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July 14, 2003

Favorite Games XIX

A couple of oldies-but-goodies in the favorites today...

Titan is a board game classic. Players serve as commanders of armies of powerful monsters, lead by a Titan. The armies form "legions" of from 1 to 7 creatures, traveling the world (a hexagonal board with inflexible directional icons limiting movement to certain routes), trying to land on terrain where they can recruit even more monsters to their side. Then the legions do battle, until only one Titan remains. The concept is simple, and most of the rules are fairly straightforward as well (complex by European game standards, but relatively simple for an 80s war game). The game is significantly random, but rewards careful play significantly, so a skilled player (which essentially means someone who plans to keep their recruitment options ever-expanding) is much more likely to win in the end. This game ate up many an hour in my college days. It has flaws, mostly because early movement on the crowded board can bring two unprepared Titans into battle, and once your Titan is defeated, you're out of the game. Typical games have one or two players eliminated very early, then the remainder playing it out indefinitely (games frequently last hours). Individual battles are also a bit long to resolve, since only the players involved really have anything to do. But, despite this, Titan is a great fun game.

The game is out of print, but a dedicated fan base has given us Colossus, a fully implemented Java version, complete with several sets of optional rules and extensions beyond the already-great basic game. The AI is capable, multiplayer by internet is supported... but it's very slow on Macs. Still, better computer Titan than no Titan at all!

Nuclear War is a card game in poor taste and perhaps less funny now that the Mutually Assured Destruction days of the Cold War are behind us, but still great fun to play. Players are dealt populations to defend and cards (mostly warheads and launchers, but also Propaganda and special purpose "Secrets" and "Top Secrets") with which to do battle. War is to the death, and it isn't uncommon that no one wins in the end, as an eliminated player gets one last chance to use every warhead they have in a final strike, not to mention that the largest warhead can destroy the world as a random side-effect. The game is played with a clever pre-planning requirement, where cards are placed face-down two turns in advance. This mean you need to think ahead, because the card you plan now doesn't take effect for two turns, and the game could be very different by then. Propaganda cards steal population, but stop working if war begins. Launchers can carry warheads, but only up to a certain size. Warheads kill both a base amount and additional from a spinner (and, after later expansion sets, a die as well). Interceptors can be used to block incoming warheads and to swipe the initiative (skip any players between the attacker and you and make it your turn). Expansions sets Nuclear Escalation and Nuclear Proliferation add newer weapon technology (the original game was published in 1965, the expansion in 1983 and 1992, so fun like space-based launchers, stealth bombers and cruise missiles are hiding in the expansions), more weird Secrets, and even "countries" with special powers (unfortunately, not perfectly balanced against one another). The game is goofy and random, but a very fun kill-your-friends passtime. Anyone who pronounces it "new-cue-ler" is my first target...

An only somewhat loyal computer version was available briefly, as was a series of randomly-packaged expansion cards to try (unsuccessfully) to play on the early Collectable Card Games craze.

Not all of this series is currently available, but you can find most of it here, at the publisher's web site. There's even a couple of "bonus packs" available there, adding more cards, countries, and a set of rules and pieces necessary to combine Nuclear War and the train game India Rails in order to play out a conflict between the world's two newest declared nuclear powers (and if that isn't in poor taste, I'm not sure what is).

Posted by ghoul at July 14, 2003 06:22 AM

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Ahh, Nuclear War and its off-spring. We played this one to death (sic). I love the combination of NW and India Rails -- that's genius.

Posted by: Scott at July 14, 2003 07:24 AM

I played the computer version of the game. You are right, Jack, the humor level of the idea has dropped precipitously since the days of the Cold War.

Posted by: Paul at July 14, 2003 08:39 AM

ah yes, Nuclear War... my FTF D&D game night's universal fall back when too many people, or key people (e.g. the GM,) bail.

Posted by: Mike Jacobs at July 14, 2003 01:14 PM

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