Welcome to Titan Owners Club’s review of the Adeptus Titanicus rulebook. We’ll be briefly touching on the contents of the book and giving you any special snippets that we’ve found during our time with this deep and tactical game.
While it’s no Forge World black book for the Horus Heresy, the book is meant to last and look great. The cover art on both sides is absolutely gorgeous. Durability won’t be an issue as the book is hardback, meaning you can safely place it in your backpack and not worry about your covers being bent, and the spine will stand up to many years of use.
The book is also full-colour, providing several examples of Legio and Knight Household heraldry and images of battles in progress. When using a “pict capture” look, the images are in a blue-gray and black format, providing the player a sense of imagery being taken directly from the battlefields of the Horus Heresy. The imagery and pictures used in the book break up the text really well and keep reading the book from feeling like a slog.
The book is finished off with a velvet-sheened blue ribbon place marker. The length of it means that players will be able to use it to identify two pages for quick access, which will be quite useful with the amount of content in the book.
Poorly kept secret: this is Shadow's favorite piece of art in the book. It will be interesting to see what yours will be.
THE PREFACE AND THE LORE
The Preface covers an introduction to the book, as well as the history and lore of the Titan Legions and some of their greatest battles. Much of what is available in this section has already been covered in many Black Library or Forge World publications. We don’t get a lot of new information on other battles or in-depth looks at particular engagements or Legios. While this section doesn’t add much new lore, it neatly summarizes what is out there and can help players fill in the gaps if they haven’t read certain existing piece of literature.
The section starts with a “transmission” to the reader that details that the Tech Priests that compiled these notes are chronicling the coming of the war and their hand in it. The transmission briefly touches upon:
- The fall of the original human empire.
- How Terra and Mars were (somewhat) spared compared to the rest of humanity.
- The coming of the Emperor and the Great Crusade.
- The Titan Legions.
- The Death of Innocence.
- The Horus Heresy.
Then, additional information is given about the three primary Titan classes, such as crew, height, weight, and more. The first Titan engagement in history is also briefly touched upon, including the creation of the original three Titan Orders, the “Triad Ferrum Mogulus”. The section covers how additional Titan Orders are raised and eventually evolve to become their own distinct entities over time, becoming the Titan Legions that we know today.
Images like this are included for all three Titan classes currently in the game.
The section closes out by providing a timeline of the most notable engagements that occurred during the Age of Darkness, beginning with the Betrayal at Isstvan III and the Schism of Mars, and ending with Beta-Garmon, where the Titandeath campaign occurred.
The rules section begins with a brief description of what Adeptus Titanicus has to offer players beyond the hobby aspect. The game pays homage to the versions of Adeptus Titanicus that came before and references that some mechanics from older editions were used to inspire this newest edition. This will allow players with previous Adeptus Titanicus experience to transition into the newest edition more easily.
However, this rules book will not be the only source material as time goes on. It mentions potential upcoming expansions to the rules, models, and command terminals. A brief breakdown of the materials needed to play the game is provided, as well as a quick summary of the game’s phases.
Prior to the games main rules, basic concepts of the game (such as re-rolls, explaining the different dice, arcs, templates, and more) are explained. These basic concepts, as well as the rules that follow, are carefully explained and quite clear. A lot of thought has been given to the wording in this game and there is very little ambiguity. The game even includes additional callout boxes and blurbs that will clarify what to do should a unique situation occur that would cause potential rules contradictions.
The rules begin with the basic rules, which explain the main parts of each phase and how they are conducted. This section occasionally references other advanced rules that can apply and tells the player where to find them. Together the basic and advanced rules form the core rules of the game. Players are encouraged to use only the basic rules for their first few games, eventually adding the advanced rules to get the full experience.
One of the game’s major strengths will be a balance caused by the turn sequence. Rather than a player taking all of their actions in a phase, each player alternates activating a unit in each phase until all actions have been completed. This means that the game features many tactical decisions, giving the player a variety of decisions to make with very little down time in the game. Furthermore, players will also be able to take actions that could be dangerous but highly advantageous, such as pushing a Titan’s reactor for extra movement speed or turning capability.
One thing that was evident early on in the basic rules is that the Repair Phase may take the most thought since Titans live and die by their void shields and weaponry. This phase allows players to fix downed void shields, cool their reactors, or repair damaged weapons. However, dice luck will be important, and these (limited) dice are spent in a manner more akin to Warhammer Quest than simply attempting an action and rolling a die. For players who haven’t played Warhammer Quest, this system will require acclimation.
In particular, the Combat Phase is very detailed. While it seems overwhelming at first, it’s very well defined and adds a lot of realism to the game. Players will need to consider where they are taking fire from, where they will be firing at, and the order in which they will use their weapons. It’s not a game that will reward a “Shoot first, ask questions never” mentality. It will also lead to players needing to consider not just which weapons fire first on a Titan, but which Titans fire first since some will be more effective at cracking shields than others, while others are designed to deliver punishing death blows.
The advanced rules add upon the basic rules by implementing stratagems (tricks and ploys), orders for individual Titans, and terrain types. These rules also add additional effects on Titan plasma reactors, awakened Machine Spirits, Titan squadrons, and Knight support. The addition of Knight support is covered in a separate review.
The advanced rules, while somewhat small in comparative size to the base rules, also add major changes to the gaming experience. These rules add more variability to Titanicus and increase the tactical depth and risk/reward factors of the game. However, while these rules are listed as advanced, they feel like they could have been thrown in from the start.
The final section of the rules are the optional rules, which fit on a single page. These rules cover the ability to overload void shields willingly, destroying terrain, stray shots, and power transfer from one area of the Titan to another. Unlike the advanced rule, which are eventually added to regular games, the optional rules are, as their name says, optional at all times. Some of these changes are cinematic, while others provide tactical options. It would certainly be nice to see the optional rules expanded at a later stage.
PREPARING FOR WAR
Following the rules is a section on assembling your force for play. A player’s overall force is called the battlegroup, but this is comprised of a maniple, solo Titans in support, and Knight Banners. The section then goes on to describe the three different play modes in Adeptus Titanicus. People who have played Warhammer 40,000 8th edition or Warhammer: Age of Sigmar will be familiar with the three play modes. Open Play allows players to build their battlegroup however they wish, with no restrictions. Narrative and Matched Play require at least one maniple type to be in the force. These play modes also make use of the points and Battle Rating system in the game. Narrative Play is all about reliving the greatest stories from the Horus Heresy Titan battles. Matched Play is about a balanced fight where skill-at-arms is most important.
This section also adds a short bit of lore about the composition of a maniple and its “law” within the Libraxus Titanica. While the book comes with three starting maniples, it mentions that future expansions will bring new maniple options. Each maniple type gains its own trait, which gives it special rules and bonuses; effectively the old formations of 40k. Battlegroups may contain any number of additional support Titans after it has met its maniple requirements. However, these support Titans do not gain any maniple bonuses and cannot join any squadrons.
The battlegroup’s maniple contains the Princeps Seniores, who serves as the force’s linchpin and is equivalent to the 40k Warlord, even getting a personal trait and bonuses. Their Titan receives +2 to Command checks and also gain personal trait. These traits are contained in a table and include things like the ability to automatically become the First Player for a turn, adjusting a single Repair roll die, or ignoring Catastrophic Damage on a roll.
The maniple types presented in the rule book will provide players with a few options on list building and should suit almost all play styles be they hard-hitting bruisers or nimble harassers. The first maniple is the Axiom Battleline Maniple which is the most balanced of the forces and offers a trait that ensures that a bad Command roll will not stop the rest from being able to receive their own commands. The Myrmidon Battleline Maniple focuses strictly on the Battle Titans and provides a trait that enhances the likelihood of issuing the First Fire and Split Fire orders. The final maniple is the Venator Light Maniple, which sees a Reaver leading multiple Warhounds into the fray. This maniple’s trait allows for opportunistic shots for the Reaver when the Warhounds collapse enemy shields.
MISSIONS AND BONUS ITEMS
The remainder of the book is dedicated to stratagems, missions, and rules for two Titan Legions. The section also includes a quick blurb that lets players know that designing their own missions is not only possible, but something that is encouraged for those that wish to. Games will usually be fought on a 4’ by 4’ area for the sake of space availability. However, some missions play on the classic 6’ by 4’ of most Games Workshop products.
This section also includes stratagems, which represent tactics, tricks, and ploys used by a Princeps Seniores in battle. Each mission will dictate how many Stratagem points a player has to spend. Open Play allows players to decide whether to use Stratagem points and how many. Stratagems are also used in Matched Play to balance out differences in Battle Rating. Another form of Strategems is Battlefield Assets, which provide in-game bonuses when using their models.
Of course, this section provides the missions for each mode of play. The Narrative Play missions definitely echo the stories that have been produced over the years, with two favorites of TOC staff members among them: The last defense of the Magma City (Mechanicum) and The wreck of the Arutan (Honour to the Dead).
Finally, rules are available for Legio Gryphonicus and Legio Tempestus. These rules contain Legion Traits, specific wargear, and Personal Traits for the Princeps Seniores. Players gain additional Strategem points when using a set of Legion rules. Additional Titan Legions and Knight Household rules will be added in future supplements.
There are only two things to knock about the rule book for Adeptus Titanicus: the lore and the advanced rules. The lore that’s been included in the book is good and it will catch players up on pieces that they are missing. However, it’s short and very little of it is new. With that said, there are plenty of juicy tidbits in there, and some of the callout boxes and blurbs in the book help to bring character to the Titan Legions.
In regards to knocking the advanced rules, it’s not because they are bad. Rather, the advanced rules add so much depth, character, and tactical choice to the game that they should be part of the game from the very beginning instead of a bolt-on to the basic rules. The optional rules of the game, which can be expanded later, would serve as great advanced rules afterwards.
While Adeptus Titanicus only seems to have two (minor) faults, it has so many great things about it. The game is deep and will require good generalship on the battlefield. It will be full of difficult choices and players will have a deep tactical toolbox to draw from. The rules are very well explained and there is very little ambiguity to anything in the book. Gameplay will be cinematic in its own right and will require players to be both proactive and reactive. The objectives system of Adeptus Titanicus in Matched Play will also ensure that no two Matched Play games are ever the same, while the Narrative Play missions will provide the lovers of Black Library and Forge World books many a great recreation of their favorite stories.