Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Battling For Energy At Edge of the Universe

In today's post we'll take a look at the newest release from IELLO (pronounced 'yellow') Games entitled Titanium Wars.  Titanium Wars is the first offering from French designer Frederic Guerard and it plays with three or four players in 45-60 minutes.  From a thematic perspective, Titanium Wars is set in the distant future, one in which a new source of energy has been found at the edge of the galaxy.  That new energy source is known as Titanium and the competition to control this powerful and profitable resource has been fast and furious.  In Titanium Wars, you'll take on the role of a leader of one of the many factions vying to control of these titanium deposits.  In order to do so, you'll need to harness the resources of your home planet (and any other planets you conquer) in order to raise a fleet of star ships that you'll send out in your bid for profit and power!

So how does this all work?  Well, Titanium Wars is a game that's is all about economic engine building and combat.  Each round begins by flipping over the top card of the planet deck.  This accomplishes two things.  In the first place, the card you reveal will determines the planet that's available for conquest during the current round.  Additionally, it also reveals a 'global' event card which indicates a set of environmental conditions that will apply to all players during that round.  From here, you'll move into the income phase of the round -- during which you'll receive the income produced by your starting planet, in addition to any monies generated by any planets you've conquered and/or refineries you've constructed.

Following this, you'll move into the 'acquisition phase of the round. during which you will be able to purchase new ships, weapons and buildings from a central market place.  What's unique and quite fascinating about this phase is that it's conducted simultaneously!  That's right, everybody purchases their items at the same time -- and that leaves lots of room for bluffing and misdirection on your part.  Maybe you picked up a space fighter -- but when no one is looking you put it back and grab a battle cruiser instead!  Ultimately, no one will know what you've purchased until the end of the round when you reveal and place all of your purchases in your play area.

Finally, we move into the conquest phase of the round where you'll battle your opponents in massive galactic wars waged in the hope of gaining control of the planet that was revealed at the beginning of the round.  Combat is carried out via the play of tactics cards that are dealt out at the beginning of the round and which are refreshed at the end of this phase.  These tactic cards dictate when you'll be able to launch your attack, what type of ships you can commit to your attack and which kind of ships you can target as part of your attack.  This is a last man standing combat system and here too there is lots of room for gambling, bluffing and misdirection.  When there's only one player left, that player is awarded control of the planet -- and more importantly of its titanium deposits.  Play continues until one player has achieved controls a designated number of titanium deposists -- a number which varies with the number of players and the desired length of the game.

So then, what are my thoughts on Titanium Wars?  Well, somewhat surprisingly, I liked it!  Why do I say surprisingly?  Because this is a game with a great deal  of player interaction, lots of direct conflict, all mixed together with a healthy does of luck -- all characteristics which I don't generally find endearing in a game.  However, somehow Titanium Wars turns out to be more than the sum of its parts.  First of all, the components and artwork for the game are all top-notch -- this really is an attractive game.  I was particularly pleased with the quality of the card stock they used.  Additionally, the game really benefits from the the fact that much of the game-play is simultaneous -- as this really helps to move the game along in terms of play time.  Once you know what you're doing you can knock a game out in an hour -- even with the full complement of four.  Further, from a design perspective, the way in which the tactic cards really shape and direct the purchases you make ensures that there is lot's of replayability even with the base game.  I also appreciated the 'cannonball' run aspect of the game.  You build your fleet hoping that it will prove effective against whatever force your opponents' are building up and you send them out into a battle hoping that they survive long enough to take out your enemies before getting reduced to space dust!  Finally, I also love the negotiations that take place as players begin to form and, inevitably, break alliances with one another.

Ultimately, this is fun, fast game with great components that's sure to be hit if you're looking for a three to four player game that offers lots of opportunity for conflict and backstabbery.  Overall, a hearty thumbs up! 

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