This is a game which comes with a back story. There’s a short tale of humanity leaving Earth for the stars but eventually returning under the guidance and protection of giant mechanoid Titans. It adds a bit of atmospheric flavour but you won’t dawdle too long on this context: as soon as you see the giant mechs and the buildings at the heart of this game, you’ll quickly want to set them up and get playing. Titanomachina is a game with irresistible table appeal.
You’ll notice that the plastic Titan figures – we can’t bring ourselves to call them ‘minis’ because they each stand nearly 4.5 inches tall! – are designed to be customised with weapon modifications: buzzsaws, rocket launchers and the like. This makes the game all the more exciting. You’ll be even more eager to play…
This isn’t however a game where you can just slot a machine gun onto a giant robot and get firing. Set up takes a while. Titanomachina is actually a tactical combat game with some unusual twists. Players need to make some pre-play choices and they’ll need to plan ahead; in effect, programming their actions.
Like other games that seek to establish a balance between set up asymmetry (for example, Wizkids’ Heroclix and FFG’s Star Wars: X-Wing), players agree at the start the number of ‘human resources’ (HR points) they will each have to spend to equip and kit out their Titan. They then choose the cards that represent each of these components and they place out corresponding chits on their Titan dashboard. This all takes a while. Even the positioning on the dashboard takes some preparatory thought because weapons and equipment have a 90º arc. This means you can’t just lash out anywhere with your buzzsaw weapon attachment: if you place it on your left arm, you can only use it against the opposing Titan or his buildings if they are in an appropriate position in relation to your left arm.
Game play involves playing a card place up for the action it enables and then paying that card’s cost in facedown discards. The power of the action is determined by rolling six-sided dice. Depending on the card, you’ll usually be rolling several dice and choosing the highest roll. Sensors allow players to place out buildings (which can block movement and line of sight) and modify ‘initiative’ (which determines turn order). Limbs enable movement, changes of direction and attacks. Direction is always going to be important in this game because you need to take account of line-of-sight and the all-important 90º arcs. Weapon cards also obviously determine attacks. Crew members repair damage.
The cards representing your Titan’s equipment and crew forms your draw deck but, in an unusual twist, players order rather than shuffle their draw decks. You know, for example, that you’ll have to discard cards to activate a card, so you’ll want to organise your deck so that the cards you want to activate early on are drawn accompanied by cards you are only likely to need later in the game. For example, you’re very unlikely to need to conduct any repairs in your first couple of turns, so crew cards taken into your hand early on can be comfortably discarded face down to pay to activate the Sensors and Limbs that you probably will want to power up early in the game. Again, this means you are taking some time to prep your game before you get on with playing it, but this partial programming is what elevates Titanomachina from a simple beat ’em up to a surprisingly subtle tactical contest.
There are other subtleties too. You can allocate a ‘personality’ to your Titan. This will affect the way you play the game. If you play as a Rapacious Titan, you’ll be concentrating effort on razing buildings to the ground because you’ll get a bonus victory point for every enemy building you have destroyed. By contrast, if you play as a Gracious Titan, you’ll adopt a very different strategy because you’ll want to benefit from a bonus victory point for every enemy building left on the board at the end of the game. We’d just like to see it as an option for the choice of personalities to be initially hidden information. We trialed that in our pre-review playtesting at Board's Eye View and it worked really well.
Titanomachina is designed by Robert Wood, with art by Kristina Amuan, Anthony Baltera, Jason Miller and Loic Billiau. It is published by Octopodi Games. Our preview prototype of Titanomachina was a strictly two-person head-to-head combat game but the version due to launch on Kickstarter next week is expected to incorporate Titans and components for up to four players. We’ve had a lot of fun with Titanomachina as a two-player game so we’re really looking forward to seeing how it plays with three and four players. We’ll add a link to the KS campaign when it goes live, and Board's Eye View will show off and report on Titanomachina as a three and four-player contest when we get a chance to try at first hand the final published version of the game.