Titans Tactics, by G. Kelly Toyama, is a no luck, head to head light strategy game in which both players construct a squad of warriors from one of five unique factions and battle for supremacy! Players must create a team that effectively combines the special abilities and perks of their champions and formulate a cohesive battle plan to emerge victorious.
Each player selects a faction of their choice and then chooses three of the six available warriors to be his forces for the coming battle.Players then determine by a method of their choosing who will go first and second. This turn order is final and does not change for any reason throughout the course of the game. Next, each player places his section of wall on the board allowing him to somewhat define the battlefield to his liking. While there is no line of sight in Titans Tactics, the walls do prevent most movement and can put melee attacks out of range. Players then place their champions in their home row with the first player positioning all of his followed by the second. Each player then takes a deck of skill cards and selects an initial hand of 5 cards each. Cards are never drawn, but chosen according to the plans of each player. After setting up the balance token and the momentum markers play begins.
The game is broken into rounds with a maximum of five being played. During a round each player will activate one champion at a time alternating between the first and second player. When both players have activated all three of their champions the round ends. When a champion is activated it may take two actions. Each of the actions may be one of the following:
Move: Move the active champion up to two spaces in any direction as long it is not through a wall or another champion controlled by either player. If this would result in moving away from an enemy champion which it was adjacent to your champion is dealt 2 damage.
Ability: Use an ability by spending the appropriate skill card(s) from hand as long as the target is valid and within range. If the champion is currently adjacent to an opposing champion it may only target that champion and itself with abilities.
Yield: The player may choose to have a champion forego an action if he feels it is the best option at the time.
After completing two of these actions the player may then choose to either push his champion or plan. Pushing allows the champion to take one more action which may be any one of the three options. Planning allows the player to look at his deck of skill cards and select any three he chooses. Either way the champion’s activation is completed and his token is flipped over to the activated side. If any of the champion’s actions deal damage to an opposing champion the balance marker is moved an equal number of spaces toward that player’s side of the board. Should that player manage to deal sufficient damage to move the balance marker to their X it is an automatic victory. After both player have activated all of their champions, the round ends and the player who has the balance token on his side of the board gains one momentum point. If a player gains his third momentum point the game ends and he is declared the winner. If neither player has won the game, both players may pay the cost to maintain any status effects that they currently have active as the result of their champions’ abilities. Repeat this process until one player earns his third momentum point or manages to deal ten more damage than his opponent.
As a player will receive a momentum point at the end of each round and three points wins the game, it can never go longer than five rounds as someone must win by then. This allows the entire game to be played in approximately 30 minutes.
Getting straight to the point, I really like this game! It has many of the elements that I most appreciate in a board game! First off, there is practically no luck in this game whatsoever. The only randomness at all is when player turn order is determined prior to the start of the game. Other than that one time, all outcomes are the direct result of the decisions made by the players, as things should be. Secondly, it has tremendous re-playability. This is due to the vast number of possible team configurations and match-ups that can be generated from the five factions. Thirdly, it is a nice combination of strategy and tactics. The strategy is largely made up of selecting one’s champions and the synergy between their abilities,the placement of your wall token, and the initial placement of your champions in the home row. The tactics emerge through management of the skill cards, maneuvering on the board in relationship to your opponent’s champions, and reacting to the changes in the game situation brought about by the abilities of the enemy champions. Lastly, it has a board on which to fight. I am a sucker for any game that involves conquering a map or maneuvering pieces around a board to represent a battle. I may enjoy awesome economic, diplomatic, trading, efficiency based Eurogames, but in my heart I still want to win a battle or a war and Titans Tactics delivers that in about 30 minutes!
Thematically Titans Tactics represents a proxy battle between to near all-powerful Titans carried out through their squad of minions. As such, units take damage but are never harmed in any way and the damage is in effect done directly to the opposing player. This is easily the most difficult aspect of Titans Tactics for many to wrap their heads around. I come from a background of Battletech which plays similar in many ways to Titans Tactics, but the difference is that in Battletech you are trying to destroy or disable your enemy’s mechs. In Titans Tactics your are simply trying to do more damage than your opponent does to you. It is a little counter-intuitive for players like me, but once one gets past preconceived notions of what you want it to be and look at what is, a nice little battle game begins to emerge. I felt that the theme is reasonably well implemented by the diverse nature of combatants available. With the option to control troops ranging from undead commandos to rampaging monsters you become a Titan selecting minions to enforce your will!
While I do admit that I thoroughly enjoyed playing Titans Tactics, there are a few issues that I have with the game. For one, I feel that the game is just too short. I do recognize that this is a deliberate design choice and therefore not a flaw per se, but a conscious decision and as such it accomplishes the designer’s vision. I just think that the shortness of the game eliminates certain defensive strategies and elevates raw aggression because with so few rounds it breaks down into finding your enemy’s soft spot and hitting it harder than he can hit yours. This means that you can ill afford to waste a round or two getting into position to implement an impenetrable defense while falling behind in both momentum and balance. Secondly, I found the game to be rather fiddly. I acknowledge that the active side/activated side mechanic on the champions succeeds in making it quite clear which one have acted and which one may still act. However, it is also problematic to be constantly flipping these pieces over and knocking others about the board. As the location of the champions, walls, momentum markers, and the balance token are all extremely important it is quite a pain when a piece is dropped or the board is bumped and you have to make sure the game situation is accurately recreated. Admittedly, these are small gripes and if one of the harshest criticisms that you can level at a game is that you wish that you could play it longer I suppose it is a good sign!
I found Titans Tactics to be a very entertaining game that combines some highly thematic elements with rock solid luck free mechanics. I rate it a solid 7.5 out of possible 10 which puts on the cusp of entering the Life in Games Top 50 Games! If it were long enough to allow for even more strategies to develop I could see myself rating it even higher! Perhaps what we need is Advanced Titans Tactics with a larger map, more champions, and a greater number of rounds! If you are like me and enjoy a good in your face heads up battle where each player brings an army and the winner is settled the old-fashioned way (weapons, magic, armor, blood) then you should enjoy Titans Tactics! If you are looking for a quick to play, easy to learn, thematic battle game that is entirely skill based you would be hard pressed to find a better game to fill this niche than Titans Tactics!
Let it be known to all readers and government officials alike, that Life in Games received a free copy of this game for the purpose of providing an objective review. No further compensation of any sort changed hands between myself and the publisher.