Recently I have started to play a lot of different board games. For a long time I really wasn't keen on the idea as I had always been a miniature gamer and casual card game player. What first got me into it was the Gears of War
board game and even that was only because I really wanted the models you got with it!
What really pushed me over the edge was a growing disillusionment with Warhammer/Warhammer 40,000
thanks to some [in my opinion] crazy decisions on GW's part in so many aspects of the hobby, from the glut of downloadable expansions to D-Weapons in regular games and even with the fact that you can now only buy White Dwarf at GW stores.
In order to maintain my miniature gaming fix I resorted to playing Star Wars X-Wing
by Fantasy Flight Games
. This was a pretty straightforward call for me and our gaming group as we had tried and enjoyed the Gears of War
board game which was also by FF[Fantasy Flight]. We are all into Star Wars and importantly for us, the fact that the models come pre made and painted! as nobody in our group really enjoyed that aspect of the hobby [it was just something we endured in order to be able to play at tournaments].
With us all falling for this game so quickly and the fact it was FF's second game we had tried and really enjoyed we decided to try a few more. We got hold of a truly epic game called Twilight Imperium
[which can take 12 hours to play!] and all loved that too.
I was starting to miss Warhammer a little though, not so much the game but all that rich background and the fact that we had invested all those years into the game made it really hard to totally cast off. So when I discovered another FF board game called Chaos in the Old World
I thought it would be a great way to stay at least partially invested in Warhammer but without having to put up with so many rules that I don't agree with, but of course it would come down to how good this board game actually is. This is a game where you and your mates literally get to be Chaos Gods, summoning cultists, daemons and even greater daemons across the oldworld in order to conquer and corrupt it.Chaos in the Old World
The first thing you notice about this game and with all Fantasy Flight products for that matter is the quality. The box, artwork and card quality are all to a very high standard, much higher than you find in many board games.
I personally really like the playing pieces, things like banners on them can be a little bendy but that means that they are never going to break on you. Some painted minis from the game.
The thing I like most is the map/board itself, although one small complaint is that it can be sometimes hard to tell where the borders are for some of the different regions at a glance.
The dice are nice and once you have popped all of the tokens out and put them in those little plastic bags which you NEED if you are a board game player [or a drug dealer I would imagine!] you can get started on the rules.Rules
Im not going to go too deep into what the actual rules are as that kind of thing never really comes across well and its much better to learn as you play yourself. I found 1 read through of the rules enough to get a good feel for the game and was confident enough with that 1 read to try the game out with friends. It should only take you 10-20 minutes to read the rules and even if they don't become totally clear at first, you will know exactly how everything should work within a couple of turns of your first game, which is also a nice endorsement for a game.
The game only works with 3 or 4 players [5 with the Skaven expansion which we will be picking up soon].
The aim of the game is to conquer regions with your models but also to start to corrupt them with your cultists until they are totally ruined. Both of these things net you victory points and you need 50 to win. Each god also has a threat dial and each god has its own specific way of advancing this threat dial, a second way to win the game is to advance your dial all the way to its victory setting. I was pretty sceptical at first about these two different victory conditions being balanced with each other. Set-up
*You each start by picking a god, once you pick a god you will receive a playsheet with lots of handy references on, your models, a deck of magic cards and some upgrade cards.
*You then take some of the tokens from the box [these include things like peasants, nobles, warpstone etc] and these get randomly placed in each region of the map, all the way from Norsca to the Badlands.
*You make a deck of 'Old World' cards.
*Then your ready to start the game!Game Play
Each turn starts with an Old World card being drawn and played, and these can very often spell doom for your followers as they can range from things such as a holy crusade in which loads of hero tokens pop up around the board killing your models to the rather pleasant cards where hordes of peasants show up across the map for your daemons to kill and feast on [and if the right cards show up, for you to gain points from!]
Each Chaos god has energy/mana that they can use each turn, this is used to place/summon models, to move them or to cast magic cards. You can only place 1 model/cast 1 spell before your opponent gets to do the same, this sequence goes around the table until nobody has enough energy left to cast anything else.
Your initial followers can be placed anywhere but once you have a model on the map, subsequent models must be placed in adjacent territories. In each territory 2 magic cards[but only 2!] can be placed each turn and these cards will often be the way in which you win the game or at the very least ruin your opponents day!.
If you end up with followers of two different gods in the same area when the battle phase comes around they fight. You fight simply by rolling dice equal to the attack value on your models. Each model also has a defence value, if you equal their defence value you with your hits [you hit on a 4+, with 6's giving you an extra roll] you kill the model.
Once you have ran out of energy and done all your fighting you get to the most important phase. This is where you work out which regions you have dominated and how much you have corrupted each region.
Domination is quite simple, each region has a resistance value [For example, Tilea has 2], you need to beat this score with your conquest value to claim victory points for it [equal to its resistance value, so in this case 2]. Your conquest value is simply the number of models you have left in the region at the end of the turn+the energy cost of any spells you played in the region this turn.
The more interesting part is corruption. At the end of every turn, you place a number of corruption counters in a region equal to the number of cultists you have there. This does nothing initially but when a region hits 12 corruption counters it is ruined
and this is where you get big victory point rewards based on who has the most corruption in the region when it is ruined.
Whilst you are battling out for victory points you are also trying to advance those threat dials. Each god has its own way of doing this;
Khorne - By killing models in different regions
Tzeentch - By putting 2 corruption counters in a region with 2 magic or warpstone counters in it
Slaanesh - By putting 2 corruption counters in a region that contains a hero or noble
Nurgle - By putting 2 corruption into a 'populous' region [Kislev, Empire, Brettonia, Estalia]
Every time you manage one of those above criteria you put a counter on your threat dial, at the end of the turn anybody with a counter on theirs moves their dial up by 1, the player with the most counters moves theirs up by 2. Each move on the dial gives you a reward and when you get it all the way around you have won the game.
The other 2 ways for the game to end besides 50 victory points and threat dials are if you run out of Old World cards or if 5 regions are ruined. If either of these happen, the winner is the player with the most victory points. So how is it to actually play?
Honestly, its one of the best games I have ever played. As I said, I was sceptical about the two different win conditions and the balance of the 4 gods but it is one of the tightest and most balanced systems I have ever played. As an example, here are how our first two games finished;Game 1
- Khorne, Slaanesh and Tzeentch all within 2 advancements of winning the game by threat dials [so attainable in 1 turn] and Slaanesh and Tzeentch both within touching distance of winning by victory points. It comes to the last turn [ran out of Old World cards] and Khorne just sneaks it with a threat dial win, Tzeentch and Slaanesh are both within 5 points of 50 victory points and both 1 dial advancement away from a dial win!Game 2 -
Early finish thanks to 5 really quick ruined regions with Nurgle getting the win by victory points but even though it was an early finish Slaanesh was 1 dial advancement away from the win and could have won by victory points next turn and Tzeentch could have also won by victory points next turn!
Not only is this game brilliantly balanced but each god 'feels' right. The magic cards, advancement criteria and daemon stats all work perfectly for how each of these gods should be played. Slaanesh has you manipulating heros with your magic to get them to kill enemy models, Nurgle has you throwing down loads of corruption with a horde of cultists and plaguebearers, Khorne makes you play in a hyper aggressive way thanks to his advancement criteria and lack of cultists so you are constantly going around and killing things for your dial rather than bothering to corrupt whilst Tzeentch gets extra magic cards and is constantly ruining your plans with a well timed card play.
Its a game that will have you in fits of laughter between cursing your opponents for ruining your plans, it never gets boring and your always interested in what everybody else is doing as it will ALWAYS have such a big effect on you. You will be running around trying to kill an opponents last cultist in a region to stop him ruining it before you can get your own counters in there, you will be playing magic cards that stop their troops conquering a region for a turn to deny them those all important victory points. You will be legging it away from Khornes bloodletters to stop him getting ANOTHER advancement counter on his dial.
That last thing that is really refreshing about this game is that it doesn't go on too long, games usually take between 1 and 2 hours which is just about perfect in my opinion.
So all in all a pretty great game, highly recommended!