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Adeptus Titanicus Review

MB Updated March 28, 2019
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Adeptus Titanicus

Game Information

There Will Be Games

Heavy metal thunder.

The Legio Gryphonicus Reaver charges and punches the Legio Mortis Warhound right in its gold-trimmed canine face. The concussive force of the Power First spins the Warhound 45 degrees and forces it into a collision with a Mortis Warlord, damaging both titans. The Reaver fires the Turbo Laser Destructor mounted on its other arm, making an aimed shot right at the Warhound's critically-damaged head. It hits true, the catastrophic damage blows its head off and sending the Scout-class titan reeling. But not before its systems (and Machine Spirit) go haywire and it Wild Fires its double Vulcan Mega-Bolters - right into its allied Warlord, ripping its shields to pieces and damaging its body. The Warhound stumbles forward, and slumps against a nearby building and falls silent. Engine kill.

The above scenario was just one awesome sequence in a game of Adeptus Titanicus that had at least three other awesome sequences of this caliber. Designed- uncredited- by James Hewitt and others unheralded for Games Workshop, Adeptus Titanicus is among the best miniatures games I have ever played. It's a rare example of a tabletop rules set that perfectly balances cinematic, granular detail with supreme rules accessibility. It's shockingly concise, easy to play, and it tells vivid stories without burdensome administration, excessive components, or endless keywords. It does things that far more complicated games (such as Star Fleet Battles) do, accounting for elements such as power and shield management, command, crew actions, damage control, and systemic damage effects but with no more rules than most modern board games. It is fundamentally a low-model-count skirmish game, but one of such epic scope and scale that the smallest unit is bigger than a house.

The combat mechanisms are simple, and most will be familiar to any Warhammer player. Titans are rated for Ballistic and Weapon skills, typically 3+ or 4+. A weapon has a number of dice it rolls looking for these numbers, with bonuses and penalties for range and cover, which is measured at -1 and -2 for 25% and 50% estimated cover respectively. Once the hits are decided, the target makes Void Shield saves to remove hits unless the attack is within 2" - thus within the shield barrier. Anything that gets through the shields hits armor, which means you roll a location dice (provided it is not a targeted shot) to determine where the attack lands. The Weapon's strength is added to a damage roll for each hit, with bonuses for attacking from the flank or behind.

Damage is tracked on a Terminal board for each Titan along with other key information such as the Plasma Reactor and Void Shield levels. Once the head, body, and legs start taking damage, bonuses start to accrue on these armor rolls and eventually hits are marked on a three-space critical damage area. This is when systems start breaking down, the Princeps gets KO'ed, that kind of thing. Weapon locations are on cards, and flip over to show when they are disabled. They can also be destroyed and explode.

As for the rest of the design, classical wargaming elements such as positioning, maneuver, range, facing, and cover are critical as are making measured risks. The Plasma Reactors that power these monsters can be pushed to gain a few extra inches of movement or to make a few more 45 degree turns or you might choose to select Maximal Fire on a Sunfury Plasma Annihilator, but you might wind up squandering energy or potentially damaging your Titan. In the Repairs phase, you'll find yourself weighing out the need to vent Plasma to cool the reactor or ordering the onboard Servitor Clades to raise the Void Shields. Or there could be critical systems damage that needs to be repaired. You can issue special orders during the Strategy Phase that kicks off each round, but you'll have to decide whether getting a "First Fire" shot off with an Apocalypse Missile Launcher or Belicosa Volcano Cannon is worth sacrificing a move that turn, or if a total Shutdown order is a strategic option. That is, if you make the Command roll at all.

Part of the genius of this design is that there is so much space for very serious, heads-down strategic and tactical gameplay that rewards smart piloting while still allowing for the game to be, well, a Games Workshop game. Things can get crazy, thanks to a special die roll when you push the reactors that may have unexpected consequences such as awakening your Titan's Machine Spirit. The Catastrophic Damage table, which dictated that the Warhound above wild-fired and fell down, is unpredictable and dangerous in the best way - when a Titan dies, you don't just take it off the table and lay it to rest in the Battlefoam. Bad things happen. Funny things happen. There are Strategem cards that allow for Orbital Strikes, Mines, and Sabotage to ruin the best plans of Princeps and Moderatii. And for good measure, the classic GW scatter die and blast template mechanism is included so you can accidentally blow up your own Knight banner from time to time. As in all of GW's best games, there is a darkly comic levity to the grimdark atomsphere.

It's all really quite simple, direct, and easy to manage even for newcomers. I think this is very much a "pick up and play" wargame suitable for casual play, and my nine year old had no trouble whatsoever digging right into it. It is not, however a "light" game and in fact its strategic weight provides for a very compelling, engaging experience that really sells the concept of how these war machines fight, their limitations and advantages as well as their terrifying potential for apocalyptic destruction. The game creates a sense of awe and wonder, which is surprisingly uncommon in game design. I've walked away from every game of Adeptus Titanicus shaking my head, laughing, and saying "I can't believe that happened".

Yet for all of my praise directed at how accessible and appealing the game is, it is also fundamentally inaccessible and for some folks it may even be off-putting. The biggest issue is the price, which is of course always in the mix when discussing GW games. Many- including myself- saw the $250 price tag of the now-unavailable Grand Master's Edition (which included two Warlords, two knight banners, terrain, and everything needed to play) and balked. But that was a bundle-priced intro product. These days, GW is selling a "Princeps Collection" set of rules, components, a much smaller terrain set, a Warlord, a Reaver and a kit of two Warhounds for $270. Let's go ahead and call that $305 because you want at least one $35 Knight Banner.This game is too expensive, even though most board gamers wouldn't blink an eye at paying that much for the latest Kickstarter junk.

The other potentially terminal issue is that this is definitely not an option for those who do not want to model or paint. Given the cost, I would not advise anyone to get into this game with the expectation of playing with unpainted $110 polystyrene gray Warlords. This is not a gatekeeping comment; it's a recommendation to spend your hobby dollars more smartly as AT is a waste of money if you are not into the hobby side of tabletop gaming. Battletech, which is also an excellent game with a great new starter edition just out, is a much better choice for those who do not want to get involved with building and painting these models.

With that said, I think these are some of the best models that GW has ever produced - they are really fun to put together, and I've enjoyed painting them more than any other miniatures I've ever painted. Don't be intimidated by them- they are easier to paint than they look. I think they are as easy to paint as Space Marines, to be honest, and even if you don't have the confidence to do the checks or hazard stripes there are plenty of opportunities in the details to be creative and customize each Titan to be unique. And the pride you'll feel when your one-of-a-kind Reaver chin-checks your friend's Warhound just adds to the glorious fun and heavy metal excitement this outstanding mech game delivers.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Adeptus Titanicus
An accessible - but very expensive- Cadillac game that is among the best miniatures designs of all time.
Top 10 Reviewer 69 reviews
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of and as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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Anjou Valentine's Avatar
Anjou Valentine replied the topic: #294690 28 Mar 2019 16:19
Been a lot of fun following your updates in the 40k thread, Michael. Cool to see the review! Are those your mini's in the photo? They look awesome.

First, you played Warmachine back in the day - I know that system eventually clogged up with infantry and extra Warcasters, but the 'Jack combat sounds very similar. If it's fair to ask, how do those games compare?

Second, we all rolled our eyes and paid $100 for the 3rd edition of Space Hulk a couple years ago, so I'm not surprised that GW is shelling a $200-$300 base in Adeptus Titanicus now. I can kind of see it for AT, guessing at the physical size of the models. On the other hand, the price of both Blackstone Fortress expansions ($120 for three miniatures at 40k scale) makes the base box look like Rise of the Valkyrie in comparison. Is this just how much games cost now? I can't wait until GW officially announces a Traitor Guard army and I can sell my extra Chaos Psyker for $$$ on eBay.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #294697 28 Mar 2019 17:00
Yes, that is everything I have painted since January. I painted the Mortis Warlord terrifyingly fast- from sprue to done in less than a full 24 hours. They are all tabletop quality- up close they look embarrassing!

Compared to Warmachine...funny you mentioned that because I was thinking about some elements of WM while playing AT Sunday night. I would say that WM is even more granular in terms of control, but far less detailed in terms of management if that makes any sense. There is not really an analog to the whole Warcaster thing, and the only troop types are small, medium,
Large, and extra large mechs. It’s much simpler than WM, all things considered.

The cost is big. But there are some aspects of that which aren’t as bad as it appears. One is that this is a game where having two models on the table is a full experience. The most we’ve had had been 7 per side. So it isn’t like looking at a 2000 point 40k army in terms of pricing. It feels way more finite, more of an upfront cost than an ongoing expense. At least for now, with a limited but focused product line. And, I’ve gotten over three months of hobbying fun out of what I have. And still have two Reavers and two Questoris banners to do.

And really, if you are just buying for one player and not two, the cost is more manageable. It’s still $200+, but there again I think the value is there. But if you don’t care about the modeling and painting, it is absolutely not worth the price at all.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #294753 29 Mar 2019 15:13
All of those rules sound like streamlined combinations of titan combat from prior games. So, my main question is: Do they have an option where I can just buy the rules? I doubt it, because this is GW, but I have a dozen Epic scale titans that I would gladly use for this game. I'm just not willing to throw down $270 for what is essentially a duplication of what I already own.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #294754 29 Mar 2019 15:32

Jackwraith wrote: I'm just not willing to throw down $270 for what is essentially a duplication of what I already own.

Vysetron's Avatar
Vysetron replied the topic: #294755 29 Mar 2019 15:46
praise be to THE HOBBY

offer your dollars upon the miniature plastic altar of THE HOBBY
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #294757 29 Mar 2019 15:54

Vysetron wrote: praise be to THE HOBBY

offer your dollars upon the miniature plastic altar of THE HOBBY

Do you want to summon cthulu, cause this is how you summon cthulu... and the expansions.. and the exclusive one of a kind red cthulu.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #294759 29 Mar 2019 16:17
Actually, they do. There is a $60 rulebook/gubbins set. I don’t see any reason you can’t use your ugly old broke down hobo Titans. Scale is different, but if all your using is old stuff who cares.

I don’t think there are epic scale knights though.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #294760 29 Mar 2019 16:22
Could I buy the rulebook and proxy with LOL dolls for the smaller dudes and the LOL Biggie Pets for the bigger Titans?
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #294761 29 Mar 2019 16:25
I would recommend a Hatchimal as an Warlord.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #294762 29 Mar 2019 16:38
Pre or post hatching?
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #294763 29 Mar 2019 16:39
There were epic scale knights back in the day iirc
Vysetron's Avatar
Vysetron replied the topic: #294764 29 Mar 2019 16:43

charlest wrote: Pre or post hatching?

Pretty sure there's a point difference between the two, you may need to check the Hatchmalius Shellicus codex.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #294769 29 Mar 2019 18:17
Yep. There are Epic knights and I have several. Maybe I'll take a look at the rules, then.
Brewmiester's Avatar
Brewmiester replied the topic: #294770 29 Mar 2019 18:20
Yeah there were Imperial and Eldar knights
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #294771 29 Mar 2019 18:48
Ha ha, yeah, I forgot about those. You might have to adjust some things to get them to work in terms of loadour.
RabidWookie's Avatar
RabidWookie replied the topic: #295294 10 Apr 2019 16:30
Can you build custom mechs in this game the way you can in BattleTech?
RabidWookie's Avatar
RabidWookie replied the topic: #295295 10 Apr 2019 16:32
Also, I'd be mighty appreciative of details on what AT does that BattleTech doesn't and vice versa.