What happens when you sit down two Titan owners, a pizza between them, and a Chaos Knight and Chaos Reaver across the corner from them? The first T.O.C. Owner Interview. Shadow of T.O.C. recently sat down with Alex S., the owner of Execratus, and the two exchanged questions and answers ranging anywhere from Titan ownership to the mindset that goes into several aspects of what they mean.
Alex and his prized Reaver Titan, Execratus
TOC: I’m sitting here looking at them and obviously the first thing that stands out about them is that they have an extremely unique paint scheme to them, they’re very reminiscent of the Black Legion but they’re not, because that sheer amount of silver helps to set it aside and it’s got this frosty look about it in a roundabout way. So clearly it’s not Black Legion or Legio Mortis, it’s something seemingly of your own design, so what goes into that and why?
ALEX: Well, the aesthetic, that I was going for was…reading the Chaos Space Marine books I always was attracted the Black Legion because it had the most cohesive Legion structure, it wasn’t just fragments and a series of warbands that just kinda did their own thing. They still tried to keep up the fight from the Horus Heresy and I really like that.
Also, the funny thing was that ever since I was a kid and I had to start painting these guys, I wanted to pick a paint scheme that was I thought the most menacing, ominous, and intimidating looking and black and gold really was the scheme I came up with. And that was before I had seen a Black Legion model.
Execratus and Exitium are known to wreak quite a lot of havoc in their area.
TOC: You mention the models, painting them as a kid. You’ve been in the hobby for quite a bit then?
ALEX: Yeah. Yeah, I was 12 years old when I first started playing. Back in ’91. A group of kids at my school all heard of Warhammer 40k at the same time and they pitched it to me and when they described it as chess that was customizable I was sold because that’s what I did, I was a chess geek.
TOC: That means you’ve got about 25 years in this hobby. So you’ve probably seen the Titans even from their days of Epic, right?
ALEX: I never actually got to play Epic. I saw pictures, you know I didn’t actually know anyone who played Epic. There wasn’t really a community of 40k when I played, it was like five dudes and we would meet at a house for a sleepover and we would set up a table, and we were all a bunch of 12 year olds that really didn’t know how to play.
No one really even understood how the game worked. One guy had the Space Marine compendium, I had my book; I didn’t know how many books you needed to really understand the rules. We played battles the best we could, which was not to say very well. We always spent about three hours setting up and then we got tired. And so we’d end up doing these little isolated battles where we’d shoot at a Predator tank and roll on the templates to see what happened.
Alex goes back a long ways into the hobby and has seen it evolve quite a lot.
TOC: How did all this evolve into you eventually picking up a Reaver Titan and a Chaos Knight?
Well, once I left school I lost contact with a lot of those dudes and I didn’t really ever think that I was going to play again until 2009. I had always saved my models and I had a couple of friends who read the books and expressed interest in getting into it. And I said, “Hey, name the time and the place” and we started playing and I just picked up where I left off with Chaos.
And I’m a collector, I have one of everything in the codex, every time Forge World releases something, if it’s Khorney or something I’m all about it. And what better way to tell the gaming community you’re a collector than that? The biggest Chaos model they make.
TOC: It is still certainly the biggest Chaos model at this time.
ALEX: Yeah. And so that was sort of the silver tuna, the Holy Grail of collecting and so that’s what I wanted. The Knight I got just because the meta of the game has changed such as that if you really want to be viable you need a Knight, and so I got on just because I thought it would open up my list-making options. It ended up looking a lot cooler once it was painted up than I thought it would.
TOC: And they’re known to wreck quite a lot of face in this game, especially those Reaper Chainswords. You get that in there on something that thinks, “Oh, it’s this little 6 Hull Point thing. It’s not gonna do a lot.” then they go and the kill some of the strongest things in the game.
ALEX: Exactly, it’s designed to get shot at and stomp on stuff.
TOC: And I see you painted it in the same colors as your Reaver, Execratus, and I’m assuming there’s something behind the reason that they look so similar.
ALEX: Well, I wanted them to match my army which had always been black and gold, so there is that. Basically, when people looked at them I wanted them to think it was part of my army. I wanted to have sort of a trademark look. And as you can see there has been a little bit of an evolution in the style. The theme that I explain to people is it is Black Legion-esque but grittier with some demonic influence.
Exitium clearly is a scion of the Dark Gods and shows such allegiance.
TOC: The knee pad in particular on Execratus stands out and shows that.
ALEX: The way I run Black Legion is that my 40k army has a lot of demon saves. A lot of demonic possession and stuff.
TOC: You’re a very story-driven individual within the hobby.
TOC: And it’s less about a show of adult dominance versus just having fun and being a bit of a lore whore in a sense.
ALEX: It’s fun to win but it’s also fun to see the narratives play out.
TOC: You started with the Reaver as you said because it was the biggest, baddest Chaos item at the time. It still is to my knowledge. But it’s not uncommon for people who are making the Titan jump to start with the Warhound. It’s cheaper, it’s smaller, it’s easier to transport, and for newer modelers in particular that don’t have resin experience, definitely better to start with than the increase in weight of the Reaver.
We know why you started with the Reaver, but people are gonna wonder, are you gonna make a demi-maniple at some point? Are two Warhounds in the future getting ready to run around with their big brother?
ALEX: Well, thematically that would make sense, but there’s two reasons why I doubt that’s gonna happen. One is the way that the games play out, there aren’t really a lot of opportunities where I could run a maniple and my other Lords of War, my other Super-Heavies, and make it a fun list. The other reason is that back when I made the decision to get the Reaver, the Chaos Super-Heavy options were mostly Imperial options that had been spiked up and made Chaos-like.
But since then we’ve had the Lord of Skulls, the Brass Scorpion, a whole direction where Chaos is getting access to super-heavies that the Loyalists don’t. So I kind of wanted to go the individual way and get the stuff that’s more unique. I’d much rather put all the Chaos super-heavies on the table that Loyalists can’t even get their own version of.
That’s been the biggest reason why I haven’t gotten a Warhound, just because…
TOC: You don’t want it to be a Warhound with spikes.
ALEX: That’s right. I got the Reaver because this was basically a centerpiece and the Warhound’s not a centerpiece and it’s not as distinguished as some of the patently Chaos Lords of War.
TOC: What has it meant to you, both as a person and a gamer, if they happen to be separate things to you, to own a Reaver Titan. To just be able to tell your fellow gamers, “Hey, I’m a Titan owner. And a Reaver class at that.” What does that mean to you to be able to say that?
Is there any special connection, or is it one of those moments that you kind of get to see yourself as a battlefield god because you’ve got such a death-dealing machine that everyone has to look at and wonder where the shots are going?
ALEX: Well, you’ve kind of hinted at the answer in phrasing your question. It’s a couple of things, but a lot of it is you put a Reaver Titan on the table, heads are going to turn when you’re at an event and you know what it’s capable of doing in a game. It does make you feel like you’re a bit of a battlefield god. Also, human beings are social animals; we have a hierarchy system. Among a community of gamers who are collectors, when you have the definitive centerpiece model, it is a status symbol.
There isn’t a single instance where I take the Titan out that I don’t meet a new person. And that’s really cool, because while I like showing my status, the best thing is that I use the Titan as a segway to show new people how awesome this hobby is. And so I encourage people to come engage me, ask questions, let me talk about it, let me show it off, and get you as excited about what these things can do, and how fun it is, as I am. And then the last part of my answer would be that I’m an attorney and inside of my office on top of my shelf I keep Execratus all the time. And there isn’t a day where I’m in my office that I don’t give him a wink.
TOC: So you’re very much attached and bonded to your killing machine.
ALEX: That’s right. My wife will always wonder what value I get out of a model that I use twice a year.
What's not to love and value about this killing machine?
TOC: It’s safe to say that you have the connection with your Titan and that there’s a reason you like it that transcends any kind of monetary value. It’s got its own worth in a way in the same way that people get attached to their cars or certain other things. Safe to say, right?
ALEX: Sure. That’s the way the collector bug works.
TOC: You mention that collector bug and you talk about having that prestige item. And granted Forge World hasn’t made it yet but, it wouldn’t be a stretch to make this happen –
TOC: You already know the question (Alex already had surmised I was talking about a Warlord Titan).
TOC: And you want one.
TOC: 2,400 dollars, US?
ALEX: I’ve already warned my wife, the day they release a Chaos Warlord, I’m getting one.
TOC: What stops you from just getting an Imperial one and converting it and putting your touch one it?
ALEX: Because it’s not Chaos.
TOC: But you can easily make it so.
ALEX: I’m no Forge World designer. I’ve taken Loyalist things and put spikes on them and that’s…
TOC: It doesn’t feel the same?
ALEX: It’s not the same as a cast Chaos Titan. And if I buy a Loyalist Warlord and do everything I can to make it look Chaos what kind of a fool am I going to look like if I make a Chaos on and they finally release a Chaos variant and it’s legit. I don’t want two of them. I want one.
TOC: I’ve had the privilege of seeing a Warlord walk in the door. We’ve got one here in Lafayette and it shows that Lafayette has a bit of a Titan-centric community. I know that we have two registered Titans on Titan Owners Club right now, that being my own, Venator Lupus, and yours, Execratus. We have a Titan presence here, we have that Warlord, you wanting to get another one, and of course now Titans becoming a little more prominent in the area as we continue to see more and more.
Clearly there’s been some dueling going on in a sense. As I’ve come to understand it, you have a personal style in how you handle this Titan and what you shoot at. What would you like to share about the T.O.C. about how you approach combat using such a massive build?
ALEX: Well, a lot of it depends on the games. I’ve played games with Execratus where I deliberately did not run any Destroyer weapons on it just because of balancing to make sure my opponent had a good time. I ended up losing that game because I wanted it to be a fun experience. This was back when Titans were just now entering into the group. (The local gaming group that Alex runs on Wednesday nights.) That was then, but this is now. And with how many Titans there are Execratus doesn’t step on the field unless he’s swinging laser blasters.
TOC: Now that’s not something you waste on infantry unless you absolutely have nothing else to shoot at.
ALEX: No. He’s a hunter. The way I wrote the backstory for his Princeps, Hyde Zarovich, is that he’s a big game hunter. He doesn’t waste ordnance on little guys. The smallest thing he’ll probably shoot at is a Spartan Assault Tank. Maybe something like that, or he’ll shoot at a Primarch, but he want to take down Titans and any chance he gets to shoot at something bigger and better he will.
TOC: He takes the Kharn route, he only kills what’s worthy of Khorne.
ALEX: That’s right.
TOC: So you clearly do that with your Reaver and have some fun. What’s the biggest thing that Execratus has taken to date?
ALEX: He’s killed a Warlord in a 3,000 point game. The Warlord murdered everything else in that game. It quickly became one on one. I rolled a couple of 6’s and it quickly turned into 26 hull points in one round of shooting.
TOC: Amazing. Is there still that one thing you’ve yet to get the definitive kill on?
ALEX: Hyde Zarovich does have his Moby Dick. It just so happens to be a Titan owned by my good friend who also painted both Exitium and Execratus, and that’s Josh Artigue. He owns an Eldar Phantom. They’re really hard to kill and I’ve never gotten to shoot at it. Every time that I’ve played, he has held it in reserve so that he can get the first shot. And with four Destroyer shots Execratus has never been able to get a shot off. And we’ve had two games where we’ve teamed up and he’s shot me in the back. So there’ a bit of a vendetta there. Hyde’s stinging after this last one. I thought I had him after this last Massacre game, I thought I’d shoot at him but he used Blind Barrages to keep me from having a shot for two turns.
TOC: You got robbed?
ALEX: Yeah, you know, it stung.
TOC: I was actually there for that game, and I saw that look on your face as Execratus fell through the table (Seismic Explosion table for Apocalypse, not literally fell off or broke) because his toe happened to be right there. What was that like being deprived of a kill not because of being taken down by that enemy but just because of dumb luck? What’s it like to lose out on such an important kill for your Titan and yourself?
ALEX: Obviously, it’s disappointing when a Titan that you love goes down, especially when it goes down as ingloriously as falling into an earthquake. We’re playing on a 12 x 8 table and the odds of it happening were quite remote, but it still happened. You just laugh it off, but what really stings is that I get maybe one chance a year at that Phantom and to know that I didn’t get it because he hid from me. He kept it in Reserves on the first turn and when it came out used Blind Barrages, we just never really engaged each other.
TOC: You can hear the strategist in you as you describe that situation. You’ve tried so hard to hem that Eldar Titan in with strategy and it has never paid off. At this point you have to feel like Captain Ahab now.
ALEX: Yes, and in a way I’m honored that he has such respect for what the Titan can do and the way I play it that he shows it such respect to stay away from it and not ever get shot at by it. But I had to say I wasn’t surprised because I had a Warlord Titan on my team and he was so afraid of both of them that he took mine out of the equation by not letting me shoot at it.
TOC: Would you say the Titans garner a certain amount of respect when somebody’s across the tables from them? That there’s not that ability to blow it off, but to know that those things can really do some damage, or do you still find guys that they just completely ignore the thought of “Hey, there’s a Titan sitting there with something that’s just gonna completely eat my face?”
ALEX: Well I don’t see too many guys who ignore Titans. You can’t. They will wipe you. Just for fun I’ve let other players borrow Execratus and I’ve played against it to see what it’s like. And I defeated it. It was very difficult. It killed my Night Lords Primarch; that was rough. I think that among the players who all have Titans, whenever Titans are on the table, it’s almost like we lose sight of everything else and it becomes a Titan game. Because once the enemy Titan goes down it’s just…the balance tips way too much and it’s game over.
TOC: Is it becoming more common to see them in normal games? Or do they still tend to stay in that Apocalypse-type field? That’s because Escalation and then following 7th Edition incorporating it naturally has really changed the way that the game behaves because a Lord of War can now be brought, and unlike 30k, you don’t have that 25 percent restriction.
ALEX: Correct. People joke that 7th Edition 40k is known as “Knighthammer” because everybody has a Knight. Most games will see me bringing the Knight to play. But as far as the Reaver goes, I did that, bringing it a little bit, bringing him out for a standard game and I played a guy who brought a Lord of Skull and some other nasty stuff, but it wasn’t competitive. It wasn’t fun. It was basically point, click, remove from play. Even with the watering down of the Destroyer rules, it’s still…like we always say, the only thing that balances a Titan is another Titan.
TOC: You ever read Titanicus by Dan Abnett?
ALEX: You know, that’s been a book that I’ve wanted to read, and it’s been a combination of it not being available when I want to buy it and the Horus Heresy series picking up and getting so good that I’m just busy reading those books.
TOC: You mentioned the Horus Heresy books. And I take it you’ve read a good bit of Titan action in those books. Does it ever feel like that on the tabletop when you get to play?
ALEX: Yes. I think that the last game we did, the Massacre where we had a Warhound, a Reaver, a Revenant, a Warlord, and a Phantom, all on the table at the same time, that’s what it felt like. It was a massive game of cat and mouse, with Titans.
TOC: Definitely a lot of cat and mouse going on. Especially because it sounds like your Moby Dick decided to hide from you with a cat and mouse style. I notice one thing that doesn’t adorn it that you typically see of Titans and you’re very proud of what it’s accomplished and not in a bad way, but as a warrior you take pride in what your Titan has done. I notice that there are no banners and no kill markings adorning it. Is that something that is going to happen later, or is it maybe a psychological tactic so they feel it hasn’t killed anything?
ALEX: Well, when I talked to my builder about a banner he said he was open to it, but I haven’t finalized my decision on how I want it to look. And as far as kill marking I guess I’m so hard to please that I haven’t finalized a style that looks good. So yeah, I try to keep track of what it’s done. It’s killed two Reavers, it’s killed a Warlord twice, it’s killed a couple of Warhounds, and an assortment of super-heavy tanks. I never decided how to show the markings on it.
TOC: What happens when you get that one big kill that you’re waiting on? What’s next to slay, to mount on the wall as a trophy? Especially because you’ve nailed the biggest kit out there so far.
ALEX: I’ll put it to you like this: Mount Everest is the biggest Mount there is to climb. And there are people who make their living out of climbing it again, and again, and again.
TOC: Execratus has apparently fallen into the core of a planet (the previously reference Massacre game and falling through the table) but knowing that there’s story to be found beyond that, I’m assuming we’re going to be seeing the return of Hyde Zarovich and Execratus at some point.
ALEX: Oh he’s not done.
TOC: So he’s definitely looking to get that one kill in particular that he was denied.
ALEX: He’s much too tenacious to let the center of a planet stop him.
TOC: Thank you very much for your time. It was a pleasure to get to see both your Knight and your Titan again, to find out a bit more about them and to take the opportunity to talk to you and to share this with the Titan Owners Club
ALEX: It was an honor, and thank you.