Friday, October 28, 2011

Chaos in the Old World

Chaos in the Old World is a competitive game for 3-4 players by Fantasy Flight Games. It's widely considered to be best with 4 players and I, for one, can't imagine why you would play it with any less. The game plays in about 90 minutes, with the usual addition of 20-30 additional minutes for first time players

Before I begin, an anecdote – Last winter, some friends and I got together to play Chaos in the Old World (CitOW) on a Friday night. We started around 9pm and did not stop until 5am. We played 4-5 consecutive games and would’ve played another had we not been starving. The game hits the table very often in my group and we always have a blast with it.

Components: Normally I’d just say “It’s Fantasy Flight” and be on my merry way to the next segment. CitOW has a fantastic set of components. The cards and tokens are top notch, sturdy stock. The board is a work of art consisting of a large map of the Old World that has been etched onto pieces of skin stitched together (the game is very grimdark) and the innovative dials that track the progress of each of the Chaos *s. However, there is one black mark against the game in this category and that is the figures – specifically, the cultists. Each of the Ruinous Powers has their own set of figures and the daemon and greater daemon models are very well modeled. The cultists figures, however, are the same sculpt for each faction and have a long banner pole that is topped with a very fragile 8-pointed Star of Chaos. This banner is very thin and fragile and after a few games, you’ll likely notice that many cultists are just carrying a stick rather than a banner. I have still given the game a 5/5 for components because everything else is so good, but those cultists pieces are worth pointing out.

Rules: CitOW stands out as one of the first Fantasy Flight games that has had an easily comprehensible and well laid out rulebook. Of particular note is the incredibly well written section that gives players pointers on how to play each of the Chaos *s and how to deal with their rivals. The mechanics for this game do an amazing job of creating a setting where dark *s plot and scheme against one another and after a turn or two, everything makes sense. I’ve had a chance to bring this to the table multiple times and not once has anyone I’ve played with before faltered with the rules – it’s like riding a bike.

Gameplay: One of the best features of CitOW is that each of the four Chaos *s is unique. Though they all follow the same rules, each one has a particular flavor and sphere of influence that they can focus on for victory. After my first play through I got a good feel for how each Ruinous Power played and in subsequent games my group and I were able to leverage our strengths to their fullest. Even with new players, the game never feels like it’s dragging and the unique dual victory conditions of the Chaos dials and the victory track give players strategic options for pursuing domination.

Overall: I really don’t have enough good things to say about CitOW. The game has never let me down and is probably played more than anything else within my circle of friends. Being a fan of Warhammer definitely doesn’t hurt, but unlike other Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop games, CitOW doesn’t suffer from being exclusionary to folks who don’t know their Nurgles from the Tzeentches.

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