Back before you got into 40k, GW used to be a regular marketing machine: releasing themed music, computer games, card games, and board game versions of the warhammer 40k and fantasy franchises. Ok, perhaps you are one of the few, proud gamers who can trace their roots back to Rogue Trader, but by and large, most gamers are blissfully unaware of the monstrosity that GW once was.
Those of who are lucky enough to have survived since then, will likely remember such titles as Horus Heresy, and the Battle for Armageddon (two great tile-based games made by GW). These games were oozing with character. Now, the new blood in the audience will be quick to point out that Horus Heresy isn’t new… it’s a game by Fantasy Flight Games!
True, there is a remake of the classic board game (one that I’ve yet to try by the way). Fantasy flight is picking up where GW left off, and appears to be doing a great job at it. Nostalgia found me picking up a copy of “Chaos in the Old World,” a similar board game about corrupting the world through the role of the Chaos Gods.
The game is of sturdy construction, with a solid box, and thick cardboard tokens. I’d put the cardboard pieces in-line with the quality and durability of Space Hulk tiles (except those from Chaos in the Old World aren’t coated with that high-gloss sheen). They’re solid tokens though, and after a year of playing with the game, I’ve not managed to damage any of them.
If I had any complaint about the tokens, it would simply be that there are so many of them. The game comes with more than 175 of them, which can be a little overwhelming, but during the course of an average game, you won’t use a third of them. I almost wish there was another mechanic that allowed them to minimize the use of these tokens.
The game also includes a variety of 45 plastic playing pieces, color coded for each faction. I had originally wondered if these could be stand-ins for 40k, but if you look at the photos below, you’ll see they’re not to scale. I suspect you might be able to use the plague bearers as some sort of weird nurglings, but by and large, there isn’t alot of potential for cross-over modeling.
They too are high quality, and have great character. Each of the sculpted models provides a great approximation of their 40k equiavalents. The only downsides here are that the cultists each have a little banner on their stand (Which serves no function, mind you), but they’re prone to warping. The other con is that for some reason, all of the
models are one-part models except the plaguebearers. For some reason, someone decided to make their heads a seperate piece–and several of mine have their heads fall off during the course of a game (which I s’pose is appropriate, seeing as they do have the plague…)
Another interesting point is that no two factions have the same quantity of models. Each has a single greater demon, but from there, the similarities stop. Some (like Khorne) have a vast number of “warriors” (i.e. lesser demons–in this case, Bloodletters), but very few cultists. Others, like Tzeentch have very few warriors, but hordes of cultists.
The disparities don’t stop there. Not only are the compositions of each army different, but seemingly everythign about them is. Each player receives a stack of upgrade cards that can be used as the game progresses to improve your units. These upgrades vary in purpose allowing for things like:
- Improving Khorne’s ability to attack
- Increasing the number of spells Tzeentch can cast per turn
- Decreasing the cost of cultists for Nurgle (to free!)
- Allowing the Keeper of Secrets (for Slaanesh) to control opponents units.
These powers are–for the most part–unique to each faction, and fit perfectly with what you would expect from the fluff. Furthermore, each force has it’s own deck of “Chaos Cards” which help progress this theme, granting further tricks specific to the appropriate chaos god.
To expand upon the chaotic nature of the game, there are multiple ways to win for every force. Each player can win either by a sufficient amount of victory points, or by advancing their “threat dial.”
Victory points are the more straight forward solution. They’re earned either by dominating a territory (which means to have enough units there that you can bully the townsfolk around), or by corrupting one so completely that it falls to the chaos gods. By and large, opportunity to acquire VPs is relatively equal–though some forces are more focused towards this goal.
Threat advancement by the dial though, is not so straight forward. Each player has a condition that needs to be met in order to advance their dial. For khorne, they need to kill people (obviously). The other three factions have to corrupt specific types of areas: For Nurgle, they must corrupt “populous areas” (which are fixed on the board), whereas Slaanesh and Tzeentch must corrupt areas with Nobles & the presence of magic (respectively)–each of which vary from game to game.
Chaos in the Old World is a great game filled with great components, and is surprisingly well balanced. With so much variety between the forces available, chaos cards, victory conditions, and threat dials, it would seem almost impossible to make it fair for all players. In the time that I’ve played it, I’ve seen every faction reign supreme–though I must admit that the straight forward nature of Khorne’s dial advancement condition makes them the easiest to play.
For downsides, there aren’t many. The pieces are great, (not perfect, but fairly close). I’d have liked to have seen some different mechanics to replace some of the tokens, and better ways to track threat advancement, but all in all, these can be overlooked. There’s also a bit of confusion that takes place during the game when it comes to the Domination phase, when it comes to the terminology. After you get your brain wrapped around that though, it progresses rather smoothly.
The game checks in at an MSRP of $59.95 (less, if like me, you order your games through the warstore), which is a little pricey, but is really on the high side of average for a board game these days. It’s a little steep, but I’d say it’s worth it.
Warhammer 39999.com’s D6 Generation Rating: 3+ with a reroll.