Last night’s new game – Chaos In the Old World.

It’s made by Warhammer, has a thick instruction manual which was written by an idiot – or at least edited by one and a very classy board. Now the detail.

So, a bunch of Gods, a bit more benign than the oft-referred Eldritchian abominations, want to sow their corruption over the land of…somewhere, somewhere that has nine regions (did I miss the name in the manual?). There’s Khorne, a god of War; Nurgle (one of the cards in Hex Hex), a god of plagues, Tzeentch, a god of betrayal (aka Darth Traya) and Slaanesh, a god of temptation and pain (i.e. the original Karma Chameleon). Not quite the four horsemen of the apocalypse but close. Anyhoo, they take it in turns to spread their own particular brand of corruption throughout the land by sending forth their devoted followers and using their powers to help their own and hinder their rivals. In order to win the game, a player must be first to fifty victory points or be first to complete their unique quests.

It’s a turn based game, six phases per turn and each player in a strict order (Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch, Slaanesh). The manual does helpfully give you some useful hints as to how to play as each of the gods has a different play style based on the strengths of their respective powers. Khorne wants to conquer, Nurgle wants to spread throughout the land, Tzeentch buggers up the plans of the other gods whilst Slaanesh needs to control key regions of the board. A typical turn will begin with an event or two happening, players then making a hand of cards, pieces and cards being played, combat resolution, combat aftermath and resolving residual effects. 

Also in the game are various other interactive pieces who can help or hinder a player’s progress. The player in last place generally gets to control placement of these pieces so they have the chance to rig the board to suit themselves. A god has a certain number of power points to be used to make his manoeuvres in the deployment phase limiting the number and types of moves they can make, better units and cards having a higher cost so a little resource management is needed. Reactivity as just as key as proactivity given the differing play styles as Khorne can deploy his best warriors to take control of a region but Tzeentch can use his powers to move those warriors out of the region or Slaanesh can take control of them for his side. 

Regions become contested and eventually become ruined thus rendering them in part, unplayable. This is the easiest way to scoop up victory points in the game (I went from last place to first by ruining “The Empire” at least in terms of victory points). Certain factions are better placed to win by victory point amassing over quests which again affects game play style as you are forced to keep an eye on what your opponents are doing as well as managing your own affairs. And that’s the game, now the commentary.

Aesthetics – Very nice board printed on thick cardboard. Many simple tokens though sometimes their use isn’t immediately obvious and when the board gets crowded, it gets harder to distinguish what is where and how many. Figurines are made of thin plastic – nicely molded but extremities can get bent (and therefore broken) easily.

Gameplay – A large part of the game isn’t so much playing your own game as trying to wreck other people’s which can either lead to fun times or bitter arguments. This one therefore isn’t for the faint at heart. It’s probably more benign that Spartacus but just as rough as Risk Legacy. Dice rolling/random chance plays a part in the game but it’s a side show rather than the main event which is a big plus. You don’t feel beholden to the vicissitudes of fate. A note of caution – it’s far better to pick up the feel for the game through playing a turn carefully than trying to decipher from the manual. If you miss the minutiae in the manual, it can mess up your experience so make sure it’s all absorbed before playing. There are also multiple parts to each turn so go through the checklist.

Replayability – Only played once and we messed up so this isn’t going to be the most accurate comment but: there are four races to try and you’ll want to play them all at least twice just to get a good feel so there’s eight games right off. Also, there ongoing cards and placement of tokens on the board will make every experience feel unique rather than dragging yourself through the mud. The major downer is that the game can only be played with three or four people so a semi-dedicated group is essential. Though an expansion pack will increase the max to five, it’ll only be playable between 4 & 5.

Overall – Worth a look and worth playing more than once. Warhammer really ought to hire a decent editor and make nicer figurines however as they both detract from the value of the experience.