The movie Titanic is one of the most successful movies of all time as it held the record for the biggest box office for quite a few years. The movie and the historical event of what happened to the Titanic has actually spawned a surprising number of board games over the years. A while back we took a look at The Sinking of the Titanic. Today I am looking at the most recent Titanic game simply called Titanic which was released by Spin Master last year. While I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of the movie, I was intrigued by the game as it sounded like it had an interesting premise as you raced around the sinking ship trying to save as many passengers as possible. The Titanic board game has some intriguing and fun ideas that are held back a little by the game having some balance issues.
How to Play Titanic
- Place the main board in the middle of the table.
- Place the four top deck tiles on the corresponding spaces at the top of the main board. The tiles should be placed left (1) to right (4).
- Sort the location tiles by the numbers on their back. Starting at the bottom of the board with the 100 tiles, randomly place the 100s on the bottom row followed by the 200s and so on. If you want to be more historically accurate you should place the tiles in alphabetical order from left to right.
- Place the lifeboats on the edges of the boat on the corresponding spaces. The odd numbers should be on the left side and the even on the right side placing the lowest numbers towards the bottom of the boat.
- Choose the collapsible lifeboat based on the number of players. Place it on the space next to top deck tile #4.
- Place the passenger pawns on the locations tiles that show the same color.
- Place the lifesavers, action cubes, star tokens, and heart of the ocean token next to the gameboard.
- Sort the star cards by their type and shuffle each deck separately. These decks will be placed face down near the board.
- Shuffle the 12 flood cards and place them face down near the board. If you are playing with five players you will add the three “no flood” cards to the deck.
- Place the door tile near the board with the side matching the number of players face up.
- Each player takes a reference card. They will also choose a character and take the corresponding character standee, player mat, and score marker. All score markers are placed on the first space of the score track. The character tile is placed ability side up on the left slot of your player mat.
- Shuffle the private objective cards and deal one to each player. The remainders are returned to the box. Each player can look at their own card, but they shouldn’t show it to the other players.
- Each player will be given a number of action cubes to start the game depending on the number of players. Each player will put these action cubes on their player mat on the available side of the action slots.
- 2 players – 4 action cubes
- 3 players – 3 action cubes
- 4 players – 2 action cubes
- 5 players – 1 action cube
- Place the two flood line markers below the game board.
- The player who was most recently on a boat will be the first player. The first player will begin by choosing a space in the 100 level to place their standee. The next player clockwise will then place their standee in a room and so on. Each player will then take a passenger, lifesaver, action cube or star token adjacent to their starting room. When you take lifesavers, action cubes or star tokens during this phase or the rest of the game, you will use the dry erase marker to cross off the symbol to indicate it was already taken from that space.
Playing the Game
Play will start with the first player and will move clockwise throughout the game. Each player’s turn will consist of three phases:
- Action Phase
- Flooding Phase
- Stars Phase
During this phase a player can choose from five different actions. They can choose multiple actions and can even take the same action multiple times. Some of these actions will require the use of an action cube. To use an action cube you will slide one of the action cubes on your player mat from the available side to the used side.
The move action uses one action cube.
This action allows the current player to move your character standee to an adjacent room. Each location tile consists of two rooms. When moving the following rules must be followed:
- When moving you can either move to the other room on the same tile or to the neighboring room on the tile above, below, left, or right of your current tile. You can’t move diagonally.
- You may not move through a wall (gray barrier).
- A flooded tile is considered one single room. You may move through walls in a flooded room.
- You may not enter a room below the flood line.
- Multiple people can be in the same room.
This action is free after you use the move action.
When you move to a new room you can choose one of the passengers, lifesavers, action cubes, or star tokens indicated on your current space (as long as it hasn’t already been taken). To take two things from a room, you must leave the room and re-enter it.
If you pick up a passenger you will place it on one of the lifesaver tokens on your board. If you don’t have a vacant lifesaver, you cannot save a passenger.
If you pick up a lifesaver, action cube, or star token remember to cross off the symbol with the dry erase marker to indicate that it was taken.
When you pick up a lifesaver token, take one from the supply and add it to one of the empty lifesaver spaces on the right side of your player mat. You can add up to three additional (five total) lifesavers to your board during the game.
If you choose to pick up an action cube, you will add it to one of the empty action slots on your player mat. It will be placed on the used side so you can’t use the action cube on the turn you pick it up. If you have no empty spaces left on your board for action cubes, you can’t pick up any more.
When you pick up a star token you will place it near your player mat. You can use these tokens during the Star Phase in order to acquire star cards.
To perform the save action you need to use one action cube.
If you are in a room next to a lifeboat, you can choose to save the passengers that you have on your player mat.
By taking this action you will load any number of passengers from your player mat onto the lifeboat. A player can only add passengers to a lifeboat if there are still spaces remaining on it. When loading a lifeboat you will place the passengers from the back (lowest number) to the front.
Players will then score points for the passengers that they loaded. First each passenger will score points based on their color:
- Red – 3 points
- Gray – 2 points
- Green – 1 point
You can also score points if you place a passenger on one of the spaces designated with a number inside a star. You will score points equal to the number inside the star.
Finally players can score three additional points if they decide to take one of the action cubes from their player mat (needs to be on the available side) and adds it to the lifeboat.
Each player will move their score marker forward on the track a number of spaces equal to the number of points scored.
Play Star Cards
This action does not cost an action cube.
On your turn you may play as many star cards from your hand as you want.
Most cards after being played will be placed to the left of your player mat as they may score you points at the end of the game. Any cards labeled “end scoring” will be placed face down in the end scoring slot. The points that a card can score are shown in the top right corner. Any cards that give you a permanent ability should be placed face up in the permanent ability slot.
The game has a number of different types of cards which are as follows:
- Location cards usually score points if you are on a certain part of the ship.
- Person cards give a player a permanent ability.
- Item cards can be played for a one time ability.
- Scene cards can either give you a dramatic opportunity or can give you points at the end of the game.
You may only hold three cards in your hand at a time. This does not include the cards that you have already played to the table.
Use Your Special Ability
Each player has a special ability indicated by their character tile.
If a player’s character tile currently has the ability side face up, they can take the action and it will not cost an action cube. Once you use the ability though you will flip it to the other side.
To get your special ability back you must enter one of the top deck tiles. When you reach a top deck tile you can flip your used ability tile to the available side. You can’t use this to take your special ability more than once on a turn though.
After a player has finished taking their actions they will enter the flooding phase.
First the player will draw the top flood card from the deck. The number on the card will indicate the column of the ship that will flood. In a two player game two cards are drawn each flooding phase. If the pile ever runs out of cards, shuffle the discard pile to form a new draw pile.
The player will then find the lowest location tile that matches the column from the card that was drawn. They will remove that location tile from the board and any passengers that were on it.
If all of the tiles from the row that the tile was taken from are flooded, move the flood line markers above the row that is flooded. Any components from below the flood line are removed from the board. Any passengers lost are moved to the iceberg as they may come into play for end game scoring.
Return the tile you removed to the board with the flooded side face up. Add physical objects for any lifesavers, action cubes, star tokens or passengers that weren’t claimed.
Any players caught below the flood line need to be rescued. They will lose three points. Their standee will then float up to the tile one above the tile they were previously on. The player can choose which of the two rooms that they will be placed in.
After completing the Flooding Phase, play will move onto the Star Phase.
In this phase you can spend star tokens to draw star cards. For each star token you spend you will get to take one star card from the type that you choose. If you ever have more than three cards in your hand, you must choose a card to discard.
Any cards you draw during this phase can’t be used until your next turn unless it is your last turn in the game.
Acquiring the Heart
If one player is last in scoring by themselves (there is no tie for lowest score), they will acquire the Heart of the Ocean token. This token allows the player to take one additional action on their turn.
After each round (all players have taken their turn) check the current score to see if the heart of the ocean should be given to a new player. If a new player now has the lowest score, they will take the token. If there is a tie for lowest score and the player currently holding it is tied for last, they will keep the heart. In all other ties, the token is set aside and no one claims it.
Acquiring the Door
The first player to reach 20 points will acquire the door tile. In 3-5 player games, this player cannot be eliminated even if they don’t escape the ship at the end of the game. In two player games the door tile only gives the player an extra star card.
A lifeboats will leave the Titanic if the flood line passes the lifeboat’s level or the lifeboat is filled with passengers.
At the top of the ship there is the collapsible lifeboat. Outside of the player that acquired the door tile (the player with the door can’t enter the lifeboat), all players need to enter the collapsible lifeboat before the Titanic completely sinks. A player can choose to enter the collapsible lifeboat at any time. They must use a move action to move onto the boat. Once you enter the lifeboat your normal turns are over. The only thing you will do on your turn is complete the Flooding Phase.
The lifeboat will be filled from back to front. Players will score points based on the number printed on the space where they placed their standee. The last player to enter the lifeboat will suffer a penalty.
The collapsible lifeboat will launch after level 900 has completely flooded. If any player is left on the Titanic when this happens, they will be eliminated from the game. The one exception to this is the player with the door tile.
At the beginning of the game each player is given a private objective. Your secret objective will correspond to the color of your character. You can score up to ten points based on whether you completed your private objective.
End of Game
The game ends after nine rounds/the Titanic sinks.
All passengers left on your lifesavers are moved to the iceberg.
Players will score points based on their end game scoring cards as well as their private objectives. If a player should score more than 35 points, they will flip their score marker to the 35 side and continue moving their piece around the score track.
The player that scores the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, the tied player with less action cubes wins the game.
In two and three player games the game recommends using the automation tiles.
At the beginning of the game all of automation tiles will be shuffled and one will randomly be placed on each level opposite the lifeboat for that level.
The tile for the bottom level is revealed right away and the corresponding action is taken.
Each time the flood level rises, the automation tile for the next level will be revealed and the corresponding action will be taken.
My Thoughts on Titanic
Heading into playing Titanic I was not exactly sure what to expect. I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of the Titanic theme. I thought the movie was pretty good, and while tragic the events around the Titanic could lead to an interesting board game. I don’t care enough about the theme though where I would go out of my way to play a game just because it used the Titanic theme. The thing that made me most concerned though was the fact that the game was based around a movie. While things have gotten considerably better in this area in recent years, the track record for board games based on movies is not particularly good. For people that have similar feelings heading into the game, I am happy to say that Titanic surpasses what you would typically expect from a game based on a popular movie.
I would probably classify Titanic mostly as a pick up and deliver game. The main premise of the game is picking up passengers scattered throughout the ship and transporting them to the lifeboats so they can be saved. Most of your actions in the game will be used to move around the ship and pick up passengers. To help with this you can also pick up other objects that will help with that task. You can pick up more action cubes which allow you to take more actions on your turn, and you can pick up additional lifesavers in order to hold more passengers at a time. When you have enough passengers you can then move to a lifeboat in order to drop off the passengers. You score points for each passenger with some being worth more than others. You also score additional points for filling in the last spaces on a boat, or fulfilling other conditions.
For a game based on a movie like Titanic, I initially thought the game would be pretty simple in order to appeal to a more mainstream audience that doesn’t play a lot of board games. I wouldn’t say that the game is particularly difficult, but it is more challenging than your typical mainstream game. Initially the game may feel a little intimidating to people that don’t play a lot of board games. This is mostly due to there being quite a few things you can choose between on your turn meaning you need to remember quite a bit initially. For your first couple of turns you might not be completely sure about what you are supposed to do. You adjust to the game pretty quickly though. After your first couple of turns you will quickly move through your turns as most of your actions will come down to moving around the ship and picking up objects.
With the number of different options that you have on your turn, I was pleasantly surprised by how much strategy there is in the game. The game is honestly deeper than I expected. It is usually pretty obvious what you should do on a turn, but the game gives you choices which is always appreciated. You can immediately start making points, or you can pursue picking up objects that will allow you to take more actions on future turns. Most players will focus on picking up and delivering passengers to boats as this can score you quite a few points in the game. You could also score points though by focusing more on the cards as some of them can score you quite a few points. I am guessing that there is a best strategy to pursue in the game, but there are enough choices and ways of scoring points where it feels like you have control over your fate in the game.
In a way the game kind of feels like a giant puzzle. On each turn you are given a number of actions depending on how many action cubes that you have available. You can choose how you want to use these cubes instead of being forced into specific actions each turn. As you know how many actions you will be able to perform on your turn, you can plan out your entire move before you make a single move in order to maximize your turn. This is needed in a way as there are barriers in quite a few rooms which block your movement. You need to figure out what path that you are going to follow through the ship. By planning out your entire turn you could for example pick up a number of passengers and get them onto a lifeboat in just one turn. If you don’t have an overall plan for your turn though, you likely are not going to maximize it to its full potential.
Planning is also important as the game has a sort of risk versus reward mechanic built into the foundation of the game. This mostly revolves around how the ship slowly sinks over time. The rooms will become filled with water one by one as the ship slowly starts to fill with water. In some ways it is nice to travel through submerged rooms as it makes it quicker to move through the rooms. The lower levels of the ship will obviously flood first. You would normally want to avoid these areas of the ship, but many of the most valuable passengers are in this section of the ship. This creates the risk reward mechanic as you want to stay towards the bottom of the ship for as long as possible. You don’t want to get stuck on a floor that eventually floods though or you will lose points. Ultimately players need to juggle between playing aggressive and passive in order to maximize their points.
Titanic can be played with anywhere between two and five players. Different player counts don’t drastically change the rules outside of a couple minor things. I would say different player counts play quite a bit different though. The more players you have in the game, the more cutthroat the game will end up becoming. In the two player game there are enough passengers and objects to pick up where players can mostly stick to their own areas of the ship unless players actively want to mess with one another. This allows players to score quite a few points in the game. With more players though it becomes much more competitive for passengers and other objects. This ultimately lowers scores. I wouldn’t say either is better . It mostly depends on your opinion of player interaction in games.
I honestly was pleasantly surprised by Titanic as it has some really interesting and clever ideas built into it. Unfortunately the game has one pretty significant issue that brings down the whole game. That issue is that the game doesn’t feel particularly balanced at times. Basically if you want a game that is going to rely entirely on the decisions you make, you may not be the biggest fan of Titanic. The game has strategy, but it is sometimes overshadowed by the game’s reliance on luck. This comes from a couple different areas.
I would attribute a lot of this to the cards. In theory I like the idea behind the cards. The game has four different types of cards which have their own benefits. Location cards give you quite a few points if you can visit specific locations in the ship. Item cards give you a one time ability which can be quite powerful, while person cards give you a permanent ability that can help you throughout the game. Finally the scene cards can score you quite a few points at the end of the game. The main problem is that not all of the cards were created equally. Some of the cards can be pretty weak while others can be really strong. What cards you end up drawing can end up playing a pretty big role in how well you will do in the game. The players that draw the best cards are going to have a much easier job winning than those that end up drawing worse cards.
To illustrate I wanted to compare a couple of the cards that were drawn in one of the games that I played. First are some scene cards that score a point for each card that a player has of the corresponding type. That is compared to a card where you just have to sing some of the words from one of the songs from the movie. I wasn’t a fan of these type of silly cards as they kind of feel out of place with the rest of the game. The bigger problem is that singing the lyrics will score you five points. To get five points from the other card type I mentioned, you will have to devote a pretty significant amount of your strategy to acquiring those type of cards. As long as you don’t mind looking a little silly, you would much rather get the singing card as it is much easier to score points from and you likely will score more points than the other cards.
Then there are each player’s private objectives. If you work towards your objective you likely will score the maximum of ten points from the card. The problem is that some objectives are much harder to accomplish than others. One player could end up getting the same amount of points for little effort as someone that had to actually spend quite a bit of time completing their objective. There is just a lot in the game that feels unbalanced. To fully enjoy the game you need to be willing to accept that luck will play a pretty big role in the game at times. At times it can feel kind of unfair if luck is not on your side. I just wish a little more time went into trying to balance the game. This ultimately hurt my overall opinion of the game. If it was more balanced I think the game could have been considerably better.
As for Titanic’s components, I was actually a little surprised. At the game’s lower price point I was genuinely impressed with what you get in the game. The components may not be quite as good as a game that retails for $50+, but the game retails for around half that and still has pretty comparable components. The number of components in the game is quite impressive as you get quite a bit in the game. The wood meeples are always appreciated. The cardboard pieces are a decent thickness, and the artwork is nice and does a good job telling players what they need to know without relying on a lot of text. In particular I thought the design of the player mats were really good as due to their design they give you a lot of information stopping you from having to reference the rules. I would say that the game does a pretty good job utilizing the Titanic theme.
Should You Buy Titanic?
Most people when they think of board games based on movie franchises have the initial response that the game is likely going to be pretty bad as it was mostly made in order to make a quick buck. I don’t see this being the case for Titanic though. Real work was put into the game blending the theme with actual interesting gameplay mechanics. The game mostly revolves around running around the ship to pick up and deliver objects. This actually has quite a bit more strategy to it than you would initially expect. You need to plan out what you want to do as the game gives you quite a few options for which actions to utilize. The game may feel a little intimidating at first, but it is actually quite easy to play once you get used to it. The game is honestly deeper than I initially expected. The biggest problem with Titanic is just that it isn’t always balanced. The cards are not equal where a player that gets lucky has a much better chance of winning the game.
My recommendation comes down to your thoughts on the theme and the game’s overall premise. If you have never really cared for Titanic or aren’t that interested by the gameplay premise, it may not be for you. Those that have at least a passing interest in the theme though and find the premise somewhat intriguing should enjoy the game and consider picking it up.
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We would like to thank Spin Master for the review copy of Titanic used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.