Condit: Last week, we talked about Titan-Scale Melee, which is absolutely my favorite part of the game and probably what I’m most notorious for here at the Goonhammer Offices. And while melee-focused strategies can certainly change how the game is played, it’s not the only trick you can use to catch your opponent unawares.
This week, we’re exploring another game-warping strategy in my co-author “Two-Activation” Bair’s signature tactic: Titan Squadrons. As with melee weapons, running squadrons is not without risk. However, there’s a lot of nuance here that’s worth diving into, not only in how to play a squadron once you’ve taken it, but in deciding whether it even makes sense to deploy as a squadron in the first place.
With any luck, we’ll be able to help you make some sense out of the squadron rules so you can apply them in your own games – whether it’s something as simple as bringing a pair of plasma/bolter Warhounds, or as complex as playing the Lupercal Light Maniple’s activation shell game, effective squadron play can make the difference between victory and defeat.
Bair: I think it’s important to state here early as well that Titanicus is a game won in the movement phase. It doesn’t matter how strong of an attack you have is if it’s out of arc or out of line of sight, getting your engines lined up to make those attacks as well as be in a position to win the objective of the game is key.
How to Squadron
Running a squadron is simple: take the appropriate Titans and deploy them all at the same time in a Squadron. For the rest of the game, they’ll activate at the same time in the order of your choice. That order can change round to round, or even phase to phase if you want, but they will activate together as a single activation meaning you’re moving and attacking with more engines before your opponent does.
- Coordinated Strikes: This is the main attraction here: choose a target for your squadron to focus fire on and get a flat +1 to all armour rolls against that target. This is great, making turbo-lasers and plasma blastguns into solid party-starters and giving you the equivalent of strength 5 megabolters to put the killing blow in. This turns a pair of Warhounds from a frustrating but usually manageable threat into something downright terrifying.
- Condit: It’s a relatively minor point, but if your squadron contains three or more Titans, you only have to commit two of them to the Coordinated Strike – the third can either join in as well or fire on its own initiative. However, you will need to make this decision before firing with any of the Titans in the squadron.
- Bair: Something that’s easily missed is how useful this can be while on split fire orders too, only one weapon needs to be part of a Coordinated Strike to be able to give the bonus, which means if the target of the Coordinated Strike dies before all the attacks have been made you’ll still have a weapon (or more) left to be able to attack other units.
- Front-loaded Combat Activations: The more squadroned Titans you have, the more you can activate earlier in the Combat phase. Being able to fire multiple Titans at once dramatically increases the chances that you’ll be able to take out a Titan before it can activate, potentially either removing an activation or forcing them to activate in a suboptimal order in order to ensure it’ll be able to shoot.
- Bair: I cannot stress enough how important it is to take out enemy activations as early as possible when playing with squadroned titans, wiping out those Knight support banners early will help your movement game in following turns dramatically.
- Squadron Orders: While Warhounds are great at a lot of things, their 5+ Command value leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately, squadroned Titans can take a Squadron Order, which lets you issue the same order to as many Titans in the squadron as you want with a single roll, and even adds a +1 to your roll for each Titan you issue the order to beyond the first meaning that 2 Warhounds taking the same order need to roll it once on a 4+ or 3 Warhounds taking the same order on a 3+.
- Merging Voids: On the defensive side of things, Titans in a squadron can merge their void shields to combine their resources against attacks. The key thing to keep in mind here is that you can choose to merge voids even if one of the involved Titans’ voids are collapsed. This lets you squeeze a surprising amount of durability out of a pair of Warhounds against high-damage low-shot-count attacks like melta cannons and volcano cannons. Just be careful with when you do this, since you declare that you’re merging when one of the titans in the squadron is chosen as the target of an enemy titan’s activation and must continue in that state (merging or not) until the end that enemy titan’s activation.
- Bair: This is, in my opinion, what makes squadroning Titans so powerful, having double or triple the number of voids need to go down and staying on a 3+ even longer just makes them survive so much longer as well as having more reactor space to keep pushing for Voids to Full!
- Merging Voids: Unfortunately, this isn’t without risks – once you merge against an attack, you’re locked in and have to take every point of damage to voids you fail to save. This means that a pair of Warhounds that gets targeted by a Vulcan megabolter array and fails 6 saves will wind up collapsing voids on both of them. Avoid merging voids against high-shot-count weapons unless you don’t have any other choice. Also, merging voids is great until you get charged. It doesn’t matter how many void shields you have when you have a chainfist in your face.
- Condit: This downside is mitigated if you’ve got a way to shove a larger Titan into a squadron somehow – cracking voids on a pair of Warlords with Twinned Machine Spirits is damn near impossible.
- Fewer Movement Activations: Every Titan you add to a Squadron reduces your activation count by one, forcing you to move more of your Titans earlier in the round. Movement is probably the most important skill in Titanicus, and having fewer activations makes it even more difficult to get right, since you’ll have to outmanoeuvre your opponent without knowing where they’re going to be. It’s not an insurmountable difficulty, but it is one you’ll have to work around if you want to win.
- Condit: If I’m honest, this is where Bair wins his games. His manoeuvring and movement is pristine, even when he’s playing down 3 or 4 activations against his opponent.
- Bair: And holy shit it’s a high learning curve. I cannot recommend this to a new player. I do literally build my Vulcanum lists to have as few activations as possible to just destroy in the combat phase, but this does make my play time quite short and movement very difficult at times.
- Crowded Deployments: Squadrons do best when they’re near one another. Not only can they merge voids to shrug off incoming melta and volcano cannon fire, Coordinated Strikes don’t work unless at least two of your Titans fire at the same target, which is easier if they’re more or less in the same area of the board. Expect lots of Blast weapons, and don’t be surprised if you see Quake Shells or other stratagems that are strong against Titans in close quarters.
- Soggy: If a member of the squadron does die, often their catastrophic damage result will grievously wound their squad mate which leads to massive swings of power.
- Fewer Deployments: As with the Movement phase, putting Titans in squadrons decreases the number of deployments you get, potentially giving your opponent more information about where you’re deploying things. Fortunately, you don’t have to declare squadrons until the start of deployment, so you can play with this from game to game. Just keep it in mind when you choose to run a squadron.
Building a Squadron
For your first few games, squadron composition will probably be pretty simple: 2-3 Warhounds acting together using the ability on their terminals. We recommend starting with squadrons of 2, with any odd Titans out deploying on their own outside of a squadron. This will keep your activation count up, making movement more forgiving as you’re getting the hang of things.
Once you’ve got a few games under your belt, you can start to get creative with it. There are a lot of options you can use to play around with the Squadroning rules. Here are a few examples:
- The Lupercal Light Maniple consists of 3-5 Warhounds, any number of which can be in the same squadron. The trick here is that you choose what Titans are in what squadron at the top of each round, letting you make some really obnoxious plays. Deploy each Titan individually, then run them either as singletons or in small squadrons for the first round or two of the game for more activations in the movement phase. Then, when you have the opportunity for a powerful alpha strike, put them all in the same squadron and wipe your target off the map. That last bit is made easier by the maniple’s second bonus: an additional +1 to armor rolls from Coordinated Strikes, for a total of +2. Nasty.
- Bair: Soggy is a fan of this maniple while playing Fureans, Hunting Auspex to take off the -1 to hit of blastguns at long range, as well as being able to move -2 down to -1 to hit when making targeted attacks for finishing shots is extremely effective when you have plasma hitting at S12 and mega bolters at S6.
- Soggy: What really makes the Lupercal shine is that you get both worlds, with activation superiority as you get into position and then collapsing into a single squadron for a devastating alpha strike – particularly nasty when combined with Dominant Strategist.
- We don’t call him “Two-Activation” Bair for nothing – it’s due to his innovative Legio Vulcanum lists making use of Twinned Machine Spirits to pair together large-scale Titans to devastating effect. A pair of squadroned Reavers or Warlords can soak up a staggering amount of fire, then respond with a counter-volley that most other legios can only dream of. It’s not without its risks – if you awaken the machine spirit on one of the twinned Titans, then they both awaken which doubles your chances of moving out of shield sharing formation – but it’s a unique approach to the game that frequently catches people off guard.
- Bair: Some favourite examples here include the Extergimus with 3 Warlords and a support Reaver, with 2 of the Warlords paired and the Reaver paired with a Warlord; while Condit’s favourite (read: least favourite) to play against is the full Regia with a squadron of 3 Warhounds and the Warlords paired together so that literally everything can share shields together and then go in with coordinated strikes.
- Legio Venator have a similar rule that allows you to choose any two Titans from the same maniple to form a squadron that only lasts for a round, then do it again at the top of the next round. This is useful for striking some devastating coordinated strikes and to help get orders off a little easier, but suffers from not allowing you to share voids, a useful trick that only gets better when you can squadron larger Titans together on the fly. However, they can run a Fortis maniple to allow the Titans to merge shields anyways, making for a very hardy maniple that can put out some terrifying damage in a pinch.
All of this raises an important question: when should you deploy in a squadron? Some of the weirder tricks out there (such as Vulcanum’s gimmicks) force you to make the decision during list building, but most squadrons are chosen on the day right before deployment begins. That means you’ll already know what your opponent is bringing and what the mission will look like before you make that decision, so be sure to factor that into your decision making. As a general rule, the larger the scale of your opponent’s Titans, the more Titans you should consider putting into a squadron – Warhounds are great in the flank, but they’re even better when they’re packing another +1 to armour saves. On the other hand, if your opponent is bringing a bunch of Warhounds and Reavers, consider running more of your Titans outside of a squadron to keep your activation number competitive.
One exception to this “rule” is when you’re playing against Knight Households – they have a deceptively low activation count and their ion shields lose effectiveness the stronger the incoming attack is. This means that you can actually get a surprising amount of mileage out of coordinated strikes into Household lists while still credibly threatening to hold the activation advantage.
Playing Against Squadrons
If your opponent is bringing one or more squadrons then you’re probably already winning the activation game if you don’t have any yourself putting you on a good front foot for movement. Try and press this advantage further by picking off any vulnerable activations like Knight Banners, and move your units that are on flanks first so that you can take advantage of your additional activations to step out of your opponent’s line of fire.
As always in Titanicus, target selection is vital for success. When it does come time to take down a squadron of titans who are sharing voids, you’re going to need to focus them down even more than normal, so be prepared to commit several engines to get the job done. When it comes to choosing which one of the pair to shoot at, always try to remove voids from the squadron as a whole, to avoid dumping low-strength shots into armour rather than voids. For example, if you drop shields on one Warhound that’s in base to base with another from the same squadron, it can be tempting to just drop a melta cannon on them. However, more often than not you’ll find that they’re just taking 3 shield saves from a hit instead of structure damage. If you instead go in against the same Titan with a Vulcan megabolter and it hasn’t taken any damage, then expect the shields to not be shared as each and every one of your strength 4 megabolter shots plinks harmlessly off of your target’s armour. Focusing down voids first obviates both of these issues, and makes it much harder for your opponent to keep Warhounds up, especially with how hard it is to relight their voids with only 2 servitor clades.
If your opponent is using squadrons it is likely that they will operate close together to make use of sharing voids, making blast template blast templates stratagems shine early on by forcing multiple void shields saves, or doing some damage before they can be reignited. Quake Shells especially has the potential to cause even more damage by scattering whatever Titan it hits (even if it had voids up) D6” which can mess up movement plans, or cause collisions to start dealing some early damage.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Squadrons are one of the more difficult aspects of Titanicus to really wrap your head around, but once you’ve got a solid working knowledge of their rules you can build some absolutely wild lists. If you want to take advantage of these powerful effects, though, you’ll need to have strong mastery of the game systems to compensate for the lack of activations. It’s worth the effort, though – squadroned Titans can be utterly terrifying in the right hands, and they lend themselves to a unique playstyle that your opponents won’t see coming.