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Subject: Titan - what's this all about, then? rss

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Big Guy
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Valley Games is soon releasing a new edition of this classic, so I thought a review would be in order for those still not sure if they're interested. One thing about Titan, it tends to be a game you either love or hate. Especially since it takes a long time to play, meaning you really want to be into it to bother.

In summary, this is a fantasy wargame with a unique and unusual strategic component, but fairly basic tactical rules. Everyone starts with two small legions (stacks) of units called "characters", one of which contains your namesake Titan. The Titan must be kept alive at all costs, because if it dies, you lose. However, it does develop into a formidable fighter in its own right as you accumulate points.

The Strategic Game

On a large strategic board players move and grow their legions, up to a maximum size of seven. Each space on the large board has a specific terrain type, for which there is a smaller tactical board on which battles are fought when one legion moves onto an opponent's.

The strategic board implements the strangest move rules ever created. On your turn, you roll a six-sided die, which dictates how many spaces each legion must move, if it moves. There are snaking, rotating paths along which the legions are channelled according to symbols that define whether a legion may, or must, move in a particular direction. Different areas of the board are suited for mustering different kinds of characters.

Figuring out the strategic board is an obstacle for new players, but with experience they will learn the optimal moves. It's basically about establishing patterns whereby you can move and grow a legion with the right die rolls, and then being patient. I think experienced players owe newbies explanations of their options, so they don't make foolish choices.

There are a couple of other strategies that are important to learn. One is figuring out how to split your legions so you can muster ever more powerful characters. You should split a legion only when it's safe from attack, and in such a way that at least half of it can develop an optimal mix of forces. And you need to split, period, because with the seven-character maximum legion size, there is no other way to grow a large, advanced force.

Another strategic consideration is the value of basically surrendering a battle instead of fighting it. When your force is much weaker than an attacker's, it's only worth it to fight if there is any chance at all of damaging your opponent's muster ability. Otherwise, it is better to simply (in Titan parlance) "flee the engagement" so that your opponent only scores half points.

Again, experienced players should explain these subtleties to newbies, in all fairness.

A final point about the strategic board: the characters in a legion are kept face down, though some are revealed whenever a legion musters (grows by one character). So good memory is very helpful for knowing how threatening your opponent's legions are. Lousy memory (like mine) puts you at a disadvantage.

The Tactical Game

The tactical game is where the real fun begins. All the tension of the race to build up your forces comes to a head when a couple of closely matched legions meet in battle. The rules for battle are straightforward and should be easier for new players to grasp than the strategic game. Basically, you move, you resolve attacks with massive amounts of dice-rolling, and you score hits of damage, keeping at it until one side is eliminated. The attacker has a chance to summon in one Angel from another legion, and the defender has a chance of mustering one reinforcement, assuming the right creatures are in the fight for the terrain type.

Some types of characters can fly, which is really helpful for moving on the tactical board. Others can fight at range, which is nice because in melee combat the opponent gets to roll back.

One point about battles: it really hurts to be in the wrong terrain type. If you're defending, it means you won't get to reinforce. And either way, you will suffer penalties because of terrain features, which really sucks if your opponent has a force native to the terrain and thus is getting bonuses. Often the terrain type a legion is in makes the difference on whether or not it is worth it to attack it at all.

Another point about battles: if both legions have Titans in them, one of the two players is going to get eliminated!

And finally, defeating your opponent in battles is the only way to score points, which is what allows you to develop your Titan and also acquire the extremely valuable Angels and Arch-Angels. So you need to fight eventually, or you're going nowhere.

Winning the Game

To win the game, you must be the last player standing. But the secret, really, is to successfully construct one or more legions which contain nothing but the best types of characters. Your Titan, in particular, needs to be in such a legion. One powerful legion can take out many, many weaker legions. Once you have the best legion on the board, you will probably win in time.

Pros and Cons

So how to summarize what's to like and not to like about this game? First, the bad news.

Cons

It takes a long time to play, so you need to reserve a day for it.

Luck is a factor, though usually, because there is so much die-rolling, the luck evens out. But if you get unlucky early, ouch.

There can be considerable downtime if there are many players and, on other players' turns, many battles are being fought that don't involve you.

You can be eliminated from the game when the game has hours left to go for everyone else.


But...

Pros

If you like long wargames, well, that's what you've got here.

You get to fight multiple battles where you roll tons and tons of six-sided dice, which is fun.

You're leading armies of fantasy monsters. Minotaurs and Dragons. Griffons and Hydras. Gorgons and Cylcops. That is really, really cool.

In Summary

If fantasy wargaming is up your alley, you should try this old-school masterpiece. With experience, you will learn the intricacies of the main board and become skilled at developing powerful forces. Then you will know the joy of owning a monstrous Titan legion that can teleport about, crushing everything in sight!
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Tomas Syrovatka
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Very nice review! I am still thinking about preordering Titan within the first phase which ends 24.5. But your review has pushed me another step into purchasing it. One more thing that sells it for me though: the board and bits look awesome, I am really into nice looking games and this one is the winner (the reprint of course).
 
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Jorge Arroyo
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Nice review. Just wanted to add that playing the game with 2 players solves many of the issues you mentioned: downtime, length and player elimination

-Jorge
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bestia immonda
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Maybe 3-4 players gets a faster but still fun game!
 
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Raviv Nagel
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sydo wrote:
... which ends 24.5.

The first phase ends on the 21st. In case you decide you want it, don't miss the best price ...
 
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Titan Time Line:

First Game: 6 hours?
Second - Third Game: 5 hours
Fourth - tenth Game: 4 hours or less
Eleventh - twentieth Game: 3 hours or less
Twenty-first - fiftieth Game: 2 hours or less
Fifty-first game onwards: 1 hour.

No joke. In university we would play a game of titan (6 players) duirng our lunch break (under an hour).

I get tired of people saying how long Titan takes to play. I recently spoke to a fellow who says that Race for the Galaxy has become a 'filler' and they now play in 15 minutes (where the first game took me 1.5 hours). It's all a matter of experience.

Once the growth charts are 'memorised' you will save an hour.
Once the board is 'memorised' you will save another hour.
Once you've learned when to fight and when to concede you will save another two hours.
Once you've learned to negotiate most combats, you will play in under an hour.

The biggest time saver is learning when it's not worth fighting. This is where people new to the game waste the most time. Their 3 Cyclopses defend against a 7-stack and take 5-10 minutes. In the end they killed a troll or two, but the 7-stack then grows a ranger and/or an angel. Experienced people will concede, knowing that fighting is not worth it. The newbie thinks "I'm sure I can kill something!" and fights each and eery fight. This is what turns Titan into a drawn out game that first-timers never return to.
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Tomas Syrovatka
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raviv wrote:
sydo wrote:
... which ends 24.5.

The first phase ends on the 21st. In case you decide you want it, don't miss the best price ...


D'oh! Thanks for this! I presumed that when the next phase begins 24.5., it's when the first ends, now I have 3 less days to decide But Randys comment about play time brought me again one step closer to buying it, I was afraid of the time aspect, as we would mainly be playing with 3 ppl, so we don't want the first one out to wait too long.
Too many games I want out there, Galaxy Trucker, Titan, Through the Ages... Damn you BGG!
 
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Raviv Nagel
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sydo wrote:
raviv wrote:
sydo wrote:
... which ends 24.5.

The first phase ends on the 21st. In case you decide you want it, don't miss the best price ...


D'oh! Thanks for this! I presumed that when the next phase begins 24.5., it's when the first ends


That's my assumption too, but on Valley games site (http://www.valleygames.ca/750.html) it shows :
Titan
$69.95
Now Open
$48.97
May 21, 2008
$59.46
June 2008
 
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Terry K
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This game sounds like a boardgame version of some of the hexbased games on videogame consoles such as Master of Monsters or Dark Wizard. I love those games and have preordered Titan to compare.
 
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Bruno Wolff
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jediwashuu wrote:
This game sounds like a boardgame version of some of the hexbased games on videogame consoles such as Master of Monsters or Dark Wizard. I love those games and have preordered Titan to compare.


If you liked those you should really try out Battle for Wesnoth (http://wesnoth.org/).
It is a free (libre) game that gets distributed with a number of Linux distros and provides Windows and Mac binaries (i.e. you probaly won't need to build it from source).
Master of Monsters and Warsong provided some of the inspiration for the lead developer. The combat is loosely based on the Master of Monster rules that I was able to reverse engineer (http://wolff.to/bruno/mom.html).
It has single player, single player campaign and multiplayer modes of play. Some work is being done on multiplayer campaigns.
Titan isn't like those games, though I know a number of people who like both, so there is a good chance you won't be disappointed by Titan.
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Ben Foy
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sbarrera wrote:
Winning the Game

To win the game, you must be the last player standing. But the secret, really, is to successfully construct one or more legions which contain nothing but the best types of characters. Your Titan, in particular, needs to be in such a legion. One powerful legion can take out many, many weaker legions. Once you have the best legion on the board, you will probably win in time.


Your review is fairly good but one minor nit, there are multiple strategies. And the rolls and choices of other players can affect your strategies. For example, you can have a stronger Titan. A 25-die Titan with couple angels can win most battles. What top level creature do you try to get? Hydras recruit fast but are the weakest of the top level creatures. Colussus are the best creature but take forever to recruit. If your Titan falls behind in recruiting but you have other strong stacks, you can hide in the Titan in the tower. There are actually loads of strats.
 
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ronald fraigun
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BFoy wrote:
sbarrera wrote:
Winning the Game

To win the game, you must be the last player standing. But the secret, really, is to successfully construct one or more legions which contain nothing but the best types of characters. Your Titan, in particular, needs to be in such a legion. One powerful legion can take out many, many weaker legions. Once you have the best legion on the board, you will probably win in time.


Your review is fairly good but one minor nit, there are multiple strategies. And the rolls and choices of other players can affect your strategies. For example, you can have a stronger Titan. A 25-die Titan with couple angels can win most battles. What top level creature do you try to get? Hydras recruit fast but are the weakest of the top level creatures. Colussus are the best creature but take forever to recruit. If your Titan falls behind in recruiting but you have other strong stacks, you can hide in the Titan in the tower. There are actually loads of strats.


Also something missed is its not always bad to leave a legion with 2 troops in it to die if your short on legion counters as you have only a limited amount to play with and if you want to grow you might need to do this until you can take over another player and get their legion counters. This can be a big part of the strategy. Also even with experienced players never will a 6 player game end in an hour that i've found. Maybe 3 hours for a 6 player. 2 is possible with 3 or 4 players if they move very fast.
 
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xeonrf wrote:
Also something missed is its not always bad to leave a legion with 2 troops in it to die if your short on legion counters as you have only a limited amount to play with and if you want to grow you might need to do this until you can take over another player and get their legion counters. This can be a big part of the strategy. Also even with experienced players never will a 6 player game end in an hour that i've found. Maybe 3 hours for a 6 player. 2 is possible with 3 or 4 players if they move very fast.


Hey Ronald, how many games of Titan have you played? Have you ever played a game with 5 other people who've all played 100+ times? It's a difference experience. The Battle Maps rarely ever hit the table unless someone's Titan is about to be killed. Typical turn of mine would be rolling a '3' and the 'creature banker' is already passing me a minotaur & cyclops even before I move my pieces as he's memorised all the stacks. Also, the game is *no* faster with 3 or 4 players (which just gives more room to move around and slows down the first few eliminations). Most 'ultra-experienced' 6-player games have someone eliminated within 3 turns, and possibly 2 elminated within 4 turns. So, in the first 10 minutes we're down to 4 players with someone (or two) with a 7-8pt Titan. The majority of games end in 30-60 minutes.

You group may not play this way. Your group may not have played every lunch hour in 1994-96. Your group may not be able to play in under 3 hours. Your group is not the UBC Wargamers.

Again, repeating myself, the most time consuming factor is the 'battles'. Once you learn that most battles are not worth fighting (either end by conceding or negotiation), your playtime will shorten drastically. Of course, for your first 50 games, the battles are a major 'fun part' so expect your fist swag of games to push into multiple hours as outlined above.
 
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Bruno Wolff
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GeneSteeler wrote:
[q="xeonrf"]
Again, repeating myself, the most time consuming factor is the 'battles'. Once you learn that most battles are not worth fighting (either end by conceding or negotiation), your playtime will shorten drastically. Of course, for your first 50 games, the battles are a major 'fun part' so expect your fist swag of games to push into multiple hours as outlined above.

I assume you mean fleeing instead of conceding above.
Negotiation only makes sense if players are willing to give up a small advantage to save time or to make random rolls to see who wins a battle and then keep to that agreement. This certainly makes sense to agree to as a group when trying to play games under the time constraints you had, but is not the way the game is played in general.
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