Playing Chaos in the Old World

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.

Components:

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.

Victory Conditions:

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.

Overall Thoughts:

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.

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18 comments on “Playing Chaos in the Old World

  1. We’ve played the heck out of Chaos in the Old World with the local gaming group, and I have to second the comment that it’s a tremendously fun game! Good to see it getting some attention – FFG makes some fantastic games and it really seems as though they ‘get’ the feel of the warhammer universe.

  2. Thanks for the review! I can only concur, it’s a game full of unique mechanics. Each one is quite simple but combined they make for a very varied game. One interesting thing to try is to play it with three players – depending on which god is left out the dynamics change subtly.

    • We played with two players a couple of times–and it definitely loses
      something in the mix. Three players is our standard faire, as we
      often don’t have a fourth to sit in. In fact, I’m not sure we ever
      played a four-player game…

    • I’m a sucker for the classic GW board games myself. Have you played
      the other FF games? Given Horus Heresy a shot at all? I’m interested
      in it, but I don’t want to sink $100 in a remake (since I already own
      the original).

  3. I love this game. Although everyone needs to read the FAQ. I played several games before reading it and Slaanesh was way to easy. Then I read the FAQ and noticed they changed the dial advancement condition to two locations instead of one. Kind of an important typo.

    • I guess I’m missing something. It says that you have to earn two
      corruption tokens in an area with a noble–not two locations. That’s
      how we play, and it really doesn’t seem easier than any of the other
      advancement conditions…

      • Yea sorry I was confused, haven’t played in a while. The change was on the card it says place one corruption token and the faq changed it to two. Big change.

      • Oh, that would be far too easy. It’s hard to stop them from getting
        two as it is–but then again, many of them have very easy dial
        advancement conditions… *cough* Khorne.

  4. I actually tried to play this at Origins last year, but none of the other players showed up. 😦

    You can find the Fantasy Flight games much cheaper than MSRP if you look around – there are new copies of Horus Heresy on Amazon for under $60.

    • Yeah, but shipping to Alaska tends to put it up in the $80+ range
      again. I’d love to play it, but I already own the old version, and
      wonder if it’s worth the extra investment–especially considering I
      likely wouldn’t play it more than half a dozen times.

      I’m just wishing someone else local picked it up and let me play it. 🙂

      • Well, that’s what you get for living outside the CONUS, in what we down here call the “b*stard states”. 😉

        Actually, Amazon’s “Free Super Saver Shipping” on purchases over $25 applies to all 50 states, so you should be good…

  5. Thanks for the review, I never played this one back in the old days.

    You just reminded me of all the crazy stuff GW used to produce. I wanted Bolt Thrower and D-Rok albums so bad when I was a kid, but you just couldn’t get them in country Australia.

    • I don’t recall GW ever making this particular game back in the day–but I
      did a review of the classic “Ultramarine” earlier if that’s at all
      interesting, and I’m sure I’ll do a review of Horus Heresy (the classic one)
      and The Battle for Armageddon one day. I always remember looking at them at
      the hobby store, but I never had enough spare cash to buy all of the models
      I wanted–much less to branch out to more games. It’s fun to go back and
      reminisce.

      On the subject of their thrash bands, Bolt Thrower albums are widely
      available via ebay, but I’ve only ever seen a D-Rok album once (and that
      went for $100+ USD). I can’t imagine their music is all that good
      (especially since I’ve actually heard Bolt Thrower), but it’s certainly
      rare.

  6. I love this game!

    I’ve played it many times with 4 players and only once with 3. I can’t imagine it working with 2. And I think you need 4 for the most fun.

    I’ve usually played Tzeentch, though sadly only managed to win once…

    I do have a few criticisms of it though.

    The rules are pretty confusing in the way they’re written up. We always seem to forget something. I wish there was a better rules summary that you could refer to as you’re going through the turn – especially making the differences clear between domination and corruption and when you do all of that stuff.

    I also find the board – as good as it looks – to be pretty confusing. I wish it was a bit clearer.

    Our games have been heavily dominated by Slaanesh and Nurgle though. Tzeentch often comes close-ish, but Khorne always seems to struggle!

    I didn’t notice the plaguebearer heads were separate – none of mine have come off. Although my Lord of Change did arrive without his head (I was sent a replacement).

    This game is great fun. I also have very vague plans / inspiration every time I play to run a skirmish/battle campaign with miniatures, with players controlling competing chaos cults and their summoned daemons fighting with each other and destroying the Old World…

    I’ve got Horus Heresy and though I don’t have the original, from my understanding it is significantly different. Perhaps I should write a review of it for you…?

    • I’d love a review of Horus Heresy… I’ll write one up and we can compare
      the two. 🙂

      Good call on the confusion. I always have a problem with the terminology
      they use in Chaos in the Old World: Corruption Phase, Infestation Tokens,
      Domination Phase…. there’s alot going on. I’m particularly troubled by
      the Domination (in that you have to exceed the Domination number to place
      Corruption token, but you can also use it to dominate in order to gain
      direct VP’s–but those are modified by the tokens in the area, so it may be
      easier to dominate, but still count for additional VP’s, or it may count for
      more VP’s, but be harder to dominate. There’s definitely some fiddly-ness
      to that section of the game.

      I find that’s compounded by using their terminology. I do much better when
      I make up my own words for things that seem more logical to me.

      It’s odd that you have trouble with Khorne–I see his advancement condition
      as so amazingly easy. All he has to do is have a single bloodletter in an
      area with a cultist, and he has great odds to get a dial advancement.
      Contrary to the suggestions in the rules, I think it’s best to slow play
      with Khorne, so you’ll be able to drop ‘letters on unsuspecting cultists at
      the end of each turn…

      • Oh my…

        You really should play this game with 4 players – it’s awesome. Now that sentiment alone would have justified writing a comment here. But how about this:

        http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?eidn=2081

        That’s right… The 5th player, Skaven expansion! (Just announced by FFG.)

        And onto other business – I’ve started a review of Horus Heresy… I’ll try and get this one off the ground and to your inbox this time!

        But back to Khorne – I’ve only played him once, but found it pretty hard. You have to go first, so if you place a figure, everyone avoids you, and if you don’t, you run out of power too quickly. As you’re mostly placing daemons, not cultists, you’re normally paying more to place figures than your opponents, and one bloodletter I’ve found just isn’t enough to guarantee a kill. If you can spread out and attack multiple regions, you run the risk of not winning all the battles, and getting your (quite wimpy, it has to be said) daemons killed by cheap or tough enemy daemons. Maybe I just missed the scheming madness that is Tzeentch. Certainly we’ve found Nurgle and Slaanesh to be by far the two most successful powers.

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