“Adeptus Titanicus is the best game Games Workshop currently makes.”People
I have heard this said a lot over the past three years and, you know what, I fully agree and have started saying it myself. From humble beginnings of badly equipped titans trying to not blow themselves up as much as try and kill the enemy (releasing the double Volcano Cannon Warlord first was a mistake in hindsight), the game has gone from strength to strength and now stands at the top of the GW game play standings.
Anyone who’s casually looked at my Instagram profile for the last eighteen months will have noticed I have painted a titan or two during Covid.
I had been playing Titanicus since it was first released, but lockdown helped me really focus and paint up a sizable amount of titans. Then, early this year, I took part in Clash of the Titans, a painting challenge in the style of The Tale of Four Gamers. I managed to not only complete the challenge (a feat all of us who took part in did which must be a first for a tale of X gamers series!), I did the challenge twice in those three months painting two different Legios. This led to myself and my friend Alex Peake starting the Maximal Fire Podcast (shameless plug, available where ever you get your podcasts from) and playing about 40 games since Covid restrictions were relaxed in April (which also led to my new love for garden gaming).
I’m about to take part in the just started Clash of the Titans 2021 (which has probably started by the time you read this) which is now open to the whole community; painting up my 4th different legio this year!
I guess what I’m saying is, I’m really enjoying Adeptus Titanicus and I think it’s the best game GW currently makes and is probably the best game in the market you haven’t played (unless you have played it at which point awesome!).
I know a few people are probably already in the comments section, pitchforks out, “how can you say that! What about Blood Bowl? 30K?” Or whatever you think number one is. Well fear not.
Firstly, I’d like to stress GW “currently” makes, which does cut the 200 or so games GW has made down a bit, though AT is better than most of their backlog too.
I will caveat that I think three games in their backlog might have been better (though I dare say nostalgia might have something to do with that). For the record, they are:
Battlefleet Gothic (please GW bring it back soon! Even as a Horus Heresy game I 100% don’t mind!),
Space Hulk 1st edition (1st edition is still the best version, as they are all mostly all the same, bar 2nd which wasn’t quite as good. 1st edition has a lot more content and really funky models) and
6th Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle (8th was also pretty good but for me 6th was clearly the best version of the game as 8th always felt a little gimmicky).
But moving on from the past (though with WFB coming back at some point I might have to revisit this later) let’s look at what makes Adeptus Titanicus so good.
1) It’s An Old School Game but Updated for Modern Times.
AT at its core has more in common with the games of the 1980’s than any current GW game. You know the games I mean, Star Fleet Battles, Battletech and the like. Games where you micro manage something (in this case a titan), it takes damage and things stop working. You lose shields, your reactor starts to overheat from use or damage, a weapon is crippled so it doesn’t work or has its effectiveness reduced etc. Now, while I have no problem with these games, in fact I have a few Battletech models I need to paint from their recent kickstarter (mostly as it had Madcats in plastic and I’m a basic bitch), they aren’t always the easiest games to get into. The added “crunchiness” of the rules and the level of detail, which are also often a big draw, come at the cost of speed and ease of use. It can be hard to fully understand what state your ship or mech is in at a glance and it’s hard to run more than a handful of models at some time.
Well, the terminals in AT basically solve all of these issues. I will admit when I first saw the terminals, I wasn’t a fan and, oh boy, I was wrong!
With the terminals, it lays out all the info in an easy-to-read way and (once you are up on the rules) gives you all the info you need to play the game, bar a table or two.
Some nicely colour coded bars clearly lay out the current situation for your Titan’s Shields and Plasma Reactor.
System damage is three colour coded lines which displays any critical damage which is colour coded again to highlight the info you need.
Weapon damage is tracked through cards which are flipped over to indicate when a weapon is out of action, changing them from blue to a new shade of red, which makes it very visible to see their status, even by your opponent from across the table. This system gives you all that crunchiness of those 1980’s style games, combined with the more streamlined modern design style.
The rules are pretty straight forward and Chris over at the YouTube channel “Table Top Standard” has done an amazing series of short bitesize videos on how to play. The game also scales really well. I played a 3500pts game with 19 titans and 3 knights a few weekends ago. The game took around three and a half hours to play and because the system is based on “you go, I go” there is no player down time, you are always engaged. Both things that some of these older games can’t hold a candle to, giving you the best of both worlds.
2) Things Go Boom!
By which I mean the game is really cinematic. Let me paint you a picture, my Warhound “Scythe”, whose reactor was running way too hot, got around behind the Traitor Reaver Titan “Terak Nor”. Somehow the reactor didn’t blow up in the damage repair phase, so I smiled and fired the Plasma Blastgun into the weak rear of the Reaver, going sod it I shout “Maximal Fire” pushing my already overworked Warhound to the limit.
Both my shots roll 1’s, over heating my titans Plasma Reactor, setting off a chain reaction resulting in the destruction of “Scythe,”. However, in its death throes it spins around wildly, firing all its weapons, the shots hit the enemy Reaver titan in the legs causing serious damage. Then my Warhound falls over landing on the already damaged legs destroying “Terak Nor”!
The cheers of the Loyalist are drowned out though as “Terak Nor” hits the ground, its own Reactor going Critical and the titan explodes in a Catastrophic Meltdown… the resulting explosion rips the Volcano cannon off a nearby Warlord Titan and disintegrates two Cerastus Lancers caught in the apocalyptic explosion.
That is just one of many moments I will never forget playing games of Titanicus. Moments when you have to push your titans to the limit, the risk that going beyond will result in their destruction as the reactor screams back in pain (insert generic “she can not do it Captain” joke here).
The weapons feel powerful, the stresses and satisfaction you feel as you try and fix your titans while trying to out manoeuvre you opponent, you feel like you are commanding these 30 meter tall god machines.
A friend from my gaming group said after a pretty explosive game of AT “even when you lose, some cool happens that makes you enjoy the game” and he’s right, I can’t think of a game that hasn’t had some fun, tense or memorable moments.
In this way I think the game has a lot in common with Battlefleet Gothic, so many great memories. I will never forget my first “proper” game of Gothic when we had three plasma and one warp engine explosions on the same turn! The middle of the board was turned into a fiery wreckage (nothing was surviving that) and the handful of ships not caught in the explosion looked at each other and decided not to push their luck any further and withdraw. Myself and Alex both just laughed our heads off as we rolled the explosions and while I lost it sort of felt like everyone had won.
Adeptus Titanicus strikes a great balance between rules that are straight forward and rules that are thematic. A barrage of ten missiles crash into your shields, you push your reactor to reinforce then, you need to get your titan into some much needed cover, you push your reactor to squeeze out some extra movement. These are simple rules and mechanics but they give you that power to decide. If you keep pushing your shields you will overload the reactor and that doesn’t end well… but if you don’t push for shields, they will collapse and then you are at the mercy of the opposing titans guns. It’s a tough choice but it really makes the game.
3) The Story
I mean it’s the Horus Heresy, need I say more?
So, I’m not going to lie, one of the things that worried me about was really, until we get corrupted titans (which are coming) the difference between playing Loyalist and Traitors is minimal.
Well, that view didn’t last long once I had played a few games and caught up with the fluff.
In Titanicus you are playing one side of a civil war (I’m sure most of you know the story so I’ll skip the details). Now Civil Wars tend to be a little more brutal as the sense of betrayal is high (you were brothers in arms not long ago after all) and that plays out across the books and most definitely comes out in the game.
As you are both using the same pool of models, a few small special rules for your chosen legio really adds a lot of flavour to the games. AT, unlike other GW games, doesn’t need super powerful special rules; it just needs something to tweak how you play. Take my current Loyalist Legio Praesagius, their main rule allows them to re roll the location dice (the dice that tells you what part of the enemy titan you have hit) as long as they are shooting at long range. This means I want to keep my distance while a canny opponent will want to get close. My next Legio the traitorous Legio Krytos “The God Breakers” would be awesome enough with that name alone, but they have special missiles that allow me to destroy buildings easier and cause the ground to shake meaning the effected titans move slower in the following movement phase. These rules really capture the feel of the legios they are trying to represent and (so far) no one legio has felt “game breaking”, Of course some legios are considered to be “more powerful” than others, but that’s always going to happen in these types of games.
But one of the great things about the AT community is people don’t tend to pick legios because of how they play, they pick them because of their look, their fluff or their role in the Heresy. Take my second legio above, Krytos, I’m over selling their ability a little, they are probably one of the weakest legios, but I want to collect them (like many others have) because they look awesome! Their lore is great, the stand out bit being they don’t clean up their titans after battle, because they want their opponents to know they are battle tested. Add they are called “The God Breakers” how do you not love that!
The source books GW has put out are bloody awesome too and really good value (by GW standards), a bunch of themed missions to try out, they do a great job with the fluff and really bring across scale of the conflict. All to the high quality you’d expect from GW.
I think the game also becomes almost personal (in a good way); my regular opponent, my good friend George, has Legio Furians “The Tigers Eyes” and over the year we have developed a rivalry between our titans.
In one game, my Warhound “Soulless” destroyed two of his warlords and a warhound, almost singlehandedly winning me the game (I still lost for the record). After that he had a personal vendetta against her, always asking where she was, if she was in my list. This is where games like AT and Gothic take what’s best about Blood Bowl and Necromunda without needing a league/campaign rule set, though of course a campaign would be fun and would only improve this further. Your titans, by being given a name, will end up with a history, with a personality, you’ll remember their triumphs and their failures, their honour roles will carry on game to game even if it has no impact on future games, bar bragging rights.
Added to this all the source books have awesome Narrative missions that really add some fun missions to the game and work so well with the fluff in each book. If you like Narrative gaming this game has it all for you.
Now this is an interesting one. Personally, I consider AT to be a full-on wargame and it should be compared to games like Flames of War and 40k. Some might say that it’s a skirmish game as you only control between four and ten models. I’m going to go with my view that it’s a full-on wargame and compare it so.
With that in mind I have heard a few people say “AT is expensive to get into isn’t it?”, I assume this is because the first box set GW released was £180 (the Grandmaster set) and isn’t really great value for money unless you really want everything in the box.
Well, I can say I think AT is pretty cheap by miniature wargaming (well, certainly GW) standards. The starter set might be the best starting set GW has ever made; I have bought 4 as of writing and plan to get a couple more at least. For £90 (£72 if you shop around) you get two Reaver Titans, Two Warhound Titans and two Cerastus Knight Lancers plus the full rulebook, the dice you need, terminals, counters and the weapons cards, That’s enough for 1250pts legio off the bat!
Add a Sunfury armed Warlord for £65 (£52 again if you shop around) you have 1750pts, the “standard size” for £155 (or £124) plus, that would have some options if you magnetise your weapons. Then add a second starter set (honestly the set is such good value it’s undermined the cost of the reaver and warhounds), assuming you shopped around for less than £200 you’d have nine titans and four knights letting you use almost ever formation in the game. Considerably cheaper than what you would spend on another system for the same size of game. If you want to hear more about how to get started I can fully recommend Episode 1 of the Maximal Fire podcast, where myself and Alex go into a lot of detail on the topic.
Also consider that the models are exceptionally well made, the range of movement is pretty big (though always dry fit the armour before finalising a pose or… there can be issues), the little details like walkways on the back of the titans really help add to the scale of these titans. They are a joy to build and paint and look awesome of the table.
5) More Balanced Than Most
So we have touched on narrative play and the continued friendly narrative between rival players. Well what about match play or balance in general? AT is sort of an odd one here, as both sides us the same pool of models the balance is a lot easier to maintain and if a knight unit or titan becomes over powered well both sides can take it so it sort of balances out. Now I’m not going to say the points are perfectly balanced, I have not seen a system that is perfectly balanced, but bar one example the game is pretty damn well close to being the closest to perfect I have played. The core three titans (the Reaver, Warhound and Warlord) feel as though a lot of thought went into how they played with each other. I’d be more than happy taking any combo of them vs. each other, including the extremes of three Warlords VS seven Warhounds. Now I’m not going to say the weapons are one hundred percent balanced with either other, there are some that are clearly better, but all the weapons have a role and I wouldn’t look at an opponent taking any of them and think “well that’s a waste of time”.
Probably the “weakest” titan is the newest, the Warbringer, but again I wouldn’t say it’s a bad choice and if you have a plan for it I think it can do a lot of good work for you. It’s main issue is its main weapon being a carapace weapon, the only titan currently in the game with this, but I’m not going to get bogged down with that here and I like that it mixes up the formula the other titans follow. Also I can’t think it’s too bad as my Clash of the Titans painting challenge has two of them included.
The one outlier to all this is the Acastus knight that was way too cheap when it was released. But the community mostly soft banned it and now GW has mostly fixed it with FAQ’s. Personally it might still be a little too good but if you know how to deal with knights it’s more than manageable and it’s been brought mostly back in line.
As said before AT is only trying to balance about ten different units at the moment, unlike trying to balance the four or five hundred units 40k has for example; though it now seems they are trying the “if everything is over powered nothings over powered” mind set with 40K now. Hopefully there are more titans on the way soon, as the recent Loyalist book hints at a fair few and it shouldn’t be hard to fit them right in.
6) The Community Rock!
Now I know a lot of games claim to have an awesome community; I feel privileged to have been part of some amazing ones (Blood Bowl and AGOT LCG being the best), but truly the Titanicus community tops the lot and in all aspects of the hobby. The painting standard is amazing (as you can probably see here from the photos); having only a few epic models you can take your time with them. Though, if you want advice on painting, there are many community resources to help you and the facebook group is always great for painting advice.
Next up the terrain support from the community is outstanding;
Grimdark terrain has a patron file service that has everything from fortresses, to landing pads, to a train, to a Spaceship! If you don’t own a 3D printer, there are plenty of reasonably priced affiliates who can help you out. Terrain, like in Flames of War, is as much part of the experience as the armies and missions. I can’t tell you how annoyed I get at Age of Sigmar or 40k boards where the terrain makes no sense and they are just fighting over some oddly placed ruins. In AT you are walking down city streets, using factories and massive skyscrapers as cover (which, if you are using optional rules, can also be destroyed) it really adds to the visual and that so important.
At the recent Reactor Meltdown event at Entoyment Poole, everyone was amazing and it was played in the right spirit. I can’t wait to get more events and spend more time with this cracking community with campaign weekends and match play events.
So, if you want:
- A game with some of the best cinematic moments in gaming; where Titans crash into either other, reactors strain to stay cool and giant explosions rock the table.
- A game that is set in THE most important event of 40K lor, where the fate of mankind was held in the balance.
- A game that is a bit crunchy with tough decisions, but streamlined to be quick and easy to get into.
- A game that is fairly cheap to get into (by GW standards!) with some amazing models.
- A game that is incredible well balanced and a game that has the narrative of a campaign game without the campaign upkeep.
…then look no further than Adeptus Titanicus!
Hopefully that has given you an overview of Titanicus and why it’s awesome. Honestly give the game a go, I haven’t met many people who have tried the game and not thought it was great. Worse case you’ll have some lovely models to paint for the shelf.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the write up