It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and time to take a look at another of the many games from my collection! This week sees the immense fantasy juggernaut that is Chaos in the Old World, one of the most interesting games I own.
This is an area-control game for 3-4 players, where you play the role of one of the four Chaos gods from Warhammer fantasy, and attempt to cause the destruction of the Old World. The game plays somewhat asymmetrically, as each of the four gods plays slightly differently, and all have different victory conditions they can fulfill. I find this alone super-interesting, though the theme that comes out of the game is also really fantastic, and holds a strong appeal for me.
There is so much going on in this game that I couldn’t really do it justice here without just rambling inanely forever! As the video shows, there are different paths to victory, and each god can get there slightly differently, such as Khorne killing everyone to move his dial along to win, or Nurgle corrupting everyone on the board. Each round sees the gods act in their own nefarious ways based on a hand of cards they can play to try to influence a region of the board. You can summon cultists, upgrade those cultists into demons or even a greater demon, and hope to spread your influence that way.
However, the board will fight back, and in addition to an Old World deck that sees random events occurring each round, there are tokens placed on the board such as peasant militia, who will attempt to defend their area of the Empire, or Skaven and Orc tokens that will fight the Chaos gods as they attempt to subjugate the map for their own gains. Heroes and Nobles, also represented by tokens, will also appear to aid the defense of the Empire, and while powerful deposits of Warpstone can be unearthed, this will attract the attention of the Skaven. While these tokens can be a detriment to your plans for domination, they can also be a boon, as the magically-imbued Warpstone makes it easier for Tzeentch to weave the fates to his own advantage, while corrupting the nobility is all in a day’s work for Slaanesh.
The game feels somewhat complex when reading the rules, though the basic mechanic is fairly straightforward. Each region of the map has a resistance rating, and once your cultists have defeated the denizens of any region, each player checks whether they have cultists exceeding this resistance rating. If you do, then you score victory points, then each player with cultists in the region gets to place one corruption market for each cultist, with the top two players with markers in the region scoring more points. If there are 12 markers in that region, it is declared Ruined, and more points are scored. Once five regions are Ruined, the game is over and the Chaos god with the most points is declared the winner. (I did only say “fairly” straightforward!)
There is, of course, so much more to it than merely this, and both the mechanics and the theme go real deep into the Old World lore. I keep mentioning the theme because it is so strong, if like me you love Warhammer, then you’ll more than likely love this game!
I’m not too big on area-control games, if I’m honest, and only have one other that I can think of in my collection – Runewars – but the theme from this one really makes it one of the best gaming experiences I can think of. I mean, it really feels like you’re one of the Ruinous Powers, trying to do your thing, corrupting the Old World province by province. This has been commented on in the past by some of the many detractors of the game, however, who feel that it promotes an unhealthy motivation in the players. The fact that the gameboard is designed as a map drawn onto human skin has also been mentioned as a negative influence, as well. I only mention this as I find it curious, as such things are normally the reserve of video games. I don’t really agree with these commentators, of course, as I don’t believe gaming can do things like that: plenty of people manage to play all kinds of games unscathed, after all. But this is threatening to get off-topic now!
Chaos in the Old World is something of a classic of the genre, and is definitely worth playing if you’re at all interested in the lore of the pre-Age of Sigmar Warhammer world. It can be a very involved experience, but is very much worth it when you sit down to play.