Judging from the Nuremberg releases 2010 seems to become a rather prolific year for Rüdiger Dorn, as three of his games have been published by major German labels:
Dragonheart (Dragonheart, a card game with a placement board) and Snapshot (a strategic/tactical flicking game in the vein of Carabande or Carrom) by KOSMOSand last but not least Titania by Hans im Glück.
I had the pleasure to play the latter with Rüdiger last Monday and will try an early review after just one play.
The old king of Titania is looking for a successor to his throne. He decides, that the prince who does best in restoring the famous Sea Towers, which caused much of Titania’s fame and glory but lie in ruins now, will be the appropriate candidate.
During the game, the players try to sail to the tower sites gathering building materials on the way and most efficiently rebuild the towers, thereby gaining the most victory points.
Titania comes in HiG’s standard big box (like Vikings, Masons or Thurn and Taxis), beautifully illustrated by Michael Menzel. Most of the bits are standard fare, i.e. a nicely illustrated board with hex-fields, cardboard tiles and chits, playing cards and lots of wood (tower levels in four colours, starfish and ships (in three different colours)).
Pic.1 Titania game board (by toob)
As we have come to expect from HiG, everything is really high quality, although I have two minor quibbles:
For one, the starfish are a little too big to fit on a hex with 3 or 4 towers (see Pic.2). Furthermore, the counters for player identification have rather subdued colours making them difficult to distinguish and the counters on the VP track are silly stand-up versions of these counters that have to be assembled before play.
As can be seen on the picture above, Titania is played on a board divided into hexfields. At the beginning of the game, three pairs of ships in the colours corresponding to the castle’s banners are put on the three central hexes. Furthermore, several fog tiles are put face down on the empty hexes surrounding the castle and each player is dealt a starting hand of four ship cards.
During his turn, a player can choose how many cards he wants to play and/or draw, but the sum of played and drawn cards always has to equal three.
When a card is played, the player puts a ship of the corresponding colour on a hex adjacent to a ship of the same colour, however there must never be more than two ships on one hex and those have to be coloured differently.
Pic.2 In-game during epoch 2 (by olavf)
Placing a ship either nets the player some kind of reward (printed on the board or on the back of the fog tiles) or (in the case of the crane fields) allows him to build tower levels on all adjacent tower sites.
These rewards can be
- several shells that act as building material for the Sea Towers
- bonus point chits (which are held secretly until game end)
- starfish (for adorning the Sea Towers)
- direct points
- and/or additional card draws.
Each time a player gains one or more starfish, he may pay some or all of the starfish in his supply in order to adorn one or more tower sites (at a cost of one starfish per Sea Tower on the respective hex), gaining one VP for each tower depicted and each level already built there, but at the same time making it more lucrative to build additional tower levels there.
Whenever a player reaches a crane field, he is allowed to build as many tower levels as he wants or can afford on any adjacent tower sites by paying shells from his supply. The first level of each tower costs one shell of the corresponding colour, the second level two shells and so on. Each level yields 3 VP regardless of its height (or 4 VP if there is already a starfish at the site).
Pic.3 Detail of tower site with crane fields (by toob)
As soon as all ships of one colour are used up, the first epoch of the game ends and the board is almost completely reset (with the exception of already built tower levels). Then another epoch is played with an additional three ships per colour.
In my opinion, Titania is not a very innovative or avant-garde game. However, it combines familiar elements (to some extent from Rüdiger Dorn’s own earlier works) in a very clever and pleasant way.
Comparisons can be drawn to Kramer’s Expedition (expedition arrows vs. ships) and Knizia’s Through the Desert (player controlled game/round end by depleting a common bit supply), for example. And of course one could claim that Rüdiger Dorn’s trademark (as it was called in the recent BGG forum discussion Rüdiger Dorn: Where to start?) the "leaving a trail" or "spill-over mechanic" (or more cutely the "snail-trail") is back in a different incarnation (the placed ships leaving a trail).
However, I think the most striking resemblance has to be the common supply of ships in three colours, guided across the board by all players with the help of corresponding cards, which reminds me quite a bit of Dorn’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. In contrast to that game though (and this is a big plus), the players have much more control about where to go and which colour to use, as on the one hand the ship placement can branch-off of the trail of ships anywhere and not only at the exact spot where another player left a single pawn behind (as it is the case in Journey) and on the other hand there are several two-coloured joker cards available, which reduces the luck of the draw.
Pic.4 Several ship cards (by toob)
The different scoring elements are well composed, e.g. a well-timed starfish-play can either set-up a high scoring build in the same turn or - especially in the late game - may even outscore a massive build, whilst the main focus of the game stays on efficient tower building (e.g. several low and therefore cheap levels in one turn). Also the hex rewards are finely balanced, e.g. the unknown rewards of the fog tiles are on average more valuable than the open board rewards. This adds an incentive which keeps exploring an attractive option under the right circumstances even later in the game.
All in all, Titania can be played on a gut level but definitely leaves room for clever play, however entirely on a tactical level. I guess more often than not, players would be well advised to deviate from their mid-term plan and grasp a scoring opportunity left behind by the previous player.
Card management and the exploration part add some suspense and the constant stream of rewards from occupying hexfields leads to a pleasant game flow.
On the other hand, I don't like the fact, that you play two almost identical rounds, between which the board is almost completely reset. Assyria achieves this resetting effect much more elegantly, not only theme-wise.
To put in into a nutshell, Titania is a well produced resource gathering and building game; one of the lighter games in the HiG-portfolio, but definitely a step above Finca. At the moment I rate it a 7.5, but probably headed towards a 7 with more plays.
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As a big Dorn fan, I was hoping for something a little less abstract, like his more involved earlier games. This is still a title I hope to enjoy, but it's in the "try before I buy" category.
Thanks for the excellent review, Thomas!
I planned on writing a review myself but Thomas good work makes this obsolte. Thanks for saving me a lot of time
But at least I would add a thing or two.
Gameplay: Drawing cards is always the last thing you do on a turn! So if you start your turn with zero cards in hand you'll draw three cards and your turn is over. It is not allowed to draw one card, then play it with your second action and afterwards draw another card. So card management is essential or you'll have to pass on valuable opportunities.
Opinion: My group did not expect anything from the game, so we were quite suprised how enjoyable it turned out to be. The story is very abstract and the mechanisms are not innovative but they don't have to be. Not every new dish I cook includes something suprisingly new but might taste great in its composition.
Our only gripe with the game was that the small hex spaces makes it sometimes difficult to spot the best actions available with all the ships standing around.
IMO the game has a lot in common with titles like Carcassonne (not in terms of mechanisms) as it is essential that you try to figure out the most lucrative opportunities on your turn. You might plan a tower ahead one or two turns but that's basically it when it comes to grand strategy. I'm pretty sure that we'll play this again occasionally.
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Great review. I played this last night at London on Board and found it OK - a little bit 'samey' and the little shells would annoy me if I owned it I think, but it was fun to play. I doubt I'll get this one but I wouldn't turn down a game either. That's my first impression! Probably a 6/6.5 from me.
A good review.
I played it last evening.
80% of the game were played fluently and it made fun. At the end everybody enlarged his taken time to do his turn. Each of us wanted to win and each of us tried to count, what would be better for him and how could he give to the next player the least possibillities. The game was good accepted by all of us. That´s all ok.
Here my thoroughts about problems in the game:
There is a problem with colours. Not only on the counters, but also the colours of the shells. The whole gameboard is too dark. But this is no fatal problem. You can manage it.
The second was a little bit harder... The game ends as all ships of one colour are used up. It means you can end the game when you are winning it. It means also, thah the weakest player can end it and so he can set a winner. I want to try, what would it do with exact the same number of turns for all players - may be with additional imaginary ships of the not remaining colour.
I'm deciding whether or not to pull the trigger on this game. Thanks.