Friday, September 28, 2018

Adeptus Titanicus Game - The Titans Go For A Walk

"Full stride!" Legio Mortis moves to engage some deluded "loyalists" during a game of  "Adeptus Titanicus"
With the paint only just dry on the Warlord kits from my copy of GW's re-booted "Adeptus Titanicus", we took the Titans and the new rules out for a spin this week during our Thursday night game.  After rushing to get the Titans finished and poring over the new rule book for three weeks, I was anxious to try the game, see how it played, and see the towering new Warlord models on the table!

The Scenario & Set Up
Poster featuring the official spokesperson for Legio Mortis...
We went with a very simple scenario, and a small number of Titans on each side. Legio Mortis and Legio Griphonicus would be confronting each other amidst an urban area on some planet in the war-torn Imperium.  I told the players the loyalty of the planetary governor was wavering as the Horus Heresy raged, and he would likely declare support for whichever faction had more Titans standing around his enclave after the battle! Thus the objective: "total annihilation".  How Horus-Heresy-sounding...

Each side had three Titans - one Warlord, one Reaver and one Warhound.  The Warlords were the beautiful new models from the box set, while the Reavers and Warhounds you see here are private sculpts, not commercially available (which is why they are so small - but it still worked fine overall). GW has released a Reaver model, and I expect the Warhounds will be out before too long.

Preliminary deployments complete - Loyalists at the top of the photo, Rebels at the bottom - and the Imperial Governor's facility in the middle (planetary officials likely cowering in a sub-basement). 
Dallas and Dave V took command of the Legio Mortis detachment, pursuing bold action in the name of hope and change from Horus Lupercal! Byron M and John M commanded the delusional "loyalists" of Legio Griphonicus, preparing to waste their precious Titans in some pointless attempt to halt the inevitable triumph of Horus over the weak and false "Emperor"...

The table was 4' x 4' - I wanted to a) test the assertion by the designers that the game worked well on a smaller space b) ensure we had room on the tables for the nice, but cumbersome, "terminals", and c) have the Titans killing each other right from the first turn...

The Game

Missiles flew! Reactor were pushed! Machine spirits were awakened! Orders were issued! In all, we managed to play five turns before folks had to call it a night, and...none of the Titans were knocked out!?

Legio Mortis Warlord providing covering fire
Look, damage was done - the Reavers on both sides were not doing great, with the Princeps yelling at the servitors to get those void shields back up on both God-engines.  I think one more turn would have seen one or both of them cook off.  John also maneuvered his loyalist Warhound into a good position to dish out some serious harm to Dave's Warhound in the opposite Legio.

But the lads were rolling hot with both saving throws (meaning the Void shields hung around longer than expected) and had good luck with the reactor dice, meaning that reactors were pushed, but there were no melt-down incidents, which was a disappointment for me, but good news for the Titan crews :)

Dave's Warhound tried to find some cover amid the buildings, but John's loyalist Warhound was hunting it down as the game ended. 
The guys also had great rolls with their repair actions, so the Void shields were constantly being restored, all that reactor pressure was being vented, and even critical hits were being restored! Impressive stuff. Unless you wanted to see reactor meltdowns...oh well...

Final dispositions - you can see the Warlords hardly moved, while the duelling Reavers were closing  in on each other in the middle. 
In fact, the only time the dice were NOT hot occurred when one Titan or another had a chance to make a killer shot on an unshielded opponents - the shots would miss, or do only superficial damage...this helped keep the Titans around longer than they otherwise might have been.

In the end, the game was a stalemate, although both Reavers were going to need some time in the repair docks...

Thoughts On The Rules & Other Ephemera

Overall, I really like the new game.  The rules are fun and clever - so often the case with GW rules that are not 40k rules.  It was our first time playing, and I'm sure we missed opportunities for nuance and perhaps some clever tactics which might come with more experience, but really in a first game like this you want to get used to the basics first while enjoying the models, and this was a good chance to do just that.

Reaver moves to engage the enemy...hopefully before being blown to bits - this fellow lost his shields many times, and suffered a couple of critical hits...but he was still upright at the end of the game! 
Were there some frustrations? You bet - I'll get to them momentarily, but know as you read some of my own "reactor venting" here, it comes from a foundation that still really, really enjoys the game.  And hey - these are subjective thoughts - YMMV! But, a few irritants of varying scale, lets get to those...

I'll start with the dice.  With the new box set, you get a whole set of really nice dice! Some are superfluous - like custom D6s (you will already have a ton of those, but I'm a sucker for dice with logos in place of the "6", so, nice to have).  A couple of D10s. Fine.  Nice to have, but I already have a bunch of those too. BUT, there are the order dice...specific to the game, good to have (I could improvise with the old order dice from Epic or Battlefleet Gothic, but there are a couple specific symbols for Adeptus Titanicus, so good to have). Then, there is the hit location dice. Oh, and the scatter dice. Oh - and these are very important - the reactor dice.

What is the problem, you say? They are all the same !@#!@#ing colour! It is a huge pain to try and pick the hit location dice out of the order dice, or find the reactor dice or scatter dice. Yes, generally, be careful and organized with your dice on the table, but come on!  One of the best lines from the game last night was the deadpan suggestion by one of the guys that GW keep the dice the same colour in order to try and keep the cost of the game down....ROFL.

Warhound hunting prey...
Anyway, my advice for dice - bring your own D6s, D10s, and a scatter dice from a previous GW game - ones that will be a different colour.  Print up some paper markers for orders.  It should be much easier to keep track of your reactor dice and hit location dice at that point.

Ok. Enough about dice.  How about the table size? Well, whatever the rules designers claim in the book, a 4' x 4' table size is kinda lame for this game.  Even a small number of Titans should spread out into a more standard 6' x 4', in order to give the Princeps - particularly those commanding the towering Warlord Titans - a reason to maneuver a little.  Between the "Apocalypse Missile Launchers" and the "Bellicosa Volcano Cannons" the Warlords had little reason to move, even with the intervening buildings on the table, thanks to the very long range of the weapons.

So you need more room. This brings me to the "terminals".  They are very nice, yes they are! But they consume substantial wargaming-table real estate - we only had a total of six Titans in action, and the space the "terminals" took up was a not-insubstantial pain in the ass.  When combined with the need - in my opinion - for at least a 6' x 4' gaming surface, you will need to make accommodations for your gaming space to deal with this if you want to play this game, .  This may, or may not, be a big deal depending on where and how you game, but plan for it. The "terminals" will need to be somewhere the players can see them and keep track of them as they move the markers.

The "terminals" for "Adeptus Titanicus" - very pretty, but they soak up a LOT of space in your gaming table/area.
OK, enough about the physical space. What about the rules? I am pretty sure we mixed up some rules a couple of times - this is to be expected in any new run through the rules, but there was one particular issue I kept going over in my head, and it was caused by the obtuse writing in the rule book.

Now I pick on GW a lot, for a lot of good reasons - and dumb writing is a good reason. But dumb writing is hardly limited to GW.  Go try and read about forming squares in the first edition of the "Black Powder" rules, or the patrol phase in "Chain of Command", or to understand just about any basic aspect of "Tomorrow's War"...and those are all excellent rule sets (try them all!)...bad writing happens, no matter the intentions.  It is almost always a product of the fact that game rules are written and reviewed by those that developed and tested when the rules are proof-read, well, it will all seem obvious, as you already know the rules, right? This leads to baffling explanations of simple concepts, or concepts which are not explained, because those who proof-read assumed others would know the rules as well as they do. I know this is an issue, because I do this all the time in my day-to-day work, and our business is constantly trying to guard against the problems it can cause...problems like the "blast" rule in "Adeptus Titanicus".

Those of us who have played GW games over the years have experienced many of the little variances they inflict on how to use weapons that use the round blast effect templates.  The core elements are consistent - a round template, a direction dice, and a dice (or number of dice) for the "scatter".  The GW "scatter dice" itself is almost ubiquitous in every gaming collection.

These core components have been consistent over the years, but the specific steps involved in using them always seem to be something the rules writers at GW feel compelled to fiddle with - they can't seem to help themselves, and each new edition/new rule set that makes use of these same basic tools always has some slight difference in process.

And so, the explanation of the "Blast" special rule for weapons on p. 38 of "Adeptus Titanicus"  could be part of a court filing by one of President Trump's lawyers...I would share the whole section here, but I don't want to be sued by GW, so I'll limit it to one quote:

"Then, check to see whether the central hole is within range and arc. If it is not within arc, the shot is wasted and has no effect. If it is not within range, do not roll To Hit - each shot will scatter as follows:"

The section goes on to explain a scatter mechanism any GW gamer would be familiar with. Which is fine.  It notes that even a "hit" result on the scatter die is still a scatter (using the little arrow on the "hit" symbol - again, a familiar GW mechanism). But...what about if the the shot IS within arc AND within range?

I wish I could tell you. Do you just make a ballistic skill shot like normal? Do you still use the scatter die, but count the "hit" symbol as a hit, with no scatter? I don't know, and the rules, as far as I can tell, seem to assume you just know what to they don't specify.

This came up a lot last night, as the Volcano Cannons are "Blast" weapons, so every time the Warlords opened fire, we needed to go through this..I ended up forcing the guys to use the scatter die process regardless, and then still rolling to hit with their ballistic skill after.  Which, now that I think about it, is kinda dumb, and surely wrong...but I'm not sure what I should have done, at least by the letter of the rules...

Further confusion - if you get the centre of the blast marker over the model, it counts as two "hits"...yet the Volcano cannon is listed as getting 1 die for attacks - so do you still get two dice if you land the centre of the template, or does that "1" in this instance mean only one template? I'm not sure.

And this issue is really forced to the forefront, because all you have for your Warlords right now are Volcano Cannons!  I feel I must again express frustration at how GW saw fit to only include a single weapon load out in the Warlord kit, which retails for over $200 CAD.  For now at least, we are stuck with these stupid Volcano Cannons on our I need to figure this out.

What did I do wrong here? I'm sure my approach was the wrong one.  Is there an official answer? Did I miss a page where this was explained (this is possible - I am quite dense!) - let me know, fellow gamers...

For Next Time
Huge Warlord Titan for Legio Gryphonicus in action last night. 
I did not deploy any Knight Banners last night.  Again, we were just getting to know the rules. And for me, "Adeptus Titanicus" is about Titans, not Knights!  I just SO love the setting and back story of the Titans, but I am utterly indifferent to the silly Knight houses.  Don't get me wrong - the Knight models (both these new ones for "Adeptus Titanicus" and the big 28mm ones) are absolutely stunning. But where the Titan Legions are cool, ominous and impressive, the Knight "households" all sound like a bunch of cosplay rejects from a Harry Potter fan fiction play. Playing the Knights in "Adeptus Titanicus" would be like going to a steak house and ordering chicken.

Still, after last night, I can see how the Knights must be important in this game.  With their ability to maneuver, the Knights might get close enough to cause some serious aggravation to the other side. I may never embrace the stupid Knight Households ("Oh look, here comes Lord Humperfeather from House Pony-tickles"), but I had better get those Knights painted up - a couple banners will add a neat dynamic to the next "Adeptus Titanicus" game.

So there was some venting here, but again - the bottom line, I certainly enjoyed the game, and I hope the other fellows did too. I look forward to more games of "Adeptus Titanicus" through the end of the year!  Overall it's a neat set of rules, and Titans blasting each other to bits is a lot of fun.

Big thanks to Dallas for hosting, and to Dallas, Byron, Dave and John for playing last night.  The reactors are powered down for now, but I hope we can try the game again sometime soon!


Curt C said...

Dude, great battle report and reflection on first impressions.

A few things I can corroborate/add from our experiences:

1) I completely agree that the recommended 4x4 table size is delusional. Frankly it looks ridiculous when you set up a game in this small of a space, especially if a Warlord is involved. It's especially odd as several of the published scenarios in the book are significantly larger than 4x4, which is sort of telling.

2) The dice. WTF!! We had exactly the same issue with the problem of the uniform coloured dice. Yes, the regular dice are not a big deal as you can swap-in another set from your collection, but the Reactor, Order and Scatter dice absolutely need to be different colours otherwise you risk players loosing their minds constantly trying to hunt them down on the tabletop. This sort of surprised me as this is pretty basic sh*t which should not have been missed by a game company that's been around as long as GW

3) I'm split on the terminals. I really like them and know players need a way to keep track of the constantly changing status of their titans, BUT I know what you're saying - they take up a lot of precious space. I saw an early development photo where the designers had them mounted on small cork boards which allowed players to use pins to keep track of stuff. I could see this working really well as you could actually put them down and not be worried about dislodging markers. This is something I'll be considering as a home-grown mod.

4) Blast. Yup, the rules as written are crazy-making. They assume everyone knows what rolling a 'hit' means on a scatter dice (a BIG assumption). How we run it, which I *think* is correct (keep in mind I don't have my rules handy, so I'm going by memory here), is you roll to hit as normal, if your roll is successful then you get two hits as the template will not have to move from the target. DONE. If you roll a miss then you roll for scatter, IGNORING the 'hit' marker on the scatter dice. If, after you roll for scatter, the small hole is touching any part of the titan's base then you still get two hits, otherwise you get one hit if any part of the template touches the base.

5) Carapace Weapons: I know what you're getting at with wanting to mix and match carapace weapons on the Warlord. Nonetheless, I think this can easily be worked around by placing two cards on the carapace slot and paying for the relevant point cost. The arcs should work the same (or you could easily changed them if you wished). Just keep in mind that when you get a weapon hit you'll need to roll a D4 or D8 to determine which of the four mountings gets hit.

Sorry for the long comment. I overall am really enjoying the game, but like discussing where the rules work and where they need to be tweaked.

Amy Clark said...

The knights are quite useful to force repositioning. Since they're so manouverable you can get them into the flank of a warlord (avoiding it's point defences) and take point blank shots with the thermal lance which ignore good shields (for being within 2").

As for the volcano cannons, we have been doing it: roll to hit, if you miss you scatter(so still a chance of getting a single hit if it doesn't scatter too much) and 2 lots of damage dice if you direct hit or if after scatter the hole is still over the model. That's how we interpreted it anyway.

john de terre neuve said...

Great stuff Greg, I really have enjoyed your recent posts on this new set from GW. Both you and Curt have done a very nice job on the figures.