Monday, 16 February 2009


Fri 6 Feb 2009. Carcasean boardgame cafe. This was the day before I was to return to Kuala Lumpur after the Chinese New Year break. I squeezed in one last visit to Carcasean. This time, Han, Chong Sean and I played Titan, Han's copy. Titan is an old game, recently reprinted by Valley Games. It is a reputable classic that has been out-of-print for a long time. So I was happy to give it a shot.

Each player starts the game with 8 creatures, one of which is your titan. The gameboard consists of many spaces representing different terrain - swamps, deserts, woods, jungles, plains. The spaces are interlinked with different symbols which dictate how you may or must move around the board. Using your initial creatures, you move around the board and recruit more creatures. You can split your creatures into smaller parties, and you can merge smaller parties. You fight other players when your parties meet. If you kill an opponent's titan, he is eliminated from the game. So the game ends when there is one titan left, and the player with the last surviving titan wins the game. It's a pretty straight-forward concept.

What's interesting is in the details. The movement rules around the board is quite unique, and also a little daunting at first. You roll a die to determine how many spaces all your parties on the board can move. You can decide for each party whether to move that many spaces, or not to move at all. You must adhere to the movement icons on the board, some force you to move in a certain direction, some allow you to choose. The terrain that you move to determine whether you can recruit a new creature. There is a "tech tree" in the game. Usually you need at least two creatures of a certain type, and you need to be on a certain terrain type, to recruit a new creature. Usually you want to recruit a more powerful creature. When you get two or more of such a more powerful creature, then you can in turn use them to recruit another even more powerful creature. You work your way up the "tech tree". There are some creatures that you can recruit when you fulfill certain conditions, but those never occurred in our game so I have now forgetton how they work.

So, there's a bit of maneuvering on the gameboard. After understanding patterns in the movement icons, you will see there is an outer rim where parties tend to get stuck in, an intermediate winding path with some towers, and then a central loop. In maneuvering your parties around the board, you need to take into account such patterns, the positions of your opponents' parties, and terrain as well. You want to recruit more creatures. You want to avoid battle where you are weak, and you want to catch and fight when you have an advantage.

The battles are carried out on a separate board, depending on the terrain on the main board where the battle occurs. The attacker and the defender place units on the battle board, and they fight it out. The movement and battle rules are not complex. There are terrain considerations at the battle boards too. Different creatures have different characteristics. Some can fly. Some roll more dice than others. Some take more hits to kill. Some can shoot from a distance.

Other than these, there are some other rules like when you have reached a certain number of points (by killing enemy creatures), your titan becomes stronger, and you can recruit certain special creatures. These are things you can plan for in the longer term strategy. We never quite got there, since we only played a short time-constrained game. We played for about 1.5 hours, and whoever had the highest score at that point won.

The tiles with symbols are used to cover your stack of creatures, i.e. they are a flag for your parties. Your opponents cannot see what you have in your parties, and will have to try to remember them when you reveal them during battles. At the top are my titan and my angel.

The game board. Each triagle (or hexagon?) is a space, and there are 4 types of symbols dictating movement rules between every triangle.

My starting creatures. Everyone starts with the same, and you'll need to split them up into 2 parties because a party can have at most 7 creatures.

Game in progress.

Battle in progress on the battle board. The drop of blood signifies injury. Every creature has 2 numbers. The one on the left represents strength (how many dice it can roll) and health (how much injury before it dies). The one on the right represents skill level (when compared with the skill level of an opponent, determines how easy it is to injure that opponent) and movement distance.

Hey what's that calculator doing in this game?! This is supposed to be an Ameritrash game, not Power Grid or some mathematical Eurogame!! (Han helping me calculate my score after a battle).

Han and Chong Sean at Carcasean, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

All the creatures in the game. This is a limited pool. Whenever a creature is killed it is returned to the box and not to this pool. I can't quite imagine the players using up any creature type. Maybe when there are more players, or more experienced players.

In our game, which was pretty much a learning game, we did not have much strategy or long-term plan. We started off trying to recruit as much as possible, and when a convenient opportunity arose, we fought. I think we only had four battles. In two of them the defender conceded, which meant the defending units were all killed, but the attacker only gained half the victory points. I was involved in the other two, both of which I won. So when time was up, I won the game.

My first impression after playing the game is I don't understand what the big deal is. Not that there is anything wrong, just that it doesn't seem to be very outstanding. Granted I have only tasted a small part of the game, and am not familiar enough with it to have any coherent strategy. I do somewhat like the tactical battles (maybe because I won those). I like the system here more than the one in Memoir '44 because I have more control here. It is simpler than Memoir '44 though, and wouldn't make a very good complete game by itself. On the main board I have mixed feelings. There seems to be little control over your own movement. If you get lousy die rolls, you will have difficulty recruiting. Maybe I just haven't learnt to maneuver my parties well enough. There is some complexity in the game, and I think to appreciate the game you'll need to get familiar with all the rules and nuances. In our first game we were rather slow because we were still learning the game.


Tripp said...

I had a copy of this but sold it. I too couldn't understand the excitement. There was too much time invested, even in a two player.

Aik Yong said...

I too am wondering what the fuss is all about, since it involves a lot of looking under tiles. But my friend assures me that there is a game in the movement and army raising.

So far I am not tempted to give it another try.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I guess I'm not the only person feeling that way. I wonder whether it's the nostalgia factor making many other people who have played it in its previous version think so fondly of it.

I don't mind playing Titan again, but this time I'd want to play the full game, i.e. until there is only one Titan left. Maybe then I can appreciate it more.

Marcus Lau said...

I think you can't merge your legions after you split them. The rules explicitly say that no two legions may occupy the same space (exception at the start of the game). Your Legion may move over another legion you control but you cannot stop on the same space as your other legions. If you stop on top of another player's legion, combat commences.

Another thing, it is very important to note from where you attack from as this will determine your entry point into the battleboard. Also, the attacker may summon an Angel to aid him in battle from his other legion stack ONLY on his/her first turn of combat. On the 4th turn, the defender may muster any native creatures there if he fulfill the requirements (eg. has the required creatures to muster a certain creature). :)

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Thanks Marcus for clarifying. It's been some time since I played Titan, so I'll probably have to re-learn 80% of the game the next time I play it. :-D

Have you played Titan much? I have only played half a game and haven't been able to really appreciate (or even understand) it. Care to share your views?

Marcus Lau said...

I have actually clocked in 5 full games and 2 learning games. Each time with 5 players except for the learning game (only 2 players).

There are several opening moves in Titan. The main decision lies on whether to split your gargoyles or not since gargoyles are your strongest start creatures. I usually split them.

Also, only use your Titan teleportation on 6 when you are very sure your titan is at least a 12/4 or more and the rest of the players are lagging behind.

Remember to attack early to gain points. When in doubt, attack. This will make the game much, much shorter. Use your angel or archangel stack and lay a smack down on a newly split stack. Titan rewards aggresive plays and gives points for decimating your opponent's legions. Always attack the weaker stacks.

Also, after analyzing your opponent's stack (before battle commence), know when to concede so that opponent only scores half of the points (round down) instead of full points. If your mid-tech tree creatures are facing colossuses and serpents, just concede. It's better to award half points than to give full points. Surrender unwinnable battles.

Also, always remember to use the terrain to your advantage.

Lastly, Titan is a memory game. In order to be good at it, you must remember your opponent's stacks (what creatures he has revealed etc.) which is no easy task as in a 5 player game there will be at least 20 stacks on board at any one time.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Thank you so much Marcus for the many tips!

Yoshiya said...

I love a TITAN.
Now, I play a "Titan for iPad"
Do you play a "Titan for iPad"?
I am Japanease. It's site my blog.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Konnichiwa! I have not played Titan for a very long time. One of my friends, Han, plays Titan on the iPad, but I have not yet bought it. I didn't find it very interesting when I tried it a few years ago. I'm open-minded to give it another try, but am not actively seeking it out for the moment.