It always felt to me that both viking troops and runes were a little lackluster. After some more consideration and experimentation, I have concluded that this is very very wrong. It is a super distinct playstyle, can endure insanely long battles, can abuse some game mechanics and is very fun to play.
This guide aims to explain a playstyle that relies on rune magic, runes and Viking troops. Interestingly, the class of choice is relatively free. Vikings are very warrior focused, so a warrior class is totally viable with the help of the chargers spell. However, due to the usefulness of Higher Magic, I would recommend the Soothsayer.
The following spells are vital to the gameplay and make the playstyle what it is.
Chargers are your bread and butter very early on. They allow you to regenerate mana and rage at a great rate for the meager price of a few runes. All viking troops start with a set of runes and quickly gain more when leveling up. This spell allows you to continue to fight indefinitely with both rage and mana. The best part is that it can support both a warrior and a soothsayer class. Given picking up a charger yields 1 AP, one can also easily use chargers as a means of advancing on the enemy.
Use 3/6/9 runes to create chargers for 3/4/5 rage or mana per charger at 3/5/7 mana cost.
Is easily the most damaging single target spell in the whole game for its price. While it is usually better to decimate many enemies with a single spell, Rune Chain is great because it’s cheap, does high damage and can be cast as the first of two spells with the High Mage skill.
Use 3/4/5 runes to boost damage of the spell by 40%/45%/50% per rune for 5/6/7 mana.
Ah, what a gift Gift is. Ever wanted to abuse game mechanics? Well, here we go. Gift allows to reset the cooldowns and restore charges to unit skills. Many units have amazing talents, but can only use them a limited amount of times in any given fight. A prime example is the Warrior Maidens’ resurrection talent (CD of 4). This means that you can essentially resurrect units of a stack every single turn – with the Jarl’s Call to Battle even twice per turn. It can also restore the Soothsayer’s Arcane Healing charge.
Use a Luck rune to reset cooldowns & restore charges of a level 1-2/3/4 unit for 8/14/20 mana.
Another spell that can be abused. Timelessness increases duration of effects on a unit by the duration of the spell. Since many spells are expensive to cast or only available as unit talents, this spell allows to benefit from them for longer. Careful: negative effects are also prolonged. I have made great use of this spell on Mystics. You can prolong the duration an enemy unit is mind controlled for a very long time and the best is, the game doesn’t realize that the Mystics should still be in a trance, so you can attack on the next turn or use your other trance ability.
Use a defense rune to prolong the duration of effects on a unit of level 1-2/3/4 for 2/3/4 turns and 5/8/12 mana.
Especially in later stages of the game or in fights that take longer, your units may run out of all runes or the runes that you need for your other spells. Runic word means you can keep on fighting.
Adds 2/4/6 runes to target unit for 3/5/7 mana.
These spells are optional, but have some great synergy.
While very quirky, this spell can help you to concentrate your unit losses to a single turn for your Warrior Maidens to resurrect.
Target level 1-2/3/4 takes half damage for 3/4/5 turns, but receives 125% of the blocked damage when the spell expires and costs 5/7/10 mana. Duration is reduced when target is hit. CAUTION: Even if the battle ends, the spell will be dispelled, meaning you’ll have losses from the tanked damage.
Hel the Messenger
A pricy spell to kill an enemy doomstack of a unit.
Kills of 10%/20%/30% of a level 1-2/3/4 stack for 15/25/35 mana.
Summons are always great, even though the Ice Ball in itself isn’t the best summon out there. It is still a decent tank unless you’re fighting demons.
Summon a level 3/4/5 Ice Ball for 20/25/35 mana.
An interesting way of disabling an enemy unit.
Encases a target of level 1-2/3/4 in an ice cage with 100/200/300 health for 20/25/35 mana.
Another summon, though this one – like the summon itself – is quite fragile.
Summons an egg that hatches after 1 turn into level 3/3-4/3-4 units with total leadership of 75/1500/2250 for 15/25/35 mana.
Obviously blizzard is an S tier spell anyway, but with the Rune Mage, you don’t even really need it.
Deals 160-180/320-360/480-540 damage in a 3-diameter path for 20/30/40 mana.
Turn Back Time
There is one caveat with Warrior Maidens: They can’t resurrect themselves. Turn Back Time is a way to revive Warrior Maidens if you took losses with them.
Returns a unit of level 1-3/4/5 to its state it was in at the beginning of last turn, including effects, number of units and healh for 30 mana.
Another way to bring back deceased Warrior Maidens: Make a phantom copy of them to resurrect the Maidens.
Create a phantom stack of the target with 20%/30%/40% of the target’s health for 15/20/25 mana.
I will cover all Viking troops and recommend my selection as well as an extra unit that thematically and functionally fits very well. The Rune Mage playstyle is unique in that it relies mostly on unit damage for the Soothsayer class and only boasts ways to stay alive and cut losses.
A mediocre ranged unit, it is generally too squishy and too low a level to be very useful for the Rune Mage.
Sharing the problems of the Slinger, the Skald is at least a decent support unit with his 2 songs, however, most of the time there are better options to deal damage.
I never liked the basic Viking unit. It is very squishy and while the damage is good, the low level means it is too easily controlled by enemies.
Berserkers are good front-line soldiers that get tougher as they get hit. Given you need to resurrect them every now and then, cutting your losses pre-emptively is a great idea. Their berserker rage can turn into a slaughter-spree for them.
While their damage is comparable to the Berserkers, the Axe Throwers allow for a more careful approach to dealing damage. They work well as pseudo-archers with their 3-range axe throws as well as capable fighters in melee. While note quite as punishing as Berserkers when those are on their berserk spree, Axe Throwers have almost double the health and an ability to evade enemy attacks.
In my opinion one of the most OP units in this game, Warrior Maidens have it all: They have a strong ranged attack with cooldown, a resurrection talent, an ability to not get retaliation, an ability to evade attacks… Any Viking army should have Warrior Maidens.
A pretty mediocre unit in my opinion as the damage output isn’t very great, but the Soothsayer adds a rune to your other units as well as boasting three useful talents. The Snowstorm can freeze multiuple units, Loki’s touch can render an enemy berserk, meaning they may attack their own units and finally the Arcane healing can resurrect your level 1-3 troops to save your Warrior Maiden’s resurrection charge. Also useful to simply clear poison on the target.
Mystics are pretty good units in my opinion, especially for a Rune Mage. They can deal relatively low damage and enter two different trances. The first one takes control of an enemy unit and even has a chance of 50% on undead units (the only mind control spell that can do that to undead). The second one boosts allies’ stats based on the stats of the Mystics. For the Mind Control ability alone the Mystics are worth it. One less enemy to fight plus the enemy tends to favour attacking closeby units.
The Jarls are very beefy and quite damaging units that take on the role of a commander. Their Call to Battle talent allows another unit to have a 2nd turn. The Battle Cry may move around enemies as well as fear them, which can be useful. Finally, the Cleave attack can damage 3 enemies at once. Having a chance to only take half damage, they make pretty good tanks as well.
You probably saw this one coming. While not a viking, the Rune Mage is THE most fitting unit for this playstyle. While it is a ridiculously expensive level 5 unit (since Fire & Ice DLC), it boasts a Runic Word talent, a Phantom talent as well as an attack beam talent. Runic word can be useful if you miscalculated your mana usage or just in general if you are in a pinch. Phantom can easily be used to make a copy of the Warrior Maidens so you don’t have to learn the spell. Their damage is otherwise quite poor and a lot of the spells that you have are level based up to level 4, so you won’t be able to use them on the Rune Mage. Still, It is a great addition to the party.
I will now provide some suggestions for units to take on your journey. These are my favourites, but of course you can switch it up however you like.
- Rune Mage – This one seems obvious. A great combo with Warrior Maidens.
- Warrior Maidens – In order to have a resurrection, Warrior Maidens are key
- Mystics – Controlling an enemy usually means fighting at least 2-3 units less
- Jarls – Being kind of an allrounder, Jarls are great commander units to take along.
- As a fifth option you have a number of choices:
- Soothsayer – Dealing magic damage, the Soothsayer has some utility
- Axe Thrower – Decent damage dealer both at short range and close combat
- Berserker – For great damage output, Bersekers are an offensive powerhouse
Playstyle can be grouped into a couple of phases
Nordlig has pretty much all the beginning troops you’ll ever need. You can also get access to many of the spells already. Chargers and Runic Word are almost guaranteed. Especially chargers are extremely useful early on. Generally, start the battle by using rage talents and Magic Missile to take out ranged units. I also recommend using Chargers towards the end of the battle to fill back up on your rage and mana.
With your Rune Magic skill at level 3, you can easily keep up mana and rage to the max after every fight as well as use gift every now and then to make sure that you can resurrect everything you need. Use rune chain (if available) to kill off ranged units and then focus on the remaining units while keeping everybody alive through the use of Warrior Maidens and Gift. Use Timelessness on Mystics to prolong mind control effects.
Access to all Rune Magic spells and Rune Mages, the build has come to fruition. The rotation of spells isn’t much different from Phase II. You can now also use Rune Mage talents to make sure your Warrior Maidens survive. You can use Timelessness on your phantom Maidens so they don’t expire too quickly. You can also give it runes and use Gift on them as well.