Published on October 8th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen3
Unleash the Titans!
Review of Titans Tactics
It seems like there is always a new tactical miniatures game out on the market, for better or for worse. Tactics games are constantly in demand and the variety within that sub-genre of tabletop games is very robust. On one end there are complex games with dozens of unpainted figures that give you an immense amount of customization. On the other end are games like Chess, with a fixed amount of pieces, a smaller board and simple rules.
Titans Tactics is closer to the later than the former- to its benefit. There is a tendency in making a tactics game to make it as fiddly as possible, but this is not a trap that Titans Tactics falls into. With its punchy art, simple rules and small package, Titans Tactics brings a lot to the table.
Titans Tactics does a lot of things right. The most immediate to me, on opening the box, is that it doesn’t use 3D plastic miniatures. Don’t get me wrong, I love plastic minis. I bought extra Bones figures during their first Kickstarter, I have HeroClix, Warhammer 40k, D&D, Pathfinder and Relic Knight minis. I backed HeroForge, the custom 3D printed minis program. It’s because I love minis and because I already have a ton of them that I don’t especially feel the need to pay for more just to play a new game.
Instead of minis, Titans Tactics uses cardboard tokens to represent their units. While I would have preferred stand ups, the fact that they are using a cheaper, full color alternative to miniatures is all I need. The game uses a board instead of being free form- the card board is high quality and the iconography on the board and tokens is clear and easily understood.
The art for the game is spot on- a kind of fantasy sci-fi that reminds me of Neuroshima Hex or futuristic Magic card art. The art is of a style that reminds me of concept art forums I used to lurk on, and I really like the final product. The graphic design aids the player in understanding and playing the game instead of just being there. The summary cards are efficient, the iconography is intuitive and thematic. The only design element I disliked is the text size, which I feel is too small and difficult to read. Thankfully, mechanics are fairly simple and easy to remember.
There is almost no luck in Titans Tactics, which is one of the main reasons it’s a great game. The more luck based a game is, the less effect my tactical preparation has on the board state. When it comes to tactics games, I would much rather have my own skill be the measure of success rather than the fickle results of some dice. Granted, risk management games can be fun and I don’t deny that I like rolling a natural 20 as much as the next person, but the fun in tactics games to me has always been the match of wits.
In Titans Tactics you assemble a team of three Champions to fight against the other team’s Champions on the board. Every damage you do to the other team pulls a marker towards your goal, whenever the other person does a damage to you, it gets pulled to their side in a game of tug-o’-war. If either player can get the marker all the way to their end of the line, that player wins. Also, at the end of every round the person who has the marker on their side gets a victory point. Once you get three victory points you win!
So the object in Titans Tactics is to do damage, but in this game your characters don’t die. One good attack or focus fire won’t ruin your key member, and thus the game. Instead, Titans Tactics focuses on trying to combo your damage bonuses while lessening your opponent’s ability to deal damage. There are lots of status effects getting thrown around, and a lot of them deny certain classes of actions to the Champions they affect.
The board space is a perfect size for the kinds of fights taking place in the game. There is a D&D style “opportunity attack” type mechanic where Champions moving out of melee range of enemies automatically take damage. At the start of the game players both get to lay an obstruction down on the board that might suit their particular play style, and which always keeps the board state fresh.
Characters in Titans Tactics don’t have stats, but they each have a set of three abilities that are color coded into five colors (red, blue, white, yellow and black) which match the colors of the cards that you will have in your hand. Each player gets a deck of 15 cards- three of each color. To use an ability you must “pay” for it by discarding a card that matches the ability’s color from your hand back into your deck. Most abilities do damage but some do status effects instead or in addition to.
I like the discard mechanic as a way to fuel abilities because I get to choose which cards are going to be in my hand on any given turn. You don’t draw a random card from your deck, each time you draw you’re choosing which cards you want to keep ready. By making abilities tied to a resource mechanic that you have to build up to, the designer makes players think ahead and strategize. You aren’t locked into that predetermined route though, as most assembled teams should have a decent spread of colors in common so you can always adapt your moves to that of the opponent.
If I had to compare it to another game, I’d say it is similar in complexity to Krosmaster Arena- but there is less book keeping and we used a higher percentage of the board. Nicole mentioned that it reminded her of playing with three very simplified D&D Essentials characters, with all the annoying bits of D&D 4e taken out and replaced with undead robots and alien demon dogs.
I can say that I was honestly blown away by Titans Tactics. The rules are not complex, the goals are easy to understand, it plays in 30 minutes and it’s easy to learn and teach. On top of that, there is a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay, especially considering there are five different factions available in the base set. Titans Tactics is a very well-placed bridge between the casual gamer and the hardcore gamer audiences.