Warlord Wednesdays: Risk Management in Adeptus Titanicus

Welcome back to Goonhammer’s series for aspiring Titan Princeps. We here at Goonhammer’s own Collegia Titanica know that Adeptus Titanicus can seem intimidating to players unfamiliar with its particular quirks, but this series aims to equip you with everything you’ll need to play out epic clashes on the battlefields of the far future with your very own Titan Battlegroup. In this series, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the various Legios of the Collegia Titanica – exploring their origins and how to use them on the tabletop, from maniple selection and their loadouts, through to how to command them on the field of battle to secure ultimate victory.

Today, we’re here to talk about how to manage some of the riskier elements of Titanicus: the reactor track and the orders step. Both of these aspects have a huge impact on how the game plays, but there’s a lot of nuance to each of them. Don’t worry, though: we’re here to walk you through those various considerations and help you keep those risks manageable so you’ve got the best chance of winning.

To Push Or Not To Push

Your Titans’ plasma reactors are phenomenally powerful, putting out enough energy to power some truly destructive weaponry. However, any Princeps worth their salt knows that anything their engine can do, their opponent’s can as well. In order to get a leg up, then, savvy Titan crews will push their engine’s reactor past its normal operating limits to be able to move faster, hit harder, and bolster their defences in a pinch.

In game terms, this is represented by pushing your reactor. Every Titan has three options to spend their heat on baked into the rules: Power to Locomotors, Power to Stabilizers, and Voids to Full; various weapons, wargear, and legion rules will give you additional options to spend that heat even further though. Any time you’re required to push your reactor, you’ll roll the reactor die and take heat depending on your roll: 2/3 of the time it’s 1 heat, and there’s a 1-in-6 chance each of taking 2 or 0 heat. Put another way, you’ll take an average of 1 heat every time you push your reactor. However one of those times you’re taking 1 heat you also have the chance to awaken the machine spirit, but more on that later.

The primary consideration when you decide to push your reactor is how much space you have left on the track. As an initial consideration, if your Titan is redlining, it’s just not allowed to push, making the decision a bit easier (at the cost of potentially causing your Titan to just explode in the damage control phase because you’re already in red). But if you’ve got space left, it’s important to keep in mind how much. If rolling a double would cause your reactor track to move into the orange, you may want to think twice before rolling. Later in the game, the need to get extra speed or firepower may well outweigh the possibility of losing voids or taking damage to the body, but especially in the first few turns you’ll want to think long and hard before you risk rolling on the Reactor Overload table. Also note that while you’re not able to push the reactor while the reactor track is red, you are allowed to fire Maximal Fire weapons, since these advance the reactor track instead, just remember that each point of heat you take once you’re in red is a S9 hit to your body which will stack up pretty quickly.

Another consideration is the size of the Titan. Larger Titans have several things going for them in this arena: not only are their reactor tracks longer, allowing them to push more times before even having to worry about overheating, their Body track is also more heavily armoured and they have more servitor clades, which helps to mitigate the consequences of overheating.

The flip side of this is that the benefits of pushing can be huge. Pushing for speed or turns allows otherwise-lumbering Titans to move across the board and line up shots in ways that you just can’t otherwise. Similarly, Voids to Full gives a significant increase to survivability, especially when your Titan is still working with a 3+ void save. And a long-distance charge at the right moment can take out one of your opponent’s key pieces, potentially prying victory from the jaws of defeat.

Taking all of this into consideration creates some interesting distinctions between the various Titans. Warhounds tend to be more consistent, having decent speed and weapons, but risking overheating every time they push their reactors. On the other end of the spectrum, the enormous Warmaster can push its reactor more or less with impunity, thanks not only to its impressive reactor track, but to its 6 servitor clades, which allow it to vent multiple heat per turn reliably.

Legio Ignatum Warmaster Titan. Credit – Soggy

As a general rule, you’ll want to keep one or two heat to play with in the first few turns so that you can push for Voids to Full while you’ve still got full voids across your battlegroup – being able to re-roll 1s is much better with the 3+ save than with the 4+. This is compounded by Titans with weapons that have the Draining or Maximal Fire traits – the additional heat you’ll incur from using these weapons can put you in a tough spot, so avoid overusing them. As an example, firing a volcano cannon into voids might result in another save or two, but you have to balance that against the extra heat you’ll pick up from using it. As a result, if you’re not going to knock voids offline and open up a shot for another weapon (or another Titan), it’s often wiser not to take the heat and instead wait for a better shot. You also won’t want to be using Maximal Fire to gain extra strength on a gun firing into voids, as this does nothing for you except potentially cause some heat to be added to your track.

So what does this mean for the player who wants to know when to push? For Warhounds, it means you should only push your reactor when it’s absolutely necessary, since a single double rolled on the reactor dice will put you into the orange. That means that every time you push could result in losing voids or taking a ton of damage to your already vulnerable body. For Warlords, you can afford to push more aggressively, so long as you don’t put yourself into redline. Reavers are in a bit of an odd spot – they can afford to push once or twice from the start of the game, but if they’re not able to vent they can very quickly find themselves without any room to play with.

Bair: As a lover of Reavers I want to also note that the Reaver reactor track is only one pip shorter than the Warbringer and Warlord’s but the pip that’s missing is one less orange, making it safer to push into yellow, but once you’re there it’s easier to get into red. Which is not wonderful. 

Of course, there are times where you need to take the risk. However, if you want to have the reactor space to be able to take advantage of them later in the game, you’re going to need to be judicious with how you push in the early game. Think of it like this: every time you push your reactor in the first two turns of the game is a push you can’t take without risk – or at all – when you’re going to need it later in the game. In other words, pushing your reactor is mortgaging your Titan’s potential future performance in order to get results right now. And while you’ve got the means to recover those opportunities in the Damage Control phase, it’s not guaranteed, and venting heat often competes with more critical issues like recovering void shields and repairing critical damage. Every time you forgo pushing in the first two rounds is a potential 5 or 6 on a repair die that you can put toward keeping your Titan alive.

Soggy: Whilst it does involve risk, your reactor track is a resource like any other. If you aren’t using it, you are giving your opponent an advantage.

Orders Received

Another important step from a risk management perspective will come in the Strategy Phase – Orders. In order to issue an order, your Titan has to pass a Command check. Seems pretty straightforward, but there’s a catch: if you fail a Command check, you can no longer issue any orders during this Strategy Phase. And since orders can be very powerful in the right situation, it’s important to consider not only what orders you might want to issue, but also the sequence in which you want to attempt to issue them.

As a general rule, the closer you want to be to your opponent, the more reliant on orders you are. Ranged armies can get extra firepower out of the First Fire order, but more often than not you’ll find yourself having to reposition in order to bring your weapons to bear on a canny opponent’s forces, limiting the number of times you can afford to go on First Fire. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for a melee-focused Titan to receive orders every turn, whether it’s Full Stride to get across the table, Emergency Repairs to keep voids up in the midfield, or Charge orders to get stuck in when you finally close the gap, doing damage on the way in.

Orders are optional, and that’s important to keep in mind: you won’t always want to issue one to every Titan. While the benefits they confer can be huge in the right situation, issuing the wrong order at the wrong time can be a game-losing event. To that end,  often times you just don’t want to issue and order. Think about your plan for the turn – if you want a Titan to move, turn, and shoot, then you don’t want to issue it any orders. If you find that you don’t want to do all of those things, then choose the order that suits you best.

Legio Venator Reaver | Credit: Garrett “John Condit” Severson

Another consideration is the order in which you issue orders. Since failing a command check to issue an order ends your Strategy Phase, you want to issue them in a sequence that won’t leave you unable to continue issuing them down the road. To that end, you’ll want to start with the orders that have the highest chance of success – usually orders issued to your Princeps Seniores or that match your maniple’s trait bonus. Then, work your way from the best Command value to the worst, which usually means you’ll start with the largest Titan and work your way down from there.

There are a couple of exceptions here. First, if you’re running an Axiom maniple, the sequence in which you issue orders really doesn’t matter so long as you start by issuing them to Titans that are in the maniple. The other consideration is if you have one order that is crucial to your plan, but also have a few orders that, while they’d be nice, aren’t that important. For instance, if your chainfist Reaver is within charge distance of a key target, but you also sort of want to put your Warlord on First Fire to get an extra shot off with its volcano cannon, it might be worth going for the Charge order first even though it’s less likely to succeed, since if you roll the First Fire and fail it then you’ll lose the order you really wanted. This sort of situation can be hard to recognize at first, but the more you play the more likely you’ll be able to spot it when it comes up.

Several stratagems can have a huge impact on the orders phase, particularly if you’re playing with melee Titans. Some of these will allow you to automatically pass certain types of order such as Only Forwards, otherwise they can give significant bonuses such as the +2 to charge from War Lust. Lastly we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the only get-out-of-jail-free card – Iron Resolve, which is played after a failed order and instead automatically passes it.

Fortune Favours the Bold

While risk management isn’t quite as obvious in Titanicus as it is in games like Blood Bowl, it’s still an important skill to learn, and can often be the difference between victory and defeat. Solid reactor management and knowing how to manage the Orders step are two skills that can go a long way toward improving your play. And while there’s not a “one-size-fits-all” answer for how to manage these risks, keeping the various factors and decision points we’ve outlined here in mind will go a long way towards helping you get the most out of your game.