By Phillip Melvin
The villainous organization HYDRA has roots stretching back for many centuries, but most know of its modern incarnation under Baron Strucker and the Red Skull during the Second World War. From there it has become a globe-spanning terrorist organization bent on world domination. HYDRA cannot ever truly be destroyed, for “If one head is cut off, two more shall take its place.”
(Note – Not included is Red Skull, Master of Hydra who will be added upon his official release date)
As a new affiliation, 10 characters out of the gate is a great place to start for flexibility in Roster construction. Three Affiliated characters come from the Core Set (Red Skull, Baron Zemo, and Crossbones) and will be the starting point for most Hydra collections. From there if you acquire the Strucker/Zola and Red Skull & Hydra Troopers box, you’ll have both Hydra Leaders plus all of the Affiliation Tactics Cards.
The last four characters are unfortunately spread across three different boxes. Sin & Vyper are packaged together and give you the opportunity to have some dual affiliation builds with Cabal since Sin is a Leader there. Bob, the affiliated 2 Threat, comes in a slightly more expensive box with Deadpool due to the inclusion of a Size 3 Taco Truck (though Terrain is never bad to own). Finally Taskmaster comes with Punisher who is affiliated nowhere but could see some play in Hydra (Punishment Tokens + Grunts Dying = Win).
Having a 3 Threat leader provides great Roster building flexibility to an Affiliation, but is even better when that Leader is also good. While he does have the average 10 Health total, Strucker brings above average Physical Defense and the Healing Factor  ability to survive longer than expected for his Threat level. Healing Factor also means X-Ceptional Healing is a Tactics Card worth considering to prevent an untimely death for this Leader.
Offensively, he brings a Range 3 Builder with Wild Incinerate that is pretty clutch for lowering Defenses for the rest of his Team, as well as turning on his Leadership ability. The Spender is basically a more expensive and shorter range version of We Are Venom and will often just be used for keeping him topped off on Health. Of course the icing on the cake is his Strategic Genius (the same ability Baron Zemo has) that provides a Range 2 Aura of offensive/defensive re-rolls. Arrogance is an odd ability that lets you, and your opponent count Skulls for success. Generally speaking if you roll more dice than your opponent then this ability should favor you, but dice luck can easily swing and come back to bite you.
Now to talk about his Leadership. A wall of text to be sure, but is actually pretty straightforward once you read it a few times. Basically it has two components that can each be used Once Per Turn. The 1st is if you make an attack and cause damage, you can remove a Condition on you and apply it to the enemy target (if they don’t have the Condition already). The 2nd part says that if your character causes a Condition to be placed on an enemy target, you Heal 1 damage. This is basically a free version of the Asgardian Leadership where you Heal or remove a Condition each Turn, but with some stipulations to make it appropriate for 0 Power.
Strucker can activate his Leadership each Turn simply by hitting the Wild Incinerate on his Builder. Alternatively he can go with a dice free version of Condition application by using Deathspore Virus to throw Poison out to everyone nearby. While this does affect allies, they can just attack during their Activation and pass off the Poison to the enemy.
Another cheap 3 Threat character that brings the lopsided statline of a below average Physical Defense but above average Mystic Defense. 6 Health on both sides does make up for this and means one shotting him even with physical won’t be common. Short Movement is unfortunate, but a 50mm base and longer range attacks/abilities makes this less of a problem.
His Gainer attack only has 4 dice base but brings an appreciated Range 4 and can choose the damage type enemies are weak to. Added to that is it’s Wild Trigger that picks from a list of 4 Conditions and he easily synergize with Strucker’s Leadership. The Spender, while a shorter RNG 3, is nice in that it only Costs 2 Power, can easily Advance the enemy since it only requires a single damage on 6 dice, and the Wild Slow makes it harder for them to crack back.
Scientific Hubris (as seen on Doc Oc) will net him quite a bit of Power over the course of the game. This is good since he’d like to use both of his Superpowers frequently. The 1st, Hydra Engineering, lets him spend up to 3 Power to give allies attack/defense re-rolls. It has the chance to cause Bleed, but that’s just one more Condition you can redistribute to the enemy. His 2nd Power will often only be used when he has a glut of Power, but let’s him add 2 dice to his attacks (6 die Builder or 8 die Spender). There is a chance to self-damage but again the Leadership Heal can clear that right up.
Like all Robots, he is Immune to Bleed and Poison. This means he can safely stand near Strucker using his Poison Aura and also can’t Bleed himself when using re-rolls (or if you Heal him with Hood who is a good Hydra Splash choice)
Red Skull, Master of Hydra
The last of the new Hydra characters is the big 5 Threat Red Skull. 4 Physical with only 2 Energy/Defense seems pretty bad until you look at his Leviathan Armor that adds 3 dice to one of the lower Defenses, plus a bonus to the non-choosen Defense. While this is similar to the Phasing ability on Vision, his can’t be changed between Activations so choose wisely.
13 Health is a respectable Health pool for a 5 Threat. Of course if he want’s to live dangerously he can spend 1 Health each Turn and convert it to 2 Power. If you play under Strucker and can potentially Heal then this isn’t so bad, but otherwise its an ability you’ll have to be careful in it’s use or he’ll go down quick.
Hydra Skull brings 2 fantastic attacks, starting with a 6 dice Physical Gainer at Range 3. The dice pool size will be pretty important with it’s 2 separate Wild triggers that lets him Advance and/or Push the enemy. For 2 extra Power you can make this an 8 die attack which should reliably get at least 1 if not both triggers. His Spender is a massive 9 dice Energy or Mystic attack that can possible Throw Size 4 or less characters. Putting a chunk of damage plus Throwing Medium seems like it’ll be quite fun into the new terror that is Malekith.
His Leadership ability World Domination is simple yet effective, Hold or Contest an objective Token and you gain Power. This flexible Leadership makes the Affiliation good on most if not all Crises. Its especially nice on Pay to Flips since you get a refund the following Turn for spending your Power to Control the Token.
Besides the bonus dice for his Gainer attack, Red Skull doesn’t really have much to spend Power on. Instead he’ll be saving most for use with the Hydra Tactics Cards that we will cover in a bit. He does of course have one final Power that lets him put Hydra Grunts into play, if he Activates and they aren’t already on the board.
The newest Grunts on the block are exclusive to Red Skull, Master of Hydra and make him quite worth his 5 Threat Cost. Besides starting on the board, these Grunts come into play whenever Skull activates and they can immediately activate (albeit with a Stagger so only 1 Action). While they are weak Defensivly like all all Grunts, 3 Health and 2 Energy/Mystic Defense means opponents will often fail to one shot them.
Unlike the Shield Agents and Ninjas, these Grunts are all about the Secure Crises. They Interact with Secure Objectives for free and love to do Pay-to-Flips that your allies don’t want to waste Power on. While they won’t roll many dice due to their lower Defenses, its still a free attempt and they will probably roll successes more times than not.
Offensively they only get 4 dice, but at Range 4 can easily pop off a shot while sitting on Objectives. If you truly need to do some damage though, they can KO themselves in order to get re-rolls on that 4 die attack. There are times they are going to die anyway where its better to remove them on your terms while also getting some solid offensive output.
Tactics Cards (Strucker/Zola Box)
The High Council sure is a fun mini-game to play with a rather larger payoff. While all these tasks are things these characters want to do, getting them all at the same time without any getting Dazed is a tall order. This car is more a fun game night inclusion and probably shouldn’t be in your 5 if playing a tournament setting.
Scientific Method on the other hand is a card that can and probably should be in your 5 no matter what type of game you are playing. Causing a tax to your opponent is a great ability, and the fact that it lasts the whole game is what makes this card a near auto include. The 2 Power Cost, 2 upfront damage, and Threat 3 restriction are all stipulations that restrain this card but that only means its pool of targets is a bit less. Any character with Healing Factor (Strucker, Lizard, X-23) will make the 2 damage negligible and they all love the bonus Defense and different attack type. You can also put it on a character like Bob who already doesn’t die and would love to pop off a Mystic attack each Turn. While it doesn’t have to be played in the Hydra Affiliation, the target doesn’t need to be affiliated so the options are pretty large.
Tactics Cards (Red Skull Box)
Red Skull comes with a massive 7 cards in his box and really add that Hydra Flavor to the Affiliation. As these were just revealed, I haven’t had much time to do anything but theorycraft so this article will just include my hot takes. Unfortunately the majority of these are more flavor than competitive so they may only see play during casual games.
Victory Assured – Hydra Red Skull leads from the front and doesn’t really want to spend his precious Health on an attack that likely Stuns him (though you can transfer the Stun with Strucker’s Leadership). Might see some play with Core Skull since its Unaffiliated and that character likes Beams with his Cabal Leadership
Occult Research – I’m personally undecided on this one, but Hydra Skull can get 10 Power pretty easily over 2 Turns and doesn’t spend Power on much else anyway. Once you reach that peak, an AOE Stagger plus 3 Actions for the rest of the game is super fun and will make Skull the target for every enemy attack. Include in your 5 but only if you have a game plan to get maximum value out of it
Endless legions – Hydra Grunts want to stand on Secures for maximum benefit. While not dying is good, being Pushed away does make them a bit irrelevant even if they are still alive. Maybe include to prevent an opponent’s KO trigger (Malekith Leadership) but otherwise probably skip this one
Two More Shall Rise – 10/10 for flavor but sure is unfortunate that it requires 3 Leaders in a Roster. Assuming you are playing Strucker and one of the Red Skulls, this means Sin or Malekith is your 3rd Leader. Sin is fine but there are so many better Affiliated 3 Threats, and Malekith is great but it takes 14 or 15 Threat to run Strucker, a Red Skull, and him. Probably only really useful at 20 Threat but more often than not should get cut from Rosters
Inevitable betrayal – This card I see easily making the 5 but only if you have a character in mind to play it with. Due to the Range 2 limitation, it’ll likely only see good use with brawlers who easily build up Power. Since it requires an Affiliated character this to me means Hydra Skull is the prime target. If you don’t want to chase the Occult Research Dragon then this seems like a good Power spending card for him to play and swing the Scenario game (especially potent on Gamma Wave)
Sleeper agent – I don’t think this card is worth taking unless AMG changes their Core rules and lets cards like this, The Initiative, and Under Your Skin count these characters for Affiliation ratio. The secondary effect is great but far too easy to lose if dice fail you.
World Domination – Besides Scientific Method from the Strucker box, this to me is the other auto include Affiliated card. Hydra has lots of 3 Threat characters so they can easily play wide. Add to that the potential to play Hydra Skull’s Leadership (that has the literal same name) that encourages Securing objectives and this is a big boost. Maybe avoid if playing Scoundrels or Cubes where securing every Objective is rough, but otherwise this will give a nice VP lead while also Powering up your Team.
From the Atomic Mass Official Forumns
World Domination will be errata’d to say “are securing” instead of “control” in the first sentence of the card.
Players secure objectives when they have more characters contesting an objective than their opponent (keeping in mind the accounting of Healthy and Injured characters). This applies to all objectives.
New Life for other Affiliated Hydra Characters
Seven of the Affiliated Hydra Members are older models who may see some new play under the Hydra Banner.
Baron Zemo – An already fantastic 3 Threat, he along with Strucker and Zola are likely to make up the Core of most Hydra Teams. While his re-roll aura does stack with Strucker’s (same names ability) it does mean these two can cover multiple parts of the table for consistent dice manipulation
Bob, Agent of Hydra – Having an affiliated 2 Threat means you can play an 8 Threat Core and basically take whatever Splashes you want. Bob is a potential target for Scientific Method but he also just likes the multiple sources of re-roll for his big Bazooka attack
Crossbones – While he does see more play these days due to the Activation shenanigans with Sin, he doesn’t really play much better here than he does in Cabal. Probably only will be taken if you want to run a very wide Hydra Roster with six 3 Threats
Sin – Similar to Crossbones, she probably just stays in Cabal especially since she doesnt apply any Conditions to where Strucker wants to run her. Of course if you want to play Two More Shall Rise then she is the cheaper and likely better option
Core Red Skull – A cheaper option if you want to play the High Council mini game to summon a free 4 Threat. In general though Hydra Skull is probably the better Skull for Hydra
Taskmaster – Is Hydra affiliated and can be a solid 3 if running a wider list. Doesn’t get much from either Leader other than the potential for extra Power.
Viper – This much maligned character has finally found a true home in Hydra under Strucker. All 3 of her attacks have a different Condition to put onto the enemy. She is also a Long mover in an Affiliation that is mainly Short/Mediums. She is still just as squishy as always, but proper use of Stealth and her Range 2 Place might grant a surpringly degree of safety for this character.
Winter Soldier – An honorary mention for this Rogue Agent who probably should have just been Affiliated. Many people believe that this already super strong model gets borderline broken if given re-rolls. Play him near Strucker, Zemo, and in range of Zola and watch as he shreds the enemy.
Hydra Affiliation Overall Thoughts
- 2 Leaders available at release
- 9 different Tactics Cards, between only 2 boxes, that are very flavorful
- Cabal overlap for easy Dual Affiliation Rosters
- Most own 3 Hydra characters just by owning the Core Set
- Strucker lets you play a Condition focused Roster
- Hydra Skull rewards you with Power for playing the Crises
- Affiliated Characters are lacking in Throws
- While Flavorful, many of their Tactics Cards aren’t very competitive
- Most of the Affiliation is squishy and easy to remove if focused upon
- The wacky mad scientist aesthetic may not appeal to everyone
When the game first launched, Atomic Mass decided to name the original bad guy Affiliation Cabal rather than Hydra. Now years later players can finally play the true bad guy team they know from comic history (or even just the 1st MCU Captain America film). Older characters will find new life in this Affiliation and the Leaderships open up exciting Roster construction options. Give them a try if this article has piqued your interest or you just see these awesome looking models on the store shelf.
As always, if you want to read more content about Marvel: Crisis Protocol, Conquest, or Warhammer: 40,000, there are many articles to be found on this very website! Consider subscribing to the Line of Sight Youtube, and joining the Discord! Finally, if you want to support this content directly, check out the Line of Sight Patreon where you can help influence the very course of the podcasts! Thanks for reading, we’ll see you next time!
Thanks for reading!