better with Hannah.
Anyway, that's my entirely way too long post on the Viktorias. Let me know what you think, if it opened up any insights, or any items I didn't mention so far!