Titanic - der Mythos
Your Price: $8.95
(Worth 895 Funagain Points!)
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On April 10, 1912, the Titanic, then the world's biggest passenger ship, embarks on her maiden voyage. Her journey lies across the Atlantic from Southampton, England, to New York. AT 00:45 hours, the first lifeboat is lowered into the water. Women and children go first...
Round by round the Titanic gradually goes down -- bit by bit. Using the deployed lifeboats, the players try to win as many points as possible. But beware! Should boats be overcrowded, there are minus points to be collected.
A light game on a heavy subject. With the astonishing successful film creating demand for all things Titanic how can Adlung Spiele lose? On the other hand a game based on such a tragic disaster, albeit 87 years ago, must have caused them some deliberation. Can you put aside the fact behind the theme of a game and play it accepting that it is just that, a game? Normally I would say yes. After all I have played historical wargames where entire units are wiped out and not given it a second thought (except to curse my dice rolling luck). With this game though it was somewhat different.
This stems I believe from the rules themselves. Throughout the rules book there are sections of fact on events during the sinking, and rules to give some measure of their effects. This then made me reflect more carefully on the theme, and lost passengers gained more significance than mere points. If these details hadn't been included, or incorporated into the mechanics so directly, then I don't believe my reservations would have arisen. That aside it is the game play that will really decide whether or not Titanic: der Mythos will see repeated play.
Admirably the rule book comes in not only German as standard but also in English and French. The writing of the rules is only fair, however, and a simple game is made to seem more complicated by awkward layout. Also disappointing is the Iceberg card. Unless I have midread the rules (including several re-reads to check) it actually serves no useful purpose in the game beyond determining who keeps score. On the plus side the ship layout is simple and effective. The bow and stern cards are set, but the 6 central ship elements are shuffled and laid between them. The artwork is also cleverly designed so that any combination works. The lifeboat cards are then also shuffled and laid out so as to assign one to each ship section other than the front bow. These lifeboats are rated by class of passenger 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Each player has 9 passenger cards in their colour and rated 1-9.
In the first round each player secretly chooses one of their passenger cards to discard and all are simultaneously revealed. Whoever has thrown out the lowest value card loses 6 points (3 each in a tie). This round represents the calm before the storm as the Titanic begins to sink, but no attempt to reach the lifeboats has yet begun. Obviously there is supposed to be some tension between wanting to keep the higher valued cards to score more points with later and avoiding the penalty. This fails because the higher numbered cards will almost certainly not score significantly, for reasons discussed later, and thus are no real loss.
All remaining rounds follow the same pattern. Each player chooses one of their remaining passenger cards and all are simultaneously revealed. If the total value of all these cards is over a defined limit, then the lifeboat for this round is overloaded and sinks, scoring minus points equal to the value of the player's own passenger card. If the total is equal to, or less than, this set amount, then each player scores their passenger card value multiplied by the class of the lifeboat. The fact that lower class lifeboats are therefore inherently more valuable is strange but perhaps represents the difficulty lower class passengers had in reaching the boats at all. In practice this means that lower class boats are overfilled and sink as it would be madness to lay a low passenger card and allow others to score much higher values on a multiplier. Thus the higher cards are played on these lifeboats to either ensure a sinking, and loss for all, or to score enough to ensure victory should others be inept enough to let you get way with it. This leads to the devaluing of these high cards and thus my earlier statement.
After each round the card representing that section of ship is turned over to reveal its sunken reverse face. This leads to another clever feature, although again a bit dubious in terms of taste. Apparently during the disaster one of the liner's four main funnels broke off adding to the chaos. To represent this occurrence one of the funnel ship section cards shows, on its reverse side, the funnel crashing into the water. Any lifeboat during this round is crushed and regardless of its previous status scores minus points equal to passenger card multiplied by lifeboat class. This does add tension as the funnel sections get turned over but also increases the luck element.
The game ends when the stern card is turned over and the Titanic has sunk. The highest total score wins. Trying to anticipate your opponents next plays is enjoyable, but ultimately futile as you will not let them score well on a lower class lifeboat just to ensure a lesser score for yourself. The tactics are pretty obvious after the first couple of rounds. I find myself wondering what group this game was aimed at. Adlung Spiele say 10+ on the box and I can see why. The game is too disturbmg in its theme for young children and families. There is, however, not enough gameplay for anyone else and thus it fails to fit any obvious market.
This is not a bad game, and if the theme had been different I could have recommended it as a light filler. As it is it doesn't find a place on my play list.
SWD: Several people commented on Greg Aleknevicus' article on disturbing themes, although the promised letters amplifying their thoughts didn't actually make it past the mass of other things that people find themselves having to do at this time of the year. (Still time people!) So Richard's review does a welcome second job in keeping the topic current. My own feelings on the matter are similar to theirs, though perhaps a bit more extreme. For me the act of turning a real life tragedy into a light-hearted game shows a lack of respect and my reaction to this and the other Titanic games that were being sold at Essen was that, while other people were at liberty to react differently, I found them distasteful and had no wish to play them.