Thursday, September 6, 2018

'Adeptus Titanicus': An Opinion of the Redux Version


The new edition of 'Adeptus Titanicus' was released a week or so ago, and having had great nostalgia for the original 1988 version (ye gads, has it been that long), I felt compelled to pick up this new release. 



I have to confess, my love for GW ended years ago when the company inexplicably dropped its support for the 'Specialist Games' line. Originally kept as a sort of boutique niche for 'veteran gamers' (whatever that means), Specialist Games had under its umbrella many of the great fringe titles that GW had created over the past 30 years. Mordheim, Warmaster, Battlefleet Gothic, Epic, Gorkamorka, these are just a few of the great games that were nestled under the 'Specialist Game' badge. Nonetheless, mismanagement and benign neglect caused the line to falter and it was quietly deleted from the corporate website. (Note: There is a 'Specialist Games' section at Forge World, but it's a shadow of the original catalogue.) I found that this decision, along with GW's IP suicide of killing off Warhammer Fantasy, caused me to throw in the towel and move on to other things.

Nevertheless, to its credit, Games Workshop has recently realized the value of revisiting its veteran titles, and has been steadily reissuing refreshed versions of many of their old classics. Space Hulk, Necromunda and Kill Team have all made their entry back into the market, and so I was cautiously optimistic to hear that Adeptus Titanicus was due for a redux as well. 

After selling a kidney, I managed to source the 'Grand Master Edition' (don't laugh, that's really what it's called), which includes two Warlord titans, six knights, a schwack of plastic modular buildings, dice, markers and the rules. Over the past week I've managed to get the models built and blocked in to get them on the table to try out the rules with the guys. 

So, now that the titans have fallen silent and the smoke has cleared, here are a few of my first impressions of the game, the models and the cost to get in.


The Rules 



Whereas 'Epic' was all about huge, sweeping battles in microscale, 'Adeptus Titanicus' takes that same scale (well sort of) down to a tactical level. The new version of the game is actually very similar to the original 1988 version, placing players into the role of a 'princeps' (squadron leader), managing a small group ('maniple') of war machines. These can range from the huge Warlord titans down to the nimble, single-piloted knights. Think of the game as running a flotilla of warships - the titans are the battleships and cruisers whereas the knights are your destroyers.

The rulebook is a very nicely produced 97-page hardbound volume, with a handy ribbon page marker. It has an index for quick navigation, but sadly no one-stop alphabetical glossary to aid mutton-headed players such as myself.

The rules are clear, concise and easy to understand. After pinning-down the basic mechanics, we were basically up and running within a half hour. It's relatively easy game to jump into, but the order system adds nice bit of depth and additional friction.  

The heart of the system is the 'Command Terminals', which are sort of the heads-up display of your titan. These terminals display the basic stats of your machine (various skills, command rating, movement rates) along with details regarding its mechanical layout (the structure of its head, body, limbs and weapons). Arguably two of the most important status tracks relate to your titan's fusion reactor and void shields. Basically, if these babies go down you're about to enter into a world of hurt. 



The rulebook also has a good section detailing Open Play, Narrative Play and Matched Play. Our group enjoys creating narrative-driven scenarios, but I quite like the rules mechanics behind the matched play variant, which helps players quickly set up a game that has each side working towards a unique goal while trying to thwart your enemy's efforts. 

Currently the game focuses entirely on engine-to-engine combat, so there is no smaller vehicles or infantry included. I can understand this being their initial approach, but 30K (and 40K) is all about combined arms, so I hope they release rules to accommodate, at least in an abstract form, the effects of tanks, aircraft and infantry. I think that one could easily use a variant of the rules they have for the Knights' formations ('Banners') to reflect these smaller units. Something to think on for future games.

The Models


One of the Warlords and a Knight. Sylvain's excellent scratch built refinery is in the background.

Regarding the miniatures, the first thing I'll talk about is the scale of the models. The AT has been designed to scale with a 8mm human figure, not the time-honoured 6mm of previous versions of Epic. Yes, WTF. This decision seems blatantly aimed to poke those with older collections in the eye. Sure, you can still use the rules with your old models, but it is a bit annoying that the new models have been purposefully designed so as to not blend in with existing titan collections. Nevertheless, I really liked the new model designs so I sucked it up, but I have to say that this was a bit of a douche move by GW. 




As I've not worked with any GW models for years, I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of this release. The detail of the plastic is very crisp and one can easily see the effort that was put in with the overall design of the parts and their assembly. 



The Warlord model is composed of over 100 separate pieces, so its not an insignificant bit of kit, but the overall build turned out to be a breeze. There were several places in which a modeler might think they could make a mistake, but the designers have created the parts in such a fashion that it's very difficult to go off the rails. A real pleasure to work with.



As a thoughtful option to future-proofing the model, the weapons have been designed with indentations to fit 5mm x 1mm magnets, enabling builders to easily magnetize their weapon loadouts, allowing easy swaps depending on the scenario. A nice touch.


As a suggestion, I would recommend painting the core chassis separate from the armour plates, as there are a LOT of nooks and crannies to the final assembled kit. I painted all my armour plates right on the sprue and then cleaned up the attachment joins later.

I painted this first Warlord in Legio Gryphonicus livery, but Sarah quickly reminded me that it looked like the colours for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers... Well, so much for being part of a winning team... I remain a bit of a muppet when painting vehicles - I don't do them enough so it always seems like such a high-wire act - but it came out alright in the end. I still need to apply the decals (ugh), but the core of it is there.

The one caveat I have with the Warlord kit is that the it only provides one weapon loadout: two Volcano Cannon arms and a carapace Apocalypse Launcher (yes, the names of these things are hilarious). An additional weapons selection would not have gone amiss to allow more flexibility with the base model. Instead, I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be paying through the teeth to acquire more weapon upgrades later down the road (see 'The Cost' below).



The knights are much simpler kits and again, very easy to assemble. I think I had all my six assemblies clipped-out and put together within half an hour. Easy peasy. 



One trick I'd suggest is to assemble the lower body separate from the upper armoured carapace and head. This will allow you to simply spray/brush the arms and legs with your favourite metallic paint while keeping the upper armour plating clean for your choice of colours/heraldry. 



The new terrain kits are genius as well. They can be assembled in a multitude of layouts, and are cleverly designed to stack on one another, allowing you to create some very impressive structures for your titans to take cover behind (or gleefully destroy).





Nonetheless, I still miss the old card buildings from the '88 version which allowed you to easily bring together a cityscape for not a lot of money - these new models, while very nice, will be very expensive if you're wanting to fill a 6 x 4 table (again, see 'The Cost' below). 
Sarah calls the 3D printer 'The Jello Maker'  

Thankfully there is an easy workaround on the terrain as there is an embarrassment of riches in 3rd party models available all over the market. Also, if you have access to a 3d printer, there are many excellent designs available for free (Thingiverse), or for a very modest amount of money from designers online. For example, I printed off a set of these models below for Byron which he got from a kickstarter (which now can be sourced from here).





The Cost (and Lifespan)


Okay, I'll be frank right up front: the cost is where Adeptus Titanicus falls down for many people - it's a very expensive game to get into. In reality we shouldn't be surprised as GW is notorious for its cartel-like cost structures and Adeptus Titanicus simply follows suit. When I say 'many people' what I mean is that there are loads of GW fans that won't blink an eyelash at the price, but to the general public this is an expensive indulgence.

To put it in perspective, the scenarios provided in the rulebook (all of them looking quite fun I might add), ask for a MINIMUM of 1250 points, but usually require forces weighing in at 2000 points or more.  A single Warlord, kitted out with it's various weapons comes in at around 500 points, so you really need a 'maniple' of titans to make the game sing, say a Warlord, two medium Reavers and a detachment of knights (approximately 1300 points). Okay, here's the rub: a Warlord kit runs at $130 Canadian ($110 US/£65) retail, a Reaver sits at $70 ($60/£35) and a box of 3 Knights is $40 ($35/£20). So, just in models one needs to plump down around $310 CAD for a modest single detachment. (And we won't even get into the insane pricing GW has set down for the poor antipodean souls out there.)

Cost aside, there is also the fact that the game has been designed with a single genre in mind, meaning that unlike the other GW boxed sets, you can't really use the Adeptus Titanicus models for anything else but AT. None of the models can be repurposed for 40K (obviously), but also by their conscious decision not to scale it to match their previous efforts, the miniatures can't easily be used with older Epic titan collections either. 

Relating to the point above: One point to remember, for those who already have existing Epic titans, you're in luck as you can just pick up the rules and Command Terminals and you're off to the races. (A great point raised by Ratmaul in the comments below.) 

With all this being said, am I unhappy with my purchase? Absolutely not. I love the setting, am really enjoying the rules and am very impressed with the models. But it really is a one-trick pony.  In the end, I think its pricing structure and distinct scale will relegate Adeptus Titanicus to being a niche product. If I were a betting man, I wouldn't be surprised that within two years AT is almost forgotten, becoming one of those fondly remembered but little played titles.  Nonetheless, if you love the setting, like the new models, and can stomach the steep price you will be treated to a very solid game using some of the nicest miniatures on the market.

34 comments:

  1. I had the 1983 version as well as Epic back in the day. As tempted as I am by the new version (great review by the way) the cost is simply prohibitive purely for a nostalgia trip. I don't have any of my original Titans (sadly long since sold) but I agree on the bizarre yet typically GW move of altering the scale.

    Great review and look forward to seeing more pictures as your collection develops.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Lee. It's good that the rules and miniatures are excellent otherwise it would have been an expensive trip down memory lane. :)

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  2. Ill leave AT purchases to those with more money than....but you did a fine job in the kits. Good review and I can be counted upon to provide laser cannon fodder when these behemoths thud into action.

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    1. Thanks Peter, I'll hold you to that. ;)

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  3. I completely agree. BUT differntly from a lot of other game sets GW provides the choice to purchase the rules separately.
    So this means you can get on with your old collection, if you really want to.
    And, if it was inesplicably sold, you can today find a lot of cheap offers for old Epic models on the net ;)

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    1. Thanks for your comments Ratmaul. Yes, you're absolutely right. There is no reason why you couldn't just by the rules and use your older Epic models. (I'll pop that point up in my review).

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  4. Thanks for the review. Despite the cost I am still looking at this, as I love the idea of robots stomping about a town. The £ to $ conversion fee really sticks in my craw though (Warlord costs $110 US, but $83.85 converted from pounds, and that is VAT inclusive, where as our sales taxes are on top of list price).

    As for the 6mm/8mm issue some reviewers have stated that the warlord seems to scale "correctly" against the old epic stuff, where as the old warlord was laughably small. So there is still hope for combined arms action. (and I too hope that the game evolves to at least allow super heavies and Xenos)

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    1. I agree. I actually really like the increased scale of the titans in how they relate against my Epic infantry. I guess what I was getting at it that it will probably cause a disconnect for those people who would like to blend their old titans with the new designs.

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  5. Great review thanks Curt!

    Whilst interested in the monster machine side of things Titans are just the icing on the cake for me at this scale. I much prefer Epic and will stick to that given the cost of entry AND the scale differential.

    I could not agree more with you regards the stupid decision to shut down specialist games. Their best games always came from that stable and even don't get me started about what happened with Fantasy.

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    1. Cheers mate!

      If you want to try out the system, you can pick up the AT rules separately and use it with your classic Epic stuff.

      Yup, I'm weirdly hostile about them no longer supporting/developing The Old World.

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    2. Millsy - we seriously need to get together more often my friend! I'm itching to get my epic stuff back on the table. Perhaps I need an AHPC project...

      Titans at 20 paces over the Christmas break?

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    3. It's too bad the new titans are so expensive for you chaps as I'd be down with a 'War Engine Duel'. :)

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    4. The Warlord is currently retailing here for AUD$180 (CAD$167)

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    5. Whereas in the UK it retails for the equivalent of a little less than AUD $119. Bonkers.

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  6. Lovely post dude - and I salute your mature tone. I can’t really discuss GW’s handling of the specialist games without injecting a fair amount of passionate fan invective at the clueless d@ck-whistlers calling the shots. The more recent, friendly “oh gosh, look at this new game” tone they have adopted oddly makes me even angrier...

    But hey, great to see the game back (finally, after hinting/nodding/chuckling for years...)

    The “scale” is no issue with me - these actually look better to me with the “6mm” old infantry and vehicle castings, as the older classic generation of Titan models were quite small.

    Looking forward to getting some Warlords on the table!

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    1. Thanks Greg! I'm very sympathetic to your Love-Hate-Despise relationship with GW. I've just decided to take this new game on its own merits and run with it. I'm very much looking forward to gaming this with you when we get together next.

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  7. The models look great and GW products are really well done, but I'm out of 40k/30k and the cost for such a niche set is prohibitive I feel, youvyo done a lovely job on them and if it scratches that nostalgia itch and you can afford it then good luck!
    Best Iain

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    1. Completely understandable, Iain. It certainly is a niche game, but it hits many more buttons than 40K ever could for me. Thanks for dropping in!

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  8. I’d play if I had my old Titans, but I don’t and I’m not going to get the new ones- too costly! Nice use for the printer with the buildings.

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    1. Yeah, they're very nice, but the pricing makes them a serious commitment if you're wishing to pursue gathering a collection of them.

      The printer is currently running hard creating more buildings!

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  9. Why COULDN’T you use these models with old 6mm stuff? That’s what’s confusing to me.

    I have seen photos with a 6mm Space Marine on the Titan’s back balcony and it seemed perfectly in scale. The original AT titans were actually downscaled compared to the other models. So it seems to me that you could use these quite easily with your existing collections. Hell, even the photos you posted here show an old rhino in comparison with the titan. Looks great!

    I won’t be buying these, however. I am going another road: Vanguard Games’ excellent 3mm Gothic Scf-fi line. The casts are excellent and you can get some twenty titans that are about the size of first edition AT titans for the price of one new GW warlord.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Thaddeus.

      Actually, I didn't say you couldn't use these with Epic. What I said is that these titans will not blend well with older existing titans. Interestingly, just last night we wanted to try the Reaper chassis before getting the new model and so we found we had to use the older Warlords to come close in relative scale. Nonetheless, it still looked weird as the overall mass of the old models still did not look right with the updated pieces. But you're right, in that the new titans actually look very impressive scaled against the older infantry and tanks (see Lasgunpacker's comment above).

      The Vanguard/Onslaught stuff is lovely. I'd like to get a bunch of their not-Sisters of Battle as they look terrific.

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  10. Your titans look absolutely awesome my friend. I think they look even more imposing set against 6mm infantry and vehicles and as such should fit in well with your existing force. I'd have given that game a try myself, but the price is a little too steep for my taste.

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    1. Thanks Nick, very kind of you. I'll put the game on the table for you when you visit. :)

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  11. Looks great Curt and the review was just excellent. I used to own the old epic and it was fun, but I liked the combined arms approach and not just the Titans so would need to see the others added. Anyhow I have too many projects to start this plus the cost....
    Totally agree on the bonehead IP move on fantasy which pretty much killed off my fantasy gaming.

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks for the comments Christopher - I did not know you were an old Epic player. A great game.

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  12. A very well written review Curt! While I am not particularly fond of the AT setting (being a CBT Diehard to the core)I do not begrudge you your stomp down memory lane and most assuredly wish you all the gaming fun with these there is.
    Also your editorial style of writing (about pretty much anything) makes this post yet another piece of excellent hobby reading.

    Thanks heaps Oh Lord of Snows

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    1. Thanks Sander, I'm delighted you enjoyed reading it.

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  13. Curt - this is the post I have been waiting for. thanks mate

    "My name is Paul and I am an Epic Addict. It has been 15 years since my last Epic purchase"

    I have two large moving boxes filled with epic goodness. Happiness even, back in the day. Some of it is even painted.

    But Epic, great as it was in its various guises, dumbed down the awesomeness of the original AT and the personality the titans had. Even the Titan Legions expansion didn't fill the void (though I did love the seperate Titan missions the Principes pursued irrespective of the battle swirling around them).

    The price point of the new AT down here in Oz would cost both kidneys. That and my stash of goodies makes it an easy decision to not buy but potentially just go with the rules and my old veteran Titans. But Ive yet to see a review of how the rules play on the table - would love for you to do a follow up on that theme.

    Fun fact - the original AT was the genesis of the Horus Heresy background. GW could only afford to produce a single mould sprue in plastic for the game, and thus had to come up with fluff as to why both sides would field the same titan models...

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    1. Thanks for the comment Paul! I'll consider doing a more detailed rules review, but don't hold me to it. I do recommend the rules to anyone who has existing titans. They are well written, well considered, easy to pick up and most importantly, fun to play. We've have several great nights with just two machines per side - so you don't need a lot of models on the table to get a sense of the rules and have a great time.

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  14. Thanks for the informative review. I've been playing 40k since 87 and I owned both the original Epic and Titanicus.

    As a GW vet I'm not surprised at all by their crude marking tactics. When I heard about the new version of the game I had zero interest even though I played the heck out of the original game.

    Like often happens though, once I see posts and pictures of the games (shiny!) I fall into line like a good sheep and dole out my cash.

    I am going to pick up the new AT only because next month is my 50th birthday. I confess I'm primarily buying to play with my nephews at Xmas.

    Personally I agree with you. This game will have a shorter lifespan than the Squats did (I'm sorry...) if they don't release some tanks and flyers at least (I could live without infantry).

    Cheers.

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    1. First, thanks for dropping in and commenting Danny! I think you (and your nephews) will enjoy the redux version. I also hope they bring in tanks as well, especially the super-heavies. As I mention in my post, I think they could easily use a variation of the same rules they use for the knights (you'll see when you get the game). Enjoy!

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  15. Your Warlord does look amazing! The terrain is looking pretty fabulous too!

    I was pretty excited when I heard Adeptus Titanicus was being rereleased. I was super disappointed when I heard it was going to be an entirely different scale than the older stuff - largely because I still have tonnes of it... well... okay... maybe just a few Kilograms... If there was any wavering in my resolve to not buy into the new edition, it was quashed when I saw the price of the new models...

    (although, I was at the Dragon's Den last weekend and saw the new Reaver titan and everything was 20% off and I BRIEFLY considered maaaaaybe picking one up... just for fun... y'know... just in case I ever ran into someone else that was playing it... Then I remembered I was dropping over $200 on Rogue Trader and another starter Kill Team and decided it would probably be best if I just ignored the new AT and just carried on with painting up the other stuff I already have!)

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    1. Thanks Tim, very kind of you.

      One thing to keep in mind if you do have older titans, is that you can simply purchase the rules box set (which I believe also includes the cards and other bits) and use your existing models. That way it allows you to play the new rules while using your older models.

      We'll have to arrange a time this autumn/winter when I can bring up my models and we can give it a go (or you come down for a game). That would be a hoot.

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