Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Frédéric Guérard

IELLO 2013

No. of Players:
3 - 4



Space opera boardgames always have been in high esteem with many a gamer, and this year French publisher IELLO is trying to approach the subject with their new card game Titanium Wars. The game beams the players into a far corner of the Galaxy where deposits of the ultra-rare super-fuel Titanium have been found, and starting from their homeworlds the players try to conquer planets with Titanium deposits until they have gained enough of this resource to subdue the rest of the universe.

Being a cardgame, Titanium Wars does not include a gameboard, and so the game does not focus on any strategic movements of fleets and ships between planets on a map. Instead, the game is played in rounds, and in each round a new planet card is drawn from a deck, and this planet will be the target of the players' offensives in this round's battle. The backsides of the planet cards actually feature some kind of event, and so the revealing of a new planet also will bring up a new event (on the following planet card in the deck), thus listing some special conditions which must be observed during this round.

The primary focus in Titanium Wars is on the battle for the planets, and these battles will be fought by all players who send their fleets in an attempt to conquer the planet. The main part of the players' fleets consists of spaceships, and these ships can be armed with some special weaponry and other devices in order to increase their capabilities. But before turning towards the resolution of a battle (which forms the climax of a round) let's first examine the economic system on which the game is running.

Each player represents an individual race with a unique special ability which comes to bear during combat, but the starting conditions of all player races are equal. So, each player receives 1000 credits starting capital, and their homeworlds feature a production of 1000 credits each round plus four building slots which may be filled with new installations. As indicated, each round begins with the revealing of a new target planet and the players collecting income for all their planets, but before the upcoming battle will start the players will go through an "outfitting" phase in which they can spend their money on new installations for their homeworld and conquered planets and new ships and devices for their fleets.

Among some others, planetary installations range from Spaceports (increasing the maximum size of the player's fleet) to Refineries (increasing income by 150 credits) or Laboratories (increasing the player's tech level), and they can be purchased provided that the player still has available building slots on his planets and that he has reached the appropriate tech level. If these conditions are met, the player pays for the planetary installations and places them under the planet(s) with the free building slots, thus showing only a small part of the installation card which gives a short but efficient summary of the card's powers.

Spaceships are bought in the same manner, with the players observing their tech-levels and the maximum size of their fleets. In addition, just like the planets have building slots, spaceships have a number of upgrade slots depending on their size, and so the players may purchase different upgrade cards like Blast Shields or Hyperdrives and assign them to their ships. Once again, purchased upgrades are placed below the ships equipped with them, showing only a small overview of the upgrade's powers.

All the cards which are available for purchase are arranged in an open arsenal which is available to all players. Apart from each race's unique skill, there are no race-specific spaceships or weapons, and so each of the players is free to purchase any cards he desires (as long as stocks last). The whole outfitting phase is played by all players simultaneously, so downtime during this phase is reduced to an absolute minimum.

When all purchases have been made, the players finally may announce whether they want to enter this round's battle for the target planet, and if a player wants to participate he has to commit his whole fleet to the action. After the players have decided, the battle will be fought in offensives (volleys), and each offensive starts with all players secretly choosing one of their available Tactics cards. At the beginning of the game each player had drawn three random Tactics cards from the corresponding deck, and at the end of each offensive the players will replenish their hand of Tactics cards by drawing replacements for the cards just used. In fact, a player's hand of Tactics cards may be increased by one card for each Command Center installed on his planets, and a bigger hand of cards basically means that the player has a higher chance to draw one or more Tactics cards corresponding to the armament of their fleet.

All Tactics cards list a priority number, and these numbers will be used to determine the order in which the cards will be resolved. When the order has been found, the cards will be resolved one by one, with the players of high-priority cards enjoying the advantage that their Tactics will come to bear before those of the other players. Depending on a player's fleet and weaponry, the player can distribute a number of damage tokens among the fleets of his opponents. This may result in the destruction of some units in other players' fleets, and so it may well happen that these players have lost some of their own attack strength when their Tactics cards finally are resolved.

After all Tactics have been dealt with, the players replenish their hands of Tactics cards and then the players with ships left in their fleets will announce whether they wish to continue the battle. Players may withdraw voluntarily, or they may be forced to quit if their whole fleet has been annihilated in the last offensive, and the battle will be over if only one player remains. This player then may claim the current target planet card and add it to his domain, thus gaining some additional income, building slots and - of course - some quantities of the highly wanted Titanium. Once occupied, all planets remain with their conqueror, and so there will be no possibility to steal a planet from another player. Instead, the end of the current battle marks the beginning of the next round, which is once again started with the revealing of the next planet card.

Without a gameboard Titanium Wars certainly lacks some of the tactical implications which are usual for "space opera" games. However, the real strength of Titanium Wars can be found in the battle phase, since this phase runs quite differently than the usual dice-rolling which is followed by the removal of ships. Instead, the players will be confronted with a quite dynamic, ever changing situation during the battle phases, since the game encourages and actually demands the forging and breaking of temporary alliances. It is quite usual for the other players to pick on the leader who currently owns most Titanium deposits, but in the end all alliances will come to a quick dissolution because all participants of a battle will want the current target planet for themselves.

On the other hand, the leading player is not without some options on his own, and so he may decide to pass on the current round's battle in order to build a bigger stockpile of ships and other equipment, possibly allowing him to face several opponents during the following round. This system of temporary alliances helps to keep the game balanced, and so the competition between the players remains right until the end.

Of course, there is some influence of luck due to the random drawing of the Tactics cards, but the players may chose to mitigate this by acquiring Command Centers and by using the special skills of their races. Overall, Titanium Wars is a quite enjoyable space combat game which is a bit off the usual mainstream, and its high degree of player interaction (coupled with the rather nice artwork) should secure the game a place in my collection.

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright & copy; 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany