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Tim Jesurun
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Titanium Wars is a recent game from Iello (best known for King of Tokyo) and Euphoria Games. I had the chance to demo this game at Origins and was pleased enough to buy it. I have since given it 2 more plays and I think I can give it a fair review, but if things change I will update this review.

Overview

The theme of the game is that a new, mysterious type of crystal has been discovered in the galaxy, which is called Titanium. (This Titanium has no relationship with the metal found on the periodic table. I have had some gamers groan about this and other take in stride. There is a whole thread here on the geek if your mad about it, but the designer thinks it is important for where the story of the game is going). Now the various space empires have launched fleets, lead by the players, to acquire as much of this material as possible. One whole page of the 6 page rulebook is devoted to describing the leaders and empires on the game.

I think it is an important caveat that while the theme sounds like a 4X game, one in which players are building up their empire, harvesting resources, and expanding across the galaxy, it really is not that kind of game. Instead, mechanically, it more like a bidding game, only the ships are your currency and the tactic cards are your bids. That ruins the theme, but the game play has much more to do with playing to the hand your dealt and reading your opponents intentions.

Components

There are 4 kinds of cards in the game

- 8 leader/home planet cards
- 12 planet / event cards
- 50 tactics cards
- 235 Arsenal cards
- 65 unit cards
- 96 upgrade cards
- 74 building cards
- damage tokens in 1 and 4 denominations
- paper money
- first player token
- 4 rules summary cards

The card stock seems on the lighter end to me, but I'm not really a components connoisseur. There are over 300 cards in the game, but sleeving only makes sense for the tactics cards as they are the ones that get handled the most and the only cards to get shuffled multiple times in a game.

Yes, I did say paper money. It is also quite small, though sturdy. I know paper money is a turn-off for many gamers. Hopefully, if it bothers you you already have a supply of coins or chips you use instead.

I like the artwork, which has a slightly cartoony style, but still feels epic and appropriate for a theme which is partially serious and partially fantastic.


Brief Rules Overview

I don't really enjoy doing rules reviews, but, as I cannot currently point you somewhere else for that, I will do it briefly myself.

The goal of the game is to control a certain number of Titanium deposits. The target number depends on the number of players and desired length of game. These Titanium deposits are found the planets which players battle for each round.

Set-up: players receive 3 tactics cards (the function of which I will explain in the conquest phase) and are dealt two leaders at random and pick one to use. Leaders are unique only in their special abilities. Base income, building slots, fleet size, and tactic card hand size are identical.

Each turn starts with Exploration: revealing the next planet to be fought over. The planets provide additional income, additional building slots, special abilities, and or Titanium deposits. The backs of the planets have an “event” effect, and so the top card of the planet draw deck determines the “event” effect. These effects tend to be substantial and most make the Conquest phase quite different from turn to turn.

The next phase is the Production phase and players gather their income from their planets. Since the home planets produce 1000 credits, and the conquered planets typically add only 100 or 200 credits, differences in income between players are typically small.

Outfitting is the next phase and this is where players buy the things they want. This phase is actually a free-for-all and players grab what they want with no regard for turn order nor any real secrecy other than that other players are distracted by their own purchases. Once everyone had grabbed what they want, then players reveal what cards they grabbed and pay for them. There are three kinds of things that can be bought:

- Buildings take up a building slot on one of a player's planets. Players start with four building slots and typically acquire only 2 or 3 more during the game. There are building to increase income, number of units which you can have, tech level, tactics card hand size, and upgrade slots on ships. There is also a building that does damage in combat.
- Units, which include various sizes of ships as well as minefields, missiles, and repair droids. Ships are necessary for combat.
- Upgrades allow you to add attack or defense to your ships, as well as some other unusual effects. Ships have a limited number of upgrades that they can hold.

After Outfitting comes the Conquest phase. During the conquest phase, players who wish to compete for the planet choose one of their tactics cards to play. Tactics cards indicate on them what units they allow to fire and what targets they hit. For example “barrage” allows cruisers to attack fighter squadrons, while “assault” allows fighter squadrons to attack most kinds of units. There is no attack outside of the effect of the tactics cards. Tactics cards also have a priority on them to determines which attack happens first. Generally weaker attacks and smaller ships go first with the final tactic to be resolved allowing you to sum all of your remaining ships. It is the tactics cards you have that determine the ships that you buy in the outfitting phase. Destroyers are useless unless you have in your hand one or more tactics cards that allow destroyers to attack the kind of units that your opponents have. After all of the tactics card are resolved players discard the tactic card they used. They may also discard another tactic card for free but to discard any further cards they have to pay.

After this, players decide whether they want to stay in the fight or drop out. If they have no more ships, then they cannot stay in the fight. Players who are staying in choose another tactics card and another round of combat happens. Once only one player is left, either because he is is the only one with ships or because the other players have dropped out, then he gets that planet. All players remove all of the damage on their remaining ships and the first player token moves. Then the next round begins with the exploration phase.

Speaking of the first player token, almost all of the major activities of this game are simultaneous, but the first player token does help resolve some specific situations. This is great for keeping down time to a minimum.

Typically both winners and losers lose most of their ships in the conquest phase. This is okay, because you can typically buy back up to your unit limit the next turn. Losing ships is not as dreadful as it might be in another game. They are easily replaced.

Replayability

At a glance this game seems like it would have low replayability. The cards that you can buy are fixed and the same from game to game. The reason this does not kill replayability is that there are two other major sources of variability and one minor one, that will cause you to adjust your game play throughout the game.

- The first is the tactics cards, which really dictate how useful your units will be. If you have tactics cards that allows you to use a interstellar missile, then it makes sense to build an interstellar missile. If you do not have the tactic cards for it, then you should not build it. It is useless. If your opponents do not have fighter squadrons, then a tactics card that targets them is useless.
- The second is the event card effects. Most of these effects are disruptive and require you to think differently in the outfitting and conquest phases.
- The smaller one is the special abilities of the leaders. These can open up some more options for a player, but I think they are rather small effect.

Why You Might Like Titanium Wars

- I like the theme. It is well realized and fun.
- I think the variability is just right. Adapting to the events and the tactic cards in your hand makes for an enjoyable and challenging experience. It is not a game of pure luck, nor is it a brainburner. It is right in the sweet spot for me.
- I enjoy how interactive the game is. So many games are mostly solitaire experiences, and this one really involves interacting with and responding to your opponents.
- This game has a medium weight to it. You can feel good about how you played the first time, not bewildered and muddling through. Not really a family get-together game, but easy to get played at a boardgaming event.
- I do not like bash-on-the-leader games where players have to stop helping themselves and start hurting someone else. This game is not that because the conquest phase is only bashing on other people. It is not a tacked-on or alternative activity.
- There is no turtling in this game. You must conquer to win, and staying out of early fights doesn't give you a big advantage.


Why You Might Not Like Titanium Wars

- The BGG forum shows that some people are really unhappy with the name. I do think it was a mistake, but it doesn't ruin the game for me.
- If your players tend to gang up on someone for no reason, that will ruin this game. This game balances because players are choosing to do more damage to the person in the lead. The designer subtitled the game as being a game of diplomacy, I believe, to encourage alliances among players who are behind. In the last conquest phase of one of my recent games we were all evenly matched at the start and as players dealt damage we tended whittle each other down evenly within the constraints of our tactics cards. This made the final round tense and interesting. If we had all decided to gang up on one player instead (“attack the game owner” or “attack dad”) it would have been a much less satisfying game.
- The opposite of that is true too. If destroying other people's things is not enjoyable, even without malice and within the constraints of a game, then this game is not for you. Similarly, if you or another player gets your feelings hurt when someone else causes you to lose something, even when within the spirit of the game and without malice, then this is not a good game for you. There is no pacifist path to victory in this game.
- The math in the outfitting phase is kind of a drag. You are trying to add-up the cards you want before, during, or after grabbing them. It is mentally the most taxing aspect of the game, I think, but the game is still a mid-weight game, not a brainburner or a spreadsheet.

Summary

Titanium Wars is great game for mid-weight players who enjoy direct interaction. The theme is great and the gameplay is varied and challenging. It is unlike any other game I am aware of. It is definitely worth checking out for fans of euro/thematic hybrids looking for a good 60 minute game.
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brenton t vallade
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Thanks for the review. I am going to give this game a second look.
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Matt Shinners
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Horatio252 wrote:

Why You Might Like Titanium Wars
- I do not like bash-on-the-leader games where players have to stop helping themselves and start hurting someone else. This game is not that because the conquest phase is only bashing on other people. It is not a tacked-on or alternative activity.

Why You Might Not Like Titanium Wars

- This game balances because players are choosing to do more damage to the person in the lead. The designer subtitled the game as being a game of diplomacy, I believe, to encourage alliances among players who are behind.
These two seem to directly contradict each other. The second is the definition of "bash on the leader" games, of which you say this doesn't count.

Can you give a little more info on why you don't consider this a bash-on-the-leader type game despite what you say in that second section?
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Chris Funk
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MattShinners wrote:
Horatio252 wrote:

Why You Might Like Titanium Wars
- I do not like bash-on-the-leader games where players have to stop helping themselves and start hurting someone else. This game is not that because the conquest phase is only bashing on other people. It is not a tacked-on or alternative activity.

Why You Might Not Like Titanium Wars

- This game balances because players are choosing to do more damage to the person in the lead. The designer subtitled the game as being a game of diplomacy, I believe, to encourage alliances among players who are behind.
These two seem to directly contradict each other. The second is the definition of "bash on the leader" games, of which you say this doesn't count.

Can you give a little more info on why you don't consider this a bash-on-the-leader type game despite what you say in that second section?
I think he might mean that you don't consciously pick a leader or someone to bash on. You automagically hit whomever is in the lead regardless of who it is. For instance, you don't conspire with the person in the lead to take out the 2nd place player (or let's all get Dad)

That's the way I took it, anyway.
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Tim Jesurun
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Good question. In my mind there two things that make a game bash-on-the-leader. Players must voluntarily chose to attack the leader as an optional activity, instead of just working on their own stuff. The leader is helpless to mitigate these attacks, though he may be able to stop doing the primary activity of the game and defend himself.

Titanium Wars is different because the primary activity of the game is dealing damage to each other. It is not a side activity to damage other players, it is the activity of the game. The leader can also decline to be part of a conquest, and thus take no damage. He can jump to an early lead on Titanium deposits and then sit back until others catch up. This is what a smart leader does: he stays in a conquest for only a round or two to knock down the other strong players a little, but drops out before the end so he does not get hurt too bad. Also, the extent to which a leader can get bashed on, the loss of all of his ships, is not too hard to make-up in the next round. My experience with bash-on-the-leader games is that it is frustrating to be the leader, and I've never felt or seen that in this game.

Quote:
I think he might mean that you don't consciously pick a leader or someone to bash on. You automagically hit whomever is in the lead regardless of who it is. For instance, you don't conspire with the person in the lead to take out the 2nd place player (or let's all get Dad)
Actually you do decide who to deal damage to. It makes the most sense to hit the person who poses the greatest threat to hurting you or who is closest to winning the game. Typically the 2nd and 3rd place player make an alliance to chew the 1st place player down and let the 4th place player get a few points. As I said the 1st place player can just drop out, leaving the other's players ships, who were allied against him, to hurt each other instead.
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Matt Shinners
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Horatio252 wrote:
Titanium Wars is different because the primary activity of the game is dealing damage to each other. It is not a side activity to damage other players, it is the activity of the game. The leader can also decline to be part of a conquest, and thus take no damage. He can jump to an early lead on Titanium deposits and then sit back until others catch up. This is what a smart leader does: he stays in a conquest for only a round or two to knock down the other strong players a little, but drops out before the end so he does not get hurt too bad. Also, the extent to which a leader can get bashed on, the loss of all of his ships, is not too hard to make-up in the next round. My experience with bash-on-the-leader games is that it is frustrating to be the leader, and I've never felt or seen that in this game.
So it seems like this might be a bash-the-leader game, but one that's managed to get past your reasons for disliking it!

That gives me hope, as I also tend to dislike bash the leader games for similar reasons, and seeing that this one makes someone with a similar feeling not dislike it means I need to give it another look.

If I can get past the idiotic name...
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Tim Moore
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Horatio252 wrote:

-snip-
Replayability
- If you have tactics cards that allows you to use a interstellar missile, then it makes sense to build an interstellar missile. If you do not have the tactic cards for it, then you should not build it. It is useless. If your opponents do not have fighter squadrons, then a tactics card that targets them is useless.
-snip-
I have not played (or even seen it played). Question: might you build interstellar missiles in order to bluff the other player into something?
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Tim Jesurun
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Windmilling wrote:
Horatio252 wrote:

-snip-
Replayability
- If you have tactics cards that allows you to use a interstellar missile, then it makes sense to build an interstellar missile. If you do not have the tactic cards for it, then you should not build it. It is useless. If your opponents do not have fighter squadrons, then a tactics card that targets them is useless.
-snip-
I have not played (or even seen it played). Question: might you build interstellar missiles in order to bluff the other player into something?
Very clever. Assuming you are using advanced combat rules*, this would be a good idea.

*advanced combat rules mean that players do not reveal their tactic's cards all at once but instead reveal them in order of priority. So the person with priority 1 (which can attack interstellar missiles), might destroy the missile, instead of damaging something else, out of fear that you will use the missile once priority 4 happens.
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Frédéric GUERARD
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Horatio252 wrote:
Windmilling wrote:
Horatio252 wrote:

-snip-
Replayability
- If you have tactics cards that allows you to use a interstellar missile, then it makes sense to build an interstellar missile. If you do not have the tactic cards for it, then you should not build it. It is useless. If your opponents do not have fighter squadrons, then a tactics card that targets them is useless.
-snip-
I have not played (or even seen it played). Question: might you build interstellar missiles in order to bluff the other player into something?
Very clever. Assuming you are using advanced combat rules*, this would be a good idea.

*advanced combat rules mean that players do not reveal their tactic's cards all at once but instead reveal them in order of priority. So the person with priority 1 (which can attack interstellar missiles), might destroy the missile, instead of damaging something else, out of fear that you will use the missile once priority 4 happens.
Or even support this missile with fighter squadrons (or at least, one fighter squadron with magnetic target). This bluff creates a dilemma where the opponent who plays the planetary fire to destroy the missile can not attack the rest of your fleet. devil
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