Friday, July 7, 2017

Titanomachia: A War of Titans

Titanomachia is a game about giant robots smashing each other to bits, but it is also a game about choosing your battlefield, and controlling the ebb and flow of battle. Hence while players have their Titans, vast mechanical monstrosities requiring a crew, they also have terrain that they'll find in the fog-of-war on the battlefield, and an Initiative score that will show who is in control of the battle.

By paying points for their Titans, and the systems mounted on those Titans, as well as the kind of terrain they might find on the battlefield, and their initiative, players of Titanomachia should be able to play out asymmetrical battles confident that they can offset a disadvantage in size and power with an advantage in terrain and tactical acumen.

The turn sequence is intended to enable games of 2+ players, allowing players to play duels, and engage in swirling melees of giant-robot action. In either extreme, and at all points in between, players need to wield their Titans with mechanical precision. Each system activated means that a player's control of the situation slips further away, each reaction delays a system's full activation.

Crew systems can attempt to ameliorate the damage done to systems, brace for impact in reaction to incoming fire, or focus their efforts on getting the most out of other systems mounted on the Titan's chassis at the cost of precious initiative. Weapons can have their targeting improved, legs can kick, shields can be overcharged, and sensors can take a second look at the terrain.

Weapons by themselves can be used to actively place shots on the battlefield, and either react with wild inaccuracy, or even used as crude shields to protect softer, more vital systems as they charge.

Propulsion in Titanomachia is typically achieved by legs, allowing a Titan to advance, turn, reverse, or even come about under fire. Guided by the Crew, a propulsion system can be wielded like a weapon, kicking an enemy or building at close range.

Sensors can be used to reveal the terrain of the battlefield amongst the fog-of-war, and even to change it should the crew notice something about the terrain they can use to their advantage. Under fire sensors can be used to regain the initiative instead of scanning the battlefield.

Shields provide Titans with point-defence, negating incoming fire on shielded systems. A crew can even over-charge them at great risk to their generators. A Titan's shields can even reaction somewhat to enemy fire to cover weak spots and gaps in their protection.

Jump Jets allow lumbering Titans to bypass terrain with ungainly leaps, or to jink out of the way of incoming fire with an agility un-achievable by more conventional propulsion. An attentive crew can use a Titan's Jump jets to change a Titan's attack vector, or escape from an attacker.

Starting on a blank board of 9x9 squares the players develop the board by placing terrain as the Titans move and scan their surroundings. A Titan without the initiative will need to scan ahead carefully, to avoid being caught in a blind alley, or find its path blocked by vast buildings. A Titan with the initiative can nimbly skip away, hunting its prey with the confidence of an ambusher closing a trap. As Titans activate their systems, moving, scanning for terrain, raising shields, and otherwise announce their presence and their intentions, the initiative drops until it is recovered when their sensors are switched from strategic scanning of the battlefield to desperate tactical analysis of the situation.

Once the battle is joined in earnest, weapons crash against exposed systems, or get turned away by shields, and the Titans circle each other like colossal prize-fighters, seeking that one knock-out blow before they're too mangled to go on. The fight is not to the death, but it is an Engine-Kill that is the most valuable of victories, and most likely to leave an opponent as valuable salvage.

Notably players do not take gentlemanly turns one at a time in Titanomachia, but press their initiative to gain advantages in time, position, and material over their opponent(s). Titans can react to other Titans acting with the initiative: attempting to twist out of the way of incoming fire, or using jets to jink them out of the way, or shifting shields around on the fly, attempting in intercept incoming fire with their weapon pods, or even attempting wildly inaccurate snap shots with fully charged weapons. But reaction is a poor substitute for action, unless a Titan can seize the initiative with the fruit of its sensors, and go on the offensive while an opponent is caught off-guard.

Reactions enable players to both stay in the fight and increase player engagement as the option of player choice of reaction acts as both a randomizing element preventing the smooth, mechanical decimation of an opponent. None are complete counters to any action.

At the cost of putting off activating a Propulsion system for two turns, a player can spend a charge on a leg with at least one charge to pull a Titan left or right when it is attacked. Doing so will alter the systems mounted on the Titan facing its attacker, possibly defending exposed or vulnerable systems, possibly setting the Titan up for a quick retreat once it has gathered sufficient intelligence on its opponent via reactive scanning on its Sensor system.

Both reacting with jump jets to jink a Titan out of the way of an incoming attack, and reacting to an attack by firing back before a weapon is actively (if not carefully) aimed may result in a shot not only missing its intended target system on a Titan, but the Titan entirely, resulting in collateral damage done to surrounding buildings. Some buildings may explode spectacularly, while others may simply count against you in the reckoning of victory...

Similarly a weapon system can attempt to intercept incoming fire, increasing the likelihood of an attack hitting it, while an aimed shot by an opposing crew still increases the likelihood of hitting the intended target, and a quick shift of a shield marker onto that weapon can make an effective shield at the expense of slowing the activation of both weapon and shield systems.

A crew can forgo activating in the player's next turn to brace the Titan for impact, increasing the protective value of whatever armour protects its systems. Much like activately over-charging the shields, this may be either a last-ditch attempt to preserve the Titan's functionality, or an opening gambit meant to win a fight before it starts. Because without a crew to activate, a Titan cannot carefully aim its weapons, discover an important tactical advantages to a certain building, or even conduct important damage control repairs on critical systems.

In the end, however, there are seven systems, six with an action and a reaction (1-6), one that can enhance the actions of all others (1), and one that Titans can equip as a quick and dirty form of passive protection (7).

  1. Crew
  2. Sensors
  3. Weapons
  4. Propulsion
  5. Jump Jets
  6. Shields
  7. Ablative Armour

To your Titans, O Terrans, for the War of the Great Machines is Upon Us!