Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The New "Adeptus Titanicus"

New plastic Warlord Titans and Questoris Knight from GW's new-re-released "Adeptus Titanicus"
Oh much to blather about here...apologies for the too-long post...

It's back - finally! I honestly never thought it would come back. There have been rumours for years. Reports of playtests at events like Adepticon, fuzzy photos on the Web. All circulating for years.  But as a devoted fan of the old, long-discarded "specialist" games such as Epic, I always thought it was just vapour. I totally discounted the rumours.  GW had killed these games off, and bringing back something like "Adeptus Titanicus" would be something akin to admitting a mistake, which the GW-type entities of the world almost never do.  It would also be something along the lines of observing your audience and responding to demand, something which I am always hard-pressed to see any evidence of GW doing.

Besides, it was taking so long to actually show up (the "official" rumours had been out there for years), it was practically moving on Kickstarter-style timelines.  Just vapour.  Even with the actual arrival of official photos, and promotional posts in GW's official online community, I still didn't believe it would happen. 

Ah - the good old days! Gigantic robots, you say?
But it has, in fact, happened! A new version of "Adeptus Titanicus" has hit the shelves! Unlike so many Kickstarters, it physically exists, and you can purchase it! Devoted fan that I am, I of course made a purchase.  My good friend Curt has a very sane and mature overview of the new game over at his Analogue Hobbies blog, and I encourage you to check that out.   It is more thoughtful and well-organized than the rest of this post...

I was quite excited to finally get one of the new box "Adeptus Titanicus" sets late this summer. Dismissive as I had been about the notion that the game would ever be released again, once I actually had it, I was really fired up.  Yet these emotions were mixed, my excitement quite evenly matched with long-held grudge of how these games had been "managed" by the GW clowns in the first place.  It is impotent, pointless fan-rage.  It has no meaning or force in the world (which is why GW can ignore it), but it was there all the same as I dove into the new game, this strange combo of excitement and frustration, all at once. What is wrong with me? Anyway...

If you are, like me, a keeper of the flame for the old "specialist" games, then you would find this new box game to be very much the epitome modern GW - capable of incredible feats of hobby creativity, great rules and stunning models, together with decisions which appear to be specific attempts to anger long-time customers in ways that would rival the practices of any airline or cable company. 

The new "Adeptus Titanicus" game is at once great and also frustrating. It pays homage to the old game, while also urinating more than a bit on the old game and its fans, and doing so in douche-bag ways. You will love it, and hate it.  You will wonder at what blend of opaque committee thinking led to this specific approach by GW to the release of this game. You will be thrilled to have it.  Excited. And disappointed. You will wonder at why GW can look at an open net, and still miss many of shots...

Long time fans of the TV show "The Simpsons" may recall that early season when Homer purchased Krusty the Klown doll for Bart in one of the Halloween Specials...getting the new Adeptus Titanicus is pretty much like this: 

So if you used to love Adeptus Titanicus, you will love the new one. You will. But yes, the frogurt is also cursed. 

I will share some of my many contradictory and convoluted thoughts amid photos of some newly completed models.  Please note that the Warlord Titans and Knight seen in the photos in this post  are from the new GW box set. The Reaver and Warhound Titans in the photos, however, are not new GW models, but are private sculpts and not commercially available. GW is coming out with plastic kit versions of those variants (the new Reavers are already out there, and Curt will have one up for view soon I'm sure) which I expect will scale much better with the big new Warlord kits. 

The Models

New Warlord class Titan for Legio Mortis. The "Death Heads" fight for the Warmaster, for hope and for change!
You receive a big schwack of plastic in the box. Two Warlord Class titans, six Questoris class Knights, a bunch of new modular buildings, and a set of markers.  It's a lot of plastic!

The models are compelling and baffling all at once.  Compelling, because they show GW at its very best.  Very best. The new Warlord kits are marvels of plastic model engineering - bloody amazing.  They are not simple to slap together by any means - be ready to take some time to do it right. I lost count of all the parts.  This is no lame two-piece Contemptor Dreanought form the "Betrayal at Calth" box.  This is a full-on, serious kit that will reward your time and effort. 

Warlord class Titan for Legio Gryphonicus.  Foremost among the ranks of the so-called "loyalists", these dupes of the False Emperor waste their God-engine's glory engaging in acts of futile terrorism against the beloved Warmaster.
The yellow on this sucker was a real challenge...the photos flatter it.  Up close, it is not quite so nice...something to remember for next time - choose a better base coat for my yellow!
In particular, take your time "posing" the legs on the Warlords - there is, in theory, a lot of possibilities for articulation thanks to all of the parts. But the overall size and shape of the model limits the actual useful outcomes with posed legs - the torso, the weapons, that is all a considerable amount of stuff up there, and you need to make sure the leg pose you develop will hold the whole thing up.  

The old and the new...the old 1990s Warlord Titan on the right doesn't even top the "hips" of the new edition Warlord!
You will see one of the Warlords in the photos here (the Legio Mortis engine) is posed mid-stride.  This was an ACCIDENT on my part (I thought it would be stepping forward - I suck), and not recommended, as the whole weight of the thing is supported on the base by only one leg. Not ideal at all...we'll see how long this fellow lasts on the table... 

I achieved something of a "mid-stride" look on this one by total accident, and this is not recommended... 
A view of the incredible and intricate detail on the back...I did a pretty basic paint job, but if you are inclined, there is a great deal of detail to go to town on here...
As many others have suggested, consider painting the armoured plates separately from the skeleton underneath.  I think you will find this makes the painting smoother overall. Yes - I hate painting parts separately or on sprues, but it does work with these suckers, and I'm glad I took that approach.

The weapon points on the Warlords can be easily magnetized - in fact, the models were designed to hold little disc magnets - huge "thank you" to Curt for pointing this out, and to Byron for spotting me some magnets on short notice!

As you can see, the completed Warlord Titans are HUGE! Way, way bigger than the old plastic Titan models from the 90s. I'll have more to say on that further down (see "The Scale of the Game").  But these models are incredible, really something to see up close. 

Are there downsides? Well aside from the cost and scale incompatibility (again, more on that below), the big disappointment here is the weapon load out.  The Warlord model comes with ONE weapon load out - only ONE. And it is a boring one! Two Volcano Cannons for the arms, and two Apocalypse Launchers for the carapace mounts. Come ON, man!!  All this money (see "The Cost" below) and you get two Warlords with the SAME vanilla weapon load out? That is so LAME. And so BORING. Dick move. And a huge whiff when you consider that so much of the fun of the original game came from cooking up the different weapon load outs. Come on, GW...

One of the new Questoris Knights for "Adeptus Titanicus". 
This whiff is even more baffling when you consider the Knights.  The plastic Knight models are quite cunningly designed and very nice. They are faithful recreations of the new, "28mm" scale Knights released for the 40k game some time ago. Again, these show GW at the top of its game. Where the Warlords will take quite a while to assemble properly, the Knights are very fast and straightforward to build - I think I managed to put three of them together in about 25 minutes or so.

Lovely little plastic kits, go together fast, and paint up fairly quick as well. 
But weapons for the Knights? You have three different weapon load outs for the Knights, all on one sprue, complete with an option to replace the secondary heavy stubber with a melta gun.  So, GW designers, you could figure that out, but couldn't get a power fist or set of laser cannons in for the Warlords? Come on, man... 

The buildings are clever and very nice.  They are made to be modular, but they do not go together so smoothly - much trickier than they should be, amplified by instructions which, in my view, give poor direction.  The end result is worth it, as they are looking pretty neat (although, of course, I don't have painted ones to share yet - too busy painting Titans).  I confess I miss the simpler buildings from simpler times, but the new ones are very, very nice.  I'm thrilled to add these to my Epic collection, and I hope little Space Marine Legions have a great time fighting over them. 

The Game

When we think of GW, we think so often of rules systems like 40k, which, though now on their 8th edition, are still so...bad. But GW has actually been home to many innovative and fun rule sets, and this new edition of "Adeptus Titanicus" looks to be one of them.  Players will be tracking the detail on specific Titans such as the state of their shields, hits to specific locations, and - I can't wait to have fun with this - the status of their reactors. Let's push that plasma reactor, shall we? I mean, what could go wrong with a plasma reactor? I'm sure it's totally safe to operate above-maximum, just for a turn, right?

Family photo! Legio Mortis battle maniple, ready for action. 
Are there some nits? For me, not so much with the rules mechanics themselves, just the design decisions. The thin rule book is nice, but there is no index or glossary, so you get to have fun hunting and pecking around the book to find information.  There is also a tendency to make simple ideas sound much more complicated than they are - such as all of this "matched play" vs "narrative" vs "open play" nonsense. Meanwhile, the book itself contains no listing, statistics or points costs of the Titans or Knights, or the weapons they use.  For that, you need the cards and the "terminals" which come with the game.  Come ON, man. 

The cards and "terminals" are very nice from a production value standpoint. Like, really nice, on par with the nicest stuff you are seeing from board games out there.  But not having that info listed in the book, thereby compelling you to have the cards and terminals themselves if you want to play the game, is just a bit of a dick move.  Like, GW couldn't spare two pages to just list this stuff out in the rule book too? Come on guys (see "The Cost" below for more).  

Legio Gryphonicus battle maniple, ready to sacrifice their Titans in some pointless stand against the glorious Warmaster, Horus Lupercal!
Another little piss-in-the-beer aspect of the rules relates to the weapons mounted on the Warlord Titans. Warlords have always had four weapon mounts - two on the carapace, and two "arms".  At first glance on the new models, you would think the new ones do too.'re wrong. 
If you have an old collection of the plastic models from the 1990s like I do, I expect you have all sorts of whacky weapon combos on them - but that very few of them would have the weapons on the carapace mounted in pairs...?

In this new edition of the game, a decision has been made that all weapon mounts on the carapace of Warlord Titans will be "paired".  WTF? Why? I suspect this decision was spurred by a some kind of design restriction on the fancy "terminal" cards, which would not have room for four different "weapon cards" - and thus the carapace mounts were decreed to be "paired", keeping the limit to three weapon slots on the "terminal". This is actually a pretty material change. Not only is this lame and less fun, but I bet very few of your old models have pairs of weapons up on the carapace, right? 

So, look, the rules look fun. But are there some dick moves? Yep. 

The Scale of the Game

To the extent that the vapour/rumours/chatter online was out there about this game while its development wound through whatever byzantine, years-long new-product process GW follows these days, the largest amount of discussion focused around the "scale".  The models were said to be "8mm" instead of "6mm".  A dick move was widely predicted, and this did come to pass.  

So...everyone has a different opinion on scales of things, but there is no way the old Titans will mix with the new ones on the table, save perhaps as a sort of statue or monument, a piece of terrain?
Seeing the models for real, yes, they are larger - not just in "scale", but just in size generally.  The old classic "turtle shell" Warlords from the 1990s don't even clear the leg pistons on the new beasts!

Revising the scale strikes me as a deliberate douche bag move - pissing on the old guard still out there who nourished collections of old models. I...don't understand this. 

Hey, few can unleash more fan anger at GW than me, but there are a couple ways to look at this...the first is to say, yes, dick move, but the new models are just incredible.  Could they have been smaller and still incredible? Well, yes...the plastic Knights prove that. But all the same, even with all my GW-loathing, I have to say, right up front - these new Warlord models are really, really stunning.  If you take the point of view that the Warlord Titan is a penultimate beast, and you want to let your new model-design capabilities go to town...well, I can respect that. 

New Knight beside an old Warlord...again, the old models are just TOO small to ever mix with the new stuff. 
Now, lets go back to scale again.  Sure, the old Titans won't mix.  But what about the old Epic foot troops and vehicles? Well, IMO if you have Epic vehicles and infantry, I, for one, actually think these new Warlords are just fine. Are they f***ing huge compared to the Epic Land Raiders and Space Marines? Well, YES. But...they should be! The massive size relative to the old infantry and tanks doesn't bother me so much... and what is so odd is that the new buildings and the new Knights match up so nicely, scale wise, with the old infantry and tanks too.  I think there was a case to be made that the old classic plastic Titans were more than a touch too small vis-a-vis the old Epic infantry and tanks.  Well, if you thought that...then the new models have got a treat for you!

New Warlord with a Land Raider from the old "Space Marine" game.  Again, everyone's preference varies, but this would work for me...
These huge beasts do impose other challenges on your sci-fi gaming too, do you come up with cover? Mountains...OK. How big of a hill can you put down? Do you have 12mm sized sci-fi trees? Probably not.  Even the new buildings, when stacked up, don't do much to obscure the view of the new Warlord Titans...I mean, they are HUGE.  The old time buildings made of card certainly don't. Now, this is not an insurmountable obstacle - certainly there are some way more creative terrains types out there than I - but it will be something to think about as you plot your "Adeptus Titanicus" games.  I may need to plot some kind of huge refinery or something made of straws and cans, something clever like Dallas comes up with all of the time...making terrain? Me? I dunno...but we'll see. 

One of the new Knights with the old Land Raider. Again, I think this would be fine on the gaming table...YMMV.
The large models also serve to limit the size of games you can play, even on a standard 6' x 4' table. If you go back to the big all-Titan game of Epic we played back in 2013 as an example of what was possible with the old models, well, you could never do that with these new models - there would not be enough room.  Another factor for your table - remember you will need space for the "terminals" to track the status of your God-engines.  These "terminals" are, as I said, very nice, but they are large and will eat materially into available gaming space.  The game designers claim they have put the rules together with this in mind, suggesting many games would take place on a 4'x4' table...but making the models huge AND shrinking the tables...look, this is not a deal breaker - it is just not a consistent approach. Come on, guys.  

The Cost

Oh man.  Even by GW's OPEC-like standards, the price of the new "Adeptus Titanicus" stuff is absolutely eye-watering.  So, like, I hate the GW prices, just like everyone else. But at the same time, well, it's a free market, and they can charge what they like so...if you see the value, you can pay, or you can decide not to. 

Me, I absolutely love the Horus Heresy setting, love the stories of the Titan Legions, love the Titans and love the game.  So I am right in the marketing crosshairs for this, and even at these bowel-adjusting prices, I am going to participate.  But to say "this won't be for everyone" is a material understatement.  To assemble an "axiom battle line" maniple formation for just one Titan faction will easily set you back something in the neighbourhood of $350 to $400 CAD, probably more, depending on how much they price out the Warhounds once they are released (pending as I type this).  And remember you need cards for the weapons (as the weapon stats are not in the rule book) and the "terminals" (as the Titan core stats are not in the rule book).  That's just to put your maniple on the table, and ignores terrain etc.  So, this is going to be a niche game.  I encourage you to try it, because the setting is so cool! will cost, yes.   

Profile view of the loyalist Warlord Titan. 

Detail view on the rear of the loyalist Titan. 
Even if you are happy with your old models and "just" want to try the new rules, well, you can buy the book (and the "terminals" and weapon cards).  But as per above, the switch to paired-weapons-only for the Warlords is a big change, and will be something you will need to work around. 

The money you pay also amplifies the frustration you feel at the aspects they whiffed on.  For me, one stands out - as mentioned above, I cannot believe the vanilla weapon load out they put into the Warlord kit - just astounding when you consider there is so much else to totally LOVE about those new models. I expect the power fists/plasma annihilators/vortex missiles etc will come later in some manner of separate kit or upgrade set. I am concerned this will be from Forge World, which, in addition to the even-higher than normal high prices, will introduce the unreliability of resin castings, separate huge shipping charges, and weapons which are too heavy to be supported by the magnets...sigh. 

And So...

Look, for all of the frustration, I am very pleased to see this game out. There is a lot of good stuff here, and potential good stuff for the future. The good parts are great, GW doing what is can do best. And the frustrating parts are also very GW too: GW annoying and enraging fans the way only GW can.  GW won't change. If I boil it all down, I can't wait to play this with my friends!

Costly? Well...yes. But if you like them, better buy them before they are gone...
I am trying to gather the new models while I can. Between the pricing and uneven marketing, I expect this game is at great risk of heading into the GW doom loop, where they release something that is too expensive, it doesn't sell, and then they kill it because it doesn't sell...look, I'd rather be ranting about a game that is still for sale, than one that was killed off before it could take off.  So I hope it sticks around. It won't be for everyone, but if you dive in, I think you will really like it. 

We'll take the new models and new rules out for a spin this week with the gang on Fawcett Avenue. Reactors to full power! Full stride! Horus for hope! The God-engines will walk! 


L'Empereur Zoom 13 said...

Is it very great work !­čśÄ
Bravo !

Ragsta said...

Thank you for the recent posts on AT, your work has been lovely and the reviews appreciated. My frustrations are identical - the cost is staggering and I can’t justify that. Vanguard Miniatures do titanesque critters in 6mm and 3mm and their prices allow me to power my house afterwards so that will be my go to. Look forward to the reps tho :)

Lasgunpacker said...

Lovely work on those Titans, and I really want to love this game... but the price. (and the aggravating price increase from £ to everyone else)

It may still happen for me, but until then I want to live vicariously thorough you. So play some games!

MFraser said...

The models look great! The scale choice is disappointing considering all the old titans you have.