Published on May 6th, 2013 | by Luke Turpeinen
The Cruel Winds of Chaos
The Reign of the Four Chaotic Powers!
Have you ever wanted to be a god? If Ghostbusters taught me anything, it’s that the answer to that question is always “yes!” Chaos in the Old World is an area control game made by Fantasy Flight, set in the extremely popular Warhammer Fantasy world. In it you lay one of the four ancient gods of Chaos as you compete to destroy more of the world than your colleagues. If you’ve ever wanted to see how fast you could destroy the world with evil godlike power, this may be the game you’ve always wanted! Chaos in the Old World is essentially an area control game, with some aspects of strategy war games. The board is a map of the Old World of the Warhammer Fantasy setting (it vaguely resembles Europe) with each fantasy country having its own area of the map. Each player plays one of the Chaos Gods, each of whom are trying to destroy the various kingdoms on the map and therefore get victory points. The Chaos Gods are:
Khorne, the Blood God, who thirsts for battle, death and glory.
Slaanesh, the Lord of Temptations, who seeks to seduce mortal heroes.
Nurgle, the Plaguelord, who spreads disease and rot into the populace.
Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, who corrupts with magic and fate.
One of the interesting things about the game that the players, depending on which god they are representing, have different ways to gain victory points, differently costed units and different spells to cast. This is known as having asymmetrical balance, as none of the players play the game exactly the same as the others. As an example, Khorne gets the best fighting demons and his unit upgrades focus on being able to hit things better. Tzeentch’s strength is totally different- he gets cheaper magic cards to play and gets to draw more cards at the end of each turn. Taken together, each faction does play in totally different ways.
Having different units isn’t the only thing differentiating these players. There are also two ways of winning: the traditional Victory Point track as well as individual “threat dials”. Victory points are secured by placing “ruin tokens” on areas during the game, mostly by having a cultist unit present, or by casting a spell in that area which places ruin. Once an area has enough ruin tokens on it, the number of counters are tallied up and the person with the most gets victory points, with the second place person getting a “thanks for playing” consolation prize. Thus the obvious way to win is to just rush head first into the ruination game, fighting everyone else for the chance to ruin the biggest area on the board. The not-as-obvious way to win is by focusing on that threat dial.
Each player has a separate threat dial and a different condition that triggers it moving forward. These conditions align with the theme of the god and they actually do a lot to give incentive to play like the god you’ve been assigned. Khorne advances his dial by killing opposing units, Slaanesh advances theirs by corrupting areas with Noble or Hero tokens in them, etc. Every time the dial advances that player gets some sort of advantage, like a unit upgrade, while the last dial spot always says “Victory!” to indicate that you’ve won. Just adding this alternate method to win adds so much more enjoyment to the game. If you’ve ever been stuck in a game where it seems like the entire board is locked down, all avenues to victory are secured by other players and you’re just waiting to lose then this difference will appeal to you. While it’s easier for some factions to win one way more than the other, it’s an option that always makes you feel like you’re contributing to your own victory.
The box, board and components are all very well crafted. The unit pieces are all different depending on which Chaos God you’re representing. The figures are all distinct, both in sculpt and in color and the level of detail on the models is perfect. The board, rule book and tokens are all very sturdy and have seen some wear on my end but hold up well, and are very resistant. I love the box art, and the interior art and layout of the rule book makes it easy to read. I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of the board art. The board is essentially a map drawn on what’s implied to be stretched out human skin held down by nails. The board is dark and kind of hard to follow. This does make it easier to see the brightly colored tokens you’ll be laying down but before you begin play it just looks like an ugly brown mess, to be honest.
The rules work, the players are balanced and the mechanics don’t have any obvious holes in them. There are various way to win, all of the players start with different goals in mind, and the way to advance is slightly varied for each person. In spite of all of this, the game feels very well balanced. I’ve never felt that any one faction is better than the others, though luck of the draw sometimes favors one faction over another in a given game. The rules text is well written and laid out well, I’ve never really struggled to find a rule that I was looking for and the index seems reasonably well robust. There are a lot of moving bits, but even with all the complications that Chaos in the Old World seems to have, it remains easy to learn and to play.
I always have a lot of fun playing Chaos in the Old World. It’s one of the games that I’ve made sure to purchase for myself instead of letting a friend pick up a copy. My favorite faction is Slaanesh, the idea of going around corrupting righteous clergy and nobles to the cause of sexy demons with lobster hands just sounds so ridiculous that I have to do it. I’ve personally found that people don’t tend to dislike playing the game, even if they don’t really like the flavor of being over-the-top Evil Dudes as the game is pretty fast paced, always has something to do and has a lot of built in come-from-behind victories. The rule book has a whole section on how to play each faction effectively and how to counter the other factions. This section really helps new players understand what’s going on and what their strategies should be and how they should change during the game. I wish every single game did this.
Chaos in the Old World is hands down one of my favorite games. You should buy this game. If you’d like to take a peek at the rules in more detail they’re available for free to look at on Fantasy Flight’s website (Chaos in the Old World Rules PDF). Also of note is the expansion which allows for a fifth player: The Horned Rat Expansion. This introduces a faction of crazy rat people, but I’ll save the details of that for another post.
How would you rate Chaos in the Old World? Vote below or tell us in the comments!