Friday, 11 March 2011

"If You Go Down To The Woods Today" - A Titan Tale

The postie has left a card saying there is a a parcel for me at the depot - here's hoping it's my copy of the Orc & Goblins Army book but I'll have an agonising wait until Saturday morning before I find out.

So, Dear Reader, instead of getting my initial views on the GW tome, I'm going to ramble about a time when Dragons roared, Colossus strode across the battlefield, Gargoyles screeched and the Nigel killed the Titan....

One of my favourite all time games - if not the favorite all time game is "Titan". Initially produced by Gorgonstar Publications (I have never seen a copy made by that Company but apparently they sell for a lot of gold on Ebay) the game was, when I first came across it, being produced by that other behemoth of the board games world of the 1970's and 80's, Avalon Hill.

Way back in my first post - "Early Beginnings", I had left the story of my initial forays into wargaming dangling at the time when I had left school behind and started my Law Degree at Dundee University. Soon I became a member of the "Dundee University Wargames and Role Playing Society" and suddenly I was in, what seemed to me, gaming heaven. I was playing D & D, Runequest, a wee bit of Traveller and miniature gaming was dominated by the WRG 6th Edition rules - I think I have the distinction of being one of the few players in the Country who lost a battle without scoring a single casualty on my opponent - curse the Irregular "C" Elephants. Anyway I digress.

In addition to all the wonderful games above the Club also has a library of Board Games - Circus Maximus, Judge Dredd, Divine Right, Cosmic Encounter to name a few, but the game that really caught the imagination was Titan.

The Board layout was, and as far as I am aware still is, totally unique

Each player took the role of the Titan, who with his initial band of fantastic creatures would attempt to stride across the board, attempting to recruit more creatures to his cause and eventually become the sole surviving Titan to win the game. Each space on the board was connected to the adjoining spaces by various symbols which would dictate the direction you could move your pieces around the board, thus immediately you were faced with a strategic problem of where you wanted to move to and keeping your forces together to provide protection for each other.

Of course, the problem was so was everyone else and as the main board got more and more crowded with pieces you inevitably had to go into combat ("stomp") with someone. The game was played blind, in that each player formed, with his creatures, a legion which was identified by a marker (or "lid" as we called them) which was then placed on top of the creatures who were themselves placed face down on the game board. So unless you had a very good memory and could keep track of what each player was recruiting into each of his legion (or if you "accidently" knocked an opponent's legion over and disclosed it's contents - which was immediately punishable under the rules by having one of your own stacks exposed to the table), the only way to find out what was in another player's legion was to stomp it. The contents of the enemy legion would then be revealed to the stomping player, and if it was decided to settle the matter by combat, the pieces were then moved onto the smaller battle boards - the Battlelands.

The pieces would be set up on the battle board depending on what type of terrain the "stomp" had taken place on in the main board and the slaying would commence until eventually one side would remain - victorious they would claim the spoils - a number of victory points equivalent to the points value of the defeated creatures - the losing player got nothing. And with the more victory points you accrued the stronger your Titan became, and as he was a playing piece just like all the other creatures a strong Titan was absolutely vital to be able to stay in the game.

I'm not sure how it started, (I usually get blamed for it), but as the guys at the club played the game more and more, it no longer became acceptable to use the terms used in the rule book and instead other words started to be used to describe the various creatures, events etc in the game.

The game could accommodate 6 players, each of who would have a Titan (pronounced "Tit-an"). There were 6 different colours of Legion ("stack") markers ("lids") which would correspond with the colour of the various Tit-ans

So you had - "The Blue Meanies", "The Green Machine", "The Red Menace", "The Bog Patrol", "Peuk Colour" and "The Black Hand Gang".

Each Tit-an had at the start of the game an accompanying Angel, which although not compulsory under the rules, it became an unwritten rule in our gaming group that it was extremely bad luck to use an Angel that was not the same colour as the Tit-an, unless that Angel's Tit-an had, itself been vanquished by you, in which case you had earned the right to use that colour of Angel. And, of course, the Angels weren't called Angels they were called "Angles".

The creatures that formed the Tit-an's stacks are many varied, so you had:-

"Olly the Ogre" - Ogres
"Clippity Clop" - Centaurs
"The Pink Poofters" - Rangers (very non-pc I know - apologies to any who may be offended)
"Leos" - Lions
"Wallocks" - Warlocks
"Tommy the Troll" - Trolls
"Bertie the Behemoth" - Behemoths
"Willie Warbear" - Warbears
"Gie-ants" - Giants
"Gruniads" - Guardians
"Harry Hydra" - Hydras
"Why Vern?" - Wyverns
"Sammy the Snake" - Serpents - "Sid the Serpent" was also an acceptable name (after the character from the Captain Beaky Song - how many of you remember that one???)

Some of the Creatures didn't have pseudonyms, instead, and I kid you not Dear Reader, their presence on the battlefield had to be announced by the appropriate noise.... So

Gargolyes - "Screech Screech Screech"
Griffons - "Squak Squak"
Minotaurs - "Moo Moo"
Gorgons- "Snort Bellow Bellow" (Berties could do that too)
Unicorns - "Neigh Neigh"
Dragons - "ROooooaarr"
Colossus - "Stomp Stomp"
Angle and ArchAngles - "Swoop Swoop"

Sammy the Snake also got to "Hiss Hiss" onto the battlefield

Tommy Troll would be introduced with his battle hymn - "I'm a Troll, I'm a Troll, I'm a big big Troll and I'm going to beat you up".

And then of course you had the Cyclops - who, and I don't know why it stuck, became forever known as the "Nigel"

This was a board game, but it soon became one of the noisest, role playing, dice fests you could take part in - because yes Dear Reader, there was dice, dice to roll for movement around the main board but more importantly dice to be rolled when determining if your creature had wounded his opponent in battle and of course, it wasn't enough to just "roll" the dice you had to ham it up with an exaggerated swinging of the arm before sending the cubes cascading down onto the table (and usually on to the floor but that was a recognised consequence of the routine). And if your creature slew his foe this would be celebrated with much chest beating and, of course, making much defamatory comments about the slain foe and his parentage, or lack of it.

So we come to the tale of the Nigel and the Tit-an.

I can't remember all of the protagonists that took part in the game but I recall that one of my stacks had just been maliciously and unjustifiably stomped in a woods space by, I think it was by a guy who was nicknamed "BTG" because he was a "Big Tall Guy", and in his stack was his Tit-an. I had a pile of crap in my stack, some gargoyles and a few Nigels and my Angle and due to the presence of the Angle I could not flee - which would have been the normal option for being stomped by a Tit-an's stack.

BTG leered in that "This is going to be a pushover" look and in the woods there was no real terrain advantage I could count on, so I would just have to stand and fight like a man and try and take as many of BTG's guys down with me before my inevitable demise - as surely it was destined to be. WRONG!!!!!

My Gargoyles SCREECHED! My Angle SWOOPED! And accompanied by some of the worst die rolling I had ever seen from BTG, even by my standards, my Nigel strode into combat with BTG's Tit-an, who was almost half dead but still had a high chance of dispatching the Nigel without being slain himself. WRONG!!!!! The Tit-an, who only need "2's" to wound the Nigel was an abject failure and my Nigel who needed a pile of "6's" to have a chance of killing the Tit-an duly dispatched the feeble Lord. The roars around the table at this epic feat of arms were deafening - BTG screaming this can't have happened, the other guys roaring their heads off and of course, my beating of the chest and launching into a totally, spontaneous victory song -

"If you go down to the woods today you'll never believe your eyes;
If you go down to the woods today you'll get a big surprise;
For Nigel the Cyclops is fighting there,
He'll stand on your thighs and pull out your hair;
'Cos today's the day the Nigel killed the Tiiiiitannnn!!!"

Ah happy days. Just wish I could roll dice like that nowadays.

With Avalon Hill's demise the game went out of production and my copy of Titan became very worn from it's continued play over the years, although it did start to loose a bit of it's appeal - maybe because as an elimanation game, it meant if you were knocked out early, you probably had a long wait before the game finished (some games used to go on for hours through the night) but also probably, though it pains me to say it, we all "grew up" and it wasn't the done thing to shout and holler so much while playing a game.

Copies of the game always sold well whenever they made an appearance on Ebay but then around 2005/2006 news started to circulate that the game was coming back, this time by a company called Valley Games and after much production delays the game did re-appear

The new version is beautifully produced and in respect of the game mechanics, totally faithful to the original game. All of the counters are sturdy with stunning artwork and the board and battleboards a joy to play on. And for those of us who had pre-ordered the game through Valley Games, there was a bonus expansion set consisting of 6 large resin Tit-an figures. Although these figures were the subject of much controversy as many customers who received the figures found them in bits due to the brittle nature of the resin used for the figures (I had a couple broken although I have been able to rebuild them with a few strategic placing of pins) they did raise the hope that perhaps similar expansions would be forthcoming, adding other creature models to the game, but so far nothing has materialised.

But to me the new game has lost a wee bit of the soul of the original game. In the original version, although the creature counters were all one colour pieces, e.g Gargoyles/ Gorgons were black, Leos and Dragons were red and so on, each counter had a unique piece of artwork on it and in a game with over 700 playing pieces in it that is some artistic achievement and a huge nod of approval to David A Trampier who did the original component artwork for the game. Whenever you recruited a creature to your stack you would try and look through the remaining pieces to see if your favourite guy was still there and it was almost a matter of national pride to make sure that you got the Colossus with the spiky helmet, first.

Still, it's nice to have the new version to play with and to be able to give my original copy a well earned rest and no Dear Reader, you won't be seeing it on Ebay.

There is still, I think, a java version of the game floating about in the internet, which although can't be played online, can, if you don't fancy taking on the AI, be played hot seat with another player, but Dear Reader, if you get the chance, have a go at the board game, and in the right company who knows maybe you too will be SCREECHING and SWOOPING to your hearts content......

P.S Acknowledgement must be given to Boardgamegeek for cribbing the above images (with the exception of the Cyclops image) from their web page. I do have both the Avalon Hill and Valley Games versions of the game, but it was a lot easier for me to use the images posted on BGG than getting my copies out to photograph

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! Great game. Check out the online version, called Colossus at: